When I was a young teenager I lived in Bristol, Ma for a short time and enjoyed the beautiful traditions of the strong Portuguese populations who lived around me. Though inconvenienced (often) by the inability to drive down many streets because they were often blocked off to reserve them for the many processions they held, they also helped to deeply impress upon me their love of Our Lord and deep belief in the truth of Jesus' presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Though raised Catholic, as a teenager I don't think I quite "got" what it meant that Jesus was really there in the Blessed Sacrament. I know I didn't. That didn't come till later, but I did remember seeing so many of these faithful people coming to their windows, doors and front porches to watch these beautiful processions and old men and children kneeling on the hard concrete and falling down before Our Lord when he passed by ...right there in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, with eyes cast only on Him. I remember these people who could not leave their homes, fervently blessing themselves from their windows and as a young girl, this made an impression on me ...perhaps there was something to this.
When I came back to the church and truly came to understand what a gift we have in the Eucharist, these memories came back to me and though they may never have understood what an impression they made on me, a random stranger, these people of strong faith definitely made their mark.
I love that our faith allows us to bring our traditions out into the open air and "proclaim it from the rooftops" so to speak. I love the smells and bells and visible signs and the ability to worship with everything we have. I love that these beautiful people take what was instilled in them from their home country and the strong traditions that were passed down and they come to color our streets and our lives with these memories and traditions filled with rich meaning.
We are blessed to live exactly smack dab in the middle of a fantastic local feast called The Feast of "Senhor da Pedra" or the Lord of the Rock.
We are literally right in the middle of it. If we walk to the end of our block and take a right, in less than 5 minutes we arrive at Immaculate Conception parish. A mostly Portuguese parish that hosts the annual feast.
Shaun had to work this weekend, but arrived home early enough last night for us to attend the 4pm Mass together at Immaculate Conception. As the girls napped almost right up until Mass, we just plopped them into the stroller and walked around the corner to attend (boy is that nice!). Ava spent some time with Our Lord when she became a "little to chatty" during the Eucharistic prayer. You could hear her in the back of the church excitedly proclaiming "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!"
upon walking out of the church we found ourselves drawn into a procession of the statues of Our Lord and Our Lady from the Parish Hall going around the block and returning to the church. The band played traditional hymns and we followed along pushing the stroller as close as we could to Our Lord and thoughts in my mind of the crowds that followed Jesus long ago ...began to creep in.
Today Shaun had to work again, but after starting his usual Sunday morning with adoration at 4am, he came home to give me a quick kiss goodbye and headed off to start early. Because of this he finished up early enough to arrive home just in time to attend the annual Senhor da Pedra procession! Ava woke up just in time and he took her in the stroller. I knew Clara would be up soon, so I said I'd meet him there. We literally have to walk down to the end of the block and turn left and in exactly 2 minutes (if that) we are at the procession route.
I caught up with Shaun and Ava not long after the procession began and loved to see how intently Ava watched everything, holding "Needanket" and whispering "Jesus n Mary"
Soccer teams come to honor their patron "St. Michael", Clubs and Bands, Societies and Solidarities, Prayer groups, Parishioners, Choirs and more come to march and show their devotion. Families dress up as characters from scripture. Everyone from Moses in the Old Testament, to Characters from the New Testament and images from the life of Christ are displayed.
Think of how beautiful that these families are busy for the days and weeks leading up to this festival, decorating their cars and trucks as floats, getting costumes together and matching dresses and ties, tuning instruments, practicing songs and more... all because these families loved Our Lord and their traditions. I just love being a part of it all.
Can you see "Chey Chey Nee?"
Ava's thoughts on Mary being sad.
We saw friends and neighbors who came out of their place to kiss and love the babies. On our way we ran into more old friends and I thought to myself "Isn't this what a neighborhood is supposed to be like?" I also thought of how much I'd miss this when we finally are in the other house. I'd miss being able to walk to everything and living in the middle of it all.
When the procession had passed us and the street cleaner began to clean the roads, we walked a couple of streets over to a "family run" Fish market/restaurant that served traditional Portuguese fare. Our waitress even had her sleeping baby nearby while a family member watched the slumbering infant so she could take orders and wait tables. We sat outside under a canopy and watched the procession round back to the church and listened to the bands play on. Groups went back to their local clubs and such and played fanfare outside of them and we happily watched it all.
(Think they're sending a message or something?)
Clara laughed and squealed with delight and charmed those who sat around us and nothing escaped Ava's watchful gaze and we sat and we ate and built happy memories in the middle of this city that sometimes makes news for all the wrong reasons. I thought of when someone said of Jesus, "Can anything good come from Nazareth". His childhood hometown must have had his share of difficulties too.
(she thought she'd like to try a piece of lemon... I warned her)
"Whatever this is, it's better than lemon, Daddy"
Days like today give me hope, though. Hope for our city. Hope for our family. Hope in our faith. I watched Shaun get down on his knees and point to Our Lord for Ava and thought back to the men I had seen drop to the concrete sidewalks to bless themselves so many years ago as a teenager. There's something about seeing a strong man on his knees that leaves a mark in your memory. I hope my daughters will have that mark seared in along with the sounds and smells and joyful memories of days like today. I hope you enjoyed sharing it with us!