This morning’s front-page Wall St. Journal story brings us news of St. Expeditus, revered by working-class Brazilians but almost unknown to the rest of the world.
From Matt Moffett’s sparkling article:
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When her husband’s business got hammered in a brutal economic downturn last year, Maria Aparecida Ferreira Pichirilo took desperate action: She prayed to St. Expeditus, considered by many to be the patron saint of urgent causes.
In no time, she got a phone call. An import shop needed a salesperson to start right away. “Getting a job in Brazil these days almost qualifies as a miracle,” Mrs. Pichirilo says.
Typically, these days, worshipers at the St. Expeditus Chapel’s Sunday mass overflow onto the street of the working-class Jacana neighborhood.
St. Expeditus, a previously obscure figure in Roman Catholic tradition, has emerged as the object of cult-like devotion for a growing number of Brazilians.
All over Brazil – which has 125 million Catholics, more than any other country in the world – holy cards, billboards, makeshift altars and internet sites display depictions of the saint: a soldier holding a cross with the Latin word hodie, which means “today,” while stepping on a raven, inscribed with the word cras, which means “tomorrow.”
Church officials expect 200,000 people to attend ceremonies in Sao Paulo marking his April 19 feast day, more than 10 times the turnout from eight years ago.
A life of Expeditus is the best-seller among saints’ biographies offered by religious publishers in Brazil.
Two radio call-in programs are devoted to petitions by Expeditus’s adherents. The saint’s army of professed followers includes a veejay for Brazilian MTV, a professional soccer player, a supermodel, and several politicians.
The dozens of petitions deposited daily in a wicker basket on the altar of the St. Expeditus Chapel offer a litany of economic distress.
The Rev. Luis Andrade Meirelles says of the pleas for financial relief directed at St. Expeditus, “I think some people are confusing the saint with an automatic teller machine.”
Sidinei Camarelli, a 45-year-old handyman, says he’ll never miss another Mass if St. Expeditus helps him get financing for a new pick-up truck.
“I need that truck for work,” he says. “May the saint guide the bank’s decision.”