Saturday, December 29, 2012

When you enter the shrine at Fátima, you may pass an artifact encased in glass, a section of the Berlin Wall. We met there amid on-again, off-again rain on All Saints Day, uncomfortably near a begging man. I soon learned to keep a few euros in my pockets.

Fátima has become JPII's "place:" the portion of the Wall he's credited with toppling, an imposing monument to his Marian devotion and the keeping of the bullet.

Still, it's its own place. A new church faces the old church across the plaza. A few pilgrims walked on their knees. I didn't think anyone did that anymore. A woman in our group said she has some promises to keep to friends back home. She lit a candle here and again in Lourdes. I suspect she spent the night in the plaza on her knees for her intentions and those of her friends. Some people flip out on pilgrimage. I've seen it happen before. This lady had all the earmarks. She wasn't eating, either.

We entered the beautiful, old church. Presently, a second group came in. They lined up on the altar as if they were posing for a picture. But instead they sang a very beautiful song and their voices filled the air. I lingered to listen as the rest of our group hurried out of the sanctuary. I imagined they'd practiced and prepared for just that moment.

It was late afternoon when the local tour concluded and we had time to shower before mass and dinner. There was more than enough time for that, so I delayed and returned to the square with the local tour guide. She showed me the new church in which mass was being celebrated and the location of the perpetual adoration chapel underground, near JPII's monument. I entered on my own and said a rosary. How many Fridays before I'd thought about praying the Fátima prayer in Fátima!

After a rather long shower at the hotel, I gathered with the others in a conference room off the lobby for All Saints Day mass. We were supposed to hold mass at a chapel near the Fátima church but many pilgrims were already tired and complaining of sore knees. The rainy, slippery conditions caused Father to keep things close, but I was exceedingly disappointed about mass in a dreary hotel conference room with folding chairs, steps from a decades old church in Fátima, Portugal!

At mass, I sat in the back of the room against the wall, in the corner really, and leaned against the wall whenever I stood. Father Williams is charismatic but offered a low-key mass. Father asked for reactions to our trip so far and I shared my experience of praying the rosary, with its Fátima prayer, in the underground adoration chapel. Several asked me after mass where the adoration chapel was located. I took one woman there after dinner.

Dinner was ok. I shared a table with the most cliquish group, a trio from Spring Lake. I was not able to fit in with them and managed to avoid joining their table for the rest of the trip. Except one morning, I had breakfast with the hungover husband, a retired judge. He was mild and polite.

I got out early the next morning and snapped more pictures. The rain had finally stopped. I sampled the water from the faucets, remarkably refreshing. I hadn't expected that. I didn't keep any. Taking my seat on the bus behind Father well before anyone else was on board to leave for Santiago, I asked whether he would hear confessions.

"Of course," he said.

"Tonight, then," I said.


kkollwitz said...

A good personal recounting. Sounds more interesting to me now than it did before.

Moonshadow said...

It's a nice place and serendipitous things happen, like the appearance of that choir in the church singing beautifully. Pilgrims blessing other pilgrims as they honor God, perhaps.

Joann Nelander said...

"Some people flip out on pilgrimage. I've seen it happen before. This lady had all the earmarks. She wasn't eating either."
Brought back memories of my seat companion on the first leg of an around the world pilgrimage. On the way to Portugal she insisted on kneeling to say the rosary in the cramped space nest to me and in front of her window seat on a 747. No further comment.