Connecting the religious dots

Connecting the religious dots Young pilgrims who travelled to Fatima and explored their faith.
Youth Space
Liam Linden recounts the transformative power of visiting Fatima


Utter brilliance. Eye opening. Challenging. Encouraging and enlightening. These were some of the words used by our pilgrims to describe the Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission’s (ADYC) recent summer pilgrimage to Fatima.

Describing my experience with ADYC would be a similar choice of words and the reasons I got more involved.

As a second year liberal arts religion student at St Mary’s Teacher Training College in Belfast, this year I had the opportunity to spend my placement period with ADYC. Here I was able to see the organising, promoting and recruiting – work that goes into youth pilgrimages.

I had never been to Fatima before but it was one of the most enjoyable pilgrimages I have been on. It was peaceful, no rushing about, everything was calm and nearby. Added to that we had a great group of 24 young pilgrims.


Previously I had been to Lourdes; which I loved, so I knew Fatima would give me a similar experience. In hindsight, I must say the two are different. Not in the sense of holiness but the different fulfilling feeling I took from them.  By this I mean, I went to Lourdes in 2014 and I would say that this was the beginning of understanding my Faith. It gave me the feeling that I’d love to do more things like this. The following year I went to Rome, another great city but again different. In 2016; I had the first opportunity to go to World Youth Day. Standing in Krakow with millions of other young people made me realise how amazing it is being part of the Church.

Fast forward to July 2018 after having spent six days in Fatima which again created a whole new feeling. I would say that’s because Fatima is a city of its own, it offers a different experience to that of Lourdes or Rome or Krakow. Even the candlelight procession was a different experience.

On one of the nights, two of our leaders were fortunate enough to partake in the international procession. After talking with the pilgrims, I could sense that they could relate to the candlelight procession. Some described the procession as “tranquil, peaceful and inspiring”.

We had some pilgrims who had been to Lourdes before who felt, due to the smaller numbers, more “connected to the procession”. Is that not what we want? We want young people to feel associated with the Church and be more thoughtful in prayer.

To me, the beauty of Fatima is that you can feel so connected with the events because it has only been 101 years since the visitations. The fact that we could, for example, visit Rua do Adro – the parish church of Fatima – where the three shepherd children had been baptised, made Communion and confirmed illustrates this point. We were also able to visit their house and even met one of their nieces, once again reinforcing that sense of connectivity with the Church and its history.

While we were in Fatima we visited enclosed Dominican nuns. This personally give me time to think about how much they were giving up.

I suppose living in such a secular society and having such a busy life makes you realise that sometimes you need to take a step back from everything to realise how caught up you can get, which can lead to a loss of focus on the main things in life.

The first couple of evenings we watched the candlelight procession from the sanctuary area.

The nights we didn’t partake in the candlelight procession, we sat in the sanctuary area in our own group and prayed the rosary, with reflective thoughts between each mystery. This is one example of how we can take a step back and take time to think about the things in life we do not spend enough time on.

That’s what the pilgrims seemed to do, they took the time to think more about their Faith and some even came to me and asked questions about things that seemed to be a barrier in their Faith.

I guess that is another reason I wanted to go to Fatima. Sometimes I feel I can get too caught up in work, study or other aspects of life, but a week of prayer and reflection really helped my spiritual being.

Fatima has made me realise how I got involved with ADYC. Opportunities like these, that I was given, that ADYC offers to young people in the Armagh Diocese, empower and enrich the Faith of young people.