Before you read this I feel the need to tell you - it is only my opinion so don’t be offended. I realise that there are many schools of thought out there and my research has come from various online sources.
Portugal sees many modern day pilgrims making their holy way to Fatima and in May the number of pilgrims making this trip swells to thousands. The history of why people bother to walk miles to Fatima is intriguing:
Back in 1917 three children (Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta) saw a series of ‘apparitions’ in Fatima, delivered by the angel of peace, you can read about these here. I won’t comment, I don’t want to offend!
Like any good story, the story told by the angel to the children was told in a number of instalments (kind of like Lord of the Rings I guess). These stories were revealed to the world over a series of stories written by the then Sister Lucy (one of the children). The vision confided three ‘secrets’ to the children, the first two were revealed by Sister Lucy but the last one has never been publically revealed and in 1960 Sister Lucy was forbidden to reveal the secret by the Pope – I smell a cover up! And good stories need some intrigue, the children were kidnapped, 70,000 people witnessed a miracle, anti-Russian politics came into play and the church seem to be covering up the final secret !
I smell a Dan Brown novel!
Since this time, thousands of people make their way to Fatima to give thanks and generally throw themselves on the Lord’s mercy. The modern day pilgrim has a hard time of it, not only do they have to adhere to the health and safety rules of the European Union by wearing their high-vis vest, but they walk miles along main roads with juggernauts speeding by, and to top it off, this year it has rained every-day for the past two weeks (but maybe it makes it better – more penance or something?). All this so you can be at Fatima pushing for your space behind the crowd control barriers!
It would also appear that the mighty arm of commercialism has stepped in to make the romantic pilgrimage image fade into oblivion. For example, you can buy all your Fatima goodies here - I’m particularly enamoured by the Our Lady of Fatima Window Cling
All in all this modern day pilgrimage does not invoke the images of walking across the countryside with god in your mind and the sense of community in your spirit, to me it seems sterile and a slow way to ruin your love of walking – but then I am faithless, I’ve already been told by a local man that I’m going ‘straight to hell’’ because I’m not a Catholic. Well that maybe true, but for me hell would be a walking along the main road from Coimbra to Fatima in a high-vis vest and rain pouring onto my weary head.