The following comes from a Santa Clara Weekly article by Carolyn Schuk:
The Festa do Divino Espírito Santo – festival of the Holy Spirit – is the most important event of the year for Santa Clara’s Portuguese fraternal organization, the Sociedade do Espírito Santo (S.E.S.). But this year’s festa, on May 21 and 22, is even more important. It’s the 120th birthday of the S.E.S., which was founded in 1896 in Santa Clara. The first Holy Spirit festa was held two years before that, according to a 1912 Santa Clara Journal article.
The event is held on Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after the Christian holiday of Pentecost (50 days after Easter) celebrating the Holy Spirit.
Veneration of the Holy Spirit is a deeply-rooted religious folk tradition in the Azores, the ancestral home of many Portuguese in the Santa Clara Valley.
Devotion to the Holy Spirit dates back to a 12th century mystic, Joachim of Fiore, who believed that the second millennium would usher in the Age of the Holy Spirit, an age of brotherhood and enlightenment analogous to the 1960s belief in the Age of Aquarius.
In the 16th century, the Inquisition obliterated the tradition in mainland Portugal – Joachim taught that the new age would make the Church unnecessary – and the traditional practices only survived in the Azores, which was separated from the Inquisition by 900 miles of water. (Today, the tradition is encouraged by the Catholic Church as a ‘pious practice.’)
The tradition of the Rainhas comes from the Portuguese queen St. Isabel of Aragon (1271- 1336), known for her generosity to the poor. After the death of her husband, King Denis of Portugal, she joined the Coimbra convent of the Poor Clare nuns, founded in 1314 by St. Clare, for whom the City of Santa Clara is named.
Isabel devoted the rest of her life to the service of others and was known throughout her life as a peacemaker between the perennially warring nobility. One tradition says that she introduced the special veneration of the Holy Spirit to Portugal. She is buried in Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova in Coimbra – Santa Clara’s Sister City – and was canonized in 1625.
This year the Sunday festival parade begins at 9:30 a.m. on May 22 at the S.E.S. Hall on 1375 Lafayette at Lewis, and proceeds to St. Claire’s Church on 941 Lexington, for a 10:30 Mass. The return trip starts at about 11:30. Lunch follows at the S.E.S. Hall, and everyone is welcome. For more information about the S.E.S., visit myseshall.org or call 408-243-0811.