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Thieves break into an Italian convent’s safe, and find a note from the sisters … and an owl!


Veronique Popinet/Hans Lucas/ AFP | Freedom Studio/Shutterstock

Matthew Green - published on 01/19/22

Instead of gold and silver, these thieves found a real shock.

It was a cold and dark evening just before the winter solstice when thieves broke into the convent of the Institute of the Daughters of the Oratory in Codogno, a picturesque town in northern Italy.

Corriere della Sera reports that the criminals entered at some point while the sisters were praying vespers and eating dinner. They broke into the convent’s safe, looking for cash and perhaps the kind of silver and gold liturgical vessels that religious communities reserve for special occasions and keep under lock and key the rest of the year.

Instead, they found a note, which read, “Change your life! It’s time …” along with an image of Mary and a little figurine of an owl. (One can imagine the thieves looking behind them at that moment, waiting for someone to say, “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”)

Had the sisters been tipped off about the invaders’ plans?

Sister Gabriella, a member of the community, explains to the Italian newspaper, “Thieves, ruffians, had already shown up to steal from us. So, since we don’t use the safe, we decided to leave a precious piece of advice for whoever else might decide to arrive to visit us uninvited.”

The written message and the image of Mary are immediately understandable. However, the criminals might have been left scratching their heads when confronted with the statuette of the owl.

The sisters are not quoted as having given any explanation, but there are various meanings attributed to this bird, ranging from wisdom (from Greek mythology) to Satan. Maybe the sister who put the image there was thinking of one of these meanings, or of the connection between owls and vigilance. We can imagine an entire message in this one trinket, combining all these elements: “Wise up! Don’t give in to Satan! God’s watching you!”

Whether there was a specific meaning to the owl, or including it was just a random gesture, the criminals probably didn’t spend much time trying to interpret this riddle. And they certainly didn’t stick around to ask for an explanation!

We don’t know whether the thieves will take the sister’s advice — more precious than any gold or silver they could have hoped to find in the safe. What they did steal was two comforters off the beds in the sisters’ rooms. “You can see that they were cold too,” Sr. Gabriella told a reporter.

We can only hope that the stolen comforters brought warmth to someone who needed it, and that the sisters’ sense of humor and useful advice might have warmed a cold heart, opening it to God’s grace.

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