The Do-Good Brothers

I had to have a little operation recently. It was preceded by some blood tests in the nearest hospital, called Ospedale Buccheri La Ferla Fatebene Fratelli. The Sicilians are good at coming up with catchy names that way.

Buccheri and La Ferla are the names of the founders. The Fatebene Fratelli translates as “The Do Good Brothers”. Though they sound like a blues band, they are actually an order of monks, who lurk in the corridors annoying the patients.

blues brothers
The Blues Brothers…. not seen recently in any hospital in Sicily

They mean well, but they all have medieval-looking skin diseases that make you desperately hope they won’t come any closer. I’m sure they all have nothing worse than eczema or psoriasis, or maybe a few septic bedbug bites in the most severe cases. There’s just something about seeing them in their full-length, brown monks’ habits, and white cord belts with knots all along them, that makes you think of leprosy, scrofula and smallpox.

do good brothers
The Do Good brothers – encouraging patients in hospitals in 50 countries since…. oh, quite a long time ago.

It’s like an intensified form of waiting to see the dermatologist. Nobody wants to handle the magazines, and everyone sits in a funny way to make sure no part of their bare skin comes into direct contact with the seats. You never know what could be catching.

The Do-Good Brothers dedicate their lives, in Buccheri La Ferla hospital, to urging the patients to join them in the hospital chapel for a brief spot of group prayer, Gregorian chanting and bible reading. They guarantee it will take no longer than ten minutes. They assure people they’ll only do one prayer, and that they can recite it really fast. They promise that the bible reading will be so short it will seem like a Haiku poem. Eventually they offer to skip the Gregorian chanting altogether. Yet still nobody wants to go.

Is it because the patients are scared their name will get called to have their X-ray taken while they’re off saying the Lord’s prayer? That they’ll miss their bone density scan in the middle of a Hail Mary, so they’ll have to book another appointment in a month’s time? Is it that they have already been on a pilgrimage to seek a cure for whatever disease they have, and reckon some extra last minute praying would be superfluous?

Or is it the angry-red, peely, exposed dermis on that Do-Good Brother’s hands, dotted with pustules, which may have recently come into direct contact with the prayer books in the chapel?

Finally, the Do-Good Brother gives up, failing to disguise the fact that he is exasperated and disappointed, and probably feels a bit sore and itchy inside his habit. He heads of for some solitary prayer. Again.

He probably consoles himself by fervently reciting prayers in Latin, whilst mortifying his flesh with a flagellant, an even scratchier hair shirt, and some really stingy iodine lotion.

I felt so sorry for the Do-Good Brother who invited me into his little chapel that I actually did go. He was so flabbergasted he actually hopped up and down a couple of times in his home-made macramé sandals.

The prayer he said for me was really very beautiful. He read from the bible, and then in a prayer he asked for my operation to go well. I sat in the chapel and felt myself filling with serenity and the sun slanted in through the window.

God must have been listening, as it all went fine. Thank you, Do-Good Brothers!


13 Comments Add yours

  1. Phil Taylor says:

    Wait? The monks also have a website? That hardly seems monk-ish of them. I tried to look at it but it took to long to open. Their I.T. was probably off scratching. I’m glad it didn’t open. If it had I might have caught a skin related computer virus from it. Glad your operation went well. Cheers!


    1. Ha hahaaaa! Actually their website is really sweet – though of course not very medieval at all.
      They do hospital missions all around the world…. a lot of themn, now I come to think of it, in places one could probably catch something itchy. 🙂


  2. Expat Eye says:

    Bucceri sounds far too close to ‘butcher’ for my liking 😉


    1. Haaaa! I hadn’t thought of that… but now I will think of it every time I go past the place!


      1. Expat Eye says:

        At a distance – those skin conditions sound pretty nasty 😉


  3. Ann says:

    They should just take each other to the chapel to pray til their skin dieseases are gone


    1. Maybe we patients should pray for them? Since they pray for us??? 🙂


  4. beba says:

    Well, their hearts are in the right place. And you had a good outcome, which is great to hear! I guess I worry a bit about the quality of medicine that leans so heavily on the beneficence of the Almighty. But are there even any non-religious hospitals there?


    1. Yes, many hospitals are non-religious. And to be honest, although the condition of the buildings and the equipment in Sicilian hospitals is sometimes bad enough to make you faint, the doctors are mostly good and, most of the time, I get better care here than I did in England.
      I have just learned that, if you wnat painkiller, you have to smuggle them in yourself. Catholics disapprove of pain management as much as they disapprove of family planning – something I only learned once I lived here!


  5. Pecora Nera says:

    There is a place called Buccheri, somewhere between Catania and Ragusa, I know this interesting but totally useless fact, because I always get lost there when I drive from Zia’s home to the in-laws home.

    The Italians are a little squeamish, went it comes to catching other peoples diseases at the hospital. When I go with Mrs Sensible, I always pick up one of the magazines in the waiting room and only remember I shouldn’t when Mrs S gives a deep sigh and then inoculates me with her collection of antiseptic wipes and sprays .


    1. I am exactly like Mrs S! Tell her if she ever runs out of antiseptic wipes in Sicily, I have a cellar full of them! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pecora Nera says:

        It is not possible for her to run out of them, She has a little squeezy bottle of hand disinfection in each handbag and Mrs S is the Imelda Marcos of hand bags.

        When she has finished teaching her little chilblains, out comes the wipes or the bottle. I am surprised she hasn’t installed a sheep dip at the door to the school to wash the little nose pickers and ear pokers.


      2. HA HA HAAAAAAAAAAA!!! I am rolling about laughing!!!


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