I was thinking to write a post about my favourite saint today since it’s his feast day but had no free time. Then I remembered I wrote a story based on his life for a creative writing workshop few years ago. It could be good read for Catholic moms telling bedtime stories about saints. Enjoy!
“Which one will it be tonight, Eve? Should we do Pinocchio, Peter Pan? Selma’s Christ Legends? You like Robin Redbreast.”
“How about a saint story, mum?”
“I know just the one.”
“You are supposed to say ‘Once upon a time’.”
Once upon a time, on the eight day of May, when fragrant colourful flowers were at bloom, in a small oddly shaped one storey house, a child was born. The baby boy was the fifth child of a woman of captivating beauty in her thirties and a handsome man just entering his forties. He inherited the high forehead, quality of stubborn people, and thin, serious lips from his father. The aquiline nose was his mother’s. But the eyes were just his. Looking into them was like looking at a faraway galaxy. Someone once said looking the stars is looking back to past. But when his mother Barbara looked at that star gaze she could see the future. She somehow sensed that her baby boy will endure a lot of trials. Almost concentric circles of colours surrounded the deep black pupil of his eyes: first a golden honey star dust which we notice on the sky just after a star dies. Surrounding it was green sea, the kind of green a tropic forest looks like during the rain. The two circles were inundated in big sapphire blue.
Aloysius Victor, as they named him on the day of his baptism, was different in nature than their other children. He was very serene; like he lived in a world of his own. First six years of his life passed very quickly and peacefully. School was easy since he was a talented pupil and eager to learn. He surpassed the height of his classmates quickly. And was thinner than them. He will remain that tall and thin till the rest of his life.
Some of the older village boys he spent time with would take him searching wild fungi in the woods during autumn. He was almost magically attracted to the sound of old, mustard seed color leaves hustling in the wind. His personality was like that: paying attention to details no one else noticed.
Going to the big city in high school seemed easy. It was a normal course of things for him. His charisma attracted lots of new friends. But he missed the calmness of the countryside. The big city was too hasty. The only place offering him some tranquillity was a little parish church right next to school. Being a cradle Catholic, religion meant a great deal for him. He remembered the evenings when his family would pray rosary. It gave him comfort when he was away from home. One day in that small parish church the idea of becoming a priest came to mind. Renouncing both his family and the chance of having a family of his own was a tremendous sacrifice. Nevertheless one that had to be made.
Just a few months before graduating he joined the seminary. However, God had other plans for him in that time. The year he turned eighteen, war was furiously raging all over Europe. After graduating in June of that year he was obliged to go to military academy. He did so in July but in the February of the next year he was already sent to Italian battlefield. Aloysius was never the same after experiencing the war. Killing others was everything contrary to what his parents raised him for. Protection of life at all costs was what his mother had taught him. Ear-splitting sound of bombs and artillery shells exploding and piercing sound of bullets flying near him will stay in his ears years after. It was like hell on Earth. He lost all hope there.
Upon returning to his hometown he decided not to go back to seminary. Instead he took over of what has become, with hard work of his parents, a large estate. Then there was the time to find a wife. His father Joseph suggested some of girls he reckoned will suit him. None of them appealed to Aloysius. Probably because he could still not forget the one he was in love with when in third grade. Mary, the daughter of his first teacher, was his first love. He gathered strength to send her a letter asking her hand in marriage. Mary loved him too when they were children. Moreover, he was elegant and had a wealthy estate. They exchanged letters more than a year before they engaged. Mary had a strange feeling on the day of his engagement. Aloysius did not even kiss her when they exchanged rings. Sensing there was something inside him that is stopping him from fully committing, she returned him the golden engagement ring with little pear-shaped amethyst stone.
Aloysius was not surprised. Mary felt the brawling going on inside him. “This is it” he thought. “This is the sign that I am called to be a priest”. Telling it to his parents was disquieting. But Joseph and Barbara were not surprised. His mother later revealed that she had been praying even before he was born and during his whole life for him to become a priest.
After four years of becoming a priest he was already made an archbishop. Another war came raging, destroying everything before it. His mission now was to help all those in need. The whole archbishop’s palace next to the cathedral was filled with refugees. A baby girl was even born on his bed one day. Her mother was escaping Gestapo. Archbishop Aloysius later even wrote them a baptism certificate so she could flee the country easily. “Life is precious” he remembered his mother saying. “Guard it at all costs”.
He was preaching it from the cathedral pulpit every Sunday. A German soldier once said that if he were in Germany, he would never get out of the pulpit alive.
“He was very brave.”
“Yes, he was. I see you’re sleepy. But now comes the best part of the story. Well, actually the worst.”
“Go on, go on! I’ll stay awake I promise!”
It was no easier when the war ended. The communist regime had forbidden every type of religion and spirituality. Catholic Church was assaulted even more because it was faithful only to the See of Peter. Aloysius was taken to jail on false accusations of cooperating with the bad guy. They had put him on public trial. A sham trial it was. Only false witnesses were allowed to speak in the courtroom. Aloysius was sentenced to sixteen years in prison. While in prison only his mother could visit him. She came for the first time all dressed in black, like a mother mourning her beloved son’s death. She carried a rosary in one hand and little black bag peasant women would wear when going to the city to buy supplies. Reaching in the bag she pulled out a piece of bread shrouded in white cloth. Giving it to him she broke into tears. Aloysius comforted her saying everything will be alright. That was the last time he saw her.
During the long years at the jail, the bud guys had been poisoning Aloysius. A small white cup with silver edge full of oleander tea guards gave him each morning caused his heart to beat slower and slower until it stopped.
“Like Selma’s Robin Redbreast.”
“Yes, just like Robin. Both Robin and Aloysius sacrificed themselves for Christ.”
Aloysius was more dangerous to them dead than alive. Some day in the future someone could find out he was being poisoned so they decided to secretly burn his insides so there is no evidence. They took his body to an autopsy room in a police station and started burning his organs one by one. However, in a moment of carelessness of the policemen, a good doctor named Peter took Aloysius heart from the tray they put all of his organs to be burned, hid it under his coat and leisurely left saying he has other important things to do. It sounds peculiar, but Peter wanted to save Aloysius heart: heart that loved God, so it can become a relic. The heart is a symbol of a person’s emotions, of his martyrdom, of his entire life. Peter knew Poles are guarding Chopin’s heart, Irish people O’Connor’s and Croats in Dubrovnik that of the great scientist and Jesuit Ruđer Bošković. He handed it to the Aloysius fellow bishop. Despite all Peter’s efforts the police found out and returned it to the station to be burned. They opened the doors of the fiery furnace to throw in the vivid red heart. It ignited throwing golden flames around. Like when a star dies. After quickly washing bloody hands they stood there making sure only dull gray ashes are left. The lit their cigarettes on that same fire grinning: “They say he’s a saint, but look how he burns”. But they did not realise that the ashes of Aloysius heart went up the chimney and spread the love all over the world.