December 1, 2011
December first already. The time seems to fly by. I’ve been looking forward to December as I want to participate in ”A Virgin a Day”. This exercise is in respectful recognition of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness to the Americas. Her Feast Day is celebrated on December 12th each year. The mission of this Virgin Business is to post photos, stories and admiration for the many faces of The Blessed Virgin Mary. A link can be found at Rebecca’s recuerda mi corazon blog where you can find out how to participate or just enjoy the photos and stories.
These posts will run daily starting today and end on December 12th. For those of you that might think this is a Catholic thing or it is an expression and attempt to force my religion down your throat, consider instead the prospect that it is an informative, educational, artistic, whimsical and cultural glimpse into tolerance, acceptance and peace. This is far better expressed by the creator of A Virginn a Day, Rebecca, who states:
calling all virgins...
enchanting, traditional, contemporary,
exotic, edgy, campy, irreverent, irresistible,
unusual, joyful, rapturous, lovely,
glorious, ordinary, astounding,
bring her on!
I will start today with my childhood. I lived in a close-in suburb of Chicago called Melrose Park. Melrose had a very ethnic presence. There were 26 homes on the two sides of the street where we lived, 22nd Avenue. 19 of them had Italian surnames. Almost all were Catholic. The nearest Catholic church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel, just South about a half mile.
|Statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our custom was to attend church services every Sunday. Of course my mother wanted us to attend Catholic school but my dad said, “No”. It was expensive and he didn’t want to pay for it. This meant that if we were to get the teachings and sacraments of the Catholic religion, we went to weekly mass and attended catechism classes.
I look back and what seemed to me as a child growing up to be a boring time to have to spend that hour per week in the oaken pew standing, sitting, kneeling, praying and listening to the choir singing in Latin along with the extra hour learning what being a Catholic is in a stuffy classroom, was actually a very cool and beautiful place.
|Interior of the old Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Melrose Park, IL
You see, the art work that I never paid heed to as a youngster turned out to be the most beautiful as I’ve seen in any church anywhere. The pomp of a high mass celebrated at Noon on Sunday could have been entertaining and I’d love to have the experience of the singing and prayers narrated in Latin, just as I loved attending a full gospel baptist service down in South Carolina when I went there to visit the family of a fallen soldier friend from Vietnam.
I’ve posted a photo of a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a photo of the inside of the church as It was in the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up. My sister was married there and her children baptized. Each Summer in mid July a great celebration ensued with rides, games and the best Italian food anywhere. Our Lady of Mount Carmel has her Feast Day on July 16th. The Feast, as it was called, attracted people far and wide and lasted almost a full week in the hot and sultry Midwest Summer. The celebration still thrives today, and although I haven’t attended in over ten years, the prospect of trying to make it this next Summer might be a good idea as I am remembering the food.
When I look back at that interior photo, I see the cracks in the plaster and remember reading the words painted in gold leaf on the ceiling along with the images of that faith. Since they were in Latin, I always tried to pronounce them and wondered what they meant. Now, I know. It must have rubbed off as I use it as my sign-off on every letter and post I write.