Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our Lady of Aparecida

Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida. "Saint Patron of Brazil"
Todays blog has nothing to do with my meaningless life stuck somewhere just this side of the middle of nowhere in northern Brazil. Today, we are going to discuss South American culture. As fate would have it, tomorrow is a national holiday here. Our Lady of Aparecida Day is a Catholic holiday set aside for feasting in the name of Mary, Mother of Jesus. But unlike the images of Mary I have seen, this one is black which is why she is so popular with Afro-Brazilians.  October 12th is set aside each year to honour a miracle which, if you believe in miracles, happened in 1717.  The story goes (and let me ask in advance for my readers to forgive me for taking some creative license), that when Dom Pedro de Almeida, the Count of Assumar was passing through the little village of Aparecida, the people decided to hold a feast in his honour.  And so, three amigos named Domingos, João, and Filipe took a few cases of beer down to the river so they could fish and smoke a dubey, and when they hadn't caught anything after all the beer was gone, they prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.  Just when they were ready to give up, young João pulled up his net and Woa!  Low and behold there was a headless black statue of Mary. They dug around for a while, found her head and after catching a whole boat load of fish, brought it back to town, where they made merry all through the evening.  They glued her head back on and named her Nossa Senhora da Aparecida Conceição (English: Our Lady of the Appeared Conception).
After dinner, miracles started happening for anyone who prayed to the statue and before you knew it, pilgrims were pilgrimaging and lining up to see her.  One slave named Joaquem prayed at her feet and was not only healed of his maladies but became free.  More followed and thinking they were on to a good thing, Dom, João, and Filipe built a roof over her head, started charging admission and bought more beer.  Over the years, a few Popes even took notice and sent their blessings.  Jump 300 years, and she now has a massive cathedral over her head.  The dark statue is in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, near São Paulo. The Roman Catholic Church in Brazil celebrates her feast day every October 12. Since the basilica's consecration 1980 by Pope John Paul II, it has also been a public holiday in Brazil. The Basilica is the fourth most popular Marian shrine in the world and holds up to 45,000 worshippers!

The statue has also merited worldwide controversy in May 1978, when a Protestant intruder stole the clay statue from its shrine and broke it into pieces, and another in 1995, when a Protestant minister slandered and vandalized a copy of the statue in national Brazilian television.

Anyhow, tomorrow is a day of feasting in the honour of this statue and all of her miracles.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida

Our Lady of Aparecida in Tucuma

For dinner, I was able to get the keys to a pickup and go to the Casa Da Vovo for a smorg. It was delicious (except for the calf's testicles)!