The Other Kind of Mortification
I never thought I would retell this particular story but I stumbled on an interesting tale. So in the interest of documenting Catholic lore, let me tell you about the time my skirt blew up over my head in the Piazza del Gesù, right outside of the church.
Just to be clear, it was nothing like Marilyn.
Instead, despite my frantic grasping, one of my highly un-sexy church skirts blew up in front of commuters, policemen, tour groups and children. I was not wearing what I would call my best underwear. It was week three in Rome so it was more like 19th in the line of underwear succession. The only silver lining to this story is that at least my skirt blew up high enough to cover my face.
As it turns out, that particular piazza is notoriously windy. It’s so windy that the French writer, Stendhal, recorded an anecdote he heard about it. Here it is in English, as mentioned in Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Volume VIII, 1871.
The same church of the Jesuits has a bad name of long standing: nearly fifty years ago a witty French writer tells a story which he heard at Rome in orthodox days. The devil and the wind were taking a walk, and came to the Jesuit’s church. “Oh,” quoth the former, “Ive a little business to look after in here: do wait for me a moment;” and stepped into the church. The devil never came out, and the wind is waiting for him still on the breezy site near the Capitol.
Now after being raised by a Jesuit and given a good Jesuit education, Stendhal never missed an opportunity to to make a jab at their expense. Of course he thought the devil would be eternally busy at their mother church, Il Gesù.
But the wind does seem to wait there, taking advantage of women in skirts and people with umbrellas as if to impress the devil should he walk out of the church at any moment.
So stick it to the wind. When you visit Il Gesù, wear pants.
(Image from Wikimedia by Alessio Damato.)