Pilgrimage to France, Spain and Portugal, July 5-14, 2017

Pilgrim Group in Lourdes

I led a group of 42 pilgrims on a 10-day pilgrimage to Lourdes and Fatima in July. The Fatima 100th anniversary proved to be popular as this was largest group I have ever led. We were blessed to start in Lourdes, spend time at the grotto and go in the baths, and see the village and Bernadette's homes. Then travelling accross Spain, the stop in Loyola was very blest for me as we had time to pray in the room where St. Ignatius' coversion took places. Other stops in Spain included Toribio (relic of the true cross), Covadonga (marian shrine), and Santiago de Compostela (El Camino to the tomb to St. James). Besides the shrine processions, stations and villages surrounding Fatima, we schedule an extra day to have some prayer time there on July 13th, the anniversary of the 3rd appartition. For me, beside the primary message of prayer, penance and conversion, Fatima is a reminder of God's providence and care for our world, revealed through a mother who care for all her children.

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It was here in Lourdes where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858 proclaiming herself the “Immaculate Conception”. Each afternoon there is a Blessed Sacrament Procession and each evening Candlelight Procession and Rosary. We had a chance to experience the special atmosphere of this beautiful town and see the house where Bernadette lived during the Apparitions. We prayed at the Grotto of Massabielle where the Virgin appeared and experienced the baths of Lourdes. We visited and had Mass at the three level Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary / Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception / Crypt, plus the Basilica of Pius X (the world’s largest underground church).



The Sanctuary of Loyola was built around the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. His family home which was also the place where he convalescend after getting injured in battle, and experienced his conversion to fight for Christ. That room is now a chapel where we had Mass.



The Monastery of Santo Toribio was founded prior to the 6th century. Today the monastery houses the largest piece of the True Cross discovered in Jerusalem by Saint Helena. Brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Saint Turibius of Astorga, the left arm of the True Cross is kept in a gilded silver reliquary which we venerated.



The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Covadonga rose to prominence following the Battle of Covadon in 722, at which the Moorish invasion of Spain was first resisted. A statue of the Virgin Mary, secretly hidden in one of the caves, is believed to have miraculously aided the Christian victory. We had Mass in the crypt



We toured Oviedo, including a visit to the Cathedral which houses the tombs of Asturian kings and the Camara Santa (Holy Room) of relics which houses the Sudarium of Oviedo, thought to be the cloth that was wrapped around the head of Jesus Christ after he died.


Santiago de Compostela

Stopping first at Monte do Gozo to overlook the city Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral of St. James (Santiago). After touring the city we visited the impressive Cathedral, one of the finest pieces of architecture in Europe where we had Mass and venerated the relics of St. James kept in a silver urn in the crypt. Santiago de Compostella is the destination El Camino, "The Pilgrimage" in which pilgrims travel for weeks and months from all over Europe.



Braga is the religious center of Portugal with over 300 churches. We visited Braga’s Sé Cathedral (Cathedral of Faith) which is the oldest in Portugal and the Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount) which is an important pilgrimage shrine, with the sanctuary atop a monumental, Baroque stairway that climbs 381 feet (577 stairs).



In 1917 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children: Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta at the Cova da Iria (about a kilometer north of the parish church). She would appear six times from May to October on the 13th of each month. We had Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions and visited the Basilica to see the site of the children's graves (St. Francisco and St. Jacinta just canonized by Pope Francis in May!) We saw the village where the three children lived, and Valinhos where Our Lady appeared to the children in August, and the prayed Stations of the Cross along the Via Sacre, site of the apparition of the angel who came to them 3 times in 1916. 9Fatima


The Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory at Batalha Portugal, built to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Castilians in the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, and burial church of the 15th-Century Portuguese royalty, is one of the best and original examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal. Pictured on the horse is St. Nuno Álvares, O. Carm. a Portuguese general whose great success had a decisive role in the battle (he led 6,500 men to victory against a Castilian force of over 30,000) assured Portugal's independence from Castile, later he became a Carmelite friar and was canonized in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. 10Batalha


At the city of Santarem is the Church of the Holy Miracle (St. Stephen), which house the oldest recorded Eucharistic miracle. “The Bleeding Host,” in 1225 a woman sacrileously stole a Consecrated Host, which started to bleed. Not knowing what to do she put the Host into the bottom of a trunk, which that night illuminated the room and led the woman to confess her sin. To this day. the precious blood still remains in liquid form, defying the natural laws of science, and the Host resembles real flesh with delicate veins.


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