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.
The lad whom the statue is based on, Nicholas, was born back in the 1200s after 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 and a firm believer that fasts brought him closer to God. So food finicky he was an avowed vegetarian and when presented with cooked fowl to eat he would pray until the bird returned to life and flew away. In art, he is seen with a bird in one hand.
In the other hand he normally has a lost soul he is yanking out of purgatory as he stressed that prayers helped the lost souls continue their journey into 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?”
Starving kids in Africa didn’t stand a chance next to those inhabitants of purgatory in my parents’ house.
Forty years following Nicholas’ death a priest in his order exhumed his body in hopes of turning some bones into relics to sell. However once Nicholas’ casket was opened his corpse was found to be perfectly fine, as if he were still alive.
Undeterred, the priest opted to yank off his arms to form relics and was shocked to find 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 to be kind to animals and pray to release the lost souls in purgatory. Back when my siblings, or the dog, did something wildly stupid in my father’s eyes he’d shake his head in disbelief and mumble “You poor lost soul.”
By Joseph Toone
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin