Fatima. I should have visited when I was in my 30s or 40s. Unfortunately, cynicism is one of the by-products of age and experience. I watched a woman of about 40 circumnavigating the Shrine of the Apparition on her knees yesterday, with a friend walking beside her to offer aid if needed. There was also an area where there are so many candles and wax body parts burning that it smelled like a holiday cook off at the beach. At one time, I might have been one of the supplicants — buying indulgences (and a wax foot) to throw into the flames. Now I try not to let my mouth fall open in shock or show my sadness at these extreme displays of superstition.
I took this morning to take the local tourist tram around to the various sites, including he birth places of Lucia, Francisco, and his sister Jacinto. Of the three, Lucia was the only one who lived to adulthood; but Francisco is the one that fascinates me. I want to know why. Why Fatima? Why these three illiterate children? I want to understand how these little children from simple families in what was a remote village came to create such notoriety.
I don’t accept mystery anymore. It is a lazy way to explain faith. A cop out.
I spent the last hour icing my left foot and then taping toes. I came into Fatima nearly lame and in pain. I’ve self-diagnosed my issue: acute Metatarsalgia. One of the side-effects of walking many days on cobblestones with old feet. So rest, elevation, NSAIDS, ice. And an appointment with a podiatrist when I get back to Maryland.
Fatima is as good a place as any to attempt some rest/recovery. Other than the basilicas, shrine, the sites of the miracles, and the humble homes of Lucia, Jacinto, and Francisco, the rest of it is lodging and souvenir shops. One hundred and four souvenir shops in one square block, and there are many blocks surrounding the grounds of the shrine/basilicas. It makes me sad; but also inspires me to want to know more about how this happens, and to want to write about it in a way that brings some discernment, for me if no one else.
As you may be able to tell, there is some psychic conflict going on. Pilgrimage is not bringing answers, just more questions.
“Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.”