Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: TOURIST ATTRACTION(S) (natural or man-made) (08/06/15)
TITLE: BLOODY KNEES
By Pat Small
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Thousands of faithful believers begin their journey to Juazeiro do Norte as early as August. They may be barefoot, dressed poorly, often with rags and bandanas on their heads. It is not uncommon to see men shirtless and struggling under the weight of a wooden cross. They usually do not carry food and drink, but rather beg for it along their pilgrim way. Other faithful adherents or sympathizers are happy to meet their needs.
In the not so distant past, it was not uncommon to witness men and women crawling up the cobblestone hill to show their devotion, knees bloody and hands scraped raw. Others would scourge their own bodies to effect penance for the sins committed. Blood stained their head coverings, and smeared the rocky street. Nowadays they are more apt to arrive in public transportation or Volkswagen busses, but their belief in the intercession of this dead saint is no less fervent.
The journey usually ends in November at the Statue of Padre Cicero. He was a Roman Catholic priest in Northeast Brazil, born in the late 1800’s, and died in 1934. The Padre is credited with many miracles, although he is not an official saint of the church. Over the years, popular belief has passed on oral accounts of his feats, and the tales are accepted as gospel, particularly among the poor, uneducated class. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that they are the only ones who believe in the beloved hero. In later years, he also was involved in politics, becoming mayor of Juazeiro do Norte, and is considered to be the actual founder of the city.
In the mid 1960’s, desiring a visual reminder of their hero, the locals constructed this imposing statue on top of Horto Mountain where he used to go for times of spiritual renewal. It is 108’ high (33 meters), consisting of a twenty-five meter figure and an eight meter supporting base. He is clad in the traditional robe, steadying himself with a cane. The site also contains a church, with a sort of annex called the House of Miracles. Here are plastic and wooden body parts representing healings performed by the priest, as well as pictures, objects, and notes of thanks or prayer requests.
Although, as a Christian, I respect their beliefs, it breaks my heart to witness the misplaced faith. We know that Christ made the only sacrifice acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sins. I could only wish that we believers might evidence the same desire to give of our time and energy in true worship and prayer, to be willing to bring our bodies under subjection, and to be unashamed to give witness of our faith to a searching world.
How thankful we should be that God delights, not in sacrifices, but in obedience. “But Samuel replied: Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams “ (I Samuel15:22). It’s not always an easy thing, obedience. Maybe that is why we continually try to add to it with works, good deeds, or even martyrdom. Frankly though, we could never do enough, give enough, or sacrifice enough to add one whit to what has already been done.
Let us not look with disdain at the yearning masses trudging up countless hills, laying on beds of nails or worshiping at extravagant shrines. Rather, let us tell them of the one whose obedience to God has made heaven possible for anyone who believes.
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