FEAST OF HOLY MARY OF GRACES
July 2 is the day on which we celebrate the solemnity of Holy Mary of Graces, Patroness of Mugnano del Cardinale. History tells us that it is celebrated on this very day at the behest of Queen Maria Cristina of Savoy who, enraptured by the beautiful image of Our Lady, asked Gregory XVI to elevate it to a feast, in the two Sicilies.
The festivities begin early in the morning with the hymn to Mary that resounds from the shrine and awakens the town
"...Thou who art of Graces full sweet Virgin Cortese, over our beautiful country, spread rays of goodness.
Thy graces and favors do Thou ever pour forth with a wide hand, upon faithful Thy Mugnano, O Beautiful Mother of Mercy..."
At 9:30 a.m., the festive concert of the Shrine's bells calls the people of Mugnano del Cardinale to prayer and to the participatory and emotional event of the descent from the high altar and the enthronement of the statue of Our Lady of Grace.
The shrine in a few moments is packed with devotees. Suggestive and touching are the moments preceding the lowering of Our Lady: the pulley begins its slow turns until the statue rests on the marble floor of the back of the altar.
The statue is shown to the people, who welcome her with a cry of "VIVA MARIA," she is cleaned, kissed and dressed in her crowns. Tear-filled eyes and a single loud and moving applause accompany the statue, which, in arms, is placed on the ancient and precious throne.
Then having arrived on the second Sunday of July, around 11:00 a.m., we experience one of the most important events for our country: the procession. A sea of devotees huddle physically and lovingly to the patron saint, whose exit from the shrine is eagerly awaited. A pause on the steps for the contemplation of the statue that shines even more brightly clothed in its gold, a long applause accompanied by the music of the band. We first proceed to Via Garibaldi where, for more than fifty years now, we have witnessed one of the most exciting phenomena, which truly begins the procession; I speak of the very famous infiorata. A cascade of fragrant petals is poured over the heavenly image of Our Lady, from the balconies of the building to the right side of the shrine. A work of rose picking, selection and drying of petals that, by tradition for the family that organizes this exciting spectacle, begins already in the weeks before.
It is difficult and thrilling to describe the image of Our Lady under a rain dyed red that then acts as a carpet for the crowd that follows.Mary's pilgrimage then continues to the furthest outskirts of the country, under the scorching sun and the mugginess of the afternoon, which, however, do not discourage the devout spirit of those who follow her until late in the evening. It is precisely at the conclusion of the long walk that the band once again intones the Ave Maria, followed later by the ringing of bells and the display of fireworks. She returns to her home and here the cradlers holding her on their shoulders, before bringing her back to the foot of the altar and undressing her in her golden mantle, turn her shining eyes toward the chapel where the body of our beloved Saint Philomena rests.