A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles
by Justin Calanoso

Archive for September, 2008

Back to business

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Eszter VadjaUNC-TV reporter and anchor Eszter Vadja contacted me at my newspaper today to invite me on her program Wednesday evening. It will be a panel discussion on the economy. Other panelists will include business profs from UNC, Duke and Wake Forest, an investment expert and a civic leader from Charlotte. Starts at 9 p.m. on your North Carolina public television channel. Should be a lively and illuminating discussion. Eszter said I could mention my book, but somehow I don’t think we’ll get around to it.

But — Tim Funk, religion writer for the Charlotte Observer, interviewed me today about My Cousin the Saint. His story will run Saturday, October 4. I have three appearances in Charlotte coming up. St. Matthew on Oct. 10, the Italian-American festival uptown on Oct. 11and St. Gabriel’s on Nov. 16.

Book club questions

Monday, September 29th, 2008

As I receive reader feedback, I am hearing that book clubs are reading My Cousin the Saint. That’s wonderful! To help with the discussion that is the heart and soul of every book club (until it veers off into good friends catching up with each other’s lives!), here is a set of questions to consider:

1.      How would you describe southern Italy at the turn of the 20th century? How did Catanoso’s description of the land, the long history and the people surprise you? What role did those conditions play in the “great wave” of Italian immigration to America between 1880 and 1920?

2.      The central characters in Part I are cousins Gaetano Catanoso, the eventual saint, and Carmelo Catanoso, the author’s grandfather. How does the tenor of the times influence both men as they pursue their own profound, interior callings?

3.      My Cousin the Saint is divided into three parts – Faith, Family and Miracles. Each part begins with a short miracle story. How do those miracle stories set the tone for the chapters to follow in each part?

4.      Why does the Catholic Church, which has been doing so for 2,000 years, name saints? What is your reaction to the intricate, complex nature of this process?

5.      Pope John Paul II is still criticized by some for naming so many saints. This point is addressed in the book. Do you believe the criticism is fair?

6.      If you learned you had a saint in the family, someone whom the Vatican declares has actual miraculous powers, what would you pray for?

7.      Did reading this book temper your views on the Catholic Church or Catholicism?

8.      A central theme of Part I is America as a land of opportunity, and of biases and prejudices against recent immigrants. How does this story illuminate the current controversy over legal and illegal immigration?

9.      Catanoso, a lapsed Catholic, returns to church following the canonization of his relative and eventually comes to see that being lapsed, skeptical and doubtful is far more common in the church than he imagined. How does this story prompt you to reflect on your own faith or lack thereof?

10.  Catanoso goes off in search and faith and finds his family – scores of them in another country, most of whom don’t even speak English. It was almost as if they had been expecting him for 100 years. How much do you know about your own family history? If you connected with long-lost relatives in another place or country, what would expectations be? Is this something you would like to do?

Enjoy the discussion!


A saint-to-be and an Hawaiian dilemma

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Father DamienThe San Francisco Chronicle reports here that Hawaii is wrestling with a dilemma. Father Damien, the priest who selflessly cared for lepers until the disease took his life, lived in Kalaupapa. While Hawaii is nothing if not a tourist destination, Kalaupapa “is sacred ground with a history of disease, suffering and isolation.” With Father Damien’s canonization likely next year, Kalaupapa, which still cares for people with leprosy, is being sought out by pilgrims and tourists. Thus the dilemma.

“The priority is the patients. That’s why we have to approach this very delicately,” said state Sen. J. Kalani English. “Their privacy is paramount, their security is paramount, their dignity is paramount.”

A complicating factor: the Vatican-approved miracle that will bring Father Damiem sainthood came to a cancer sufferer who traveled to Kalaupapa to pray for healing — and was inexplicably healed.

Family reunion

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Catanoso family reunion
The 51st Catanoso Family Reunion will be held tomorrow at the Avalon Campground in Clermont, NJ. These events started as small affairs with nine siblings and their children in the backyard of Uncle Tony and Aunt Phyllis’ home in North Wildwood, NJ. The events have grown in size over the years as the 22 grandchildren of Carmelo and Caterina Catanoso began families of their own. Four generations are now represented. The photo here, which is included in my book, was taken in 2003.

A review: Main Line Times

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Journalist David Robinson, who covers religion for the Main Line Times in Armore, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, writes a long and thoughtful review of My Cousin the Saint in the current issue. The review is here.:

An excerpt:

“Catanoso weaves his story of My Cousin the Saint with threads from Padre Gaetano’s life amid the villages of southern Italy, and the American story of Carmelo Catanoso (the author’s grandfather and a cousin of the saint) who fled Italy in 1903 and never looked back. Equally compelling are the author’s confessions as he seeks to understand his God, church and the river of questions that dilute his faith.”

Holy relic

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

relic in chorio
This relic can be seen in the church St. Pasquale of Baylon in Chorio, a little village in southern Calabria where St. Gaetano Catanoso was born — as well as my grandfather. The relic is actually a thin piece of skin from the saint. Catholics, of course, believe relics are holy objects, closely associated with the sacred departed, that maintain mystical and sometime miraculous powers when prayed over.

Please see the video at the Multimedia button called Sacred Relics for more details.

Christopher Closeup on Sirius

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

On Sunday, September 21, my interview as part of the Christopher Closeup on Sirius satellite radio’s The Catholic Channel (159) will air at 7 a.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., Eastern time. Tony Rossi conducted the interview and we had an enjoyable discussion about My Cousin the Saint.

The interview will be available as a free podcast on this web site on Monday:

Treasures of the church

Friday, September 19th, 2008

A rare exhibit of Vatican art and artifacts opens this month in St. Paul, Minn., featuring one of the oldest representations of the face of Jesus Christ. The story is here.

Archbishop Favalora: Why we don’t take sides on candidates

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

A Catholic friend brought this wise and thoughtful letter to my attention, written Sept. 12 by Archbishop John C. Favolora of Miami. He takes issue with a group called the Alliance Defense Fund, which is urging pastors across the country to join their initiative by preaching a sermon “that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture.”

Favalora writes:  “Needless to say, none of our Catholic churches or priests will be participating in this initiative. For one thing, we can do a lot for our communities with the money we save by being tax-exempt. That is why we accept that status and agree to abide by IRS rules that ban religious organizations from becoming involved in partisan politics.

“For another, ‘scriptural truth’ is not that easy to attain. Which is more ‘true’ in terms of scripture: The Old Testament passage that says “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” or Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek”?

“The problem is that people often quote selectively from Scripture in order to back their own opinions. The other problem is that rarely, if ever, does an individual candidate or political party embody the gamut of ‘scriptural truth.’

“The Catholic Church values Scripture, but we also value 2,000 years of oral and written tradition handed down from the apostles and their disciples, and another 2,000 years of ongoing theological reflection by some of the greatest thinkers and saints.”

The entire letter, which is here, bears reading. A news story in the National Catholic Reporter about the letter is here.

No apology for Darwin

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

A Vatican official said yesterday: “Maybe we need to abandon the habit of issuing apologies and treating history as if it were a court always in session.” The story is here.