Today, we left Fatima after having spent two and a half days there filming for our next production, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal. We arrived on Wednesday evening after three days in Lisbon, and it rained pretty much every day since. Today, after finally getting some sun and filming at Aljustrel and Valinhos, we left to film at the Monastery at Batalha, with two nights in Tomar.
Fatima has always held a special place in my heart. As a child, I loved hearing the stories of the little pastorinhos, the three shepherd children—Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto—to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in 1917, here at Fatima.
Fatima calls itself the “Altar of the World”, and I really believe that it is true. Here, Masses, Confessions, prayers and petitions go on for hours, seemingly nonstop. This often happens despite the hot sun or some rainy and windy weather, like we’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. For me, when I’m standing in the middle of the Cova da Iria in October, it had better be raining so I can feel a teeny bit of what the people experienced on October 13, 1917, when the sun danced in the sky on that miraculous day of Our Lady’s last appearance at the Cova.
Saturday night, I attended the candlelight procession, which is preceded by the praying of the Rosary in what seemed to be about 10 different languages. Afterward, I stayed for Mass, which started at around 10:00 pm and lasted until around 12:30 midnight. I had missed Mass earlier that day because I was filming, and I didn’t want to not go to Mass on a Sunday in Fatima! So I braved the cold and ignored my exhaustion. “When will I ever be in Fatima again?” I thought. “When will I ever get the chance to attend Mass at Fatima at night?”
It rained most of the evening, and I had brought my camera with me to film some of the procession, so my rain slicker went on top of the camera to protect it from the rain. Earlier that day, the zipper on my jacket stopped working and I had to break it to get the jacket off, so I couldn’t zip up my jacket. Suffice it to say, I was very cold and very wet and very tired. I was fine staying until the end of a very long Mass. It occurred to me toward the end—no one seemed the least bit perturbed about how long Mass was lasting. The priests didn’t seem to be rushing; they just took their time, praying the prayers, singing the songs, giving God what He deserves. And the attendees were just taking it all in. Many were even kneeling on the hard, very wet, ground. People were sharing umbrellas and being really loving to one another. All of this, in the middle of the night, outside, in the rain, in the cold.
I’ll be honest, it both impressed me and depressed me. I want Mass to be celebrated with such reverence everywhere, instead of it being rushed—gotta get home for football!—and dismissed as an imposition on our busy schedules. I want people at home to feel God’s presence at Mass so much so that they can’t keep from crying when the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
I am so very blessed to be here, where such an important message went out to the world, and from whence it continues to go out like rays of light from the candles of all of the processions that have ever taken place here.
AND pray some more. Don’t ever stop praying. Ever.
Is the world looking scary? Pray.
Are you worried about the Synod? Pray.
Worried about Ebola? Pray.
Christians in the Middle East? Pray.
Lost your keys? PRAY.
Pray for everything and anything. Pray at all times. Carry a rosary. Talk to your Guardian Angel. Talk to God. Talk to His Blessed Mother.
Don’t stop praying.
What else is so important?
(This might sound a tad preachy. Let me just say that I often write my blogs to remind myself of all the things I know to be true–trust in God, be patient, pray at all times. I forget these things, too, as I get caught up in the world, and I need reminding all the time. So please don’t think I’m preaching at you. I just figure you might need reminding, too.)
Fatima is such an amazing place of peace and love, I am spectacularly jealous of the people who live here, or who live nearby. I’ll admit it! It’s a holy jealousy. I met some awesome pilgrims—Julie and her parents Dominique and Tony—who came from Belgium, which is about 2 hours away by plane. They’ve been here three times this year alone! How amazing is that?!
Then I remember—I have holy places near me, too. The Miraculous Medal Shrine is all of 10 minutes from my house, thanks be to God, and Philadelphia has four other amazing shrines. What shrines and holy places are near you?
And let’s not forget that Jesus is in our local church every minute of every day, waiting for us to come by and say hi.
I would like to use this post, however, to encourage you all to consider coming to Fatima sometime soon. In 2017, they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, back in 1917! How awesome is that?! And I’m sure everyone here is gearing up for the festivities. Start planning your own trip!
We’ve been staying at the Hotel Cruz Alta, one of the hotels in the Fatima Hotels group, which is about as close to the Cova as… well, it’s across a little street. We can hear the singing from the Masses all day and we can walk 5 minutes or less to the Basilicas. The buffets are awesome, the people are SO NICE, and the beds are cozy. What more could a pilgrim want?!
I’d also like to ask that you spread the word and tell people to pray to Blessed Jacinta and Francisco for miracles! They’re ONE AWAY from being canonized! Wouldn’t a canonization and a Papal visit in 2017 just be icing on the cake of everything here? Wow, that would be awesome.
There is so much to say about Fatima, I could talk about it forever, and I’m sure I will be. Just ask me. Or watch The Faithful Traveler in Portugal, when it comes out—hopefully—next Spring. I’ll be asking Blessed Jacinta and Francisco and Sister Lucia for their prayers for that, too. And Our Blessed Mother, of course.