February 7, 2017

Celebrating Candlemas at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Pontifical Shrine in East Harlem

The crowned statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Thursday evening I joined 120 other pilgrims at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Pontifical Shrine in East Harlem, New York (448 East 116th St.) for the Feast of Candlemas. Marking the end of Christmastide (the 40 days of Christmas), the dual feast commemorates the Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple
Arriving early, the stress and aggravation of the day quickly dissipated as I sat to say my prayers. Admittedly this doesn’t happen to me at every church, but clearly there is something extraordinary about this serene house of worship. To paraphrase a friend of mine, a person would have to be spiritually dead not to feel the presence of God in this magnificent church.
Making my rounds, I visited the various shrines to the saints and made my usual intercessory prayers for the happy repose of the souls of my ancestors and loved ones. I also thanked San Vito for graces received through his intercession, as well as petition Santa Lucia and San Michele Arcangelo for a couple of personal requests.
In accordance with the Canticle of Simeon, which proclaims Jesus to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles,” candles were blessed and distributed among the faithful. Led by the Pallottine Fathers, devotees participated in the solemn fiaccolata, or torchlight procession, around the church before the Liturgy. 
Solemn High Mass was sung by celebrant and homilist Fr. Marian Wierzchowski SAC, Pastor; Deacon Fr. Christopher Salvatori SAC, Parochial Vica; and Subdeacon Teddy Thongratnachat. They were ably assisted by Lorenzo, Roberto, Brian, Michael, Ricardo, Andres, Mark and Jacob. Sacred hymns and traditional liturgical music were performed by organist and Director of Music Eva Grabo and Cantor, Schola and Choir Director William Xucla. 
After Mass, we were graciously invited by the Polish congregants, who celebrate Mass every first Thursday at the church, to join them in the rectory for some tea and dessert. Taking them up on their generous offer, I enjoyed a traditional pączek, or Polish doughnut, with powdered sugar and strawberry jam filling. Sweet and delicious, the famed pastry certainly lived up to its reputation.
Many thanks to Fr. Marian, Fr. Chris, parish staff and congregation for their continued warmth and hospitality, once again it was an honor and a privilege to celebrate our faith and culture together. I look forward to my return. 
Blessing of the candles
The Pallottine Fathers led the candlelight procession
Devotees carrying candles process through the nave
(Above and below) Solemn High Mass
Fr. Marian Wierzchowski
Altar servers light the blessed candles
Mural of Christ in Majesty flanked by Angels and Saints
on the apse above the sanctuary
Also see:
Celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Harlem
Knights of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George Welcomed With Open Arms at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Harlem
A Look at the 5th Annual Traditional Pilgrimage at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Harlem