Fr. Saffron’s Pilgrimage
This past July Fr. Saffron led a group of pilgrims on a visit to two of the world’s most famous and cherished shrines to Our Lady.
Flying across the Atlantic, the pilgrims arrived at Lourdes, a town nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The Shrine of the Virgin commemorates the 18 appearances in 1858, of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette, at Massabielle. A Gothic revival basilica, overlooking the River Gave, marks the entrance to the shrine area. Visitors may still view the natural niche in the rock where the Virgin appeared and the spring, which Mary commanded Bernadette to dig and which still pours forth. It was here in what was then a town dump that Our Lady identified herself to Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception. February 11th is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Moving on to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, his group took the opportunity to explore the city, the birthplace and home of the beloved St. Anthony of Padua. Visiting the nearby town of Belem, now a suburb of the Portuguese capital, they explored the 15th century Jeronimos Monastery, housing the Tomb of Vasco da Gama, and the Tower of Belem, marking the site from which Prince Henry the Navigator sent ships off to round the Cape of Good Hope, and establish a sea route from Europe to India around Africa. It was this route from Belem, which St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary followed in the 16th century to Asia to win souls for Christ in India and Japan.
On their way to Fatima the pilgrims had the opportunity to visit the monastery of Our Lady of Alcobaca, founded in 1178 by Cistercian monks from France. The largest church in the country, Alcobaca’s severe early Gothic style reflects the traditions of the Cistercian order.
At Fatima, the pilgrim’s venerated the Virgin at the site of her 6 apparitions from May 13th to October 13th, 1917 to the three peasant children: Francisco and Jacinta, who died while still young, and to their cousin Lucia dos Santos, who lived to welcome Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to the great shrine, whose plaza exceeds in area the size of St. Peter’s. At Fatima the Blessed Mother gave to the children three secrets, which were conveyed to the Vatican. At her last appearance, “the Lady” revealed that she was Our Lady of the Rosary. October is the month of the Holy Rosary.
On their way from Fatima back to Lisbon, the group visited the Monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Batahla, founded in 1385 in thanksgiving to the Virgin for the preservation of Portugal’s freedom by the defeat of an invading Castilian army. In the monastery’s Chapter House, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorializes Portugal’s war dead.
The travelers returned home to Brooklyn tired, but spiritually refreshed by their pilgrimage.