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I never lie

· Reparata, saint of the month, recounted by Daria Bignardi ·

Annunziata did not want to leave Palestine, for this reason we delayed the departure, while Onorata, Immacolata, Consolata, Fortunata and Addolorata accepted immediately: they always listen to me, even though I’m the youngest sister. Consolata called me “our little star” and said that when I was born there was a comet in the skies above Palestine, smaller than the star when Jesus was born, “but there was”, she said, even though none of our other sisters remembered it.

Onorata is more practical: she understood straight away that to humiliate us publicly was what the emperor needed, and she did all she could to enable us to leave quickly. She prepared foccaccie with unleavened flour, a small jar of oil, good shoes, clothes and the little gold that our noble parents had left to us.

Andrea Pisano, “St Reparata” (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence)

Immacolata could not wait to take the word into the world. Addolorata instead was frightened, Fortunata did not believe that Decius had done what he said but felt that our time in Cesarea had ended when our parents died. She had said then that we should leave: Fortunata hears things before they happen but if she does not listen to them immediately she does not repeat them.

The emperor was listening to his worst instincts, he hoped to restore his power by persecuting us Christians but he ended up worse than us.

There are many ignorant people, poor people who are afraid. One must have known love in order to be able to give and receive it and I feel only pain for those who do not believe in the love of Christ. They call it pax deorum but to Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius Jupiter and Mars or Diana and Juno were of no account: he wanted power on earth, the small-minded man that he was and in order not to lose it he was capable of any crime. Only to think that he was a man of the aristocracy, not like the Arab, and even the foreigner Philip was less cruel than him.

But having me killed did him no good: Decius died a few weeks after I did. The Goths wanted to return the booty and leave, but he had got it into his head to destroy them. Thus in the Battle of Abrittus, he not only lost his life and the empire but also the future generation of his family, his son Erennio Etrusco being pierced by an arrow.

They say that on hearing the news of Erennio’s death, to reassure the soldiers Decius said “let no one be sad, the loss of only one man must not undermine the forces of the Republic”, but then he flung himself at the enemy seeking revenge, perhaps death. And it was the first time that a Roman emperor fell at the hand of a foreigner.

Onorata succeeded in escaping with my other sisters: I had told them all that we would meet in the large garden under the fig tree at dawn. I really believed we would succeed in getting there, I did not lie, I never lie. While they were beating me, they also held that against me, they said that I was proud and presumptuous and laughed. Now that I am dead I can admit it: pain is obscene.

Not death: one starts to die the moment one is born, death is holy and natural like life, but to live five or 50 years more, or less, changes nothing before eternity. Torture is horrible and humiliating: I would have done anything to make them stop, except for denying God or betraying my sisters. They pretended to be angry because I did not honour the Dii Consentes but I knew that they only wanted to show the people Decius’ power.

One beat me with a vine branch. Another other squeezed my breasts. Fortunately the third soldier knocked me out with a blow from a cudgel, which is what killed me. I believe he did it out of compassion, he had an expression that was different from that of the others, sadder.

Some have said that they cut my head off and put my body in a boat and that angels carried it to Nice. The story of the head is true, that of the boat is not true, or at least the body in the boat was not mine. They did not take me to any of the places that people have said, neither to Nice nor to Atri nor to Teano. I have always remained here in the yellow soil of Palestine, and I shall stay here until the day of the resurrection. I have seen so many little girls assassinated since then, in this sorrowful and holy land, many even younger than me, who was already 12 years old.

And still, as they did then, they pretend to kill in God’s name. Those who kill themselves and kill do worse, invoking the God that does not exist, thinking of a paradise that isn’t there: only Christ truly loves us, today as he did then.

Luckily my sisters brought the word of Jesus to the world, as far as Italy and France. This is my consolation, not martyrdom, no. Martyrdom is pointless.

None of them ever returned to Palestine, only I, Reparata, have remained here, dust in this earth and among these stones that have been my tomb for almost 2,000 years.

A journalist, especially a television journalist – for about 10 years she directed “Le invasioni barbariche” on La7 – Daria Bignardi (1961) is the author of several books translated into various languages, including Non vi lascerò orfani (2009), L’acustica perfetta (2012), L’amore che ti meriti (2014) and Santa degli impossibili (2015).

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