The Story of the Good Lord Jesus of Iguape, Brazil

By Divine Word Missionaries on July 21, 2017

Devotion  to the Good  Lord Jesus originated  in Portugal. This image  of Jesus depicts him scourged,  wearing a red cloak, with his hands  bound, a crown of thorns on his head,  and a palm branch in his hand.

In  1647,  a carved  wooden statue  of the Good Lord  Jesus was sent by ship  to Brazil. Near the northern  coast of Brazil, the ship was  attacked. To keep the statue from  being damaged or profaned, the commander  placed the wooden box containing the image  and some bottles of oil into the sea.

Ocean  currents  carried the  box to the southern  coast of Brazil. Many months  later, two indigenous men traveling  near Una Beach saw the box and found  the image and the bottles of oil when  they opened it. They removed the Good Lord  Jesus from the box and left him upright facing  east. When the men returned to get the statue, they  saw that the image was facing west. Filled with amazement,  the men ran to tell others what happened. Some people returned  with them and knelt down to give praise to Jesus. With the image  cradled in a fishing net, the people carried it to the village of Iguape,  located about forty-three miles southwest of Una Beach.

Soon  afterward,  others heard  about the statue  and tried to take  the image to Itanhaem,  the capital of the region  at that time. On the way to  Itanhaem, the statue grew heavier.  When carried in the opposite direction  toward Iguape, the weight of the statue  diminished. The people trying to move the  statue realized that the Good Lord Jesus wanted  to be in Iguape. On November 2, 1647, the image  of the Good Lord Jesus was enshrined in the church  dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. In 1787, construction  of a new church began. Even then, pilgrimages to Iguape and  the celebration in honor of the Good Lord Jesus on August 6 were  taking place.

Our Good Lord Jesus — Omir Oliveira SVD

When  I was  ordained  twenty years  ago, I never imagined  myself ministering to thousands  of pilgrims. After working in Zambia  in Africa for fourteen years, I returned  to my native Brazil almost six years ago,  and I am now in Iguape, a town not far from  the Atlantic coast of the state of São Paulo in  southern Brazil. The parish encompasses the main church  dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows in Iguape and twenty-three  smaller Catholic faith communities in mission stations, most of which  are scattered in rural areas.

Each  year from  July 28 to  August 6, the  population of Iguape  swells from thirty thousand  people to about two hundred thousand.  During that time, there are shortages of  food, water, sanitation, and housing. The overflowing  throngs find what they can in Iguape and neighboring towns  and villages. Pilgrims travel as far as 215 miles to reach Iguape,  where the image of the Good Lord Jesus is enshrined in the church dedicated  to Our Lady of the Snows. They come by car, bus, motorcycle, on bikes, on horseback,  and on foot. None of the hardships they experience diminish their fervor and happiness,  for they come to honor their beloved Senhor Bom Jesus (Good Lord Jesus).

Beginning  on July 28,  nine days of prayer  are celebrated to prepare for  the feast of the Good Lord Jesus  on August 6. It is an active but prayerful  time for the pilgrims. Masses and confessions take  place throughout each day. In the evenings, the novena  prayers are sung by a choir and a visiting priest, who  then speaks to the pilgrims about the day’s theme. The main  theme for the 2015 celebration is from the Gospel of John: “I  have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness” (10:10b).    

On  August  5, we celebrate  the feast of Our  Lady of the Snows with  Mass. The image of Our Lady  from the church is carried in  an outdoor procession, as crowds  of pilgrims accompany her.

The  novena  of prayer  culminates with  the feast of our  Good Lord Jesus on  August 6. A visiting  bishop presides at an outdoor  Mass. The original statue of the  Good Lord Jesus is taken from the  church and carried in procession through  the narrow streets of Iguape. A multitude of  thirty or forty thousand pilgrims presses after  him. The procession concludes with a closing celebration  before the image of our Good Lord Jesus. A magnificent fireworks  display marks the end of the days of prayer.

Father Jaime Gato  SVD, Father Remigius  Sihombing SVD, and I are  assigned to Our Lady of the  Snows parish and share the work  of the parish and the shrine. During  the nine days of prayer each year, we  do all we can to meet the needs of the  pilgrims and make the shrine a welcoming place  for them. As rector of the shrine of the Good Lord  Jesus, I am especially concerned for their spiritual and  physical well-being.

Ministering  to the pilgrims  is not something we  do alone. When the town  is overflowing with pilgrims,  we have the help of the priests  of the diocese for Masses, confessions,  and blessing groups of pilgrims. Dedicated  volunteers lend their hands and hearts to help  in many ways. Religious sisters, seminarians, and lay  people organize lines of pilgrims waiting to enter the  church for a visit with the Good Lord Jesus, to leave treasured  mementos in the Miracle Room, or to light a candle. Other volunteers  provide a place where volunteers can take a break, rest, and eat.

What  a life  I meet at  times in the  streets of Iguape  among the pilgrims!  I talk with them, get  to know their backgrounds  and difficulties in life, and  learn why they have come to the  shrine of our Good Lord Jesus. Some  say they have been healed from diseases.  I remember talking with a mother who came  with her son to thank the Good Lord Jesus for  healing her of a serious illness. She pledged to  walk to and from Iguape from her home, a round trip  of 248 miles. Other pilgrims have endured hardship and suffering  in their lives. Many people journey to Iguape to fulfill promises  they have made.

As  rector  of this  beautiful shrine,  I minister to countless  people on pilgrimage whose  faith and good hearts move them  to show their appreciation for the  many gifts and blessings they have received  from the Good Lord Jesus. I thank him for the  pilgrims, because they are blessings to me. I offer  to my Good Lord Jesus all of my days, my struggles,  my sorrows, my joys, and my life as a Divine Word Missionary  priest.

Prayer  to the Good  Lord Jesus

Good  Lord Jesus,  my divine friend,  friend of all, look  for us and give us today  our daily bread. Help those  who have no work and no roof.  

Help  us to  be steadfast  in faith and in  hope; defend us from  danger and sin; help us  to overcome the difficulties  that we encounter today. Watch  over my family, always guiding us  along the path that leads to you. Forgive  us, Lord, and bless our desires for tomorrow.  

Good  Lord Jesus,  I offer you my  whole day, my work,  my struggles, my joys,  and my sorrows. Grant to  me and all my family your  blessing and a happy life. Good  Jesus, worker of Nazareth, bless us  all.  Amen.


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