Today we left Viana do Castelo and headed towards Lisbon ready for the final week of World Youth Day. We set off at around 9am and made it to Fatima just in time for the 12.30pm Mass which took place in the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the fourth largest Catholic church in the world with 9,000 seats.
After Mass the ever-helpful Fr Pablo spoke to us about the history of Fatima and explained how, in 1917, three young children (Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco) had visions of our lady on the 13th of every month from May to October and she asked the children to pray the rosary every day.
The oldest, Lucia, aged 10, was the only one of the children to actually speak to Our Lady and asked her when they would be with her in heaven. The response was that Jacinta and Francisco would be with her in heaven shortly, and they soon died of the Spanish Flu, while Lucia was told that she would live for longer to spread Our Lady’s message.
We took the statue of Our Lady of Walsinghan with us to Fatima and it was a wonderful to bring Walsingham to Fatima! Especially as they are both places where pilgrims travel to from far and wide to learn about and bring themselves closer to Mary and Jesus.
We had some free time after Mass to explore the site. Many of the groups went and spent some time in prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and lighting candles outside the Apparitions Chapel. There was also an opportunity to see statues of Pope St John Paul II and Pope St Paul VI, which led to some great discussions and learning about the impact of these two popes on the Church.
Some of the young people in our group chose to walk on their knees on a path between the two basilicas on the site as an act of penance and devotion, which is a traditional part of a visit to Fatima. One of the young people from East Anglia explained the experience by saying: “I came as a child to Fatima and it was very nice to return as an adult, I think that the experience of walking on my knees felt like a good way to make my prayers known to God and to demonstrate my willingness to endure hardship.”
We have now arrived safely in Lisbon and have received our World Youth Day bags, which include a World Youth Day top, bottle, bucket hat and a rosary. We were able to spend the evening exploring the city before starting our full on schedule tomorrow.
Pictured above the East Anglia pilgrims at Fatima.
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