“Mama, la grotta, e’ vuoto!” said Benedetta. She was out of breath from running all the way home from the mountainside cave.
“What you mean it is empty?” said Mama. “Perhaps Rosalia was not at home.”
“No, I waited and waited, but she never came back,” Benedetta cried. “And her few belongings are not there anymore.”
She whispered to her Mama, “I just wanted to ask her to pray for Papa.”
“Do not bother,” muttered Papa who had heard the whole thing. “That girl… leaving all that she had -- so much more than us -- just leaving it all… to go live in a cave? …All by herself? …And for what? …For God? Why she no pray like the rest of us?”
Mama hugged her youngest. “Come,” she said as she led young Benedetta to the family’s evening meal, “Mangia. Maybe we try again tomorrow, eh?”
Benedetta and Mama returned to the cave many times, but they never saw Rosalia again. No one did. Eventually, they gave up looking for her.
But Benedetta often hiked up the mountainside to the grotto, particularly when she was feeling down. It was a special place -- a place to feel closer to God…
With the help of two angels Rosalia had moved from her cave on Mount Coscina to another cave on Monte Pellegrino. She spent the rest of her life there, overlooking the Bay of Palermo in her beloved Sicily.
With no petitioners at Monte Pellegrino, Rosalia was able to devote herself wholly to her God.
She even died in the grotto. Eventually a stalagmite formed in the cave, completely covering the entrance to her tomb.
Churches were dedicated in her honor in 1237, but Rosalia was not heard from for almost 500 years.
“Rosalia, it is time. Your home, your city -- they need you…” Benedetta cried.
Mama said, “Yes, it is His will.”
The girl was not well. The plague had killed almost a third of the people in Palermo. Was she next? But then Rosalia appeared to her in a dream…
“There, down on earth… He is near the cave. Rosalia, you see him? My descendant, Matteo...” pleaded Papa.
Matteo was out hunting and was hopelessly lost. He too had a vision…
"Don't worry," Rosalia told Matteo in an apparition. "I will protect you and I will protect the city"*
Rosalia also revealed to Matteo the location of the cave where she had spent her final hermitage. She told him to bring the archbishop and the leaders of the city to the cave. They were to break past the stalagmite and into the grotto. Then they were to parade throughout the city displaying her remains and relics.
Benedetta, Mama, Papa, and Rosalia watched it all from above…
Matteo found the cave. He found Rosalia’s bones and her few belongings: a silver Greek cross, wooden crucifix, terracotta cross, a rock with her name on it, and a primitive rosary (a string with one larger prayer bead and 12 smaller ones). Matteo did as he was told in the vision.
Those who had gone before watched the solemn procession down to Palermo…
Rosalia’s remains and relics were brought down from Monte Pellegrino. The procession wound its way to and through her beloved city…
And not long after -- the epidemic ceased.
Benedetta and her family watched from on high as Rosalia was named the patron saint of her beloved city.
In 1630 they watched Pope Urban VIII add Saint Rosalia’s name to the official list of saints.
They watched the yearly festino in July which celebrated the end of the plague in Palermo and honored La Santuzza -- Santa Rosalia.
Each September fourth they watched as the people of Palermo (and beyond), walked barefoot up to Monte Pellegrino on Santa Rosalia’s Feast Day.
And they watched as Rosalia’s hermit grottos became chapels which were visited by many -- not unlike Benedetta and her people had done so many centuries before…
Mama, la grotta, e’ vuoto! -- Mama, the cave, it is empty!
mangia -- eat
La Santuzza -- the little saint
festino -- festival
Benedetta, Mama, and Papa are fictional characters.
There is conflicting information and much unknown about Saint Rosalia.
Critiques and comments welcome. Thank you.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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