In preparing for Portugal, I decided to follow the example of the itinerant pilgrim in The Way….and select a practice that would help me to stay centered through the hustle and bustle of travel. I chose a Tibetan practice I had learned from a monk several years back. And like the “Jesus Prayer,“ it is meant to be done “unceasingly.”
Other than reserving a room at the Art Inn, having made no other plans, I opened myself to wandering the streets with the practice in mind. We began the pilgrimage by hiking the stairs near the Art Inn to Alfama the heart of the old historical district.
The stairs brought us to the Renaissance Church of Sao Roque and its museum. Coated in sweat, I welcomed the coolness of the Church. Overwhelmed by the iconic art, I decided to sit awhile for a quiet meditation.
In the quiet, I felt what I frequently feel in the ancient churches, basilicas and cathedrals of Europe. Like a low hum, the energy from hundreds of years of prayerful rituals resonates, and I hear the sound vibrations of prayers and chants emanating from the very walls.
Over the next four days, again just wandering the streets, we happened across a plethora of Churches. One on every corner so it seemed; they illustrated the architecture and art of several centuries and told the stories of the saints to whom they were dedicated. On the last day, the tao lead me to a big surprise: the church of St. Anthony of Padua. I had visited this saint in Padua; what was he doing in Lisbon?
It turns out that not only was Anthony born in Lisbon, he continues to play an important role in its culture. Twice a year, a festival is held in his honor. Nonetheless his remains were interred in Padua, Italy. Hardly seems fair.
Next door to the Church in a museum his story has been illustrated in every art form. His image has also been used on commercial products.
The famous azulejos of Portugal
Back in high school, I recall how a teacher, a nun, explained that St. Anthony is the advocate for lost objects-Lose your iPhone, call on him. The day following the visit to St Anthony, my partner and I went to the Lisbon Airport, picked up a rental car and drove to the town of Tomar. When we checked into the hotel I discovered that I had left a suitcase at the car rental. We hopped back in the car praying to St. Anthony all the way back to the Lisbon Airport. Yes, the suitcase was waiting. Thank you, St. Anthony!