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Fatima: Pilgrimage to Sister Lucia’s Carmel at Coimbra

May 15, 2017. 19 Crates, 15,483 Pages of Documents Under Seal

Above the heights of the town, some 120 kilometers from Fatima, is the Carmel of Coimbra, where Sister Lucia of Fatima lived the greater part of her life — she entered there at 41 and died at 97. Today it is a place of pilgrimage, though she rests in the Basilica of the Trinity at Fatima.

This Monday, May 15, 2017, groups took turns going to Mass in the Carmel’s Chapel, visiting the Memorial, or simply taking a photo in front of the visionary’s statue, decorated with white roses from Portugal. Some of these groups included 40 people from Massachusetts, the 27 from New York, or the bus with people from all over the United States, pilgrims of the Philippines, of the Ivory Coast, of Portugal, of Italy and of France.

Among the French groups, Saint Etienne radio, Radio Esperance, re-transmitted this Monday the Hour of Mercy, the Mass, and Vespers sung by the Carmelites, after having transmitted live from Fatima the Mass in the Chapel of the Apparitions, the Rosary at the well of Arneiro, at the hamlet birthplace of the little visionaries at Aljustrel, the Hour of Mercy, a Way of the Cross, and celebrations presided over by Pope Francis.

The diocesan process of Sister Lucia’s Beatification ended three months ago, on February 13, 2017, on the 12th anniversary of her “birth in Heaven.” The documents collected after the opening of the process on April 30, 2008, represent 15,483 pages, sealed with red wax by the notaries in 19 crates, then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saint in Rome.

The documents represent the work of two Bishops, two Postulators, three Vice-Postulators, eight members of the History Commission, and 61 witnesses, including a Cardinal, four Bishops and 34 lay people.

The closing ceremony of the process, “ardently desired by very numerous people of the Catholic world,” was presided over by the Bishop of Coimbra, Monsignor Virgilio Antunes who thanked all those involved in the process of Beatification from Pope Benedict XVI, to the Shrine of Fatima and the Carmel of Coimbra: “The process, which concludes today, is the fruit of much work, generosity and much love of the Church.”

The Postulator, Carmelite Father Romano Gambalunga, mentioned the Beatitude of pure hearts: “Lucia was one of those, a woman of pure heart, with a grandiose mission during the 20th century,” a personality characterized by her faith, “by her grandeur and her humility, her simplicity, so that she let herself be guided, her spiritual freedom, in the light of prayer, and in the joy of knowing herself in the grace of God”: since the age of six Lucia had that consciousness of being “in God.”

Sister Lucia’s Walking Stick

The Roman phase of the process of Beatification has thus begun, and it must examine the human and Christian virtues of Sister Lucia, in the light of her numerous writings, her abundant correspondence and testimonies. If the examination ends in a Decree approved by the Pope recognizing the “heroic” character of her virtues, she will be proclaimed “Venerable.” If a miracle due to her intercession is then authenticated, she can be beatified, unless, in the light of innumerable graces received in the world by her intercession, Pope Francis prefers to dispense the cause of the examination of a miracle, which would hasten her Beatification.

With the opening of the Roman phase, the Church permits the distribution of the first relics called of 2nd degree — fabric used by Sister Lucia – for personal devotion but without public veneration.

A “Memorial” has ben established not far from the Carmel, bringing together effects used by Sister Lucia: her first Rosary, the belt she used at the time of the Apparitions, and also the original of her first hand-written notebook, her white veil and brown Carmelite habit, gold embroidered works, photos, her typewriter, mail bags, of which the last include a copy of the fax received from Rome on the eve of her death, in which Saint John Paul II, already seriously ill himself, tells her of his affection and his prayer.

Had she not offered him her walking stick through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone? “Take it to the Pope and you’ll see that with it he will be able to walk!” He often joked about Sister Lucia’s walking stick. And he had offered her a Rosary that one can also see at the Memorial. John Paul II had that special bond with Fatima and Lucia, particularly after the attack on May 13, 1981. And he would send the future Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone – then No. 2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – to inquire into the accuracy of the interpretation of the “third secret” and its completeness, before its publication in the year 2000. Yes, it is complete, answered Lucia. And to verify if the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of March 25, 1984, had responded well to what the Mother of God requested: Yes, answered Sister Lucia again.

When she was told that some thought that there was another secret, she said, in essence: If they know it, let they say it! I don’t know any other. And she was astonished that so much time was spent seeking what did not exist instead of being concerned with putting into practice the well-known messages of the Virgin.

From Saint Dorothy’s to the Carmel 

Sister Lucia lived 57 years in Saint Teresa’s Carmelite convent of Coimbra. She took vows of perpetual chastity at the college of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy on August 26, 1923. Then, struck by the Canonization of Saint Therese of Lisieux by Pope Pius XI on May 26, 1925, she would have liked to enter the Carmel, but the laws of the Republic of Portugal at the time did not make possible this option. She even envisioned learning French and asking to enter the Carmel at Lisieux … She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy and learned Spanish: She could not stay in Portugal. Finally, it was Pope Pius XII’s intervention that was decisive so that she could realize her call to the Carmel, more than 21 years later, with her entrance at Coimbra on Marcy 25, 1948 at 5:30 am: day of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. She was 41.

One awaits now the process of Beatification that can shed light on the hidden life of she who began her public life a century ago, at 10 years of age, on May 13, 1917. Because once she entered Carmel her public life was reduced primarily to writings, to her correspondence, to her presence at Fatima for four papalvisits: Paul VI (May 13, 1967), and John Paul II (1982, 1991 and 2000). The rest was a hidden life, as faithful messenger of the Virgin Mary’s appeals for the salvation of the world, at the service of this time of mercy.

Because if the Pope’s trip to Fatima was a Marian culmination to the Jubilee of Mercy — a theme modulated in Pope Francis’ different addresses at Cova da Iria — it seems that the pilgrimage to Coimbra offers, after the passage at Fatima, a salutary reminder that it is above all in the most hidden day to day that God transforms history.