LAWRENCE — When Saints Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino were tortured to death because they refused to renounce their Christian faith, they could not have imagined that their martyrdom would continue to be honored in a huge way nearly 1,800 years later.
The 90th annual Feast of the Three Saints literally went off with a big bang — actually many big bangs — yesterday, with thousands of people drawn to the food, music and camaraderie near Holy Rosary Church of Corpus Christi Parish. Common Street, closed to traffic between Jackson and Union streets, was thronged with food vendors, games and people of all ages.
Union Street, which runs in front of the church, was jammed with revelers, many of them shouting “Viva Sant’ Alfio!” as the statues of the Three Saints were brought out from the church at 3 p.m. and positioned on a float, which then slowly processed through the neighborhoods where Italian immigrants lived many years ago.
Tony Pannisi’s arms must have been fatigued from ringing the bell of Holy Rosary hundreds of times. While the rain clouds held off — they say it almost never rains on the Feast of the Three Saints — it was raining confetti in front of the church.
Following the time-honored custom, people handed money up to members of the Saints Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino Society, who in turn attached the currency to the statues.
“All of the money goes to charity,” said Tony DiFruscia, 58, a longtime member of the society, which organizes the feast.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, celebrated the 10 a.m. Mass at Holy Rosary. He pointed out that Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino — three brothers martyred at the ages of 22, 21 and 19 respectively — have “touched lives for centuries.”
O’Malley, an accomplished linguist who earned a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature, spoke in Italian for several minutes about the virtues of the Three Saints.