Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A silent benediction

A custom that has fascinated me since arriving in Brazil is the Catholic crossing. Brazil is a predominantly Catholic country. When the bus passes a church, any church, a number of passengers will stop whatever they're doing and cross themselves, then kiss the fingers that made the cross, as though kissing a rosary. Apparently, it is to call down God's blessing and protection on their journey. Many do this when starting or ending a trip.

Just in case you're wondering what gesture I'm talking about.

It's something I have been seeing less and less of though. I don't know if it's because the people are becoming less devout or if it has something to do with the rising popularity of the evangelical churches - probably a combination of the two. It might also be because seeing it is no longer a novelty for me and it's become part of the blur of daily living.

As I left the metro line this morning, a pair of love-birds were saying their goodbyes before parting ways. I watched as each one reached across did the ritual on the other - She gently touched his forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder, then offered her finger tips for kissing. He duplicated the actions on her. The whole ritual was solemn and reverent, each one gazing intently into the eyes of the other, oblivious to the bustle and noise of the early morning metro station.

Watching this couple made me appreciate the value of little (and big) rituals. Rituals of greeting - the air kisses, the simple handshake, the elaborate handshakes I remember from home among the 'bros', a hug, a ruffle of the hair... do we part with fervent wishes for the journey of those we love? Do we show it?


  1. What a beautiful ritual! It actually bought tears to my eyes. I love that photo and that you witnessed such a loving, silent moment. It reminds me how short life is...

  2. Kerry, the couple in this photo was not the couple doing the benediction. The other pair were standing near the turnstiles and it was during peak hour, so it would have looked really odd if I'd stopped to photograph them. This couple were so wrapped up in each other, I doubt they'd have noticed if I'd gone up to them and photographed them with huge lenses and flashes.

  3. What a sweet moment to witness. :) Interesting about the sign of the cross. It's so ingrained in me from my childhood that I could almost see myself getting into it merely from a sort of peer pressure. :)

    Jeremy always kisses me good morning and goodnight. It feels very "wrong" if it doesn't happen, for some reason. :)

  4. ohhhhh, okay :-) I must say I admire the way you always manage to capture photos of people throughout your day though. I'd be worried someone "decked me"... Im not sure how subtle I could be at taking photos in public... awkwardness...

  5. Kippy, that's just it... your personal ritual : ) I think it's also a form of comfort we cling to.

    Kerry, it's one of the joys of a cell phone camera.... bad quality photos that can be snuck in. I avoid taking recognisable people pics. I'd hate to be sued or something. I was far from this couple (the photo you're seeing is radically cropped), so there's no way they would be aware of it. I was listening to music and such too, so my cell was in my hand. I was just telling Jurgis today how I was asked yesterday if I was filming a woman. She was a surly, nondescript-looking woman. I'm not sure what motive I could have had for filming her, but it is a risk... so many people have cameras in their cell phones. She must have a terrible time suspecting each one, poor thing. Perhaps that's why she was so miserable.


  6. I suppose if it makes them feel better... why not ?

  7. Oh I really like this blog Tint. Very special, and yes I think it would be nice to have a ritual like that when saying goodbye to someone we love - sometimes the quick hug and kiss on the cheek seems a little superficial in comparison to what we are feeling.

    Good quality pic for a cropped cellphone pic. Nice balance and emotion too. My phone is so old your pic makes me think I need one with a much better camera.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing with us Tint. That is a really touching ritual, remembering God that way. Also the couple sharing the gesture was maybe blessing each other for the day or until they meet again. Lovely. Working with my man 24/7 I get kisses all day *grins*

  9. I love that couple. What a nice way to say goodbye ...

    Here in the Netherlands we don't see people crossing themselves anymore. Where I live is a mix of protestant and catholic but the majority is non-religious (or non-church-going anyway) so it's a ritual that is gone from public life.
    I have seen people in Eastern Europe however crossing themselves when passing a church. Many, especially in Poland, are still fervent Roman Catholic and it's still part of what they do.

  10. Living in a country where most people attend to the lutheran evangelical church, I've rarely seen these gestures done here. But to me, it makes sense as long as it's not just a gesture. What's important to us, should be freely expressed.

    As for saying goodbye before a journey: Norwegians hug and say "God reise", which means: Have a nice trip!

  11. These moments are out there all the time but you have the gift to recognize them and even more important you share and make us aware of them. Hopefully we will not only enjoy but also become more ready to do the same. Perhaps you have more students than you realize. Thank you

  12. Bert, exactly... why not? I would never do that myself, though I can totally understand the comfort they would derive from the ritual.

    Lois, my camera isn't a fancy one at all. I did chose one that had a slightly better camera and less other features.

    Marianne, my thought was if two people, particularly young people (these were teens) shared a deep belief, then it is indeed a beautiful way to share that belief.

    Michelle : )

    Riete, I often wonder what it's like in other countries. I figured the Netherlands would be more protestant, but wasn't sure.

    Amalie, this couple was definitely sincere in their gesturing, but for many, it seems to be done by rote. I see similarities between the Norwegian and Afrikaans. We'd say "Goeie reis!" to wish someone a good trip.

    Theo, thank you! I love people-watching. I think many others also notice things like this. It's just that not everyone writes them down : )

  13. awww so tender and beautiful...i love it. :)

  14. I loved what you shared here! such a tender moment, so full of meaning for them. Damian and I kiss us good morning and good night, too. And it feels so weird when we don't do it. I used to cross myself when passing in front of a church, but it's all gone now.. gone with the school years.. quite a pity.

  15. oh how wonderful for them to find that in the other.. my granny does that and does it with me.. iam not catholic but appreciate a blessing..


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