Sunday, July 17, 2011

Virgin of Carmen patron saint festival

Saturday, 7-16-11

Today we went to the patron saint festival in the community of La Llanes. The patron saint of their community is Nuestra Señora de Monte Carmelo (Our Lady of Mount Carmel). Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. She is commonly referred to here as the Virgen del Carmen (Virgin of Carmen). Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as the Brown Scapular, a sacramental associated with promises of Mary’s special aid for the salvation of the devoted wearer. The feast was assigned to July 16, because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite traditions, the scapular was given by Mary to Saint Simon Stock

We left around 8:15am today to make it to La Llanes by 9am. It was a beautiful drive. As we got closer to the community we saw how green everything was. The corn and bean crops have really started to spring to life. When we arrived in La Llanes they told us that there was going to be a procession beforehand and we were invited to join them. We followed the president of the community and several others on a 10-minute walk up, up, up to the top of a hill. It was a very muddy climb but everyone made it without falling.

Stuffing the pinatas ahead of time

The road to La Llanes

Looking out over the valley

Lots of corn

And lots of beans

The gatekeeper

Walking up the hill

Hello back there

A near fall

When we reached the top of the hill there were lots of other people. We also saw the entrance to a cave. Several people walked to the cave so I followed. I love caves and was excited to see what the inside looked like. It was a bit tricky climbing down the muddy path to the cave but it was worth it once we were inside. They had a light inside powered by a generator so the cave wasn’t totally dark. The ground was soft and moist and covered with what appeared to be some kind of ball-shaped nut or seed. When I looked up I saw bats flying around. Yay!! I love bats! I tried getting a picture of one but the photos didn’t turn out well. Mike said we were probably stepping on lots of bat guano. Oh well.

The mass for the patron saint festival used to be held inside the cave. It’s not held there anymore but I’m not sure why. They showed us the place where they used to put the statue of the Virgin. Behind that area is a tunnel that leads to the very first house we pass as we drive through the community. Unfortunately, part of the tunnel has collapsed so people can’t go all the way through now. That’s a bummer; I would have liked to go all the way through.

The entrance to the cave

Going down inside the cave

It's pretty neat!

The ground

Taking it all in

Where the statue of the Virgin was kept

A cool bug on the ground

Time to head back outside

After leaving the cave it was time for the procession to start. I felt very honored that we were invited to be a part of the procession. There were several people in front playing instruments followed by girls carrying flowers and a statue of the Virgin of Carmen. The rest of us were behind them. Music played and we sang as we walked down the hill to the church. It was easier walking down but we still had to be careful of the mud.

We arrived at the small house that is used for mass and other special celebrations. Not everyone was able to fit inside but we packed in as many as we could. Kathy, Mike, and I found a place at the back by the window. There wasn’t sitting room so we stood. Then someone brought a chair in and motioned for me to sit down. I felt guilty since there were others standing but Kathy told me I should sit down. People in the communities always treat us so well.

Before the mass started someone told us that the Virgin of Carmen is the patron saint because many, many years ago she was seen at the top of the hill where we’d started the procession and healed a man who was very sick. Mass started around 10:30am. Father Santos was there from Berlín to do the mass. It was a typical mass and during the homily he talked about the Virgin of Carmen. Right after the homily was over a little boy came up to me and put his arms up for me to hold him. So I picked him up. He snuggled against me and eventually fell asleep.

Mass ended around 11:30am. The kids left to get their food and then the adults. I was still holding the sleeping boy and didn’t want to get up. Kathy and Mike went to the kitchen nearby to get food. Eventually someone came to take the little boy. I didn’t want to let him go because we were both so comfortable, but he needed to eat and so did I. I later found out that someone was instructed to come take him away from me because they knew I wouldn’t let him go otherwise. So I went to the kitchen and sat down at the table to have lunch.

Getting ready to process

Holding the flowers

Carrying the Virgin of Carmen

I love this little girl!

Here we go

All ready

Let the procession begin!

Following the group

An especially muddy part of the trail

It took about 20 minutes

Lots of singing

He's carrying a bass

We've arrived!

Inside the house/church

He's out like a light

When we’d finished eating it was time for a surprise. The Pastoral Team had brought two piñatas for the children in La Llanes. First it was the girl’s turn. Blanca explained the rules to them and then they had at it. Ismael was in charge of moving the piñata up and down as the kids swung at it. After several girls went Blanca called me down. Everyone applauded as I walked over and Blanca blindfolded me. I swung away at the piñata and managed to get a few good hits in. Then another little girl had a turn and busted open the piñata. Yay! The girls went crazy picking up the candy.

Next it was the boy’s turn. They also loved hitting the piñata. One kid knocked off both legs of the piñata. Blanca tried to get Father Santos to do it but he declined. So Mike was called over. Everyone cheered and laughed as he tried to hit the piñata. He got in a couple whacks before his turn was up. Next Balmore went. I remembered him busting open the piñata for Cecilia’s birthday party and knew it would happen again. And sure enough, the piñata eventually burst open. The kids scrambled to get the candy.

All dressed up

Explaining the rules

There she goes!

Watching the fun

My turn

Crowded around

Dive for the candy!

Boys go next

Mike's turn

Go, Mike, go!

Here you go

Having too much fun

It's right beside you!

Oh no! Balmore!

Getting ready to say goodbye

Soon it was time for us to leave. We needed o get back to the Pastoral House for a meeting. I hugged people goodbye and thanked them for inviting us to the mass. I had a wonderful time at the procession, the mass, the meal, and watching the kids play with the piñatas. I always love visiting this community and I hope we get to see them again soon! 

Heading home

Enjoying the scenery

Absolutely beautiful

1 comment:

Matt said...

What a fun day. It really is green now, it looks so beautiful. The corn and beans too. It's great that you get to be a part of so many celebrations in the catons.