Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meeting your spiritual kneeds since 1917

Image from www.portugalvirtual.pt. Because I forgot my friggin' camera.

We started our most recent trip to the Iberian Peninsula in Lisbon, partially because none of our party (Amynah and I, her mother and brother) had been before. Also, Amynah’s Mom wanted to visit the town of Fatima*, site of a miraculous apparition by the Virgin Mary in 1917.

Fatima’s a few hours north of Lisbon, so we rented a car and headed for the hills. It was clear day, if a little chilly in the highlands. On arriving at the basilica, I was surprised to discover that there was no parking to be had anywhere – all of the many capacious parking lots were packed, with cars spilling over onto sidewalks and grassy medians.

It wasn’t until after we parked and started making our way to the church that I realized that my parking-related curses, even if under my breath, were particularly blasphemous: it was a Sunday, and all of the other cars blocking my way were actually bearing the faithful.

Anyway, this is how I ended up attending my first mass** – barring weddings and funerals – in approximately twenty years. As luck would have it, we arrived at the giant outdoor mass just as they were passing around the host (we all declined a bite).

After the show ended, we wandered around the space, checking out the statue of Mary that bears a crown in the centre of which is the bullet removed from Pope John Paul II in 1980. I didn’t get a look at that, but I did see a number of pilgrims doing the rounds of the enormous facility on their knees.

Now, call me a purist, but I’d always thought the whole point of such stunts was to suffer, thus proving your devotion. So it’s stuck me as a bit of a cheat when I noticed that all of the self-abuse was ameliorated by… kneepads.

What’s next? Velcro crucifixions?

*At the risk of some understatement, as most of my readers know, Amynah’s Mom is not Catholic. However, a holy place is a holy place in her book and, as she put it, whether you’re using Canada Post or FedEx the message will get there in the end.

** Though far from my first pilgrimage, as I’ve noted before.

No comments: