Father Dolindo Ruotolo is in a tiny minority of celebrated souls; he was one of the few people who was hailed by Padre Pio to be a living saint. Father Dolindo lived from 1882 to 1970, so he outlived Pio by two years. They were close contemporaries and friends. As a biographer of Padre Pio, I can tell you that Pio only pointed to exceedingly few people, a handful at most and said they were walking saints.

Father Dolindo was born in the heart of Naples and his mother gave him the Faith. She led him in devotion to the holy souls, and told him this true account to edify him as to how the holy souls protect their friends. His mother had a relative who was a hard-working jeweler. One night, he decided to take his most expensive gems home with him for fear his store would be looted. He was walking home, jewels hidden on his person and he prayed a Rosary  for the holy souls. At midnight, he came to the alley that led to his house. He was panicked to see thuggish-looking types lying in wait.

The jeweler was scared but he called on the holy souls to defend him. There was a little church in the alley and suddenly, the church doors opened and a procession of confreres in white sackcloth with old hoods came out and sang as if following a funeral. Sackcloth is a rough material, usually woven from the whisker-like hairs of a goat, and it chaffs the skin. It is a venerable symbol of atonement for sin; to wear sackcloth as penance is an ancient practice. Yet, it is also for those who are tasked with a divine mission and who wish to be in constant mortification. The Prophet Isaiah wore only sackcloth. England’s St Thomas More wore a sackcloth shirt under his regular clothes.

The souls in sackcloth not easily recognized, their hoods completely covered their heads and faces with only two slits for the eyes and one for the mouth. The jeweler decided to join the solemn cortege in sackcloth were off-putting to the loitering thieves. There is strength in numbers and the thieves did not dare set upon him. When he returned home to his wife, he told her of the auspicious meeting with the solemn cortege, but she was baffled because she had watched everything from their window and seen no one, she had seen her husband walk alone. He promised her that he had processed among people in hoods who sang hymns of mourning. But his wife refuted this by saying that at midnight, no somber procession for the dead would ever be done. Then they realized that the funeral cortege had been holy souls who had come to protect him. They had protected him from being mugged and from losing his livelihood; for surely had his most costly gems been stolen, he would have fallen on hard times. Had he paid armed security they would not have done a better job, they may have gotten into a violent struggle with the criminals, and he may have been robbed anyway.

I believe the holy souls may protect you and me just as they did this honest jeweler. To think, he offered a Rosary for them, perhaps 20 minutes of prayer and they repaid him handsomely.

This post was informed by Father Dolindo Ruotolo’s masterpiece, The Afterlife, Purgatory and Heaven Explained