Twelve OLOM parishioners made a grace filled, and spiritually cleansing pilgrimage to the Marian Shrines of Portugal, Spain, and France, and several other key stops along the way. Thanks be to God for our safe return.
With 10 days of pilgrimage and 2 additional days of travel for most, the group of 50 set off from Houston to Lisbon, Portugal. A quick bus ride to the first site … Santarem. Originally called St. Stephen, the church is now known as the “Church of the Holy Miracle.” This is the site of the only Eucharistic Miracle for couples. We were privileged to view up close the bread turned flesh and to celebrate a private Mass there; then back on the bus to Fatima … a place where Heaven and Earth come together.
In this serene village – with many pilgrims – is a key place where one can truly feel the heart of Mary’s presence. We were able to celebrate 2 Masses, one in the Sanctuario where the first apparitions actually occurred – a wing of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary – and another in the Fatima Parish Church where the 3 visionary children were baptized and attended Mass. We participated in the beautiful candlelight procession, praying the Rosary with pilgrims from around the world, and spent a lot of time in prayer with Our Lady.
Up the coast of Portugal, our next stop was Porto, the most beautiful city on our tour. This is the home of the Church of St. Francis … and Port Wine! Then back on the bus to head to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Santiago is the resting place of the Apostle James (the first Apostle to be martyred), the brother of John, and the beautiful Cathedral of Santiago. We celebrated Mass in Spanish with many other pilgrims and we were very fortunate to witness the Swinging of the Botafumerio at the conclusion of the Mass – a 150 pound thurible swung by 8 men. Google it! You don’t want to miss this video, and we had the good fortune of seeing something that happens only once in a while.
On our day of departure, we went just outside the city to a small mountaintop where those who make the El Camino Santiago are able to see the Cathedral for the first time on their 30+ day walk. We did a mile of the walk – downhill – just to say we did it, and then we departed for Burgos and then Loyola.
Loyola is the birthplace of St. Ignatius. We were blessed to celebrate Mass in the room where Ignatius’ conversion actually occurred. And then back on the bus for a late night arrival in Lourdes, France.
Again, this is a place where Heaven and Earth come together, and if you didn’t feel the presence of Our Lady in Lourdes, well then you just weren’t trying! Two nights and a full day in Lourdes gave us the opportunity to visit the Grotto of the Massabielle where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, to pray in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, to bathe in the miraculous waters at the Grotto, to pray the Rosary with thousands of other pilgrims during the Candlelight Procession and of course Mass in Lourdes. Words cannot begin to describe the feeling one gets during a visit to this lovely part of the globe. But alas, we had to leave.
Due to the rail strike, our alleged 2-hour high speed rail to Chartres turned into a very early morning 9-hour bus ride from Lourdes to see the huge Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres which houses the Blessed Virgin Mary’s tunic (Sancta Camisa) which she wore at the birth of Jesus. Mass there and the Light Show late in the evening.
Another early morning wake-up call got us to Paris for a full day. We saw the Chapel in the Congregation of the Mission which houses the incorrupt body of St. Vincent de Paul and a special visit to the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal where Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Laboure. There we saw the incorrupt body of Catherine; and then off to the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral for Mass. We headed home the next morning after 10 glorious days with Our Lady and Our Lord, Jesus Christ.