lunes, 7 de julio de 2008

¡Viva San Fermín!

Forget Hemingway, forget the Running of the Bulls ... today is the feast day of St. Firmin, or San Fermín as he is called in Spanish. The world-famous nine day festival which surrounds his feast began yesterday at noon, and for the next eight days, Pamplona will be awash in red and white and vibrating to the pulse of one of the world's most famous annual festivals. Barbecues and gatherings of family and friends, plenty of red wine, lots of music and dancing, nightly fireworks displays and, yes, the Running of the Bulls will be the order of the day until midnight on 14 July, when it seems as if the entire city will gather with candles in the plaza in front of the town hall to sing the "Pobre de mí" which marks the end of the festival for another year.

I'll be posting more about the San Fermín festival over the next few days. Today, however, it is important to remember the person and the events at the heart of the festival.

Saint Firmin, son of a Roman senator, was a native of Pamplona. With his father and the rest of the family, he was taught the Christian faith and baptized by Honestus, a disciple of Saint Saturninus, the bishop of Toulouse, himself the disciple of Saint Peter the Apostle.

St. Firmin, having been entrusted to Honestus for his education by his father, left Pamplona and accompanied him on his apostolic journeys. He was ordained and eventually consecrated bishop himself and received the mission to preach the Gospel in the remoter parts of Gaul. TAccording to tradition he preached in the regions of Agen, Angers, Beauvais, and what is now Clement-Ferrand.

Desiring martyrdom, he decided to preach the Gospel among the pagans in the north of Gaul, in what is now Normandy, near Lisieux. There he was arrested and imprisoned for a time; when he was released he continued on towards the north, to a region where Saint Denys of Paris had baptized many. The Roman authorities eventually heard of him and arrested him for preaching the Gospel. Again he was imprisoned, but released when the prefect and his successor both died suddenly. He was obliged, however, to flee secretly.

Returning to Amiens, he established his residence there and founded a large church of faithful disciples. Amiens conserves the memory of the day he arrived and preached fearlessly there beside a temple of Jupiter, at a site where now the Basilica of Our Lady stands. Many conver-sions followed, even among the authorities of the city, including the senator. He continued his preaching in that region for a number of years, literally emptying the pagan temples of worshippers. And then two Roman officials, Longulus and Sebastian, heard of him and came to the city.

When all the city residents were convoked to appear before the visitors, the pagan priests had their opportunity to denounce Firmin. The two officials explained that the capital penalty was decreed for those who did not obey the imperial edicts, not offering incense to the gods and honoring them. The pagan priests then told them that Saint Firmin always refused to do so and, after an eloquent defense of the religion of Christ, Firmin was imprisoned. He was decapitated at midnight in his prison cell by imperial soldiers who decided to take it upon themselves to fulfill the imperial orders. His relics are honored in both Amiens and here in his native Pamplona.
Now it's time to get out the door to see the fireworks. More tomorrow!

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