Thunderstorms did not cancel the traditional Flying of the Angels at the 113th Annual Maria SS. Lauretana Festival in Berwyn, Illinois Saturday night.
Founded in December of 1900, the Maria SS. Lauretana Society of Altavilla Milicia in Chicago is a faith-based organization dedicated to maintaining the faith and traditions of our ancestors in honor of the Blessed Virgin under the title of Maria Santissima Lauretana. Each year, in veneration of our Blessed Mother, the Maria SS. Lauretana Society celebrates the traditions of honoring Her during a 4 day festival on Labor Day weekend in Berwyn, IL.
~ Its founding is rooted in folk lore that fishermen of Altavilla Milicia, Sicily found the painting of Her Holy Image floating in the sea untouched. When it was brought back, two neighboring towns claimed it belonged to them. To settle the dispute they put the picture on a cart pulled by two oxen and where they stopped was where the sanctuary would be built. Immediately, the oxen took to the highest spot in Altavilla and stayed there without food or water for three days. Since then, the people of Altavilla have held a feast over the first weekend of September in her honor.
To tell their story, men (fratelli) dress in fishermen’s garb on that Sunday and carry Her Holy Image on a ‘ship’ weighing close to two tons through the streets. On that same Sunday, the Society asks for Her protection with the traditional Flight of the Angels. Two girls are chosen to learn a customary Sicilian prayer that asks this of Our Lady and are ‘flown’ from a rope above the ‘ship’ dressed as angels from heaven. ~Santissima Maria Lauretana 2013 Flight of the Angels