Saturday, June 30, 2012

Festival of St. John the Baptist

One of the incredible aspects of life in a small Italian village are the festivals. Each town has a patron or patroness which they honor each year with a festival. I was fortunate enough to be in San Giovanni Rotondo for its festival in honor of St. John the Baptist, whose feast day was last Sunday (6/24). 

The festivities began Friday night with a concert and street dance in the piazza. Saturday night featured some more music in the evening in the piazza. Of course the big day was Sunday. 

Sunday I went to the earliest morning Mass in the parish. For being the early Mass it was still quite festive with the Mass being song by the parish choir. After Mass I joined up with a few friends of my host brother, and we went to the sea. The beach was amazing. I used plenty of sunscreen and I still turned rosy red. My host mom even called me once during the day to be sure that I had reapplied the sun screen and that I had eaten enough food for lunch. 

After a day at the beach, we drove back to San Giovanni Rotondo. I quickly ran home and got cleaned up and dressed to participate in the evening procession with the ancient statue of St. John the Baptist. I went to the mother church of the city with my cassock and surplice and joined in the procession with a few other priests and seminarians from this diocese. It was great meeting a few of the seminarians from this diocese. They're still have exams, but afterwards hopefully I can catch up with some of them. 

The bishop led the procession which included the rosary, readings from scripture, and various hymns. One of my favorite things about the processions I've witnessed these past few weeks in various places throughout Italy is watching the people who line the streets for the procession. For them it is more than a parade or a concert, it is an event that proclaims their faith in God, who is truly present among us. It really is an impressive thing.

Near the end of the procession the seminarian behind me told me there were less people at the end in the piazza then in past years. I asked why and he responded, "The soccer game has begun". And sure enough that evening the Italian team was playing the United Kingdom in the quarter finals. After the procession I ran home to catch a bite to eat and then returned back to the parish. I watched the game with the youth group at the parish. Let's just say soccer is taken very seriously here. When we won literally the whole town came running out into the streets yelling and waving flags. I'm glad we won or I would have been afraid for more life . . . Just kidding. 

The festivities after the big victory continued as everyone made their way to a nearby park which housed the carnival. I went with the youth group and together we watched the fireworks show, which was quite a display. It reminded me of the 4th of July. But I'd have to say that the fireworks that they put together for the feast of St. John the Baptist were more impressive than the fireworks in my hometown. 

After the fireworks I made my way back home and collapsed from exhaustion. It was a long day, but one I will not soon forget.