Giorgio’s Miracle, a Modern Legend by Laurie Schmitt
Giorgio’s Miracle is a lovely middle-grade novel about a boy and his donkey set in 15th century Italy. Author Laurie Schmitt has created a new legend around the historical Eucharistic Miracle of Turin, presenting the miracle as an answer to a boy’s prayers. This book combines great storytelling with valuable lessons about history, our Catholic Faith and virtue modeled by the young protagonist Giorgio. The intense simplicity of Kathryn Coyle’s watercolor illustrations perfectly mirrors the spirit of the story. Your children will learn effortlessly reading Giorgio’s Miracle. Recommended for fifth grade and up.
Giorgio’s Miracle is set in the late Middle Ages at a crucial moment in history. The city of Constantinople has fallen to the Ottoman Turks. Islam is threatening Christian Europe. In vain has Pope Nicholas V called the princes of Europe to unite and defend the Faith. The Italian city states are fighting against each other. Not far from Turin, a skirmish has ended at the village of Exilles. Soldiers are dismissed from service without pay. We learn about all of this from the inside out, from the point of view of ordinary people who experience history as it affects their ordinary lives.
The story begins with Giorgio and his donkey Franca delivering goods to the inn run by the boy’s aunt Gemma. It is the year 1453. We learn about Giorgio’s friendship with his donkey, and how the two are loved by the townspeople. There are lively descriptions of the town main plaza where the commerce of Turin takes place and where Giorgio and his friend get drawn into a comical chase after a troublesome little dog. We participate in the daily business of a medieval town where the day is structured by the Angelus bell telling the faithful to stop whatever they are doing and to pray the Hail Mary.
Giorgio’s life is overshadowed by the bitterness of his father, the blacksmith Allesandro, who has lost his faith after the death his beloved wife. Giorgio also notices a prevailing hopelessness and lack of faith in his town. He prays for a miracle to bring healing to his family and his community. Giorgio confides his worries to Don Bartolomeo, a holy priest with loving concern for his flock. The priest introduces Giorgio and the reader to the threatening political circumstances that weigh heavily on the people of Turin. While the boy and the priest are talking, Franca, the donkey, runs away and gets lost.
Miles away from home, Franca is being pressed into service by two dismissed soldiers turned thieves to carry a load of treasure stolen from a church. The bad thief, Vincente, is consumed by greed. He will not stop at desecrating the host or at murder. His hesitant companion Martino, the good thief, is shocked by Vincente’s deeds but dares not leave the leader and decision maker. Martino lovingly takes care of Franca who is cruelly overworked by Vincente. Loving the donkey, Martino becomes more and more aware of the gravity of his crimes. As the thieves are on their way to Turin to sell their booty, we witness how the bad thief Vincente sinks deeper into sin while Martino repents and liberates himself from Vincente’s bad influence. The process of making our God-given choice is well-illustrated in the relationship between the two thieves.
The thieves’ journey ends badly for Vincente. When they arrive at Turin’s plaza, some townspeople rise up against the ill treatment of Franca. Giorgio and his donkey are reunited. A personal miracle has already taken place for the boy. His father has made the right choice and repented, allowing his son and Our Lord back into this heart. In answer to Giorgio’s prayers, a great public Eucharistic miracle takes place in the plaza. The citizens of Turin fall on their knees and worship. Their faith and their hope is restored.
Giorgio’s Miracle shows young readers how Our Lord may chose to answer the prayer of a small and insignificant person with a great public miracle. The boy Giorgio models virtue when he remains obedient to his father against all odds. Giorgio’s lives his adventure in a thoroughly Catholic society where Catholic morals and traditions set the standard. In our post-Christian world, it is important for our children to see a Catholic society in action.
Giorgio’s Miracle is a modern legend. Its beauty, simplicity, enthralling storytelling and clear moral values place it on a level with traditional Christian legends of the past.
Laurie Schmitt’s website: https://laurieschmitt.com/home/
Kathryn Coyle’s website: https://www.littleredboots.net/