The man went around the back of the villa and I could hear people working and talking. I passed a small artist workshop which housed mosaic upon mosaic. Two men were near the workshop working on what appeared to be a pergola of some sort. One of the men noticed me and asked in Italian if he could help me. I explained in Italian that I didn’t speak the language very well but I was lost. He asked in perfect English, “Do you speak English?” Phew…..
He and the other man came down the path to greet me. The older man didn’t speak English, but the younger man, Fabio, translated and explained that he was the “superior” of the Community of Saint Joseph and his name was Father Emilio. Father Emilio smiled big. We shook hands and made introductions and I explained that I didn’t know where I was and I just followed the wall. The priest asked if I had come from the church. “I didn’t even see a church but I like to garden and was wondering if I can see the grounds.” was my answer. I felt dumb. I didn’t know there was a church, a community or even where I was in relation to the city center. The priest continued to smile and told Fabio to show me whatever I want to see. Fabio started walking towards the greenhouses – so I followed. He explained that Father Emilio was not just the priest, but the caretaker for the entire grounds and loved working with herbs. There was even a writer living on the grounds writing a book on herbs.
The greenhouse was full to the brim of flowers, herbs and even succulents. I asked if they sold plants to raise money. He looked at me kinda funny and said, “Money never transfers hands here.” I apologized, but explained that I had no idea what exactly the Community of Joseph was about or for that matter, who don Calabria was. Fabio explained that don Calabria was a saint and that he founded the community of Saint Joseph to help those in need. Fabio himself had been there only a few weeks and had come from the middle east, where he been on a path of “cleansing” his soul. There where communities of don Calabria all around the world, but the saint was originally from Verona and had in fact died there on the grounds almost sixty years ago.
As we walked towards the church another man joined us, smiling. Fabio introduced him as Simone. Simone had lived in the community for a few years. He was very friendly and although he spoke no English, he smiled a lot. The three of us walked to the church grounds and continued our talk. Before we entered the church Fabio told me that no one just happens upon a place; they are meant to be there. I agreed.
They then showed me the church grounds, the gardens, the vintage car, the coffin of don Calabria and the chapel itself. Then Simone asked us if we wanted to see something. Fabio translated for me, we both said “yes” and followed him. Simone took us through a side door, up a set of winding stairs and into a second floor hallway. He smiled, opened a door and led us into the bedroom of Saint Calabria himself. The place I am sure he died. Everything was still the same and not touched for almost sixty years. He then led us to other doors housing his sitting room, his private collection of books, his clothes, a vile of his blood, etc…. smiling the entire time and standing by, waiting to show us more.
When we reached the end of the mini tour Simone stood by a wall wich held a small bowl. In it were little pieces of wood with numbers on them. Fabio told me they represent tears and will tell us what we need to know. I chose the number 77. Above the bowl was a plaque with what must have been a hundred or so phrases on it – all numbered. Fabio translated my phrase for me and it read something like, “That which you seek is inside of you. God rests within your soul.”
I had left the Catholic church long long ago and honestly don’t believe in organized religion at all. But there I was, standing on the grounds of the Comunita ‘S Giusepe of don Calabria, holding a little piece of wood telling me that that which I seek is within me. Interestingly enough…. I already knew this – but it was good to be reminded.
I was invited back whenever I wish and even told when they stop for coffee each morning. I assured them I’d be bringing my mother and sons back to visit. Walking back to the gardens with them I thanked don Emilio, Fabio and Simone and found my way back to town.
When I reached my flat I saw I had been gone almost six hours. For a woman who wanted to stay inside for the day and lounge and ignore the world, I had been on quite the journey….