Rod Dreher

Longtime readers will recall that I have a long and intimate history with Our Lady of Fatima. I invite you to read this post from several years back explaining the rather amazing things that happened to me out of that devotion. Pope Benedict is in Fatima at the moment, on pilgrimage. Julie and I went there for a couple of days on our honeymoon, also on pilgrimage. I learned a great life lesson there, one that had nothing to do with miracles.
My wife and I got off the bus from Lisbon on a cold, gray January day, and trekked through the small town’s main street, headed to the large plaza in front of the basilica. It was a real moneychangers in the temple moment. Fatima supports itself on religious tourism, and you really get sick seeing all the religious kitsch shops. The worst, to me, were the glow-in-the-dark statues of the Virgin, in multiple sizes. There was also The John Paul II Snack Bar. Vom. By the time we were at the end of that street, we were about ready to go back to the bus and return to Lisbon.
But we pressed on, feeling awfully superior to all the pilgrims who frequented those Jesus junk shops. We had to cross through a line of trees separating the basilica plaza from the commercial street. We looked out across the drizzle-coated plaza and saw hundreds of pilgrims slowly making their way across the vast asphalt lagoon to the basilica (see image below). They were all praying. Many of them were making the quarter-mile journey on their knees. We watched a young couple pass us on their knees, rosaries in hand. The woman’s knees were bare against the asphalt. An older lady — the mother of one of the two, no doubt — carried a young baby in her arms as she walked beside them. They were plainly praying in thanksgiving for that child. They did not look like they had much money, but there they were, on their knees. It was humiliating to me, in a good way, because I realized in that instant for all my supposed piety, I would not have done what they were doing. I also realized that many of these people who were far more demonstrative in their faith than I was, and who no doubt had a much stronger faith than I, were likely the same sort of people who would fill their trunks with religious kitsch before heading home. And I was ashamed of myself for having judged them so harshly.
God does not see with the same eyes we do. How very fortunate for us all. Like the lady said, “He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

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