St. Casimir’s celebrates Assumption with Harvest Festival
St. Casimir Church celebrated the Assumption of Mary with its annual Lady of the Harvest and Herbs Festival. The Aug. 15 event began with Eastern Catholic Ukrainian chants and included a blessing of herbs and oils and a social with the sharing of a Sacred Harvest Loaf, cheeses and summer beverages.
The custom of gathering herbs and wildflowers for a blessing on Mary’s feast was common throughout Europe since the 10th century. The blessed flowers and grains were then taken by farmers and scattered in fields and gardens, along with prayers for a good harvest next year. The blessed herbs were kept over the winter because it was believed they had both special healing powers and heightened quality as seasonings.
“It’s a Catholic tradition,” explained Father Czeslaw M. Krysa, senior parochial vicar of St. Casimir. “It’s the summer harvest festival where everything is offered through the hands of Mary to God. The symbols of Mary are the flowers and the healing herbs and the grain because she offered her body for Jesus to become a human being. All of that comes together as we celebrate Our Lady’s assumption, which is her birthday into heaven.”
He points to the window on the south end of the church which depicts the feast of the assumption.
“The people here remember doing this with their grandparents, and some of the grandparents bring their kids here to pass on the tradition to them, because we believe it’s the practice that solidifies the belief – the practice of blessing the flowers.”
Along with bouquets brought in by the congregation, Father Krysa blessed essential oils, concentrated extractions from plants used to reduce stress, treat infections, and aid sleep, that are popular these days. “It’s good to bless those as well, and to use them even for regular daily use,” Father Krysa said.
Following the Mass, a showcase of traditional Polish festival clothes was presented.
One of the characteristics of St. Casimir’s is its “Event Worships,” which attract people from outside the neighborhood.
Sophie Knab has made attending the traditional harvest Mass a tradition of her own.“I
t’s lovely that the Polish Catholic traditions were interwoven into the Mass, and we remember Our Lady as the giver of all the earth, the flowers, the herbs. So, it was a beautiful experience. I’ve been coming for forever,” she said.
“It was very spiritual and his homily was really good too. It was to the point,” added Lala Markut.