Fatima in June
For a man like me used to the warm weather of San Diego, California or the more perfect weather of the Islands on the equator, where I spent many years, the winters of Fatima are very cold. I have waited with a lack of patience for the summer this year. I was not happy with God when May was still wet and cold, but He was kinder to me in June as I can now sleep in a sheet.
Sister Isabelle of the Coimbra convent forced me to see a doctor for my knee and back. You cannot refuse the eyes of Sister Isabelle for anything. She even made an appointment for me and it turned out to be the same doctor who takes care of 95 year old Lucia in Coimbra. I asked her about Lucia, and she said that she was in better health than I was. This was my first visit to a doctor in 30 years, and I do not want to know what my tests say. I feel great, why should a doctor tell me that it is in my head and that really I am a mess. Thanks to workouts my back is good now but keeps coming back (three times in a year) and I know why but there is nothing I can do about it. By using crutches for a few days and exercising I bring it back quickly.
I have been helping Maria (the closest living relative of Lucia) at the well of the angel in the village. Maria is 82 years old and greets the crowds and gives them water from the well. The bucket drops down in the well 15 feet and she has to draw up the water by a rope with no well wheel. I go down in the busy time and draw the water out for her. The reason they do not have a better method is that they want to keep it the way it was in 1916 when the angel appeared to them. It was sitting on these same stones that I sit on that Jacinta saw the vision of the Holy Father suffering. Tomorrow I am going to the Coimbra Convent and to the doctor and Maria asked me to take a letter to Lucia for her. I offered to take her with me to visit Lucia (she is allowed anytime she wants) but she could not go. Maria is a widow and therefor dresses in all black. She also just lost one of her sons a few weeks ago. At 82 she has the eyes of an angel. It is sad to see her work so hard but she does it to promote the messages of Fatima and not because she has to.
A second Maria works at the house of Lucia greeting pilgrims and explaining its history and answering questions. Both these beautiful ladies have become my close friends but they keep making fun of me for not learning the language yet. I pretend that I have a good reason for not learning yet, because my old brain is not so good anymore or that I am working so hard on my projects - the internet, a movie on Fatima, a Catholic Government and Constitution, etc., but in truth language is not my thing and I have to force myself to get in a hour a day to learn.
Up the street from Lucia's house is the home of Jacinta and Francisco and taking care of the visitors in that house is Jose, who is the closest living relative of those children. He speaks some English but likes it when I come and take care of the English visitors for him.
Up the street is another relative of Jacinta, who has the stole that Jacinta wore at her death. I hoped to get an air tight container for it with a glass top but before I could do it some priest cut off a large peace when she was not looking.
There is no such thing as bad wine in Portugal but I found a place here in the village to get a very good wine. I bought 50 leaders of wine for $70.00. About a dollar a gallon. It is from a private farm of the family and I cannot tell others about it as he does not have that much per year. I do not like port wine but he has the best port I have ever tasted because he does not fortify it with brandy as most do and it has a low alcohol content.
I have a great time in the village because everyone knows me now and they all wave and make fun of me because of the language. I have some tools and used a weed-eater to clear some weeds of my friends homes next door. Father Jose Valinho, who talks with Lucia every month (her nephew) told me to behave myself in the village as he would know about it if I did not. He was born across the street from me and when he comes he will introduce me to everyone in the village. He wrote the booklet "A letter from Lucia to a priest" and keeps to himself the many secrets he learns from Lucia. If confided to me, I would not let you know anyway.
The Cova has been quiet for Fatima, last Sunday was less than 100,000 people. According to the shrine the biggest days are May 13, then October 13, then June 10 (feast of the angel of Portugal), and then August 13-19. Because the June 10th feast was so big this year the other days have been quiet. Quiet in the village this time of year is like a oxymoron.
City of Prayer - Braga
Working on the case for a Catholic Government and Catholic Constitution has brought me to Porto twice. Porto of course is famous for their Port wine and millions of visitors come to see the giant vine cellars and beautiful harbor. The harbor dates back to when the Romans occupied the Iberian Peninsula at the time of Christ. Ruins of the Roman towns still exist but also still used are the aqueducts and roads built by the Romans. Of great interest to me was the huge river running into the Atlantic Ocean and wide enough to navigate for miles up inland by large boats. Famous for a 1000 years as a port of trade, it is easy to see why. The beach is rich and beautiful with wonderful and rich homes. Basilicas, Cathedrals, and Churches are everywhere in breathtaking architecture and art. Rich kings palaces are now open to visitors to see some of the greatest architecture and art in the world. Walking along the river for miles is a great past time of visitors and those who live there.
But it was in Porto that I learned of Braga. At one of the hotels I was told that you go to Lisbon to make money, to Porto to work, to Coimbra to learn and to Braga to pray. Went right past Braga on my way to Spain twice before without stopping but now I had to see why this was called the city of Prayer. Braga has the great seminaries of theology and philosophy. Throughout the city you will find Churches on every corner and statues of the saints. Fiestas take place every month in honor of some saint or another but this is not why it is called the city of Prayer. The city is set between mountains and on top of the highest mountain sets a large village called "Good Jesus". In this village are seminaries, convents and a small church called "Good Jesus". Our front of this church is shops, outdoor restaurants, hotels, and a large flat outdoor dinning area where you can see out at the entire city of Braga. The night is breathtaking and many lovers go their to enjoy the closest thing to heaven in Portugal.
The Church has simple but clean architecture but the altar is the most breathtaking thing you have ever seen. It is the entire Crucifixion in life size statues. The good and bad thieves are there, Mary, Magdalene, John, the Pharisees, the Roman guards, and other spectators all in life size statues. The artwork is so real you think you are looking at the real thing. The guards casting lots for His clothes, the sky braking into darkness, and Christ offering his sacrifice to the Father for our sins, all in one large artwork behind the altar.
Outside the church are more statues of the suffering of Christ and those around Him. There are water falls and ponds and meditation trails. Everything is made for an atmosphere of silence and meditation. Even those who come to eat, drink or propose marriage are in a silence that feels like Heaven.
Up the mountain is something like a cable car but instead of being electric or gas it is powered by water. Water is pumped into one large container until it is heavier than the car and its people and this lifts the people up the mountain. At the top the water is pumped out slowly allowing the car to go down the mountain. It is one of the safest and lest expensive systems in the world.
I will go back again to Braga so as to spend more time in this Heaven. I will be looking for a copy of a card of Our Lady of Sameiro, Braga. Jacinta loved to look at this image when she was ill for she said it was the one which most reminded her of Our Lady of Fatima.
For now I must re-write a movie on Fatima and make sure the details are correct before production. I am using Lucia's memoirs but when finished will take it to Father Coglen and Coimbra for final approval Tomorrow I will deliver a letter to Lucia from her niece, Maria and water from the Cova de Iria. Also is a rosary Mother Celina wanted repaired or replaced and some information on an icon. I have come to love the convent for the joy I feel there and the sparkle in the eyes of the nuns. It does not mater that I do not see Lucia but I do attend the same Mass that she does. And that makes it special to me.