Monday, September 5, 2011

May 8, Sunday in Cremona

There was an emergency during Sunday mass this morning.

Around 9 am, I walked with Martina, Primo, Rosa and Mattia to church. It's just a five minute stroll from home. The family prefers a pew nearer to the rear of the church and I always take a seat on the inside aisle of the pew, to better see everything and I like to record the singing interludes, using my iPhone. Rosa was sitting next to me.

Halfway through the service, I saw an older woman fall sideways, right off a pew and onto the center aisle. Her head hit on the stone floor, with the sound echoing throughout. There was a collective gasp and immediately two women and two men were crouched down to assist. They were careful not to move her and the priest stopped his sermon. He called out to someone in the room behind the altar. Rosa whispered to me that an ambulance had been called.

The priest (the same one who performed the marriage ceremonies for both Rosa and Marta) came down from the altar area to check on the elderly woman. He knelt down and kissed her forehead. He then returned to the altar and resumed the services. I could see she was moving her hands. Rosa told me later that the woman said she was okay and she only wanted to go home.

The services continued, even as three ambulance attendants, dressed in bright yellow uniforms, brought their stretcher down the aisle, gently placed her on the gurney and quietly whisked her out. As they passed by, I tried to send good thoughts. Her eyes were closed and her coloring was chalk white. We could faintly hear the siren as they drove off.

I am remembering one Sunday, when Leo and I attended mass in Palm Springs, with three of his students, two girls and a boy. The boy's mother was American and each summer, he spent several months a year in California with his uncle's family. He felt comfortable being here in the states.

It was June and we had been spending a three day weekend at my family's condo in Palm Springs. It's a simple, comfortable place with a shared pool on the condominium's grounds. Leo loves it there.

On Saturday evening we had barbecued steaks on the outdoor charcoal grill and introduced the students to s'mores. After dinner, the young man had checked on-line, found an address and mass schedules for the nearest Catholic church. He asked permission to be dropped off on Sunday morning. It evolved that we all decided to go together. It was the only time we ever attended mass with visiting students.

During the mass, the Italians were impressed with the orderly emptying and filling of the pews, one pew at a time, during the sacrament. Leo leaned to me and whispered, "In Italy, everyone just crowds up at all once. Here, as usual, Americans have their own unique way of organizing even the mass. This training comes naturally, this American trait of working together as a team, without direction."

I was impressed today with the Italian calmness I saw in the church. I have had interesting discussions with Martina after her parents passed. Perhaps it's the Italian Catholic philosophy of life, death and acceptance of the natural order of life's events, along with the faith of believing what comes afterwards. This lifelong religious training, nurtures a feeling of hope for the living.

Santa Rita, my favorite saint.  I always take a moment to say hello to her.

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