Why Bazaar Season is So Important


For many of us, summer is bazaar season.  Catholic churches across the Denver metro area and beyond host 3-day feasts with food, games, and rides.  Coloradans consider our bazaar in particular a yearly celebration of Italian-American culture.  Italians built our parish back in the late 1800s in an area of north Denver formerly known as Little Italy.  We are proud of our Italian heritage and it shows during our annual Bazaar.  

The Italian colors are everywhere, from our posters to our booths wherein we peddle a host of Italian goods – salamis, cheese, bowls, and more.  Above the din of the crowd, you’ll hear our musician singing, “Volare,” and “That’s Amore,” taking us back to the glory days of Italian-American crooners.  Symbols of Italy are everywhere, but nothing is as prominent as the food.  In true Italian-American style, there is enough to feed an army and then some .  We serve sausage sandwiches, pizza frittas, meatball subs, gelato, pizza, etc.  The list goes on.  


Our typical Bazaar crowd

There’s no doubt that our Bazaar is completely and undeniably Italian.  However, does anyone ever wonder why we have a Bazaar?  Is it to celebrate our Italian heritage?  Is it to raise funds for the church?  Is it simply a summer tradition?  The answer is yes to all, but that only answers what our Bazaar is.  The real, more important question is why do we celebrate every year around the 16th of July?  What is so special about this particular day, that we would plan our biggest church event around it?  

The answer to that lies in what we are.  First and foremost, we are a Catholic church, whose mission is proclaim and live the Gospel.  July 16th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our namesake and patroness.  Back in the 13th century, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock, holding the baby Jesus in one arm and the brown scapular in the other.  St. Simon Stock had been a member of the Carmelite Order and was living with a group of hermits on Mount Carmel.  At the time, the Carmelites faced persecution and oppression from its fellow clergy and they turned to the Blessed Mother for help.  She appeared to him on July 16, 1251, the day that would eventually become her feast day.  Our Lady gave St. Simon Stock the Brown Scapular with the following promise, “This shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire.”  Since then, the Brown Scapular has been one of the most popular and celebrated of Roman Catholic devotions.


Our Lady giving St. Simon Stock the Brown Scapular

Fast forward to 1904.  Our church was just rebuilt after being destroyed by a fire and was ready to be dedicated.  Mother Cabrini advised Bishop Matz to invite the Servites, an Italian-American order based in Chicago, to tend the new parish.  The Servites, more formally known as the Order of the Servants of Mary, are known for their staunch devotion to the Blessed Mother.  Thus, the order proved to be a perfect match for our parish.  It’s a blessing that the Servites continue to staff our parish 112 years later.

Although the community has come to know our annual Bazaar as an Italian summer fest, it’s important to remember the why.  Our Bazaar is a celebration of our patron’s feast day – the Lady of Carmel.  In fact, on the 3rd day of the Bazaar, we honor our mother, Mary, with a procession through the streets of north Denver in which we carry her statue and recite the rosary, much like churches in Italy do.  Back in the early days of our parish, masses of people participated in the procession.  It was not only an impressive testament to our faith, but a shining example of the verse, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18: 20).  Unfortunately, the purpose of the Bazaar has since been forgotten and the procession hasn’t been what it once was.  Only a few faithful remain who remember the reason for the Bazaar.


The Procession circa 1922

Therefore, I urge every parishioner, every Catholic, every person who loves and attends our Annual Bazaar to understand why we do it.  It is not simply an Italian feast, a church fundraiser, or a summer tradition.  It is a tribute to the Blessed Mother, our patron and treasured intercessor.  It is done in thanksgiving to her for the Brown Scapular and to pray for her intercession.  

I challenge you all to think about this every time you attend a church Bazaar.  Nearly every Catholic church in the Denver metro area and across Colorado hosts their Bazaar around their patron’s feast day.  Take the time to learn about our patrons.  There is a reason parishes were named after someone/something important in the Catholic faith.  For us, it is because Italians hold a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Our church is rooted in the Catholic faith and from that stems our Italian culture.    

Lastly, I invite you all to join us for our Procession.  It is a beautiful custom that is still practiced in Italy today.  It is imperative that we continue this tradition to revive our faith and to preserve our vibrant heritage.

Our Annual Bazaar is July 13th-15th.  July 13th from 6pm to 10pm, July 14th from 5pm to 10pm, and July 15th from 4pm-9pm.  We will have a special Mass to honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 15th at 2pm.  The Procession will follow.  Because of this special Mass, there will NOT be a 9am or 11am Mass on Sunday.

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