Being Part of Something, Beautiful

Baptism of Fire

Yesterday The Sons and Daughters of Italy celebrated their 112th Founder’s Day, with Mass and lunch, which included a lifetime achievement award.  It was special for one or two particular reasons.

As I heard the priest give his homily in Italian, as I watched the Mass with everyone very reverent to the priest, the Eucharist, and prior the camaraderie of us all, even those of us who were perhaps meeting for the first time, it touched my heart.  Then there came the beautiful voice of one of our members singing Ave Maria and brought a number of us almost to tears.  I was so grateful to be part of the church that started with Peter, with Jesus telling him to feed his sheep.  Then came the ceremony, laying of the wreath a few blocks away at the site of the founding of OSIA. We sang the Italian and American anthem and again I was brought to tears almost, a number of us were because we realized we belonged to not only this exceptional nation America, but also to a culture rich with so much tradition, includes the faith, and if we don’t do something to preserve it, we are in huge trouble.  It was for some of us a mixture of feelings, but pride was definitely part of that. Once again at National Convention NY State loges gave more in charitable donations than any other state lodge and our lodge Petrosino more than any other lodge in NY State.  Part of our cultural identity is being grateful through all generations for being in the land of opportunity, trying to make it better for others.  As we were at the table at lunch and just sharing, talking, chatting,  we were given a flyer about an upcoming Christmas show by one our members, the artist who sang the national anthems, one of the ladies said we should go, her and I.  It is so great to have that camaraderie, but also to know that the truth of the faith can live on with out being active and pro active, as well as the good done for the community, for veterans, for example. It’s beautiful to be part of this.

After a very long journey, I am home being a minister of the arts, a writer here on this blog, some might even label this as life coaching, you decide, Roman Catholic and proud Italian-American


Want People Back In Pews, TRADITION!

Holy Ghost

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That’s right darlin, Tradition, just like they that word that we remember from Fiddler on The Roof.  As music coordinator for the local church and one who had made a journey back home to the faith, I have done a lot of research as to what not only millennials are seeking, but in general those who would want to come back to or come to the church, also what they don’t want.  This would also apply to non millennials, the gist of it.

What don’t they want? What they don’t want is the church to be a rock concert, night club, cafe, lounge, opera stage or anything besides a church.  They also don’t want hip and cool man, so if you are looking to become a star and liver out your dreams through the church, they won’t appreciate any of that.  They won’t appreciate it being a way for you to feel good about you, or for you to be some hero, and they will see right through.  Authentic teaching, authentic God, even if it rattles their cage, okay rattle away, but he honest, don’t run, hide, water down, treat them like fragile porcelain, but also don’t be brutal either, judge the sin, but love the sinner.  The articles I have been reading make a similar point, which is that you do not go to church to be entertained to “feel good”, you go to reflect, contemplate, to hear truth, even if uncomfortable.  

What do they want?   They want traditional Mass with traditional song and liturgy, dynamic homily.  As for the arts, they are fine with the creative,  related to scripture, faith formation.   If you are creative and you do it out of true love of teaching scripture and all things of God, teaching that to them, hey by all means. They want the homily, the teachings to be authentic brutal, but authentic, Jesus presented in both his humanity and divinity.  They want a God,  Trinity that is not so pie in the sky they can’t ever relate.  Authentic teaching, authentic God, even if it rattles their cage, okay rattle away.  Be honest, don’t run, hide, water down, treat them like fragile porcelain, but also don’t be brutal either, judge the sin, but love the sinner.  They want the church to be a second home, to guide, point the way, to know that even the apostles, the saints struggled with temptations, with anger, with people opposing their expression of faith, throughout their lives, and that faith is not easy.  One article I was reading pointed this out:  Recent research from Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network found that 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77 percent would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.”.  That says a lot.  In that same article blogger Amy Peterson put it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”  Again, they want to feel embraced and safe in the church, but they also don’t want to be lied to and not receive authenticity, so finding that balance is crucial.  

Catholicism in particular has such rich traditions and to try and modernize and all that blarney is silly and dumb and no it should not change its’ doctrines of truth on anything in terms of core teachings, but each church must do a much better job of catechesis, formation, apologetics and application of it all to life and community, internally and externally.  Sadly not everyone wants to hear get back to basics, get back to tradition, to catechesis and all that jazz, and so the church pews stay empty, as the secular and all other marvels are tried in order to grow the church instead of getting back to basics.  These articles I found interesting and hope you do to.

Local parish leaders gain insights on reaching millennials

Millennials at Mass: To whom shall we go?




Christmas Traditions of Italy



Christmas has different traditions around the world, and I wanted to share those from Italy, my mom’s native land. I found this article that gives the different traditions, including foods for that season.  I love my heritage and sharing about it with others.

Italian traditions in Italy are based heavily on the religion ofChristianity. Christmas starts eight days before Christmas and laststill after the Feast of Epiphany. Musical salutes are made at the shrineof the Virgin Mary and songs are played at the homes of carpenters inhonor of St. Joseph. Eight days before Christmas, a special Novena ofprayers and church services begin. It all ends on Christmas Day. OnDecember 23rd, sometimes earlier, children dressed as shepherds withsandals, leggings tied with crossing thongs, and wearing shepherds’hats, go from house to house playing songs on shepherds’ pipes andgiving recitations. They receive money to buy Christmas treats. Incities like Rome real shepherds sometimes carry out the performance.A strict fast is observed 24 hours before Christmas after which a mealwith many dishes (but no meat) is served. The traditional Christmasdinner, Cenone, is made up of spaghetti and anchovies, anassortment of fish, fresh broccoli, tossed salad, fruits, and sweets.A Yule log, the Ceppo, is burned, and toasts in wine and wishes for thefuture are expressed. The Urn of Fate, an old Italian tradition, is alarge ornamental bowl that holds wrapped gifts for members of thefamily. When the family gets together, each member takes his turn atdrawing a gift from the urn until all the presents are distributed.The presepio (manger or crib) represents in miniature the Holy Familyin the stable and is the center of Christmas for families. Guests kneelbefore it and musicians sing before it . The presepio figures are usuallyhand-carved and very detailed in features and dress. The scene isoften set out in the shape of a triangle. This is a wooden framearranged to make a pyramid several feet high. Several tiers of thinshelves are supported by this frame. It is entirely decorated withcolored paper, gilt pine cones, and miniature colored pennants. Smallcandles are fastened to the tapering sides. A star or small doll ishung at the apex of the triangular sides. The shelves above themanger scene have small gifts of fruit,candy, and presents. The ceppois in the old Tree of Light tradition which became the Christmas treein other countries. Some houses even have a ceppo for each child inthe family.From the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome a cannon is fired to proclaimthe opening of the Holy Season. Each tries to outdo the other bydisplaying the biggest presepio.Children in Italy hang up their stockings on the Feast of theEpiphany, January 6. They celebrate the visit of the Three Kings toBethlehem. Instead of Santa Claus, children are expecting Befana.She is a witch-like character who rides around on a broom. Thelegend is that the Three Wise Men, I re magi, stopped at Befana‘s hut to ask[giotto: re magi]directions on their way to Bethlehem and asked her to join them. Shesaid no, she was too busy. Later a shepherd asked her to join him inpaying respect to the Baby Jesus. Again, Befana said no. Later when itwas dark and she saw a great light in the skies, she thought perhapsshe should have gone with the Wise Men. So, she gathered some toysthat had belonged to her own baby, who had died, and ran to find thekings and the shepherd. But Befana could not find them or the stable.Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. And each year sinceshe can not find him, she leaves the gifts for the good children of Italyand pieces of charcoal for the bad ones..No meat is eaten for twenty-four hours before Christmas Eve, butthere follows a meal as big as the family can afford. A special NewYear Banquet is eaten on the last day of the year, with raisin bread,turkey, chicken, rabbit, and spaghetti. Champagne is the drink of theevening. 


Faith and The Arts

The Journey That is Life.

As I look at the Roman Catholic Church I see art everywhere, and if we look at its’ history, it has to its’ name some of the finest sculptors and artists.  Why are the arts and Catholicism so intertwined?  How important are the arts to the faith?

It seems the early Church Fathers described the purpose of religious images as anagogic, literally meaning “leading one upward.” They wrote that this art should raise the soul and mind of the beholder to the incorruptible and eternal realm of the Spirit.  Catholic art has always told the story of the Faith. Originally this was done through clandestine symbols (such as the anchor/cross, and the fish), later through iconography and portraiture (in which saints held an item which helped the viewer identify them), and later still through highly detailed depictions of scriptural scenes and hagiography (the life stories of saints). In the Catholic Mass, the homily is used to explain the Scriptures and the doctrines of the Church, and for instructing the faithful how they can apply these in daily life. Sacred art can act as a “homily” of its own.  Also keep in mind that in the earlier days, many were not literate, so giving them a written Bible would not have made much sense.  Often the teaching was done through the arts, doing the Stations of the Cross, The Mysteries of the Rosary through the church, using visuals to teach.  Same purpose served the icons, to teach, to instruct, and also be a reminder daily to live the faith in all aspects of life, not just Sunday at Mass. As an article I read pointed out “The Church believed that the temple should show that it was built not for the service of man, but of God. To adorn these majestic buildings she summoned the sister arts. Through the stained windows, “The panes of ancient churches, passionate with martyred saints, whom angels wait, with Virgin and with Crucified,” the light shone holier for that transfiguration. There the painter told in language all could read the solemn story of the religion they believed.”  The writer also points out in regards to music the following:  “Music, whose miraculous voice utters all passions, pains, delights, and truths, breathed her beautiful religion on the air. She sang of what Raphael and Titian painted; of the birth, and the death, and the resurrection; of the prayers of penitence, the anguish of strife, the rapture of heaven, the torments of hell; and in her voice were heard sobs, and cries, and supplications, thunders of divine wrath, trumpets of doom and of redemption, and choruses upon choruses of angels proclaiming the glory of God. In all the arts the Church embodied Christianity; as she converted souls, so she converted music and painting.”  The arts including visual served and still do when properly applied to teach the faith, to bring God presence and glory into our lives.  In addition it should be noted that The golden age of the organ was also the golden age of art, architecture, poetry, music, and science. The Catholic Church encouraged and commissioned many of the great artists and composers whose works are admired and used to this day. Bach, Haydn, and Handel are but a few of the Renaissance composers who have enriched our lives with the beauty of their Masses, chorales, cantatas, and sacred hymns. The church has supported the arts from the beginning of time.

I will not abandon writing secular songs, and when God’s Spirit comes upon me to inspire that I will write what I am inspired to write, by His Spirit or through a very special connection to certain persons.  I do hope to dedicate my life to sacred music, the sacred arts and also Italian culture and arts.  That is my hope, my prayer, the gifts, one of the gifts I ask for this holiday season and for the New Year, in addition to hoping that a particular connection moves forward, grows and develops further, very organically.



Traditions Matter

Life and Liberty, God Bless America
The light shines within., going out in connection to the Divine Creator.

Is it because I am getting older, wiser, who know, but I am coming to the season of advent and Christmas, whatever the theology I might question, I am realizing that the traditions of my childhood and even maybe seeing to it that I bring in traditions of Advent etc.. matter.

It’s not about the traditions themselves, not about the advent candles, cavatelli  or the struffoli themselves, it’s about what they mean.  It’s about the continuity, the sharing in something that goes back before you and though I was not blessed with kids, I hope that I will have in other ways the opportunity to pass those on to future generations, the foods, the culture because whatever theology I discern in the end to resonate truly and fully with me, there are certain things that are part of me, of  who I am and being Italian is something that will be with me for the rest of my life.  I asked mom to show me how to make the cavatelli, the struffoli, and I may look for recipes for other italian treats that are traditional for advent and Christmas.  Advent reflection, and reflection on the themes of advent are a beautiful thing, whatever your spiritual inclination or theology.  I am realizing how important these connections are, how crucial they are, how magical they can be if we truly open up to the wonder of the season.  I hope this season a particular connection I have made in life will be sharing it with me and new life for us both in different ways, for different reasons.  I guess as one gets older and one looks back, one remembers, one does appreciate tradition a lot more.  With mom being 92, her heart not being as strong as it was, feels like time is running out for me to fully embrace those traditions that make me in good measure who I am, Italian, something I am proud of.   I look forward with my music, poetry, with the continuation of traditions in honoring that and passing it on somehow to future generations.  May it be a blessing for them as it has been for me, only I never realized how much of blessing being Italian with all its’ traditions really was, not to the extent I am beginning to now.  

Shalom and Amen