Tonight, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m., I’ll be talking about immigration and My Cousin the Saint at the Barnes & Noble in Greensboro, NC.
Posts Tagged ‘immigration’
“A sense of optimism about the coming year is starting to settle in among advocates for immigrants who had begun to weary after years of unsuccessfully seeking reform of immigration laws and policies.” Story and survey results here.
Adam Sobsey, a talented book reviewer for The Independent, an alternative weekly in Raleigh, N.C., reviews My Cousin the Saint in this week’s paper. The review is here. An excerpt:
“Although Catanoso often shows us his skeptical-journalist card (he’s a Pulitzer nominee and the executive editor of the Triad’s Business Journal), the combination of his ardent earnestness and his felicitous discoveries mark him as a man who wants very much to believe—partially for the very reason that he seems to keep finding only good news everywhere he looks. Even when people close to him die, there’s uplift at the end.”
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!
News flash for the AP wire:
NEW YORK (Sept. 15) —A museum dedicated to Italian Americans has reopened where it belongs—in Little Italy. The Italian American Museum originally opened in 2001 in midtown Manhattan, but it has just completed a move to 155 Mulberry St. at the corner of Grand Street. The museum’s mission is to explore the cultural heritage of Italian Americans and their European roots.
Debbie Barsotti, a talented reporter for the Catholic Star Herald (Camden, NJ diocese), writes about “My Cousin the Saint” in this week’s issue of the paper. An excerpt:
“In Catanoso’s book, the stories of both his grandfather and the sainted cousin come alive. There is historical perspective about life on both continents. ‘In order for me to write about them,’ Catanoso said, ‘I knew I needed to provide enough history to bring them life in the context of their time. Otherwise you couldn’t appreciate the courage of both of them.’ “
The whole story is here.
Last night, we hosted a special guest at our home – Thiago Catanoso, a 29-year-old computer expert for an America-based software company who lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil. In that South American country, there are scores of Catanosos who, like the Catanosos in America, trace their roots back a few generations to Calabria in the toe of the boot of Italy.
Thiago’s great-great grandparents emigrated from Chorio in 1903, a year before my grandfather left the same tiny Calabrian village (also the birthplace of the future saint to whom we all share a common bloodline). One of his Brazilian uncles, Jose Carlos Catanoso, returned to Reggio di Calabria several years ago to meet his Italian relatives for the first time, and learn also about Padre Gaetano. Jose Carlos and his wife, Maria, returned, as we did, to attend the canonization in St. Peter’s Square in October 2005.
Last evening, we had a wonderful visit with Thiago, who was at the end of a business trip for his employer that took him first to Miami (we “met” online earlier this year when he contacted me by email). We shared family stories and family photos and spoke about our lives in America and Brazil. His father and wife called during the visit to say hello from the southern hemisphere. To our knowledge, this is the first time that American and Brazilian branches of the Catanoso family have ever met.
The world feels like a smaller place today, but I know now that I have a bigger family.
A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of speaking with Frank Morock, the host of Catholic Bookmarks, a program broadcast on satellite radio and Relevant radio stations in the Midwest. Our 15-minute conversation about my book was just archived at the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Frank, whose grandparents are also from Calabria, had wonderful questions for me. It’s program No. 826 and you can easily listen to an MP3 recording. The link is here. I hope you enjoy it.
From left: Patrizia Catanoso, her friend Angela and Patrizia’s husband Orazio Velardi
From my journal, written late at night after a full day of reporting in Reggio Calabria on June 14, 2006. A long day ended with a gathering of cousins at a trattoria near the city center:
“So I’m sitting in the corner at this restaurant, letting the Italian spoken at the table wash over me like coins dropped on a metal chute – they run right off. I stare at the faces, most of them truly Calabrian faces. Dark hair, usually straight, often jet black. Almond shaped eyes. Naturally olive complexions. Strong chins and jaw lines. There is so much touching in Italy — the natural, expected cheek kisses, where don’t really kiss, just touch cheeks, left than right. So many women are over-the-top beautiful, dark hair and skin and eyes, sexiness flowing naturally like water from a spring.
“I tire of observing and decide to ask some questions, even though I know the answers will be nearly impossible to understand. My Italian stinks. I ask Daniela – ‘Do you ever think of America? Do you ever think what your life would be like if your parents or grandparents had left here like my grandfather and grandmother?’ No, she says right off, a homebody through and through. She says: We think of America as a nice place to visit, but not live there. Patricia leans over and asks what we’re talking about. When she hears, she puts her hands together as if praying and shakes them up and down – ‘No, I always say, why didn’t my grandfather go to America? Why not? Why not? If he had, I would be there now.’ She’s serious. She turns to me and says, you find me a job in America and I will come. What about your husband’He can stay here!” she jokes. ‘I like Reggio,’ she goes on, ‘but maybe it would be better in America.’
“I ask her to speculate on why my grandfather, Carmelo Catanoso, left Calabria when so few other Catanosos did the same. ‘No lo so,’ Patricia says. ‘Non lo so. (I don’t know) It was very poor here, very poor. So much misery. That’s why Gaetano is a saint.’
“I want to know more. So much more. But now the conversation can’t go any deeper. It is the curse of showing up so late on the scene and suffering from this language divide. My meager Italian skills are a bit like torture, enabling me to crack the surface of a topic or thought, but like parched ground baked in the sun, not able to let me dig much deeper. Not at all. The curtain is still pulled across the past. And I’m struggling to yank it aside.”