Saturday, 22 January 2011


Custódio José da Costa

Promotion of devotion to the Holy Cross de Balasar must be credited to Custódio José da Costa, a native of the parish. He took very seriously the fact that it was he himself who had first seen the Cross. Let’s see what he wrote at the beginning of his report.

Custódio José da Costa, of the parish of Balasar, municipality of Póvoa de Varzim, says that in the year 1832, a Cross having appeared in his parish and he himself having had the glory of being the first to see that cross and, moved by faith in the Religion of his ancestors, decided to erect a little chapel with aid of some alms with which Christian worshipers concurred (…)

It was his determination that persuaded the parish priest to send a report on the case to Braga. He is also the founder of the brotherhood that was created. Moreover, in the cause of his championing of the Cross he suffered misunderstandings and harassment. Fr Leopoldino Mateus gives this summary of him:

Among the numerous devotees of the Holy Cross, a son of Balasar stands out for the zeal and sacrifice he manifested in favour of the new devotion.
This good man, and fervent Catholic, was born in Balasar in the year 1788, the son of humble but hard-working parents.  In 1803 he decided to leave his native land and embark for Brazil, which he did, to try to make his fortune. There, after much labour, and having acquired reasonable wealth, he decided to return, which he had done before the appearance of the Holy Cross.

Custódio José da Costa, whose effigy is conserved in an oil painting in the small chapel, was a witness of the surprising appearance that not only moved the people of Balasar but also believers of the neighbouring parishes, who came in great number to visit the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ and to pray, decided to undertake the erection of a chapel where there could be more respect and devotion for the symbol of the Redemption. According to note left by this exemplary parishioner, he spent the amount of 1.790.120 réis on the patrimony and the works of the chapel, as well as on the acts of the cult, over 17 years, an expense in which he was assisted by the alms of the generous people who made their promises to the Holy Cross.
This good son of Balasar was a great caretaker and benefactor of the new chapel; however he was not free of the spiteful tongues of detractors, who also alleged that he was not only motivated by devotion but also by self-interest.
Custódio José da Costa, aggravated by the ingratitude and perversity of some of his countrymen, delivered the management of the chapel and its patrimony to the Parish Council. But the members of the Council, more politicians than devotees, left everything to go to seed, not caring about the devotions of the cult, terminating the daily Mass that Custódio José da Costa had arranged to be celebrated there for the devotees and benefactors, and disparaging as extravagant the annual feast which was held on the feast of Corpus Christi, the anniversary of the celebrated appearance of the Cross.

To conclude, let’s read this brief preamble of the Statutes of the Brotherhood of the Cross, dated 19th June 1840, which is primarily a tribute to the devotion of Custódio José da Costa:

It is not so surprising that on 21st June 1832, in the place called Calvary, in the Parish of Saint Eulália of Balasar, Municipality of Póvoa de Varzim, the earth of the land formed itself into the shape of a Cross, because that earth is the land of Portugal, a privileged Kingdom.
That this appearance invited worshipers who agreed to observe the prodigies of the Altar of our redemption and to venerate that Sacred Symbol, is not extraordinary, for being Portugal Catholics they are of one accord, but, indeed, it is out of the ordinary that along with this holy phenomenon  the same parish produced Custódio José da Costa, so devoted and pious who, seeing that symbol of the adorable, built, at his own cost, a little chapel in that place, in order to prevent some accidental irreverence; and, not being able to contain his zeal, built a Cross with the Image of J.C. and, when it had been blessed, erected it in the place where the Cross appeared, already sacred ground.
There, as from a fountain of graces, the faithful obtained the favours they asked for and so many are the approbations and visits of gratitude that not only was the foundation of the Lord’s House of the Cross lain but the devoted zeal of Custódio José da Costa was increased. This athlete watched over the exaltation of the Holy Cross, delivered the administration of that chapel to the Parish Council and, not content, encouraged the formation of a Brotherhood for the administration of the cult to the Sacred Tree of the Cross.
In addition to this zeal, he promised an annual pension of five measures of bread, and a one-off gift of 50$000 réis for the cult. Finally he gave 28$800 réis to fund a monthly Mass for the brothers and for living and dead benefactors. On this basis he arranged the present Statutes.

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