When I was first planning our Camino trip, I knew that I wanted to bookend our trip with pilgrimages to two of the most famous Marian apparition sites: Lourdes and Fatima. We spent a few days in Lourdes before heading to the starting point of the Camino and after a few days of resting in Santiago, we took a 7-hour bus ride down to Fatima Portugal. We stayed in this airbnb which, even though it was just a private room in an apartment, turned out to be absolutely wonderful. Our host, Maria, was an older woman who loves to host Fatima pilgrims and was the sweetest person. Finding her apartment turned out to be quite a challenge but after connecting to wifi in a local cafe I was able to send her a message asking for better directions and she actually walked to the cafe to find us and lead us back to her apartment. The next morning she translated for us when we tried to order breakfast at another local cafe and she kept asking us if we were ok or if we needed anything. She was happy to supply us with information about the various times for Masses and Rosary processions in the Sanctuary grounds. She offered to drive us to the bus station on our last morning and let us leave our bags in her apartment until our evening bus and she drove us to the small village outside of Fatima where the houses of Jacinta and Francisco and Lucia are and she acted as our tour guide, telling us helpful information and translating signs into English for us and she even introduced us to the last living niece of Lucia.
In case you are unfamiliar with the story of Fatima let me give you a brief recap, in 1917 Our Lady began to appear at Fatima, Portugal to three shepherd children, Lucia dos Santos, age 10, and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, ages nine and seven. She urged them to pray the rosary to end the War and as news spread of the apparitions, crowds began to follow the children. In September 1917 Mary promised to perform a great public miracle on October 13th, 1917. The news spread of this predicition of a public miracle and tens of thousands of people from all around Portugal and Europe flocked to this tiny shepard village on October 13th 1917. It was pouring rain all morning and the crowds were utterly drenched and muddy. It came to be known as the Miracle of the Sun and this short description from the website “Blue Army” is pretty good:
“The solar phenomena included the dancing of the sun, its fluctuations in color, its swirling and its descending toward the earth. There was also the stillness in the leaves of the trees in spite of howling winds, the complete drying of the rain-soaked ground and the restoration of clothes all wet and covered with mud so that, as eye-witness Dominic Reis, put it, “They looked as though they had just come back from the cleaners.” Physical cures of the blind and the lame were reported. The countless unreserved public confessions of sin and commitments to conversion of life attest to the authenticity of what they saw.
The miracle is reported to have been seen from as far as 15-25 miles away, thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination or mass hypnotism. Doubters and skeptics had become believers. Even O Seculo’s chief editor, Avelino de Almeida, now reported affirmatively and stood by his story later on in spite of harsh criticism.”
If you would like to read more about Fatima, check out the link above to Blue Army’s website!
Our first evening in Fatima we joined in the nightly rosary procession.
The statue of Our Lady of Fatima marks the exact spot where was the holmoak tree on which Our Lady appeared to the three Shepherds (the tree disappeared due to the devotion of the devotees).
The next day we were able to go to morning Mass in Fatima and spend a retreat-like day on the sanctuary grounds.
I had to snap a couple pictures of our airbnb because the living room was so beautiful!
On our final day in Fatima, our airbnb host, Maria, offered to drive us to the tiny village right outside of Fatima where the three shepherd children had lived. You are able to tour the two tiny house that they grew up in and see the rooms that they were born and died in. Pretty incredible.
We also met the last niece of relative of Lucia, Mary of the Angels. She’s 97 years old and the daughter of Lucia’s oldest sister. She simply sits and prays all day in the house across the street from the childhood home fo Lucia and although we didn’t speak the same language at all, her genuine and beautiful smile said more than words could have ever said anyway.
We also were able to walk the beautiful Stations of the Cross that start near the sanctuary and end near the small village.
We ended our time in Fatima with one more morning Mass before catching our bus to Lisbon. It happened to be an English Mass in the Outdoor Apparition Chapel and so that was awesome.
Although it was incredible to get to visit Fatima, I have to be honest and say that for me personally, my heart lies with Lourdes. John Paul preferred Fatima due to the emphasis on the family and how many families with young children we saw, but the Sanctuary grounds felt stark and museum-like and were too modern for my taste. I LOVE the Sanctuary grounds at Lourdes with the river running through it and the huge trees everywhere and the sacred silence the descends around the grotto and it was hard not to compare the two even though I know they are very different. But overall, I am so grateful to have been able to visit this holy place!