It all began at about the time that I started classes at the local church in Florence, San Salvi was the name; it was a country church built in the year 1048 and named after an archbishop of Amiens (it has undergone several upgrades and remakes through the centuries). When i burst onto the scene in the year 1950 to study in the catechism class it was well within the urban area of Florence
Frescoes from the 1300th
And here I was, an innocent boy right after first comunion for the ritual photo for posterity.
I had a serious expression and a slight smirk as during the ceremony I touched the holy wafer with my teeth having been told during catechism that doing so would have hurt Jesus and his blood would be felt in our mouths. Well, no blood and no taste of it either, but would I get some sort of retribution?
That summer I served as an altar boy and during the first mass, at one point after the comunion by the faithful, the priest turned to me to have water and wine poured down the chalice that had held the wafers, I was very skimpy on the wine so that the priest with an impatient gesture motioned me to pour more and I, a bit surprised, did pour just a little more! Perhaps mistankely I thought it rather odd, nevertheless my performance was deemed not stellar and I was never asked again to serve at mass!
Quite minor items, but seeds planted in a young mind for germination in later years; in fact fast forward in time and find me as a teenager playing soccer in a local team (I am the one jumping on the side of the two ball contenders )
The match was setup to inaugurate (with the presence of the clergy and local pols) a modern sport facility mostly funded by the archdiocesis of Florence, the team name? Cattolica Virtus! As it happened in the Italy of the fifties, the other team had as the sponsor the local communist party association, team name Marzocco (a lion, one of the symbols of the city); the match ended with the score of 1-1 in the politically correct spirit of the day, the legions of God and the heretical masses just resting for the battles to come (btw, the communist team was number one in the city youth league, we the faithful were number two).
After the match, we of the Cattolica Virtus team who were cleaning up in the locker room, were graced, oddly we thought, by the archbishop resplendent in his cerimonial robe, then were lined up to genuflect and kiss a ring on a short fat finger! Gigi, my great friend, and I just managed to sneak out while finishing to dress up and went to the "communist team" locker room where his eminence would not of course enter. It cost us exclusion from the starting lineup for two matches! A light penance albeit an unjust one!
Over time, the little episodes that had become part of the memories of a boy growing up, were sometime told to provoke mirth and laughter mixed with some serious thoughts as to what had come out, and still does, of some awful practices by the clergy, low and high, of the Holy Roman Church; as for myself I have become largely indifferent to the various Gods and doctrines....I do love the little country churches with their lovely small cemeteries guarded by severe cypresses, that dot the landscape here in Tuscany, all marvels of simply elegant architecture and spartan interiors almost invariably adorned with works of artists minor and major from the Middle Ages and on to the Renaissance and beyond.