Reguengo do Fétal, Portugal - 12th Century
Feast Day: 1st Sunday of October
What follows it the account of one of the first, if not THE first, documented apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Portugal.
There was a young shepherdess (some sources say cattle herder), whose name is not known, who grazed her flock on the hills of Reguengo. During that time there was a severe drought, and both people and their animals were wasting away. On one particularly hot and dry day, the starved shepherdess was suddenly struck with grief and a sense of hopelessness, as she watched her malnourished sheep search in vain for a patch of grass to feed upon. Overcome with hunger, and sadness at the sight of her starving flock, she began to weep uncontrollably, her face buried in her hands.
When she felt she could cry no more, she wiped her eyes and face with her hands. Looking up, she was startled by an unexpected visitor – a lady was standing close by, on a patch of ferns. With a look of sweetest compassion, the lady asked her:
“Why are you crying, my girl?”
“I'm so hungry and so are my sheep” she replied.
“Then go and ask your mother for some bread” said the lady.
“I asked her earlier, but she doesn't have it. We have no food left.”
"Go to your house," the lady insisted, "and tell your mother again to give you some bread. Tell her that a lady has sent you to tell her that there is bread in the box.”
The girl rushed home to inform her mother what the lady had said. After reiterating to her daughter that there was no bread in the house, and wanting to prove her point, she opened the bread box. To her astonishment, the box was full of freshly baked bread!
Having eaten, the shepherdess returned to the lady, who again spoke to her:
“Tell the people of this place that I am the Mother of God and I want you to build a chapel on the site of these ferns, in which I will be praised and venerated.”
News of the apparition spread quickly, and soon a large and hopeful crowd, gathered at the ferns. There they found a small and mysterious image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and next to it, a miraculous spring! Shortly after, a humble chapel was built on the spot where the Virgin instructed.
MONARCHICAL & CHURCH APPROVAL
King Duarte the Philosopher (1391–1438) endorsed the apparition and authorized the collection of alms to maintain the chapel. During the reign of King João III (1502–1557), a dowry was entrusted, and official caretakers were assigned to keep watch over, and maintain, the site. Also, two chaplains were given the official duty of offering two daily Masses there for the pilgrims that would gather. In 1585, a larger shrine in honor of Our Lady of Fétal was built on the spot.
In May of 1896, during a terrible time of drought, Dom José III, Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, ordered public prayers at the shrine to implore the blessing of much needed rain. All the surrounding parishes made a pilgrimage to the shrine, and the rain soon followed. In gratitude for the answered prayers, the Cardinal Patriarch granted a 200 days’ indulgence for those who prayed the Salve Regina before the tabernacle in the shrine.
The statue found on the spot of the apparition, features the crowned Blessed Virgin Mary seated on a stool. With her left hand, she supports the back of the Child Jesus who is sitting on her lap. With her other hand, she holds one of His little feet. The Child Jesus holds the world in His left hand, while, with the other hand, He playfully grasps His right foot. The hair on both mother and Son, is golden. The statue, made of white stone, measures approximately 5” by 12”.