19 January 2010

Hospice of the Innocent


A couple of years ago my daughter was studying abroad in Rome, Italy. I wrote about some of her adventures in a past post called, "Simply Kate".  You can see it here. http://lorimcktia.blogspot.com/2009/11/simply-kate.html

She studied at the Constantine College, Due Santi campus in Albano just outside of Rome. It's an amazing and inspiring program. If you have a minute, take a look right here.


When Kate completed her studies and it was time for her to come home, my husband and I took our eldest son and the three of us set off on a pilgrimage of sorts to go and get her.  The four of us had 10 days of adventures together, the memories of which will last a lifetime. Our travel log will be for another time but, I want to share with you this beautiful story of love.

Right across the square from where we stayed in Florienze there was, The Church Of Miracles.  They say that many women go there to pray for babies they wish for. The church is full of people praying for a miracle. 

Right next to The Church of Miracles is, The Hospice of the Innocent. We were especially interested in this building across the square from where we were staying in Florence.  There, was an Italian orphanage with a child drop-off window. 

The story goes that, when mothers couldn't take care of their babies, they would bring it and pass it through the bars of a certain window.  The bars were only big enough to pass an infant through.  The nuns would take the baby in and keep with the baby, 1/2 a blanket or toy which the mother would leave with the baby. She would take the other half with her.  Then in a few years when the mother could take care of the baby, she would come to get it, bringing the other half of the toy and the nuns would match them up.  If a mother didn't come back the nuns would raise the baby and teach it a profession or vocation and act as the family forever.  All the children loved the nuns and came back to see them as family, often.  This was not a sad thing because, the babies were well taken care of, there was no abortion and no babies were ever thrown in trash cans or discarded as they sometimes are now.  That is the story as it was told to me and as I journaled it at the time.  For a more detailed explanation of the Hospice I have copied the following explanation from the Atlas Obscura.

In the 1400s Florence had a problem. Babies were being abandoned throughout the city. Babies in the fields, babies in the alleyways, babies left on the pews in church: Florence was crawling with abandoned babies. The Ospedale degli Innocenti, or Hospice of the Innocent, was opened in 1445 to help solve this problem, and is the first building known to have been erected specifically for the care of abandoned children. An important element of the Ospedale degli Innocenti was its status of official baby drop-off point so that children would no longer be left throughout the city.
Installed in the far left side of the hospital wall was a special rotating horizontal wheel into which a child would be placed. Once spun around to the other side of the wall, the child went down a short slide and into the basin of abandonment. On either side of the basin knelt terra-cotta figures of Mary and Joseph, imitating a manger. The child would then be plucked from the basin and given nursing and care. Though the hospital closed in 1875, over its hundreds of years in operation it helped care for tens of thousands of abandoned children.

There are 46 states in the United States which have laws in place to discourage baby abandonment.  I am proud to say that California is one of them.  For a desperate mother who is unwilling or unable to keep her baby there is a law in place which enables her to take her baby to a public or private hospital, or a designated fire station and surrender it without fear of prosecution for 72 hours after birth. The confidentiality of the mother is not compromised.

The baby is given medical treatment and placed in foster care or a pre adoptive placement.  A parent has up to 14 days to reclaim the baby.  If you would like more information about The Safely Surrendered Baby Law (SSB) you can read about it here.  www.babysafe.ca.gov

God has poured out His love into our hearts.  We have only to share it.  The system isn't perfect.  There are even times when it is fatally flawed but, with the help and advocacy of those who love children, we will find a way for every child to be safe, secure, and loved.  People have been pouring out their unconditional love for centuries!  

This is a serious subject and this blog is supposed to be light and fun, so without further adieu and on that note, what say we talk about making those bars a little wider so I can stuff one of my bratty teenagers in there once in a while.  I pinky swear I'll come back and get em.


Helene said...

I love the last part of this post...I wouldn't mind shoving my 4 little ones through that bar as well. Maybe they'd appreciate me a little more after living at strict orphanage with nuns for a little while!!

Seriously, though, thank goodness for a place like that where moms could leave their babies in good hands.

Peterson Family said...

What a great story. It just shows the love and compassion of the nuns that took the children in.

And the last part was awesome! If it can fit teenagers it can fit mine too...yeah. When they start sassing I will know where to send them!

Joyful said...

What an awesome article.
I think more people need pay attention to such things. And maybe, just maybe, there will be less abortions.

Anonymous said...

People can do that here too, drop off at the hospital. I wish more women knew about that so that less babies were abandoned and died.