It was a beautiful April morning when our plane from Los Angeles landed at Lisbon where we`re welcome by our tour guide named Maria Da Bagao.
After checking in at the Hotel Cinquentenario Maria took us on a panoramic sightseeing tour of the capital and largest city of Portugal, Lisbon.
Located on the estuary of a river, the Tagus, is the Monument to Discoveries (Padrao dos Discobrimentos) built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. The landmark is a replica of a 3-sailed ship prepared to depart with the sculptures of important historical figures of Portugal – explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama and Cabral, poet Camoes, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers.
The city`s icon and a Unesco World Heritage Site is the Belem Tower (Torre de Belem), a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon`s harbour. Belem is famous as the starting point for many of the expeditionary voyages of discovery of the unknown during the Age of Explorations in the 15th and 16th centuries.
We visited Santarem, one of the world`s oldest cities, walked through its narrow streets to the Church of St. Stephen to see the 750-year old Holy Eucharistic Miracle, a relic of the Bleeding Heart. Later we heard mass at Santo Antonio Padua church built on the site where the patron saint of lost objects was born.
The last two days of our pilgrimage were spent in Fatima, the major Catholic pilgrimage site in Portugal, about 80 miles north of Lisbon. The name Fatima evolved from the Arabic name Fatma, name of a Moorish princess. Yearly some 4 million people visit Fatima drawn by the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary as seen by the three children, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, while guarding their sheeps in the Cova da Iria. The apparitions started on 13 May 1917 (on every 13th day of six consecutive months) and culminated on 13 October 1917 with the Miracle of the Sun (the sky appeared to open up and the sun seemed to race toward the earth) witnessed by the 70,000 people including reporters from anti-religious media gathered in a torrential rainstorm.
Sent by God with a message of prayer, repentance and consecration, The Lady of the Rosary, as she called herself, confided to the children three secrets – a vision of hell; a prophecy of the end of WW I, start of WW II, calling for the consecration of communist Russia; and a vision of death of the Pope and other religious leaders.
Our Lady is enshrined at the Basilica of Our Lady of Rosary with its quiet atmosphere and beautiful grounds. With 15 church altars, the basilica is built at the site of the Marian apparitions and contains the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta. At the very heart of the basilica is the Chapel of Apparitions. A marble pillar holding the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary marks the exact location of the apparitions. Nightly we joined pilgrims from all over the world in the candlelight procession to pray the rosary.
In the hamlet of Aljustrel and Valinhos we saw the two homes of the little shepherds, Stations of the Cross, site of the first and third visit of the Angel of Peace, site of our Lady`s fourth apparitions and stopped at the parish church where the three seers were baptized and at the cemetery where Francisco and Jacinta were once buried.
The following morning we left Fatima, crossing the border into Spain.