So many things about this time of year that remind me of the amazing and memorable month I spent in Italy exactly four years ago in doing research for my book. This day particular day, June 25, was both joyful and tragic. My day started with my cousin Giovanna, who drove me the 25 miles from Reggio Calabria to the hillside village of Pentidattilo, where Padre Gaetano had his first church and parish. We spent a few hours that morning wandering through the abandoned village. It was spectacular. On the drive home, however, I learned that Piero Catanso, the family patriarch and legend of the legal community in Reggio, had died suddenly that morning of a heart attach at age 65. Late that afternoon, my interpreter, Germaine, took to me Piero’s niece’s apartment, where the viewing took place just a few hours after Piero had died at the hospital.
My emotions that day were so conflicted and confused. I wondered if in doing the research for my book if I had actually encountered more than I was prepared to handle, whether I really was a part of this Italian family, whether it was necessary for me to return home to America a week early and put this entire book project on hold. But while my spiritual faith was always up for grabs, my faith in my Italian relatives held strong. The week I spent in Reggio after Piero’s death gave me incomparable insight into what it means to be a Catanoso in Italy, what it means to be part of such a large and loving family, and not incidentally, what it means to be related to a saint. A real saint, as in St. Gaetano Catanoso. I will always be profoundly grateful for that.
I know Piero’s wonderful wife Adriana and his grown children, Claudia, Allesandra and Natale, miss him as much today as they did the day he died four years ago today. The fact is, I miss him, too. And all of them as well.