THE HOLY WEEK IN ENNA

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THE HOLY WEEK IN ENNA

In Enna, on the occasion of the Holy Week, the Church of Saint Michael has been reopened to the public for a few days. It was a mosque until a few centuries ago. Later, it was converted into a Catholic church.

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During the Arab rule, which lasted about two centuries, Sicily was full of mosques. According to a historian, at that time there were more mosques in Palermo than in Istanbul.
Later, although there were many Catholics and also a few Muslim families, Enna was essentially pagan. The cult of the mother goddess Demeter and her daughter Kore was deep rooted in the hearts of the townspeople.
In 1412 the statue of the patron saint, Maria Santissima della Visitazione, came to Enna. Since then, the whole population has been Catholic.

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Although the Holy Week is a legacy of the Spanish rule in Sicily, some brotherhoods date back to the Nights Templar. One of these is the brotherhood of the Most Holy Savior, which was founded in 1261, before the Spaniards conquered Sicily.
The brethren who belong to the brotherhood of the Holy Savior have the privilege of carrying in procession on their shoulders the glass sarcophagus containing the wooden statue of dead Jesus.
In Enna, during the Holy Week, folklore and religiosity intertwine. It is a unique event that is worth seeing.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

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PALM SUNDAY IN ENNA

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PALM SUNDAY IN ENNA

The very bad weather didn’t prevent the townspeople from pouring into the streets. Everybody followed the procession despite the intense cold.
On Palm Sunday, the brethren take in procession the wooden statue of Jesus.
The procession moves from the Church of San Leonardo to the cathedral church.
After mass in the cathedral, the procession goes back to the Church of San Leonardo.
The brethren who have the privilege of carrying the statue of Jesus on their shoulders are those who belong to the Confraternity of Passion. This brotherhood is one of the sixteen brotherhoods of Enna. It was established in the seventeenth century under the Spanish viceroy. In fact, Sicily was Spanish possession.
The rites of the Holy Week date back to the period of Spanish domination, but some brotherhoods are very old and claim to have been founded by the Knights Templar.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

THE PINE TREES IN GYEONGJU, THE CAPITAL OF SILLA

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THE PINE TREES IN GYEONGJU, THE CAPITAL OF SILLA

In old times, Korea was divided into three kingdoms: one of them was Silla.
Later, Silla succeeded in unifying the three kingdoms.
When we arrived in Gyeongju, first of all we visited the three Royal Tombs in Bae-dong. They look like big mounds but inside there are wooden rooms framed with a solid stonework. The rooms have the kings’ body, their crowns, jewels and personal things. In the past, many tombs were excavated by graverobbers, but some of them are still intact.

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Almost all the pine trees in the forests surrounding the three Royal Tombs are twisted.
According to a Korean friend of mine, botanists have studied the phenomenon and come to the conclusion that the pine trees of Gyeongju had modified their DNA not to be cut down. At the time, if the trunk was straight pine wood was used to build houses and palaces; being twisted, the trees would be of no use. Is it true? Who knows! Trees are also living beings. It cannot be ruled out that they have psychic processes and survival instinct.
King Gyeongae was the last king of Silla. He was killed by the rebel army of Gyeonhwon while holding a banquet with his court. Apparently, the step from joy of life to death is short and sudden!
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

KOREA, A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

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KOREA, A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

More than two thirds of Korea consists of mountains covered with trees of various species. Maples and Ginkgoes are common. In autumn, their leaves turn red and golden yellow, and the mountains look like a gigantic painting by God. Here and there, Buddhist temples stand on the slopes of the mountains.
A few days ago, we visited Palgong Mountain, near the city of Daegu. To reach the peak, we climbed 1365 uneven steps. Up there, the statue of Gatbawi Buddha, supposed to be miraculous, sits on the rock. Many people from all over Korea come and make their wishes to this unique Buddha with a hat on. On the top, the ladscape was very beautiful and panoramic.

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One day, we visited a museum of silkworms. The cocoon’s silk is white or yellowish. Apparently, the Silk Road started from Korea and ended in Rome. In ancient times, 1kilo of silk was equivalent to 1kilo of gold!
Another day, we walked around a tea festival. In Korea, making and serving tea is an art. I was enchanted by the gracefulness of Korean ladies wearing their traditional dress called hanbok. In the yard of a house somebody was making a traditional-style sticky rice cake. They set some steamed sticky rice on a big and thick board, and then beat it with a wooden maul. Finally, they cut the mashed rice into small pieces, put some soy bean powder on the rice cake, and offered it to the visitors. It was delicious!

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The next day I visited a Catholic holy place called Hanti Martyrs’ Shrine.
Korea is the only country in the world where Christianity was not brought by the missionaries. There were no missionaries at the first time. Even though nobody preached Christianity in Korea, it took roots naturally. However, Christians were persecuted and killed in great numbers.
In this holy place were identified the bodies of 37 martyrs. I stood for a few minutes in front of those graves and thought about the absurdity of eliminating ideas by using force. You can kill a material body, not immaterial ideas, opinions and religious feelings. Nowadays, almost a third of the population is Christian. That means that the martyr’s thought is still alive and untouched by their corporeal death.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

VOLCAN DE AGUA (WATER VOLCANO) HISTORY AND LORE

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VOLCAN DE AGUA (WATER VOLCANO)
HISTORY AND LORE

At midnight, fireworks lit the sky. They lasted all night.
At breakfast, I met Maria, the owner of the house where I am staying.
“What happened last night? Why so many fireworks till dawn?”
“In the near town of San Miguel, they are celebrating the patron saint.”
“Who is he?”
“Saint Michael the Archangel!”
“I want to go! How can I get there?”
“Don’t worry! I’ll lead you. The place is not far from here.”

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We arrived at San Miguel Escobar half an hour later or so. The streets were decorated with yellow ribbons and yellow balloons. The color yellow is symbol of happiness!
In some houses an altar had been set up with angels and baskets full of fresh flowers.
In the small church of the town there were big and small statues of Saint Michael the Archangel. He was dressed as a Roman soldier with sword and shield, but his face looked like that of a little boy. Apparently, he uses love as a weapon!

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Keeping walking, we arrived at Ciutad Vieja (Old City), the second capital of Guatemala. It lies at the foot of Volcan de Agua.
“There is a small church inside the crater! But it is a bit hard to go up there. Do you know what happened to this old city a long time ago?”
“No, I don’t!”
“Beatrix de la Cueva, Governor of Guatemala, had twenty maids attending her. In 1541, she wanted to be proclaimed the queen of the local population. To her enthronement, she organized a sumptuous ceremony in the Cathedral.
“When she was about to be anointed, a huge mass of water came down from Volcan de Agua. Beatrix de la Cueva was submerged in the water and disappeared with all her following and the city. This is human life!”
We walked for a little while in Ciutad Vieja, and then left the town to go back to Antigua.
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

WALKING IN ANTIGUA

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WALKING IN ANTIGUA

Traveling across the world, I have landed in the city of Antigua, in Guatemala.

Today, I took a walk to spy out the place. Soon, my attention was drawn to the many ruined churches. What happened? Although the places of worship had been built well and with good materials, they didn’t withstand the earthquakes. Here, the ground quakes quite often.

The city, which once was the capital of Guatemala, stands near three volcanoes: two inactive and one, called ‘Fuego’, still active. The plumes of smoke from its peak are really amazing.

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Some churches have been rebuilt in different areas. I entered one which is run by the Franciscan Friars. They assist the population in many ways.

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Someone told me that a lot of children with the harelips are born in Guatemala. Their parents take them to the hospital to have surgery, but sometimes they don’t return to the hospital to take their children back home. The Franciscan Friars help all those abandoned children.

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Keeping walking, I came across a quinceanera, a girl who has just turned fifteen. She was standing in the square wearing a long, shiny dress to celebrate her transition from childhood to womanhood. Today, a big party will be given for her. According to Latino tradition, she is now ready for marriage. She is a woman.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

AVALON, THE LOST ISLAND

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AVALON, THE LOST ISLAND

The small town of Glastonbury has been a holy place since time immemorial. It is said that the area was a marshland, and only the Isle of Avalon stood amid the swampy water.

According to legend, King Arthur and his wife Guinevere were buried on the top of the Isle of Avalon. Later the monks of Glastonbury Abbey found the burial place and moved the bones to the abbey where they still lie.

These days, the Isle of Avalon is called “THE TOR”. On the top of it, the Tower of Saint Michael dominates the vast surrounding plains. From up there the view is breathtaking.

All the area around Glastonbury is believed to be mystic.

It is said that Joseph of Arimathea was the Virgin Mary’s uncle. He used to come to England to trade in metals. In one of his travels he even brought the young Jesus with him.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail – the cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper, filled with the blood that dripped from the cross- to Glastonbury.

At the foot of “THE TOR”, there are two springs across from each other: “The White Spring” and “The Red Spring”. Their water is thought to be miraculous.

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The “White Spring” is inside a cave. The water flows into two small pools, one bigger than the other.

As soon as I entered the cave, I felt a strange energy, similar to that I had experienced in a cave in Tanzania ten years ago. Here, there were naked people, both women and men, that bathed in the water. Four women stood in a circle with their hands up holding roses in the middle of the wider pool.

Inside the cave, small altars with bones of animals, ribbons, small stones, and similar objects were placed all around.

One of the women in the cave told me that if I dipped my legs in the water my brain would be purified at once.

Inside the cave it was dark. The burning candles couldn’t light it.

The “Red Spring” stands in the open air. The water seems to be colorless. Walking uphill I arrived at “Chalice Well”. The water looked quite reddish due to the iron that it contains.

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In Glastonbury I have learned something more about legends, history and traditions of England. The rites which people perform in the cave of the White Spring are unique.

Some day, if somebody asks me where to go while he is traveling in England I will answer without any hesitation: “Go visit Glastonbury! You will not be disappointed definitely. It is one of the most amazing, mystic, and magic place in the world.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL

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THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL

One day, I went to St Francis’s Church in Enna. The Franciscan friar that was celebrating Mass told us the story of Saint Catherine Laboure.

She was born into a well-to-do family in 1806. Since she was a little girl, Saint Vincent De Paul appeared to her in a dream.

In 1830 Saint Catherine became a novice in the hospice of Daughters of Charity, the religious order founded by Saint Vincent De Paul.

One night, a young boy woke up Catherine and asked her to follow him to the chapel. She followed him. At the touch of the young boy, the doors of the chapel burst open. The church was lit up. Maria was sitting on a chair and asked Catherine to come close.

At the end of the same year the apparition occurred to her again. This time Our Lady was standing on a globe. She ordered that a medal of the apparition should be made. The miraculous medal.”

The Franciscan friar gave a few medals to the congregation and asked us to give them to those in need.

Now I am in Paris. This morning I went to visit the Chapel where the apparitions happened. I wanted to see the incorrupt body of Saint Catherine, but it was not possible because Mass was said continuously in the chapel. I couldn’t get close to the sarcophagus.

Even though I couldn’t see the body of Saint Catherine, I felt very peaceful.

In this holy place I have learned something more about Saint Vincent De Paul and his Sisters of Charity.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI

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Saint Francis Of Assisi

The official biography of Saint Francis was written by Saint

Bonaventura, who was appointed this task by the Franciscan

general chapter in 1260, thirty-four years after Saint Francis’s

death.

Saint Francis was born in the city of Assisi on September

26, 1182 and died on October 3, 1226. His father was a

prosperous merchant and his mother a noblewoman. He was

given the name John by his mother, but when his father

returned from France, he changed the name to Francis, in

honor of France, the country where he had made his wealth.

Coming from a well-to-do family, Francis had the opportunity

to study Latin, poetry, music, Italian, French, the Provencal

dialect, and literature. It seemed that Francis was destined to

follow in his father’s footsteps.

Around the age of twenty, Francis joined up with the Assisi

army and fought against the city of Perugia, but he was taken

prisoner and remained in prison for one year. The time he

spent in jail was very hard, so much so that he contracted a

serious illness when he returned home. His sickness was the

turning point in his life. He decided to radically change his

lifestyle. To that point he had lived a worldly life, but now he

chose to dedicate himself to following Jesus’s model. He began

to give money to help the lepers, the poor, and the needy.

Francis’s new life and prodigality were not appreciated by

his father, who eventually disinherited him. From then on,

Francis lived a life of poverty and absolute simplicity. Soon

other young people joined him, giving rise to the monastic

Franciscan order. His soul was so pure that he talked with

birds, and one day he even tamed a wolf. An example of the

pureness of his heart can be found in the “Canticle of the

Creatures,” which he composed in 1225.

Saint Francis’s life was short; in fact, he lived only fortyfour

years. After his death, many authors started writing his

biography. Some biographies had a hagiographic aim, while

others were straightforward accounts, but some data is

common to all of them:

Saint Francis was a great traveler. Around the age of thirty

he left his hometown to go to Syria. Unfortunately, his journey

was interrupted in Dalmatia for an unknown reason, but

probably because he couldn’t find a ship to Syria, so he was

forced to return to Italy.

In spite of the failure of his first attempted trip to a Muslim

country, he set off on another journey to Islamic lands, this

time Morocco. To go to Morocco, he crossed France and Spain.

Again he failed to succeed in his plan, because he contracted

a serious disease in Spain and once more had to return to

Assisi.

His third endeavor to get to an Arab country finally

succeeded. He boarded a ship at Ancona in the year 1219,

seven years before his death, at the same time the fifth crusade

was under way. Once in Egypt, Saint Francis wanted to meet

Sultan Malic al-Kamil. Their meeting really happened, and as

far as we know, he was treated kindly by the sultan as a guest,

and not as an enemy. He received safe conduct and was invited

to return to visit Egypt anytime.

From Egypt he travelled to the Holy Land. About two years

before his death, he received the stigmata on Mount Verna.

Later, his health worsened and he died in a small church

near Assisi called Porziuncola. At his death, his body was taken

to Assisi and a basilica was later built in the place where he

was buried.

I had the opportunity of going to Assisi three times in my

life. The first time was with my parents on a travel to north

Italy. It happened many years ago. Even though I was very

young and not in a condition to appreciate Saint Francis’s

message to humanity, a few things remained etched in my

mind. One was the sight of the cilice, which Saint Francis wore

to mortify his body.

The cilice was a special garment made of goat hair, which

caused considerable suffering to the person who wore it. The

flesh was considered a kind of contamination of the soul;

therefore, through the mortification of the body, the soul

would be purified.

Hearing the story of Saint Francis from my parents, I was

struck by the strength of character of this great man who

rebelled against his father in order to follow the aspirations of

his heart.

The second time I visited Assisi was while I was traveling

on a trip organized by the parish priest from the Church of

San Cataldo. We visited the basilica, which is divided into three

parts: the upstairs basilica, the walls of which are covered with

gorgeous frescoes by Giotto; the downstairs basilica, which

contains other works of art; and finally the crypt where Saint

Francis’s mortal remains are kept.

The tomb is placed in a raised position over the altar, and

is made without frills of grey square and rectangular stones.

As soon as I knelt to say some prayers and make a wish, I had

the sensation that a kind of energy was radiating from his

tomb, and then I asked Saint Francis to hear my prayer.

Please, Saint Francis, grant me a gift! You are a very

powerful saint and can easily make my wish come true. I love

Elisabetta more than life, and I want her to become my wife.

There are many hindrances that prevent us from getting

married. Please, Saint Francis, remove all the hindrances and

help us get married as soon as possible.”

At that time I had fallen in love with a young lady named

Elisabetta. She was from Enna as well, and taught Latin and

Greek at the high school. I courted her for two years and

wanted to get engaged to her. We used to stroll along Via Roma

and Belvedere and talk religion. In fact, she was an earnest

Catholic, to such an extent that she was once on the verge of

quitting her job to become a Carmelite cloistered nun.

One day while we were walking around the Lombardia

Castle, she told me of her pilgrimage to Assisi. “I have been

struck by Saint Francis’s burial place. I felt a special energy

coming from his tomb,” she said.

Now, I don’t know whether or not it was due to

autosuggestion because Elisabetta had told me her feelings,

but the same strange sensation was now happening to me.

While I repeatedly asked San Francis to grant my wish, I felt

as if powerful energy was radiating from his tomb and talking

to me.

I have spent all my life searching for God,” Saint Francis’s

energy seemed to say, “and now you arrive at my tomb and

ask me to grant you a trivial wish, Vincenzino!”

I wondered why Saint Francis would consider my wish to

get married to my beloved trivial. As time passed, I realized

that I had actually requested something really trivial. In fact,

human affairs like love, business, careers, and so on are trifles

in comparison to the search and love for God, who is the giver

of life.

Meanwhile, Elisabetta got married to another man, and I

understood that what I had considered a great love was

nothing more than an infatuation doomed to dissolve like the

fog dispersed by the wind.

True love is not related to a woman or a person. Love is

something that you must have inside you. Love comes from

your heart and mind, and it stands apart from the appearance

and character of the people who you come across and the

happenings of life.

Later, I married a lady from Greece, and we now live

together in Enna. In the evenings after dinner, my wife and I

usually stroll along Via Roma and Saint Francis Square, which

is surrounded by old palaces on three sides and by the stately

Church of Saint Francis on the fourth.

A small green area had recently been attached to the

church, with an olive tree and a statue of Saint Francis

surrounded by white doves inside it. While my wife and I

were going back home and passed by that green, we noticed a

fragrance emanating from the area. We turned in all directions

but couldn’t spot a flower or a tree from where that subtle

scent might be emanating. The following days we passed by

the same place again, but we couldn’t smell anything.

A subtle thread was leading me to Assisi for the third time.

My Greek wife and I decided to take a car trip across northern

and central Italy. We embarked on a ferry in Palermo and

landed in Genoa. From there we travelled to Pisa, Florence,

and San Gimignano.

While we were admiring the numerous towers of the last

town, my wife suddenly cried out, “What about going to

Assisi? Is it far from here? Do you remember the fragrance we

smelt in Enna near the Church of Saint Francis?”

No, it is not far away. We can go to Perugia first, and Assisi

is a stone’s throw from there,” I replied.

We arrived at Saint Francis’s hometown around midday

and found lodging in a monastery run by Filipino nuns. We

strolled for a while around the medieval city and then arrived

at the basilica. My wife was surprised at the sight of the

frescoes both upstairs and downstairs.

Even though I am not a Christian,” she said, “and don’t

follow any religion, I cannot help being astonished by the

religious ardor that was behind these great masterpieces.”

Then we went to the crypt and sat on a pew facing Saint

Francis’s tomb. As soon as I sat down, I had the sensation that

the same energy that had talked to me many years ago was

now speaking again, suggesting the path I should follow to

find out who really I was.

Purify your heart, mind, body, and actions, and then you’ll

see God inside you!

What was Saint Francis telling me this time? I inferred

that he meant that the real kingdom of God is inside every

living being, but we cannot find it if our mind is contaminated

by too many materialistic desires or our actions are not

directed towards the wellbeing of our fellow creatures. I also

inferred that prayer and meditation are a good way to purify

the mind and get close to God, as long as my actions aim not

towards an egoistic goal, but to the love of all creatures.

While I was meditating on what Saint Francis was

suggesting to me at that moment, my wife suddenly turned to

me. “I have a pain in my heart, and my heart is pounding! I

shed tears and I don’t know why. I don’t feel sad and I don’t

know why I am crying!”

My wife is not Catholic, and actually doesn’t practice any

religion. So we couldn’t understand why such a phenomenon

befell her. Maybe the same energy that had talked to me was

revealing itself to her in some way.

I left Assisi with a strong devotion to Saint Francis. Every

time I had trouble in my life after that, I thought of him and

reminded myself that my worldly misfortunes are a mere

trifle. What really matters in life is the search and love for God

and all His creatures.

Reviewing my encounter with Saint Francis, I reconsidered

what my law teacher had taught me a long time ago. She had

stressed the importance of the difference between a piece of

evidence and a clue. A piece of evidence is a fact that you have

seen or heard, or a way that an event can be proved with

absolute certainty—evidence that can direct the judge to

return his verdict. A clue doesn’t have the strength of evidence,

and a mere clue is usually not enough to bring in a judge’s

verdict, but if the clues are numerous, unambiguous, precise,

and concordant with one another, they can be taken into

consideration by the judge in order to pass judgment.

In the case of my encounter with Saint Francis, there are

five clues that can be admitted as evidence of the existence of

another spiritual level that is beyond our ordinary worldly

life:

1. The energy that Elisabetta felt while she was praying

before the tomb of Saint Francis;

2. The fragrance that my wife and I smelt near his statue

while we were strolling in Enna;

3. The energy coming from his tomb that talked to me

about the true goals of my life, which were not a mere

love of a woman, money, or some other worldly

pleasure. Searching for God is the real goal;

4. The energy that I felt when I went to Assisi for the

third time. I realized that the kingdom of God is really

inside me. I just need purify my mind, my heart, and

my actions, and then I can be on the path that leads to

the spiritual world;

5. The unusual sensation of pain in my wife’s chest and

the tears in her eyes while she was sitting with me in

front of Saint Francis’s tomb.

These days, Saint Francis is the master in my daily life.

Whenever I am too worried because my business didn’t go

well, I remind myself of the teachings he gave me in the crypt

in Assisi. The ups and downs of life are mere trifles when

compared to meeting God, who stays in the heart of every

human.

By minding Saint Francis’s teachings, I live my life in a

more relaxed way. I am less anxious. I just juggle the events of

life as soccer players do when playing a friendly match.

Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by ETTORE GRILLO

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo

LA SALETTE

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La Salette

The Carmelite monks of Sicily and Veneto organized a

pilgrimage to Lisieux, a town in the north of France where the

Carmelite nun, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, had lived in a

convent. The pilgrimage started from Verona, a city in the

north of Italy, where the group coming from Sicily joined the

other from Veneto.

I could never imagine going on a pilgrimage to the north of

France, and I hadn’t even heard of Saint Therese of the Child

Jesus. It was a girl named Margherita, who attended Saint

Joseph Church in Enna, who proposed I take part in the

pilgrimage with her. Despite her young age, she had a degree

in classic literature and taught ancient Greek at Enna’s high

school.

It is not just a pilgrimage,” she said to me. “It is also a

sightseeing tour. We will visit Paris, a few castles by the Loire

River, and Versailles.”

I had fallen in love with Margherita, and the chance to go

on a trip together thrilled me. So I accepted with enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, people’s minds and hearts are changeable, and

a few days before the start of the trip she told me that she had

changed her mind and wouldn’t come. What to do? I could

cancel my booking, but I didn’t, despite the fact that travelling

with a group of people who I didn’t know didn’t thrill me at

all.

At that time, I feared of travelling by airplane, and that

was not my only phobia. I also feared being isolated from

other people. What would I do alone on the trip? All the other

participants knew one another, while I didn’t know anyone. I

resigned myself to being alone for the duration of the trip, but

I felt very ill at ease.

After I arrived at the station in Verona, I walked to the

meeting place, which was not far away. A girl was waiting

there for the rest of the group. As soon as I arrived I seized the

opportunity not to be alone.

My name is Vincenzino. What is your name?”

My name is Lucia,” she answered. She was tall and lean

and had shadows under her eyes.

Do you want to sit together on the bus?” I asked.

She looked at me with her broad eyes full of surprise.

Certainty she would have preferred saying no, but she was

too polite to refuse my request. “Okay,” she answered, “you

can sit close to me.”

I was relieved because I had solved my problem of being

alone, but over time I realized that I had behaved stupidly. In

fact, I had compelled that well-mannered girl to stay with me

while she might have preferred to travel with her friends

whose company was more enjoyable than mine. I had treated

her not as a human being but as a tool to solve my problem.

The trip leader was a Carmelite monk from northern Italy.

His name was Father Leo, and he was a very learned person

who knew Saint Therese’s life to perfection. He gladdened our

trip on the bus by telling biblical stories and, above all, talking

about Saint Therese.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was declared a Doctor of

the Church by Pope John Paul II. She is the youngest person,

and the third woman, to be so honored in the history of the

Catholic Church. She died from tuberculosis when she was

just twenty-four years old.”

What did she do to be declared a Doctor of the Church?”

asked one of the pilgrims.

She pointed out the ‘Little Way’ to humans. It does not

take vast learning to know God, but it does take humility and

simplicity of heart,” answered Father Leo.

We had just visited the Palace of Versailles, and on the bus

Father Leo kept telling the humble life story of Saint Therese.

As for me, I couldn’t help comparing a nobleman’s life in the

Palace of Versailles to life in a convent. They were two opposite

ways of living. I concluded that everyone follows his or her

own path according to their destiny and tendencies, but in the

end paradise has its gates open to all, because God is inside

every human being.

What made an impression on me was when Father Leo

told us the story of Saint Therese’s miraculous recovery.

At the end of 1882, Saint Therese was seized by a

persistent headache that lasted until Easter of the following

year. She was just nine years old. Afterwards, she got worse

and the doctor diagnosed a serious rare disease, unusual for a

little girl. She was bound to die, but one day while she was

praying before a statue portraying Our Lady, she saw the

Virgin Mary smiling at her. Suddenly big tears welled in the

little girl’s eyes. From then on she started recovering, and five

years later she entered the Carmelite convent as a cloistered

nun.”

How is it possible,” I asked Father Leo, “that a teenager is

allowed to take the vows?”

You are right to ask this question,” he answered, “but

Saint Therese got a dispensation from the bishop. Indeed,

canon law is not as strict as civil law, thanks to the institution

of dispensation. Obviously, if the bishop allowed Saint Therese

to enter the convent at a very young age, he did so after due

consideration.”

On the way back when we were near the sanctuary of La

Salette, I took a seat near another pilgrim. At that moment I

saw Lucia laughing for the first time. Now she was sitting near

a nun, with whom she was at ease. As for me, I had overcome

my stupid fear of being alone.

On the way, Father Leo told us the story of the

apparition of Our Lady of La Salette. “One hundred fifty years

ago, La Salette was a small village in Southern France. There

were less than one thousand people living there. One day, two

children who had been minding the cows on Mount Sous-Les

Baisses came back to the village and reported that they had

seen a weeping beautiful lady.

According to the children’s account, the apparition, who

spoke their dialect, was weeping because people didn’t respect

God anymore. The lady gave the children a few messages,

which were all based on her wish that human hearts are

converted to God.”

Our bus took us up to the top of the mount where the

apparition had happened. At that moment, thin mist alternated

with clear sky. I had the sensation that the whole area was

enveloped in mystery, as if Our Lady had left the imprint of

her apparition on the mountain.

When I returned home from the pilgrimage, I saw

Margherita with another man. I thought maybe they were just

friends, but unfortunately they were already engaged, and six

months later they got married.

I had lost Margherita, but I had gained much more. In fact,

the pilgrimage to Lisieux and La Salette strengthened my

personality. Now I had the sensation of being stronger and

less picky. Apparently, the teachings of Saint Therese about

keeping a simple and pure heart had worked.

Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by ETTORE GRILLO

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

www.sbpra.com/ettoregrillo