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Mãe e amor. Sem limite. Sem retorno.
Mother is love. Love without limits. Love without expecting anything in return.
Story tells that, in 1717, three fishermen, desperate after few days of unsuccessful fishing, invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not long after, She appeared to them as a statuette in the waters of Rio Paraíba, São Paulo. After this apparition, the fishermen miraculously caught plenty of fish. They preciously kept the statue and, in 1737, a little chapel was built nearby the river to honor the mother of Jesus, thereafter called Nossa Senhora Aparecida, our Lady of Aparecida. This chapel would later be replaced by a church and, eventually, a massive basilica, nowadays annually attracting more than 12 million people.
In 2017, as Brazilians celebrated the 300 years of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, considered as the principal patroness of Brazil, the story repeated. Three fishermen found a statuette of Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Rio Grande do Sul, in the region of São Domingos do Sul (watch the News in Portuguese).
Two days left in the highly cultural city of Belo Horizonte. I asked my Couchsurfing mate, a graphic designer at Palacio dos Artes, about cinema. He suggested I’d check the program at Cinema Belas Artes. Two Brasilian movies were scheduled today, and one of them, A Imagem da Tolerância, is about spirituality. Choice was easy – you know me by now! In that documentary, the filmmakers Joana Mariani and Paula Trabulsi interview public personalities and private believers about Nossa Senhora Aparecida. Together, we listen to stories of faith, spirituality and tolerance.
“Religião sem amor não existe”, states the model Dona Maricy. Religion without love does not exist. The heart cannot be divided.
The actress Nany People tattooed Nossa Senhora Aparecida on her arms, as well as Jesus.
“A fé e um don”, says an old lady. She sees faith as a sacred gift, that one may decide to develop, or not. She then portrays the complementarity of men and women: “Women, she says, show less physical strength than men, but more moral and spiritual strength.” And she talks about love: “It is very difficult to love. Love someone who is completely different. Here begins tolerance.”
A Buddhist monk invokes the feminine energy, represented by Nossa Senhora Aparecida: “The feminine energy is missing in this world”. Our world nowadays focuses on masculine qualities, associated to our left brain: logic, energy, hot, rational. Our patriarchal societies, through this imbalance, have become ruled by materialism. Our cultures, cultures of guilt, need more of the feminine energy. Energy of love, embracing, welcoming. “I believe, says the monk, that there are Beings in this world who are more capable of love, and are able to bring our existences into change”. One must develop sympathy and empathy, which will lead to love and compassion. Wisdom leads to tolerance: “Se você tem sabedoria, você é tolerante”.
“Church, says a Catholic Father, needs to be Mother, to welcome, to take care, to accept without asking people about their faith”. The man praises Papa Francisco, who is offering – although many people struggle to understand it – a feminine speech of love and acceptance.
The singer Maria Betânia associates Nossa Senhora Aparecida to Fátima in Portugal and Lourdes in France.
Through Brazilian syncretism of Catholic and African religions, Nossa Senhora Aparecida is associated to the Orixá Oxum, goddess of all women, fertility, love and pregnant women, like Iemanjá. She represents beauty, purity, moral and is the model of mother.
In Umbanda religion (syncretism of Catholic, African and Spiritism beliefs), Oxum consolidates the strength of mediumship, fortifying it in the baths of waterfall. She will help anyone, regardless of the feelings they feed. Oxum is the example of a mother who never forsakes her children. Her sons are extremely charitable, capable of sacrifices in the place of the next.
A Jewish explains that Myriam, sister of Moisés, just as Oxum or Nossa Senhora Aparecida, is the feminine figure of waters. Later in the story, Moisés opens a passage through the seas, going through the waters as through life’s challenges.
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