Outsourcing to Brandon Vogt today with this old, but very amusing piece. The post is pretty good, but this anecdote is the best part, reproduced verbatim:
The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker.
Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession, their quibble escalated into a shouting match. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened:
Castiglioni cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick.
Blood dripped out of Della Genga’s head, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church.
Now fast-forward several decades to 1825. Half a million people gathered in Rome for the great Jubilee celebration. The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand climax was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing, “Open unto me the gates of justice!” On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. The symbolism was rich: pilgrims from all over the world coming back home to the Church, following their leader through the great porta fidei, the “door of faith.”
So this Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Only he was no longer Cardinal Della Genga. He was Pope Leo XII. And as he neared the door, he turned to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni—and said, “Let me have the hammer.”
With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I gave you the candlestick?”
Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became pope himself, taking the name Pius VIII.