· The saint of the month ·
A symptom of impatience could be detected on the woman’s face: her foot was tapping on the stone pavement. She was the mayor’s wife, she shared in her husband’s authority and the reverend Archpriest, the parish priest of the cathedral, was wasting her time. The elderly priest permitted himself a smile:
“Don’t worry, I’ve found a suitable girl. She always comes to Mass and…”.
He was interrupted by the lady’s assertive voice: “Does she make a good impression?”.
The Archpriest smiled again:
“She is pretty. She is suited to portraying our saint in the tableau vivant that we are preparing for the procession”.
The mayor’s wife, convinced, nodded.
“I’ll see to her clothes. I fully agree with your decision to prepare living pictures of our saints…”.
This time it was the Archpriest who interrupted her: “There will be a commemoration of St Rosina in our town. She is the patron saint of Wenglingen and there she is celebrated on 11 March, whereas we celebrate her in the Corpus Christi procession”.
Thus the decision was made.
In that year, 1769, the Corpus Christi procession in Miesbach had great importance. Living pictures in honour of several saints were organized on farmers’ carts, each one drawn by a pair of robust oxen. The tableaux followed the baldachin of the Blessed Sacrament, borne by the Archpriest and surrounded by all the priests of the town. The Blessed Sacrament was preceded by numerous representatives of praying corporations and orphans from the town’s boarding institution were there too, the small boys and girls who had just celebrated their First Communion and were now scattering rose petals along the way, the sisters and friars of the various convents, and so forth. Immediately after the baldachin of the Blessed Sacrament came the leading municipal figures, followed by the carts surrounded by the men of the Good Death, clad in sackcloth habits with hoods that fell forward, hiding their faces. Greta, the girl portraying the little St Rosina, was standing on her cart in front of a wooden archway which, with the help of painted dappled cloth, represented the entrance of a grotto. Greta wore a light-coloured tunic draped with a dark mantle, she held a palm branch in her arms while with her right hand she clutched the hilt of a sword so long that it was resting in front of her feet. She had with her the symbols of a virgin martyr while the grotto represented her role as a hermit. Involved in her role she stood motionless without looking around her. The procession wound down the main street, past the windows and doors of the houses and palaces decorated with flags and tapestries. Many simple people were taking part and when they reached the main open doorway of the cathedral the Protestants drew back while the Catholics streamed in. The three aisles of the cathedral were filled to overflowing. The priests of Miesbach, enfolded in the most magnificent vestments, were preparing to celebrate the service with the Tantum ergo which would conclude the rite. Those representing the saints in the tableaux vivants had special places reserved for them on both sides of the main altar. Greta stood between two men who represented the bishop protectors of Miesbach. No one noticed that her face was growing ever paler, she managed to resist until the end of the Benediction and then collapsed. Luckily there were three benches behind them and she toppled on to hers.
“A glass of water! Giver her water!”.
The concerned voice of the Archpriest had fatherly tones but was cut short by the furious voice of the mayor’s wife settled beside her husband in the seat of authority, who hurried over to Greta: “Water indeed! A resounding slap will bring her to her senses!”.
“She is only tired...” were the words of someone close by.
The irate lady continued:
“A young woman does not get tired even if she has to stand throughout a whole procession. She has fainted in a very crowded church and I as a woman suspect her condition. The very idea of coming to Mass! When you, Archpriest, entrusted the role of our saint to her the girl should have confessed her condition to you. This shameless hussy is pregnant”.
Her sharp tones were raised in the silence that had fallen around them and had shaken Greta. The young woman leant forward, raising her hands to hide her face. Whispering spread everywhere. All those present, from the priests to the authorities, from the working people to the bourgeoisie, were expressing their opinions.
“She’s a disgrace! She must be punished! She deserves the death penalty, the death penalty!”.
Alone the hands of the Archpriest, who looked magnificent and impressive in his embroidered chasuble, made a defensive gesture over her:
“What have you got to say for yourself?”.
Greta lowered her hands almost as if to protect her stomach:
“Perhaps this is best for me. It was an act of love, I did not think I had offended our saint. I had said so many prayers to her”.
At that very moment a voice rang out from among the crowd:
“Let me pass! Let me through! I have something to say!”.
A young man was elbowing his way through the throng to reach Greta in order to take her hand. The girl’s face was transformed, a joyful expression shone on it. The young man addressed her:
“I said many prayers to our saint too. She has granted us a grace, I have found a job where she is Patron Saint, in Wenglingen. My love, now we can marry”.
“If it’s a girl we shall call her after St Rosine, Hector”.
The Archpriest raised his arms smiling, while all around them the whispering became approval:
“I shall celebrate your marriage this evening. This is certainly a miracle of our St Rosine. All our affection must be offered to her”.
Nuccia Resegotti Palmas
Erminia Palmas known as Resegotti, who holds a degree in medicine and had four children in five years, was not tempted by the medical profession. She devoted herself instead to writing, signing her work Nuccia Resegotti. Her (adventure) novels for children have met with success: Tre + due: un’avventura per cinque [three plus two: an adventure for five] and her most recent book, Siamo tutti spie, [we are all spies], published by La Scuola, as well as Nevicò presto quell’inverno [it snowed early that winter], (Edizioni Messaggero Padova and, in response to requests from teachers, now published by Youcanprint). Her only work for adults is Le ragioni di Sara [Sarah’s reasons], a biblical historical novel (Youcanprint).
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 25, 2018
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