Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santarem, Portugal

On our drive home from Fatima, we took a short detour to Santarem, Portugal. Santarem is a small town about 45 minutes north of Lisbon. I had never heard of it until about a month before I found out that we were coming to Portugal. I was reading a book, and the book mentioned a Eucharistic Miracle that had occurred in Santarem in the 13th century.

The basic story is this: A husband and wife were living in Santarem, and for some reason (I think that the husband was being unfaithful), the wife decided to seek help from a sorceress. The woman wanted the sorceress to put some sort of a spell on the husband so that he would love her. The sorceress told the woman that she could help, but first, the woman had to bring her a consecrated host. The next time that the woman went to Mass, she received Holy Communion but immediately took the host out of her mouth and put it in a handkerchief. The host started to bleed, and others at the church started to notice the blood, thinking that the woman was hurt. Some tried to see if she was ok, but she ran from the church. When she arrived home, she was frightened so she put the host in a chest in her bedroom. That night, a bright light began shining from the chest, and it woke up the woman and her husband. She told him what she had done. The two of them spent the night kneeling in adoration. The next day, the woman informed the local priest, and he came and took the host back to the church, placing it in a wax reliquary where it continued to bleed for three days.

In 1340, nearly 80 years later, another miracle occurred. When the priest opened the tabernacle, he saw that the wax reliquary which had previously been holding the Sacred Host, had been broken into many pieces. In its place was a beautiful crystal vase. To this day, it is still possible to see this miracle.

When we arrived in Santarem, we didn't really know where to go. The book I had read said that the miracle was in the Church of St. Stephen. I asked a couple of people where that church was, but they didn't know what I was talking about. Finally, I was able to explain that we wanted to see the Eucharistic Miracle. A taxi driver was very helpful and explained that the church is now known simply as the Church of the Miracle. He gave absolutely perfect directions which was very impressive because the church is located on a very narrow street almost hidden between buildings - we never would have found it without help!

When we arrived at the church, we saw pictures and information explaining the miracle. As we were about to enter the church, Jen and I heard people singing in English - and it was a song we knew! We walked in and realized that they were finishing Mass, so we waited quietly in the back. When Mass was over, someone announced that it was possible to walk up the stairs behind the altar to get a closer look at the miracle (all of this was being said in English). We got in line with the group, and as we were waiting, we discovered that the group was on a pilgrimage. Half of the group was from the Philippines, and the other half was from Southern California (specifically Riverside - basically the same area where Jen is from). Jen and some of the other people were talking about where they go to church and different priests they know - such a small world! It was pretty cool that we just happened to be at the church at the same time as this group!

Getting to see this miracle was incredible. Whenever I am able to read about or see something like this, it just really causes me to stop and think about what an indescribable gift we have in the Eucharist. Praise Jesus! :-)

If you want to read more about this miracle, here are two links:

Church of the Most Holy Miracle (Igreja do Milagre)

The words above the altar say: "Surely the Lord is in this place"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day on the Coast

Last week, one of the men that works at our club (he also has sons who play for the club) asked us if we wanted to take a little day trip to Cascais (one of the beach cities near Lisbon). We said yes, but we didn't really discuss many details. He told us that he would pick us up from Alges after our morning practice. I thought that we were just going to go to Cascais and have a lazy afternoon on the beach (and that would have been just fine). It turned out that he had much more planned - and his plans were great! We drove all along the coast, and it was beautiful and relaxing. Parts of the road are very similar to the Pacific Coast Highway so Jen and I sort of felt like we were in California :-)

We first stopped in Cascais, got some ice cream, and walked around for a little bit. Then, we continued driving to a place called Boca do Inferno (translated it means Hell's Mouth). Alfredo told us that this particular place on the coast often gets very severe storms (big waves and strong winds). The rocky cliffs have some caves underneath them, and when the waves get into the caves, a hissing sound comes out from the rocks. Anyways, we stayed there for a while, and then we got back in the car and continued our trip.

Our next stop was a place called Cabo da Roca (Cape of the Rock). We learned that it is the westernmost point of continental Europe. It was beautiful, quiet, and peaceful. I would have been content to just sit there for hours looking at the ocean. We really enjoyed it.

After spending some time there, it was off to our next stop: Azenhas do Mar. This place is very popular in the summer. There is a big pool that is filled up with salt water from the ocean. The day that we were there, the waves were quite strong and were frequently crashing into the pool - you probably wouldn't have wanted to be in the pool on that day :-) Apparently the waves aren't as strong during the summer :-)

Our final stop of our daytrip was Sintra. It is a beautiful city about 20 minutes from where we live. One of our teammates lives there, and people kept telling us that we had to go visit Sintra. It is a very charming little town that feels far removed from a big city (in reality, it's not really that far from Lisbon). We parked the car and walked around for a bit. We went to a pastry shop and had hot chocolate and queijadas. Then, we walked over to the palace for a couple of minutes. We didn't have a whole lot of time because we had to get back for our evening practice. I know there is a lot that we didn't get to see this time, but I'm sure we will go back.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. We got to see parts of Portugal that we had not seen yet - it's a beautiful country! I think the fact that we didn't know what the plan was made it even better. Thank you for an amazing day, Alfredo!!! :-)

Beginning of our beautiful day on the coast

Boca Do Inferno (Hell's Mouth)

Jen and Alfredo

Cabo da Roca (Cape of the Rock): This is the westernmost part of mainland Portugal and of continental Europe.

Azenhas do Mar


We went to this little bakery and got hot chocolate and queijadas (a popular pastry in Sintra)