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Cancao Nova

By Fr. Robert J. Carr

Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil--The scene is a small chapel. It is full and there is a guitarist playing gently and singing with strength and deep faith. He is surrounded by men and women who are in the process of a transition from singing the hymn that is ending to their words of praise. The music changes, it is a capella and it is divine. I am listening to the singing in tongues, a divine gift found among Catholic and other Christian faithful. Each person is chanting in a different language and knows nothing of what he says. The music is harmonious as if it was planned, yet it is indeed spontaneous. I too am singing.

I join in a chorus where I am another voice of prayer offering praise to God in an unknown language. We all united in our singing of praise and in our lack of knowledge of what we are saying. We just know it is joyous, and we feel spiritually strengthened. I fit in with the other worshippers of God if for only this moment because this is Brazil. I am incapable of speaking the Brazilian language of Portuguese. What surrounds me is a unique manifestation of Pentecost.

The focal point is what Catholics call the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a large brass starburst atop its pedestal. The center of the star is white, it is the Eucharist, the body of Christ. This adoration of the physical presence of Christ is always a sacred moment for Catholics.

We are witnessing a Charismatic form of Eucharistic Adoration. The time is 6:05 local in the morning on Friday. The worshippers do this every morning, some waking at 5:30 am and driving or walking along dirt roads and cobblestone streets. They all come to worship God. The average age of the faithful who fill the room is mid twenties. We are at Cançăo Nova.

Cançăo Nova which appears to me to be the future of Catholicism is just beginning its day. Well kind of, the day never ends, it is a twenty-four hour operation focused on evangelization of the nation of Brazil and the world. The Cachoeira (Waterfall) Paulista (In the state of Sao Paulo) location is the main center of a religious community that can be found in several countries and in Rome. Its charism is evangelization.

Here is the center where there is a full television network with news operation and remote broadcast truck. There are also two twenty-four hour radio stations (am/fm); a book publishing operation; a retail store selling materials promoting the Catholic faith; an internet operation in English, Spanish, Italian and, of course, Portuguese; several musical recording studios for its Catholic music industry and its mission houses all over Brazil and in several other countries. Cançăo Nova reaches out to the entire South American nation and beyond preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the World. The United States is the number one country in the list of nations whose citizens view the web page as listed by number of internet hits.

Yet, Cançăo Nova is also a lay community of single, religious, ordained and married all focused on one thing: promoting the gospel. Offering retreats with numbers of participants in the thousands and more, the strength of the Cachoeira Paulista community of Cançăo Nova is its prayer focus and its mission. Cançăo Nova seems to offer something that is beyond what the Catholic Church has seen in the United States in its history. It is clearly something that is beyond the imagination of American groups that seek to "Change the Church".

Run by a religious community of committed South American Catholics, Cançăo Nova began over a quarter century ago. It is founded by Brazilian priest Fr. Jonas Abib and lay woman Luiza Santiago as a way to evangelize baptized Catholics who did not know their faith well. This is a place of prayer and happy, but sensible, joyfilled men and women who have a mission to teach the faith around the world. It is an interesting contrast to stand in the midst of this media operation having appeared on the television network in the morning, written my two (English/Spanish) Cançăo Nova columns in the afternoon and learning as I check the news out of Boston that Catholic School teachers are suing the Archbishop of Boston and others in the Archdiocese.

The community is surprised and concerned about how much the Archbishop must be suffering. They cannot understand how any employee could sue the Church. They realize that Boston is in dire straits. Yet, we are far from Boston and well south of the Equator. We are in Southern Brazil a five hour flight at least from the country's most famous natural landmark, The Amazon and a nine hour flight from the Continental Airlines hub of Newark, New Jersey, USA.

It is 6:45 AM the Eucharist Adoration is ending, and it is time for mass. We celebrate a full liturgy in classic South American style. It is powerful, life filled, devout. It is also simply the daily mass, it is Roman Catholic, liturgically alive, passionate. It is broadcast throughout Brazil by television and to the world by internet.

I am listening to the sounds Fr. Delton Filho, a Brazilian priest, and a friend of Cançăo Nova, he explains that he is responsible for about 35,000 Catholics in his parishes alone. Ordained less than five years, he has also published a musical CD. He points out one song of fourteen that becomes my favorite Emmanuel, Emmanuel. It is in English he says. Well kind of, it is actually in Portuguese, English, French, Spanish and Italian. This is clearly a community, a priest and faith that seek to reach to the world. The last track on the CD is one of my favorite liturgical hymns and is still in another language, Latin. The title says Panis Angelicus. This is Cançăo Nova. This is Pentecost.


Cancao Nova MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Parochial Vicar, 617 542-5682



Cancao Nova, Brazil, Evangelization

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