Religion in Poggioreale: New Priest

Feast Day for a New Priest

The newly Anointed of the Lord, having been ordained as a Priest, officially enters the town solemnly on a Sunday.

The people then are very spirited and pour onto the main street; the balconies overflow with people, the street is very crowded as on the most important feast days, and a large, medieval-style parade of horses adds to the crowd’s enthusiasm. Liveliness is on every face and “Evviva!” is constantly heard shouted from every breast, while a veritable rain of flowers and confetti falls from the balconies over the carriage from which the new Priest smiles at everyone, emotional and jubilant. The feast is traditional and yet it is still religiously symbolic: it recalls to us the festive entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, accompanied then by the crowd singing hymns in the midst of palm and olive branches:

“benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini!”

The olive symbolizes the peace that Jesus brings, the palm, his martyrdom and his triumph.

Our people are deeply religious and in the new Priest find a good omen for their town; in fact there is a great movement in the people who crowd the steps of the house to kiss the hands anointed by the consecrating bishop, hands that sweetly inebriate from the perfume of the balsam as one bends over to kiss. Balsam is the precious and miraculous substance with which Magdalene, contrite and crying, anointed the feet of Jesus; balsam also anointed the most holy body of the dead Christ. Balsam is a special type of resinous, aromatic, medicinal oil, which is obtained from incisions made on the “balsam” tree, which is found in Central America. The Church uses this balsam to make the sacred oil used for anointing the palm of the Ordained hand delicately perfumed.

The Sunday after the entry of the New Priest, he celebrates his first Holy Mass in the presence of a sea of enthusiastic people. The godparents (men and women) chosen from the most distinguished families in town come to the altar to assist him and who offer him the lavabo of the Holy Mass. The New Priest accompanies tire Godparents into their homes and participates in the distribution of the confetti. A lavish meal is then offered to the Priest.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]