By: Neil Garguilo
You can feel it in your bones. It’s calling you. A yearning inside your “being” builds up. Once summer begins it slowly gets overwhelming. And now it is back since the pandemic has been lifted. Yes, it is Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast, O’Giglio e Paradiso and it ran from Wednesday, July 7th through Sunday, July 18th. I was beside myself and once it was official that the Feast was on, I made arrangements with my buddies who I know over 60+ years to come for the festivities. History…tradition…the old neighborhood…Italian…American…love of family…and friends…it is back after one year absence to continue its pull on our hearts and minds. It’s the Feast!!! And it is 117 years old and still ticking… This year was going to be extra special–I decided to make another trip to the Feast. Please keep in mind that this was no simple decision since I live in Freehold, NJ and it is basically 1hour and 15 minutes into Brooklyn. However, it is never that easy. There are so many connections (Garden State Parkway to NJ Turnpike, etc.) and pot holes and accidents and overall congestion. Sometimes I reach my destination after 1 hour and 45 minutes and I am exhausted and “harried.” Another thing is the expense. Most people outside of the tri-state area do not know the cost of tolls. When I visit it costs around $30! But, after the dancing of the Giglio on Sunday, July 11th, I was coming back on Friday, July 16th to take part in the Procession of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel no matter what. This second trip took on a spiritual element since the Blessed Virgin was calling.
As is always the case, we all meet up for lunch. Most times it is at world famous Bamonte’s—a legendary place for 121 year! Oh, did we eat–hot peppers and bread to begin; two portions of hot antipasto followed by stuffed peppers and baked clams. Then the main courses: Benny and I had the veal pizzaiola with potatoes and string beans; Mike had a delicious chicken valdostana dish made with fontina cheese and prosciutto. I could not resist ordering a side of fusilli macaroni for my mother’s sake since this was one of her favorite types of pasta. Then, we had some lemon gelato that was outstanding. Yes, we rolled out of there and we definitely needed to walk. A mass was held to honor Our Lady at 3 pm. Then, from the church steps you could see the statue of Our Lady being brought out and, then, placed on the float. At about 4 pm the procession began with some wonderful words from Msgr. Jamie J. Gigantiello. The band played some of our traditional music and off we went. We moved toward Union Avenue where we made a left and continued to Richardson Street where we made a right onto Lorimer Street. Benny and I followed and we cut off after the procession met up with the first block of Withers Street. This was where our cars were—parked under the BQE or Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But this process was special for me. I followed along behind and next to some Haitian devotees who may be part of our parish or are devoted to Our Blessed Mother. They were singing in their native tongue which I found to be very touching. In between and among these songs was Ave Maria.
It reads and sings as follows:
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.
A group of 100 or so parishioners solemnly followed as the float with Our Lady made the turns on each block. As we passed, Scapulars of Our Lady were handed out to the faithful. In the year 1251, in the town of Aylesford in England, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. She handed him a brown woolen scapular and said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites and who perpetually wear it (www.sistersofcarmel.com). My mother was devoted to this Scapular and said her rosary every night with it next to her. I trust that the Lord has received her into Our Lady’s hands.
And so it went. Different songs of devotion but always coming back to Ave Maria. What a wonderful song this truly is. And with each step I remember my youth attending Our Lady of Mt. Carmel grammar school and being trained in the life of a Christian by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Then, from there, onto Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School where the Christian Brothers refined what I have learned. My final spiritual step was taken at Fordham University and the Jesuits. But it all started at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
May she, the most pure and blessed of all women to have existed, come and be with us once again, like of old. When all was simple, pure and traditional as we went about our business, the business of a Catholic life. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
About the Author:
Neil D. Garguilo is a retired manager who spent a good portion of his life working for well-known companies like FedEx and Hertz. In his retirement, he loves to write about growing up Italian in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. He is part of the Italian Sons and Daughter of America (ISDA) and writes articles for their newspaper, La Nostra Voce. Other interests are travel, reading, exercise and helping others.