USA Youth Pilgrimage in Europe: May/June 2017 - Part 1

Source: District of the USA

Fr. Gardner leads the pilgrims in prayer at the apparition site of the Angel to the 3 children

The first two days of the 2017 Youth Pilgrimage in Europe.

Once again we find ourselves in the heart of Europe, living the first two days of this year’s Youth Pilgrimage, which have already been so inspiring and fruitful for all.

23 pilgrims, two priests, and four chaperones flew into Lisbon on Saturday morning, immediately boarding a bus and meeting our Spanish guide, Maite. As pilgrims mingled on the bus, one heard a jumble of accents, from Washington to Georgia, L.A. to Wisconsin, Australia, and New Zealand.

A Eucharistic Miracle

Our first stop was at the Church of the Eucharistic Miracle in Santarem, Portugal. Here in the 13th century, a Catholic woman consulted a gypsy for assistance in her marriage, who demanded a consecrated host in order to use it for an unholy remedy. The desperate woman received communion, only to sacrilegiously let the host drop from her mouth and fold it in a handkerchief. Upon leaving the church, she felt all eyes upon her: she looked down the find the handkerchief was seeping blood, leaving a trail behind her. The host, which had turned into flesh, was returned to the priest and displayed in a beautiful crystal monstrance above the altar in the church of Santarem, where one can still venerate it today.

When the pilgrims arrived, the monstrance was uncovered, and the fathers led the pilgrims in silent adoration. Church sacristans opened the passage leading high up behind the altar, and one by one, all were able to climb a small ladder for a close view, adoring this marvelous Eucharistic Miracle.

Visiting Fatima

On the bus ride to Fatima, the pilgrims were given insight into the history and culture of Portugal, providing a background for the towns, churches, and events that would be seen. That evening was left to a brief individual tour of the grounds around the apparition site in Fatima. Following the Holy Father’s recent visit, and given that it was still May in the 100th anniversary, the basilica, apparitions chapel, and square were overflowing with visitors at nearly all hours of the day. The group met for the day’s Mass offered in the Society of Saint Pius X Fatima chapel, then dinner, and bed for two dozen jet-lagged young adults.

Sunday morning, an early Mass was celebrated, then followed by a short bus ride to the hamlet of Aljustrel to visit the homes of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia.  The two homes are well preserved and show how their families lived at the time of the apparitions. Sheep are still kept in pens adjoined to the home, and the bedrooms and beds would be considered small for even our children in America. Pots, chests for storing salted pork, and butcher tables in the kitchen showed a rustic existence, unimaginable to most of the pilgrims, but with barely three generations of separation.

A small walk through the town gave a glimpse into the rural, simple life of 1917 Fatima. The group walked the trails into the peaceful hills where the children used to graze their sheep, until arriving at the sites where the angel appeared in order to prepare them for Our Lady’s visit. In Fatima, the crowds and frequent outdoor services often make it difficult to pray, but in the hills of Valhinos, one finds tranquility and silence, as the children themselves would have found, and it is easy to pray and imagine the apparitions of the angel.

Down a limestone path, the group stopped and offered a decade of the rosary at the location of the August 19 apparition of Our Lady. She appeared six days late, and not at the Cova da Iria, since the children had been kidnapped and arrested, and had missed the August 13th promised apparition.

All then returned to Fatima for a guided visit to the Basilica, built in 1949 just 100 yards from the apparition site, now the Chapel of the Apparitions, and prayers were offered at the tombs of Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia. The rest of the day was free for the pilgrims, and they took advantage of the day to visit these sacred sites privately, sample Portuguese food like the famous salted cod, and look for gifts at the endless shops in town. After dinner, time was made to visit again the Basilica, and the group chaplain, Fr. Nicholas Gardner, gave a short talk on Our Lady’s beauty.  Afterwards, the pilgrims prayed a rosary at the tombs of the three seers. Finally, all retired after our busy first two days, and prepared for our departure for Spain the next day.