The mercato rionale (local market) of St. Cosimato in Trastevere is a bubbly one. Located in the city square of the same name, it is one of the oldest local markets in Rome. The market, whose name owes its origin to the Church situated close by, has become the heartbeat of the city and is visited by the Trasverterini, Romans and tourists. Originally known as a place where traders exchanged local goods, it had since transcended its original purpose to become a place where citizens of Rome met to discuss socio-cultural happenings in and around the country.
Because most of the markets are located in the city squares, it is customary to see children who live in their surroundings or who visit with their parents play around while trading is still on. And when it was evening, the square was always full of children playing with their mates as pedestrians roamed across it adorned in their colourful gowns and leather sandals.
It was at one of the angles of this busy square that Nuovo and his friends found the old man sitting, smiling at the house sparrows that fed on the pastoncini he dropped for them close to his lower extremities.
As Nuovo approached, the old man lifted his eyes and smiled, beckoning with his dactyls to come sit beside him alongside his curiously naive friends. The three friends greeted him and sat down on the same pavement that supported the old man, carefully allowing some centimetres for good gaseous exchange.
“Here are my friends that I told you about. This is Anno, and this is Felice,” Nuovo said, indicating with his finger, who he was referring to.
The old man simply smiled and nodded as he continued feeding his sparrows. After a couple of minutes of silence, during which the three friends gazed at one another while wondering what the next item on the menu was, the old decided it was time to speak.
“I had asked you to share your worries with your friends because one of the materials at the foundation of a long-lasting relationship is vulnerability. When you are willing to be vulnerable with your friends, you’re creating a stronger lock between you,” the old man said.
“Many people today,” he continued, “fail not because their difficulties are insurmountable, but because they hide themselves and erect high impenetrable walls around them. This makes it difficult for anyone to know what their true conditions are and what help can be rendered to them,” the Old man concluded.
As he spoke, the three friends could not but nod in agreement. They have bottled up many things over the period that you would question if they were indeed friends with one another or if they really knew each other.
“Do you know the man of Nazareth?” the old man quizzed as if he was listening to and wanted to push further their thoughts.
“You mean Tancredi, the King of Sicily?” Anno responded, assuming that the old man talked about the little-known king of Sicily who conquered Galilee and set himself up as its Prince with a capital in Nazareth.
“No, not him,” answered the old man. I am talking about the Great Teacher who is recorded to have spoken with such authority that people listened to him from dusk to dawn each time.
“You are talking about Gesù, I have heard about him. I even have a neighbour who claims to be his disciple. He is mad with that man’s teachings, ” Nuovo added.
“I have never heard of him. But what about him? How is he a part of our discussion on vulnerability?” Felice quizzed.
“Well, I heard that one thing you would notice about him was his openness to his disciples. He was human – with his pains, hunger, suffering and heartache. He would always want them to understand that though he was called God and had all the power, he was still carrying human flesh. This is why his followers often say that he is touched by the feelings of our infirmities, seeing he passed through all the shades of human challenges.” The old man said.
While he spoke, their curiosity melted into suspicion and naivety into uneasiness as the three friends wondered if they had left their activities to waste time in frivolous discussions. It looked like a trap carefully planned to initiate them into a cult of ignorant men who lived almost like and were regarded as barbarians in the city of Rome – people who patterned their lives after the teachings of a man who hung on a tree.
As the three young friends mused loudly, their faces screaming with dilated vessels, the old man whistled to the sparrows as he threw the remaining crumbs of pastoncini.
“Now, my young friends, I would like to send you to three humans I met long ago during my numerous journeys. Each of them has a profound wealth of wisdom and insights that I think will be helpful for your journeys. I trust them to help you find your way in life. Go home and think about what I have told you. If you decide to go on this journey, then meet me here tomorrow at 6 am. I shall give you all the directions to their houses and a personal note that will grant you entrance into their homes.” The old man concluded with a smile.