On Easter Monday 17 April, pilgrims from Killaloe Diocese departed on their Centenary Pilgrimage to Fatima, carrying the prayers of the people in their hearts to the shrine of the Blessed Mother. Father Brendan Quinlivan, a priest of the Diocese of Killaloe is sharing a pilgrimage diary with us this week on CatholicNews.ie. You can read part one below:
Fatima Day 1 – Easter Monday 17 April
During our pilgrimage to the Holy Land I took the opportunity to share a little travelogue at the end of each day. I thought I’d do the same for Fatima. It helps remind us that as pilgrims we do not make this journey alone. We carry with us the prayers and intentions of all the people of the diocese. There are many who would have liked to share this journey with us but are prevented from doing so because of ill health and we are remembering you in a very special way.
Bishop Fintan made breakfast for us and even squeezed his own oranges before we left for Shannon to meet our fellow travellers yesterday morning. Almost 100 pilgrims gathered in our local airport in Shannon for our flight to Lisbon at 9.00am. It is a real blessing to have an airport in our diocese for events such as these. There’s a real warmth in being seen off by our own neighbours and sincere thanks to people like Cindy Donnelly, Niamh Brennan and Hugh Tuohy who saw us off.
After a very smooth flight we landed safely in Lisbon to beautiful sunshine before making our transfers by coach to the Hotel in Fatima for lunch and check-in. We received a warm welcome from Elsa and Carina who are to be our companions and guides for our stay here. Just time to freshen up before heading to the sanctuary for Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions.
Bishop Fintan was the presider at the opening Mass of our Pilgrimage and he spoke to us about the whole idea of pilgrimage. He showed us a scallop shell that is an internationally recognised symbol of pilgrimage. It is carried on the backpacks of those who walk the Camino to Santiago di Compostella. This particular shell had come from Inis Barra off the coast of Leitir Mor where Bishop Fintan’s grandmother had come from and had been carried by him on his own walking of the Camino to Santiago and indeed on to Finisterre, the end of the ancient world. The empty shell was a reminder to us that we often make our journey towards God with an emptiness that only He can fill – timely reminder for all of us as we began our journey through these days.
After Mass it was time for our group photo. It’s always a good idea to take these at the beginning of the trip as we may be a little tired and disheveled by the end. This was the time we were taking to familiarize ourselves with the sanctuary area and for those whose first visit it was to hear some of the story of Fatima and the little shepherd children.
Our first port of call was the new Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. The foundation stone was from the tomb of St. Peter in Rome and was given as a gift by St. John Paul II who had such devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Filled with natural light the Basilica an hold almost 9000 people. The back wall is covered in a magnificent mosaic by Fr. Mark Rupnik. (Regular visitors to Lourdes will know his work on the Mysteries of Light and he is the artist also responsible for the Chapel of the Irish College in Rome). This mosaic depicts the Lamb of God surrounded by the saints of heaven. The bright gold leaf with flashes of red and blue give a vibrancy that fills the whole building – check out some of the photos.
The bronze crucifix over the altar is by Irish artist Catherine Greene and is striking in its appearance. The figure of the risen Christ seems to come forward to gather or embrace the pilgrim. Meanwhile as we leave the basilica we see the stained glass panel by a Canadian artist named Kerry Joe Kelly which includes pieces of Scripture in a variety of languages. As Gaeilge we read, “Fógraíonn na spéartha glóire Dé agus foilsíonn an firmamint saothar a lámh.”
Our next stop on the sanctuary tour is the portion of the Berlin Wall which stands at one of the entrances to the sanctuary. This reminder of Europe’s divided and troubled past is a challenge to remember the message of Fatima to pray the rosary every day for peace. It is surely no coincidence that the political events that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall began with the consecration of the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984 fallowing the request of Our Lady of Fatima and Sr. Lucia, the surviving one of the shepherd children of Fatima.
Our final visit in the sanctuary is to the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary which is probably a more familiar sight to readers. One can’t help but be reminded of St. Peter’s with the church in the centre and two sweeping arms embracing all those who come to visit. Here we visit the tombs of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta and the Servant of God Sr. Lucia who rests now with her cousins. Following a little prayer time here its back to the hotel for supper.
Since many of our pilgrims were up since the wee hours of the previous night it was decided not to participate as a group in the rosary procession although the tough ones made their way down. Some people have great stamina. I waved the Bishop goodbye as he sprinted off from the hotel door as I headed off to the lift – I wondered which of us like Mary in the Gospel had chosen “the better part”. Well whichever of us it was – it is not to be taken from us.
Father Brendan Quinlivan