After a good night’s sleep that comes from a long day of travel, we started our second day in Fatima with breakfast and morning prayer, then set out to pray the stations of the cross. There is a large park area nearby the basilica that has beautiful path for walking and praying stations of the cross, as well as statues commemorating various other apparition sites. We actually took a wrong turn on the way there and ended up back at the basilica on accident. But we eventually found our way to the path with the stations. I’m sure this will not be the last time we get lost on our pilgrimage.
Msgr. Trapp led us in the stations, and we sang Lenten hymns as we walked between each station. At the end of the stations was a beautiful chapel commemorating Christ’s crucifixion on Calvary. We stayed here for a few minutes for some private prayer.
After that, we visited the areas of the park that mark the sites of the other apparitions. The main apparition site, where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children five out of six times in 1917, is near the basilica. But there were several other apparitions seen by the children. In 1916, an angel appeared to the children three different times, twice in this area that is now the park. It was here that the angel compelled the children to pray for the reparation of the sins of others. Also in this area was the site where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children in August of 1917, when the local officials locked them up, thinking they were making up this story of the apparitions.
Following this, we walked into the town of Fatima itself and were able to visit the homes of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia, and the parish church where all three were baptized. We took a break here for lunch, and were given some free time to go pray and make our way back to the basilica on our own.
We all met up again together at 3:30 for Mass at the chapel that marks the main apparition site. From here, I will let another seminarian, Ryan Riley, tell of his experience at Mass and following:
Dominic Macioce, Paul Graney, and myself skipped lunch in order to spend more time walking through the Basilica complex. We checked out the new basilica and spent some time in prayer at the old basilica where the three children are buried. While we were walking around, we noticed a few people (not many) walking on their knees in prayer from the old basilica to the shrine. This reminded us of Guadalupe, in Mexico, where we had visited two years prior. While at Guadalupe we noticed many pilgrims walking on their knees in prayer, typically praying the Rosary. At Fatima, there is a marble pathway made especially for pilgrims to walk on their knees which is about (guessing) 300 yards. Typically you would end right in front of the altar in the sanctuary of the shrine. Watching these people walk on their knees was rather inspiring to me. The three of us talked about making the walk ourselves after Mass, but wanted to pray about it and give it a little more thought.
We had Mass in the Marian Shrine where one of the major apparitions occurred to Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia. Fr. Burr was privileged to say Mass, not only for us but also for others making their own pilgrimages. Msgr. Trapp concelebrated.
Mass at the shrine of the apparition was unbelievably moving. Part of Fr. Burr’s homily called to mind how our mothers like to show us off as their children. That’s what mothers do. In a way, Mary does the same as Jesus’ mother. She wants nothing more than to bring people closer to Jesus! During Mass, I think the three of us were all inspired to make the walk.
After Mass we all had the same inclination and even recruited Greg Luger to walk with us. Msgr. Trapp tried to find knee pads for us but the sacristan at the shrine was busy so we decided to make the walk without them.
We started by saying a ‘Hail Mary’ together calling to mind our intentions. We then prostrated ourselves on our knees and Paul Graney began leading the Rosary. It was Friday, so we recited the sorrowful mysteries, which were particularly fitting for the endeavor we were making. It started out okay for the first, maybe, 15 – 20 feet. But it wasn’t long when our knees began to hurt. Praying and walking wasn’t easy. As we continued, the pain became more sharp and intense. But, this is why we decided to do this. The penance and reparation for our sins and the sins of others is what moved us being in Fatima.
For the four of us, we were really moved to do the walk to make our penance more tangible. As we were nearing the end, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Paul and I were on all fours trying to get through it. I actually wanted to quit, but Paul kept saying, “We are doing this for Jesus!” When we finished, we were hurting and our knees were pretty scraped up.
I would not suggest that everyone do this, however. It’s not easy. But, if you’re up for it, go for it. Dominic said that for him it was one of the most spiritually consoling exercises he’s ever done despite the pain. I would have to agree. For me, being in solidarity with Christ during his passion is what it meant for me. I was hurting but my pain was nothing compared to what Christ endured for our sake.
During this time, other men went off to pray on their own and visit the tombs of the three shepherd children in the old basilica.
We all met back up again for the first of our Theological Reflections. These reflections are opportunities for us to get together and share our own experiences and thoughts in a prayerful group setting, usually focused on a piece from scripture or some other reading. This theological reflection was on the Song of Songs, leading into discussion about our own intimacy and personal relationship with Jesus.
Following the reflections, we had a nice meal at our hotel, and were given the option again of going to the procession at the basilica in the evening. It was a beautiful way to end the night.
Tomorrow, we get up early and make our way north to Coimbra and Santiago de Compostela.