It was indeed a privilege to go to Fatima especially to be there for the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Having arrived there, the first thing that struck me was the silence and the peace and i think that current ran right through the pilgrimage.
I guess i felt lucky to be there probably a little more lucky than most people because i had won this pilgrimage but not only that , just the day before.. i had lost my passport and thought i would not make it to Fatima. That night i had gone to bed in tears disappointed giving up hope of getting to Fatima and I could not sleep so i woke at almost 2 am, searched the house for a black pen and sat and filled in a passport application form and put in a wake up call for the following morning... the next day, i packed a tiny light suitcase and set off for the passport office in Dublin. I have never travelled so lightly. Our Lady must have been watching over us... it was 11am when i got to the passport office.....and by some miracle , i was at the airport with my new passport by 1.40pm (20 minutes early for check in ) .. sooo arriving in Fatima, walking out onto the balcony of a Hotel looking up at the Basilica in the Cova , I dont think it is any wonder that I felt such peace and could feel the silence. Every morning we woke to the sound of church bells ringing out Ave Maria .. how beautiful.
On our first day, we took the tour up the mountain to the place where Our Lady first appeared to the three little shepherds - Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. As we walked along through the Holmoak and Olive trees on the mountain, we prayed rosary as a group and sat at the apparition sites especially the place where the angel appeared and taught the children to pray. It was nice to sit and just absorb the atmosphere there
That evening, we went to our first candelight procession at the shrine where they said rosary and we walked behind the Cross and in front of the statue of Our Lady. As we returned to the Capellina ( little chapel at the Cova) , i felt really honoured to be part of a guard of honour on each side of the statue as it was wheeled back into the Chapel. The amazing thing was this seemed to happen every night.
The pilgrimage was so full of wonderful things....but i just want to share some of what was moving to me... firstly i mentioned the peace and the silence. it is as if just for a few days, we have left our worlds behind... then the faith of those who kneel and move on their knees praying rosary out of gratitude, out of prayer requests, out of penance.. these people pray across a long path around the shrine.. some on hands and knees.
While in Fatima, We went to confession on the First Saturday and we got the opportunity to start observing First Saturdays in reparation for sin. This was very special starting this in Fatima and we both hoped to be able to observe the 5 First Saturdays that Our Lady requested.
Later in the week, we both walked back up along the mountain to the apparition places by ourselves and as we walked, we prayed openly the rosary - all 20 decades and we looked at the countryside, imagining the scenes with the little children and the angel and Our Lady. The forecast that day was for heavy rain all day and yet the sun shone for us and there was a fresh breeze always there refreshing us...... This was the highpoint of the week for me ... being there, on our own, away from the crowd, praying all 20 decades of the rosary .. imagining that is what those children were doing
The week also had a message for me anyway and it was about sacrifice and offering sacrifices. As you read through Sister Lucias memoirs and accounts of the apparitions and even the prayers and the messages of the angel to the children, You begin to hear a call for sacrifice, for offering up even the smallest things, even our sufferings and pains, problems and worries. I think reading about Jacinta and her purity of faith and willingness to sacrifice her food, her playtime for Jesus and for reparation for all the sins in the world was very striking.
The most beautiful prayer I heard which was repeated quite often...... O My Jesus, it is for Love of You, the conversion of sinners, for the Holy Father , in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These words were said by the visionaries when offering their sacrifices and it made me wonder how many times i could have made such a beautiful offering instead of grumbling and complaining.
Being in Fatima also allowed us to go to adoration where there was perpetual adoration and we made a few visits there. Again sitting there, you could almost hear the little shepherds saying Most Holy Trinity, I adore You, My God, My God, I love You in the Blessed Sacrament..