Any time we've done a tour, we always see churches. After a time, they can run together in your mind but this time was different. This has been a vacation where we've learned that the Jews, Muslims and Christians have some history of co-operating and living in harmony. In fact this is still going on today in some parts of the world. The opposite is what we hear most via the media however.
There are things that stand out for me on this trip with respect to religious structures and practice. Firstly, the synagogue of Toledo, built by the best craftsmen of the time, Muslims, was used later by Christians when the Jews were converted or forced out by the Inquisition.
Synagogue built by Muslims
Then, while never having entered a mosque, we heard the call to prayer over the public address system while in Morocco. I found it comforting actually, to hear people being called to pray, to look beyond themselves, on a regular basis.
Finally we visited Fatima, Portugal, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, in 1917 at the height of World War 1. She encouraged them to pray the rosary and to tell other people about what they saw. They did of course and today there is a beautiful site where people meet to pray and celebrate their religious rituals. (It is an interesting story in all its detail.)
My parents had tremendous faith and the rosary was one of their favourite prayers. I learned it kneeling in the kitchen of my grandparents' home as had my mother before me. One of the last things we heard Dad say was, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
When we were at Fatima, the assembled crowd was celebrating Mass, the Catholic religious service. The bell of the church was ringing and during the service, beautiful singing filled the air. In my life now, I take these moments as a call to be better, to do better in my life, to look beyond myself. The ceremony, so familiar to me because of those who came before, is a reminder of those wonderful people and what they believed and lived to the best of their ability. Mom and Dad walked with us there today. They would have loved it!