roberto luigi

roberto luigi
Tuscany, Italy
September 11
Born in Croazia ( then Dalmazia a province of Italy) and raised in Florence, Italy. Did university work in the USA with a master in semiconductor physics. Worked in hi-tech pretty much everywhere with long stints in the USA. Now living in Tuscany in the florentine hills with andrea, my american wife.


Roberto luigi's Links

DECEMBER 2, 2011 1:26PM

The altar boy, the soccer player and the archbishop

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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


                              The church


                      Frescoes from the 1300th


                               The cloister

And here I was, an innocent boy right after first comunion for the ritual photo for posterity.

scan0006  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 )

scan0004 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. 

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Great writing, Roberto…terrific story and spectacular pictures.

I went to public school here in the States and didn’t learn to serve Mass—until I was an adult in military service. The chaplain, a great guy, needed servers—and a friend of mine volunteered. He had gone to Catholic School and had served as a boy. I asked him to teach me the routine and the Latin.

We were stationed at a SAC base in England…and at some point, the chaplain arranged for a retreat to Rome for about 30 of us. During our visit (in the mid-1950’s) we attended a general audience with Pius XII at Castle Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Pontiff—and I actually got to serve Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (at one of the many side chapels, of course).

I’m an Agnostic now…and leave the ceremonies, teachings of the Church, and “faith” to others.

But I will never lose the pride I felt in having had that honor.

Like Toritto, I can still do the Latin...and when I attend church for funerals or weddings, I miss that part. I think the Church would have done better to stick with the Latin Mass.
Your post reminds me of my own childhood. I was raised in an ultra-catholic family in Montréal, Canada. Each night at 7 PM, I had to kneel around the kitchen table and recite the rosary with the Cardinal.
Our problem is that we did not have any Communist party because it was banned and those represented the very essence of the Devil.
This is priceless. What a handsome little fellow you were; if you look hard you can see a halo above your head. (Have to look REAL hard but I swear, I see it!) I remember getting my first stale wafer and panicking. They never warned what to do in a case like that. Spit out Jesus or chew him up? Ticket straight to Hell. I considered it a miracle that I didn't choke to death.

The foibles of the Church and clergy aside, I think there are few things more beautiful and transporting than a Latin Mass. You don't have to go to any church to find God but I can't help but think he might appreciate the fuss and why not go all out if you're going to bother at all.