Among the many names that honor the name of Mary, that of Carmel (or ‘of the Carmine’, in a more popular Italian version) is among the best known, not only because of the order of Carmelites, which has as its main devotion that of Our Lady of Carmel, but also because the feast to honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated in many places. The feast is usually solemnized with a ritual procession and has both civil and religious significance.
I must say that in Rome this feast has a particular importance. July 16 is not a day like any other, especially in the popular area of Trastevere, where Festa de’ Noantri (our fest) takes place and the venerated statue of the Madonna del Carmine, which is found all year round in the small Church of Sant’Agata, is carried in procession through the streets of the neighborhood. The Archconfraternity of Carmine, founded in the sixteenth century and which had Saint Pius X among its honorary brothers, takes care of the celebrations, and about forty sturdy brothers carry on their backs the very heavy machine on which the statue of Mary is placed.
This procession has always been the moment in which all the old people from Trastevere returned to their neighborhood to pay homage to the Madonna and also mingle with friends and relatives. When I was a boy (and I was a member of the archconfraternity and its organist), I remember how the octavary service following the procession took place in the large Basilica of San Crisogono, and every evening there was a cardinal to celebrate Mass. The church was full of people. The whole neighborhood would be celebrating, entirely decorated with lights.
In recent years, much has been lost in this sense. Even the civil festival that previously involved the whole neighborhood with fairies and shows, has been reduced to not much. There are always a lot of people, but the number has dwindled considerably.
This is a shame because feasts like this were an opportunity to reaffirm one’s religious identity and also an opportunity to strengthen social bonds. Unfortunately, secularization cannot be discounted even here, and religion is increasingly being relegated to the sidelines, from which its enemies hope it will not emerge.
(Image: SLF at Pixabay.com)