Heart of Portugal in 12 Days: Fátima in the Rain

Staring into the candle-wax firestorm that rages daily here in Fátima, Portugal’s most holy spot, it struck me that cultures all over the world have the same passion for getting close to God.

I’m here on a Rick Steves Heart of Portugal tour — and I’m glad that our guides are able to give us context and lead us into the holy fray in places like this, so we can feel and respect the religious culture of wherever we may be traveling. The faithful here believe that the Virgin Mary appeared in Fátima in 1917, on the 13th day of six successive months. On the sixth appearance, 70,000 locals gathered and were awestruck by the apparition. And last year, on the centennial of the first apparition, half a million pilgrims gathered on this esplanade to attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

The traveler’s challenge is not to judge, but to feel. Where have you been impressed by a powerful religious scene that is not yours?

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