Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Padre Fontanarosa (Three Tales)



THERE was Padre Fontanarosa too. Did you never hear of him? He was a good friend to the poor; and all Rome loved him. He was a Jesuit; but somehow there were some Jesuits who didn't like him. Papa Braschi [1] was very fond of him, and used to make him come every day and tell him all that went on in Rome, for he was very good to the people, and that way the Pope heard what the people wanted; and many things that were wrong got set right when Padre Fontanarosa explained to the Pope the real state of the case.

               One day Padre Fontanarosa said to the Pope, 'People say I have been talking too freely, and call it telling tales; but I have only obeyed the wishes of Your Holiness. If I have done wrong send me away.' But Papa Braschi answered, 'You have done me good service. Fear nothing.'

               The next day after that Padre Fontanarosa did not come to the Vatican, or the next, or the next.

               Then Papa Braschi called for his carriage, and said, 'Drive to the Gesù!' Arrived at the Gesù, he said, 'I want Padre Fontanarosa; where is he?'

               They answered, 'In his cell.'

               But he had been confined in his cell on bread and water for chattering.

               'Then let him be brought out of his cell; for I want him!' answered Papa Braschi.

               That time he took Padre Fontanarosa away in his carriage, and no one durst say anything to him any more.


FATHER Fontanarosa was very simple in his habits himself; and he thought the best way to keep the Order simple was to keep it poor. Whenever anyone wanted to leave money to it, instead of encouraging them, he used to tell them of some other good work to which they might leave it.

               One day there was a penitent of his who was very devoted to the Jesuits, a very rich nobleman, who came to die, and, as he was making his will, he would have Padre Fontanarosa and the notary present together. 'I leave all of which I die possessed to the Church of the Gesù,' dictated the rich nobleman.

               'What! do you leave all to the Son and nothing to the Mother!' said Padre Fontanarosa, who knew he was too weak to argue with him as to whether the Order was better without the money or not, and therefore adopted this mode of avoiding the snare, without damaging the good purpose of the testator.

               'Ah! you are right,' answered the dying man. 'Thank you for reminding me. Make a codicil,' he said to the notary, 'and say I meant it for Gesù and Maria.'

               The notary wrote just what he was bid, and the dying man and the witnesses signed all duly. But the money had to go, not to 'the Gesù' at all, but to the church of 'Gesù e Maria'--you know where, at the end of the Corso, which doesn't belong to the Jesuits at all, but to the Augustinians.


OTHERS give him not quite such a good character, and tell the following story of him:--

               The reason why the Jesuits did not look favourably on Father Fontanarosa was that they thought he went too often to the house of a certain lady. He perceived that they had found out that he visited her, but he went on all the same, only he said to her, 'If anything happens that the fathers send after me, and anyone comes into the room suddenly; fall down on your knees before the crucifix, and I will speak so that I may seem to be here to give you a penitential warning.'

               There happened to be a handsome crucifix, kept more for ornament than devotion, on a slab in her boudoir, and she promised to heed his caution.

               One day, when they were together, they heard a ring at the outer door; then a whispering in the passage; then footsteps in the adjoining room. Padre Fontanarosa looked at the lady, and the lady looked at Padre Fontanarosa. Each understood that they were under surveillance. She fell down on her knees before the crucifix, and he exhorted her to take a pattern from the Magdalen; and, as she knelt clasping the foot of the cross, with her beautiful hair all loose over her shoulders, she really looked like a living picture of the Magdalen. Still no one came into the room. But they felt they were being watched; so it was necessary to keep up the deception. Padre Fontanarosa had to speak loudly and fervently in order to make his words resound well in the adjoining room; the lady had to sob to show she was attending to them. Still no one came in; and Padre Fontanarosa had to continue his discourse till, partly through fear lest his courage should fail, and partly lest he should be discovered, he forced himself to forget present circumstances, and to throw himself into his exhortation to such an extent that he preached with a force and eloquence he had never exercised in his life before.

               At last those who had been listening felt satisfied of his sincerity, and went back to the General and told him there was no fault to be found in him.

               But so effectually had he preached, and so salutary had been his warnings, that the next day the lady entered a convent, to be a penitent all her days.



[1] Pius VI., who reigned 1775-1799.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Padre Fontanarosa (Three Tales)
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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