Feast of Our Lady of the Chain

 

THE ORIGIN OF DEVOTION OF OUR LADY OF THE CHAIN

In 1390 when Martin was King of Sicily, there were three men who had been condemned to death by hanging.  They were standing in the public square of Palermo waiting to be led to the place of  execution.  Escorted by guards and accompanied by a large crowd they began their journey.

Suddenly everything changed.  A tremendous storm broke.  Where the sky had been peaceful, it was now heavily clouded, a strong wind was blowing and there was lightening.        Frightened, the crowd ran away and the soldiers took their prisoners to shelter in a small church nearby.  This was known as the Church of Our Lady of the Gate.

As the storm showed no sign of easing, the guards decided to spend the night in the church.  They made sure that the prisoners were securely chained and then they settled down as well as they could.  Before long the soldiers were sound asleep.  But this was not the case with the prisoners; for all they could think of was that tomorrow, they would die.

In that little church, a small picture of the Virgin Mary was visible above the altar.  The eyes of the prisoners were drawn to it and as they prayed they became convinced that she could help them.  Falling on their knees, they prayed to be freed from their chains and from imminent death.  They heard a heavenly voice:  “Go.  Don’t be afraid.  My Devine Son has heard my prayer for you and has already loosened your chains.”  At that very moment the chains fell from their hands and their feet and they found themselves free men.  The door of the church opened by itself and going out, the men returned to the city proclaiming openly what Our Lady had done for them.

Meanwhile the guards awoke and found the prisoners missing.  Terrified, they ran into the city looking for them and found them in the public square.  The guards recaptured the men and again tied them with chains, but when they heard what had happened they asked their superiors what they should do.

News of the event spread through Palermo.  Crowds made their way to the little church and the earlier grace to the three condemned men was confirmed by a number of miraculous cures that followed.  Finally the King and Queen heard of these events.   They cancelled the death sentence of the three men and themselves went as pilgrims to the Church.  Eventually the small church with the title of Our Lady of the Gate was replaced by a larger one dedicated to Our Lady of the Chain.

 

HOW THE STATUE CAME TO MAREEBA….

In September 1959, the Catalano family were gathered in Brisbane where Salvatore Catalano was to undergo surgery for cancer.  Complications occurred and it was feared that Salvatore would not survive; he told his family that if he survived, he would bring the statue of Our Lady of the Chain to Mareeba.

The family prayed to Our Lady and Salvatore made a full recovery, it was indeed a miracle.  As soon as he was well again, Salvatore returned to Mareeba where he and    Leonardo Brischetto began fundraising to pay for the statue to be sent from Italy and fulfil the pledge he had made.

The statue arrived in Mareeba and in September 1961, on the anniversary of the “miracle.”   The celebration of the Feast of our Lady of the Chain continues today.  People come from near and far, many donating “Chains” or “Gold Jewellery” to Our Lady as they pray for their own miracles.

 

THE CELEBRATION TODAY

The celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of the Chain is now held on the second Sunday of September each year. Mass is celebrated in the Church of St Thomas of Villanova in Mareeba at 2.30pm.  The Italian Choir fill the Church with song and children from St Thomas’s School are invited to come along and be a part of the celebration.

Following Mass, the statue of Our Lady is carried out and placed on a carriage which is then processed through the streets.  The combined St Stephen’s and St Thomas’s Schools Band play and the Italian choir sing Italian hymns.  The Priest leads the Rosary.  The statue returns to the Church where the Rosary is then completed.

Entertainment continues on the School grounds with the combined School’s band performing until 6pm then Brisbane entertainer Fortunato Isgro accompanied by Claudio Portelli continue to entertain the crowd.  The music is infectious and before long, many are up dancing!

A delicious variety of food is available for purchase.  Home-made gnocchi and pasta, delicious steakburgers, hot chips and Italian sausages are sure to tempt you along with a licenced bar to quench your thirst.

To finish your meal, there is a tea and coffee stall with the delicious Italian sweets including home-made cannoli, crostoli and nougat and a huge variety of Italian sweets.

A Pesca (Lucky Dip) has a huge variety of wonderful prizes to win and for the children there is face-painting and jumping castle to keep them amused.

At 8.30pm the night concludes with the most amazing fireworks display by Xplosive Art.

The celebration relies heavily on public donations and sponsorship from the following businesses:

A & A Reality Angelo’s Fine Foods Apels Solicitors Girgenti Real Estate
Graeme Shoe Store Mareeba Shire Council  Xplosive Art  

    

 

CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF CAIRNS

183 Abbott Street, Cairns  QLD  4870    |   PO Box 625, Cairns  QLD  4870
Ph: 07 4046 5620      |       Email:    reception@cairns.catholic.org.au