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a pilgrim reflects on Fatima

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Mass at Fatima with Bishop Binzer. CT PHOTO/GREG HARTMAN

Our own Greg Hartman is on pilgrimage with Bishop Binzer and 134 people from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, stopping at Marian shrines with the ultimate destination of Fatima for the 100th anniversary of the end of the apparitions there. Here is his Oct. 4 report from Fatima:

Today the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati spent their final full day in Fatima, Portugal.

The Archdiocesan prayer for vocations begins, “You have granted us for some definite purpose. Grant us the grace to know the path You have planned for us in this life and to repspond with a generous: Yes.”

Bishop Joseph R. Binzer presided at the 9:30 a.m. Mass for English speakers, concelebrating with priests from the States and Ireland. He spoke about saying yes, remembering when, as a child, his mother would give him chores, and sometimes he would procrastinate yet eventually say “yes” — and how pleasing that was to his mother.

The pilgrims on this journey have been called to that “yes.” In Fatima, three children — Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco — said yes in a place where their parents scorned them, friends ridiculed them, and civil authorities tried to silence them. Yet they said yes though perhaps the easiest thing would have been remaining silent. They kept on saying yes in a very dangerous time.

The tomb of St. Jacinta – CT PHOTO/GREG HARTMAN

Today is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. And 2,331 kilometers away in the Chapel of Apparition in Fatima, the archdiocesan pilgrims remembered how the Lord asked St. Francis to rebuild His house, and he too said yes. Our pilgrims will come home, each taking away a new wisdom from God never realized in the past. Though the task to rebuild our houses with faith, hope, and love may be daunting, these pilgrims now have armor from encountering St. Bernadette in that small village in Lourdes and the perseverance of those three children in Fatima: the message of devout prayer, of shedding the old self and putting on the new.

In 11 days the pilgrims have seen the grandeur of many cathedrals, the simple devout lives of saints, the beauty of God’s creation in the countryside, and a witness to faith that at this point is hard to really comprehend. The world became pleasantly small on this pilgrimage, and perhaps the differences in many cultures, after all, weren’t many.

In a few days, routine will once again envelop the lives on this journey. You have journeyed with us from home, taking care of the ordinary, while we experienced the extraordinary. In reality, you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to encounter Christ, A simple walk, or short drive will bring you to a parish where perseverance and conversion takes place every day in the lives of everyone. We are all pilgrims on a journey to the ultimate encounter with Christ.

The tomb of St. Francisco — CT PHOTO/GREG HARTMAN

From the Pilgrims Prayer of Santiago de Compostela:  “May all of journeys keep us kind, patient, and good-humored with one another, and safe from danger and anxiety as we travel. Bless those who guide and minister to us on the way, surround with your care our loved ones at home.”

It’s easy to choose our own path, and comfortable to be on our own path. In the movie “The Way,” a father loses his son, who went on pilgrimage to Europe. The dad and son were played by real life dad and son Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. While driving to the airport the fictional son in challenged his father with this statement: “We don’t choose life dad, we live it.” The challenge has been given not only to the pilgrims on this journey, but to all who follow Christ. The challenge is to listen in prayer and discernment, and to say “yes.”

For many more photos and a running report on the pilgrimage, see our Facebook gallery page.

Tree at the site of the apparitions – CT PHOTO/GREG HARTMAN
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