We were sitting in the pub in Acquasanta having a half-assed half-Italian-half-English conversation with one of the girls who works there when a man with a bald head and a long white beard shuffled in wearing jeans, a sweater and sandals without socks.
I thought I’d seen him around town during Christmas-time wearing a monk’s tunic and maybe I had. He was in the pub now to ask if he could bless the place. Turns out, he’s a hermit, maybe a Franciscan friar, who lives in a house up in the surrounding hills. Going around blessing businesses and homes is something he does before Easter.
The owner obliged. She and the girl behind the bar moved over to him, explaining as he looked over at us not moving from our barstools that we were Americans. That seemed to be all the explanation needed. They bowed their heads and he began the prayer. We heathens, I mean Americans, stayed where we were.
Near the end of his spiel, he took a little silver wand-type thing, which added quite a bit to his modern wizardly appearance and shook holy water about the girls, the restaurant and even us Heath-americans as he stated, “In nome del padre, e del figlio e dello…”
I watched as he aimed the shaker in our vicinity and with the words “Spirito Santo” got a direct hit of holy water in my left eye. Alessandra’s shoulders shook as she peered up from her bowed head and stifled laughter, droplets hitting the top her head.
An hour later, standing outside the bar, a burning ember from a cigarette landed in the exact same eye. Seems someone somewhere in the spirit world took exception to my newly blessed eyeball. That eye hurt for hours.
Two days later, our doorbell buzzed, then our neighbors’. V opened the door to the vestibule the apartment doors share and found the same hermit, asking if he could bless our houses for pasqua.
Since both doors were open, V tried to suggest that the man stand in the vestibule and bless us all at once. The neighbors giggled.
“No, no. It is for each house, for each family,” they explained.
“No due per uno, insieme?” I ventured, getting only more giggles from next door and a strange look from the hermit in return.
We let him inside.
Just within the doorway, he handed me a card featuring Jesus and some apostles and began the prayer, container of holy water in his hand.
Not taking any chances this time, I bowed my head.