Shouts for joy on feast of the Immaculate Conception

Dec 14, 2023
Parishioners at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs celebrate “La Griteria” – a Nicaraguan tradition for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. (COURTESY PHOTOS)

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS | On Dec. 7, 2023, the community surrounding St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs may have noticed an unusual commotion coming from the church. The rattle of nearly 300 noisemakers and the joyous shouts of parishioners filled the air as the community celebrated the vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with the Nicaraguan tradition of La Gritería — “The Shouting.”

Father Edwin Cardona, pastor, processed into the church with children while a large statue of Mary was held aloft. Father Cardona repeatedly cried out, “¿Quién causa tanta alegría?” (Who causes so much joy?). Enthusiastic people responded, “¡La Concepción de María!” (The Conception of Mary!).

People shared their experiences of La Gritería and recited a rosary before Mass began. Following the celebration of Mass, statues of Mary brought from home received a blessing from the priests. The celebration continued at an outdoor altar in honor of Our Lady with traditional food and songs.

While many Nicaraguan parishioners have celebrated La Gritería in their homes for years, this was the first time they celebrated at the church with the wider community. Father Cardona said it is important to the community to celebrate the special day.

“It is our solidarity with the Nicaraguan community,” Father Cardona said. “Many of them are used to celebrating it in their homes, so it’s special for us to celebrate it with them and to unite our prayers with our Blessed Mother and with the Nicaraguan community, those who are here in our (local) community and also those in Nicaragua who are also in need of our prayers.”

Relationship between the government and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua have been increasingly strained in recent years with dozens of religious leaders arrested or forced into exile, religious orders expelled and a Catholic university run by Jesuits shut down. Earlier this year, the Vatican embassy in Nicaragua closed indefinitely. Since 2018, Catholic celebrations like La Gritería and Holy Week processions have been restricted. Amid religious persecutions, continuing these traditions is more important than ever.

“Gritería is a tradition that began in Nicaragua, but is now found in different countries around the world, coinciding with the veneration of the Blessed Virgin, as we share the joy she gives us that no one can take away,” explained Juan Cano, a parishioner and native of Nicaragua who helped plan the event at St. Mary Magdalen. He remembered Gritería celebrations of the past. “In Nicaragua at 6 p.m. every Dec. 7, the cardinal and the bishops in all the cathedrals of Nicaragua shout ‘Who causes so much joy?’ And the people answer: ‘the (Immaculate) Conception of Mary’ and take to the streets and many places, and in every house where there are altars, people shout the cry of joy.”

The community at St. Mary Magdalen brought that same spirit of celebration and joyful faith to the local La Gritería, whether it was a continuation of a long-held and beloved tradition, or something they were experiencing for the first time.

“It’s our connection with our Hispanic heritage, that we have our Mother as our patroness, our Mother who leads us to her Son Jesus. As you look around you see the connection of so many families who have gathered with us tonight,” Father Cardona said. “It is important to pass on these traditions to our kids, to our families … and to share that with all the families here. There are maybe eight Nicaraguan families here. The rest are from Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, [and] even some families who are not Hispanic. But together we are Mary’s children and we celebrate today with great faith.”

Uniting with celebrations around the world, and in a particular way, with the Church in Nicaragua, a special video message for the St. Mary Magdalen community from Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano of Nicargua preceded the Mass.

“We unite ourselves with you from Nicaragua because Nicaraguans intensely love our Mother and I know that you also love her intensely,” Cardinal Brenes said. “She is the cause of joy for all Nicaraguans scattered throughout the world and on this day, I wish for all of you a happiness and joy in honor of our Mother, the most Holy Virgin Mary. Listen to our Mother. She always gives us the best advice: ‘Listen to my Son. Listen to Him and do what He tells you.’”

Click here to watch a video of the celebration.

By Elizabeth Wilson, Special to the Florida Catholic, December 15, 2023