A MEETING WITH A SAINT

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Travel to Paravati
To return to Sicily, I took the same itinerary as the outward journey: London, Calais, Paris North, Paris Austerlitz, Genoa, and Rome. On my way home, I wanted to visit Paravati, the town where Natuzza Evolo lived. She was the woman the gentleman I had met in Saint Paul’s Basilica recommended me to see.
At Rome Termini Train Station, I found some information about where the town of Paravati was located. The clerk at the information desk couldn’t spot the tiny village easily at first, but he finally did.
“Paravati is not an autonomous town. It is a part of the municipality of Mileto. I advise you to get off at Mileto station. Paravati is not far away from there. You can use the same
international ticket without extra charge because Mileto is on the same railway line that takes you straight to Sicily.”
I got to Mileto station after some hours. Actually more than a station, it looked like a level-crossing keeper’s lodge in the midst of the countryside. I got off and walked on the empty platform. On the opposite railroad, a train, which seemed to ignore that tiny station, sped along. About two hundred meters ahead, there was a small house, so I headed there. Since the door was wide open, I took a little peek inside. There was a man with a red hat on his head. He wore a gray uniform. He was reading a book, reclining on an armchair with his outstretched legs on a console with a monitor and buttons of many colors. On seeing me, he gave a start of surprise. Apparently, few travelers passed through that train station.
“Please come in!” he said with his eyes wide open and full of wonder.
He closed the book, stood up, and held out his hand to me. He looked quite lanky, at first glance. His thick, black beard all around his face seemed to make up for his terribly thinness. His voice was stentorian and with no inflection.
“Is this Mileto station?”
“Yes, it is. Actually, there is not much passenger traffic here. The locals prefer to get off at Vibo Valentia-Pizzo station, and from there, they take a bus to Mileto. Once in a while, a few visitors arrive here, usually to see Natuzza Evolo.”
“That is why I am here. Can I take a bus to Paravati?”
“No, you can’t. There are no buses from here to there.”
“What can I do? I’ve come here just for Natuzza Evolo. Please help me.”
“You can walk. It is not difficult. You have two options: either walking on the road, which will take more time, or taking a shortcut down the hill. Keep in mind that this station will be closed after sunset.”
I opted for the shortcut and climbed up the hill, following the path that he had shown me. After about ten minutes, I caught sight of the first houses of the village. I couldn’t see either cars or people. I had the feeling of having landed in one of the old villages of the American West where the inhabitants lock themselves in their houses after a gun fight! I walked a little through the village and entered a bar. A woman behind the counter offered me a glass of water. I asked her whether it was possible to speak with Natuzza Evolo or not.
She answered that Natuzza lived in a community on the upper part of the town. I walked up to the top of the hill and got to the house where Natuzza was supposed to live. I knocked on the street door and a priest wearing a long cassock opened the door after a few minutes. He looked very kind and smiled all the time. He showed me into a small chapel and asked me to wait. Nevertheless, he didn’t guarantee that Natuzza would come down to see me. She lived on the upper floor, but she was weak, very weak. Because of that, she wasn’t always able to talk with the guests who came to visit her.
I sat on a chair and waited for her to come down. Now and then, I stood up, lounged around the chapel, and had a look at the pictures and books about Natuzza’s life. Along the sides of the chapel, there were cupboards, glass showcases, and desks where some objects related to her miraculous life and some books were exhibited. Sitting and strolling in the chapel, I felt like she was aware of me and was watching me from above.
I picked up one of those books about her life and leafed through the pages. Natuzza Evolo was born in 1924 in Paravati. She had no schooling, so she grew up illiterate. At the age of fourteen, she went to work as a maid.
I read on. One afternoon, after the mistress of the house offered some tea to her guests, Natuzza asked her why she didn’t offer anything to the priest.
“What priest?” asked the lady.
“The man who is standing in the lounge!” answered Natuzza.
“What are you talking about? I can’t see him. Where is he?”
“He is standing by the gentleman who is sitting in the armchair. Even though he is dead, I can see him. I can describe him. He is tall with a smiling face. His eyes and hair are black. He has a long nose, a broad brow, and a red birthmark in his cheek. He is laying his arm on his brother’s shoulder. Maybe only I can see him now, but he is present with us.”
On listening to Natuzza, one of the guests gave a start of surprise. Actually, his brother, who was a priest, had passed away a few years before. Natuzza’s description of him was flawless.
The handkerchiefs and bandages exhibited in the chapel showed writing, symbols, and drawings imprinted with Natuzza’s blood. In fact, whenever her sweated blood came in
contact with cloths, bandages, handkerchiefs and so on, it turned into holy drawings, symbols, and prayers, not only in Italian, but also in Latin, Greek, and other languages. The drawings consisted of angels, crowns of thorns, and every kind of holy object. Sometimes, passages from the Bible were written with her blood. Since she was very young, besides talking with the dead, she showed other paranormal abilities, which had been recorded not only in the book I was holding in hand, but also in many other texts corroborated by physicians, experts, and hundreds of witnesses.
I put back the book on the desk and lifted my eyes to one of Natuzza’s pictures. She wore glasses with brown frames. Her look was typically Italian. Black hair framed her beautiful face.
I don’t know why, but I felt that she was an intellectual. Her smile was simple, and her eyes seemed to show the great soul she had inside. After I waited for about an hour, three more persons came to the chapel. After a little while, another small group joined us. We all hoped to talk with Natuzza. The ones who came later lived in the neighboring villages. More than once they had tried to talk to Natuzza, but they hadn’t succeeded. One of the newcomers began to say the rosary, and we all joined in.
It was five hours since I had arrived at Natuzza’s house. I was afraid of missing my train. The thought of spending the night at the level-crossing keeper’s lodge didn’t appeal to me
much. It was located in the countryside, and during the night, it was locked. Nonetheless, I kept waiting. Talking with Natuzza was too important for me!
In the late afternoon, I saw the door of the chapel opening. Unfortunately, it was not Natuzza, but the priest who had welcomed me before.
“I’m sorry! Natuzza can’t come down,” he said. “The state of her health doesn’t allow her to meet you.”
I was very disappointed, but what to do! I said goodbye and rushed to the station. I didn’t go through the countryside shortcut. I feared coming across the shepherd’s watchdogs. So, I ran like the wind down the road, but I got to the level-crossing keeper’s lodge some minutes late. Oh, my! I had missed my train!
“You can take the next one to Vibo Valentia-Pizzo, if you like. That station is much more comfortable than ours. You can take another train to Sicily there.”
I accepted the railroader’s advice. While I was waiting for my train, we exchanged a few words.
“Could you talk with Natuzza?”
“No, I couldn’t!”
“Don’t be disappointed. Although you couldn’t see her, maybe your visit will have an effect on you.”
“How do you know that?”
“I have been attending this station for many years. Some visitors who passed through here said that they benefited from the visit although they couldn’t talk to Natuzza.”
The train arrived and I said goodbye.
On the journey home, I pondered his words. Like in a dream, I saw Natuzza’s very beautiful and warm face talking to me in my mind: I am too weak to assist those who need my help. I don’t have enough strength! I associated Natuzza’s words with my way of living that I used to have before leaving for London. At that time, I got along with only shepherds and sick people. I believed that the life of a true Christian should be based on staying with the poor, sick, old, and outcast. There is no difference between the healthy and the sick, the poor and the rich, because all of them are children of God. Therefore, I can’t find any reason why I should not associate with the sick and outcast, I thought at that time. Natuzza suggested to me how to solve this problem. She showed me the weak spot in my reasoning. Thanks to Natuzza, I realized that my cowardice drove me to surround myself with easy and non-demanding friends and women for the purposes of not being lonely and for having a little sex. What’s the point in staying with the poor, the sick, and the outcast? I went to meet them not because of Christian love, but because I was unsociable! Yes, I was a maladjusted man. I couldn’t socialize with normal people, so I felt it easier to flee society and withdraw among the weak, the poor, and the sick. Natuzza spurred me to live a new life based on pure love and joy.
After that visit to Paravati, my life changed radically, and my guilt complex subsided…
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

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