Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holy Ghost

Every year in my hometown, during the last weekend of July, is the Holy Ghost Festival.
"You can kiss the Holy Ghost in a few minutes," my parents would tell me as we walked down the hill to the Portuguese-American Club. Before we could go on the rides or eat cotton candy or try to win prizes, the main event (the religious part) took place. It consisted of going into the club building and waiting quietly in line until it was your turn. Then, after a short prayer, I would kiss the Holy Ghost which was on a wand.
We were given a pin to wear and then it was outside into the twilight on a warm, summer night filled with colorful carnival lights and live music.
What would I get for my prize? My favorite was always a piece of jewelry like a ring. I was only little, so my dad held my hand and we'd walk around and say "hi" to friends we sometimes saw only once a year.
Every Sunday of the Holy Ghost Festival there would be a parade we'd watch across the street from the town hall on Farnum Pike. And, every year I would cry because I wanted to be the princess in the parade, my dad would explain that the only reason I couldn't was because I wasn't Portuguese.
When I got a tattoo of a dove on my lower back thirty years later, it didn't occur to me as to why I chose that design. I know now that it's because of my love of the Holy Ghost as a child. It is represented in other symbols including water, wind, and fire.
Legend says that Queen Isabel (also known as Elizabeth) of Portugal helped originate the Feast of the Holy Ghost in the 14th century. She offered to give her crown to the Church of the Holy Ghost in Lisbon if God would end the drought responsible for causing deaths from famine and disease in that country.
Her prayers were answered so each year after that she held a Holy Ghost Feast to honor the poor. The queen, herself, later became a saint. The people of the Azores, in particular, love the feast.
The Holy Ghost is the spirit of God and the third person in the Trinity. Roman Catholics believe that his work is through the church. The feast is usually celebrated in July.

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