Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Little Dog of St. Margaret

 It is an account that I have taken entirely from the evidence given by a worthy lady, Caterina Servetti, a distinguished benefactress.
The date was 6 February 1925.  They were expecting Don Orione who was to celebrate Mass before dawn in the church of St. Benedict in Cortona (Tuscany).  At three in the morning, however, while everything was ready and the church was open in anticipation of his coming, Don Orione did not arrive, even though the bus that took passengers from the railway station had arrived in the upper town.
Finally in St Benedict's square resounded the customary greeting of Don Orione:  "Praised be Jesus Christ."  A little afterwards Mrs. Servetti, standing at the door of her house, saw him come by, pulled forward at the hem of his cassock by a lovely, helpful little dog.

 The dog, once it had brought the priest inside, let drop the part of the cassock that it had been holding in its teeth, stood up on its hind legs and gave a deep bow, almost touching the ground with its head.  The woman started to stroke it along the arch of its back and Don Orione, making a sign over it with his hand, let it go with these words:  "Go, my good little guide; go with my blessing."  The dog turned to favour him with a rapid bow, received another blessing, gave a jump, as if for joy, bowed for the third time and left the house.
From the hallway where they were standing, the woman and Don Orione watched it with a wondering look; it was such a remarkable occurrence.  Then suddenly they could see it no more!  It had disappeared without taking any of the four streets that led out of the square.
They went up to the church of St. Benedict, where Don Orione said Mass.  After the thanksgiving he went back to Mrs. Servetti's house for a milky coffee that the lady had prepared for him.

 During the conversation that followed, the episode of the little dog came immediately to the fore.  The woman bemoaned the fact that he had sent it away without first allowing it to have a refreshing drink of warm milk.  Don Orione replied:  "You don't understand."  Then he told this story:  "Having arrived in town on the bus from the station I got out at the stop and went forward thinking I could find the road that led to your house here.  But, I don't know how, it was so dark, I realised that I was not on the right road.  I had gone off it somewhere. Making matters worse was the fact that a deep, wide ditch, possibly dug for the sewerage system, was preventing me from going any further.  Where could I go?  I could have tried other streets but a priest, at that hour, without knowing where he was going... what would people think of him?  So I decided to go towards the church of St. Margaret, where her body is venerated and I prayed to her:  "Send me a guide who will lead me to your shrine."  There, under the portico I would have waited for daylight before going down to the Servetti house.  Soon afterwards I saw under my feet a little dog.  I was worried at first, as I thought to myself:  "Even a dog!  And if it were rabid... poor Don Orione!"  And then the little dog attached itself to the hem of my cassock and led me at last to the Servetti house."

It must be added for the purposes of explaining this incident that St. Margaret of Cortona is depicted with a dog at her feet.  Furthermore, Mrs. Servetti, that same morning, went up to the shrine and came across the exact image of the little dog who had gone to accompany Don Orione.
"Don't say anything to anyone," Don Orione had begged her, but, as the woman claimed, news of the incident spread immediately around the town.

Source: "St. Luigi Orione" by Fr. Domenico Sparpaglione

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