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

Posts Tagged ‘Anna Pangallo’

Vincenzo Infortuna, mi’amico

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Vincenzo Infortuna
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.

Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Frank Wilson, the former book editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s book review section, reviews My Cousin the Saint today in the Sunday paper. The review is here. I think he liked the book, and was really taken by Padre Gaetano Catanoso, the man who became a saint.

Excerpt: “The real miracle on display in this book is the life of Gaetano Catanoso. Here was a man unaffected by theological subtleties, spouting no mystical mumbo-jumbo, content to pray, celebrate Mass, and be unwaveringly good and kind. In short, a good priest … the soul of the book is Padre Gaetano. We all need to become better acquainted with him.”

Journal: June 20, 2006 Miracles and Medicine

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Dr. Giuseppe Bolignano

A week ago, I wrote here about my extraordinary interview with an extraordinary woman, Anna Pangallo of Roccaforte del Greco, the recipient of St. Gaetano’s second and decisive miracle. A few days after I spoke with Anna, I conducted one of the most fascinating and soulful interviews of my 25-year career as a journalist. I interviewed Anna Pangallo’s doctor, Giuseppe Bolignano, an infectious diseases expert at Riuniti Hospital in Reggio di Calabria. The entire story of the miracle lady and her doctor is detailed in Chapter 19 of my book. What follows are some excerpts from my journal entry on June 20, 2006. My interpreter that morning was Edward Parker, a British ex-pat working as an English teacher in Reggio. He married a beautiful local woman named Angela.

“We get into the doctor’s office just after 10 a.m. an hour late. No bad, all things considered. We situate ourselves around his desk, Dr. Bolignano sitting behind it. He is an handsome man of 59, round face, dark eyes, bald for the most part with a few strands brushed across the top. He has two posters of bacteria cell slides hanging on the wall behind his desk. On the opposite wall, there is a Padre Pio calendar. No sign of Gaetano. The doctor is wearing a short-sleeved, blue open-collar shirt. We explain to him that it would be good if he spoke in short chunks and allowed time for translation. He nods and actually follows through! He is very patient, and matter of fact in his tone and explanation. Scientific. He tells the story of Anna Pangallo, how she entered the hospital, the shape she was in, the fact that he, as her primary physician, declared her a hopeless cause and told her family to prepare for her eventual death. He speaks quietly, pensively, without bluster. To the hardest questions come the most assertive replies.

“Do you believe in miracle? I ask. A pause. ‘I don’t know,’ he says, before offering a striking explanation. It is a beautiful beyond words, intense and dramatic. He ponders my question further and thinks it through. His eyes, dark and expressive, tell me his answers are entirely sincere. As he talks, he gestures with his left hand. He is a man of science and a man of deep faith. He does not find these concepts conflicting or mutually exclusive. But he’s not a mystic either. The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but so does the human body, he seems to say. So much is still inexplicable, perhaps more so in this hospital, which may never rank among the better hospitals in Italy, or even Calabria for all I know.


“When we move beyond the case of Anna Pangallo, we talk about his relationship to Padre Gaetano. He knew the priest personally. His family was very close to him. huge fans and supporters. He was 17 when the great priest died. ‘He was my uncle,’ he says. His descriptions are clear and matter of fact, scientific, minus the science. It’s also clear that he loved and revered Padre Gaetano intensely, and his pride in the saint’s life is boundless. That pride has virtually nothing to do with official edicts from the Vatican since 1990 regarding his uncle. Dr. Bolignano knew those things already. ‘The Vatican,’ he tells me, ‘doesn’t make saints. God does. And Gaetano was a saint long before the Vatican got around to declaring him so.’ ”