Visitation of the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue 

Downside was honoured to be the “first stop” on the nationwide Visitation of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, that was accompanied by the relics of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto. These two young children are to be made saints in a week’s time by Pope Francis, when he celebrates the Centenary Mass of the first of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, at the Fatima Sanctuary. They will then be the only non-martyred child saints in the history of the Church

The Abbey Church was full with some 900 pilgrims, including the pupils of Downside School and over 100 local children from nearby schools, including three children from All Hallows who played a very special role in the ceremony taking the parts of the child visionaries. Fr. Leo’s Homily emphasised that although Francisco and Jacinta were very young, they were able to understand the urgency of Our Lady’s request to pray, in particular, the Rosary, both to help oneself, and others, avoid offending Jesus. We are all called to be Saints, whatever age we may be.

The afternoon was filled with talks, and a film about Fatima, both in the theatre, that were very well attended and received. Pilgrims joined the Monastic Community in the Divine Office, with a Procession in the Abbey Church after Vespers (it was too windy outside!). Even at Compline, many pilgrims lingered, and had to vacate quickly before the doors were locked for the evening!

The feedback from those attending has been tremendous, with people travelling great distances to be at the Celebrations. Many Diocesan Priests joined the Community to concelebrate Mass, and assist with Confessions. The day was, therefore, a wonderful coming together of the Catholic Community, of all ages. Those attending will also receive a special Apostolic Blessing, a special privilege granted by Pope Francis. 

Click here to read a homily, delivered by Dom Leo Maidlow Davis at Downside Abbey, on the anniversary of the first vision (13th May) in Fatima.

To learn more about the Abbey Church and Monastery, click here

Photographer credit: Merille Ryder