Visiting Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal on a day trip can be a reflective and spiritual event for anyone visiting this gorgeous small town that has a rich history.
When I was a little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, on a random Sunday afternoon, I saw the televised movie, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952). This movie soon became my favorite movie. I would ask my parents to rent the movie from our local video store and beg them to see if it was going to be on television again so that I could watch it over and over. When the movie was again on television, my parents recorded it on VCR tape so that I could watch it whenever I wanted.
I would even go outside in my parents’ yard, praying and talking to the skies, hoping that Mary would visit me. This movie was my favorite movie as a child for many years but left a lasting impression on me throughout my adult life for many reasons. The story taught me about the power of prayer, perseverance, the concept of peace and its ability to unite us all, and faith.
What makes the story of Our Lady of Fatima so fascinating is that it is true. On May 13, 1917, a “lady brighter than the sun” appeared to three shepherd children in the sky. At the time, WWI was in full effect and the lady brought a message of peace to the children; daily rosary prayer would end the war and bring peace to the world. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the children a total of 6 times between May 13th and October 13, 2017. During this time the children were persecuted, questioned, and even jailed for their visions.
The children were told by the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would perform a miracle so that the people would believe in their visions. On October 13, 1917, a crowd of more than 70,000 people came to see the phenomenon. There was a rainstorm and then out of nowhere the sun appeared, grew blindingly bright, danced around the earth, moved towards the crowd of people, and all who were there were able to stare directly into it without blinking.
The sun had dried all of the clothing of the people and the wet, muddy ground was completely dried. This miracle is known as the “Miracle of the Sun”, signifying God’s presence amongst the people. Believers and non-believers could be seen praying and begging for forgiveness.
Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal is less than 100 miles from Lisbon. A day tour to Fatima is such a treat and for me something I have dreamed about since I was a little girl. What was once a huge pasture of grass is now an expanse of concrete surrounded by shrines, statues, and artwork. The site attracts 4-5 million pilgrims every year, many on the apparition anniversaries (the 13th day of the month starting in the month of May through October).
The pilgrims can be seen making their way between the three shrines on their knees along the smooth paths in a sort of prayer-like position, some praying the rosary. You can hear bells in the background and the rosary being said at the Chapel of Apparitions (the site where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the three children). Thick, black smoke and the scent of beeswax from the pyre behind the Apparitions Chapel fills the air. When lighting a candle in the pyre, the fire is so hot, most visitors just add their candle(s) to the flame that already burns bright.
At the Chapel of Apparitions, a statue of Mary marks the site where the children saw their visions. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima has 15 altars, each representing the 15 mysteries of the rosary and also contains the tombs of the three children. The Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity was built to celebrate the 90th Anniversary in 2007.
The Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity has two large statues of popes who have visited the site; Pope VI and John Paul II. Pope VI came for the 50th Anniversary in 1967 and John Paul II brought the bullet that nearly ended his life in 1981. The attempted assassination of John Paul II took place on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima and the Pope attributes his survival to the intervention from the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a sign of gratitude, the Pope gave one of the bullets to the Bishop in charge of the shrine in Fatima and the bullet was placed in the crown of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Outside of where the shrines are located, you can also visit the houses of the three children and their parents. The houses have had small renovations over the years but one can see how simple the families lived. The town of Fatima has quaint little cafes and restaurants located throughout the countryside and many locals selling religious statues and rosaries.
You can also visit the site where the Blessed Virgin Mary visited the children on August 19th, 1917 at a nearby field located close to one of the children’s homes; the one and only time she appeared to the children outside of the usual meeting place due to the fact that on August 13th, the children were in jail being questioned and threatened and could not meet the Blessed Virgin at the usual meeting place.
Travel Tip: In places as beautiful as Fatima, you will take a ton of photos. Don’t get caught with a dead battery! Bringing a backup portable charger is a great way to make sure you have the power you need to make it through the day. We prefer this portable charger. Find this and other tips on our Travel Tools page.
I truly believe that everything in life happens for a reason. When I was 8 or 9 years old I was supposed to watch The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. Regardless of one’s faith, I think we can all agree, that peace, in any form, is good. Peace has the ability to unite us all.
Whether we pray for peace as the children did or perform random acts of kindness that will bring peace to the world, we could all use a little more peace in our lives. I often ask myself if faced with a similar situation would I have found the strength to endure the criticism, skepticism, and ridicule and still persevere? Would I have been able to live by faith and not fear? Through the years I have realized that life is a series of hundreds of little miracles…we just need to stop and take time to notice them. Instead of hoping for miracles I now expect them.
Traveled June 2017