In this hundredth anniversary year of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, forty-four pilgrims from Oxford and York joined Fr Daniel and Fr Richard to pray at the shrine of Our Lady.
On 13th September 1917, when Our Lady appeared for the fifth time to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, 30,000 people defied the atheistic press and government to join them. On 13th September 2017, many more hundreds of thousands gathered at the Cova da Iria for Mass celebrated by Cardinal Piacenza, who preached forcefully about the need for Christians to be counter-cultural.
At the end of Mass, Our Lady's statue was returned to the Chapel of Apparitions. The special crown which the statue wears on the 13th of each month was given in 1946 by the mothers of Portugal, in thanksgiving that their country had stayed out of the Second World War. When on 13th May 1982, St John Paul II brought one of the bullets which had shot him exactly one year before, the bullet was found to fit precisely under the cross and orb of the crown. He said of the assassination attempt, "One hand fired, and another guided the bullet."
The Basilica of the Holy Rosary contains the tombs of Jacinta and Francisco, who were canonized on 13th May this year, and of their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005:
In 1917 Our Lady asked for Russia to be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. Large numbers of pilgrims from behind the former Iron Curtain come to give thanks for their deliverance from Communism. At the end of Mass on the 13th, Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague presented a copy of the statue of the Infant of Prague to the sanctuary of Fatima. A portion of the Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of Our Lady's intercession. Here are Mrs Asta Simpson, originally from Berlin, and Dr Masha Unkovskaya, who was born in St Petersburg, which was known at the time as Leningrad:
In the evening we prayed the Rosary in front of the Chapel of the Apparitions and joined in the beautiful torchlight procession:
Mass in St Joseph's Chapel on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross:
Along the Way of the Cross we were able to gain some idea of what Fatima must have looked like in 1917 when Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia grazed their sheep:
Only one of the visions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 took place away from the Cove da Iria. This is because the children were prevented from going there on 13th August by being kidnapped and imprisoned by the local authorities. They refused to deny the visions even when they were separated and threatened with being boiled in oil. Our Lady appeared instead on 19th August at Valinhos. It was there that she told the children that on 13th October she would perform a miracle. This was to be the Miracle of the Sun.
At the Calvary which concludes the Stations of the Cross:
In the Spring of 1916, the first vision of the Angel of Peace took place at Chousa Velha:
The village of Aljustrel is where the three child visionaries lived. There are still sheep next to Lucia's house:
The second vision of the Angel of Peace took place by the well of this house in the summer of 1916:
On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows we had Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows:
This chapel has a striking window showing the Miracle of the Sun, which took place on 13th October 1917:
On one day of our pilgrimage we went out to visit Batalha and Nazaré. Batalha has a magnificent abbey, where many of the kings and queens of Portugal are buried, including Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal from 1387-1415. Her marriage to João I brought about the Treaty of Windsor, beginning the alliance between England and Portugal which still lasts to this day, and is the longest-lasting treaty of friendship between two nations in the history of the world. Long may it continue!
The Abbey of Batalha:
The shrine of Our Lady at Nazaré recalls the saving of the local mayor (and his horse) from tumbling to the death in the fog over the cliff top. An ancient statue of Our Lady was found where she appeared.
Fr Richard in holiday mode:
The sea at Nazaré is rather treacherous, which precluded swimming, though some of the more adventurous members of our party dipped their toes:
After consuming some of the freshly-caught sardines, we still had time to visit the unmissable Museum of Dried Fish:
On our last day in Fatima, we were able to celebrate Mass in the well-equipped chapel of our own hotel, the Tres Pastorinhos:
From Fatima we headed up to Galicia to visit the tomb of the Apostle St James:
Even though we had travelled by coach, rather than the accepted methods of foot, bicycle or horse, we embraced the statue of St James and took part in the Pilgrim Mass. We did in fact see a group of equestrian pilgrims arriving in Santiago. At the end of the Pilgrim Mass the famous botafumeiro was swung:
St Martin's Abbey has a statue of St Philip, looking rather Spanish!
From Santiago, we went back down into Portugal. In Braga the shrine of Bom Jesus do Monte has many steps with chapels recreating the journey of Our Lord to Calvary:
At the top is the church, where we celebrated Mass:
On our last day we were able to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of Oporto. We prayed particularly for the bishop of that diocese, who recently died immediately after returning from pilgrimage at Fatima, where he had preached a sermon that deeply affected its hearers.
After Mass we caught a glimpse of the former Oratory church of Oporto:
SOME GROUPS STARTING UP AGAIN -
Young Oratory (11-16 year-olds): Tuesday 5th September at 5pm
Children’s Liturgy (4-7 years-old) during the 9.30am Mass: Sunday 10th September
Mothers and Toddlers: Thursday 14th September, after the 10am Mass.
Confirmation classes: Saturday 16th September at 4pm
Women’s Oratory: Monday 25th September from 4pm.
Wednesday Morning Group (Over-60s): Wednesday 27th September after the 10am Mass.
Little Oratory (7-11 year-olds): Wednesday 27th September at 5pm
First Communion Classes: Saturday 7th October at 4pm.
Oratory Young Adults (18-30 year-olds): Friday 20th October at 7.30pm.
SOME NEW THINGS -
Gaeta: A new group for ages 15–17 to meet for discussion, prayer and pizza. Monthly meetings on Friday nights 7:30–9. First meeting Friday 15th September on the theme ‘What are you looking for?’ See postcards and posters for more details. If you’re coming, tell Br Oliver so we know how many pizzas to cook!
Passing on the Faith: How do we pass on the faith to the next generation? Another chance to hear about what works and what doesn’t, and discuss how the Church can support your children’s faith and keep our young people interested in God. Saturday 9th September 11am in the Parish Centre. Tea and coffee from 10:30.
Grown-up Catechism for Ordinary Adults: An opportunity to grow in your own faith, starting on Wednesday 20th September at 8pm.
Members of the Women’s Oratory group travelled to Harvington Hall near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, for a day out on Wednesday 23rd August which was, of course, the feast of St John Wall, a Franciscan priest in the seventeenth century who was based for much of his twenty-three years of ministry in the Midlands at the Hall during the recusancy period.
We had Mass in the little church of St Mary’s, thanks to the kindness of Mgr John Moran, the former Vicar General of the archdiocese, before making our way into the Hall for lunch.
After lunch our party was split into two groups for guided tours of the Hall, the most fascinating feature of which for most people is the suite of hidden rooms (or should that be a panel?) where priests could hide should the sheriff’s men turn up at short notice. Clearly priests were younger and slimmer in those days, as Fr Joseph discovered when he tried to get into one of the priest holes.
All of these hideaways were designed by St Nicholas Owen, the Jesuit lay brother and assistant to Fr Henry Garnett SJ. St Nicholas Owen was born in what is now our parish.
There is a beautiful relief of St Nicholas in St Mary’s church. A ramble through the beautiful gardens, afternoon tea in the café, and the inevitable browse through the shop, followed the tours.
New (and occasional) members of the Women’s Oratory group are always welcome. We meet on the first and last Monday of each month, starting again on the last Monday of September following the summer break.
A dozen intrepid parishioners set off along the Cherwell on Wednesday, ready to enjoy the splendid, English summer weather, which at times featured only light rain.
Waterborne refreshments cheered our spirits.
Leaving the Victoria Arms. Look, no rain!
A survivors' photograph: