The Town Crier

by Joseph Toone

Back in 1993 the library in the home of the Oratorio priests suffered a house fire. No one was injured, except for a wood statue of St. Nicholas Tortelino.

Nicholas, the lad whom the statue is based, was born back in the 1200s. Before his conception his aging parents visited the tomb of St. Nicholas Bari (of later Santa Claus fame) in hopes of conceiving a child. They did, and named him Nicholas in appreciation.

Nicholas was a spiritual man. He was a firm believer that fasts brought him closer to God. He was an avowed vegetarian, so much so that once when presented with a cooked fowl to eat, he prayed until the bird returned to life and flew away. In art, he is seen with a bird in one hand.

In the other hand, normally, he has a lost soul that he is yanking out of purgatory. He stressed that prayers helped the lost souls continue their journey to Heaven. As a child, every time I approached my mother with a boo-boo I was told "To offer it up to the poor souls in purgatory." Once, when I complained of being hungry because dinner was late I was given the "offer it up to the poor souls" line, to which I responded "Why? Are they hungry too?" In my parents' house starving kids in Africa didn't stand a chance next to those inhabitants of purgatory.

Forty years following Nicholas' death a priest, in the same religious order, exhumed his body in hopes of turning some bones into relics to sell. However, on opening Nicholas' casket his corpse was found to be perfectly preserved, as if he were still alive.

Undeterred, the priest opted to lop off Nicholases arms to form relics. He was understandably shocked to find that when he cut them the arms bled and Nicholas' corpse began to cry.

Following the fire here in town the statue of St. Nicholas began to cry and continues to. The image (complete with a dove in his hand) is placed, appropriately enough, in the chapel to the lost souls in purgatory. Here I've viewed him for years and when his tears dry on one side of face they begin on the other.

Our town crier is constantly garnering our attention. With his tears he exhorts us to be kind to animals and to pray to release the lost souls in purgatory. Back when my siblings, or the dog, did something wildly stupid in my father's eyes, Dad would shake his head in disbelief and mumble, "You poor lost soul."

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Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.

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