The fourth day of Augustinian Youth Encounter 2023 was marked by a visit to the Marian sanctuary at Fátima, where, in the company of thousands of other pilgrims visiting Portugal at this time, our young Augustinians took part in the candlelight Rosary procession from the Chapel of Apparitions
Today’s young people have so many choices of what to do on a Friday, the start of their weekends, but hardly any of them are likely to imagine that at that same time thousands of their peers - freely and joyfully - choose to stand with other in front of the Virgin Mary, raising a candle to heaven.
Last night, the fourth day of the AYE, the mysteries of the Rosary were repeated on the lips of thousands gathered in front of the Chapel of Apparitions in Fátima.
Sitting on the ground, standing or kneeling; with the diffused light of the tabernacle lighting the night sky and illuminating the faces of the pilgrims, each of whom was bringing their own and others’ prayers from all over the world.
And so we were in the company of Mother Mary, our prayers carried heavenwards on a cool breeze.
A centuries-long journey … then expulsion of the Augustinians from Portugal
The fact that young people involved in apostolic works from all over the world - in the case of the delegates at the AYE - have been able to find themselves experiencing this ‘living Church’ together is due, in good part, to the Augustinian friars within the Province of St John of Sahagún.
Fr Miguel Angel San Gregorio has been in Portugal for more than 26 years, part of a lineage that goes back, intermittently and in the face of many trials, to the 13th century. "The Convent of Grace in Lisbon was the Mother House of the Augustinians in Portugal," says Fr Miguel Ángel. "It has to be said that our history here was glorious, with more than 300 friars in more than 20 houses in Portuguese territories, including a number of exceptional figures such as Aleixo de Meneses, Tomé de Jesus and Blessed Gonzalo de Lagos."
The Portuguese Augustinian friars had an outstanding influence in the evangelization of Africa and the Far East. But in the face of confiscations and political attacks against Catholic institutions, the Order was finally expelled from Portugal in 1834.
We had to wait," Fr San Gregorio recounts, "until the General Chapter of 1971 - precisely 137 years - when the Prior General Theodore Tack, his Council and the rest of the Augustinians decided to restore the presence of the Order in Portugal."
From 1971 to AYE 2023
The first community would open three years later, in 1974, in the city of Guarda, in the north of Portugal. Arruda dos Vinhos e Sobral, 30 km from Lisbon, soon followed.
The organising host of AYE 2023, the community of Santa Iria de Azóia, was founded in 1986. And the most recent foundation, according to Fr Miguel Ángel, dates from 2004 - the community of St Domingos de Rana.
Since the restoration - currently, running two parishes, despite only having two communities and no more than seven religious - the Augustinians continue to rise to the challenge of meeting the needs of the Church in Portugal, and proactively generate a rich pastoral life, as evidenced by this AYE, dedicated to today’s Church: promoting and enabling young people to see the joy of the Gospel, and to be aware of the weight of the history of the Order that has formed them and made them possible.
To "keep making all things new", in imitation of the one who summons us, seems to be the journey that many of these young men and women want to trace for their lives.