Fatima 90th anniversary

Today is the 90th anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady to the children in Fatima on 13 May 1917.

I first visited Fatima in 1998, leading a Pilgrimage not long after coming to Blackfen. We went there again in 2000 and 2003. In recent years, we have stuck to Lourdes in order to ensure that we established a sense of Pilgrimage rather than simply holiday and to get used to running all the bookings ourselves. But it may be time to go to Fatima again soon.

If you want to go to Fatima independently, it is not that difficult. You can take a flight to Lisbon. From there you get a bus to Fatima (or "Cova da Iria") which is 88 miles to the north. Accommodation in Fatima is very cheap: the top hotel (4 star) is the "Hotel Do Fatima" right next to the shrine which has rooms for about £50 a night and the cost goes down from there. The hotels run by the Paulists and the Verbites are very near to the shrine and perfectly comfortable.

You need to arrange your trip so that you are there for the 13th of the month between May and October. That way you can participate in the vigil Mass and then the great "Farewell" ceremony on the morning of the 13th itself. The highlight each day is the torchlight procession in the evening. I found this a very moving expression of "popular religion" in the sense that Newman used that expression in "Loss and Gain".

Priests can concelebrate at the daily English Mass. If you have a group with you, it is quite likely that you will be able to preside and preach at the Mass one of the days you are there. When I was last there, the MC gave instructions before the International Mass. He was brilliant: he explained in fluent Latin that the priests should behave reverently and not take photos etc. during the Mass. Sadly some of the clergy either didn't know enough Latin or didn't take any notice.

There are many books about Fatima. In my view, the most important are the two volumes "Fatima in Lucia's Own Words" I and II and the follow-up book "Calls from the Message of Fatima" (also by Sister Lucia) This is important because it corrects the unkind picture that had been painted of her parents, as well as answering a number of other questions and doubts that had been brought to Sister Lucia.

(I'm not even going to post a link to Amazon for this - the UK Amazon lists 5 copies from £27.45 which is ridiculous. My copy cost me 7.50 euros from the sanctuary bookshop. I'm sure you could find it somewhere at a reasonable price - even if you have to write to the sanctuary and get it from there.)

Here's a photo I took of the roundabout at one end of the town (sorry, I forgot what the American was for roundabout!):

And here is the baptismal font where the three children were baptised:

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