I live with a chronic illness that can be debilitating. Lupus and its limitations brings daily trials and tribulations to my life. I know I’m not alone, we all have trials to deal with because that’s part of life. I think that without God’s grace and mercy I would not have survived another year. Faith gives me the strength to move forward. My mother gave me an amazing gift, the gift of faith. She used to say, everyone has a cross to bear.
For me, taking part in an annual spiritual retreat reaffirms my faith. Every July during this event, I reflect on the past year by rejoicing the good, accepting the bad, praying for a healthy peaceful future and giving thanks. This retreat is a 9 day novena which includes songs, an inspirational speaker from the diocese and praying the rosary. This Italian feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel culminates on Sunday with the procession of the statue of the madonna being carried through the streets in celebration. It includes the statue, the band and clergy followed by the different sodalities with their devotional saints and ending with all the devoted followers. That procession is an example of devotion, faith and our future. Since my condition has progressed, part of my prayers include participation in the sacred procession.
During this time, long buried emotions bubble to the surface. It’s a bittersweet time, happy that God has given me another year on this earth and sad for those loved ones we’ve lost along the way. My mother believed that Mother Mary was the intermediary to get to Jesus. Year after year, I witnessed her devotion to Our Lady of Mt Carmel. Even though she suffered during her life, her devotion was unwavering. She would say “a son will never deny his mother’s requests.” It pains me that my mother is no longer with us. I believe she’s here in spirit but we all know it’s not the same.
This was my mother’s tradition and her mother’s before her. Her mother came to the United States as an Italian immigrant in 1916. She began the devotion of Our Lady of Mt Carmel by coming to the Italian feast. This tradition continues from my grandmother to my mother, then to me, now passed down to my son and hopefully future generations. Not only do we come to the novena to honor Jesus’ mother on our spiritual journey but it’s a time of comeradery. Sharing this tradition with family and friends makes this a very special gathering. This tradition has been passed down for 125 years leaving the next generation to continue to uphold its traditions and values. It was touted as “A gala day for the Italians”.
Some of us hold this tradition dear to our hearts and can’t imagine life without it. I carry in my heart loved ones lost and friends no longer with us during this time of reflection on the past year and spiritual planning for the future. It reminds me to trust in God and his angels and saints, to put them as the center of my life. Matthew 19:26 -With God all things are possible.
Looking forward to a blessed new year🌹