by Susan Lowndes Marques
THE centenary of the birth of Padre Americo, whose cause has been approved by the Portuguese bishops, is shortly being celebrated here. This remarkable secular priest, who was ordained at the age of 42, devoted his life to the rescue of homeless boys and founded the Obra da Rua and the Casas do Gaiato, where these children find love and support, which does not end when they go out into the world and marry.
For they often build their own houses in the various properties devoted to the work, for planning legislation is somewhat vague in this country. Good for the individual though perhaps bad for the ambient!
A moving tribute was paid to the work of Padre Americo by a man who spoke to the IV National Social Pastoral Week at Fatima, which was considering the problems of the marginal young. This man, Antonio Roque Crisanto, was born 41 years ago in a very poor village near Castel° Branco in
the east of Portugal. When he was 11 he went to the Casa do Gaiato in Setubal, quickly completed his primary schooling and with two other boys, one of whom is now with the Portuguese Air Lines, the other a building contractor, passed the entrance exam to the Lyceum and finished his studies there.
In the meantime he was appointed head boy, sold the Gaiato, their monthly publication, in the district around Setubal, and organised the holiday festivities. All this experience, said Roque Crisanto, matured him and has been of value all his life, even in the education of his children.
After military service in Angola, where he commanded a combat group, he returned with all his troop intact and married at the age of 25. He is now a civil servant in the Department of Health and Social Security, and his wife works for the Electricity Board.
But, he stressed, he is still a Gaiato or "street boy", in old
fashioned Portuguese slang, and feels that he belongs to this large family. Children need a father, not a master and the continuing success of the work is due to the individual care which each boy receives.
Everything is done by the boys themselves according to their abilities, studying, cooking, cleaning, ironing, farming, carpentry and all in an atmosphere of freedom which is most noticable in the beautiful old Patriarchal Palace of Santo Antao do Tojal at Loures near Lisbon, which the Cardinal Archbishop of Lisbon has made over to them.
If a visitor walks in at the ever open door, one of the boys will take him round with pride, showing the fine eighteenth century glazed pictorial tiles, the chapel, the dormitories, the dining room, the farm and the houses lived in by old boys and their families.
Vocations rise confirmations climb
VOCATIONS do seem to be gradually increasing in Portugal, and even the seminary in the Algarve, the least Catholic part of the country, reopened in Faro on October 1, having been closed for over ten years. The buildings have been brought up to date and a team of priests appointed to the staff. Twentyone priests and 13 deacons have been ordained this summer in six of the 20 dioceses in the country, the remaining 14 dioceses not having issued any figures.
Two thousand men, women and children who were confirmed in the last 18 months in 32 parishes of the northern diocese of Vila Real, met in Moncao on the river Minho which forms the frontier with Spain. They attended an open air Mass celebrated by the bishop and had a successful reunion with talks and discussions, followed by a huge picnic, for religious ceremonies here are usually cheerful and even jolly affairs.
Fool of God
FR Juan Krohn, the Spanish priest who tried to knife the Pope during his visit to Fatima in 1982, who is now living in Spain after his release from prison in Portugal last November, is publishing a book in Lausanne, to be called Fou de Dieu, the Fool of God. It is believed that the book makes a "public apology" to the Pope, but is mainly about Krohn's time in the Lefebvre Seminary at Econe from 1973.
MARIA dos Anjos, the eldest sister of Lusia, the only surviving seer of Fatima, has died of pneumonia in a Lisbon hospital at the age of 95. She was a young married woman, 16 years older than Lucia, at the time of the apparitions, and she once told me how she had gone down with her baby in her arms to the Cova da lria on October 13, 1917, and joined the large crowd which had gathered there, for an extraordinary sign had been promised. It was raining and many had their umbrellas up, when she saw the sun whirl around in the sky and a strange, brilliant light irradiated the faces of those around her.
Maria dos Anjos lived with her husband, who died many years ago, and their six children, one of whom is now a Salesian priest, in her parents' cottage at Aljustrel, a mile from the Sanctuary. This is still as it was 70 years ago, though a statue of the Angel of Portugal has been placed by the well in a field behind the humble house.
This is where the three children said they saw the figure of an angel, a year before the Marian apparitions. It is unfortunate that so many holy places have been, and still art, disfigured by monuments or complete alterations. In Rome the rooms in which so many of the saints lived and worked out their sanctity have been transformed into chapels. Many are lovely but they are no longer redolant of their former occupants. However, at Aljustrel the cottage in which the other two children of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco lived is as it was then.