After breakfast we walked to the side chapel of St. Joseph in the Basilica Church for Mass celebrated by Fr. Frank. Then we toured the Basilica Church where we saw the tombs of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia.
From there we took the tour of the exhibition, “Fatima Light and Peace.” An American nun escorted us into a room of darkness focusing on the First World War, then to a brighter room featuring the apparitions. We viewed the best synopsis of Fatima so far, a slide show with narration. We saw Mary’s crown complete with numerous diamonds and precious stones along with the bullet from Pope John Paul II.
Nearby were treasures of gold and silver in showcases, testimonies to special favors received. The monstrance donated by the Irish was the most spectacular. Our guide kept stressing the purpose of our pilgrimage, our own spiritual renewal. As we exited the Exhibition we viewed a picture of Pope John Paul II holding Sister Lucia’s hand leading her like a pastor.
Next we boarded a bus for a short ride to the parish church of Fatima, the place where the three children were baptized and attended Mass. Barbara and I took pictures with Francisco and Jacinta. Fr. Frank and Javier posed in front of Our Lady of Fatima.
Francisco in particular spent many hours here in contemplation. In the cemetery nearby we saw the original grave sites of Francisco and Jacinta as well as their mother’s.
When we returned to our hotel, we sought out an authentic Portuguese restaurant where I had our guide’s recommended meal, Bacalhau Cozido, which included fish, carrots, potatoes, and hominy. Barbara had the Lombo forno (pork and fries). The bread, cheese spread, and sardine pate were special before the meal with some Portuguese beer (Cervija Sagres).
After lunch we found a religious article store and bought a little statue of Francisco. Then we crossed the square to take pictures of the inside of the Basilica and a statue of St. John Bosco with St. Dominic Savio outside. Our last stop before returning to the hotel was the Shrine’s bookstore where we found the DVD of The 13th Day, the movie we had viewed the night before. We also found some holy cards for our Carmelite Monastery nuns.
Returning to the hotel, I figured out how to recharge the laptop without burning down the hotel. Now I could share it with fellow pilgrims who wanted to check their e-mail. I finally checked my own and found out that Joe had accepted a job in Palm Desert and that Rachel had some good job prospects. Then it was time to catch up on the journals.
Following dinner I found out that I was too tall to be one of the four men to help carry Our Lady’s state in the big procession. My shoulders were too far above the other men’s in our group. But this was a blessing for Fr. Frank, since he took my place. He was elated because this was the 25th anniversary of his ordination. Javier insisted that I go with the group for orientation anyway. I felt out of place with no job to do. Javier talked to his buddies at the sanctuary and convinced them to let me carry the procession cross. What an incredible honor. Somehow I convinced the leaders that I was strong enough, even bionic. I felt an interior assurance that I could carry the tall, heavy cross and shoulder the 40 pound battery which lit the cross.
I said a prayer to Our Lady of Fatima and to Blessed Francisco. I felt his presence throughout the procession. He is a very special friend. After the procession and rosary, we returned to the hotel. It took me a while to sleep after so much excitement, so many blessings.
Bronze of Blessed Francisco above his tomb
NEXT: OCTOBER 15