"A Spiritual Vision In Portugal"

It was my first trip to Portugal and it happened at a time of great personal unhappiness for me. My marriage of sixteen years had ended just a few weeks before. When I was asked to go on a photo shoot so soon after it happened, my reaction was to decline the offer but something made me decide to go. As it turned out it was to be both a fascinating and a spiritually enlightening experience. People have been making pilgrimage journeys to holy sights for many years and Portugal is home to one of the world's most significant holy sites in Fatima.

Christ Statue

Years ago, the tree you see in the image with the circular concrete base was just a small bush. Three young children, two girls and a little boy were playing near it when a strange and sudden silence surrounded them. A bright, white light began to shimmer all around the bush and in the brilliant light, the form of a beautiful lady appeared. The children were afraid at what they saw but were told by the lady not to fear for they were in the presence of a holy vision and that she was the mother of Jesus Christ.
Church @ Fatima
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The children ran home to tell their parents in breathless excitement of their experience and were scolded for what the parents believed to be nothing more than a childish prank. The children's story was not so easily accepted by the local priest and the Catholic Church. The children were teased and worse by the local town folk. Town officials demanded that the children recant their story. However, as the lady in the light had instructed they returned several times to the bush for a series of successive visitations during which they were given a number of special messages to be shared with the world through the children. Despite the intense efforts to make them recant their story, the children persevered. Eventually the event gathered the attention of the masses. People came from miles around to follow the children when they went to see the lady on other occasions. The children alone of course were able to see the lady but the crowd did experience a variety of unexplained but documented happenings.

The story evolved as "The Miracle of Fatima" which was eventually recognized by the Catholic Church as an accepted miracle. A beautiful movie was made about the story and that movie is still available on video today. It is a truly fascinating story and where the story took place, in Fatima a beautiful church was built, "The Church of "The Virgin Mary."

I stood by the tree in which the lady had appeared all those years ago for a very long time. There was a peace and sense of comfort in the air that seemed to relieve the emotional pain that was devouring me and that night I had the best sleep that I had since the full impact of my personal, emotional bomb had hit me weeks before. My visit to Fatima became far more than simply a photographic experience.
Vision Bush
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I used special features on my camera to take a special shot in which I super imposed the church over the image of the tree. Fatima became one of the world's holiest sites which thousands come to visit every year particularly on the annual anniversary of the holy visitations. There are many stories of miraculous cures and spiritual revelations that take place in Fatima as indeed there are in Lourdes, in France for instance.

There is much more to this story than I can tell. I understand that there were in fact several vital messages given to the children. It is said that the final message, being held for care in the Vatican tells of the end time of the world.

I have never been a very religious person. As a matter of fact I tend to function more on logic, I believe what I can see, touch, hear or in some concrete way validate with any of my other human senses. I envy people who have the comfort of a strong faith based on unshakable belief. There is no doubt that in faith one can most certainly find comfort and peace of mind.
Church Shadow
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The most important part of the trip came for me a few days later after we had returned to Lisbon. I had left the hotel to wander around with my cameras to see what visual treasures I could capture. Something led me to a burned out cathedral which I learned was part of something called " The Carmelite Order" it had a majestic beauty even in its ruined state. I went inside and was standing at one end of the cathedral captivated by its visual power. I found myself thinking of faith and wishing that I could find some way to believe.

What happened then was without question the most unusual things ever to find its way through the lens of my camera. I noticed a shadow forming at the far end of the cathedral where the alter had stood. There was a strange stillness in the air, even the sounds of traffic outside seemed muffled. As I stared at the shadow I noticed what appeared to me to be the resemblance of a man with a cross of thorns around his head. He was on a cross with his arms outstretched and leaning forward. The shadow remained for a very brief time then faded as mysteriously as it had come.
Church in Bush
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After I returned home and I saw the slide image I could not believe my eyes. I did not show the image to many people but those who saw it felt as did I that it had a very special significance. I had been praying for a sign that God did exist, could this be it. It may well be just a shadow but why at that particular moment? I like to believe that I have been blessed with a special answer to a sincere prayer.

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