Posted by: Caitlynn | January 16, 2010

Genre #12 — Creative Nonfiction

Okay. This is based on true events, but probably riddled with inaccuracies (at the very least, the dialogue is entirely made up). Mother Riccarda and Mother Mary Elizabeth were both real people, however, who did hide Jewish refugees during WWII. There’s also the potential that Mother Riccarda might be made a saint at some point in the (near?) future. So I thought it was worth writing a bit about.

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to read more about her. As it stands now, this piece is fairly short, so I’d recommend that you read one of the news stories about it here: I assure you, what I have written and posted does not do her life justice. And this isn’t just me being modest, either.

(For more information on my Genre Self-Challenge, read previous entry here.)


“Mother Riccarda”


June 4, 1944

“Reverend Mother,” the other nun called out, scurrying to catch up. “The cars…”

“I know, Mother Riccarda,” the former replied. “I heard them. We can’t be sure if they’re the police or not, though. It’s difficult to tell from here.”

“God will watch over us,” Mother Riccarda nodded. “He always has. I pray that whoever is in those cars either keeps moving or otherwise means us no harm.”

“As do I,” the Reverend Mother agreed. “Nonetheless, you had best check on our guests. Make sure that they are prepared if the Fascists come tonight. At the very least, I’m certain they must have heard the cars as well. They may be in need of some comforting.”

Mother Riccarda gave another enough quick nod before briskly walking away to find the Jewish refugees being housed in her convent on Piazza Farnese. She moved swiftly—time was of the essence—reciting a heartfelt prayer along the way for everyone’s safety. When she reached the door she was looking for, she paused, taking a deep breath so that she might be a calming presence in the room once she entered.

“Good evening,” she said, opening the door.

“Mammina!” one of the younger boys shouted.

“How is everyone tonight?” she smiled. “Mother Mary Elizabeth sent me to check on you.”

“Are we in danger?” one of the mothers asked, tightly hugging her child.

Mother Riccarda paused a moment before cautiously replying, “I trust you’ve heard the cars outside.”

Nearly everyone in the room nodded.

“Well, we haven’t anymore reason than usual to think that it’s the police,” she stated calmly. “At least we can be thankful for that. Until we know for sure, however, we’ll continue to keep watch.”

“I’m scared,” one of the children sniffled, tugging at Mother Riccarda’s arm.

She glanced down and patted the young girl on the head. “The Reverend Mother and I will do everything in our power to protect you,” she assured her. “And if trouble should come, all of us at the convent are prepared to face it.” Looking back up at the adults in the room, she added gently, “Though, it would not hurt for you to be prepared as well, of course.”

“Yes, of course,” one of the men said. “We have long been prepared for the worse. But, mammina, thanks to you, we have at least survived these past six months in fairer conditions than many of our more unfortunate family and friends.”

“We are very grateful indeed,” some of the others chimed in. “You have done so much, sacrificed so much for us. If we are discovered here, then your fates may very well—”

She held up a hand, cutting them off, and returned a warm but sorrowful smile. “All of us here are merely doing as the Lord would have us do.”

Just then, soft footsteps could be heard quickly racing down the hall. Everyone inside the room tensed slightly, wondering what the news might be. Before long, a young nun burst in, breathing hard.

“What is it, Sister?” Mother Riccarda asked, trying to mask the worry in her voice.

The other nun took a few moments to catch her breath. “It’s amazing news. We’ve just received word,” she said, her face breaking into a smile, “the Allies have liberated Rome. You are all safe again.”

The room remained silent for a few minutes as the news soaked in. Once it did, however, everyone broke into exhausted cheers and laughter.

“Thank you, Lord,” Mother Riccarda whispered with a smile.


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