What better way is there to spend a sabbath afternoon and evening than praying and playing with friends while learning about a new-to-us faith-based tradition?
That's exactly what we did today.
At our Habitat Explorers co-op last week, our friend Annemarie from You leave Me Breadless shared with excitement, "The Holy Ghost is coming to our house!" She then went on to explain a little about the Portuguese devotion to the Holy Ghost and offered us an open invitation to join her, her family and others for prayer and fellowship any time during the week.
We finally made it over today.
I am so glad we did!
Annemarie's mom shared with us the story behind the tradition of the Devotion to the Holy Spirit. Her husband led us all in praying the Rosary. Her children were wonderful hosts for my children. Conversation flowed. Fellowship was appreciated. And, I got to taste traditional Azorean sopa for the first time.
What is the Tradition of the Devotion to the Holy Ghost?
I might not have all the facts straight here, so, please forgive me (and correct me!) if I share any poorly, but as I understand things:
In many American parishes with large populations of Portuguese, and in particular Azorean, parishioners, families enter a lottery for the honor of hosting "the Holy Ghost" at their homes for a week between Easter and Pentecost.
Hosting means, among other things:
- honoring the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives
- having a variety of symbolic objects at your home which have been blessed
- promising never to leave these objects alone
- remembering the story of Saint Isabel (also known as Queen Elizabeth) of Portugal
- and committing to opening your home daily for prayer gatherings where, among other things, the rosary is prayed.
Among the symbolic objects central the to devotion are a crown and scepter, which take a central place on a home altar surrounded by flowers and candles with a flag standing nearby.
The Story of Saint Isabel and the Devotion of the Holy Ghost
It is said that Saint Isabel (Queen Elizabeth of Portugal who lived from 1271 to 1336) had both a special devotion to the Holy Spirit and a never-ending love for the poor of her country. In fact, stories say that Saint Isabel saved bread from her own table to give to the hungry of her country, much to her husband's, the King's, chagrin.
One day, legend says, the King caught Saint Isabel heading out to mingle with the poor with a cloak filled with food. When he demanded that she open the cloak, the Queen said a prayer and complied, throwing open her cloak. Instead of the bread that she had hidden under it to go feed the poor with, red roses tumbled out. From that day forth, it is said, the King never bothered Isabel when she continued in her mission to help the poor.
It is also said that at one time during Saint Isabel's reign there was a terrible famine. The Queen depleted all of her financial resources trying to help her people until, at last, all that was left was her crown. One morning at Mass she promised the Holy Spirit that she would give this crown to the Church if the Holy Spirit would send a miracle to relieve her people's hunger. Lo and behold, when she left the church, she saw ships coming into harbor which were loaded with food.
In addition to leaving her crown, as she had promised, at a cathedral as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy ghost granted her people, it is said that Saint Isabel also began a tradition of feeding the poor at Pentecost and choosing a number of people each year to gift a new suit of clothing and a meal, served personally at her table, to.
The people of Portugal, and in particular of the Azores, have since commemorated Saint Isabel's goodness and God's graces through displaying replicas of her eight-sided crown and praying devotions to the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Annemarie and family for inviting us to learn and share in the tradition with you today!
What unique cultural traditions helps you share the Tradition of faith with children? Might you invite others to learn, play and pray with you as you celebrate them? Might you join others to learn about their cultural traditions?