Morning began nicely for Cardinal Fratelli. He rose, dressed, said morning- prayer, celebrated Mass and ate a hearty breakfast. Right after finishing his eggs and pastry smeared with pepper jelly, he met with a priest from a neighboring parish, Father Adreo and they discussed opening on orphanage in Lucca.
“A wonderful idea,” Fratelli said, leaning back, sipping a hot cup of tea.
Dina quickly poured Adreo a cup but the young priest politely refused.
“This is something very close to my heart,” he then said.
Fratelli answered, “I have not a single problem with it long as we can raise funds and can find a proper location within the city…maybe I’ll look into something.”
“Oh thank you, Your Eminence,” Father Adreo said standing up.
He took Fratelli’s hand, kissed his ring and hurriedly departed. Both of them had quite a bit of work to do before noon.
Glad to have a moment of free time, Fratelli sat enjoying a cup of tea, watching bright, yellow afternoon sun spread through windows. Soon, Dina approached.
“A fine gentleman is here to see you, about a blessing in the town square?”
“Oh yes, I forgot!” Fratelli said, “They want me to bless Lucca’s newest water-fountain.”
It was custom for the bishop of Lucca to bless new fountains, statues and fixtures, and it would be a glamorous ceremony indeed. Gianni soon scampered in. The boy certainly hadn’t forgotten about it.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” he said, running in a circle.
“Please be calm Gianni,” Fratelli scolded, “I need you, after all, to the carry the train of my cappa- and to do so with dignity and grace.”
Hearing the word “cappa” made Gianni’s eyes light up even more. The long, bright scarlet cape was his favorite garment and he couldn’t wait for Fratelli to wear it. Fratelli however, could wait.
After meeting with the gentleman who then left, anxious to arrive at the ceremony, Fratelli slowly prepared and dressed for the occasion. Father Rodrigo approached with a younger deacon who worked in the parish. Lastly, Gianni came forth, sucking his stomach in to appear slimmer in his white server’s robes. Much to Gianni’s anticipation, the two clerical assistants ahead of him wrapped the great, volumous cappa around Fratelli’s shoulders. Smiling proudly, Gianni held its train off the ground. Carefully, with help from Father Rodrigo, Gianni folded up the draping garment, making sure none of the fine cloth could snag or catch, as they neared an elaborate carriage. Together, they climbed aboard and headed to the town square. Now, the piazza was only a few blocks away, quite close to the cathedral, but they wouldn’t let the cardinal walk and risk dirtying his garb. It was important to make an entrance. Feeling a slight knot in his stomach, Fratelli could care less for entrances as he heard music playing in the distance.
People milled about the piazza, children ran to and fro, being reined in by their mothers, and several dignified individuals waited in a line. These greeted Cardinal Fratelli as he stepped out of his carriage. Crowds and music clamored as they exchanged salutations. In an elaborate but small procession, Fratelli walked around the piazza, mouthing silent prayers. Draping behind him, the cappa stretched like a thick ribbon of red. Once nervous but now confident and regal, Fratelli smiled. He waved even more dramatically, inciting claps and cheers. The wind began picking up and his own excitement grew.
Suddenly a strong gust blew forth and sent the great cape billowing, Gianni almost lost grip on the cloth but he grabbed it. Something then tugged back. The boy tugged again- and again, there was resistance. Annoyed by all the tugging, Fratelli looked over his shoulder to find an edge of the cappa snagged on a nearby shrub!
His cheeks blushed from sheer embarrassment, seeing the many onlookers. Some of them, mostly children, giggled while a few women gaped in horror. He wished sorely to hide his face yet saw Gianni trying to free the cape, hands digging into the cloth.
“Careful, careful!” Fratelli said, rushing towards the snag and gently loosing it.
Finally, trying to forget the mishap, pushing it from his mind, Fratelli walked onwards. He reached the water fountain; its newly-hewn stone angels and fish decor gleaming grey beneath bright sunlight. Many eyes fell on him, eyes of every color as he began the blessing:
“Lord Christ, thou art the fount of eternal life. You give us the water that lasts forever. Bless here, this fountain, I pray, assembled by human hands, for the good of this city and may it refresh our thirst and remind us of your gentle Providence, In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
Gianni would have readily mimicked Fratelli’s blessing gesture if his hands weren’t full of scarlet cloth. A band loudly played as people cheered. A few adolescent boys set off fire-crackers that sent smoke into the warm air. As Fratelli turned, one of the dignitaries stopped him. Asking:
“Your Eminence, won’t you stay for the music?”
“I apologize Signor, I have too much to do,” Fratelli answered.
The dignitary kissed Fratelli’s ring and gave farewell. Almost sadly, the cardinal took his leave. The whole way home, no one spoke. Even Gianni kept quiet. However, once they arrived back at the cardinal’s villa, his energy crept out. Grabbing the end of Fratelli’s cappa, Gianni tossed it around his shoulders, waved his arm in the air and said, “Bless you.”
“Stop it!” Fratelli hissed, snatching back the end of his cape.
After a while, Fratelli changed from his elaborate dress into a regular, red cassock. Then, feeling exasperated, he sat in the parlor, sighed and began reading a document. Dina brought hot tea and he nodded thankfully. Rodrigo came into the room, saw Fratelli’s forlorn, tired face and he stopped, thinking a moment.
“What is it?” Fratelli asked, glancing up.
“Well,” the priest began, twiddling his stocky fingers, “Your Eminence, I think you may be in need of a vacation.”
Setting the document down, Fratelli spoke:
“In all my 5 years of being a cardinal, I have never asked for nor was granted a vacation.”
“So, don’t you think that makes you even more in need of one?”
“I suppose you are right. I have been terribly overworked and tired lately…but where would I go?”
They both stared at eachother, pondering. At last, Fratelli stood, excitement flashing in his warm, amber eyes.
“I heard that Pisa is quite lovely this time of year. Glimmering seas, fine food, sunshine, palms swaying- altogether splendid.”
“Well then…” Rodrigo answered.
Like a young boy, Fratelli dashed out of the room.
“A vacation!” he cried joyously, his voice echoing down the hall, “Just what I need. Indeed!”