MY COUSIN THE SAINT
A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles
by Justin Calanoso

Posts Tagged ‘Bleeding Espresso’

All the way from Calabria

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Ok, I’m just a little excited. The paperback version of My Cousin the Saint comes out tomorrow, and I just got a little help from a wonderful American blogger in Calabria in getting the word out — Michelle Fabio, author of the popular Web site bleeding espresso. I was really happy to be able to excerpt her online review of my book in the paperback. Her post is here.

bleeding espresso

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I’m relaively new to this medium of blogging, but I do it enough to realize how much time and energy and passion it requires to create a really attractive and compelling blog that people want to visit again and again. I have a new friend in Calabria, American writer Michelle Fabio, who keeps just such a blog. But don’t take my word for it. Michelle’s blog, bleeding espresso, is a finalist for Best European Weblog for 2009.

Congratulations, Michelle! I hope you win. (You can vote for your favorite blogs, including Michelle’s, by following this link.)

Book review: bleeding espresso

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Michelle Fabio, the committed and talented keeper of the lovely Calabrian blog bleeding espresso, makes good on her promise to review My Cousin the Saint. It’s here.

And this at the site: Top Italian Gift Guide

Calabrian advice

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Michelle Fabio, who runs the wonderful site bleeding espresso from her adopted home in Calabria, offers some sound holiday gift-giving advice here , including a much-appreciated book recommendation. Grazie, Michelle.

Answering questions, part II

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

As promised, here are the answers to more questions left last week at the blogs bleeding espresso and My Bella Vita:

Q: Had you lost your faith…and did this make you find it again?” (oops that’s a two part question. Because I also wanted to ask: Did your wife slap you upside the head when she read the above passage [referring to the posted story I wrote "Almost like falling in love]? LOL Sorry. Couldn’t resist./This eclectic life

A: Last question first. No, my wife didn’t slap me. She laughed. We’ve been to Italy several times together, and she’s pretty used to me swooning over the beauty that seems to be everywhere. She swoons as well! How could we not? As for my faith – lost and somewhat found – this truly is a major theme in my story so I don’t want to give away too much here. Let’s just say that I fell completely away from Catholicism after high school and it took a canonized relative to draw me back.

Q: Before your trip to Calabria in 2003, did you spend a lot of time Italy? What role did religion play in your day-to-day life? Nyc/Caribbean ragazza

A: When my wife and I married in 1984, we spent two months traveling through western Europe, 10 of those days in Italy — Venice, Padua, Florence and Rome. It was a glorious experience, and we vowed to return when our children were old enough to take it all in. Our return to Italy took 19 years. I’ve been back four times since then. Regarding religion, it played only a minor role in my life prior to researching and writing my book.

Q: Can we hear the NPR interview somewhere [this commentary led to me being able to write the book]? Fern

A: Yes, just click here. It’s less than four minutes long and aired Oct. 20, 2005, three days before the canonization.

A: In 1984, during a two-month honeymoon tour of Western Europe, my wife and I spent 10 glorious days in Italy – Venice, Padua, Florence and Rome. We didn’t return for 19 years, but that time with our three daughters. Prior to writing this book, religion played a very small role in my day-to-day life.

Q: If you return to Italy again, please promise that you will take your wife and daughters. I, too, am catholic, and wish I knew more about my religion. Question for you: does it all make sense now? Marmie

A: I’ve taken my wife and daughters to Italy, including Calabria twice since 2003. And we were all together for the canonization in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 23, 2005. And last March, my wife and I went back to Calabria so that the relatives could see the book (I had galley copies to share). I have every intention of visiting my Italian relatives as often as possible, and no intention of ever going back alone. As for Catholicism. I feel like I am a few steps down a very long road. Some things make a bit more sense to me – the rituals of the Mass, the meaning of saints, the tangible comfort of prayer. But the great mysteries of the Church remain mysteries to me.

Q: Has your Italian improved in the past years since visting Italy and doing your research? Carla

A: Yes, relatively speaking. When I made my first trip to Calabria in 2003 with my family, I had no Italian. Upon my return, I started studying on my own, settling on the Pimsleur language training system. I found it extraordinary. Over the next four years, I completed all three levels, some 90 30-minute lessons. I am far from conversant, unfortunately, but I can enough to communicate at a basic level.

Q: When Dorthy Day was called a saint her response was “I won’t be dismissed so easily” (That’s one of my all time favorite quotes). So Justin, What do you think St Gaetano’s response would have been if someone called him a saint?

A: I think Padre Gaetano would have said, “I am not worthy of the honor.” Among his many virtues was his humility. He called himself “the little donkey of Christ.” My Calabrian relatives who knew him tell me would not have approved of the fuss and expense expended over 25 years to ensure his canonization. But like Dorothy Day, Gaetano Catanoso was a saint in the truest sense of the word. He and she lived lives of heroic virtue in service to others.

Q: What does it feel like to be related to a saint? Joanne

A: One of the central questions in my book is this: what does it mean to have a saint in the family, does it mean anything at all? I spent the better part of 300 pages addressing that fundamental question. I wasn’t sure there was a compelling answer when I started my research for this book, but I learned otherwise after spending the better part of a month in Calabria in the summer of 2006 with my Italian relatives there, many of whom knew the saint personally (he died in 1963).

Q: Do you think you reconstructed the episode exactly or do you think you were guided in part from Saint Gaetano who motivated you to write your book? Thanx From Australia

A: It’s hard for me to separate out how hard I had to work for so long to complete this project, with the great luck and good fortune I experienced along the way to make it actually happen. Did St. Gaetano play a role? I won’t argue against that.

Q: Did your trip to Calabria, finding new/old relatives, discovering Italian lifestyle and the research about your cousin the Saint change your attitude towards religion? Do you believe in God (now?/before?/at all?) suzie

A: To answer these questions here would be to reveal 85 percent of the book!

Q: I think what you are doing is brave and admire your goal and aspirations. Today so many people criticize the Catholic church for so many things. How do you think this book will help other Catholics be brave? And able to open up more about there lives in the Catholic church? Thanks, Lainey

A: I don’t know how brave I’m being, but I did strive to be honest, as honest as possible about some deeply personal things when writing my book. The Catholic Church gives many reasons for someone like me to walk away and stay away — particularly when church leaders become politicized, exclusionary and judgmental. I have been fortunate. I have found a church where I feel welcomed, which focuses on the true meaning of the faith, which doesn’t make socio-political demands which exceed its moral authority. I am comfortable there.  But I still wrestle with many questions, concerns and doubts. In college, I had a mentor about whom I write about in Part II of my book who told me — “it’s ok if you don’t believe everything the church teaches, just believe what you can.” That piece of advice has resonated with me for more than 25 years.

Q: What’s changed for you (faith-wise) since your book was published? Donna

A: I joined a church – St. Pius X in Greensboro, North Carolina. That’s an enormous change.

Answering questions, part 1

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

My new friends in Calabria who hosted me this week on their blogs bleeding espresso and My Bella Vita have been fielding some great questions for me about My Cousin the Saint. I’m going to provide some answers in the coming week starting now:

Q: How did your research change or confirm your belief and thoughts of miracles? Andrea

A: My research changed my notion of miracles dramatically – not only my reading, but the interviews I conducted with priests at the Vatican in the pope’s office of saint making. These days, I no longer use the phrase “it’s a miracle” lightly or randomly. The Catholic Church’s definition of a miracle is precise and exacting. A miracle is never luck, never a coincidence. It is, as a great saint once said, “beyond the order commonly observed.” Sticking with the definition, miracles are divine and supernatural, gilded by grace and understood only through faith – like Lazerus rising from the dead. The church tells us that only God performs miracles, often through the intercession (call it lobbying if you like) of those close to Him – the saints.

Now – do I believe this stuff? I can’t say that I always do. I’m still skeptical and doubtful. But I’ve studied the miracles attributed to Saint Gaetano, I’ve met an Calabrian woman who the Vatican said was the recipient of a miracle, I’ve heard moving miracle stories from my Italian relatives. My research and my experiences have challenged my skepticism. Today, I am far more open to the idea of miracles than I was before this saint wandered into my life a few years ago.

Q: My question is…are you a victim of Stendhal’s Syndrome, or do you feel that you are able to take an objective look at Italy, Catholicism and saints in general? (Maybe I have to read your book myself to find the answer to my question!) saretta

A: Once I looked up the meaning of the syndrome, I must confess, I suffer from it on every trip to Italy – in the best way! I’m dizzy and delirious and eager to absorb far more than I can take in at once. I get over it before too long, and when I do, I can see the country more objectively – like it’s myriad aggravations and faults, especially in the south.

Q: My question is this: What has this whole experience done to and for your children and has it changed them at all? Susan

A: More than anything, my daughters are enormously proud and knowledgeable about their Italian heritage. I was far older than them before it came to me.

Q: Of all the stories you heard as you did your research, which one affected you the most, and why? Jen

A: Learning about my immigrant grandfather, Carmelo Catanoso of Chorio, who died long before I was born was extraordinary. But hearing a miracle story from a favorite cousin in Calabria, Patrizia Catanoso, gave me chills. Her moving story starts the book.

Q: Had you prayed to saints before you found this out about your family? Suebob

A: Never. But now I do regularly, at least to the one I know best.

(more Q&A to come)

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New Video: Pentidattilo

Thursday, October 9th, 2008


I am thrilled to able to post a new video (with a few more to come!). This one gives you a glimpse of Pentidatillo, a hillside village above Melito di Porto Salvo at the very bottom of Italy. This short video opens with a view from Pentidattilo of Mount Etna, which lies across the Ioanian Sea in Sicily.

This village is where Padre Gaetano Catanoso was sent as a young priest to lead his first parish in 1904, a year after my grandfather emigrated to America. Pentidattilo was a rough and hopeless place at the time. The young priest faced enormous challenges, including Mafia threats inside the church. He served there for 17 years, before being called down to Reggio.

Pentidattilo has been abandond since the 1950s when there were fears that earthquakes would cause a rock slide and crush the homes. It never happened. The European Union is now working to restore some of the homes. A private effort is underway to restore the church. It’s an incredible place to visit.

This video was shot and produced my Michael Frierson, a friend and filmmaker at UNC-Greensboro.

Welcome/Benvenuto

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008


For newcomers to this site, especially faithful readers of Bleeding Espresso and My Bella Vita, welcome! This video, shot and produced in Calabria last March, captures a bit of the spirit of My Cousin the Saint. Please be sure to see the other videos at the Multimedia link. My pal and filmmaker Michael Frierson is completing a few more video shorts, which I will post soon.

Virtual book tour

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

I’ve had the great pleasure since My Cousin the Saint was released on May 20 to travel around North Carolina and even to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to meet with groups and share my stories. Beginning  next week, with the help of my advocates at RLF Communications in Greensboro, N.C., I’ll embark on something of a virtual book tour by posting on a variety of blogs focused on topics related to my book:

Please check out these sites on these days:

Oct. 7 — Bleeding Espresso: www.bleedingespresso.comMy Bella Vita

Oct. 8 — My Bella Vita: www.my-bella-vita.com

Oct. 13 — Amore Travel Guides: www.amoretravelguides.com

Oct. 14 – Italyville: www.italyville.blogspot.com

Oct. 16 — Catholic Dads: www.catholic-dads.blogspot.com