When Pope John Paul II passed away in April, 2005 documentaries and videos dropped from the sky and we were offered a glimpse into his life by people who had met him. The interview with Jim Caviezel, who met Pope John Paul II in preparation for his role in The Passion of Christ, stood out for me and I have always felt a bit closer to the Pope for having heard it.

Caviezel told of his first meeting with the Pope. Due to the years that have passed and the unfortunate state of my pitiful memory, I have paraphrased his words below.

“I was nervous about meeting Pope John Paul II, so I thought I would start with a joke. I told him, Holy Father, I am pretty sure Jesus was Italian.”

“Oh, yes?” He asked me. “Why is that?”

“He lived at home ’til his 30s, He always hung out with the same 12 guys and His mother thought he was God.”

He didn’t say anything for a few minutes and I was worried I had offended him, so I said, “Have I upset you, Holy Father?”

He shook his head and said, “No. I just thought he was Polish.”

In his nearly 27 years as Pontiff, Pope John Paul II canonized 51 saints and beatified 1,340 Blesseds, including Calabria’s own, Padre Gaetano Catanoso.

Saint Gaetano was born on Valentine’s Day, 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, a small village in Reggio Calabria. He served as a role model for at-risk children and young adults and worked to support elderly people who felt isolated or alone.

For thirty years he ministered to local hospitals and prisons and he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica Missionaries of the Holy Face convent.

He devoted his life to the Holy Face of Jesus and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 23, 2005.

As the first Calabrian priest ever to be canonized, Saint Gaetano has established his place in our hearts.

But what connection does he have to you in America and how would it feel to have a saint walking among us?

Click here to find out.

And come back on Wednesday to see what Saint Gaetano, My Bella Vita, Bleeding Espresso and this guy from Jersey have in common (hint … hint … there will be prizes!)

Photo source: Vultus Christi

5 Responses
  1. OK, I’ll probably go to hell for this, but he totally looks like one of the old guys that sits in the box seats on the Muppet Show. That being said, I agree that he is in fact adorable – I love that smile, and he was born on my BF’s bday! He looks like he’s going to reach out and pinch your cheek.
    He he… I thought the same thing about him looking like “the Italian next door.” Isn’t he presh?

  2. A gentle, kindly face, with a bit of sparkle, and wonderful eyebrows! 🙂

    I liked John Paul II and still think of him as “my Pope”. My father had two private audiences with him and said that he was without a doubt a Man of God.
    That is amazing. Your father is very lucky. I thought of John Paul II as “my” pope, too.

  3. Caterine Masak

    Just finished reading My Cousin the Saint. What a inspiring and warm story about the saintly Calabrian priest. My mothers’ parents came from Messina so I found this story about the Canostro familys’ migration to America informative and exciting! It has made me eager to visit Sicily in 2009.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. I just received it and will start reading it soon. If you need any help planning your trip to southern Italy, be sure to let me know!

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