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I feel compelled to write about a recent trip I made with my wife to a place in Portugal called Fatima. We had gone for a week's break in the Algarve area and decided to go north to visit Fatima. It was a long trip but we were rewarded with very clear roads there and back.

Fatima - crucifixI need to explain I am not a Catholic and most of it is foreign to me. The thought of It did raise a degree of reluctance in me though my appreciation of old churches appeased me a little. I like the wonderful artwork and structural forms as well as the history associated with them. I knew I could occupy myself by looking around the church with my own thoughts and prayer time, or failing that a visit to local cafe for a coffee.

The site was easy to find and this was low season so few people and we found parking close by.  The first place we came to was the newer constructed hall (Basilica of the Holy Trinity) which was largely empty though it could sit a few thousand people when full. I crept about my trainers squeaking with every step I took on the clean marble flooring, an impressive building.

Leaving this we entered the huge white plaza (Cova da Iria) with the older church directly in in front and at the end (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the rosary). To my right an interesting cross structure, and to my left a tent like structure with a place adjacent to it where people can light candles.  This is apparently where the three children first saw the Mary. There was a mass going on so waiting back and took photographs and lost my wife.

I went past the mass to the step of the chapel building more on a quest to find my wife, so initially I entered and looked about then left to look elsewhere. I found some sitting beneath trees with a lovely fresh drinking fountain in the centre. I sat here for a while reflecting on this place and it must be with many people here. I thanked God it was quiet here and few people about. Capturing images of the church from the outside I suddenly began to wonder about the inside, partly as I like stain glass windows and had glimpse a few when I first entered.

Stained Glass WindowI returned to the chapel and now began to see the beauty of the stain glass windows, the golden plaques with stages of the cross, and above a semi-circular stain glass window and above that on the next level a rectangular stain glass panel.  I started to photograph and conscious of not being irreverent, I focused on the images and how they had been portrayed. I began to see a beauty that conveyed a message to me in each stain glass window.

Finally, I went outside and sat on the steps to the church, the sun was warm and again it was not too busy. I had found a peace in this place, and presence that caused, what I can only describe as repentance.  This is what I wrote as I sat there:

"Even here in all these white stones I feel the presence of the Holy One. We each take from it what we want. I found peace and repentance and it was good not be just following but able to sit a while with my own thoughts. If there had been many people here it would have lost its peace, but the ability for me to wander through and around was so good. From the plaza where a young girl sings in Portuguese and an organ plays to the chapel with the beautiful stain glass windows, to the courtyard with the seats around the trees and a fresh water fountain. Above the clear blue sky and as I sit here on the chapel steps I feel the warmth of the sun."

The house where 2 children livedI am a Christian first and sectarianism is not for me. I know is that God is omnipresence (all present), omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing) for me and anyone else. What I discovered this day was that it is possible to find God there.  Worship is worship and praise does raise where ever you are. I had time to reflect on my life and what I was doing there, and for a moment I feel a peace that brought increased faith into my life.

It made also wonder about the children's sightings and the attention they first received 100 years ago in 1917 and for a few years after that. This was based on the famed Marian apparitions reported in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria, in Fátima, Portugal. The three young children were Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. The first world war had been going for 3 years the, Portugal has just sent soldiers to the Western Front and in Russia a revolution was happening. Such horrific things were happening, such pain and suffering, and ironically the end of the war brought an equally devastating time where influenza killed millions.

Where now?

Orchard where they kept sheepAs then, we find ourselves in turbulent times with economic, environmental, social and global imbalance of wealth, food and education. We need God more than ever and we need God through the work of Jesus Christ.  We need God more in our lives, our churches and let the Holy Spirit work.  Jesus is the one mediator and we read in Acts 2 where Peter told of Jesus being on the right hand of God received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth, which you now see and hear. God is faithful and good so receive now this promise that Jesus has shed forth.

© 2016 Written by Ian Lloyd and all photographs by Ian using the Canon Power Shot SX60 HS and modified on an iPhone 5S using the Prisma app.