This post was originally written on September 10. I was unable to post it at that time.
Hi Everyone! I am in Lisbon this evening where I am staying overnight at a hotel. My flight leaves early Sunday morning and there was a concern that I would miss the flight if I stayed in Fátima overnight. I heard some Italians were leaving early in the morning, but decided against asking around. My current plan was viable and it seemed pointless to change it around.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a network setting issue that I simply cannot resolve. Thus, I am unable to post my previous blog post (#3) as well as this present one (#4). Additionally, my hotel is right by the airport. Guess who did not think about low-flying planes…. This night ought to be interesting.
Hard to believe that my time in Fátima is over. It was a week ago today around this time that I was wheeling my luggage from the bus station over to the Casa de N.S. do Carmo house. Where did the week go? I have absolutely no idea, though it seems to me that time has no meaning in Fátima. Each day seemed to blend into the other. If it was not for the few blog posts that I have written, I may have no idea what happened to me on a given day.
The time issue aside, I had a beautiful time in Fátima and the 24th Mariological International Congress. The prayer, the people, the place…the three “Ps” I shall call them.
I more or less preferred the quiet and personal times for prayer. The Congress had set times for prayer together and this was good. I especially enjoyed praying the Rosary at night in front of the Basilica. It was Wednesday or Thursday night that I simply sat at the top of the steps of the original Basilica and prayed. It was beautiful. Seeing the people walking to and from the Capelinha (Chapel of Apparitions) and viewing the architecture was meaningful. Some would think it a distraction, but I think of the glory of God.
Though I did not go to all of them, the processions at the end of the Rosary were also very beautiful. Crowds singing the Ave Maria while escorting the statue of Our Lady of Fátima are rather moving.
What can I say about the people? I was surrounded by Catholics with a deep devotion to Our Lady. All of us together…wow…. One simply cannot imagine what it was like to be around such giants of Mariology; to sit with them at table and converse—and not just in the English language—or just listen to conversation. For example, yesterday at lunch, I sat with a well-known Mariologist and listened to him discuss the merits of the question of whether or not Our Lady died before her Assumption. Said conversation was in Italian but I understood well enough what was happening.
Earlier today (Saturday), the members of the Congress had the opportunity to consecrate ourselves to Our Lady in the original Basilica. The head of the Fátima Archives led us in song and I had no idea he had such a good voice. Combined with everyone else’s, the sound was really something else and so I recorded it. Perhaps I will be able to upload it here on my web site.
Lastly on this point, the Portuguese do not seem to have lost the virtue of hospitality. Every morning I would go out and do my business, only to come back to my room around lunchtime with my bed made up, the bathroom towels tended and the trashcan emptied. The Portuguese might give the Irish a good run for their money on hospitality.
As I said earlier, there seems to be no time while one is in Fátima. One is enveloped in prayer, be it silently or vocally. I noted the “old” and the “new” look to Fátima. The town has become quite modern in many respects, especially after the construction of the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. That was still being built in May, 2005 when I was last in Fátima. It is now completed. The striking contrast between this style of building with the original Basilica imposed itself upon me. I will not here get into the merits of the endless debate over new and old things (de gustibus non est disputandum).
Despite the more modern aspects, one can go and see some older features as well. For sure, the original Basilica stands as one such feature. However, there are also the trees that line the sides. They are reminiscent of a time when the Cova da Iria was a pasture. The tree to which the three pastorinhos fled is also still in existence.
Though this might come under the heading of “People,” I place the following discussion under “Place” because I speak of a location and its owner.
There is an almost negligible hotel in Fátima. I say “negligible” because nothing in particular stands out about it. It blends in with the other hotels around it. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and this is one such place that proves the rule.
I speak of the Solar da Marta hotel, operated by Armando Mendes, on Rua Francisco Marto 74, 2495 Fátima, Portugal.
Armando runs a clean establishment. While I cannot speak for the rooms (I did not see them), I can say that he has a nice lobby area, restaurant/bar, and a small gift store. He even has a chapel! My friends and I would go there in the evening to kick back, relax, and hold conversation. Armando can hold his own in theological discussions. There is a good video on YouTube with more information and pictures.
The Solar da Marta hotel is a hidden gem in Fátima. If anyone reading this is planning a pilgrimage to Fátima, Armando has 20 rooms available in his establishment. Do yourself a favor: book a room with him and tell him I sent you. The next time I am able to get to Fátima, I will be putting an inquiry to him.
That is all for this post. Please pray for safe travels!