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                                 How Fatima Came To Be        

      There's a place in Portugal with a name that's quite associated with Islam, but a name that's also attached to a shrine that 's quite Christian.   It's associated with Islam because it bears the name of Mohammad's favorite daughter,
1 and it's  Christian because the Blessed Virgin appeared near there in 1917. 

       The shrine and the town of the same name are called Fatima, and there's surely a reason why the town received this name, and the village before it.   I don't know if there's any name that doesn't have something of a history behind it, whether brief or more lengthy. 

        In looking into the background of this name, I've come across differing accounts as to how Fatima came to be.   I will include two of them with this writing, one saying the origin of the town's name is a legend.  As to legend, here are a couple ways it's defined: the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary says, it's "a traditional story from the past which may or may not be true," whereas the American Heritage Dictionary says its "an unverified popular story, especially one believed to be historical."

        History is the reality of what happened, whether a record remains to verify it or not.   The fact that a detail isn't recorded or remembered doesn't prove it didn't occur.  There's something factual behind the place name of Fatima; otherwise it wouldn't have the name.   The aforementioned accounts, as to origin, appear quite within the bounds of what is credible.

        As the story's told, Fatima as a name grew out of a period of Portuguese history known as the Reconquista, meaning the reconquering in Portuguese, as well as Spanish.

        Both Portugal and Spain are part of what is called the Iberian Peninsula, the large European peninsula that lies between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, across the inland sea from northwest Africa.

       The peninsula was subject to a series of invasions, one of which occurred in 711, when thousands of Moorish soldiers led by Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed from Africa to Europe, and landed near the promontory called thereafter Jebel al-Tariq in Arabic (meaning the “mountain of Tariq”), which evolved linguistically into Gibraltar.2

       The Moors were a Berber people who became Muslims and adopted the Arab language. Within seven years the Moors, along with an army led by an Arab governor from Africa, brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim control.

        Over time Moorish power weakened and Christians reconquered the Iberian territory, the aforementioned Reconquista.

        In The Woman and the Dragon: Apparitions of Mary by David Lindsey, he says Fatima begins with the legend of the origin of the town's Arabic name.  He relates  that during the crusades against the Moors
, a Christian knight by the name of Don Gonçalo Hermingues captured the daughter of the Muslim prince of Alcácer do Sal.  Her name was Fátima.    This beautiful princess who converted to Christianity, was baptized Oureana, and married Gonçalo.   It's from her Baptismal name that the village of Ourem received its name.

     
But, tragically it's stated, his wife was taken in death soon afterwards.  A heart-broken Gonçalo joined the Cistercian abbey of Alcoba
ça,3 devoting the remainder of his life to God.  The Cisterians founded a priory in the near-by mountains where Brother Gonçalo was sent.   He took along the remains of the wife he so loved, and named the place Fátima, honoring her Muslim name. 

      Leo Madigan in the Fatima Handbook tells the story this way.  In 1158 a Moorish party was picnicking along the Sado River,4 were surprised from ambush, and those captured were taken to the king Alphonso Henriques at Santarem.  Among the captives was a young woman named Fátima, and while they were travelling, the leader of the Christians fell in love with her.  He was the knight Gonçalo Hermingues.  He asked the king if he could marry her, and the king agreed that he could, providing she consented to it, and that she would become a Christian.  Apparently she felt affection for him, as she agreed to both royal requirements.  She was named "Oureana - the Golden One." 5     The king's wedding gift was the village of Abdegas, which took her name and over time the name was shortened to Ourem.  

      M
adigan says that Oureana died young, and also tells the reader that Gonçalo joined the Alcoba
ça monastery.   This account differs in that it says that the abbot had her body transferred to monastic land, "not far from the couple's village, and built a small commemorative chapel there" which became known by her former name of Fátima, most likely because her Christian name of Oureana was already being used.

       O
ne of the foregoing narratives says  Oureana died young, while the other says that she died soon after her baptism and wedding.  The comments to follow will be in keeping with these stories.
 
       D
id Oreana suffer an accident or some breakdown of her health?   Stricken in some way, in her young years, it leaves one to wonder.  One may visualize tears welling up in Gonçalo's eyes, the soldier weeping, with sadness in his heart and an ache of loss.  The knight, captivated by his captive, was now smitten by a sword of sorrow. 

        In using the word "soon," it strikes me that their life together could've been just a few months in length, and if more, to have fallen short of a year.   But it depends of what the language means to the one saying it.   I've come across the word applied to longer periods of time. 

      
  It seems they had no progeny of their own, yet in years to come, a great spiritual effort would arise in Portugal for the good of mankind, an effort in which they would share, in a unique way.  We might describe it as a progeny of people a great body of humanity, animated and given guidance from heaven ― responding to the message of Fatima, communicated by the mother of God herself.  It's a message which includes praying the Rosary for peace, suffering to repair for sin, sacrifice for sinners and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It also involves consecration, Communion of reparation, prophecy, the miraculous and grace from God, so important in our lives.

      This was brought into earthly existence in 1917 and given growth through the course of years. It was partly born from out of the lives of that couple from long ago.  They gave it a name, the name of Gonçalo's beloved Muslim Princess, dear to the heart of her Christian knighta name which lives on in the world.

       The name has importance.  Through the name Fátima we've been given a connection between two major world religions
and her name may be thought of as a bridge between Christendom and Islam.  It also seems to me that her conversion is a meaningful precedent for others to follow, and that her coming to the kingdom of Christ, as a Muslim, may and should be considered as part of the Fatima message. 

        Although the storied presence of  Fátima6 in the world, is now distant in time, it lingers in memory on a town and a shrine, a shrine that has drawn a multitude of people.   Because of Fátima, we have a geographical location, a setting with meaning woven into it.  And into this setting, came a royal personage, the Queen of heaven, crowned in glory, the one we call Our Lady of Fatima.   
                                                                                           
                                                                                                ―John Riedell, February 5, 2010



1.   Francis Johnston wrote in his book Fatima The Great Sign: "The Moslems, who have a certain devotion to Our Lady and recognise her Virgin birth and Immaculate Conception, were intrigued by the fact that Mary had appeared at Fatima, which was the name of Mohammed's favourite daughter and regarded by the prophet as the highest woman in Heaven after Our Lady."

2.  A British colony which lies on a narrow peninsula, projecting out from the south of Spain.  Its huge rock of limestone covers about two miles square and is more than a quarter mile high.  The Rock of Gibraltar is one of ancient Pillars of Hercules, promontories on the European and African sides at the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. 

3.  
 A Consolata Missions publication, entitled Fatima, says, "It can be truly said that Santa Maria de Alcobaça is the cradle of Portuguese culture." 
    Alfonso Henriques
, the first Portuguese king, when he was planning the conquest of Santarem (then in Moorish hands), vowed  to build a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin if victorious.  That monastery is Alcobaça.  It was given to the monks of St. Bernard and enlarged by Alfonso's successors.  From then on, the struggle of the Cross against the Islamic Crescent is said to have taken place under the standard of this monastery.   

4. 
The Sado River flows through southern Portugal, emptying into an estuary of the Atlantic, and upon it is the city of Alc
ácer do Sal, where the Muslim prince was from, the prince whose daughter was Fátima.  It had different names in history including Al Qaşr (The Castle) and Salatia (The city was important in the salt trade, and with the Romans "achieved its golden era."  It seems likely that Salatia derives from the Latin for salt, Sal).    At the time of the Reconquista, the Arabic Al Qaşr was kept, but spelled phonetically in Latin, and Sal was combined with it―perhaps we might humorously say, "salt was added."

5
.   It's interesting to note that "ouro" is Portuguese for gold, similar to "oro," Spanish for gold. (detail of a Portuguese 50 Escudos note with the word "ouro" on it)
 
    Regarding  Fátima becoming Oureana, "the Golden One,"  there's an email address which begins with "aureanna."   Noticing its similarity to Oureana, I inquired into it, finding out the person with  the address, had named her daughter Aureanna, combining the Latin "aurum" (Latin for gold) with Anna.  She, however, wasn't aware of either Oureana or "the Golden One."  The similarity seems coincidental.  But it's curious,  moreso when you know that the great grandmother of Aureanna is a member of The World Apostolate of Fatima.

6. 
 I've endeavored to distinguish Fatima as a name in Portugal, from the name of F
átima the Princess,  with the mark above the ."

Addendum:
      
Re Footnote
1 - Regarding the high regard that Muslims have for Mary  ―  this is well and good and there is common ground here ―  but in looking at the whole picture, we must not let one aspect fool us.  There are important and basic differences that we must account for.   We must not focus on a mirage.
    

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