During Lent, the entire student population would assemble in a windowless long hallway to hear the Stations. It was cramped and stuffy. Young legs struggled to fight fatigue as children were forced to stand shoulder to shoulder straining to hear the weak voice of an elderly nun describe the violent sequence of the ‘Stations of the Cross’. One of the shortest in his class, Louis’ view was often obstructed by rows of taller children, submissive and silent in their uniforms.
He struggled to accept the graphic descriptions depicting the suffering and abuse of Jesus as he carried his own cross towards his death. Little Louis felt a deep sincere sorrow when the ‘Stations’ were recited. Grimacing, he envisioned the scenes vividly, in his mind during each reading.
As a young boy, he was exposed to the mystique and glorification of pain and suffering at home, too. His grandparents being devoted Catholics had rooms in their house adorned with religious pictures. His Nonna’s favorite saint was Saint Rita: the patron saint of lost causes. In a bedroom hung a print depicting the young saint on her knees in a dungeon-like setting with a cat-o-nine-tails at her side, praying to a crucifix. It was highlighted by a narrow ray of light emanating from the crown of thorns, directed at her forehead. The print showed the ray actually piercing her forehead, causing her to have a permanent wound. Louis reasoned that one had to suffer to be a saint. One day Nonna told him the story of Saint Lucy. Saint Lucy was not interested in boys and wanted to be close to Jesus. Nonna told the young boy that when a suitor complemented Lucy on her beautiful eyes, she plucked them out and presented them to the boy. To Nonna, this was a beautiful gesture of Lucy’s devotion to Jesus. Louis thought differently. It was the very last time he would ask his Nonna about saints.