When a joyful Brazilian man from Campos entered our monastery in Norcia years ago, we had no idea it would be the beginning of a lasting, rich friendship with his home city. Often he shared stories of a land that modernity had left in peace, a land with material challenges but spiritual abundance. Processions and pilgrimages went on for days and men and women attended daily Traditional Mass as normal routine. It is hard to imagine a place where the Faith lives on in a real way as if never interrupted.
On my first visit to Campos flying up the Brazilian coast in a small plane from Rio on Azul airlines, I could see from the air that the land itself was mostly “modern”. Tall office buildings, bad traffic, and poor sanitation dotted the landscape. Most of the people on my flight were oil rig workers. Helicopters met them at the Campos airport -- the size of a small American gas station -- to take them out to the rigs. The area had all the trappings of a modern industrialized society including those no one wants to mention: boredom, restlessness, ennui.
Yet unlike much of the modernized world, this otherwise ordinary region drinks from a river of life which flows through it, clear and pristine. In the western and northern hemisphere we are used to traditional parishes sparsely scattered throughout the country with at most one per city. In Campos however, a whole diocese exists of more than 30,000 faithful who live a life where the traditional liturgy is seamlessly interwoven into the daily fabric of their lives. One town alone can have three churches, a nursing home and shrines for pilgrimages in the countryside.
Residents take modern medicines, talk on modern cell phones and drive modern cars (although some could use newer ones!), but they can still appreciate the words, Introibo ad Altare Dei as an invitation into the supernatural dwelling place of God. Little did I expect on my first visit to hear the consoling and resounding response of 1500 faithful exclaiming, Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. Thus my first visit to Campos several years ago brought me much joy. In unassuming ways the whole diocese, called canonically an apostolic administration, reminds the visitor of what we have lost but also of what is still possible. It brings hope…
Prior Benedict Nivakoff, OSB
Friends of Campos, Inc.
Friends of Campos, Inc. is a US-based not-for-profit (501c3) which supports the social and educational projects of the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, most of which are located around the diocese of Campos dos Goytacazes in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.