Last September, after a successful pilgrimage to Rome for the Year of Mercy and the canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a little mustard seed was sown and our parish pilgrimage committee was set up. After months of planning and background work, finally on the morning of 11 August, a group of parishioners from a number of local churches, led by Fr Louis Odudu of St Saviour’s, Lewisham, set off to Fatima in Portugal, where celebrations had begun in May led by Pope Francis for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions to the three shepherd children Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia.
From the start, Fr Louis encouraged us to look within ourselves by explaining that going on Pilgrimage is responding to an inner call to search for the face of God What we found was the face of God which was in our brothers, our sisters, on our coach, pilgrims on their knees crawling to the chapel of apparitions, in the sanctuary, in the Basilica, in different nationalities, cultures, all coming to honour Our Lord Jesus-Christ through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary and the response to the call of our Blessed Lady to pray the rosary daily.
The international rosary ceremony said in many languages gave a special meaning to the universality of our Church. One has the sense that all were bound together by the shining beads of the rosary. Furthermore the rosary, followed by the torch lit procession of our Lady of Fatima to the Altar for the Eucharist felt more than ever that Heaven joined us in our exhortations and prayers. The sky dome was pitch black with no stars but the candlelit procession of bishops, priests and pilgrims gave the sense that all the stars of heaven had rained down on earth and ‘we were the Stars’ Heaven was definitely on earth!
Each night the statue of Our Lady was taken on procession around the church, but on the 13th, the evening procession commemorated the fulfilment of the prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima and also the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The statue of our Blessed Mother was taken to the piece of the wall of Berlin which had a special place in Fatima. This procession highlighted the message of peace she gave to the three shepherd children. This message is as current today as it was 100 years ago: the human race is still engaging in war and she, The Lady of the Rosary, Queen of Peace is still calling for peace and praying the Rosary.
‘I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the rosary every day, don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you. My immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God’. Our Lady of Fatima.
During our pilgrimage we had a brief moment to set aside the storms of our lives and give focus to God. Every morning began with mass, followed by private devotions. The prayer intentions which travelled and unravelled in Fatima were each morning at our private altar or if it was an international mass Fr Louis carried the envelope of intentions with him. On our final day Fr Louis burnt all the intentions and offered them in a final prayer. It was a very moving ceremony which gave closure and comfort and the reassurance that our prayers had been heard and reached the divine realm.
Hence now that we are back from Fatima, our pilgrims’ hearts keep singing and exhorting:
“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary”. Sister Lucia of Fatima.