Portugal lies on the Iberian peninsula at the southwestern tip of Europe. It is home to Fátima, one of the most important pilgrimage centers for the Catholic world.
Since 1917, each year thousands of pilgrims head for Fátima to honor Our Lady of Fátima. The history of Fátima is connected to three children: Lúcia and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. In the spring, summer and autumn of 1916 an Angel appeared three times to the little shepherds to prepare them for the Apparitions of Our Lady a year later.
The First Apparition of the Angel occurred at Loca do Cabeço, a place nearby Aljustrel. It was a rainy spring day in 1916. There were some small caves there that and the little shepherds used for shelter. When the rain stopped, the children left the cave and a strong wind rose. A few yards from them, they saw a figure that had “the shape of a young man of 14-15 years old, whiter than the snow and transparent like crystal crossed by the sun rays and very beautiful”, according to Lúcia’s words. He came to them and said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m the Angel of Peace. Pray with me”. He knelt down, and bending his face to the ground, he asked them to pray three times, “Good Lord, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I beg Your forgiveness for those that do not believe, that do not adore, don’t hope and don’t love You”. After this He rose up and said, “Pray like this: The hearts of Jesus and of Mary are attentive to the voice of your prayers." After saying this, the Angel left the three children.
The Second Apparition took place about two months later. This time the chosen location was behind Lúcia’s house. It was siesta time and everything around was quiet except for the children playing at the back of the house. Suddenly they once again saw the image of the Angel who asked them, “What are you doing? Pray, pray a lot. Give the Almighty prayers and sacrifices all the time.” Lúcia asked the Angel what they should do. “From all that you can, give the Lord a sacrifice in an act of reparation for the sins that offend Him and a prayer for the conversion of the sinners.” So the children began to make sacrifices and to pray like the Angel had taught them
.The Third Apparition occurred in the autumn of the same year when the little shepherds were praying like the Angel had taught them at the site of the First Apparition. The Angel presented himself with a Chalice in his left hand and a Host in his right hand above the Chalice. Drops of blood were falling from the Host. The Angel kneeled beside the little shepherds, leaving the Chalice and the Host hanging in the air, while asking them to pray three times the following prayer: “Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, I adore You profoundly and I offer You the very precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for the outrages, sacrilege and indifference with which He is offended. And by the infinite merits of his Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg You for the conversion of the poor sinners.” The angel rose and took with him the Chalice and the Host that had stayed suspended, gave the Host to Lúcia and the content of the Chalice to Francisco and Jacinta saying: “Take this and Drink the Body and the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and comfort Your God”. The Angel knelt again and prayed the same prayer three times with the little shepherds and left.
The Apparitions of Our Lady began on May 13, 1917, when Lucia , Francisco and Jacinta were grazing a small flock of sheep at Cova da Iria. Around mid-day, after having prayed the Rosary as they usually did, suddenly they saw a shining light. Thinking it was lightning, they decided to leave; however, down below, another flash of light lit the space, and they saw, a “Lady brighter than the sun” holding a white rosary. The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray a lot and invited them to return to Cova da Iria during the following five months, on the 13th at the same hour. The children did so, and on the 13th of June, July, September and October, the Lady appeared and spoke to them again. On the 19th of August, the Apparition took place at Valinhos because on the 13th the children had been taken by the Administrator of the Municipality to Vila Nova de Ourém (the town's name at that time).
During the last Apparition, on the 13th of October, in the presence of about 70,000 people, the Lady told them that she was the “Lady of the Rosary” and that a chapel in her honor should be built on that place. After the Apparition, all present witnessed a miracle promised to the three children in July and September. The sun, looking like a silver disk, could be easily seen and was turning around like a wheel of fire, seeming to be falling on the earth.
Later, when Lúcia became a nun of Saint Dorothy, Our Lady appeared to her again in Spain on December 10, 1925; and on February 15, 1926, at the Convent of Pontevedra; and during the night of the 13th/14th of June, 1929, at the Convent of Tuy. Our Lady asked for the devotion of five first Saturdays to be followed (to pray the rosary, meditate on the mysteries of the rosary, confess sins and receive Holy Communion), in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and also for the Consecration of Russia to the same Immaculate Heart. This request had already been announced by Our Lady on July 13, 1917, in the revealed part of the so-called “Secret of Fidem”.
PLACES TO VISIT AT FATIMA
Since 1917, Cova da Iria has received thousands and thousands of pilgrims coming from all over the world, first on every 13th day of each month, then during the summer and winter holidays, and now throughout the year. Fátima receives more than seven million visitors annually. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima, built at Cova da Iria, is made up of various buildings and also a wide open air sanctuary that can receive around 300,000 people.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima stands where the first Apparition of Our Lady to the three little shepherds took place on May 13, 1917.
The Chapel of Apparitions was built from April 28th to June 15th, 1919, in answer to a request made by Our Lady: “I want that you build here a chapel in my honor”. The pedestal holding the Statue of Our Lady marks the exact place of the small holm-oak tree above which Our Lady appeared to the little shepherds. This small tree has disappeared, bit by bit, taken by the pilgrims in a sign of devotion.
The Big Holm-oak in the open area of the Sanctuary, near the Apparitions Chapel, is the tree under which the little shepherds and the pilgrims prayed before the arrival of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Monument, the bronze statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, stands in the center of the open area of the Sanctuary, near the Apparitions Chapel. The monument has a fountain whose water started to flow on November 9, 1921, and which is known to have provided many graces.
Lausperene Chapel was built with the help of the Austrian association “Crusade of the Reparation for the Rosary and for the Peace in the World.” The foundation stone of this Chapel was blessed by the Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1982; and it is now open to the public every day from 7 am to 11 pm. The Blessed Sacrament is adored night and day. The nocturne adoration is assured by the Repairing Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows of Fátima.
Holy Trinity Church has a foundation stone containing a precious fragment of marble from the tomb of the Apostle St. Peter, above which is built the Basilica dedicated to him in the Vatican. The church has 9,000 seated places and an underground Reconciliation Zone made up of 600 seated places and 32 confessionals.
According to the instructions of Sister Lúcia, the first Statue of the Pilgrim Virgin of Fátima has crossed the entire world several times. On these voyages, objects and jewels are offered to Our Lady of Fátima. These are kept in the Rectory Building in an exhibition open to the public.
Entering from the south part of the Sanctuary, it is possible to see a piece of the Berlin Wall. It represents the fall of the communist regimes and the end of the cold war.
Pastoral Center Paul VI was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1982. It is an important center to support the study of the message of Fátima. It also has dormitories and a restaurant for pilgrims, retreats and classes. In front of the building is a statue of Our Lady made by the sculptor, Soares Branco.
NEAR THE SANCTUARY
Valinhos is situated at 3 km from the Sanctuary, marked by a monument. It is the place where the 4th Apparition of Our Lady, occurred on August 19, 1917.
Loca do Anjo Is the place where the children received the first and the third visits of the Angel of Peace, in the spring and autumn of 1916.
The path of the Stations of the Cross corresponds to the route that the little shepherds used to take to go from Aljustrel, where they lived, to Cova da Iria, where they took the flocks of sheep to graze. Between the 8th and 9th Stations is a monument that commemorates the fourth Apparition of Our Lady on August 19, 1917. The Apparition was on the 19th and not on the 13th, as the ones before, because the little shepherds were being questioned in the house of the town's Administrator in Ourém.
Visitors can see the House of Lúcia dos Santos (Sister Lúcia), where she was born on March 22, 1907. She lived there until June 16, 1921; and then, at the age of 14, went to the Vilar’s Asylum in Oporto by decision of the Bishop of Leiria. The house is located at around 300 meters from the house of her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta. An information house was built next to Lúcia’s house in the backyard, where it is still possible to see olive trees from the time of the Apparitions.
The Shepherds’ Well, located in the back of Lúcia’s backyard, is the well where the Angel of Peace appeared for the second time, in the summer of 1916.
In the House Museum of Aljustrel, located next to Lúcia’s house and belonging to Maria Rosa, her baptism godmother, one can see personal objects of the little shepherds and of that time. It represents the way of living of that village.
The Parish Church of Fátima is located at 2 km from Cova da Iria. In the entrance of the Church, on the left side of the main entrance, one finds the Baptismal Font where the three little shepherds were baptized. Lúcia received her first communion in this church, and she and her cousins spent a long time praying here. It was here that Our Lady appeared to Jacinta to teach her to pray the rosary.
In the cemetery, located next to the Parish Church, Francisco and Jacinta were buried before their bodies were moved to the Basilica of the Sanctuary.
MORE SIGNS OF FAITH
Portugal is a traditionally Catholic country; and in addition to Fatima, it is home to numerous sacred sites including the following:
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Incarnation is located in Leiria. One day in 1588, a paralyzed woman stood up and walked during Mass, increasing devotion of people to Our Lady. The church has multicolored tiles depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.
Batalha Monastery was built as a result of a promise made by King D. Joao to the Virgin Mary if he won the Battle of Aljubarrota against Castille. It is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is the last great Portugese Gothic building.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare is located on a hill overlooking the sea. A hermitage is built on the same hill to mark the spot where tradition has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to D. Fuas Roupinho in 1182 as he was chasing a demon that had been transformed into a stag. On the hermitage's southern wall there is a small blue and white tiled panel painted to represent the Miracle of Nossa Senhora da Nazare.
The Convent of Christ in Tomar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Renaissance building in Portugal. It was the center for two of the most important religious orders in Portuguese history: the Order of the Knights Templar and the Knights of Christ.
The town of Obidos is called "Vila de Rainhaus" (Village of Queens) because it was traditional for kings to offer it as a present to their queens. There are many churches here because traditionally queens ordered one to be built when they bore a son.
The Convent of Saint Anthony in Torre Vedras is a Franciscan convent founded in 1470 in recognition of military battles won in North Africa. The convent is still active today and is the only place in the region where there are Franciscan friars.
The Convent and Palace of Mafra is a large complex of monuments, including a basilica, cloisters, a library and other facilities. It was built by Joao V to honor his promise to God if a son be born to him. Construction began in 1717 and lasted for 27 years and involved 45,000 workers.
Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon is one of the city's foremost landmarks. Its architectural excellence and unique style led UNESCO to classify it as a World Heritage Site. This is where the monks of the Order of St. Hieronymous lived and gave assistance to navigators.
The Lisbon Cathedral was ordered to be built over a mosque by the first king of Portugal in the 12th century. Although the outside remains as it was originally built, the inside has resulted from many renovation projects throughout the ages. The Cathedral Treasures include the relics of St. Vincent of Saragossa.
The Monastery of Alcobaca in Lisbon, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1989, is an impressive example of Cistercian architecture. Although it was built almost 900 years ago, the monastery still preserves its medieval buildings. The church is the largest primitive Gothic church built in Portugal in the Middle Ages.
Lisbon's Church and Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls were built right after the reconquest of Lisbon from the Moors, carrying out a vow made to St. Vincent at the time of the city's seige. It is one of the most impressive religious buildings in Lisbon.
The Church of St. Roque in Lisbon dates back to the end of the 16th century and belonged to the Jesuit Order. It contains excellent woodcarvings, tiles and paintings. There is a religious art museum next to the church.
The Church of St. Anthony in Lisbon was built in 1767 near the place where St. Anthony lived, according to tradition, and where there already existed a modest shrine. St. Anthony is the city's patron saint and protector of lovers. The Anthony of Lisbon Museum is next to the church.
The Sanctuary of Christ the King, built in 1959, is 360 ft. high; and, with its lift to the top, it offers a great view of the city of Lisbon. The huge statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was inspired by the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. It is a religious and pilgrimage site. The bishops of Portugal vowed to build it if Portugal was spared from involvement in the Second World War.
DID YOU KNOW?
Santarem, Portugal is home to a Eucharistic miracle. According to a document commissioned by King Alfonso IV in 1346, a young woman who was overcome with jealousy for her husband consulted a sorceress for advice on how to handle the situation. As she was told to do by the sorceress, on Feb. 16, 1266, the lady went to her church and stole a consecrated Host to use in a love potion. The woman placed the Host in a linen cloth that immediately became stained with Blood. When she opened the cloth, she saw Blood flowing from the Host. Confused, she stored the host in a drawer.
That night, bright rays of light came from the drawer and lit the room as if it were day. The light woke the lady's husband and she had to tell him everything.
The next day, the couple in-formed their pastor, who went to their home to remove the Host and returned it to the Church of St. Stephen in solemn procession accompanied by many religious and lay people. The Host bled for three consecutive days, and then was placed in a reliquary made of beeswax.
In 1340, another miracle occurred. When the priest opened the tabernacle, he found the beeswax vase broken into many pieces. In its place, he found a crystal vase containing the Blood mixed with the wax.
The Sacred Host is now preserved in an 18th century Eucharistic throne above the main altar in the Church of St. Stephen, which is now known as the Shrine of the Holy Miracle. At various times throughout the centuries, blood again flowed from the Host; and various images of Jesus were seen in the Host in some cases. Numerous studies and canonical analyses have been conducted over the years.
Ever since the miracle occurred, on the second Sunday in April, the Sacred Host is processed from the couple's home, which became a chapel in 1684, to the Church of St. Stephen.