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A young Brazilian boy whose solemn reenactment of the Mass drew hordes of online traffic has passed away after nearly two years of battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Rafael Freitas, age 4, loved to pretend to celebrate Mass. He said he wanted to be Pope someday. On Nov. 14, he passed away, according to his family.
In a Facebook post reflecting on his life, his father Randersson cited the Psalms: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Last year, a video of Rafael pretending to celebrate Mass went viral, receiving hundreds of thousands of views. The boy, then 3 years old, was receiving treatment at a children’s cancer hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Randersson said that the boy would invite all the patients at the hospital to the common area to attend his “Mass.”
According to the diocese of Barretos, Rafael was in his home town of Conceição das Pedras a time between treatments. “There, after seeing his family and spending a few weeks at home, he had to be hospitalized in a neighboring city,” where he passed away shortly after 8:00 pm Saturday, the diocese said.
His parents said that he developed a devotion to the Mass from an early age. “When he started walking just after he turned one year old, Rafael started imitating the priest every time we went to Mass. When the priest raised up the chalice, he would raise up his little cup in the pew,” Randersson told CNA several months ago.
In early 2014, doctors told Rafael’s parents that the little boy was suffering from a stage 4 form of childhood cancer that affects the nervous system and the bones. Rafael received chemotherapy in March 2014 at Children’s Hospital in the city of Barretos, but doctors said there was no hope he would recover.
Once at the hospital chapel where Rafael attends Mass with his parents, the boy asked the chaplain for a peculiar gift: a paten, the small golden plate used at Mass to hold the Host. The priest gave him one and also gave him a small tunic and stole made just to fit him. “The priest thought Rafael’s request was so beautiful that he gave him a whole set of unused liturgical objects. The day he received them he must have celebrated 300 hundred Masses,” his father joked. “He was still ‘celebrating’ Mass at 11 o’clock that night.” His father said it was “the best gift” his son could have received. “We (his mother and I) are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and we strive to attend Mass every day,” Randersson said.
The burial for Rafael took place Nov. 15 at Conceição das Pedras. After saying goodbye to their son, Rafael’s parents decided to donate their little boy’s belonging to children’s institutions. They hope that this can be one more way for their young son to touch the lives of others.
Earlier this year, Randersson told CNA that “every day when Rafael is asleep we pray for him and consecrate his life to God, we ask that he can fulfill the mission that Jesus has for him. And as his name Rafael means God’s medicine, we pray that that he can cure people from the absence of God.”