Why you should care

Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Maurizio Cancelli
Foligno, Italy

Frenetic, as usual. Up and down green rolling hills, driving like a madman in my little red Fiat. Ailing farmers, shepherds and villagers call on me to cure them. You might find it hard to believe, but I’m a poor thaumaturge — a healer with peasant roots.

I can feel my hands vibrate with this power, which was passed over to my ancestors ages ago directly by St. Paul and St. Peter themselves when they roamed Italy looking for followers. This is the story of my family: One night these two saints knocked at our cottage door in search of food and shelter and were warmly greeted. In their gratitude, the two mysterious travelers gifted my family with healing abilities, especially those tied to sciatica. It is said, in fact, that curing such a painful nerve was a specialty of the saints themselves.

And so it’s been since then. My powers, however, extend beyond sciatica to hips, back, arthritis — any kind of aching bone. But only the men of my family can cure, not the women. Don’t ask me why. (Even miracles can be sexist!)

At times I can’t even believe myself that I’ve healed them.

 

I learned watching my father at work, healing poor peasants. Then one day, I was in my teens, I felt a sort of electric current run through my fingers. My time had come to take over my dad’s calling. Now I never stop. My day is spent healing those in need, placing my hands on their sore parts. At times I can’t even believe myself that I’ve healed them.

There was this old lady once; she was practically dying in her own bed. Her son rang me, and I rushed. I touched her back, but honestly, I didn’t think she would survive the night. The next day she called me herself, saying she felt better and was already in the kitchen cooking.

Oh, and that time a moribund lad started dancing and dancing, jumping in the air, forgetting his walking stick!

The greatest joy is when these folks ring me to tell me they feel better. It fills me with joy. They’re so happy they give me presents: flasks of wine, chicken, eggs and homemade jam pies.

Many limping ones, or those unable to walk, pilgrim over here, making this tiny village nearly explode. Long queues of cars line up at the entrance, and when that happens, I heal nonstop.

But many are skeptics. Being a Catholic doesn’t automatically mean you’re a born believer in such things. It takes a lot of faith, and not all people have it. There was this bishop once who didn’t too much like our family’s gift, but then one day his sciatica nerve hurt so bad he couldn’t get out of bed. Desperate, he called for our help; we went and he was healed.

But there’s also the other side of the coin. With this power I have a lot of responsibility and stress. I’m in a perennial hyperactive state. It can be tiring. I’m also a farmer and an artist. I run a small atelier next door to my house where I sell my paintings, and a tavern. When I have some free time, I go on mushroom and truffle hunts.

Very busy life! I know, it’s crazy, but I come from a poor shepherd family, and my father taught me that a man can simultaneously do many things — as long as he helps others in need. Above all, I must never ask for money in exchange for my healing power.

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