In the excerpt below, Niccolò is the first name of Pope Ignatius I. The scene takes place in the Sierra Nevada mountains during a camping/hiking trip. The irony of his final remark is that nobody in the group believes that he is the Pope….
Every now and then, a chipmunk is spotted scurrying about curiously. But they prove to be quite shy, and few hikers are willing to part with anything but a few crumbs to test their boldness with respect to approaching humans. The chipmunks remain indecisive. Finally, Burt empties a bag of peanuts a few steps away from the group, and several chipmunks find the courage to snatch them up for their cache. Everyone but Niccolò is satisfied. The hikers rise to their feet and slip on their backpacks, but, as they do so, Niccolò asks Burt from a few yards away if he can spare another bag of peanuts. Burt shrugs, and tosses him a bag. Niccolò catches it, walks to a large flat stone, seats himself, empties the peanuts into one hand, then pours half of them into the other, bows his head, and waits. The peanuts lie in the cup of his palms, which rest atop his extended legs. Less than a minute goes by before one of the scampering chipmunks makes a dash for Niccolò’s offering. It runs up his leg, stops at his right hand, and begins to nibble away. Seconds later, another chipmunk appears, and before anyone can find the time to scratch his head in amazement, it is eating out of Niccolò’s left hand. The chipmunks remain perched on Niccolò’s knees until all of the peanuts have been consumed, and then they rush off across the meadow.
“That was amazing!” says Tiffani, speaking for the entire group.
“Oh, I had monks of one type or another eating out of the palm of my hand for many years,” replies Niccolò.