Some of you might remember last fall when Michelle of Bleeding Espresso and I kicked off a blog tour for Calabrian-American journalist and book author, Justin Catanoso. Justin’s debut book, My Cousin the Saint had just hit the shelves and my newly-found Calabria pride encouraged me to share this book-and the story of Calabria’s newest saint-with my little corner of the blogosphere.
I’ve actually had the book for some time, sitting on my bookshelf, with Padre Gaetano’s hand-pained image and haloed face smiling out at me, but between other book reviews, Italian language classes and the non-stop adventures that come with life in Calabria, I hadn’t yet read it.
And I’m so glad I waited.
I am a strong believer in the power of timing and of the idea that things come to you when you most need them. You see, I wasn’t quite honest in my introduction when I told you it was my Calabria pride that motivated my previous posts. The truth is-I liked Justin. He is a newspaper man, the lone male in a family of women, a writer. He reminded me of my own father and for that, I wanted to see him succeed.
I can’t explain why I picked up the book when I did … perhaps it was motivated by my impending trip back to the US and by the fact I’d be returning to a home no longer shared with my father, but it resonated with me in ways I couldn’t have understood a year ago.
From Patrizia’s miracle description on page one, through Saint Gaetano’s vision of a better Calabria, to Justin’s personal struggle of coping with the loss of an immediate family member … I was absorbed. And I couldn’t stop reading.
I found myself laughing, biting my nails and crying-all on an airplane, thankyouverymuch-as the story of Justin’s American family intertwined with the Italian ancestors his grandfather had left behind. His depiction of southern Italy, both the landscape and its people, were flawless and more than once I recognized my own Italian family members in his descriptions.
But I think what resounded with me the most was Justin’s unending search for faith. Although I’ve spent my life as a more-devout-than-not Catholic, these last six months have challenged my faith, and I understood Justin’s doubts-and hopes!-that faith can be restored.
I’m not sure if he meant for his book to motivate Catholics or re-inspire the faithful, but I can’t help but think there is a humble, Calabrese parish priest who is happy about it … who is smiling down on us from above as he is hurriedly answers his newly-sainted hot line.
Want to learn more about My Cousin the Saint? You can peruse Justin’s photos of Reggio Calabria, the village of Chorio and Saint Gaetano’s canonization, visit Justin’s website or read other reviews. Want to read the book yourself? Click here to buy -now available in paperback!
You can thank me later.