Last Sunday morning I attended the 88th Annual Festival for the Italian Healing Saints Cosmas and Damian in East Cambridge. At 8:30 A.M. the procession of the Saints began at the Society of Cosmas and Damian Chapel at 17 Porter Street in East Cambridge.
Accompanied by the St. Alfio and North End Marching Bands the procession advanced along Porter and Harding Streets to Cambridge Street and continued for several blocks to St. Francis of Assisi Church on the corner of Cambridge and Sciarappa Streets for a 9:30 A.M. high mass.
The festive and reverent high mass was celebrated by Bishop Peter Uglietto, Monsignor Anthony Spinosa, Father Walter Carriero, and Father Jim Darcy. Many of the hymns were sung in Italian, including the Canto Al Vangelo and the Saints Cosmas and Damian Hymn. The Cosmas and Damian Society banner and a tapestry venerating the Saints were beautifully displayed near the Altar.
After the high mass the procession returned to an outdoor shrine for the Saints in Gaeta Square at the intersection of Warren and Porter Streets.
Cosmas and Damian were physicians in Cicilia in the third century. They were raised in the Christian faith at a time when it was death to profess Christianity. They were captured and suffered three tortures to renounce their faith. They miraculously escaped injury from their tortures but were sentenced to decapitation. They were executed on September 27 in the year 287 as martyrs to the Christian faith. Many miracles have been attributed to prayers of intercession to the Healing Saints Cosmas and Damian, and they have long been the patron saints of Gaeta in the Latina province of the Lazio region of Italy.1
Immigrants from Gaeta who settled in East Cambridge brought the festival tradition to this country and celebrated the first Cosmas and Damian Festival in 1927. The Festival has been held annually every year in September.2
I was thrilled to attend my second annual Cosmas and Damian festival, honoring my Italian heritage by celebrating mass at the church where my mother and grandparents attended weekly. My mother attended the annual Saints Cosmas and Damian Festivals during her youth and remembered them with great fondness throughout her life.
In 2005 the Cambridge Historical Commission published an oral history anthology, All in the Same Boat, a compilation of real-life stories from residents of the East Cambridge neighborhood, including vignettes of the founding of St. Francis of Assisi parish and the Cosmas and Damian festival. Additional information about All in the Same Boat, including purchase information, is available at http://www2.cambridgema.gov/Historic/oralhist2.html.
For more information about the Saints and about the Cosmas and Damian Society of Cambridge and Somerville please visit the Society's website at http://www.cosmas-and-damian.org/index.html.
For additional information about last year's Cosmas and Damian festival please visit my blog post 87th Annual Cosmas and Damian Festival. For additional information about Italian immigrant culture in the Greater Boston area please visit my blog posts labeled Italian Culture.
1“The Lives of Saints Cosmas and Damian,” The Saint's Story (http://www.cosmas-and-damian.org/saint_story.html: 12 September 2014).
2“The Society,” The Society (http://www.cosmas-and-damian.org/our_society.html: 12 September 2014).