Friday, September 20, 2013

Yes...another procession!

Yes….another procession!
Yesterday, September 19th, was the festa di San Gennaro.  As you may or may not know, San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, where a vial of his blood is kept in the San Gennaro chapel of the Duomo.  Three times a year, a miracle is said to happen, when the blood that is dried up in the vial becomes liquid. 
I was there three years ago in May to witness this event.  I had no idea that the day I went into Naples with our friends to show them around was one of those miracle days.  We were in the chapel when suddenly the Bishop came out holding the vial.  He tipped it up and down to show the liquefaction of the blood.  There were maybe 30 people in the chapel and they all lined up to pay their respects to the saint. 
September 19th however, is the day that most people associate with San Gennaro.  It’s his onnomastico, his name day, and all the Gennaros in Italy are feted on that date.  But we aren’t usually in Cervinara in September, that being the month when we prefer to be out traveling around.  We’ve been in Turkey, in the Czech Republic, in Slovenia…but never in Cervinara!  I had no idea that San Gennaro would be celebrated here with yet another procession.
A few days ago a big poster was slapped up onto our local “bulletin board”, announcing the festivities that would be associated with San Gennaro.  It turns out that he is not only the patron saint of Naples, but also of our humble little town.  There is a statue of him in the Santuario della Beata Vergine Addolorata, which is just down the street from us off of Piazza Elena and it was from that church that everything was organized.  There were special masses said all week, and then on the evening of th 19th, at five o’clock Italian time (so it was actually 5:30!), the saint was led out of the church, down the stairs and mounted onto the roof of a car.  The car was preceded by a brass band, then a group of priests and deacons, a cantor and the Rosary women.  It was followed by all the faithful of the parish. 
This was a short procession for Cervinara; just up the hill to Ioffredo and the church of San Nicola, then back down to Piazza Elena for more celebrations.  There were no fireworks this time, and no concerts in the piazza…just a mass remembering this saint who was martyred by Diocletian and who was the first bishop of Benevento. 
I think this will be the last of the processions for the season….the weather is changing and it’s raining and windy more often.  Processions are events for the clear summer weather.  I may be wrong though.  There are certainly many more saints that could be celebrated and Italians are never unwilling to throw a party!  But I’m pretty sure that we’ll have to wait until next summer for the celebrations to start again.  In any case, congratulations to all you Gennaros and Gennarinos out there!  Yesterday was all about you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Endings, and Beginnings

Endings…..and Beginnings           
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. 
I have been coming to Cervinara for 40 years now.  Not every year, and often only for a couple of days a year, but the Ioffredo neighborhood has welcomed me for a very long time.  As I’ve written before, there have been certain people who are institutions here, the foremost of whom would be Don Giorgio Carbone.  A couple of years ago he celebrated 50 years in the priesthood and the celebration lasted for weeks.  I first met him when he was a young man who was in his 4th year of leading the church of San Nicola.  It’s hard to imagine this church and this neighborhood without him.
But all good things must come to an end, and Don Giorgio has retired.  He made the announcement at the beginning of the Immacolata festa and, while it didn’t really surprise anyone, it did leave most of us unsure of what to expect next.  Don Giorgio has had his share of health issues and the fall he took a couple of years ago left him weaker and more unsteady on his feet.  The 100 yard walk down to the church became harder to do and the requirements that come with leading a sizable parish became too onerous for him to carry on.  We all knew this day would come, but it left us all feeling a bit sad.
Last week we were introduced to our new priest, Don Giovanni Panichella.  He is a young man of 35, a local fellow who has been priest at the Santa Maria della Valle church.  Valle is a “frazione” of Cervinara, just a ½ mile or so from the Ioffredo/Castello neighborhoods, but it has its own traditions, festas, and customs.  Don Giovanni will now lead both parishes, a reflection of the need for more priests (or maybe women priests, or married priests!)  This will be a challenge that I am sure he is up to, as he has shown himself to be an energetic and dedicated leader, anxious to get to know his new parishioners and our ways.
One of Don Giovanni’s first projects was a prayer service on September 7.  Pope Francis had asked for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in the world and the two parishes united at San Nicola and spent 90 minutes in thoughtful contemplation of the needs of the world and of what we as individuals can do to help in the efforts for peace.  It was mostly symbolic, but the prayers and hymns were moving.  At the beginning of the service we were all given cards with my favorite Beatitude on it… “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”  As the service ended, we all placed our cards into a basket and then we moved outside to the small piazza in front of the church.  A small fire had been lit and all of the cards were placed into it, sending our prayers up into the heavens with the smoke they created.  I think of this moment as one where Don Giovanni made his mark as someone who is sensitive not only to the needs of his parishioners but also to the needs of the world.  We welcome him with open arms.
On another note of endings, there was an article in the paper last week announcing the closing of the Bar Castello, which has been around for decades.  It was a tiny hole in the wall, but the last watering spot for those hardy people heading up into the mountains in search of mushrooms and chestnuts.  It has been run for almost 50 years by the same man, whose wife ran a tiny market next door.  They are getting on in years, but it has also become harder for them to make a living in the business.  The article in the paper said that the Castello neighborhood was becoming a ghost town and that there were just not enough people to support those enterprises.  This saddens me, because it is the oldest part of town, the part that sits in the shadow of our castle tower, the part that is like a medieval village lost in time.  It’s not easy to live up there, where most homes are on skinny little alleys that cars can’t get through.  There is some parking on the main street but going down into the little boroughs can only be done on foot.  People want more comforts and conveniences, both of which are lacking in Castello.
But, just as all things must end, there are beginnings here as well.  Word on the street is that a young man from the neighborhood will be opening up a pastry shop.  It will be nice to be able to walk just a couple of hundred yards to get a good sfogliatella instead of having to get in the car and drive downtown.  I’m really hoping he is able to make a go of this new enterprise…it will be challenging for sure but I’ll do my part to make it a success.  Every cannoli that I buy will only be for the good of the neighborhood….it will be my civic duty to support him with regular purchases of biscotti and baba!
Yes, to everything there is a season; the old must give way to the new.  But it is my sincere hope that what comes next will respect what has gone before and that the traditions that have made this town what it is will not disappear with the new generation.