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Part I of II

“Each thing becomes a window onto a whole new world, an inner world, composed of the light of Heaven within everything.”A Course in Miracles

I joined two pilgrimages this year, both of which took me to Fatima, Portugal. On Sept. 22, 2019, I got to Fatima Square, an hour before rosary began at 9:30 p.m. inside the Chapel of Apparitions, and a procession after. I would come back five more times in two days, as if drawn to it by a magnet, and three other times on Nov. 10, 2019. It has been a tiring 20 hours of travel from the USA, one way.

We had barely slept. Yet, the lure of thousands with lit candles praying the rosary together was too inviting, despite the blustery night and the cold rains. The warmth of a united humanity, speaking multiple languages kept us all cozy and secure. It was even inspiring to see a Franciscan priest in front of my pew, who brought his stool, only to sacrifice and offered it to another pilgrim. I wondered if that is what life’s purpose is – offer your gifts and graces for others’ welfare?   

Fr. Joel O. Bugas, our spiritual director, had confided his wish to pray part of the rosary and wondered aloud if he might get it. Christina Vives, a much sought-after seasoned travel guide of 50 years, persuaded the chapel staff to include him.

We were a 25-member pilgrimage that flew in from New Mexico, Denver, Maryland, Philadelphia, California, Florida, Idaho, and Texas. He encouraged us to pray for each other’s good health, 12 prayers, 12 days of intentions, and to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide our experiences.   We were seated on wooden benches inside the Chapel of the Apparitions. The chapel has walls on three sides, and in the altar, the encased statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Now awake, we held our lighted candles and prayed the rosary in several languages.   

After, a replica of Our Lady of Fatima statue was taken out for the procession, which started with a 10-foot lighted cross leading us to walk past the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, past the Divine Mercy Statue, past the fountains where blessed holy waters flow, and then back to the Chapel of the Apparitions. It made for an uplifting feeling, recalling that we just prayed for those needing conversion around the world.

“Enjoy every minute of this blessing, as even the mother of Jacinta and Francisco were not keen on believing,” Fr. Bugas continued.   

He was referring to 7-year-old Jacinta, her 9-year-old brother Francisco and their 10-year-old cousin Lucia, who saw the Angel of Peace in 1916 three times, preparing them to spread Our Lady’s message, the Good News of the Gospel. Six months later, Our Lady of Fátima made six apparitions.  She also requested Lucia to go to school; the young girl learned fast, enabling her to write her memoirs about Fatima.   

Another grace came from meeting Lucia’s niece, Maria dos Anjos, 99 years old, whom I gave the “mano po,” a form of Filipino respectful greeting of taking her hand to my forehead, first on Sept. 22, 2019, and a second time on Nov. 10, 2019. When I took her hand — she had a rosary in another — I could smell the fragrance, hinting at a bouquet of flowers. She gave me a nose to nose greeting in response. I handed her a small token of my appreciation.

The next day, Sept. 23, a nun docent of the museum exhibition, Fatima Light and Peace, told us that we do not choose to go to Fatima. Instead, the Virgin of Fatima chooses us.

  True enough, months later, Fr. Bugas celebrated two masses in his parish church on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2019, as an associate priest of Santa Maria de la Real Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico with the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The statue is described as “a traveling symbol of miracles that occurred in 1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared to three children to impart what is known as the Peace Plan from Heaven,” according to the Knights of Columbus Santa Fe Council 10517’s Facebook post on Dec. 1, 2019.    

Our Lady of Fatima chooses us, just like my co-pilgrim who visited the Light and Peace exhibition on her special day. The Sri-Lankan nun docent gave her a necklace of hearts. In unison, our tears flowed as the nun warmly welcomed us with an open heart and a loving prayer to love even more. She showed us the rosary of diamonds given by Philippines’ First Lady Imelda Marcos on Sept. 19, 1970. Knowing Imelda Marcos’ affinity for numerology, was it a coincidence that she gave the rosary two days and two years before martial law was declared on Sept. 21, 1972? Or did it just arrive on that date? It was a sparkling gift, but was it sparkling enough?

Fatima’s 8,000 residents welcome millions of pilgrims each year with open hearts and thoughtful giving of services.   

The story of Our Lady’s apparitions

“Whenever we look to Mary, we long to believe in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.” – Pope Francis, May 13, 2017.

The Angel of Peace appeared once in spring, summer and again in autumn of 1916. Recall that in 1916, there was chaos, violence, and it was Europe’s darkest moments of atheism, hatred, the rise of fascism and a year after, the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in Russia.   

Lucia described seeing the Angel of Peace, “It was whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it and of great beauty. He drew closer and said, ‘Do not be afraid! I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me. My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You. I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You. Then, rising, he said, ‘Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.” (Source: “Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words,” 22nd edition October 2018).   

For the first apparition, “He was holding a chalice in his left hand, with a Host suspended above it, from which some drops of blood fell into the chalice. Leaving the chalice and host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated beside the little shepherds and gave the Host to Lucia and the contents of the chalice to Francisco and Jacinta, saying ‘Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God,” Lucia wrote in her own words.   

Six months later, the heavens opened up again and Our Lady of Fatima appeared on the 13th of May, 13th of June, 13th of July, 19th of August, 13th of September and 13th of October in 1917, six apparitions in all.   

On the first apparition, they were asked by Our Lady to come successively for six months on the 13th day at this same hour. She asked them if they were willing to make sacrifices as acts of reparation for the the conversion of sinners, after all, we all were endowed with free will.   

Lucia continued in her memoirs, “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war [World War I when Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were pitted against Great Britain, United States, France, Russia, Italy, and Japan.] Lucia described how “Our Lady began to rise serenely, going up towards the east, until she finally disappeared in the immensity of space. The light that surrounded her seemed to open up a path before her in the firmament.”   

In the second apparition, Our Lady promised to take Francisco and Jacinta to heaven soon and Lucia had to stay much longer to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart and to make Jesus known. When she opened her hands, in front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand, Lucia wrote, “was a heart encircled by thorns which pierced it.” 

In 1917 in Portugal, for every 100,000 inhabitants, 87% of the males died and 62 % of the females perished from pneumonia. (Source: Ourem Museum).   

Like other young children who had pneumonia at that time, Jacinta and Francisco died.   

Lucia was present when Pope John Paul II beatified her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta on May 13, 2000, while Lucia at age 98 died in 2005 just as Our Lady said she would.    

The third apparition’s message was to continue to pray the Holy Rosary daily and Our Lady taught them a prayer, “O Jesus it is for Love of You, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” When Our Lady opened her hands, Lucia told us, “that the little shepherds beheld a most terrifying vision of hell and the souls of the demon and the damned.” 

In the local parish church in Fatima where Jacinta and Francisco were baptized, a painting illustrates a vision of hell and next to it is Our Lady of Fatima providing solace to pilgrims.   

In another local church, known for miracles, local pilgrims go to Our Lady of Ortega Church. The narrative goes that a mute shepherd was approached to give her lamb to Our Lady.  She consented but conditioned it on her father’s approval. When her father saw the miracle, where for years she could not speak, he agreed. Ever since then, locals make a yearly pilgrimage and stay all day in this church.

I too felt the grace of receiving the Holy Eucharist, guided to be more conscious of not becoming background noise and to stay mindful and considerate in assisting other pilgrims, while seeking solitude to process the daily infusion of richly divine experiences.   

Back home in America, I recalled a statement told to me by a former non-believer, describing a journey from once an atheist, to an agnostic, to a believer of spirits embedded in nature and to one that prays Our Father Prayer at night. The all-inclusive flow of love from the Immaculate Heart of Mary goes out to anyone needing conversion. In our pilgrimage, we all witnessed a reluctant pilgrim change to become more conscientious in prayers and during mass.   

Google Mary and you will get a National Geographic Magazine displaying 500 years of Virgin Mary sightings in one map, since A.D. 40 to 2015, from Guadalupe to Medjugorje, Bosnia, including an article by Maureen Orth describing Mary as “the most powerful woman in the world. Mary draws millions each year to shrines such as Fatima, in Portugal and Knock, in Ireland sustaining religious tourism estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year and providing thousands of jobs.”

‘My future is already in my past’

Portugal enjoys 28 million tourists, 20 million of whom go to Fatima each year, according to Manuela Diaz, a seasoned travel guide of 45 years, independently contracted by the Association of Commerce, Industry and Services (ACISO) of Ourem, Portugal to guide the November 2019 pilgrimage. It is a country of over 10,000,000.   

She was quite knowledgeable and ready to answer our questions. And why not? She has a willing attitude, positive professionalism, and is one who enjoys her job, including anticipating sunshine even if with gray skies, plus an instant appreciation of how beautiful Portugal is, as soon as the sun gilded the sand-colored buildings. She was dressed impeccably each day in her fashionable sweater, silk, and a silk scarf tastefully adorned with the palette of pastels or fall colors, outer jacket and leather boots, ready to assist the pilgrims with a well-paced schedule.   

Wise and profound, she said: “My future is already in my past.” Could it be that she has seen a glimpse of an inner world with the light of Heaven within, through manifested miracles in her life?   

Was it because she has seen three popes who visited Fatima and with that, the belief in special indulgences and grace: 1) Pope Francis in 2017 when he announced to a crowd of nearly 500,000 pilgrims, the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta, after the miracles attributed to them were verified, now St. Francisco and St. Jacinta; 2) Pope Benedict in 2010 who accepted the challenge of constructing the pilgrim church and gave the Sanctuary of Fatima a golden rose whose center is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, encircled by the thorns of the rose and framed by a rosary which ends with the crucifix, and 3) Pope John Paul II who visited Fatima three times on May 13, 1982, 1984 and 2000 and who gave many gifts to Our Lady of Fatima, including a bullet, in gratitude from being saved from the assassin’s four bullets in Rome.    

Fatima was once with sprawling green farm fields, where shepherds went with their grazing animals for water and grass.

In September, fig-trees had bountiful green fruits, some had turned purple ready to be picked, and some fell to the ground, crushed by countless pilgrims, visiting the house of Sister Lucia in Aljustrel.

In November, the olive trees were full of black olives, once green fruits that are now ripe for harvest. Portugal’s wealth was once derived from farmers, but now aging and unable to do the back-breaking harvest and production of olive oil. Nine hundred families are currently members of an olive oil cooperative that run the Olive Oil Museum and a factory displaying equipment for extracting olive oil, a higher value product. Without this cooperative, we were told their olive oil industry would disappear.   

These verdant fields have been partially displaced by a cemented sprawling square with a 500,000 person capacity, with these pilgrims’ stations: High Cross, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Chapel of the Apparitions, Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity with several chapels and a museum underneath.   

Southeast of the Fatima square is a commanding High Cross, inviting folks to linger and to see what is far beyond.   

Just a few yards from it is a sculpture of Pope John Paul II, who visited on May 13, 1982, 1991 and in 2000, announced the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco.   

To its right is the Main Door of the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity whose façade includes messages inscribed on the glass door of not demeaning anyone as God is in them, in 26 languages. The first stone was blessed and donated by Pope John Paul II, which came from a marble fragment of Apostle Peter’s tomb located under the basilica in Rome.   

In a pilgrimage to Rome, because of an unintentional chapel displacement, Fr. Bugas had the honor, usually reserved for bishops and cardinals only, to say mass in front of Apostle Peter’s tomb under the basilica in Rome, another grace he prayed for.   

The Christ crucifix inside the Basilica of the Holy Trinity has open eyes, heavy human body looking at us unlike traditional crucifixes with a lean body. It includes a 9.8 foot-image of Virgin of Fatima in Carrara marble, with Francisco and Jacinta in front of Our Lady and Lucia in the back of Our Lady. Both Francisco and Jacinta are now saints, announced by Pope Francis during his visit in 2017.   

Opposite that Basilica is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary where the graves of Francisco and Jacinta lie on the left and on the right of the altar, Lucia’s.   

Today, Portugal enjoys its wealth from wineries, from crops exported to the European Union, including hosting international conferences on chemistry, information technology, sustainable energies for smart cities, art, architecture and environment sustainability as well as religious tourism and pilgrimages. As a result of globalization, younger folks have gone abroad to secure their future.   

Did Manuela mean she has seen visions of heaven in her past and that now her past is her future? 

Part II will be on the three more apparitions and the third secret revealed and its relevance to the present.

Prosy Abarquez Dela Cruz, J.D.
Prosy Abarquez Dela Cruz, J.D.

Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.

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