Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Evora, Santarem and Fatima Portugal

Tom & Susan Melillo’s – Day Three

Buenos Dias  …

As small as those beds were in Guadalupe, we were “out like a light” by 8:00 P.M.  There were no dreams or aches and pains to disturb us … just what seemed like a HURRICANE during the night.  It came blowing through the mountains around 10:00 P.M. … Susan woke and said “Is it time to get up?)”.  Luckily, the heavy winds and rain subsides and after a couple of Melatonin, it was “night-night” all over again until this morning.

We were up early as intended so that we could get on the road … it was still very dark out and drizzling rain.  Unfortunately,  we had to wait for breakfast at the hotel until the girl arrived.  We had a couple of cups of Spanish Coffee (Caffe’ Leche’) as they call it; some orange juice, mini-something-like-small-hard-donut-holes and fresh plain toasted bread – no butter – so we used the olive oil on the table and Sue seasoned hers with salt, too.  If it wasn’t for the bread since we have ventured on this trip, we’ve been eating very healthy for lack of better words.

It was still raining when we left the hotel and we had to drive, literally, through the clouds to descend the mountain.  Scary a bit … but surreal.  We crossed in to Portugal about three hours later on our way to Evora, Portugal and the Chapel of the Bones.

We drove through this big “little town” and passed by this very large old Church.  “Princess” (GPS) kept directing us to go on further based on the address we had given her for the “Chapel of the Bones”.  So we listened to “Princess” … 15 miles later, through back roads with no one around, we ended up on what we found to be the “Other Evora” … same address minus ONE DIGIT.  No “Chapel of Bones” in sight.

After finally figuring out our problem, we entered the actual GPS Coordinates for the destination we were trying to reach … lo and behold … it took us back through the same route and back to the “First Evora”.

We arrived somewhat close to our destination and parked the car on a very narrow side road and began walking.  We latched on to two women, one of which was carrying her GPS to try to find the “Chapel of the Bones”.  We were now 4 people lost.  We finally made a turn and arrived at our destination …

JUST IN TIME FOR THE CARETAKER TO BE CLOSING THE DOORS FOR “SIESTA”.  He informed us that it would re-open in two hours!  (For those of you who have travelled vicariously with us over the years, we’re not shocked when this happens!).

Needless to say, we did not and have not and will not see “The Chapel of Bones” in Evora, Portugal.  I calmed myself realizing that we were going to leave any of your Intentions there anyway … LOL.  So nothing was lost except for a couple of hours on the second day of our pilgrimage … still no Mass which was disappointing to us, though.

We stopped at a Super-Marche to get our first picnic lunch … “The Melillo’s Famous On-The-Road Hogie”.  The young lady at the Deli Counter was great … she couldn’t speak a word of English and I couldn’t speak a word of Portuguese.  “Universal Language” … I just pointed to the meats and cheeses and held my fingers up for how many slices I wanted of each … it worked out great.  And then, of course, we found our favorite European Dijon Mustard and a bottle of great olive oil and fresh baked bread.  We stopped not too far down the road, made our Hogie and “dug in”!

We were now on our way to Santarem, Portugal to visit the Holy Shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle.  Even using the GPS Coordinates with “Princess”, it was impossible for her to get us directly there.  We parked the car and approached a police officer in the Main Square.  No languages in common but he gave great “hand signals” when we showed him a copy of where we were trying to go … to the Holy Shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle.

Not wanting to get lost again, we walked about 10-15 minutes through this very quaint section of town.  We arrived at this very old “non-descript” Church, hidden on a very tiny side street of Santarem.  The only clue that we were in the right place was a depiction of the Miracle of the Eucharist on the front wall of the Church.


As we entered, we began to approach the Altar (after first Praying our “Hail Mary” as we do each time we enter a Church or Religious Shrine which we dedicated to our country).  No one was in the Church and we had no idea what we might see, how close we might get to the Relinquary … of if we were even in the right place (based on the day we had had).

As we approached the Sanctuary, high above the Altar and Main Tabernacle was another Tabernacle that appeared to be of gold.  After closer scrutiny, the front of the tabernacle above seemed to depict the “story of the miracle” but we were still not certain.  Then … THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN THE CHURCH AND WE HEARD CABINETS BEING CLOSED AND DOORS BEING LOCKED!!!  (As many of you know … “here we go again”!).

We saw a lady in the sacristry so being the diplomat I am I sent Susan in to ask her if we could go up to the Museum behind the altar.  Of course she said no, “CLOSED”. There we were, so close yet so far.  I gave the woman my best puppy dog eyes.  They came from disappointment and exhaustion.  Susan then said in a very calming and angelic voice “Relic”.  This she understood and proceeded out the door and brought back the Padre, who was most gracious, knowing we had come a long way and proceeded to take us to our destination.  Behind the altar up a flight of stairs full of statues and paintings to the door in the middle of the room behind the altar we went not knowing what we were going to see but thanks to our friend Michelle we knew to ask and that we would get us very close to Miraculous Body & Blood of Our Lord

He opened the door and knelt very solemnly before going up to unlock the door to the Relinquery  as we knelt behind him.  There were about 7 very steep steps and a low-rise that you had to squeeze under so you didn’t crack your head.  Padre was quick to point out to me to watch my head.  The Priest went up alone since only one can ascend at a time.  He Prayed for a couple of minutes before backing down the narrow steps.  Susan went first  and she really can’t explain her personal experience.  The thing she remembered most vividly when she got there and she told me later was that she looked and said  … IT IS YOU!  Telling Jesus, I suppose, that she wasn’t sure He was going to be there. It was a perfect child like thing to say.

I went next.  And I, too, can’t explain the feeling of being so close to and being able to venerate the Second Greatest Eucharistic Miracle ever.  I stood there alone, in awe and weak at the knees.  I felt humble and grateful for such a wonderful honor and experience (you have to read the story of this Miracle below to understand). 

I could have stood there for hours but I soon realized that we have that same wonderful experience of the “Miracle” at every Mass we attend when we receive the Body & Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  I slowly backed down the steps to “reality”.

Father directed us toward the Intention Book before he locked up once again.  Susan signed the Intention Book and listed … in one quick note … Susan & Tom Melillo … on behalf of all of our family and friends traveling on this journey with us. 

No photos were allowed at all in the Church at Santarem.  I must confess that I managed to sneak a couple.

As we were leaving, I purchased a small Cross (which is a Relic) with a depiction of the Miracle from the Sacristan.  It will join all of our special objects on our table when we return home  I attempted to light some candles … but those lights got shut off as well I guess.  The Euros went in, the lighs went out again… … maybe tomorrow morning they will light … the intention was there.

After this experience, we felt revived as we made our way back to our car.  We passed by the police officer who had guided us … gave him the thumbs up and thanked him.  Found our car and headed to Fatima.

Just when you think things are going your way … the “fan” was hit again!  The roads in Fatima are all torn up … it is a nightmare.  Round and round we went.  We saw our hotel but we couldn’t get there.   I finally stopped the car and walked to the hotel to get help.  20 minutes later, the young lady guided me and we were parked right outside the front door of the hotel … God is good.  The construction in Fatima is not.

Well, here we are.  Great room and people speak English.  Finally relaxing after a tedious 10 hour treck today. 

 Now, we are off to The Shrine at Fatima for the  9:30 P.M. Rosary and Procession.  It is 11:00 P.M. as we are writing this to all of you … so here is our late evening recap before we retire. 


We made it to the Shrine just in time as the service was about to begin at the “Cova D Iria” were 5 apparitions of Our Lady Took place, including the Miracle of the Sun when over 70,000 people were present.  We had been here 6 years ago for only an hour while on a cruise but felt like we had never left.
There didn’t seem to be many people for the rosary because they were all crowded around the shrine and way off by the Basilica.  Everyone prayed the Rosary and they began a procession of the Virgin around the square.  Then you could see 1000”s of people.  Can’t wait to go back tomorrow to deliver you intentions.


You are going to get this tonight with the story of Santarem below or on another e-mail as well as probably 2 sets 0f photos.  We hope you enjoy.  Tomorrow we will send you the story of Fatima as well as what ever else we encounter.

We also want to thank all of you who sent us you comments, prayers, intentions and wishes since (what day is it?) we left.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother bless all of you and those you pray for.

Noite Boa (good evening in Portuguese)

Love Tom & Susan

    The second most famous Eucharistic Miracle after Lanciano.

Not far from the Catholic shrine at Fatima and 45 miles north of Lisbon isSantarém, home of a number of notable churches. One of them, the Church of the Holy Miracle (Igreja do Santissimo Milagre) is home to a 13th-century eucharistic miracle. The shrine is among the most famous of its kind and is visited by thousands of pilgrims.


The story of the miracle centers on an early-13th-century woman with anunfaithful husband. Desperate to regain his faithfulness and save her marrige, she consulted a sorceress. The sorceress said she would cure the husband's infidelity for the price of a consecrated host (Eucharistic wafer). After much deliberation, the woman decided to commit the sacrilege.
The next time she attended Mass at the 12th-century Church of St. Stephen, she took the consecrated wafer from her mouth, wrapped it in a veil and headed quickly for the door. But before she had taken more than a few steps, the host began to bleed. It bled so much that concerned parishioners thought she had cut her hand and attempted to help, but she ran out of the church.
Back at home, she threw the bloody host in a trunk in her bedroom. Her husband did not come home until late, as usual. In the middle of the night, they were both awoken by a mysterious light emanating from the trunk. The woman confessed to her husband what she had done and they both knelt in repentance before the miracle. The next morning, the couple told the parish priest what had happened. The priest placed the miraculous host in a wax container and returned it to the Church of St. Stephen. Word spread quickly, and the townspeople hurried to the church to see the miracle.
The next time the priest opened the tabernacle that contained the miraculous host, another miracle occurred! The wax container was found broken into pieces, and the host was enclosed in a crystal pyx. This pyx was placed in a silver monstrance, where it can be seen today.
After an investigation, the Catholic Church approved the recognition of the miracle. The Church of St. Stephen was renamed the Church of the Holy Miracle, and it is one of Portugal's most-visited pilgrimage sites. St. Francis Xavier visited the Church of the Holy Miracle before setting off for missionary work in India.
The church was rebuilt in the 16th century.