Pilgrims from all over the world, especially Vincentians going to Our Lady of Fatima Shrine (Portugal) may not know it, but one of the images making up the architectural complex surrounding the basilica is that of Saint Vincent de Paul, patron saint of all the charitable works of the Catholic Church.
It is a huge joy to find the statue of Saint Vincent in one of the greatest Marian shrines in the world. In the lower part of the shrine, we find the Stations of the Way of the Cross made of ceramic mosaics, with a wealth of detail. In the upper part, there are 18 statues of saints devoted to Our Lady (or founders of religious congregations).
The images of the saints are made of marble, and were created by famous Portuguese sculptors, among them José Fernandes de Sousa Caldas (1894-1964), who sculpted the image of Saint Vincent. Sousa Caldas attended the School of Fine Arts in Oporto and, throughout his life, won prizes for some of his works. His sculptures, found all over Portugal, reveal his constant quest for beauty and perfection.
Of the 18 images, statues of four Portuguese saints are located in the central part of the Shrine: Saint John of God, Saint John of Brito, Saint Anthony of Lisbon and Saint Nuno of St. Mary. These sculptures stand 3.2 metres tall.
The images of the other 14 saints measure 2.3 metres tall, and show Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Marcellin Champagnat, Saint John Baptist de La Salle, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Saint John Bosco, Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint Simon Stock, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Paul of the Cross, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Beatrice da Silva.
The sculpture of Saint Vincent de Paul is the fourth on the right of the colonnade, looking from the basilica to the esplanade, from inside outwards. The names of the saints are written on the pillars supporting the images, helping pilgrims to identify them more easily.
“As we can see, Saint Vincent de Paul is surrounded by great saints of the Catholic Church, blessed directly by Our Lady of Fatima. He is also considered as a Marian apostle, because of his particular devotion to Our Blessed Lady and his example of holiness, love for the poor and faithfulness to Our Lord Jesus Christ. If you go to Portugal, be sure to visit Fatima. The city is 130 km from Lisbon and 200 km from Oporto. It is a place of peace, prayer and a real meeting with God”, remarks Renato Lima de Oliveira, 16th President General of the SSVP, devoted to Our Lady of Fatima.