Salamanca, Spain/Feast of St. Matthew Day 5 September 21, 2018

This was mainly a travel day, about seven hours on the bus with an hour time zone change as we crossed into Spain. Someone told me that the relationship between Portugal and Spain is so tense they can’t even share a time zone, but I can’t say that for sure.

Salamanca was just a couple hours for lunch and Mass. I have been here before when I walked the Camino de Santiago and was delighted to come upon one of the markers that indicate The Way.

We were charmed by the Main Square (the Plaza Mayor). It’s architecture in over 250 years old. Cafes surround the square. We went the tapas, which is famous here, but because there was no service outside, and as you can see it was a glorious day, we settled for salads or sandwiches, which were quite good. The service was a bit slow, and we were late to meet with our guide.

We had Mass in a chapel at the Church of Purity. This is one of many churches we passed in Salamanca, each one beautiful enough to be a cathedral.

Salamanca has no real pilgrimage significance, but it is an ancient city with beautiful old buildings and a bustling city area. The university here is one of the oldest in Europe. Christopher Columbus once was on the faculty.

I am glad to be back on the Camino. It brings back such wonderful memories.

Fatima and Santarem Day 4 September 20, 2018

We had the morning free to spend at the site. I took the opportunity to visit two museums here. One is about the site itself and the other is a treasury of objects people have left in gratitude for prayers answered and as devotional offerings. There was a great deal of jewelry, liturgical vessels and vestments, and also sports jerseys and military uniforms, wedding dresses and baptismal gowns. The treasury also had a movie that featured the reflections of the seer, Lucy. Mostly, though, I took time to revisit the various sites and pray. I carry the names that parishioners have entrusted to me and everyone is very on my mind as we make our way to Lourdes.

We took some time to travel to Santarem, the site of a Eucharistic miracle.

The story is that a woman, desperate after exhausting every means to rehabilitate her abusive husband, resorted to a sorceress who promised to help her if the woman would bring the sorceress a consecrated host. The woman left Mass after receiving communion, took the Eucharist from her mouth and wrapped it in her scarf. The host started bleeding so much blood that people thought she needed medical attention. The woman was so frightened she hid the host in a wooden chest. That night, when the woman and husband were in bed, light started emanating from the chest, forcing the woman to tell her husband what had happened. They called the parish priest who returned the transformed host to the church. This miracle continues to be celebrated and draws the faithful to the church where they can view the reliquary which has been incorporated in the high altar.

This may seem an odd and curious miracle, especially for us in the United States, and yet is this any more miraculous than what we believe about Transubstantiation? I can’t say I have it all figured out, but we believe that God does work his purposes in miraculous ways. In Fatima, God chose peasant children from an insignificant village to start a world movement of conversion and prayer for peace. On the face of it this should not have succeeded, and yet millions come to Fatima each year, and the message of Our Lady of Fatima is said to have contributed to the end of World War II, the fall of Communism and protected Pope John Paul II from an assassination attempt. Is it that much of a stretch that even this event precipitated by a woman’s ill attempt to save her marriage might not work into God’s higher purpose.

It’s worth thinking about.

Pilgrimage/Fatima Day 3 September 19, 2018

The Blessed Mother appeared to the shepherd children not in Fatima but in Cova de Iria, a field owned by Lucia’s family. The children went there each day to tend sheep.

Cova de Iria now has a complex of buildings including two basilicas, an outdoor chapel that houses the place where the Blessed Mother appeared to the children, and many monuments and statues. Fatima welcomes four million visitors a year.

Our day began with Mass at a very small chapel, then continued to the massive and modern Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. This has the greatest indoor seating capacity for large celebrations. Across the plaza is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, an older basilica which contains the bodies of the three shepherd children. A permanent outdoor altar stands on the plaza for major pilgrim Masses.

Before the Blessed Mother appeared to the children an angel, thought to be Michael the Archangel, appeared to them three times, preparing them to receive the Apparitions that were to come. The children were of peasant families; God chooses the lowly for great work.

The apparitions took place during the first World War, and are meant to show the world the way to peace through embracing faith in God and repentance for sin. The children were given a vision of hell, and entreated through the rosary to begin a movement of conversion and renewal in the church. The children were suppressed from talking about the appearances by parents, town people and even church and government officials. The Blessed Virgin appeared each month and crowds grew each month, growing to an apex for the miracle of the sun where everyone saw the sun dance and fall in the sky.

I have been deeply moved by my time here and spent time meditating on the these. I am not only impressed by the devotion of the pilgrims but the promise of Fatima in the effectiveness of faith and conversion to bring peace. There are constant Masses and prayers every day, as well as pilgrims who cross the plaza on their knees as they pray. Every night the rosary is prayed by many pilgrims and candles are carried in a grand procession.

We also went to Aljustrel, the village where the children lived. Lucia’s niece, now an old woman, greets pilgrims joyful that the message of Our Lady of Fatima continues 100 years later. A wonderful day.

Richmond/Lisbon/Portugal Days 1&2 September 17-18, 2018

Days 1&2 September 17-18, 2018


They piled us on a plane in Richmond to speed us out of the area to avoid tornadoes on their way to Richmond. Made it to Dulles (the emptiest I ever saw it) and we flew to Lisbon passing through a tropical storm on the way. It was a bumpy ride and we arrived in Lisbon like zombies as we started our time zone adjustment day.

Our guide took us on a bus tour of Lisbon, along the port. The port is important to Lisbon since its founding was greatly because it provided harbor for transportation and shipping. The day was hot and sunny and showed the waterfront to great advantage. We saw a lot of activity of people taking in the sites and recreating. We stopped for lunch near the cathedral. I had a local dish called Pica Pao, a savory pork stew (sorry, no photo). Lunch went long, and I had to rush off to celebrate. Mass at St Anthony of Padua church built over the place where St. Anthony was born. Although St. Anthony ministered in Padua, he was born in Lisbon. I felt this was fitting, since a number of us had visited his basilica and crypt on our Italian pilgrimage.

I quickly went to the cathedral, which is ancient and has gone through many reconstructions due to earthquakes, tsunamis and delays maintenance. This was the parish church of St. Anthony, and he was baptized there.

After Mass we drove to Fatima, about 1.2 hours away, to check into our hotel for the night. The hotel is close to the basilica and several of us struck out to see it at night after dinner.

Day 10, November 15, 2017 Rome

St. Olaf Italy Pilgrimage
Day 10, November 15, 2017
We left the hotel at 630 so that we could clear security and get premo spots at the papal audience. The good news is that we got spots front and center. The bad news is others were agressively trying to horn in. We watched groups arriving in national costumes, in wedding dresses and tuxes, and carrying group banners and flags. People in wheelchairs were positioned along the main aisle. The swiss guard were there as ushers and to provide local color.
After hours of waiting the Pope mobile appeared on the scene and the crowd started cheering. There was great excitement as the Pope mobile started going up and down aisles that had been sectioned off around and through the crowd. Everyone was snapping photos. Security guards took babies to the Pope and he blessed and kissed them.
Then there was the formal portion. We started with a prayer and then a gospel was read in seven languages. The Pope deliver his remarks in Italian and they were translated in the same languages. Then, after praying the Lord’s Prayer together in Latin, the Pope blessed the pilgrims (and any religious items) and extended his blessing through us to our family and communities. You have been blessed by the pope! It ended and the massive crowds were dispersed back through checkpoints.
After a break for lunch and shopping, we went to the catacombs of Domilla. Rome is built on a foundation of lava rock, which both solid and easy to excavate. These were the graves of Christians martyred in the various persecutions of Rome. Most remains have been removed and are interred at the Church of All Saints when they converted the Pantheon to a Catholic Church. Burial in underground complex provided secrecy for the persecuted christians. We wandered the maze of tunnels and caverns that were also meeting and worship spaces. It was also a place of hope because of their unflinching belief in resurrection. We celebrated the votive Mass of the martyrs crowded around a stone altar in one of the underground caverns. It was a moving experience to be in the place associated with the Christian martyrs.
Our final stops, of the day and of the pilgrimage were the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain.
Caio Roma!

St. Olaf Italy Pilgrimage Day 9 Tuesday  Free Day. Pompeii 

St. Olaf Italy Pilgrimage
Day 9 Tuesday
Free Day. Pompeii
Today was a free day, but the tour company had set up an optional trip to Pompeii (250 k), near Naples . Twenty people went.
Pompeii is located near the volcano Vesuvius, and was buried in lava during a volcanic eruption. The eruption caught the population by surprise and all died. The excavation of many years continues and new sections continental to be opened to the public. 
Our visit included visits to the bathes, pagan temples, the red light district and a brothel (long vacated ). Thr brothel walls do talk through frescoes there. Two included in post (for mature audiences only).
I’ll let the photos talk for themselves.