We live next door to the duomo, a 13th century cathedral whose bells ring periodically (we have not figured out the schedule yet). So on our first Sunday here, we decided to go to Mass. This is one of my favorite things to do in Italy. Even though I don’t fully understand all the words, I have a sense of what we are doing so can follow along and think it is both interesting and inspiring that half-way around the world, others are following the same traditions and beliefs as my family at home.
All Catholic churches in Italy follow the same general message each Sunday, which is printed out in a sheet they pass around. The padre (father) does a message that is his own, but much of the service is scripted. This makes it much easier to follow if the service is in Italian because we usually can keep up with where we are and try to participate in the responsive readings. Today’s service was about cinque pane and two pesce (5 loaves and 2 fish).
Confirmation Sunday & First Communion
The first Sunday we arrived was a very festive day – Confirmation Sunday. The church was packed with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and lots of cameras. For those of you who aren’t Catholic, older children attend a semester of classes learning about their faith and being tested to earn their right to be confirmed into the church. Confirmation Sunday is the culmination of all this work, and both the children and families are very proud. The children lead the processional holding lilies, dressed in white robes, and help take part in the service. Frank remembers when he was confirmed at Our Lady of Pompeii church in Brooklyn when he was 9 years old.
The following Sunday is the First Communion. In the Catholic church, they have communion every week. Everyone files to the front and is presented with the bread and (in some places) wine. So it is a big deal when it is your first time. We went both Sundays so we saw the same children from last week proudly take their first walk up to receive communion. It was a very special time. (I took pictures at the end when they invited the families to take pictures.)
Later, we saw the group have a special luncheon at the restaurant below us, complete with flowers, gifts, and balloons.
This particular Sunday was a holiday called Corpus Christi (the body of Christ) – an annual holiday that happens 8 weeks after Easter. It is a huge holiday in Europe (England had yesterday off for it). There were flowers in front of all the churches, bells rang all day, and fireworks dotted the coast at night. And our little group of First Communion celebrants got to lead the processional down the Corso. What a special and happy day.