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!