February 28, 2013

Announcing the 72nd Annual Feast of Sant'Antonio da Padova, Elmont, Long Island

Viva Sant'Antonio!
(Photo courtesy of Marcantonio Pezzano)
Outdoor Feast
June 14th – June 17th
Sponsored by the Saint Anthony da Padova Benevolent Association of Long Island

St. Anthony Chapel
(Villa Umberto)
90 Meachum Avenue
Elmont, Long Island,
New York 11003

• Italian entertainment
nightly (7:30 PM)
• June 16th – Procession from St. Anthony chapel (11:00 AM)

St. Catherine of Siena Church
33 New Hyde Park Road
Franklin Square, NY 11010
(516) 352-0146

• Vespers begin
on June 1st (8:00 PM)
• June 16th – Mass (10:00 AM)

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more information contact italo61@aol.com

February 22, 2013

Announcing the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana's 2013 Festa di San Rocco, Queens, NY

Viva San Rocco!
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
August 24, 2013

Come venerate glorious Saint Rocco at the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana's Annual Festa di San Rocco at St. Rocco's Place (37-04 28th Ave) in Astoria, Queens.

There will be both a Mass and Procession.

Societá Gioventú Quagliettana
3704 28th Avenue
Between 37 and 38 Streets
Astoria, Queens, NY 11103

* All schedules and activities are subject to change, so please check with organizers for any updates.

For more Information call (718) 626-6688 or visit The Societá Gioventú Quagliettana on Facebook.

Also see:

February 16, 2013

Olivia Kate Cerrone at the Gloucester Writers Center

Alfred Zappala at the Italian American Museum

The Italian American Museum Cordially invites you to attend a special presentation by Sicilian American Lawyer, Writer and Professor ALFRED M. ZAPPALA, ESQ.

Please join us as Alfred Zappala presents his new book, Figghiu Beddu (Beautiful Child). The book, which is the third Alfred has written on Sicily, details his travels throughout Sicily and the unique treasures that the island has to offer.

The book also introduces The Sicilian Project which was founded by Alfred in 2011 as an initiative to bring English language classes to Sicilian students.  Prior to the formation of The Sicilian Project, the teaching of English in Sicily was nonexistent or vastly inferior to the teaching of English in other parts of Europe.  Alfred will speak in detail about The Sicilian Project and its goals going forward.   

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 (6:30PM)
Italian American Museum
155 Mulberry Street
(Corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10013

Suggested donation of $10

To reserve a place for this event, please call the
Italian American Museum at (212) 965-9000 or

For more information please visit www.alfredzappala.com

February 15, 2013

The Roman Lupercalia, an Ancient Tradition

Dancing Faun
Casa del Fauno, Pompeii
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Lucian

The Lupercalia was a Roman holiday that was celebrated on February 15th and 16th. A holiday within a holiday, it began on the second day of the Roman Parentalia, which focused on honoring and appeasing ancestral spirits. Both the Parentalia and Lupercalia dealt with the concept of spiritual purification, a common motif in ancient rituals but found especially around February in Greco-Roman culture. Some even claim that the Lupercalia is the origin of St. Valentine’s day.

One of the oldest recorded pagan holidays, the Lupercalia is thought to predate even Rome itself. Because of its age, widespread popularity and resilience it is difficult to definitively say which gods it was associated with. There is evidence pointing toward Faunus/Pan, and even Bacchus or Juno, but in all likelihood the rituals were originally related to the more primitive animism that predated Roman urbanization and continued to remain in rural areas throughout the Roman Empire. Roman mythology credits the Arcadian Greek hero Evander with instituting Lupercalia in Pallantium decades before the Trojan War, on a site that would later become part of the city of Rome. It was finally suppressed by Pope Gelasius I in the 5th Century A.D. It was so popular that at the time many people who were nominally Christian were still celebrating it.

The original ritual was performed on Palatine Hill in Rome, but spread throughout both Northern and Southern Italy and the rest of the empire with Rome’s expansion. It was even celebrated in Greece, especially after the capital was moved to Constantinople. The themes of the rite were fertility and spiritual purification. The ceremony began in a cave (Lupercal) at the foot of the hill and involved the sacrifice of goats and a dog. The blood of the goat was smeared on the foreheads of chosen young men (luperci) then washed off with milk by priests, the men were then required to laugh at the priests. After drinking wine the young men, clad only in goatskin loincloths, would chase and whip willing young women with ceremonial goatskin thongs. It was thought that the women would be blessed with fertility, so they would bare their shoulders or hands in hopes of being touched this way.

Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Another ritual involved the placement of young women’s names in a box. Young men would then pick a name from the box and the two would be “paired” until the next year. The joining was not supposed to be binding, but it was hoped that the young people would get to know each other and consider the possibility of marriage in the future. In later times the Church attempted to replace the names with that of saints and the young people were supposed to emulate them. The new version of the ritual wasn’t as popular, and young men were said to give love notes on this day to the girls they liked in order to get around the new rules, hence the alleged connection to St. Valentines Day. Some medieval sources claim that the name choosing rites were from Lupercalia, but critics claim that the name choosing ritual was from the middle-ages and not related to the classical era. In this particular case, the critics do have some compelling arguments.

There is also a claim that Lupercalia was replaced by the Feast of the Purification of St. Mary, also called Candlemas, which occurs on February 2nd. Again, there are critics who passionately refute this, but as even amateur historians know about the connection between purification and the month of February in pagan Rome, it seems inevitable that such speculation would occur regardless of whether or not it was true.

Plaster relief of Faun
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
Historically it was common for new religions to demonize the religions they replaced, even as they absorbed some of their elements. Sometimes traditions from the old religion that were conveniently accepted for centuries were banned when one of the popes felt that their usefulness had run its course. The connection of Lupercalia to wolves was clear and the image of the god Faunus (Pan) was also commonly used to represent Lucifer or a fallen angel, so it is no surprise that during the suppression of Lupercalia the Church associated it with demon worship and werewolves.

If we take a step back from the conflicts between the old and new religions, and look at what the common folk were celebrating and praying for in February, we will see them asking for bountiful harvests, many healthy children and protection for their families and flocks. Throughout the ages, our people have asked for the same things.

To me, the Lupercalia, St. Valentines Day and Candlemas are all familiar, they all feel right. Whether it is because they reflect my ancestral soul or simply appeal to my subconscious emotional needs, I cannot say. What is certain is that these rituals have continued in some form for hundreds or even thousands of years. Aside from their spiritual aspects, that sort of resilience alone makes them special.

Chauser and the Cult of St. Valentine, by Henry Ansgar Kelly ISBN 9004078495, 9789004078499
• The Religious Experience of the Roman People, by W. Warde Fowler M.A. published 1911, reprinted 1971. ISBN 0-8154-0372-0
• Phases in the Religion of Ancient Rome by Cyril Bailey, published 1932, reprinted 1972 ISBN 0-8371-4759-X 
• Taboo, Magic, Spirits A Study of Primitive Elements in Roman Religion, by Eli Edward Burriss, published 1931, reprinted 1972 & 1974, ISBN 0-8371-4724-7
• "More to Explore" by Mary Jennings, National Geographic Magazine, January 2005

February 12, 2013

Announcing the 89th Annual Santa Lucia Festival in Omaha, NE

Viva Santa Lucia!
Photo courtesy of 
Santa Lucia Festival Omaha, NE
The 2013 Santa Lucia Festival will take place Thursday, June 6th through Sunday, June 9th.

Lewis and Clark Landing
515 N Riverfront Dr.
Omaha, NE 68102

Free Admission!

Enjoy traditional Mass and Procession honoring Santa Lucia, fine Italian food, wine, beer garden, live entertainment, rides, games and more.

For more information please visit the Santa Lucia Festival Committee on Facebook or at their website santaluciafestival.com

February 10, 2013

Brother Rosary: Bartolo Longo of Brindisi

Bartolo Longo
By Niccolò Graffio
“He that repents is angry with himself; I need not be angry with him.” – Benjamin Whichcote: Moral and Religious Aphorisms, 1753
Bartolo Longo was born on February 10th, 1841 to Dr. Bartolomeo Longo and Antonina (nee) Luparelli in the town of Latiano, in the province of Brindisi, Apulia at the time that region was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  He had the good fortune of being born into a prosperous family which guaranteed for him a better lifestyle than most of those living around him.

His parents were devout Roman Catholics, especially his mother, who taught young Bartolo to pray the Rosary on a daily basis. At an early age he demonstrated a marked intelligence.  That, plus his parents’ prosperity, insured for him a good education.  In addition to academics he also studied the piano and the flute.  Records show he did well in all his endeavors.

Bright, talented and charismatic, one would have thought a promising future lay ahead for the lad.  Tragically, however, fate would deal him a bad hand at an early age.  In 1851 his beloved mother died.  Perhaps as a result of anger at losing her, he slowly drifted away from the faith of his parents.  By the time he attended the University of Naples to study law, he had ceased practicing Catholicism altogether.

While attending the university he fell in with a “New Age” neo-pagan group, one of many that had been popping up across the continent of Europe.  By his own later admission he took part in séances and orgies in addition to practicing fortune-telling.  He also experimented with drugs when he wasn’t engaging in inordinate periods of fasting.

Unlike many other neo-pagan groups of the time, the one Longo joined was of a decidedly Satanist bent, and he was eventually “ordained” a Satanic high priest!  Unsatisfied with merely practicing Satanism, he took to publicly attacking and ridiculing Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular!  Modern psychologists might postulate the antipathy he demonstrated for the religion of his parents was his way of venting his anger for the loss of his mother.

His attacks on Catholicism bore a dark fruit – he was able to convince a number of Catholics to “leave the fold” and join him in practicing occult rites.

In the meantime, he completed his law studies at the University of Naples in 1864 and practiced law in that city until 1871, while continuing his Satanic exploits.

As has happened to so many before and after him who sought hedonistic pleasures in such a debased lifestyle, he ultimately derived no joy from it.  In fact, his physical and mental health suffered as a result of it. He eventually suffered a kind of breakdown.  

Feeling lost and depressed, he sought out the help of a childhood friend, Professor Vincenzo Pepe.  Initially repulsed by what Longo told him, Pepe sought to drive him from his presence.  Bartolo persisted, however, telling his friend he had nowhere else to go.  Pepe eventually relented and helped Longo by introducing him to a Catholic priest of the Dominican Order – Father Alberto Radente.  Fr. Radente agreed to hear Bartolo’s Confession and help him find his way out of the spiritual abyss he had flung himself into.

It has been said there are few people more zealous for their faith than a reformed reprobate, and that was certainly true in the case of Bartolo Longo!  His self-imposed penitence included attending a séance.  At one point during the ceremony, he rose, producing a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary and crying out “I renounce spiritism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood!”

His path to spiritual redemption eventually led him to become a lay (Third Order) Dominican.  As part of his vows he took the name “Fra Rosario” (It: Brother Rosary) in honor of the Rosary his mother had taught him as a child. The date of his official conversion was October 7th, 1871.

Our Lady of Pompeii
After his conversion he relocated to Pompeii where he joined a local charitable group.  There he met Countess Mariana di Fusco, a wealthy widow, whom he later married on the recommendation of Pope Leo XIII.  Though the two were obviously quite happy with one another, they mutually agreed theirs would be a chaste marriage, devoting their time and energies to the service of the Church.

In October, 1873 the two started a confraternity of the Rosary in a dilapidated church which they helped to restore with the help of funds they raised. In addition, they sponsored a festival in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Stories of miracles associated with this church caused people to flock to it in droves, and in 1875 the Bishop of Nola encouraged the two to begin construction of a larger church.

The cornerstone of this edifice was officially laid on May 8th, 1876.  The church was officially consecrated by Cardinal La Valetta (representing Pope Leo XIII) in May, 1891.  48 years later it was enlarged to a basilica, known today as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii.  The church became a pilgrimage site for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who are drawn to the story of a church built by an ex-Satanist.

In 1906 Bartolo Longo and the Countess donated the Pompeii shrine to the Holy See but continued to promote the Rosary for the remainder of their lives.  Longo would often evangelize young people in cafes and local parties, warning them of the dangers of occultism and preaching the glories of Christ, his Mother and the Catholic Church.  In addition, Longo and his wife provided for orphans and the children of prisoners – the latter something for its time was considered unheard of!

Bartolo Longo died on October 5th, 1926 at the ripe old age of 85!  His body was dressed in a mantle of a Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Sepulcher, a papal order of knighthood.  It was then encased in a glass tomb and displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii where it remains to this day.

Immediately following his death there were calls for his canonization.  On October 26th, 1980 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, who called him the “Apostle of the Rosary”.  

The dark lure of Satanism drove Bartolo Longo nearly to mental and physical ruin. The faith of this man’s parents gave renewed life to him when he thought himself spiritually dead.  The city of Pompeii, in turn, was thought destroyed forever in 79 AD when it was buried by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the “evil old lady of Italy”.  The basilica constructed by Longo and the Countess attracted families, roads, hotels, electricity, restaurants and shops.  In addition, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims a year visit the shrine built by the ex-Satanist.  It is therefore perhaps fitting the resurrection and salvation of Pompeii should be linked forever to that of Bartolo Longo.

Further reading:
• Gennaro Auletta: The Blessed Bartolo Longo; The Shrine of Pompeii (Publisher), 1987

February 8, 2013

Announcing the 2013 Sons of San Paolino Giglio Feast, Franklin Square, Long Island

Feast Dates: Wednesday, June 26th through Sunday, June 30th 

For more information call the Sons of San Paolino hotline at (516) 352-2618 or visit their website at www.sanpaolino.org

February 5, 2013

Feast of Saint Agatha of Sicily

The Martyrdom of Sant'Agata,
Maschio Angioino, Napoli
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
February 5th is the Feast Day of Saint Agatha of Sicily, patroness of nurses, women with breast cancer and the victims of rape and torture. The protector of Catania, she is also invoked to guard against fire, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters, the potential for which is ever present in the shadow of Mt. Etna. Agatha is also the patron Saint of Malta, where it is said that her intercession saved the Maltese from a Turkish invasion in 1551. 

Born in Catania (some say Palermo) to a wealthy family, Saint Agatha devoted her life to God. Also very beautiful she was sought-after by many suitors for marriage. Taking a vow of chastity the young maiden turned down all proposals. However, when the powerful Senator Quintianus was rebuked he vindictively threatened to denounce her as a Christian for disobeying Emperor Decius' edict on religious sacrifice. Standing firm against his threats and unwanted advances Agatha was arrested and condemned to the brothels. 

Cattedrale di Sant'Agata, Catania
(Photo courtesy of Olivia Cerrone)
Tortured and beaten, young Agatha's spirit could not be broken. Instead of being violated she converted the Madam to Christianity. Angered by her obstinacy Quintianus had Agatha's breasts chopped off. Mutilated and close to death, a vision of Saint Peter miraculously healed her wounds. Still not satisfied the cruel Senator had his victim rolled over hot coals. Dragged to her cell and left to die, Agatha never wavered in her faith. With her dying breath she prayed to the Lord and thanked him for her victory over her tormentors will. She died on February 5th, 251 AD.

In Catania her feast is extremely popular and enthusiastically celebrated from February 3rd through 5th. Almost a million people converge to show their devotion and participate in the rituals. In honor of the Saint, delicious sponge cakes in the shape of her breasts are made with ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit, and have a red candied cherry on top of them.

To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting A Prayer to Saint Agatha.(1) The accompanying photos were taken at the Chapel of the Souls in Purgatory in the Maschio Angioino (Castel Nuovo), Napoli and in Catania.

Sant'Agata, Catania
(Photo courtesy of Olivia Cerrone)
A Prayer to Saint Agatha

O St. Agatha, who withstood the unwelcome advances from unwanted suitors, and suffered pain and torture for your devotion to Our Lord, we celebrate your faith, dignity and martyrdom. Protect us against rape and other violations, guard us against breast cancer and other afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity. O St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice, may receive your intercession. Amen

~ Giovanni di Napoli, February 4th, Feast of San Andrea Corsini

(1) The Prayer to Saint Agatha was reprinted from a prayer card

February 4, 2013

Announcing the 87th Annual Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian, East Cambridge, Massachusetts

Saints Cosmas and Damian
The 2013 Feast of the Healing Saints Cosmas and Damian will take place Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th. 

Warren Street
East Cambridge, Massachusetts

Feast Hours
Saturday: 2:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM – 10:30 PM

For complete schedule of events please visit the The Society of Saints Cosmos and Damian website at http://www.cosmas-and-damian.org/

February 2, 2013

The Madonna di Viggiano to Visit Toronto, Canada

The Madonna di Viggiano procession
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Madonna di Viggiano, a widely venerated relic in Basilicata will be coming to North America in June.

Each Spring the people of Viggiano move the statue of this version of the "Black Madonna" from the town of Viggiano to a hilltop and then back down again in the Fall bringing many visitors. Scenes of the 2012 procession can be seen on YouTube.

Initial plans for the North American visit have the statue arriving in Toronto, Canada. Events will be held from June 22nd to July 2nd in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. On Sunday, June 23rd a special Mass will be held followed by a procession and grand feast.

There are over 90,000 people of Lucanian origin in Southern Ontario. This is the first visit of the statue to Canada and the idea is to create an annual event, and perhaps a permanent statue in Woodbridge.

February 1, 2013

New Books

Some forthcoming titles that may be of interest to our readers. They are available for pre-order at Amazon.com

Paolo De Matteis: Neapolitan Painting and Cultural History in Baroque Europe by Livio Pestilli

Publisher: Ashgate Pub Co.
Publication Date: February 29, 2013
Hardback: $124.95
Language: English
Pages: 368

Plays: Vol. 2 by Luigi Pirandello

Publisher: Oneworld Classics
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Paperback: $13.57
Language: English
Pages: 672

Sicily: A Cultural History by Joseph Farrell

Publisher: Interlink Pub Group Inc.
Publication Date: May, 2013
Paperback: $10.20
Language: English
Pages: 256

Architecture and Statecraft: Charles of Bourbon's Naples, 1734-1759 by Robin L. Thomas

Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Hardcover: $65.33
Language: English
Pages: n/a

Click here to see more books