CHAPTER VI. SAINT WORSHIP.

What is the real religion of the Brazilians? It is more a saint worship than anything else. Saint worship is at its core. Mary is the chief saint. All prayers are made to her. She is the intercessor. The Litany is all addressed to Mary. It runs, "Oh Mary, hear us, etc." She is worshiped under different aspects - Mary of the Sailors, Mary of the Conception, Mary of the Candles, Mary of the Rosary, ad infinitum. Even Christ is worshiped as a saint. The patron saint of Campos, for instance, is called Sao Salvador (St. Savior). The city of Bahia is called Sao Salvador. Its patron saint is Jesus.

A saint is an intercessor between man and God. Because of his holiness, he has favor with God, and therefore the people pray to him. Very few consider the saint lower than God. They offer sacrifices, make prayers and burn candles to the saint.

St. Anthony of Padua is a very hard-worked saint. He has placed upon him the double duty of furnishing suitors for all the young women and of leading the armies of the Republic to victory. No wonder this overworked saint gets into trouble. Young women place him in their rooms, burn candles and offer prayers before him. He is dressed up in the finest toggery and is given great honor. If, however, after awhile he does not bring along the suitor, he is given a sound beating, or he may be hung head downwards in a well or stood on his head under a table. These indignities are heaped upon him in order to force him to produce the suitor which the young lady very much desires. He is also the military saint. In the time of the Empire, he was carried at the head of the army and had the rank of a colonel. Even after the Empire was abolished, he retained his rank for many years and received from the government the salary of a colonel. Such an idol was in Bahia and his salary was discontinued only five years ago. The money went, of course, to the priest in the church where the image was kept.

Every town, village and country seat has its protecting saint. In time of drouth they in many places carry the saint through the streets in procession. He is taken from his place in the church to some hut, maybe, where he is placed beneath the altar. This is done in order to cause him to bring rain. After the rain comes he is taken out and with great distinction is replaced in his original niche. They do this sometimes in the case of a scourge of insects or disease.

Late one evening, after Missionary Ginsburg and I had returned from a trip into the interior of the State of Bahia, we arrived in the city of Nazareth. It is a town of about 10,000 inhabitants. We were to wait here until the following morning for the boat which was to take us to Bahia.

As we went down the street we saw a great throng of people surging about an image which was being carried upon the shoulders of some men. Two priests walked in front to direct the movements of the procession. More than half of the people in the city must have been in the procession. They paraded far out into the country, crossed to the opposite side of the river, wound themselves back and forth through the narrow streets until a late hour at night. At eleven o'clock just before we retired, we stood for some time watching the procession pass the hotel where we were stopping. It was a miserably ugly little image, gaudily decorated. It was being paraded through the streets for the purpose of staying the plague of smallpox, which at that time was scourging the town. When we saw the procession last it had been augmented by such numbers that it appeared as if the entire city was following this image. They seemed to believe that it could really charm away the smallpox.

This is not an isolated case. It is typical. Every patron saint has laid upon him at times the responsibility of breaking a drouth or the effects of a dreadful scourge which may be afflicting the people. It is the veriest sort of idolatry.

One of the most pitiful exhibitions of superstition to be found in Brazil is that in connection with the many shrines to which pilgrimages are made by thousands of people and at which places great miracles are supposed to be performed. In Bahia there is a famous shrine called Bom Fim (Good End). It is located on a hill in the suburbs of the city. Years ago tradition has it, the image of San Salvador was found on the summit of this hill. A priest took charge of the image and removed it to a church. On the following morning the image was missing, and upon going to the spot where he first found it, he discovered the image. Again he took it to the church, and again on the following day, he found the image at the original place. The tradition was, therefore, started that the image had fallen from Heaven to the top of the hill, and every time it was removed from this spot it, of itself, returned. So it was taken for granted that the image desired its shrine built on this spot. At first there was a little shrine constructed, and afterward was built the magnificent edifice which now shelters the image.

To this place the thousands go annually upon pilgrimages. One of the most gruesome spectacles to be found anywhere is in a side room near the altar. From the ceiling are suspended wax and plaster of paris reproductions called ex-votos of literally every portion of the body - feet, hands, limbs, heads, all portions - the ceiling space is completely covered with these uncanny figures. The wall is hung with pictures, which portray all sorts of scenes, such as a man in shipwreck, a carpenter falling down a ladder, a child falling out of a second-story window, death chambers of various people, etc. These figures and pictures are intended to represent miracles. When these people were in their afflictions they prayed to the image of the Good End and made a promise that if they should recover they would bring one of these votive offerings of the part affected, whether of man or beast, to the shrine. Some of them came before the cure was effected, and with a prayer, left the image behind and the cures of their disease or afflictions were attributed to the image of Bom Fim. It is said that when this church is given its annual cleaning, just before the celebration of the saint's day, thousands of people congregate here, roll in the waters which are used to wash out the building, and drink the filthy stuff, deeming it to be holy. There is hardly a more revolting scene to be found anywhere, and all in the name of religion. Until recently, when the police put an end to it, a most disgusting species of holy dance was observed on this annual day in which the most sensual practices were indulged.

Perhaps the most famous shrine in all Brazil is in the far interior of the State of Bahia on the San Francisco River. It is the famous Lapa. The image has its shrine in a cave in a very remarkable geological formation. One hundred thousand people make pilgrimages to this shrine every year from all of the States in Brazil. The last Emperor himself made a visit to this shrine. From June to August of last year $20,000 was collected from the pilgrims. Our missionary, Jackson, met a man who had been on the way six months. It required him a year to make this trip. The same missionary saw a family from the State of Alagoas which had been on the journey six weeks. Dr. Z. C. Taylor says he passed through sections that had been almost depopulated because the men had sold out their homes, horses and cattle in order to seek a miracle in their favor at this same shrine. Fire destroyed the image in 1902. Protestants were accused of setting fire to it because a missionary was near at the time. (He was forty miles away.) In the controversy that arose the missionary noted that, inasmuch as the new image was sent by freight and not by ticket, it must be an idol and not a saint. Suffice it to say, that a new image was placed and the people are worshiping it with the same zeal with which they worshiped the old, even though the new one came by freight and the old one was supposed to have fallen from Heaven. It is believed to have miracle working power and to give great merit to one who makes the pilgrimage to it.

In the daily paper called the "Provinca," published in Pernambuco, there was printed on August 23, 1910, the following telegram from the city of Rio, the capital of the Republic.

"The Seculo (Century) of today announces that on St. Leopold street in Andarahy (a suburb of Rio) there was discovered a fountain of water in a hollow rock, in which a plebian found an image of a saint.

"This image," adds the Seculo, "although in water, did not present the least vestige of humidity. The news of this curious discovery was immediately circulated, and there was a great pilgrimage, including a reporter of the Seculo, to this miraculous fountain in Andarahy."

It is very probable that this telegram heralds the advent of a new shrine, because it is in this fashion that these so-called miracle-working shrines are brought into existence.

Not all of these shrines are canonized, but nevertheless they have power over the people. As we were making a trip into the interior of the State of Pernambuco we passed a station called Severino. Near the station we could see a splendid church building which had been constructed in honor of St. Severino. This saint is not in the calendar, not recognized by the church nor the bishop, yet it is popular all over Brazil. Many people are named after him, and to this shrine are brought many of the same sort of things as were described in connection with the shrine of the Good End. This idol is stuffed with sugar-cane pith. The head of it was found in the woods some time ago. A tradition was started that an image had fallen from Heaven. The superstitious people believed the report and soon a shrine was in full operation, which today, even though it be not canonized, is exerting a far-reaching influence. The owner of the shrine gave up his farming and lives handsomely on the offerings the deluded bring to his private shrine.

In one of the most magnificent churches in Bahia is an image of a negro saint. This holy being won his canonization as a reward for stealing money from his master to contribute to the church. That is it: Do anything you please, provided you share the spoils with the church.

Across the breast of the Virgin's image in the church of Our Lady of Penha in Pernambuco, before which church the Bibles were burned in 1903, are written the following words: "One hundred days' indulgence to the person who will kiss the holy foot of the Holy Virgin." This pitifully expresses, perhaps, the thought behind saint worship. It is the hope that the aching of the sinful heart may find some assuagement through the worship of these gilded, gaudy images. It is claimed by the priests and some of the more intelligent that the image worshiped is only a concrete representation of the saint, and it contains symbolically the spirit of the saint. To be sure! This is exactly the reason the more intelligent fetish worshiper in Africa assigns for worshiping his hand-made god. The etone or piece of wood is a representative of God and to a degree contains His spirit. Such worship is condemned as being idolatry in the African. The thing which is idolatry in the African must be idolatry in the Catholic. Even the Catholics will condemn the idol worship of the heathen, and yet this same Catholic church has in scores of places in South America and in other heathen lands, taken the identical images worshiped by the heathen and converted them into Catholic saints.

In the city of Braga, in Portugal, is a temple which centuries ago was devoted to Jupiter. It was afterward converted into a Catholic church and dedicated to St. Peter. The idol Jupiter, with two keys in his hand, was consecrated into St. Peter. In another part of the same city is a temple devoted to Janus in Roman times, which was turned into a temple dedicated to St. John. The idol which formerly was worshiped as Janus is being now worshiped as St. John. In the same temple there is an image now consecrated as St. Mark which was formerly the god Mars. The saint worship in Brazil is just as heathenish. In China Buddhist idols were renamed Jehosaphat by the Jesuits and worshiped. Their practices in Brazil are in keeping with their methods in other lands.

What is the difference between a worshiper who thus seeks indulgence through the worship of an image in Brazil and a like worshiper with a like soul need bowing before a similar wooden image in Africa or China?