Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

A Virgin a Day
December 9, 2010
Day 9
Our Lady of Guadalupe

A Virgin a Day is the title of this Meme Project. It is a tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It started on December first and will culminate on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is December 12th. Of course I continue to dedicate all of these posts to my Mother, Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado. A memorial to her love and devotion to her family, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

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



english inukshuk said...

oh! I love that photo from 1967!!

as always, fascinated by your story

thank you


deb did it said...

Wow! So many wonderful images here....I so love the little cloth Marys!

deb did it said...

and YES, it is still so confusing to me....Virgins, Marys, and Saints oh my!

rebecca said...

this is a wonderful post....the way it weaves from your childhood to your adult perceptions, and back again.

love the black and white photo and feel the memories that must flood you even now, all those years later.
your mother, in the center of it all.

thank you for this.
i will think of you and this beauty of your childhood traditions all day.

eb said...

Dear Mr. Spadoman,
This is unspeakably beautiful.
I was not raised Catholic (rather Lutheran/Methodist in the mid west) but the energy and fullness of spirit that you share are very palpable to me. I agree with Rebecca that the weave of memories is lovely - you write so well - I too love the black and white photo and your Lady of Mt Carmel is splendid indeed. Thank you so much for treating us to such richness. I hope that you will write more about your experiences.

Peace to you,
xox - eb.

Unknown said...

I'm late to the date here but happy to be adding my voice to Rebecca's song.

This is amazing, what a deep connection you have.


Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Thanks for sharing your memories and photos from your neighborhood Mt. Carmel days. I was married to a Sicilian and converted to Catholicism in 1957. Yes, we wore scapulars, too, and once a year on the feast of St. Joseph they had a St. Joseph's table. All of this was so new to a formerly Baptist girl.

Your photos are wonderful and what a treasure you found in the old one in your mom's stuff.

When I've got more time I'm going to really go into your site in depth. I can see we are cut from the same cloth.

Annie Jeffries said...

Vivid and exciting. I think this must have been what it was like for my mother growing up Italian in Rochester, NY. Alas, she is gone now and I can't ask her about it.

Spadoman said...

I need to post some responses to the wonderful comments I've received here today. First of all, thank you all for stopping by and having a look.

Inukshuk... You are a special friend and i appreciate the kind things you say about my posts. Thank you very much.

deb... little cloth Marys. cool! Believe me, when we were given these, i was about 11 or 12. we wore them everywhere like a badge of glory that we were indeed a Catholic soldier of Christ. And I didn't know until many years later why there werer so many "Our Ladies". Thanks for stopping.

Rebecca.. I can't thank you enough for the glorious idea of posting a Virgin a Day. I'm glad youlikke what I have thought of to present. Lovely to see you here. Thanks.

EB... Thank you for the kind words. I have been writing about my licfe and how I've lived it over the years here at Round Circle. Most every story is about sharing my experiences as a legacy for my Granbdchildren long after I'm gone. Feel free to read any of it. I enjoy coming to your place as well.

Stephanie.. I'm so sorry I've been so caught up doing this Virgin Business that I haven't gotten over to yours and others blogs enough lately. Thank you for your visit and kind words.

Fran.. I am a full blood Sicilian, both parents and all four Grandparents. And since my name is Joseph, I know only too well the March 19th Feast Day. I usually get cream puffs. Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts. Tell me more about your "cloth"

Annie.. Funny, I just found out yesterday that a good friend, an Italian gal, who has lived and worked in Los Angeles for the past 30-40 years is moving back home to Rochester, NY. Small world. I love telling stories of growing up as it was a unique experience, as everyones is I'm sure. Thanks for coming here.

Meri said...

The interior of the church is really quite spectacular. Does the Virgin still get carried through the streets, even today?

turquoise cro said...

My Italian husband LOVES these scapulars!! I came into the Catholic faith at the age of 33!thanks to my husband! who grew up Catholic! I was married at 23 and it took me 10 years to convert! I still don't know all the doings and goings on of the Church but I LOVE it! That old church of yours is Beauty Full!!!and that beautiful ornate Mary!! I have been reading about saints and was surprised how many hermits there were and what horrible deaths they endured! I LOVE the old picture too, are YOU in it?!! I want to thank YOU too for your upper right hand post, reminding us every day to remember and pray for our soldiers! living and dead!!!

Mel said...

Wow. What's not to love about what you shared!

I grew up with a very Catholic step-mother and one of my prized possessions is a scapular that she presented to me--a silk ribbon holding the two pieces of cloth. I knew the name--but I didn't know the purpose until my sister (who converted) told me. I treasure it even more now.

I love the old photo--and the ornate statue, the rituals and the gorgeous colours in your church. There's something about tradition and rituals that ground us and bind us.
I like that. I wish I had more of those in my life. (sounds strange, but there you have it)

Wonderful piece, sir.
I'm all warm and fuzzy from all that you shared for some reason.

(((((((( Spadoman )))))))))
Thank you.

Magical Mystical Teacher said...


Lady, hear me as I pray,
Guard me in the pilgrim way;
Guide my hands and guide my feet;
Teach my lips to be discreet
So that as I speak I may
Render grace by all I say.
Help me, Lady, chaste and kind,
Bend my will to your fair mind.

© 2010 by Magical Mystical Teacher

Noelle Clearwater said...

I am not Italian and did not grow up in such a neighborhood, but I can certainly relate to the procession and feast days you speak of. I remember the May Procession with Mary at our church and the crowning of the statue with a beautiful floral wreath crown. The statue itself would be carried to the church and then to the altar and there would be amazing singing. I also wore a scapular but not to the extent that you did. I can recall some very devout ladies in prayer in my youth as well. I love these memories you have because I understand them, although I also realize that they are deeply culturally based as well and tied up with much of your identity. I love the photos and the way that you describe the community around the celebration of Mary. It is lovely.

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

How cool is that? Wonderful journey back into time and then back to the present! I wish my parish that I grew up in still existed. And all the traditions that your community had makes your life all the more richer!
She is absolutely beautiful, that Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Spadoman said...

Meri... Yes, that old church was quite a beautiful place. And yes, they still have the procession as far as I know. I haven't been to The Feast, as it's called, in over 10 years. Thanks so much for stopping by.

CRO... I found a place that sells Our Lady of Guadalupe Scapulars. It will be in my post on the last day of this great meme project, Sunday. I'm not in that picture and I don't know any of the people. I think it was just a photo of the Madonna being carried through the streets. I have old 8mm movies too! Thanks for coming here and gracing my pages.

Mel... Wonderful as always to see you here. Thanks. I wish I had more in my life too. The memories will have to suffice for now, but I know exactly what you mean.

MMT.. Thank you for that beautiful poetic prayer. You do have a way with words. Great to see you here, thanks.

noelle... Thank you for being here on my page. I appreciate it. Yes, these events of my past are part of me and had a lot to do in making me what I am today, my values, my strengths and even my weaknesses.

Paula... I wish that parish that I grew up with still exixted as well. I am sad that I didn't understand and therefore didn't appreciate what it was when I was a boy. Thanks for stopping here.

Peace to all.

A Bit of the Blarney said...

Thank you! I can hardly add anything more to all that was said! Wonderful! Cathy

Unknown said...

Thank you for answerin my prayers

O most beautiful Flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein that you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity. There are none that can withstand your power. O show me herein that you are my Mother.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times)