I think that it's important that we keep in mind that there are some success stories around and occasionally remind ourselves that we have read the ending of the book, and we know how it comes out.
In the end, we have Our Lady's promise, that her Immaculate Heart will triumph, we know that is going to be the case, we know that the Church will come roaring back in all It's glory, completely unified. We know that Our Savior is still with us, and will not abandon us; and He has left evidence of that, and I consider myself very lucky that I am one of the few people in North America, who has had a chance to see it, and one of the places where the Church has indeed been sustained, is in quite a large Diocese, in Campos, Brazil. Some may be familiar with my telling this story before, but as with all good stories, it bears repeating.
Campos is located about two hours by car north of Rio de Janeiro; it runs along the Atlantic coastline, and stretches far back into the interior of Brazil proper. It is diverse; it is spread out. The area is in fact one of the poorest sections of Brazil, which means it's one of the poorest sections in all of Latin-America. The poverty there is severe, but when I speak of poverty, I am merely speaking of material wealth. The people in the Diocese have been blessed with a wealth far beyond the material gifts of the world. They were fortunate enough to have in their midst a great Bishop. I call him a great Bishop, and I call him a model, and I believe that his story will be told for as long as the story of the Church is told. I believe that his triumph will be celebrated, probably throughout eternity because what he did was so remarkable, and what he actually did during the years that he reigned as Bishop of Campos, was simply to do his job. And the sad fact is, that in today's Church that made him unique. When he was Consecrated as Bishop he took solemn vows, and he fulfilled those vows.
Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer was born in Brazil of a Brazilian mother and a German father. His father had emigrated to Brazil to work in the mines there, and the family was a devoutly Catholic family, but the father died when the young boy was only about 5 years old, and as he always said, his father left him a very precious inheritance even though he left him no money. He left him the gift of the Catholic Faith, something that he gave to all of his flock. The young Antonio de Castro Mayer showed himself very intelligent, and a remarkable young man, and as a result received a very good education, largely in Brazil, but also for a while in Rome. When he returned, he became one of the assistants to the Archbishop of Sao Pulmo, which while there began to work vigorously against the Communist movement, which at that time was very strong in Brazil, as it was everywhere else in Latin-America. Eventually he was mysteriously removed from his position, and sent off to an obscure parish for a while, and many people believed that it was precisely because working as strenuously against Communism, he did not make himself friends among certain liberal circles. Nevertheless Pope Pius XII rehabilitated him if you will, and decreed much to the chagrin of many of the more liberal Catholics in Brazil
He was consecrated Bishop in 1949, went to Campos and remained there for the rest of his days, as I said, doing his job. I think it's interesting to note, that one of the first things he did upon arriving in Campos, was to issue a decree to all his priests, that from that day forward, at the end of each Mass his priest would say an extra three Hail-Mary's, for the intention of the preservation of Catholic doctrine within the Diocese of Campos, and to keep the entire Diocese free of heresy. From 1949 to this day, those additional three Hail-Mary's are said, and as always with Our Blessed Mother, she listens, she intercedes for us, and as we love her, we can't begin to imagine the love that she has for us in return. These prayers were heard, these prayers were answered.
It was a rocky time in the Church, and everywhere in Latin-America, with extreme tensions, with liberal ideas everywhere, and spreading like wildfire, but this Bishop began at once to ensure that his Diocese remained Catholic. One other thing he did, he instantly decided that Catechism should not be just for the young; that learning the Faith was a lifelong experience, and that every Catholic in the Diocese would participate constantly in Catechism classes. So from the beginning of his Episcopacy, he saw to it that every Catholic in the Diocese had access every week to Catechism classes, and what was taught was good, sound, Catholic doctrine. I emphasize, good, sound, Catholic doctrine, and he began to ingrain it into everyone. There were Catechism classes for the young of course, but there were also Catechism classes for teenagers, for young married couples, for middle-aged folks, and for the elderly. People traveled great distances to come to these classes, and the priests of the Diocese traveled out into (believe me when I say) "no-man's-land", and into the interior of Brazil to go to the people and teach them good Catholic doctrine, good Catholic sense.
One reason he did this was, that he was aware from the beginning of his Episcopacy, that a battle was raging within the Catholic Church itself, and that if he was to do his job, and to ensure that those faithful, that flock under his care had clear and precise ideas as to what was exactly Catholic.
As so many of you know, the Modernists work by "smudging", by making things ambiguous. The Modernists work by taking a word and toying with its meaning.
There was none of that in his Diocese, and everything was clear, forthright, and direct.
In the early 50's, he began issuing a series of Pastoral letters instructing his priests, and instructing the faithful, but what is fascinating when one goes back to read these letters, is that every single one of them addresses one of the problems with which the Church is wrestling with today. For some reason, which by God's Grace it seems, this Bishop was given a clear vision of what was about to hit the Church, and he issued letter after letter in which he spoke again with directness and accuracy, as to what was necessary to maintain the Faith, given what was about to occur.
One can go back and discover things in these early letters that are very surprising. For example, in one of them issued in 1952, he talks about the need to be aware of a false historical movement, that is, what appears under the guise of an "ultra-traditionalism", which is actually an attempt to break with Tradition.
He even gives an example with the following: "It might be said that since early Mass was done at essentially a supper table, that people might claim that it would be important to celebrate Mass again at a supper table, and not at the altar." He went on to explain in detail why this is a misunderstanding of Tradition, the importance of the altar, and why the altar must indeed be the place where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered up. For us to read this today, and of course given our historical perspective, you have a sense of what this man was doing, was preparing for the earthquake to hit. He somehow has the sense of knowing, much in the same way that pets and animals act strangely before an earthquake, and in a way, Bishop de Castro Mayer had a 6th sense about the Church. He was aware of what was about to hit the Church, and spent his time seeing to it, that his Diocese could survive without being shattered, broken and destroyed, the way so many Dioceses would be around the world.
In 1962 the Bishops were summoned to Rome for the "Second Vatican Council", and while there, he worked actively because he was aware, and he was one of the few who was fully aware of what was going on, what the dangers were in terms of what might come out of that Council, and in fact some commentators referred to Bishop de Castro Mayer, as the "brains behind the opposition." He did his work to the best of his ability, but of course we know the results...we know what happened there.
At that point he again made a simple decision, which was, that he would go back to his Diocese and do his work there, seeing to it that his flock were inoculated against these bugs that would be coming out and spreading around the world, and that's indeed what he did.
He went back and taught, and taught, and taught, stayed with his people, provided the Sacraments, trained good priests, and as he did this he increasingly got into trouble with the "National council of Brazilian Bishops" (NCBB), who of course had hopped on the bandwagon, and were making all the changes that were being made everywhere else in the world, while doing so gleefully, even at the expense of the solidity of the faith within their Diocese.
It's very peculiar, that if you go to Rio de Janeiro today, one would see the effects of this. In the early years of the country, Rio de Janeiro was a city of 7 to 8 million Catholics; today there is one tiny Traditional chapel in a private home where 50 Catholics attend Mass. There is an enormous Cathedral in Rio de Janeiro; it looks like a bucket turned upside-down and squashed, which is essentially empty most of the time, except for the few Modernists who wander in. The religious energy in that city, as throughout much of Latin-America, is rushing into the Protestant Evangelical churches, which are opening daily on every block, and in every city throughout Latin-America, throughout Brazil, and certainly in Rio de Janeiro. The reason being, that the Fundamentalist Evangelicals, are at least giving the people some doctrine, and all the Catholic Church gave them for years was, "liberation Theology", and social talk, with the result that it's been a catastrophe.
Millions, and millions, and millions of Catholics throughout Latin-America are leaving the Church, but that was not the case in Campos, with life going on as usual. The next great blow of course, came in 1969 when a letter arrived from Rome informing Bishop de Castro Mayer, that there was going to be a "New-Order of Mass." I spoke with one of the priests who was close to him, who said, that when that letter arrived, the Bishop opened it and read it, and began weeping. He called for his car, and drove the two-hour drive to the Seminary, a long way from Campos. When he got there, he walked in holding this letter in his hand, and tears running down his face, and could only repeat over and over again: "It cannot be; it is not possible; it cannot be!" When he returned, he prayed and prayed, went through what was apparently an agony of soul trying to decide what to do, and sometime after that another letter arrived from Rome, informing him that Cardinal Ottaviani had written a letter criticizing the "New Mass." The Bishop read this letter, jumped in his car and drove to the Seminary, and walking in with a smile on his faced and waving the letter said: "Ah-ha! Ah-ha!", and made a decision there and then, that in owing the faithful in his Diocese the most Grace possible, and in order to ensure for them the continuation of that Tradition that he had sworn to uphold, the Traditional Mass continued everywhere in his Diocese.
If a new priest came into his Diocese and wanted to say the New Mass, he did not prevent, as obviously Rome had approved it. but those priests found themselves isolated, because the faithful didn't come to these Masses, nor were they interested in "Social Liberation Theology", and slowly, many of the more liberally minded priests exited to other Dioceses where they felt much more at home.
As a result, the Diocese of Campos remained completely Traditional, but the battles went on with the NCBB, including one fateful meeting.
A young priest had written an elaborate attack on much of the teachings against the Modernists by the Popes earlier in the century, Pius IX and Pope St. Pius X, and had indeed attacked them openly in the article saying, that those old ideas no longer applied to the Modern Church. Needless to say, this got Bishop de Castro Mayer's dander up, and he took his pen which he wielded with great precision, and wrote a response to the young priest, explaining why those ideas of the Popes applied now more than ever, and wrote an elaborate defense of all the Papal teachings, and of these men who had fought in order to prevent Modernism from gaining a foothold in the Church.
Shortly after this letter was published, there was a meeting of the NCBB, where one of the Bishops arose, and attacked Bishop de Castro Mayer directly, for his so-called attack on this young priest.
The first blood had been drawn and one by one the other Bishops began standing up and savaging this man, about what he was doing in his Diocese, and about his lack of collegiality with his fellow-Bishops. They criticized his writings in which he suggested some of the things happening were not in line with the traditions of the Church, and when the bloodletting had finished, he stood up, and quietly left the Council without saying a word. When they next assembled, his seat was vacant, and his absence was more powerful than his presence, or anything he could have said, and those present were made very uncomfortable. When finally some of the more "wishy-washy" Bishops went to him and said: "Why have you left us...why didn't you join us on our various Councils?" and he replied very simply: "It should not be my job to defend Catholic Doctrine, or explain it to my fellow-Bishops."
He subsequently refused to return, and in due course word reached Rome, that one of the most intelligent and prominent, and devout of the Bishops was no longer attending the NCBB. Eventually Bishop de Castro Mayer received a letter from the Pope which spoke directly to him saying: "If there are things in the Church that are troubling you, speak to me directly as a son to a father." Bishop de Castro Mayer wrote back a lengthy letter, in which in all humility he explained in detail the intellectual problems he was having. The problems that he saw were causing confusion as he thought, throughout much of the Church and included three lengthy studies of the problems, written as he said, from a traditional point of view. Again, he asked the Holy Father in all humility, to please explain to him the contradictions that he saw, between post-Church teaching, and what was happening in the present Church. This of course was a letter that the Pope himself had requested, and the only response he received was a simple statement explaining: "Your letter has been received by Rome"...and not another word.
In 1981, now in his late 70's, Bishop de Castro Mayer was forced into retirement,much to the delight of his fellow-Bishops. Rome sent a new Bishop to the Diocese of Campos, a man named Alberto Carlos Navarro. Bishop Navarro came clearly with one mission, and that mission was to establish within the Diocese of Campos, that which had been established in every Diocese around the world, i.e. the New Mass, a new way of looking at the Faith, the new ideas of a certain kind of freedom of worship, an egalitarianism between the Clergy and the laity which does not exist. As a matter of fact, if one wants to see a place that's anti-egalitarian, they should go to the Diocese of Campos; it's a place of authority, hierarchy, and great respect among the people for the priests and the Bishop.
The new Bishop first off made a tour of the Diocese, going from parish to parish, and in each parish gave a little lecture to the people explaining that a new time had come in the Church, that there were now new ways of doing things, and that they would now accept these new ways.
Having given this talk, he said that he would now celebrate Mass, and he proposed to celebrate the "Novus Ordo" Mass, and as soon as he said this, in every parish throughout the entire Diocese, and at that moment, the people stood up as one body and exited the church. The first time this happened Bishop Navarro was furious, the second he became more furious; and by the time he concluded his tour of the Diocese, the battle was joined.
Now mind you, this was not an attempt of the people to be disrespectful or disobedient to the new Bishop, and when I talked to many of the people who were there on these occasions, they said that they would not watch their Savior, Jesus Christ demeaned in any way. They would not accept Communion in the hand, nor would they accept a break with the traditions they had always known, and they would not accept something that was completely new.
The people were well indoctrinated in the Faith, that even the simplest peasant out in the countryside could explain to you what is wrong with the "Novus Ordo" Mass. It is simply astounding to talk to these people, in that every single lay person in that Diocese is a kind of Theologian, and it is absolutely incredible, which obviously was the result of years and years of good teaching on the part of Bishop de Castro Mayer.
After the battle was joined, here's what happened in parish after parish. The new Bishop sent the order to the parish priests saying: You will not in future say the Tridentine Mass, and from this time on, you will say only the Novus Ordo Mass."
The priests would then write back a letter saying: "I am sorry, but respectfully, cannot in conscience say the new Mass." Whereupon the priest would then be dismissed from the parish. The people then would come out and issued a statement supportive of their priests, and the parish priest would then say: "My dismissal is unjust; I appeal to Rome." Nothing would ever come of these appeals; they would be caught in endless paperwork, and in the mean time the Diocesan Seat in Campos would file a lawsuit in civil court against the priest and the parish, claiming that the property, that is, the churches themselves, belonged to the Diocese and not the people, and certainly not to the parish priest, which in terms of the building was true, which then meant that the courts would rule in favor of the Diocese, the Bishop, and the Diocesan lawyers, and which would then be followed by a simple statement from the courts: "On the morning of such and such, you will turn over the keys to the church." This happened in parish after parish, and after the final Tridentine Mass was celebrated, the priest would place the Blessed Eucharist in a monstrance, and with the people weeping, praying the Rosary and singing hymns, would leave the church for the last time, and walking out behind their Savior, suffering with Him, cast out with Him, into the streets.
Now remember, I am speaking of a Diocese where the poverty is extreme. These are the people who work very hard in order to put on their tables a meager meal of black beans, rice, and fruit. These churches were built by their great-great-grandparents, their great-grandparents, their grandparents, and their parents with tremendous sacrifice.
They are beautiful churches, with many of them restored to their former beauty, and now the doors of these churches were closed to them.
They began hearing Mass in garages, in private homes, and wherever they could find the room. In one of the parishes, they were able to rent an enormous, old and abandoned movie house, where thousands and thousands of the faithful would come every day to this great barn of a building in order to have Mass, while their beautiful church sat on the other side of town, with two or three Modernists worshipping in it at the new Mass; and that was the will of the Bishop.
In speaking of Traditional priests in the Diocese, the new Bishop said: "I would much prefer to have 'no priests at all', than to have more Traditional priests like these."
Well! He got his wish, because the Seminary he took over, as with most other Seminaries throughout the world, were emptied of members, and he finally closed it. Simultaneously though, Bishop de Castro Mayer, being still in his Diocese and living in his private house, opened a new Seminary in his home.
The new Bishop appealed to Rome, but there was nothing Rome could do. Bishop de Castro Mayer said: "I am simply teaching these people, whose young men want to be priests; they're coming to me, and I'm teaching them!", and the flow of priests into the Diocese just continued, and priests trained in the old-fashioned way, according to St. Thomas, and according to the Doctrines of the Church, and according to the Traditional Moral Theology, and all the while the people of the Diocese still had their Traditional Masses.
Then they began rebuilding. This is an astonishing thing to see, but in this poverty-stricken Diocese, which is in the North-East corner of Brazil, there is more building going on than anywhere else in the Catholic world. There are currently between 12 and 15 large new churches being built. There are literally hundreds of chapels being built out in the countryside, where there are literally hundreds of these chapels, because much of the Diocese is agrarian in nature, with simple farmers working and living off the land.
Bishop de Castro Mayer and his priests would always travel out, sometimes for two and three hours on what they call roads, but having ridden them, I can assure you that they bear no relation to what we think of as roads. They would go out into the heart of the Brazilian countryside, in order to bring the Masses and the Catechism classes to these people living in the middle of "nowhere."
The new Bishop, however, closed the Diocese chapels because the people out in the countryside refused to attend the new Mass, so where there was a chapel closed, the people would buy a parcel of land right next to it, and built a new chapel, and they built dozens, dozens, and dozens of them.
The new Bishop also closed many of the Catholic Schools, because there was no one to go into them anymore, and the people build new Catholic Schools, right down the block, and saw to it – and this is astonishing – that their children were educated the way they had been educated, and the way their grandparents and great-grandparents had been educated in the Catholic Faith...the "true" Doctrine of the Catholic Faith. In addition, they opened hospitals; they opened "Old-Folk's Homes"; they opened nursing homes; and they are still building, building, and building with joy, even though for a solid ten years they were persecuted, thrown out of their churches, and losing these churches that they loved, but in no way did all of this stop them.
All it did was to inspire them to go on and do what they had to do, which was preserving the Faith for themselves and for their children, while the good priests were there to help them; and the retired Bishop de Castro Mayer, while not involved directly, was always there to consecrate the new church when it was build. He would also come to give Confirmation to the young people when they needed it, because the new Bishop would have nothing to do with these people, and I am talking thousands, and thousands, and thousands of believing faithful, devout Catholics who simply would not put up with the new nonsense.
They simply said, "No! We won't have it. No! We won't do it. Give us the Faith of our Fathers; give us the Faith we have known, and if you won't, we'll find those who will", and those priests who served the faithful were the priests who had been with them, under the guidance of their Shepherd, Bishop de Castro Mayer, who "did his job", guarded over his flock, and saw that they had the Sacraments, and that the Faith continued in his Diocese.
What happened next was that when Bishop Navarro realized that his mission had failed, he began selling off the churches (most of which were empty anyway). Some of these churches were either turned into shopping malls or just sat abandoned. He essentially devastated the Diocese in the way that most other Dioceses had been devastated; however, there is another Diocese existing right next to the official Diocese, and it's thriving, and it's miraculous to see it.
Bishop Navarro was finally promoted for his "good work"; he was kicked upstairs, removed from the Diocese, and made Archbishop south of Rio de Janeiro, and he is going to glory. Shortly after a new Bishop was brought in, who is essentially a figure-head. While the persecution of the people has stopped, because it has failed, while there is nothing that the new Bishop can do, other than occasionally threaten them and saying that it is sad that they have broken with Rome, when in reality they are loyal and devoted subjects of Rome, praying for the Pope and praying for the Bishop.
As I said, the Church there continued to thrive, and it teaches us something very interesting, and the main lesson is a lesson that we need to keep clearly in mind: "When persecuted, the Church grows."
It is one of the earliest lessons, and of course it is a "proof" if you will, which is often called the "Fifth Mark" of the Church, and whereby we can tell that we are united with Christ, because only then will we be persecuted and suffer the way He was persecuted, and the way He suffered. The story of the Diocese of Campos is indeed that story. It is a story of people who went through great suffering for many years and never gave in, and instead used it as an opportunity to build.
Let me tell you what you would see if you were to go there today. If you walked through the streets of Campos, which is a large city with a population of close to one million souls, the first thing that would strike you, even though it has the appearance of any other modern city, with traffic, construction, noise, etc... On Sundays it is absolutely quiet; nothing is open; the shops and restaurants aren't open, because the people are at home as they believe they should be on that Holy day of the week. Can you remember how it used to be that way? Not just here in the United States, but also around the world.
If you go to the newsstands – and this particularly struck me, as I had come to Campos from Rio de Janeiro – there's no pornographic magazines – just the local newspapers, a few magazines, but there is a noticeable absence of pornographic material, and in fact you don't see it anywhere in the Diocese. There is one TV station, which is on the air for about 8 hours a day, but the people can't afford a TV, so they don't watch it. The young people don't listen to "Rock" music, and in fact (and I am not making this up), one of the first things that I noticed when I was arriving in Campos, was a young boy kicking a ball against an old wall, singing the "Kyrie" from the Mass of the Angels. This is the music that fills the Diocese. Another thing that struck me was that when the people get together, they salute each other, not by saying "hello", but by saying instead: "Salve Regina" or "Salve Maria." It's the means by which they greet each other.
During the average evening in Campos, the chapels are packed, even to overflowing into the street, with the people praying all the fifteen decades of the Rosary, followed by Mass, followed by singing of the "Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary", which is followed by Benediction and additional prayers. This is how they spend their evenings, after which they gather out in the street, talk and chat while the children play, and then they go off to a late and meager dinner. The same thing happened the next night and the next.
In the mornings when I would get up early, the chapel would be packed with Catholics going to Mass before going off to work. For the people in the Diocese of Campos, the Faith is the center of their lives, and as a result, they have a genuinely Catholic world in which they live.
The young people shine with purity. It is astonishing to see "innocence" in the young. When they hear the name "Madonna", they think of the Blessed Mother, and when they sing, they sing songs of the faith and hymns.
I cannot describe to you how for me, in one sense it was as if I was walking back in time; it was as if I had entered the "medieval" world all of a sudden, but it is there, and it is preserved. It's a Diocese the way Catholic Dioceses used to be, and it's thanks to the faith, the loyalty, the devotion, and the hard work, and the stubborn opposition of a good holy man, namely, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer, whom as I said: "DID HIS JOB."
Our Lord told us, and it's more true now than ever: "by their fruits you shall know them", and the fruits of this work in the Diocese of Campos, Brazil, continues to grow, and bloom, and blossom, and it is good fruit, and it is a model for the rest of the world.
Thank God it is there, and one day I think it can serve as a model for the rest of the world having forgotten the fundamentals of the Faith, and having fallen into chaos as we are clearly falling, will want to go back through the only source of renewal possible: "The One Truly Holy Catholic Apostolic Church."