This year, I arrived too late for the candle-lit evening procession of saints’ statues from the church. However, on Sunday morning, I went to Mass in hopes of a procession afterwards.
At church, there were twice as many in the congregation as usual. There were 24 people. I did not recognize the priest, but I had not been to Mass there in a couple of months. The procession seemed to flow from the Mass; I don’t recall Father giving the customary blessing at the end of the service. One…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight statues left the church on platforms carried by male and female parishioners. They brought them directly outside the church where there was a gaggle of people, including officials such as Carlos Artur Simoes Esteves Maia, president of the Junta of Ervedal da Beira district, and the orchestra, who had played during the Mass.
Finally, the procession order was organized and the march began around the church and through the village led by the priest. I stood back and watched everyone leave the start. When a teenaged boy and girl debated about joining the procession, I decided that I would do so. I brought up the rear.
We stopped frequently at every street. I noticed red and purple flower petals on the ground. At the third stop, I arrived soon enough to see people on their balconies throw flowers on the procession. The ground was beautifully marked with the passage of the march.
We also passed houses with no one on the balconies; they were empty houses. Somehow, I felt that the spirits of the houses were very much alive. I felt that I was walking in a traditional procession that included everyone who lived in Fiais or had lived in Fiais. It was a touching experience.
I was honored to live in a village, where newcomers are accepted as one of their own. I know that I am not Portuguese, but I am of this village.
(From my memoir, PORTUGAL IS PERSONAL)