The Festival of the Jesus Christ Holy Ghost Lord of Miracles, in Ponta Delgada, San Miguel Island, featured in the Azores each year in the 21rst Century, is a relic of medieval Europe. This exercise of community spectacle remains one of a relatively few unique Christian displays of public mass devotions that are at the core of Catholic teachings worldwide.
To Mark Twain, all this hoopla was just superstition. “It is in communities like this that Jesuit humbuggery flourishes. We visited a Jesuit cathedral nearly two hundred years old and found in it a piece of the veritable cross upon which our Saviour was crucified. It was polished and hard, and in as excellent a state of preservation as if the dread tragedy on Calvary had occurred yesterday instead of eighteen centuries ago. But these confiding people believe in that piece of wood unhesitatingly.” Twain, Innocents Abroad (Chapter 6).
Despite Twain’s cynical remarks, I visited these islands in the mid-Atlantic Ocean (about 4 hours flight east of Boston) in May 2017 specifically to observe the annual Miracles event in Ponta Delgada. Regardless of one’s disposition to the practitioners of religion of any kind or of civic duty, this kind of community-wide endeavor reignites the imagination, for better or worse. To me, the fete was a reminder of the spirit of good will, of hopefulness and cheer and sadness combined, and of creativity that every nation and culture strives to facilitate from time to time.
After 4 days of strenuous activity associated with the 2017 event -- religious, civic, commercial, tourism -- I left the Azores with a mixed feeling.