Thursday, 24 January 2013
The Italian Experience
Father Ignatius spent the early years of his priesthood in Rome, so he was quite fluent in Italian, although he had no opportunity to use his linguistic skills in St Vincent Parish. Until last week that is.
One of his parishioners, a wealthy businessman, invited him to a new Italian restaurant for lunch and to discuss the proposal to refurbish the church hall and Parish house.
It was a nice little restaurant beautifully decorated in Italian style resembling a typical fisherman’s cottage you’d find in Naples. Although the menu was mostly fish, you could still order a nice pizza or your favourite spaghetti or ravioli.
“We’ve refurbished and decorated this place” said the proud businessman as they sat at a table near the window.
“It’s beautiful” said Father Ignatius, “I hope you won’t decorate the church hall in the same style though …”
And so the conversation progressed throughout a lovely meal with the sound of Italian music playing softly in the background through hidden speakers. The priest recognized Domenico Modugno singing Volare and Mario Lanza’s version of Torna Sorriento. It took him back to happy times spent in Rome and Turin.
But that was not the only Italian that reached his ears that day. He noticed that from time to time the efficient waiters spoke to each other in their native language and commented on the customers sitting at table. Sometimes their comments were quite complimentary and pleasant, whereas at times they were quite rude and certainly inappropriate in his presence … if only they knew!
At one point he heard them speak about him.
“That man at table six is a priest,” said a waiter to another, “how can he afford to eat here? I thought priests were meant to be poor …”
“Don’t you recognize who’s with him?” replied the second waiter, “he’s the contractor who decorated this place. I bet he’s paying … you’ll see …”
“Just as well …” said the first waiter, “the priest looks poorer than a church mouse. I bet he hasn’t a penny on him …”
Father Ignatius smiled at himself and said nothing; except continue his conversation with his host.
When the meal was over, and just as they were leaving, Father Ignatius turned to the two waiters and said in Italian, “Grazie molto. Arrivederci.”
Three simple words, uttered in perfect accent, which spoke volumes to those they were addressed to. You should have seen their faces!