Ah, but that’s the way it goes. After all my agonizing about how long to stay in Ferrara, and finally letting the palio sway me into this extra day….
Yup. It was cloudy at the start of the day, and the forecast definitely called for rain just at the time the palio festivities would begin – 3/4 o’clock. But I had hope, which I carried with us through the first part of the day.
Which began – about 11:30 – with Mass at the Cathedral.
There is, of course, no paucity of churches in this city, even not counting the closed ones. But there is also, as far as I know, no masstimes.org that’s maintains a Ferrara data base, so I just took the easy way out, popped by the Cathedral on my early morning walk, checked the Mass times, and decided we would do the 11:30.
(As I mentioned before, there is a church around the corner, but, as I figured out this morning, it has been given to some variety of Eastern Catholics. I peaked in on orthros (morning prayer), and Divine Liturgy would have been great, but it was a tiny congregation and I wasn’t up to that level of engagement, as in…why are the Americans from Alabama here??? Not they wouldn’t have been lovely, I’m sure, I was just not up to it. )
So to the Cathedral it was, into which, as is the case with most historic churches, tourists continued to stream during Mass. Which is fine, because it’s evangelization, and indeed many people did pause and listen to the homily and observe various others goings-on during the Mass.
And believe me, they had plenty of time to check in and out of that homily. It was, I am not kidding you, as long as the rest of Mass put together, as Lina LaMont would say.
So, we’ll backtrack.
Celebrant was a 40-ish, energetic priest. He was assisted by a deacon and a religious sister who helped with Communion. No servers. An organ played at entrance and recessional, but no hymns. Just instrumental. The only sung parts of the Mass were the Alleluia and the Sanctus (in Italian). The sequence was recited by the congregation. Roman Canon, which I believe is mandated for Corpus Christi. The priest spoke for a few minutes before Mass, preached for thirty minutes, and then spoke for five minutes at least at the end of Mass.
Now, I don’t speak Italian, but if I know the context of the speech, I can usually pick up the gist, and especially so with Catholic-talk. So I discerned that this priest, who preached very energetically, was emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist. He probably did a great job! But what struck me was this: as I mentioned, his homily was as long as the rest of Mass. His manner of celebration was on the way-casual end of “say the black and do the red.” That is, he seemed to do everything he was supposed to, and there was nothing odd or off, but the ritual outside the homily was informal and hurried – and little of it sung.
So, despite a religious culture that can still put on a bang-up and lovely, moving Corpus Domini procession, it seems to me that if understanding the importance of the Eucharist is a priority, letting your own voice dominate the liturgy and celebrating in a casual way is counter-productive. The ritual itself sends a message. That does not mean stuffy and distant. It means letting the ritual itself communicate Who is among us via reverence, care and MUSIC. Thnx.
Then after Mass, the priest pointed to a small display to the side and explained things. What there was, in a frame, was a piece of cloth, apparently associated with the young man pictured beside it. Those who chose reverenced the relic. We did, with no understanding of who or what this was all about except, well, saints! Blesseds! Prayers! Always good.
I took photos and when we got back, figured out who this was and then immediately wished I had known at the moment. It was Rolando Rivi, a young (very young – 14 years old) seminarian killed by communists in 1945. NCR(egister) has the story:
In June 1944, Nazis troops occupied the seminary, and so all the seminarians were sent home. Rivi returned to his hometown of San Valentino, carrying his books with him to continue his studies there.
In San Valentino, the young seminarian never stopped wearing his cassock, despite the rising climate of violence. When his parents suggested he refrain from wearing it for his own safety, Rivi reportedly replied: “I study to be a priest, and these vestments are the sign that I belong to Jesus.”
The situation grew more difficult: Four priests were killed by the communist partisan brigades, and Father Olinto Marzocchini, San Valentino’s parish priest and Rivi’s spiritual father, was attacked and subsequently transferred to a more secure place.
Nevertheless, Rivi’s days were spent between service in his parish and his studies. On the morning of April 10, 1945, after serving Mass, the 14-year-old took his books and went to the nearby woods, where he was accustomed to studying. Yet this time, he never returned. At noon, his parents, worried because Rivi had not come back for lunch; they went to the woods and found his books on the ground and a sheet of paper, where the following words were written: “Do not search for him. He just came with us partisans for a while.”
Kidnapped and stripped of his cassock, Rivi was imprisoned and tortured by partisans for three days. Some of the partisans proposed to let him go, since he was only a young boy. But the majority sentenced him to death, in order to have “one less future priest.”
On April 13, Rivi was taken to a forest in the surroundings of Modena. The partisans dug a grave and had Rivi kneel on its edge. While he was praying, the young seminarian was killed by gunshots to the heart and head. His cassock was rolled into a ball, kicked around and then hung as a war trophy in the front door of a house.
Reconciling With History
After the Second World War, the official history of the so-called “Italian Resistance” exalted the partisan resistance to Nazi fascism and hid the crimes brought on in the name of this resistance.
This is exactly the reason why the “feast of faith” of Rivi’s beatification is such a blessed day for Italy, and it even can be considered a high point in the process of reconciliation in the so-called triangle of death.
After the Second World War, Rivi’s death was immediately described as a “private crime.” Yet journalist and historian Emilio Bonicelli gave great impetus to the cause of beatification. He read about the story of an English child who was miraculously healed of leukemia thanks to Rivi’s intercession, and this story brought wider recognition of the young martyr.
“This is how I met Rolando,” recounted Bonicelli, “and from then on, I fought to shed light on his story. In the forest where Rolando was killed, it seemed that hate won and that Rolando had been extinguished from history. But the Lord taught us there is no great evil that cannot lead to a greater good.”
I don’t know if the relic we reverenced was part of the cassock he was wearing when he was captured. I don’t think I will have a chance to get over to the Cathedral tomorrow to see, which is really too bad.
Clouds starting building after Mass, and I started obsessively checking the palio Facebook page. They said an official announcement of the status of the day’s events would come at 2. So we attempted lunch, and every restaurant was full and not available for walk-ins. It was raining for real now, so we didn’t feel like hunting down an open restaurant any longer..
.so…McDonald’s it was. Which is why American fast food has a niche in Europe. When many restaurants operate mostly on reservations and only serve through part of the afternoon, the all-day American-style convenience…helps. (Image via Snapchat – download and add me at amywelborn2)
By the end of lunch, the announcement had been made that the show would go on, but sadly without the parade from the piazza in front of the Cathedral to the piazza where the race would occur. We walked up (about a km) to buy tickets, and then walked back to the apartment to change out of church clothes and take a little break. Then back over to the venue where after about ten minutes…it started raining. Hard. I heard English being spoken behind me, and I turned to the red-headed woman and asked if she knew what was going on. No more than I, so as we waited we chatted. She was Canadian, having come over from Tuscany/Rome on her way to Venice – sort of the reverse of our route, without the Venice part. She was hysterical talking about the trip over – for her even longer because she was from Vancouver. “It was horrible. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought – I can’t go on. I am going to die.”
(Because of the discomfort of economy class. Yup, it’s cramped, made even more painful when you shuffle past The Royal High Class or whatever British Airways calls it, with their recliners in cubicles. And the fact that for the sake of helping us be more comfortable by giving lots of electronic gear plus the ability to charge our own at our seats, every seat now has a chunky metal box underneath, giving even less leg/foot space. I’m short and not tiny, but still smallish and I cannot imagine how bigger, taller people deal with these flights. But hey! I usually don’t complain because…I’m going to be in Europe in six hours. It’s still kind of Magically Weird to me.)
Oh, okay. The palio. Damn it, cancelled. Postponed til next Sunday. It’s certainly disappointing, but we did get to catch a bit of the spirit of the event as we watched the neighborhoods gather and cheer and just absorbed the moment. Theoretically we could come back and see it, but theoretically, there are more things on the other side of Italy that will probably take priority.
But you never know. Because…hahahahaha. I still have made no plans past next Friday morning, when we check out of the Rome apartment. Can you believe it? This is a record, even for me, queen of the last-minute Big Trip. We’ll talk about it tomorrow on the train or tomorrow night. The way things are going – which are fine, by the way – I am thinking that what we need is running room. By “we” I mean not me, by the way.
So, tomorrow it’s…bus to train station, train to Bologna, train to Rome, taxi to the apartment and then yup, say hello to Rome once again.
A palio is a competition between neighborhoods. The most well-known is that of Siena, but other Italian cities have them as well. These images represent the various neighborhoods.
Before the rains. This was a section for one of the neighborhoods. There was to be two footraces, a donkey race and then the horses. What I could never figure out is where the animals were being kept.
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