Marian pilgrimage in Europe (Part II)
DATELINE: Los Angeles, California—We had the last Mass of our Marian Pilgrimage at the Shrine of the Holy Miracle, formerly the Church of St. Stephen in Santarém, Portugal, where the bleeding host, similar to that in Lanciano, Italy, is enshrined. According to stories, in 1266, a young woman in Santarém overcome with jealousy for her husband, consulted a sorceress who told her to go to the church and steal a consecrated Host. After communion, the woman took out from her mouth the Host, hid it in her veil but immediately it bled. She ran home and confused she placed the bleeding host in a drawer in her bedroom. That night the drawer began to emit brilliant rays of light which illuminated the room. The wife told her husband what she did and they prayed before the bleeding host. The next day, the couple informed the priest, who went to their home to remove the Host and returned it to the Church in solemn procession. The bleeding Host was then placed in a beautiful reliquary made of beeswax. In 1340, another miracle occurred.
When the priest opened the tabernacle, he found the beeswax vase broken into many pieces: in its place was a crystal vase containing the Blood mixed with the wax. The Sacred Host is now preserved in an 18th century Eucharistic throne above the main altar, which we were able to have touched and kissed. Among the witnesses of this miracle is St. Francis Xavier. Every second Sunday of April, the precious relic is processed from the home of the couple to the Church of St. Stephen. The couple’s home became a chapel in 1684.
The last stop and 9th Church of our pilgrimage was the Church of St. Anthony in Lisbon, Portugal, located at the site where the saint, widely known as Saint Anthony of Padua, was born in 1195. We visited the Crypt where the relic of the saint is located. We bought the St. Anthony’s bread, believed to be miraculous.
I learned a lot from this Pilgrimage; it adds not only on what I already know about my Catholic faith but also learned about the culture, tradition and way of life of different countries. Advisory to the European Pilgrims, if you have knee ailments, bring soft kneeler, church kneeler has no upholstery. Bring light weight portable chair, you can sit on it in long queues.
Days 1 and 2 of our Marian Pilgrimage were practically spent travelling. We reached London Heathrow Airport after 10 hours and 35 minutes flight from LAX (Los Angeles Airport, California); another 2 hours flight from London to Toulouse, France. Then, 4 hours land travel to Lourdes, France. We arrived at 10:00pm, missed the 9pm candlelight procession but had fine dining of French Cuisine at Hotel Gallia and Londres, just 5-minute walk to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was actually my third visit, but it was worth revisiting the place.
Although the airports we went through are in the first world countries, how I wish their airport facilities can also be replicated in our country. Those airports also have their own share of air traffic and delayed flights which made me realized that I can now be more patient when the same happen in my flights in the Philippines.
The following day, our local tour guide took us to the cemetery where the family of St. Bernadette were buried; the remains of the saint is in Nevers, France. Then we went to Soubirous house, the old Sacred Heart Parish of the community, the thousand-year old Fortified Castle in mid-Pyrenees and had Mass at the Chapelle Crux Gloriosa at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. We prayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, went to the Upper Basilica or the Basilica of Immaculate Conception, the Crowned Statue and Rosary Square, where evening procession are held, the underground Basilica of St. Pius X, the Grotto (the site of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary), went to the Bath and bathed, drank the Lourdes water, hurdled the steep climbs of the Stations of the Cross.
On the other side of Gave River, we went to the Church of St. Bernadette, the site where she was when the apparition happened at the Grotto, Chapels of lights where we lighted candles and prayed. Since we already joined the procession during our visit in the past, where the 5 decades of the rosary were prayed in different languages and Lourdes hymns were sung – we decided to instead queue the long line at the Grotto of Massabielle to touch and embraced the rock of the cave where the image of Our Lady of Lourdes was installed, prayed before the miraculous spring, lighted and covered by glass, which St. Bernadette dug upon the instructions of Our Lady who introduced herself as Immaculate Conception. The metal box for petition prayers of pilgrims is located here.
From Lourdes, we proceeded to Montserrat, Spain. We were not warned of the zigzag road, thus, most of the pilgrims experienced nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness. We walked uphill to reach the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat or the Black Madonna and Child. We had Mass on the Birthday of the Mother Mary in one of the chapels of the Shrine where we can see the back of the image of the Madonna at the Altar. My sister and I were Mass Readers.
In Barcelona, we had a walking tour of Plaza de Espaňa, Plaza Cataluňa, the place where Picasso had his paintings, the Montjuic cable cars. We had Mass at the Chapel of Santa Eulalia in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia also known as Barcelona Cathedral.
After lunch, we went to the opulent Basilica de la Sagrada Familia and still unfinished more than 135 years after the cornerstone was laid in 1882; it is still under construction and is expected to be completed in 2026. Written in Tagalog on one of the walls is part of the Lord’s Prayer “Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw araw” (Give us this day our daily bread). It was in Barcelona where I was able to buy the image of the Black Madonna which I failed to do in Montserrat due to lack of time. We stayed at Hotel Exe Crista Palace.
Next visit was the splendid Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. We were allowed to touch and kiss the pillar which Virgin Mary gave to St. James when she visited him in Zaragoza. We had Mass at one of the Chapels. Then, 4 hours land travel to Burgos where we stayed at Hotel Corona Castilla.
In Burgos, Spain, we had a walking tour of the interior of the Cathedral of St. Mary of Burgos or Burgos Cathedral; in it is the tomb of El Cid, one of the country’s heroes. The famous Papamoscas Clock or fly-catching is an 18th century clock figurine up in the nave of the Cathedral that opens its mouth every hour when the bells chime. According to our tour guide, most antique religious icons inside the Cathedral came from the Philippines, sequestered during the colonization of Spain. We capped our visit with a Mass at one of the chapels.
Then we had 6 hours travel by land to Santiago de Compostela and stayed the night at Grand Hotel Los Abetos. The following day, we started our 8 kilometers El Camino de Santiago walk and reached the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Unfortunately, the Cathedral was under construction in preparation for the 2021 celebration when the feast day of St. James falls on a Sunday. The botafumerio or thurible’s swings almost reach 65-meter arc and produces large volumes of smoke. Shovels are used to fill the incenser with 40 kilos of charcoal and incense. It is carried and swung by 8 men in red robes called tiraboleiros. It was said that the big censer is used when pilgrims arrived who were tired and unwashed and the incense smoke had prophylactic effect at the time of plagues and epidemics. We were blessed to hug and kissed the image of St. James and visited the crypt which houses the relics of St.James and the 2 other disciples St. Theodorus an St. Athanasius. We had Mass at the Chapel in the Information area.
At Fatima, we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary where the tombs of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta and Sr. Lucia are located. At the façade of the Basilica is the huge image of Our Lady of Fatima. The Chapel of the Apparition, the site where the Blessed Virgin appeared before the three children 5 times, on the 13th day of the month. It is also the site of the miracle of the sun and where the rosaries are prayed in different languages every hour and before the 9:30pm procession. When police officers detained the 3 children, no apparition happened on August 13, but occurred on August 19 in Valinhos, near the house of the children. We prayed at the Chapel of the Blessed Trinity and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. At the Plaza are the big images of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Big Cross and the statue of St. Pope John Paul II. For three consecutive days we had Mass at the Capela Da Sagrada Familia and joined the candlelighted procession. On the last night of our stay, our Pilgrimage Chaplain Fr. Altaire Fernandez, led the praying of the 3rd Glorious Mystery. We visited the houses of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta and Sr. Lucia. Also visited the Maria, the 99-year old niece of Sister Lucia. We stayed at Hotel Santa Maria, a 3-minutes walk to the Sanctuary. We had a14 hours flight from Lisbon, Portugal Airport (renamed Humberto Delgado Airport) to London to LAX, excluding stop-over and flight delay.