Althea Walker writes on her recent trip to Portugal, to join in the centenary celebrations of Our Lady of Fatima (1917-2017).
DAY ONE: Thursday 11 May 2017
Seventy UK pilgrims flew to Lisbon and transferred to Fatima by coach. Later that evening, the International Rosary was prayed in 5 different languages (for the 5 decades), followed by a Torchlight procession, where the statue of Our Lady of Fatima on a beautiful bed of white roses was carried around the Sanctuary.
DAY TWO: Friday 12 May 2017
A private Mass was said at our hotel’s chapel. We took the opportunity to visit the Chapel of Apparitions and handed over the written petitions from our parishioners; before praying in front of Our Lady of Fatima’s statue, lighting candles for various people all over the world. I also visited a priest friend at the Consolata Missionary Home.
The Eucharistic Procession started at 3pm and finished prior to Pope Francis’ eagerly awaited arrival. Big screens allowed everyone to have a good view. The Pope watched the huge crowds, from a helicopter as they cheered, waved their hands and flags from different countries. What a beautiful sight! The crowds fell silent, however, as Pope Francis stood and prayed at the Chapel of Apparitions. During the evening prayers, he urged everyone to “tear down all walls and go to the peripheries to make God’s justice and peace known.”
Thousands of candles brightened the dark square while the huge luminous Rosary hung above the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. I felt like we were one big happy family!
DAY THREE: Saturday 13 May 2017
Excited about the Centenary and Canonisation. Lots of people had camped overnight at the Sanctuary. As a seasoned pilgrim, I had a folding stool; otherwise it was standing room only.
When Francisco and Jacinta Marto were canonised as Saints, cheers and applause rang out in the Sanctuary Esplanade. They were the youngest non-martyrs to be declared Saints by the Catholic Church. After Mass, the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima near the altar was processed back to the Chapel of Apparitions. A sea of white handkerchiefs waving ‘Adeus’ (farewell) to Our Lady was spectacular. Pilgrims were smiling, crying and comforting each other whilst waving and singing “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria.”
An estimated half a million pilgrims were present. Later, I had the joy to meet up with my elder sister, Marie from Edmonton (Canada), in the Adoration Chapel.
DAY FOUR: Sunday 14 May 2017
The morning’s International Rosary was followed by Mass at the Sanctuary Esplanade and ‘Adeus’ to Our Lady of Fatima. In the afternoon we prayed the Stations of the Cross followed by a visit to Valinhos and Aljustrel; homes of the 3 shepherd children. At St Lucia’s home, we met her 97 yr old niece, also named Lucia. She did not mind pilgrims taking photographs of her. An International Rosary and Torchlight Procession completed the day.
DAY FIVE: Sunday 15 May 2017
We had a private mass at Aujo da Paz chapel (Angel of Peace). It used to be the old 24 hr Adoration Chapel, which is now in the Most Holy Trinity Basilica. I sat in the same pew, when I first came to Fatima in November 1992. My second Pilgrimage was in October 2010 with Fr Mark, Sr Corinne and parishioners. After Mass, I visited and prayed at the tombs of the new saints Francisco and Jacinta and that of Sr Lucia who died on 13 February 2005.
It was a truly inspirational, refreshing and uplifting Pilgrimage for me. ‘Pray the Rosary Every Day.’ May Our Lady of Fatima bless and guide all of you to the way that leads to her Son, Jesus Christ. God bless always.