Fatima to Pombal – 52km
As a young child, Lois was fascinated and enchanted by the story of Fatima in which, in 1917, three local shepherd children: Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saw visions of a lady since believed to be the Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Fátima (Nussa Señora). The image of this event as retained since Lois’ Catechism classes, was of an intimate experience in the countryside. So, approaching the present day Sanctuary was somewhat disconcerting. It is an expansive open plaza, with chapels and facilities to accommodate the 4 million pilgrims who visit each year. Although tastefully done, with a beautiful basilica and contemporary sculptures and buildings, the man-made structures seemed to overwhelm the single oak tree still standing in the sanctuary, where one of the visitations took place. Still, it is a quiet and solemn place, with beautiful buildings, and we could only imagine what it must be like when it is filled with pilgrims. We were impressed by the number of people there today who were visiting outside the regular pilgrimage days of the 12th and 13th of the month from May until October.