Happy Corpus Christi Day! I’ve had multiple locals complain that there were too many holidays in Brazil but that’s because they count any day the national team plays as a holiday. Thursday 19 June 2014 is a national holiday to honor the Holy Eucharist. My buddy Domenico invited me to accompany him and his family to the Church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. Since I was anti-social yesterday, I decided to be social today and ride along.
The church is a lovely old 18th century structure (more photos in my Facebook album) and the street vendors were out in full force for the holiday. The interior features lots of intricate work with gold and silver and who knows how many other precious metals and jewels. It also had a reasonable A/V setup with a couple of cameras, a microphone at the altar and speakers fixed to the walls.
There is a whole room devoted to the various healings that have apparently occurred here. People would need help with a leg, for instance, and so they would pray for divine healing, buy a wax leg and have it mounted on the ceiling of this room. There were all sorts of wax body parts, including internal organs, hanging up there like pale bats.
As we were admiring some of the Portuguese tile painting that had been imported a few centuries earlier, Domenico asked if I was Catholic. During our previous conversations he had made it clear that he was devout, a true believer, and I chose not to mention my lack of belief. It was cowardice on my part but I didn’t want to lose a new friend in a foreign land and was worried that he wouldn’t want to hang out anymore. Here he asked me directly so I told him that I was atheist. It obviously surprised him and his Vania. They didn’t seem sure how to even translate it into Portuguese.
Fortunately my fears were unfounded. In true (modern) Christian nature he accepted me as I am. I tried to describe being raised Quaker but it was very difficult given the limited vocabularies in our common languages.
We then went to a churrascaria for lunch though it will be my only meal of the day. It was one of those Brazilian restaurants that have become popular in the States where there’s an extensive salad and hot bar and the waiters wander around with skewers of meat to offer. Trusting Domenico the chef’s recommendations, I took a few years off my life but it was worth it. The beef was charred on the outside, tender within, still exuding pink juices.
We celebrated the body of Christ except instead of the wafer we employed real meat and wine and most importantly, fellowship.
Tomorrow: Switzerland vs. France!