Sunday 16 July 2017

So many wonderful memories!

Our own Mass very close to where the Virgin Mary appeared to
the three Shepherd children on 13 July 1917

Hi Everyone!

Well, as you may have guessed, there have been a few technical problems in keeping this blog. For some reason, electronic devices, including my Tablet, were not charging overnight, although I did manage to take a few pics to share with you.

The group celebrates Mass at the Capelhina, or Chapel of Apparitions

After all of the excitement of 13 July, we were very privileged to be able to celebrate our own Mass in the Capelhinha, or Chapel of  the Apparitions the following morning. It was an extremely early start to the day, with Mass beginning at 5 am!!! All of the group, including our Principal Celebrant, Fr. Jean-Patrice, managed to get up on time, and it was quite atmospheric with the early morning mist rolling into the Chapel. The statue of Our Lady, that you can see in the pics, is actually positioned where she appeared to the children. The column replaces the holm oak that disappeared as countless pilgrims helped themselves to little pieces!

The former royal palace, that King Dinis donated to
Coimbre in 1290 to be used as a University

After breakfast, we headed off to Coimbre, where we visited the museum attached to the Carmel where Lucia was a nun, and where she died in 2005. It was wonderful to see various items that belonged to her, and also the reconstruction of her cell. The huge volume of letters addressed to her, highlighted how very busy she must have been in her lifetime talking about her experiences. There were also many gifts on display, some given to her by various Popes. We were excited to finally see within a Reliquary a small piece of a leaf from the holm oak, all that is left of the poor tree!

View of the Mondego River from the University at Coimbre

Coimbre was a very interesting University town, with the Students out in force engaging in various activities to raise money for the traditional initiation, and graduation, ceremonies. It was extremely lively, and we would have liked to stay longer to listen to the wonderful traditional music and watch the dancing.

A group of student musicians, known as "tunas", play a traditional song,
whilst passers by join in the fun!

However, we went on to visit the Church of St. Anthony of Olivais, built on the site of  the hermitage where St. Anthony of Padua spent his early years as a Franciscan Friar. The church was filled with beautiful blue and white tiles, depicting scenes from St Anthony's life and, in particular, some of his miracles.

Inside the Church of St. Anthony of Olivais

This painting in the Sacristry at Olivais is said to be the
only true likeness of St. Anthony

After a picnic lunch by the river, the group went on to visit the Church of Our Lady of Nazare, where Our Lady is said to have prevented the death of a nobleman, whose horse was just about to fall from a very high cliff. 

View from the famous cliff at Nazare

A few days later, a small statue of her was found on the cliff, and this is now displayed over the altar in the Church. Mass was about to start, so we could not get close to the small statue, so we all had an ice cream instead! Some of our party were disappointed not be be able to swim as the yellow flags were displayed on the beach that you can see in the above pic!

Our final day was again busy with tours of Batalha and Alcobaca Monasteries. We had a wonderful guide, Eugenia, who kept us all interested with so many details of the history, and legends, of Portugal. My lack of battery power prevented me taking pics, but there will be some on line of these world Heritage sites, I am sure.

Mass at the Monastery of Pius XII

We started the day at the Monastery of Pius XII, with the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary behind the screen, joining us in celebrating Mass. Their singing was so beautiful! We could not believe it when Mother Maria Lucia invited us all to meet them in the monastery. I had exchanged correspondence with her before our visit, so it was a very special experience for me. 

After everyone finally stopped talking (!!!), Mother Maria Lucia spoke to us about the importance of Our Lady's message given at Fatima, and how we must all take this message out into the world. It was a moving experience to hear her words to us. Also, the Sisters' gentleness and tranquility was a wonderful testament to their life of prayer. I am hoping that I may be able to take a group of young pilgrims out to Fatima to spend some time at the Monastery, maybe next year?

I think that I speak for the whole group in saying that we weren't ready to return home! The pilgrims, who came from many different places, were just starting to really get to know one another ,when we found ourselves on the motorway heading for the Airport at Porto. Hopefully, there will be other times when we can come together, maybe in the Holy Land next year!

The group outside St. Anthony in Olivais Church

Ave Maria!



Thursday 13 July 2017

An historic day!

Fr. Boniface and Fr. Jean-Patrice in the Centenary Procession
Today we celebrated the Centenary of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to the Three Little Shepherds, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, at the Cova da Iria in Fatima. The very place is marked by a small Chapel known as the Capelhina, or Chapel of the Apparitions, now located within the Sanctuary. We will celebrate our own Mass there, very early tomorrow morning.

Repentant pilgrims on their knees go to the Capelhina. You can
see some of the 500 priests in the Procession behind them
As you would expect at such an historic occassion, the special Mass today was exceptionally moving and beautiful. There were over 500 priests, and 20 Bishops in attendance, and I could not count how many people were there.

Fr. Boniface and Fr. Jean-Patrice

Fr. Dominic Findley sheltering under his brolly!
It was 32 degrees C today, and Mass lasted 3.5 hours!

The Bishops walk in front of the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima

The Statue looked  very heavy!

We ended the day with a special concert in the Basilica, where the Westminster Boys Choir, together with a local girls Choir, combined to treat us to a wonderful selection of music.

Our two Priests were  sheltering under these
white umbrellas during the Mass

The traditional waving of the white tissues

The graves of Jacinta and Lucia

...and of Francisco

All of the Little Shepherds are buried within the Basilica, and I am sure that they enjoyed the concert too!

The problem with being a "sardine"....

Station on the Sacred Way that you can't keep your blog up to date, when the other people in your room are sleeping,! My apologies for the delay! I have got up early, and hopefully I can complete this here in Reception before breakfast.

We arrived very late here at the Domus Pacis in Fatima after a longer than expected journey, and it was then straight to bed. Yesterday was pretty busy, adjusting to our new surroundings, and the heat! It was appreciated though, as we got very wet boarding our 'plane in Bristol!

Can you imagine lighting candles in your Church like this?

We started with Mass at the Domus Pacis, toured the Sanctuary and then prayed the Stations of the Cross on the Sacred Way in 27 degrees heat!

The Sacred Way connects the apparition site at Fatima with the small village of Aljustrel, where the three Shepherd Children lived. The day ended with Rosary, Candlelit Procession, and International Mass, all very beautiful with hundreds of thousands of candles lighting our way. I will see if any of the group have a good pic of this, as I was out of battery!

This Statue of Our Lady marks the place on the
Sacred Way where she appeared to the three children

Today is the BIG DAY, so more news later!



Monday 3 July 2017

Just one week to go...!

Hi everyone, and welcome to the latest Downside Pilgrim Blog!

This time we are off to Fatima, and will be part of the July Centenary Celebrations at the famous Shrine in Portugal. There will be 32 Pilgrims in our group, led by Fr. Boniface Hill of Downside Abbey, and Fr. Jean-Patrice Coulon of Holy Ghost Church, Yeovil, Somerset. We have a pretty busy schedule for the five days that we are there, but hopefully I can give you a little "taste" of what we will be seeing and doing!

Pilgrims at Downside Abbey for the Visitation of the NPVS

We were most fortunate at Downside to be visited by the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue (NPVS) on 4 May 2017.

The NPVS entering Downside Abbey, that was full to overflowing!
You can just see the two children dressed as
SS Francisco and Jacinta to the right of the pic.

The NPVS was accompanied by the relics of SS Francisco and Jacinta, the first non-martyred child Saints of the Catholic Church. Many of the Downside Pilgrims were able to attend, together with hundreds of other pilgrims and students from 12 local Catholic Schools, including Downside School, founded by the Benedictine Monks of Downside over 400 years ago.

The NPVS is manoeuvred into position, with a Knight of
St. Columba looking on holding the Relics

Downside's smaller statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the
Sanctuary of the Abbey Church
on 13 May 2017, with Fr. Boniface at the Altar

All of the group are getting very excited about our forthcoming journey. This is strange as quite a number of us are being "squeezed" into triple rooms, hence my description of our trip as the "SARDINE PILGRIMAGE"! Whether we will all be speaking to one another at the end of the 5 days is another matter, but we are on pilgrimage! Please do follow us, and see what happens! It will definitely not be dull.

Procession bringing the NPVS and Relics of SS. Francisco
and Jacinta into Downside Abbey