Parish of Saint Andrew Apostle – Largo Chiesa Madre, 10 – Jelsi CB -
For the renewed and century old tradition love to Saint Anne
Third Pastoral in honor of Saint Anne, co – patron Saint of Jelsi
with these few and simple words I would like to gather the rich patrimony of faith, passion, history and art raised during the centuries through the devotion and the renewed love towards Holy Mary’s mother, Saint Anne.
The aim of my brief thinking is to point out a path and offer some ideas that we could exanimate more deeply on a cultural, spiritual and biblical level.
The veneration to Saint Anne started in the East and then spread into the West. In Italy the feeling of love and devoutness to Saint Anne is widespread and popular.
In Molise many towns are devoted to Saint Anne by an historic and popular religiosity that started in 1805 (when the earthquake occurred) when the people offered wheat as a sign of protection, spiritual offer and thankfulness. The tradition of our town, Jelsi, in terms of history, faith, spirituality, tradition, wheat and straw craft is over two centuries old and is strictly linked to the figure of the Great Mother of Harvest, Saint Anne, whose celebration is widespread over the world.
Faith is a constitutional element of the identity of Jelsi, even during the hard period of emigration. The people from Jelsi, in meeting other culture, new models and new lifestyle continued their devotion to Saint Anne as a sort of symbiotic relation with their land and a synthesis between old and new.
This is what happened locally concerning Jelsi’s migration movement at the end of the 19th century. It could be seen also through the parish archive the mails that the parish sent during those years.
What moves toward St. Anne, the mother of Holy Mary, both in Italy than abroad is the fusion between history and spirituality, between origin and future, between faith and identity and between memory and prophecy. The Community of Jelsi is involved in many cultural projects and spiritual exchanges with other towns devoted to Saint Anne, such as Larino, Pietracupa, Pescolanciano, which are in Molise, or even Foglianise and other towns in Campania. However the greatest strength in these projects of cult, identity and culture comes principally from the emigrants and from their devoted work. They come from Caracas (Venezuela), Buenos Aires (Argentina), South Norwalk CT (USA), Perth (West Australia), Montreal (Quebec, Canada), Sainte Anne de Prescott (Ontario, Canada), but also Minturno (Lazio), Osimo (Marche), Savigliano (Piemonte), Sarentino (Trentino Alto Adige) and so on. Each celebration is enriched by religious, humanistic, cultural, historical and scientific meetings.
The strength of the passion for Sainte Anne has ancient root. It went over the time and the places and became a focus for the new generations that look proudly to their past and are conscious of this spiritual heritage.
In the central aisle of the Church Saint Andrew in Jelsi, the statue of Sainte Anne (coming from Ortisei School near Bolzan) which is carried each year on the 26th of July during the procession is represented as an expert, confidant and tender mother, close to her daughter to grow her up with faith. She is proud and composed while she shows God’s road to young Mary: she is a balanced and strong Mother, she’s a simple and wise woman. Her left forefinger points out God’s paternity, while her right hand is firmly placed on Mary’s shoulder, in order to let her understand that she will never be alone as her parents will show her the Celestial Road, following the tender Divine Will. St. Anne’s beaming aspect invites us to look up, plunging in the mystery of Everlasting Love. Her spirituality and her grace coexist together with the concreteness and wisdom of a good Mother; she knows how to reach perfection, through fearless and conscious choices. Through Her, we understand that loving the Lord means loving freely, involving our whole life in this act. The certainty of a serene existence is not to be found in human strength, but, to the contrary, lives in Faith and God’s Love. Nowadays, as in the past, the “Great Mother” is an inspiring model of knowledge and education; she’s a benchmark for those who look at her beaming face and pray for their children, their family and their job.
How many sun gilded ears of wheat are reaped, as in the past (during the harvesting day, organised by Saint’Anne Committee) and offered to the Saint! How many sheaves of wheat are rapturously prepared by the faithfuls! How many ears of wheat frame the town when the Saint passes by! How many wheat-sleds (traglie) are pulled by oxen and how many carts are completely coated with wheat grains! This is the touching spiritual tribute offered by the faithfuls; this is a sign of deep devotion that shows the sincere confidence in Her: She suggests answers to the losts, She understands our lives and She encourages faithfuls to make new steps. In this secular tradition, the ear of wheat offered to the Saint, obtained from land through human work, becomes a weighty sign of men’s way and it’s the symbol of this celebration that joins everybody. To this end, according to the primordial liturgical-celebrative meaning, as the grains, spread on the hills, are gathered and milled to get one single loaf, as all the sons are spiritually joined to the “Saint of the Wheat” thanks to their wholeheartedly prayers and their dedication. The beauty and the brightness of a mature ear of wheat make us think of complex concepts, which I often wrote about in my previous pastoral letters; these concepts let us understand how our love for Saint Anne involves and fills our life experience. To this end, the ear of wheat could be considered as a bountiful gift which symbolizes protection and spiritual offer. As a matter of fact, an ear of wheat makes us grateful to land and to life. The Land is not only a shelter for men. Its origin is linked to its fate: each ear of wheat encloses death and resurrection and brings us towards “new skies and new lands” (Ap 21,1). Thus, St. Anne’s celebration is considered every year a significant benchmark of territorial aggregation, of social cohabitation; it’s a pattern of life and grace; it’s an intimate discovery of God, it’s an historic storage of faithful experiences, coming from previous generations.
So, we should ask to God, the Giver of every gift, to give us again the taste of wheat, of bread, of authentic things; to give us the patience of waiting, the satisfaction in harvesting fruits and the elation to walk in His Presence, renewing our lives. Best wishes!
JELSI (CB): July, 26th 2008
The Parish Priest: don Peppino Cardegna
BEST WISHES FROM THE NEW ARCHI-BISHOP MONS. G. M. BREGANTINI
With deep love, I bless this Third Parish Letter from your friendly Parish Priest: He’s really close to Your hearts and He is always with You. Be all together, be close to faith, be merciful one another. And may Saint’Anne bless You and all the Immigrants.
+ Father GianCarlo, Bishop