December 9, 2010
To participate, see Rebecca’s recuerdo mi corazon blog. There, you will get more definition and instructions as well as see other’s submissions, which, If I may add, are quite fascinating, artistic, poetic and bold. By the way, click any photo here to enlrage it to see more detail.
|Our Lady of Mount Carmel|
As I was growing up in the predominately Italian Catholic suburb of Chicago, Melrose Park, our neighborhood parish church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel. As a young boy, I was always confused about The Blessed Virgin Mary. I knew who she was to represent, but who were these other “Ladies”? Our Lady of this, Our Lady of that, Our Lady of the other thing and Our Lady of those guys. I tell you, it was confusing.
But that confusion to a young boy makes perfect sense as the Blessed Virgin Mary has been seen, visioned and honored by and for all people, with each group claiming her as their own "Lady". Her mission, to bring people to her son, Jesus Christ. He is said to be the son of God. Mary, being a virgin, but still being the birth Mother, is kind of special then in that sense.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is just one of many ways in which the people chose to show and honor Mary, Mother of God. She is the Patroness of the Carmelite order. The first Carmelites were hermits living on Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land. They built a chapel and honored the Blessed Virgin Mary as The Lady of the House. She became Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
|Another depiction of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as painted by Pietro Novelli, from the 1600's|
There are so many tributes, traditions, ideas and heritage, both cultural and religious, that have lived through the years about all of the Saints and Marys. One for Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the Scapular. A Scapular has a specific definition to the Catholic Church. Information can be found at the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia site.
I had a Scapular. My Mom, whose name is Carmelina and a close resemblence to Carmel, made sure I had one to protect me and assure my rise to heaven in the event of anything bad happening to me, the back of my Father's hand for wrongdoing not withstanding.
It is two small patches of cloth, held together with a string, and worn over your shoulders with one patch on the back and the other on the breast. The Carmelite order originated the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Since we were parishioners of that church, we followed suit. Not much different than wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey on game day if you live in Wisconsin. Of course, being near Chicago, we wore our Scapular under our Bears Jerseys, and we never took them off except to shower or bathe.
|The Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel|
I mentioned the place where I grew up as an Italian community. How do I know? Well, I lived on the eighteen hundred block of 22nd Avenue. There were 26 houses if you count both sides of the street. Of those 26, 19 had Italian surnames. Spado, Ciancio, Salerno, Colona, Spinelli, Ravenisi, Baldo, Miorello. Funny, an English guy lived next door to the North, Fishleigh was their name, and they weren’t Catholic.
Another phenomenon where I grew up was the Italian Feast. A big, and I mean big, celebration during the week preceding the 16th of July, which is the Feast Day or Our Lady of Mount Carmel, took place in the blocks surrounding the church. It culminated with a hugely attended, literally thousands of people, outdoor mass on Sunday at high noon, and a procession through the town.
In this procession, a large beautiful statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the one pictured in photos above and below, was carried upon the shoulders of the men of the parish. Leaders in the parish structure would carry this image. Other groups, like the Holy Name Society, Knights of Columbus and the Alter Boys would walk the procession in their groups, maybe they carried lit candles or other religious articles like crosses or other statues of Saints. There were visiting bands from other parishes and they would travel tomplay at The Feast celebration.
Many women walked, dressed in solid black, on the hot blacktop streets. They would stop while on this trek, and go to their knees, praying the rosary. The hot asphalt burning them at times in the sweltering Summer heat. People passing out left and right. Sacrifice for Our lady of Mount Carmel.
Of course, since this was an Italian neighborhood, the food of the Feast was Italian and was wonderful. The Feast still goes on, but ethnic makeup of Melrose Park is changing, so there are some differences from the 1950’s and 1960’s when I grew up there. But they do have a Facebook page that seems like they are keeping the old tradition alive. There are some grat photos of Our lady posted there as well.
Back to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The image at the beginning of this post shows the gold crown she wore along with the beautiful gold and white garments. The old church itself, the one that was there when I lived there, was also a very beautiful place inside. A new church was built to hold a growing population. Here is a photo of the inside of the old original Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Melrose Park, IL in the 1960’s.
|Our Lady takes center stage at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Melrose Park, IL|
This is the interior of the old church
And here is a photo from the archives of my own collection. It’s from 1967, and came out of the pile of pictures we went through from the boxes my mother had in her closet. This is statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel being carried throughout the town during the Feast day celebration, of which we were in attendance every year.
|The Madonna being carried through the streets during The Feast|
I look at the image of the inside of the church and I can tell you every word of Latin that was painted on the ceiling. I don’t know what it means, but I can tell you what was printed. And I am amazed at the beauty. I don’t remember seeing or knowing this beauty growing up, but I can see it now. What I do remember is that statue. How ornate, the gold crown. She was truly portrayed as The Mother of God, telling us that the way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow, the Corn Mother
Tomorrow, the Corn Mother