Vincenzo Infortuna, mi’amico
I received a call at home this morning from Reggio Calabria. It was sad news. Vincenzo Infortuna, the 49-year-old husband of my cousin Caterina Catanoso, and father of Domenico and Manuela, died earlier today at his home in Reggio from complications of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Vincenzo appears in my book several times, initially in Part II during our first family trip to Italy nearly five years ago, and then again in Part III, when I returned to Calabria in June 2006 for research. Vincenzo was a wonderful man — vibrant, generous and soulful. My first night back in Reggio, when I was uncertain my relatives knew why I was there or how much I needed their assistance, Vincenzo told me at dinner: “Whatever you need, we will help you; wherever you need to go, we will take you.”
And they did, for three solid weeks. Even though Vincenzo was traveling to Torino for treatments(and was already partially paralyzed from his ALS), he made time to take me and Germaine, my friend and interpreter, to Roccaforte del Greco to meet Anna Pangallo, the peasant woman who received the second Vatican-certified miracles from Padre Gaetano Catanoso. The photo above was taken in the Aspromonte of southern Calabria, on our way to see Anna Pangallo. It was a memorable day at so many levels — not the least of which was spending the entire day with Vincenzo (Caterina had me over for dinner that evening).
Near the end of my visit, Vincenzo spoke to me at length, and from the heart, about his illness, about his love for the Catanoso family and about his abiding faith in Padre Gaetano. He told me of his prayers for a miracle cure and humbly explained why he believed he was worthy. And perhaps as much, if not more, than my Catanoso cousins, Vincenzo helped me understand truly what it means to have a saint in the family. I have heard from many readers who were touched by Vincenzo’s eloquence and inquired with me about his health. It is gratifying for me to share his story and message of faith with so many others.
When my wife and I traveled back to Calabria earlier this year to visit our relatives and share with them copies of my book, we got to visit with Vincenzo and his family. His condition had grown so much worse since the summer of 2006. ALS is such a progressive, unforgiving disease. But his eyes and face lit up when I was able to show him where I wrote about him in my book, and where his photograph appeared. I will never forget that smile. Nor will I forget Vincenzo. But I will miss him very much.
Ciao mio caro amico.
Tags: ALS, Anna Pangallo, Aspromonte, Italy, Justin Catanoso, Lou Gehrig's disease, miracles, My Cousin the Saint, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, Reggio Calabria, Roccaforte del Greco, Saints, Vincenzo Infortuna