As we headed back into the dappled sunlight my eyes were drawn to a strange apparition standing on the far side of the churchyard, directly opposite a white marble statue of Padre Pio. Like the glimmering image of San Michele in grotta (St.Michael in the grotto), stood a young man, blinding illuminated.
He was decked from head to toe in shades of cream and white. A diamond-studded clasp closed the lapels of a jacket made out of what seemed to be upholstery fabric; a smaller pin glinted at his throat in place of a tie. While the unhemmed pants billowed out over his cream-coloured boots, a jauntily-held white cane brought my gaze back to ruffled shirt-cuffs peeking out from the jacket sleeves. The whole thing was topped off by a top hat studded with sequins.
I watched, transfixed, wondering how long the apparition would linger. But it was just the groom. Who could have suggested this outfit?
Just then a convoy of cars led by a 10-meter limousine came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs. Out spilled a cresting wave of white tulle.
St. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and this girl must have been a long-standing member of the congregation, glasses as thick as bottle-bottoms. Her father – also dressed in white, but with a purple shirt and tie – proudly led her up the stairs. Not to be outdone, her mother wore a red strapless gown while her aunt videoed the procession in a tight-fitting black dress with a striking cleavage. Someone at the top of the steps shouted down to the bride that she was lifting her dress too high for decency…
The joyful yet riotous assembly regrouped in the sunlit churchyard…. Padre Pio, true to his name, calmly blessed everyone as they entered into the shadows of the church.