Saturday, 14 September 2013

Não tenhais medo!

Do not be afraid!

These words, said to appear 365 times in the Bible, are emblazoned (in Portuguese) across the front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fátima, where Mary is understood to have appeared to three shepherd children from May to October 1917, announcing her 'Peace Plan from Heaven' to end the war then raging, and avert future catastrophes. To many Catholics, Do not be afraid revives memories of Blessed John Paul II, and the unstinting encouragement he gave to Christians and people of good will wherever he went, though especially perhaps to the people of Poland in 1979, when he set in train the events that led to the collapse of communism and dismantling of the Berlin Wall ten years later. A section of this once-reviled edifice is displayed near the Basilica, in remembrance of Our Lady's role; not least, JPII credited her with diverting the bullet that was fired at him from point blank range, on the feast of Our Lady of Fátima, May 13th 1981.

I can't make this a very long post, but i can report that, while i did quite a lot of walking in Portugal, i also had to go back and forth to the second city, Porto, to complete a course of injections which i will need, God-willing, if i am to continue to sub-Saharan Africa. Besides some great Portuguese hospitality, the final account will also need to touch on football (the other religion in Portugal), and the local flora and fauna. Specifically, there were a few rabbits, and it was genuinely exciting to see an actual pine marten for the first time in my life, but ornithologically-speaking, there wasn't all that much to write home about... until the morning of Thursday 12th September. I went to the Chapel of the Apparitions in Fátima to find that Mass would be in English, the chief celebrant a priest from Sydney, Australia. Shortly after the homily, a beautiful pure-white dove flew into the covered space around our Lady's statue, and perched itself on the roof of the original little chapel, which Our Lady had asked to be constructed in August 1917. It happens that this was the morning of President Putin of Russia's appeal, in the New York Times, for the USA to pursue a more peaceful approach to the appalling tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria.
"We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."