Today we are off on a pilgrimage – Ceridwyn and I are keen to see Fatima. This international focus of pilgrimage is just down the road from Tomar where we are staying. Danielle is not so keen and The Lonely Planet is downright scathing about tacky religious souvenirs
I am here as an observer of the phenomenon that is Fatima. A welcome sign invites us to enter as pilgrims and despite myself, I am soon drawn in to the sense of holy in the place.
While the shops around the basilica sell a lot of religious tat, the site is not tacky at all – very modern and open and invitational. An enormous square in front of the basilica which could hold thousands. There is a partly enclosed area where Mass is being celebrated, and we go and join in.
Some stand, others sit or kneel – some clutch candles which can be lit and offered in the fire next door. Each with their own thoughts and prayers and language. Each open to God and to the day in a special way.
Behind us a woman shuffles on her knees along a smooth pathway – her husband beside her carrying her bags and offering support. Further on a teenager is doing the same thing, his mother beside him. I have no idea what they want from this penance or offering, but I hope with them, that they get it.
The three of us leave light hearted from the visit – it was better and more meaningful than any of us expected.
Visiting the Caves:
There are three sets of caves or grutas around Tomar. We planned to visit one lot, but got lost and stumbled on some more – the Grutas Du Moeda. These caves themselves were only discovered in the 1970s by some two hunters chasing a fox.
I could not help thinking that these caves were there for eons minding their own business, the stalactites and stalagmites have been racing along growing 1cm every 80 years silently and unknown.
And then suddenly 40 years ago people ‘discovered’ them, and here we are today on a tour through them with people from all over the world. There are nice lights and a good pathway now, but those staligmites are still just slowly growing at 1cm every 80 years.
In my daily reading of Eat Love Pray, Liz Gilbert is in India learning to meditate. She has lots of demons which keep distracting her, and at one stage she tries a very challenging form of meditation – Vipassanna – a very austere practice which simply (did I say simply?) involves sitting still – no movement, no mantra, no agitation, just pure regarding. No swatting at sandflies, no sniffing, no nothing.
Like Liz, I am a restless spirit and have an even more restless body, so the idea of just stopping and doing absolutely nothing seems like a nightmare, and I am probably not about to start meditating in any meaningful way soon.
But I was thinking about all that down in the cave – thinking about that huge magnificent cave system which no one knew anything about, thinking about being present and just being, thinking about those drops of water slowly building a beautiful sculpture.
Thinking of the need to just be – no pressure, no wondering, no planning – just being, and seeing what will emerge from that. This is what this journey is about for me.
To take some time to stop rushing and planning and hoping and grieving and dreaming and take time to be. To be in the moment and see what happens to me over time. What I discover, what I find out about myself and the world around me.
Seeing stuff is good – though you do get castled out and cathedraled out, but it is what happens in that seeing, and being that is the real journey.