Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Latch-Key

Saint Gerard - Part II

Ten years later when he was houseboy for Bishop Albini at Lacedonia, children went home to their mothers with all sorts of stories told them by Gerard Majella. But the townsfolk had learned about the new houseboy themselves. Everyone had tales of his kindness, his visits to the poor in the clinic, his compassion. How he bandaged the wounds of the sick and brought them leftovers from the bishop’s table. Anyone who noticed him at prayer in the cathedral knew Gerard for what he was.
But the morning they saw him running down the cathedral steps with the Bambino, they didn’t know what to say! It was the last week in December in 1743. People stopped and stared at Gerard racing down the street with the statue of the Infant from the crib. A crowd followed after him. He paid no attention. On he ran to the public well.
What happened? What’s the matter?” Someone explained how His Lordship had gone for his morning walk, and the house-boy had locked the door and come down to the well for water: but as he leaned down to haul up the bucket, the bishop’s key had dropped into the well.
Gerard had by now tied a rope around the Bambino, and was lowering it gently into the well. “Gesu, Gesu Bambino” he prayed aloud, “find me my key. It’s the key to His Lordship’s house . . . and he’ll be back in half an hour . . .” Bystanders craned their necks to peer into the well. Others shook their heads and walked off. Some smiled a little smugly at the antics of the frightened houseboy. But when he pulled up the rope from the well and the dripping statue of the Infant came into view, there in Bambino’s tiny hand was the Bishop’s key.
In June of 1744, Bishop Albini died at Lacedonia and Gerard returned to his hometown of Muro. He had been apprenticed to a master-tailor before going to Lacedonia to work for the bishop and knew the trade quite well. Now after a short apprenticeship with a second tailor, he set up his own business in his mother’s house.
There’s magic in an established name. And the sign “Majella the Tailor” hanging over the shop brought many of his father’s old customers to the door. His growing reputation for faultless workmanship won him patrons from all walks of life. His prices were always fair. He was scrupulously honest. From the poor, he took no payment at all.
One day, a man came in with some goods for a suit. Gerard spread it on the table, and laid his tape measure along its length. “Mmmmm!” He shook his head. The cloth was much too short. The poor man could not hide his chagrin, as he had no money for more. “It is nothing,” said Gerard, running his fingers along the edge of the cloth. He measured it once more. Three yards . . . four . . . five! More than enough for a fine substantial suit! As a matter of fact, when the garment was finished, the man received a good extra piece of material. The cloth had grown longer under Gerard’s miraculous touch.

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