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St. Anthony (Five Tales)
Continued from page 1
SANT' ANTONIO E SORA1 CASTITRE.
St. Anthony was a fair youth, as you will always see in his portraits. As he went about preaching there was a young woman who began to admire him very much, and her name was Sora Castitre. Whenever she could find out in which direction he was going she would put herself in his way and try to speak to him. St. Anthony at first kept his eyes fixed on the ground, and took no notice of her; then he tried to make her desist by rebuking her, but she ceased not to follow him.
Then he thought to himself, with all a saint's compunction, 'It is not she who is to blame, and who is worthy of rebuke, but I, who have been the occasion of sin to her. God grant that sin be not imputed to her through loving me.'
The next time she met him, it was in a deserted part of the Campagna.
'Brother Antonio, come along with me down this path. No one will see us there,' said Sora Castitre.
Much to her surprise, instead of pursuing the severe tone he had always adopted towards her, St. Anthony greeted her and smiled with a smile which filled her with a joy different from anything she had known before. What was more, he seemed to follow her, and she led on.
But as she went the way seemed quite changed. She knew well the retired path by which she had meant to lead him, but now everything around looked different; not one landmark was the same. Yet 'how could it be different?' she said within herself; and she led on.
What was her astonishment, when, instead of finding it terminate in a rocky gorge as she had found before, there rose before her presently an austere building surrounded with walls and gates!
St. Anthony stepped forward as they reached the gate. A nun opened to them, and St. Anthony asked for the mother abbess. 'I have brought you a maiden,' he said, 'whom I recommend to your affectionate and tender care.' The mother abbess promised to make her her special charge, and St. Anthony went his way, first calling the maiden aside and charging her with this one petition he would have her make:
'I have sinned ; have mercy on me.'
Then St. Anthony went back to his convent and called all the brethren together, and asked them all to pray very earnestly all through the night, and in the morning tell him what manifestation they had had.
The brethren promised to comply; and in the morning they all told him they had seen a little spark of light shining in the darkness.
'It suffices not, my brethren!' said St. Anthony; 'continue your charity and pray on instantly this night also.'
The brethren promised compliance; and in the morning they all told him they had seen a pale streak of light stealing away towards heaven.
'It suffices not, my brethren!' said St. Anthony; 'of your charity pray on yet again this night also.'
The brethren promised compliance; and in the morning they told him they had all seen a blaze of light, and in the midst of it a bed on which lay a most beautiful maiden, white2 as a lily, carried up to heaven, borne by four shining angels.
'It is well, my brethren!' replied St. Anthony; 'your prayers have rendered a soul to the celestial quires.'
Afterwards he went to the convent where he had left Sora Castitre, and learnt from the mother abbess that, spending three penitential days saying only, 'I have sinned; have mercy on me,' she had rendered up her soul to God in simplicity and fervour.
1 'Sora' in this place does not mean 'sister'; it is an expression in Roman vernacular for which we have no equivalent, and is applied to respectable persons of the lower class who do not aspire to be called 'Signora,' 'Mrs.,' or 'Miss,' as with us. 'Sor' or 'Ser' is the masculine equivalent; we had it in use at p. 194.
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