Photo of people attending mass inside the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in downtown Naples

Inside the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in downtown Naples

Mariateresa Fichele

In Naples you will often hear people exclaim: “Maronna ro Carmine!"

To understand the meaning of that expression, here's a true story from my childhood.

Although everyone called her Maria, my grandmother's real name was Maria Carmela, taken from the Madonna to whom she was devoted. And if you’re not from Naples, you wouldn’t know that Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Maronna ro Carmine in Neopolitan) has been distributing bonafide miracles since the 1400s.


So when I was six years old and the ophthalmologist diagnosed that I suffered from astigmatism and hypermetropia, my grandmother turned to her. No, she wouldn’t have any of it. It was not acceptable that her granddaughter, like her two short-sighted daughters, would be "condemned" to wear glasses.

So began our Wednesday pilgrimages to the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in downtown Naples, where I quickly became familiar with the world of the sick, the miraculously healed and the voting offerings. And it wouldn’t last long. After six months, my mom took me for a new check-up. The miracle was complete.

"Signora, I don't know how it's possible, but the child is perfectly healed.”

I remember as if it were yesterday my grandmother in tears: "Miracle! miracle! It was Maronna ro Carmine!”

I cried too because the first thing they did was take away my glasses to bring them as an offering to the church. I really liked those pink glasses, and I really liked my Wednesday visits to that brown Madonna, cheek-to-cheek with her child.

I often wonder if the way I have narrated these events to myself and others has had an influence in my professional choices.

Psychiatrists rarely heal; our objective is to alleviate suffering.

Sometimes, however, "healing" does occur. For the doctor, there is of course a sense of joy, but also questions. Was it the drugs, or my work, or the events... or maybe things were just supposed to happen this way?

For me, another thought also flashes in my mind: "He’s cured! Maronna ro Carmine!"

Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.

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