Just a brief update to let you all know that, yes, I am still alive.
I am currently in the middle of a 6-week course on “Theology of Body” by Pope John Paul II which is taking up nearly all of my mental and physical energy and leaving myself with not much left in tank for anything.
This is in addition to my general lack of focus and purpose in the wake of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 and finishing my 2024 Calendar.
Currently, I find myself living (read: surviving) from one ex-WYD pilgrim social event/get-together to the next, which are so far averaging about a month apart. Post-World Youth Day Blues? Perhaps.
I know that I shouldn’t complain, because before WYD I had never had any social life what is filling up my calendar now. But I am aware of how fickle sudden-social-relationships can dissipate in the blink of an eye unless they are tended to and (hopefully) cultivated into last friendships.
Please kindly keep myself and all my fellow “Theology of the Body” course participants in your prayers.
22 Oct 2023
The following is a revised version of my earlier blogpost (published 25 September 2023) about the “Vocations Night talk by Fr Marek Woldan.” The previous version contained minor inaccuracies and miscommunication of key facts owing to the brevity of the notes that I took during his talk and has led to unforeseen misunderstandings by readers of Fr Marek’s personal wellbeing. As of the publication of this revised blogpost, the previous version has been removed from my website to avoid any further confusion.
I am thankful to Fr Marek for reaching out to me to help me correct the record on all previously mentioned points.
How God speaks to us simply, in ways that He alone knows that we can understand.
Unfortunately, he was left at somewhat of a disadvantage by the semi-regular speaker Fr Samuel French (who sent his regards for that night) who had already covered every possible topic about vocations under the sun prior to World Youth Day Lisbon.
So, what could Fr Marek possibly talk about to a dining table of two dozen or so Catholic youth? He chose simplicity and talked from his own experience.
Fr Marek was 7 years old, back in Poland, when he first knew his vocation in life.
At the time his two older siblings were preparing for their First Holy Communions. He recalled that somehow, he had picked up a prayer book and was reading it. Even looking back, he knew that he could not understand much of what was in it, but he was reading it. Then his mother walked into the room where the little Marek was and said: “Ah, Marek, I see that you are going to become a priest.” Not wanting to upset his mother, he said, “Okay.”
Later on in his life he was thinking about it. When all his classmates from school were worrying about which high school to go to, Marek was not worried. He knew that he was going to be a priest. It was very convenient to know it from that time, there was no uncertainty for him to deal with.
In seminary, around Year 2 or the beginning of Year 3 you are investured with the black cassock of a priest, and (in Poland) you are to no longer wear secular/common clothing. This is a very important threshold within a seminarian’s journey to becoming a priest. A visible sign that you are truly serious about answering God’s call to this holy vocation. No former seminarian would wish to be remembered amongst his community for going through with his investiture only to then say that the priesthood is not his true calling.
It is far better for you to resign before this moment happens, Fr Marek told us.
So, it was at this important threshold in his own journey of discernment that seminarian Marek had his first seed of doubt: Am I being truly called or am I just doing this for my mother? Dear God, please tell me, is this just me wanting to be a priest to make my mother happy or are You truly calling me to this?
Two weeks before he was to receive the cassock Marek was visiting his family, still wondering whether his calling was real or not. For some reason his mother began recounting stories from his childhood, he had heard most of them before. But then she told a story that he had not heard before.
Marek’s mother told of when as a child up until the age of 2 he had suffered through twelve bouts of pneumonia, one soon after the other. During one of these periods of illness, when she had taken him back to the hospital to be examined again, the doctor said to her, “If I were you, I would prepare.” Prepare for his death.
Not at all content with the doctor’s advice, Marek’s mother took him to their local church and prayed before the altar of Our Lady. She made a deal with Mary, “You heal him, you can take him.”
A while after, Marek recovered and the details of these events began to fade from his mother’s memory, until God called them back to the front of her mind when Marek most needed to hear them. It was late in Marek’s vocation, but it was still the right time — God’s time — for him to hear this story. Here was the confirmation that he was on the right path; God the Father was calling him to be a priest.
Fr Marek knew at the time, ‘This is not about me.’ God speaks to each of us in different ways. HE knows which ways to speak to us that we can understand, individually. Listening to some details of your life, you will see clearly where God is calling you. God can speak through other people. Pay attention to things that are repeated: phrases, events, conversations, and so on. It is not always some big message or big trumpet blast; God speaks to us simply, in the ways that He alone knows that we can understand.
For example, Fr Marek’s Vocation to be a Missionary.
When he was walking through a high school as a Year 9 student, out of the corner of his eye he noticed a poster for the Geographic Department and that was a small photo showing somewhere in Oceania, he couldn’t recall where exactly. And in that moment, it came to him, “Okay, I am going to be a missionary.”
God used something I would understand, he said. Something as simple as that photo.
Later, it came to his heart that he was to go to Papua New Guinea. There was no warning, he had no prior ideas about it, this was God calling him again to where he should go.
Priests that Marek knew, and his own fellow seminarians, told him that becoming a missionary would not be so easy. Their bishop was not one to let go of freshly ordained seminarians, Marek may have to wait a year or two before the bishop would be willing to let him go on mission work. Marek was not fazed; he knew that he was going to be a missionary.
Every time that the bishop came to visit and talk with the seminarians during their years of formation, Marek would say to the bishop, Bishop, “I am going to Papua New Guinea to be a missionary.”
Later on, Marek thought to himself, ‘Hmm, it might not be a bad idea to have some experience before becoming a missionary.’ So, he decided to stay for a year, or two, in Poland as a priest in a parish before becoming a missionary. He ended up staying 6 years for placement in his local diocese.
Then the bishop came on one of his parish visits. When he saw Fr Marek, he said, “Okay, here is the man who said he would be a missionary.” This statement left Fr Marek thinking again about his vocation and precipitated his second struggle with doubt. “Am I being called to be a missionary? Is this of me or not?”
In his parish as a newly ordained priest, Fr Marek met and became friends with a former missionary who was also living there. They would often go out for lunch together and the missionary would share stories about being a missionary, not knowing that the young priest before him was called by God to be a missionary as well.
Fr Marek knew that God was calling him to minister in Papua New Guinea, but all the missionaries from his diocese in Poland went to serve in communities in Africa and South America. There was no one who had been to, or was in, Papua New Guinea that he could ask about being a missionary there. He felt being called specifically to Papua New Guinea, however there was no one to contact to find out whether they were indeed in need of missionaries in that part of the world.
Fr Marek knew that if he was to be a missionary, he would need help in discerning the call.
“Okay, God if I am to be a missionary, I need a sign or a contact in Papua New Guinea to know that you want me to go there.”
What then followed for Fr Marek was a long period of prayer and questioning, by himself and others. This was God’s good way of purifying his call to missionary work. Marek wasn’t doing this because he liked the idea of Papua New Guinea, no, he wanted to go there because that was where God Himself was calling Marek to be.
After this period of purification there was still no sign or contact from Papua New Guinea. Then Fr Marek thought to himself, ‘Okay, Marek, if God calls you to be a missionary, what does it matter which country He sends you to?’
Only after this did Fr Marek then find out that one of his priest friends was actually going to be a missionary in Papua New Guinea. However, as clear a sign as this was, it was still not enough for Fr Marek to take this as a sign from God. He need confirmation that he wasn’t taking this turn of events to his human advantage — he had already given his, “Yes,” to God to go to Africa.
So, Fr Marek went to talk with the Director of the Mission Training Centre where he was studying, and asked the director, “Where should I go to be a missionary: Africa or Papua New Guinea?”
The director answered him, “They have more than enough missionary priests in Africa already, go to Papua New Guinea.”
And so that is how Fr Marek came to be a missionary in Papua New Guinea, but that was not the end of his story.
In his time ministering in Papua New Guinea, Fr Marek was called again by God with a thought, a thought that the missionary had never had before, that came to his mind: Australia.
Australia! Why Australia?
It took Fr Marek a while to understand this call. Talking with those around him and his fellow missionaries, he could come up with many Human Reasons to go to Australia:
In the end none of this Human Reasoning finally mattered, only God’s Reasoning mattered.
When Fr Marek received his call to Australia, it was so clear. Normally people have motives for moving. He had none. He was trying, as all humans do, to make up reasons for something that cannot be answered by human reasoning. For God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are above our ways.
The only reason Marek had to go to Australia was that it is THE Call — God’s call — and that was enough reason for him.
Now that Fr Marek is in Australia, he feels deep within himself that he is in the right place. The place where God wants him to be. His past 2 years in Australia have been of great spiritual growth to him and his life as a priest. That spiritual growth was never a motivation for him to come here, he has only received it because he followed God’s call.
For Fr Marek, the best way in life is to follow God’s call. He cannot truly express in words how happy and fulfilled he is for following the many calls that God made in his life so far.
In closing, Fr Marek advised us to be attentive, to discern, and aware of the things that we may not even think of as God’s call in our lives - may just be the God of Infinite Surprises knocking at our heart’s door.
He was glad to see so many young people gathered for the Vocations Night, “It is good that you are actually putting your ear to what God is calling you to. Thank you.”
Fr Marek Woldan has been an ordained priest for 23 years.
He was born and raised in Częstochowa, considered to be the Spiritual Capital of Poland.
In January 2008 he arrived in Papua New Guinea and was sent as a parish priest to one of the parishes in the Diocese of Mendi.
From the end of 2021, Fr Marek has been an assistant priest at Our Lady of Dolours Parish, Chatswood, Sydney, helping with pastoral work in the Diocese of Broken Bay.*
(Revised Version) 4 October 2023
* Details taken from Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Parish Chatswood Facebook post welcoming Fr Marek to the parish.
Showcasing various photos from my 2023 WYD pilgrimage to Lisbon.
Just a brief post to say that my 2024 Calendar containing a selection of my photographs from my WYD Lisbon 2023 pilgrimage are now available to order for the new year.
— Cost for the 2024 Calendars is $30 AUD, plus postage (within Australia).
— For International postal orders we will arrange Air Mail costs appropriately, on an order by order basis.
You can place your order through the form found under the Contact page or by messaging me via Facebook, or via LinkedIn (though I am hardly ever on that, at all).
29 Sept 2023
Just before 7am Madrid time, we were checking our luggage in at Madrid-Barajas Airport. Qatar Airways was taking us on both the Madrid to Doha, and the Doha to Sydney flights. For our Madrid to Doha flight, we were in a Boeing 777.
You might remember that when we landed in Milan for the beginning of our pilgrimage, a flight attendant gave this neck pillow into my keeping since it obviously belonged to an Australian pilgrim. Despite sending up flares on social media, and making other enquiries, its ownership was still unknown. I had hoped that someone would have claimed it at the Australian gathering in Lisbon, but no. Yet waiting in the lounge at Madrid airport the connection was made.
This pilgrim was a helper with the White bus; and had elected to do his European sight-seeing before meeting up with the White bus pilgrims in Lisbon. Since he had already ordered an exact replacement of his missing neck pillow, he graciously bestowed it on me. You can’t make these things up!
Going through the indoor tropical garden at Doha airport to find food. I ended up choosing sweet and sour fish with rice. Despite longingly looking up at the elevated driver-less people-mover monorail both times we were at Doha airport, my fellow pilgrims elected to do the 15-minute walk between where we landed and where the second flight was departing from.
Yay! Thanks be to God. Just before 5pm on 12 Aug we were back home on ‘terra firma’, at Sydney International Airport, Mascot. We landed 10 minutes after the pilgrim flights from Paris. The pilgrims who flew home from Lisbon arrived in Sydney on 11 Aug.
From a straw poll of pilgrims, the average length of sleep that first night home was 14 hours. All of us are slowly recovering from jetlag and exhaustion. We’ve been told to expect it to take two weeks to get back into normal sleep rhythms again.
Please pray that all the seeds of grace placed by God in pilgrim hearts over these three-and-a-bit weeks will, in His timing, yield an abundant harvest. Amen.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
15 Aug 2023, 9.32pm Sydney
After travelling all day from Fatima to a hotel close to Madrid airport we thought that Mass was out of the question. But God had a surprise for us. Our most resourceful seminarian just happened to know the dean of Madrid cathedral: and learned that in the months of July and August there is an 8pm Mass on weekdays. So off we went.
We approached the Cathedral by this side entrance, which is quite small compared with the rest of the Cathedral. While the need for this Cathedral in Madrid was known for centuries it has only comparatively recently been built. Taking 110 years to build, it was consecrated on 15 Jun 1993 by Pope St John Paul II.
The cathedral has one main nave, with two side naves; and three transepts off the main nave to give it the form of a Latin Cross. Our Mass was in the right-hand side nave dedicated to Our Lady of Almundena, or as we would call it, Our Lady of the Citadel. Under this title Mary, Mother of Jesus, is best known and loved by the Spanish people because the original statue has stories of miracles attached to it.
The Christians of 8th century Madrid had deep devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and when the area was invaded by the moors, this statue was hidden to prevent its destruction. It lay hidden for some 300 years before a Christian king came along and demanded it be found.
Although the secret location had been passed down from family to family, by the time this Christian king came on the scene the holder of the secret had just died without telling her young daughter where it was. After much prayer a miracle happened, part of the castle wall crumbled to reveal the statue.
The patterns in this roof are very colourful and look a lot like palm fronds to me.
Behind the priest with the white shirt is a reliquary box encased in glass. Inside the reliquary box are the remains of St Isidore the Farmer, patron of Madrid, who died on 15 May 1130. Although sometimes he is called St Isidore the Labourer.
He and his wife St Maria belong to that rare breed of married Saints. They had a son who died in his youth. Not that holiness is limited to consecrated life, nor to martyrs; and not that holiness in married life is uncommon; but it is a lot easier for religious orders to keep a cause for canonization going through several lifetimes of postulators.
What makes St Isidore the farmer so special? He put God and prayer first. He would go to Mass each morning before work. At least once when his fellow workers complained that he wasn’t working, they found him deep in prayer, and an angel ploughing the fields in his stead.
St Isidore is also known for his kindness towards animals, and for the hospitality of his home. Frequently St Isidore would bring hungry people home, and his holy wife always had a pot of stew on the fire waiting for them, and once when St Isidore brought home far more hungry people than usual God multiplied the food for them.
On the far left-hand side is the statue of St Isidore the Farmer, and on the far right-hand side is the statue of his wife St Maria.
The painted panel on the left-hand side is an icon of Pentecost. The painted panel on the right-hand side is an icon of the Baptism of Jesus.
The golden statue underneath the carved crucifixion scene is the 16th century copy of the original statue. From the book of Revelation are the details taken; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars, whose son was to rule all the nations.
In the other painted panels around the Virgin of Almundena are scenes from the life of Jesus and the life of Mary.
This tomb belongs to Queen Maria of Spain, a.k.a. Mercedes of Orleans, 1860-1878. In her brief 6 months as Queen before her death she became a co-initiator of the building of this cathedral.
Because the cathedral is a short distance away from the royal palace, the cathedral is the Spanish equivalent of Westminster Abbey for major royal weddings and funerals.
On pilgrimage the meals we had to locate for ourselves became known as either adventure lunches or adventure dinners because we had no idea where we were going, nor any idea what kind of food we would find. Thankfully it was easier to find gelato.
What better way to end the evening than gelato? This time I chose two scoops of gelato, one Coconut and the other Bailey’s Coffee Flavour.
Since we had to be ready for breakfast at 5.30am the next morning, and a 6am departure for the airport, after the gelato we made our way back to the hotel.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
11 Aug 2023, 12.30am Spain: 11 Aug 2023, 8.30am Sydney
On our final afternoon and evening in Fátima we had a group session followed by Mass and then our last group session.
These big group sessions, which contained some small group conversations, were designed to help us begin the internal processing of all that we had received on pilgrimage, before we return to our regular lives at home.
After that all 4 bus groups gathered for a final dinner together. From here on we go in four different directions: some go back to Lisbon and catch homeward bound flights from there; some go by coach to Paris and catch homeward bound flights from there; some go by coach to Madrid and catch homeward bound flights from there; and some adult pilgrims continue to explore Europe with family and friends before coming home.
This lovely statue caught my eye. It stands behind the reception desk at the Consolata Hotel in Fátima.
Of course, everyone wanted the evening to last as long as possible before we went our separate ways. So the Green Bus members decided after that final dinner there was a necessity to go looking for gelato.
Thankfully I got to this landmark before the rest of the gelato-seekers arrived.
Getting a photo of it without pilgrims draped all over it is a bit of a win.
If you look carefully through the pilgrim bodies, you can make out the contours of that landmark.
Because our coach to Madrid wasn’t leaving until 9.30am, there was time for Morning Prayer and some silent prayer in the smaller of the two Consolata Hotel chapels.
After studying maps before leaving home, it looked like we’d be coming into Madrid via Toledo. But to my surprise we actually came into Madrid via Salamanca.
Perhaps the bus and truck fuel and food facilities on that route were better, because they were sure crowded.
On the map the red marker is Fatima, the blue circle is our coach about to cross the Portugal-Spain border, and Madrid is like one of those places that all roads lead to. It was a 10-hour journey.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
15 Aug 2023, 10.58pm Sydney
Meet Claudia. She took us for tours through both the basilicas and through the grounds of the Sanctuary of Fatima on the morning of 9 Aug.
This is the largest piece of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. It was bought by a Portuguese man who offered it to the Sanctuary of Fatima not long after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
From 13 Aug 1961 until 9 Nov 1989 a large concrete wall separated West Germany and West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin, with security checkpoints for those passing from western to communist sides and vice versa.
On 12 May 1991, St Pope John Paul II visited Fatima, and his words during that visit have been engraved on a plaque near this portion of the Berlin Wall. A rough translation goes like this:
Thank you, Heavenly Shepherdess, for having with maternal affection provided this liberation.
We paused in front of this large crucifix by a German sculptor, where our bishop gave us a short talk on the differences between Religious Monumental Art – of which this crucifix is an example – and Religious Devotional Art – such as the paintings just viewed in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
At first this crucifix is a bit confronting because of how stark and simplistic it is. However its scale is in proportion to the new basilica, and it can be seen from just about everywhere in the Fatima sanctuary precinct, so after a while your heart softens towards it and grows in appreciation of this artwork.
In a kneeling pose, looking towards the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, is this statue of Pope St Paul VI. There are other statues of deceased popes who held the keys of St Peter from 1917 to the present era placed throughout the Fatima Sanctuary precinct, all of them looking intently towards the old basilica.
Notably Pope Benedict XVI’s statue is not yet present, but there’s a spot marked out for whenever his statue is completed.
There is an area in Fatima for lighting wax candles, and it seems like ‘the bigger the better’ is quite normal.
Once upon a time it used to be a tradition in Portugal to make an offering of your body weight in wax. Now it is more normal to offer wax candles approximating your body height. That’s perhaps why the man in the photo is carrying such tall candles.
Close by the Chapel of the Apparitions is this large oak tree. It is over a hundred years old. It marks the place where the three children would wait and pray the rosary prior to each of the 13th of the month apparitions of Mary, mother of Jesus.
While it isn’t the holm oak tree upon which Mary stood, it is still a physical witness to the events of May 1917 to Oct 1917.
Edited excerpts from the Sanctuary of Fatima website blog 6 Feb 2007:
This tree has been designated a tree of public interest by the Portuguese government. Before that designation in 2007 happened, the tree was in danger of dying because so many pilgrims took snippets off it. Now it is protected by a circular wall 100 metres in diameter.
During the day there were just too many pilgrims around this statue of Pope St John Paul II to get a good photo. So after dinner that night, I decided to walk to this location, and then it was possible to view his life-like statue clearly.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
10 Aug 2023, 7.12am Portugal: 10 Aug 2023, 4.12pm Sydney
On Wednesday, 9 Aug, we had a walking tour of the whole Fatima site. Part of that tour was exploring the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. We had been there for Mass the previous day.
By 1973 the need for a much larger basilica than the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was acknowledged. However the building of the Basilica of the Holy Trinity didn’t begin until 2004, almost 4 years after Francisco and Jacinta were beatified. The building itself wasn’t completed until late 2007, with most of the major artworks installed during 2008.
Inside the Basilica around 8000 pilgrims can be seated, and there’s room on the altar-sanctuary to seat up to 100 clergy.
From this photo you can see how vast the outdoor area between the two Basilicas. The whole area is used for night-time processions and for outdoor Masses at big events. You can also see how the Basilica of the Holy Trinity blends into the landscape and doesn’t detract from it.
The exterior surface of the Basilica is made from locally sourced white stone.
If you zoom into this photo a bit, you can better see the wall-covering mosaic and the seating for the clergy. Produced in the Vatican workshops, many international artists took part in this painstaking mosaic artwork.
The photo also gives you an idea of just how many pews there are.
In front of the group of Saints in the mosaic on the left-hand side of the altar is the Virgin Mary, with St Francisco and St Jacinta on either side of her, with possibly Lucia – without a halo, and garbed as a Carmelite nun – behind the Virgin Mary’s left shoulder.
On the right-hand side of the altar, the leading figure of the mosaic Saints is St John the Baptist.
For those of you familiar with the Catholic Mass, and Eucharistic Prayer No. 1, two groups of Saints are mentioned: the first group before the consecration is headed by the Virgin Mary, and the second group after the consecration is headed by St John the Baptist.
At the far right-hand end of the mosaic, after this glorious depiction of the gathered Saints in heaven around the Lamb of God, there is a reminder that Hell, too, exists.
Surrounding the big circular church interior of the Basilica is this wide underground walkway. There are 12 exits from the church interior into this walkway, one for each Apostle.
Then you find all kinds of chapels, toilet facilities, meeting rooms, exhibition spaces, and sets of stairs opening out from this walkway. It was also a great place for those special moments of seeing familiar faces in unexpected places.
One of those chapels off the walkway is this Blessed Sacrament chapel, which can fit up to 200 pilgrims for adoration and prayer. In the centre of that golden square shape is a simple circular monstrance holding a consecrated host for veneration. Spending time before a consecrated host visible in a monstrance is called adoration: because Catholics believe in the consecrated host Jesus Himself is truly and fully present.
In the exhibition space, there was a temporary exhibition on the Rosary. It will remain there until late 2024, when a new temporary exhibition will take its place. Gathered in this exhibition were many rosary beads used by popes, and saints. St Padre Pio’s rosary beads were there.
There were some art installations, but they didn’t capture my attention, and artworks.
This set of rosary beads belonged to one of the Marto children, either to St Francisco or to St Jacinta. The beads and crucifix are made of bone; and strung with string or twine.
In the exhibition, this painting did capture my attention. It was painted by Simon Rodrigues in the year 1605; and it is called either ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ or ‘Shepherds Worshipping’.
He was a Portuguese artist who died in 1629. For the colours to still be so vibrant after over 400 years is amazing.
These are the main entry and exit doors to the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. It has been designed so that when you come out, there is a direct line of sight to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
9 Aug 2023, 1.08pm Portugal: 9 Aug 2023, 10.08pm Sydney
The tour we did of the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary on 9 Aug was part of a much wider tour of the whole sanctuary precinct. The other two parts can be broken up into the Basilica of the of the Holy Trinity and the memorabilia around the grounds of the Sanctuary.
The construction of this basilica began on 13 May 1928, only 11 years after the apparitions began and two years before official papal recognition of the apparitions as ‘worthy of belief’.
What this phrase means is that firstly nothing has been found within the apparition narrative that is contrary to the Gospel, and secondly that everyone is invited to take it seriously while at the same time there is no compulsion to do so – in effect, if it helps you run with it, if it doesn’t help you then you can ignore it without peril.
Such a papal declaration only happens after extensive study: of the messages received; of the accounts of the events; of the lives of the seers; and of the spiritual fruit produced; all interspersed with rigorous debate; and is never given lightly.
The colonnades on both sides of the basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary resemble the colonnades at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in that they give pilgrims a sense of being gathered together in love.
The statue of Our Lady in the niche of the bell tower was donated by the United States of America in 1958. In the monogram above the statue you can see three intertwined letters, N, S and R. They stand for ‘Nossa Senhora do Rosario’: in English, Our Lady of the Rosary.
The crown beneath the cross that tops the bell tower was designed to be seen from the nearby freeway: tall enough and big enough to be seen from a considerable distance away.
The external altar area with the all-weather canopy is called ‘Altar do Mundo’ or Altar of the World. Why? Because it makes very large open-air celebrations of Mass possible when it seems like all the world comes to visit.
It is particularly necessary in the warmer months from April to November when very large crowds come on the first Saturday of the month and on the 13th of the month, and whenever the pope visits.
The writing you can see upon that golden arch, ‘Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii Fatimae Ora Pro Nobis’ in Latin, means in English: 'Queen of the Most Holy Rosary of Fátima Pray For Us'.
But it isn’t painted on, it’s a mosaic, and it was made in the Vatican workshops and donated by the Catholics of Singapore.
It has been painted; and has been painted right onto the wall. In it our Lady of Fátima, full of light and peace, is inclined towards the three children.
To her left is a depiction of the annunciation. To her right are several bishops or popes deliberating with the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the background.
In the foreground is the Angel of Peace ministering the Eucharist to the three children. Behind the children is a depiction of an unidentified Pope, in a protective pose.
In this photo you can see one of the two upper balconies, it’s the one on the right-hand side. With both balconies and the generously sized nave, up to 1500 pilgrims can be accommodated for the celebration of Mass.
Consider how Fátima is on the opposite side of the world to the Broken Bay diocese. Then consider that the parish of The Entrance is named Our Lady of the Rosary, the parish of Wyoming is named Our Lady of the Rosary, the church at Killara is named Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the cathedral at Waitara-Hornsby is named Our Lady of the Rosary – and you begin to glimpse the worldwide impact of Fátima.
#bbwyd #wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
9 Aug 2023, 12.39am Portugal: 9 Aug 2023, 9.39pm Sydney
Map of our tour route
Photo by Vincent
It is also called the Caminho dos Pastorinhos or Way of the Shepherds. But it certainly isn’t a walk on flat ground, the first part is hiking up a long climbing hill. How we see Fatima now is not how it was in 1917. The village was in the map areas of 2, 3 and 4, and where the Shrine is now was just pastureland for the sheep.
Start of the Via Crucis, First Station
Photo by Vincent
Via Crucis is Latin for Way of the Cross, and this starting point is map area 1. In this First Station of the Cross, Jesus is sentenced to death. What you can’t see from this angle of photo is Pontius Pilate washing his hands. Each of the Stations is housed in one of these concrete hut-like structures to protect them from the weather, and you have to walk a good distance between each one. On either side of the path are olive groves.
Site of 19 August 1917 apparition
Photo by Vincent
The monument to this apparition of Mary, mother of Jesus, is located between the 8th and 9th Stations of the Cross: 8. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem, 9. Jesus falls the third time under the Cross. Before the 13 August, when the next apparition in the series was due to happen, government authorities kidnapped the children and held them hostage to prevent the 13 August apparition. But when the children were finally released, and all was back to normal, Our Lady appeared to them here - within a short walk of their village - instead of at the usual meeting place in the Cova da Iria.
At this time Mary, mother of Jesus, gave them this message “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”
End of the Via Crucis and its chapel
Photo by Vincent
After the 14 Stations of the Cross, pilgrims come to this chapel next. Above is the life size depiction of the Crucifixion scene, and below is a chapel where Mass can be celebrated. The funds for these Stations of the Cross were donated by Hungarian refugees after the 1956 uprising in Hungary; and were built during the 1960s. This chapel is dedicated to St Stephen, the holy king of Hungary, and opened in 1992 in thanksgiving for the liberation of Hungary from communism. From St Stephen’s kingship onwards, no earthly lady was ever to be called queen since he had declared Mary, mother of Jesus, Queen of Hungary.
We had a group photo taken here in front of the chapel.
Interior of chapel, and altar
Photo by Vincent
Possibly the Saints depicted in the stained glass are St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Emeric son of St Stephen, St Stephen himself, and St Adalbert the bishop who baptised St Stephen. Although the female Saint could also be Blessed Gisele, St Stephen’s wife.
Roof of Chapel
Photo by Vincent
It had this magnificent mosaic on the ceiling.
Site of two of the apparitions of the Angel of Peace
Photo by Vincent
In the year or so before the 13th of the month apparitions started in May 1917, the three children were visited by the same angel three times. The angel identified himself both as the Angel of Peace and as the Angel Guardian of Portugal, and he also taught them prayers to pray. Here the first and third angel apparition happened; the second occurred near the village well.
In Portugal during the 14th to the 17th centuries, devotion to the Angel Guardian of Portugal was high, and there was even a national feast day in the liturgical calendar to honour the Angel. But by World War I, devotion had all but disappeared. From 1952 onwards that national feast day has been reinstated, largely due to these apparitions of the Angel.
Lucia’s family home
Photo by Vincent
Tired and hot from the climb up the hill of the Stations of the Cross, I ended up near the rear of the back half of our four buses’ worth of pilgrims by the time we got to Lucia’s home. Because everything was so cramped, I only really saw the outside of these village dwellings and not the inside.
Lucia’s family barn and stables
Photo by Vincent
If you recall the Fatima movie released in 2020, some of those village scenes must have been filmed in this exact location.
Jacinta and Francisco’s home
Photo by Vincent
These two were siblings, and Lucia was their cousin.
We didn’t get anywhere near the well, because a large contingent of American pilgrims were gathered around it. They had either just finished Mass or just finished praying the Rosary there. This was a place where the children often prayed together and played together.
Monument to the three children
Photo by Vincent
This monument is placed near a roundabout, and the statues of the children are placed so that it looks like they are walking towards the Shrine. This was my view from the bus on the way back to the hotel. It’s far more effective than a ‘This way to Fatima’ sign.
Vincent Cavanagh #bbwyd
#wydlisbon #wyd2023 #lisboa2023
10 Aug 2023, 11.48am Portugal: 10 Aug 2023, 8.48pm Sydney
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