Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reflections on Fatima

Hello, everyone.

As you may remember, we took a bus ride from Santarem to Fatima. In doing so, we lost track of a lovely Spanish couple that we'd met along the way--they elected to continue walking. But  the pilgrim trail is like that, in that you meet people and see them for a day or two, then lose track of them for a while, and sometimes see them again later. It all depends on whether your travel pace and theirs mesh again.

I'm not one of the partisans of the "pilgrim family" idea that one sees from time to time on the net. It seems to me that every pilgrim, whether walking with a buddy or walking solo or even with a pilgrim-tour group, must make his or her own pilgrimage. The growth doesn't happen to a blob of people, it happens to each person individually. And expecting that people you just stumbled across on the first day or so will be your bosom buddies, happening to walk the same pace and stop at the same stops and rest at the same times, is unrealistic. Last year we crossed paths with the Texas Aggie student group a number of times, beginning on our very first night when we sat down to dinner in Roncesvalles. It was always a pleasure to say hello to them and catch up a little on things. That didn't mean that we were "supposed" to be with them all the time. It meant that we were fellow pilgrims on the trail. So, while I was saddened not to encounter the lovely Spaniards again, I accepted that they would be a day's travel behind us from then on because we'd combined 2 days' walk into one bus ride. It happens.

We got into Fatima a bit before noon and trekked along the main street until we found our hotel. It turned out to be on the far side of the Shrine grounds from the bus station. As it was before check-in time, they were kind enough to let us store the packs until the appropriate time and explore for a while.

There are many souvenir shops and stands in Fatima. This is reasonable, since many people come from all over to visit, and they want to bring back remembrances for their families and friends, and their own houses as well. We saw everything from tiny medals (not too much weight to get a handful and carry in a pack) to big statues, clothing, jewelry, rosaries, toys, and so on. It wasn't during one of the big Marian festivals, nor during the big anniversary months of the apparitions (May, a Marian month, and October, coincidentally also a Marian month) so the shops and restaurants were not packed to the gills with people. There were quite a few people in the Official Gift Shop, near the information office at the shrine, where we stopped after I had my credencial stamped. They don't have a setup where you can get a certificate for coming on the Camino Tejo or one of the other walking routes, but maybe in the future that will change.

We did eat the main meal of the day at the proper time, for a change, and had plates of good food for a reasonable price. That evening we went hunting for early dinner or tapas--tapas is often enough for us--but it was only 8 in the evening and either it wasn't late enough or Fatima restaurants keep different hours because the sidewalks were rolled up and put away. (For my non-American readers, this colloquialism means the restaurants and shops were closed and pretty much nobody was out and about.) I did manage to find a bowl of soup and after that we called it a day.

Prato de dia with squid. Very tasty!

A small correction to the earlier Fatima entry, posted from DH's Kindle with its never-sufficiently-cursed autocorrect feature that won't give up and let you keep the properly-spelled word you wanted: I said earlier that things are easier if you have some "little-known" Portuguese. The intended sentence said that things are easier if you have a little Portuguese. Quite a difference in meaning. Perhaps the Kindle autocorrect can be corrected. I had to retype things three times sometimes!

One of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, on the porch of the old church
 The old church, built a few decades after the apparitions, is a pretty building with a tall tower. There is a gilded crown at the top. There are curved porches on either side of the front entrance, which enclose the end of the plaza, and the porches have art of the Rosary under the roof of the walkway.
Statue on a hillside at Fatima. Pretty presentation of the Crucifixion in white stone.
 There are a number of things to visit at Fatima. We just hung around and rested, but we could have taken a sightseeing train to see various things like the Way of the Cross and so on. Also in easy bus reach is the monastery at Batalha, which is very historic.
The old church, which was closed for renovations or for prep for the youth day beginning the next day.
There were a lot of buses arriving with crowds of young people and pastors, chaperones, and whatnot other adults in tow. They were arriving in advance of a big youth festival that was going to start the next day. We missed the festivities, only because we went to the bus station in the afternoon to line up our ride to Tomar for the next day. It turned out that the next day was a Feria (holiday) and so there was a restricted schedule. The only two buses leaving were at 8 or so in the morning and around 5 in the afternoon.

The next morning we caught the early bus and rode a twisty, scenic road to Tomar, thus returning to the official path to Santiago.