PORTUGAL

Water Dogs, Our Lady of Fatima and Fado


By Jheri St. James


     “Portugal has a rich seafaring past, superb beach resorts, wistful towns and a landscape wreathed in olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields. Littered with UNESCO World Heritage sites and graced by one of Europe’s most relaxed and attractive capitals, it also remains refreshingly affordable,” says Lonely Planet World Guide.

     This rectangular shaped country along the western edge of the Iberian peninsula, covers an area of 34, 340 sq. mi/88,941 km, and is bordered by Spain to the east and north and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. Portugal lies at the point where the western ridge of the high Spanish plateau slopes downward towards the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the highest land lies in the northeast, gradually giving way to undulating hills and low fertile plans. Three large rivers, all rising in Spain, cross the country—the Douro, the Tagus and the Guadiana. Lisbon is the capital city of this coastal country known for its mild climate.

     During the 14th century, Portugal was at the pinnacle of its power, with an empire that included much of South America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia. She lost much of her wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars and the independence in 1822 of Brazil as a colony. Following internal revolutions and six decades of repressive governments, today Portugal is one of Europe’s poorer countries, a rustic land of villages, small towns, agriculture—livestock, olives, grapes, citrus, almonds wine and olive oil. Portugal is the world’s major producer of cork. The Romance language known as Portuguese is closely related to Spanish, and almost everyone in Portugal is Catholic.

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     An interesting animal in this area is the Portuguese water dog, a web-footed dog capable of swimming great distances. Portuguese fishermen have trained and used the dogs to retrieve fish and nets from the water, and they have also been used to carry messages between ships. Males range from 20-23 inches (51-59 cm) tall and weigh between 42 and 60 lb. (19-27 kg), while females are smaller.

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     In writing for Common Ground 191, it’s always helpful to have inspiration. And Portugal certainly provides it. Some of the most famous visitations of the Blessed Virgin Mary in history occurred in Fatima, Portugal. She appeared six times to three shepherd children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, between May 13 and October 13, 1917. It is believed that she chose Fatima because during the persecutions of the time, this little village remained faithful to its Catholic beliefs. Mary told the children war is a punishment for sin; that God would punish the world for its sins in our time by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and the Holy Father, the Pope, unless we listened to and obeyed the command of God.


The Children of Fatima

     The children were also told by Our Lady the date that God would perform a miracle so that people would believe in the apparition. A marvelous miracle was worked in the sky above Fatima on October 13, 1917, the date Lucy and the other two children prophesied. The sun began rotating, becoming larger and smaller, coming close to people and then far away from them. The sun “danced” for 70,000 witnesses. In addition Our Lady of Fatima confided a three-part secret to the children in July 1917. Two parts have been revealed: an urgent plea for acts of prayer and sacrifice to save souls, and a prophecy of World War II, calling for the consecration of Russia as a condition of world peace. The third part has been in the possession of the Holy See since 1957. Most informed sources speculate that this portion of the secret concerns chaos in the Catholic Church, predicting widespread apostasy and a loss of faith beginning in the sixth decade of the 20th century. “You saw hell where the souls of poor sinners go. In order to save them, God wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

     Since that day, the number of endeavors that have grown up around Our Lady of Fatima is enormous. Several popes have visited Fatima on solemn pilgrimage and Pope John Paul II has gone at least once in every decade of his pontificate. He publicly credited Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life during an assassination attempt in 1981 (the 64th anniversary of the first apparition). Universities, churches, shrines, hospitals, schools, tours, retreats, a Blue Army, books, videos, DVD’s, jewelry, and statues are just some of the industries that have grown up around this awe-inspiring and lovely Lady. Belief in the Fatmia apparitions are now widely synonymous with an orthodox adherence to the doctrines, rites and traditional practices and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

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     Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul, arguably the oldest urban folk music in the world. Its themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair: Why did you leave me, where did you go? I walk the streets looking at every place we were together, except you’re not there.” It is sad music and a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears. Skilled singers in taverns, brothels and on street corners are known as fadistas. Amalia Rodrigues was the towering figure of Portuguese fado from the 1940’s until 1999; the diva worshipped at home and celebrated abroad. At her death, the Prime Minister called for three days of national mourning. Such is the hold of fado over the people of Portugal. The music of unsatisfied longing (saudade, nostalgia for unrealized dreams), fado is an emigrant expression of homesickness for the place they left behind. But words can never do fado justice; it must be felt and experienced. One must have the soul to transmit that feeling. The female fadista stands in front of the musicians dressed in black, with a shawl draped over her shoulders, and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary—solemn and majestic. Contemporary fado musicians like Misia have introduced the music to people such as Sting, carrying the tradition forward and trying to bring in a new audience.

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     And so we at Common Ground 191 have Portugal’s soil, an amalgam of world power through politics gained and lost; Our Lady of Fatima; and fado. Think how blue the fado aficionados would be without Our Lady of Fatima! Ivy Last was Common Ground 191’s soil collector in Portugal. We seem to have lost contact with her, so are unable to present her personal story at this time. Maybe later we will have the opportunity to add it to this journal. We will send a water dog to find her, perhaps. In any event, Common Ground 191 is proud to add the complex soil of Portugal, the cork capital and so much more, to our fresco project.

 

 

 

 

 


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