This week’s blog entry is offered by SMC student Erik Thomas (class of 2016), who writes of a meaningful visit to a Brazilian parish church for mass during his January term abroad. Erik’s report describes the vibrant communal life and welcome that he experienced at church, which mirrored for him the wider culture he found in Salvador, Bahia.
Mass Bahia Style
For the month of January I was blessed to get to go to Brazil and Argentina for Jan Term. Now while the class was primarily focused on the music and cultures of Brazil and Argentina, my own curiosity and fascination with the Catholic Church and my own knowledge of how the Catholic population is big in those countries got me wanting to visit every church I saw. Once we arrived in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, Brazil, I finally was going to get the chance to attend a mass. Just down the road from our hotel there was a big beautiful blue colonial-style church. I tried to visit it during the day on a Thursday, but it was closed and I was instructed to come back to see it during mass later that day at 5:30pm. So at 5:30pm that same Thursday as I was finally going to see what the inside of this large and beautiful church looked like, I was stopped at the steps by a huge crowd. I had never been inside a church so crowed before in my life. The place was as stunningly beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside. Once I made my way past the crowd at the door and finally found a spot to stand, I took in all the beauty. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I beheld gold-leafed altars with multiple figures of Jesus and Mary, plus their patron saint at this church, Saint Anthony. The church was full to the brim by the time the mass was about to start when all of a sudden the noise of drums with samba rhythms filled the church. It was a samba party as the church rose to its feet and the priest entered in procession. My ears were filled with the music that bounced off the walls of this beautiful church. The rest of the mass was just as exciting as the beginning with lots of singing and upbeat music for each part of the mass. Strangers hugged me with much love during the exchange of peace. I was the only visitor from the US when they asked. Although the mass was in Portuguese, I followed it with much ease, and it didn’t even feel like it was two hours long. The mass is a mirror image of the culture that I found in Bahia and I loved every minute of it!