Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Crown and Scepter

Whenever I go to Portuguese churches I see a crown and scepter.  I've seen it at St. Dominic's in Swansea, MA, where most of the people are from the Azores, and I've also seen it at St. Anthony's in East Falmouth, MA, where the people are mostly from Cape Verde.

What do the crown and scepter represent?  The story goes back to the 13th century Queen of Portugal, Queen Saint Isabel.  There was a lot of contention between her husband, Dom Diniz, and her son.  Queen Isabel feared the son would break and battle with his father.  So she prayed to the Holy Ghost to make peace between them.  Thankfully, the son and father resolved their disagreements and peace reigned.  In thanksgiving, the queen held a ceremony every year in honor of the Holy Ghost.  She put a poor man on her throne and crowned him with her crown.  This, legend has it, was the birth of the Holy Ghost Festival in Portugal.

Another story tells of Queen Isabel of Portugal, also.  She was known as the Holy Queen and devoted to the Holy Ghost.  There are many stories that demonstrate the Queen's piety, compassion, and service.  They tell of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters.  The queen would gather the people together and they would pray in appeal to the Holy Ghost.  On Pentecost, the people would be saved.  Then the queen and people would process through the streets of Lisbon to the cathedral where the queen would place her crown on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy Ghost had given her people.  She also began a tradition of feeding the poor on Pentecost.

Nowadays, the royals have forgotten the crowning, but the common people haven't.  From Easter to Pentecost, the people celebrate the Holy Ghost.  Some of the people are given the honor of keeping the crown, flags, ornaments, etc. to make a little shrine in their home, decorated with white paper and flowers for a week.  In the evening, the hosts, relatives, neighbors, and guests gather in front of the shrine to pray the rosary and worship the Holy Ghost.  Of course, food is a big part of the gathering.
On Sunday, a procession is made carrying statues, the crown, flags and flowers.  At the church, the priest blesses the crown and the people.  A banquet is served with Holy Ghost soup.

The Holy Ghost Festival is a wonderful way for the Portuguese to celebrate their heritage.  It is important for the children to see their family cultural traditions.  It is also wonderful for non Portuguese to see and celebrate.  Worshipping the third person of the Blessed Trinity is a custom everyone should cultivate.

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