March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Detail of the Resurrection by Arturo DiModica
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
On behalf of everyone here at Il Regno, I want to wish all our readers a very Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua! In celebration I'm posting The Tomb, a traditional Sicilian prayer reprinted from Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated into English by Peppino Ruggeri, Legas, 2009, p. 94-95. The accompanying photo of the Resurrection by Sicilian-American sculptor Arturo DiModica was taken at the Italian American Museum in 2010.

The Tomb

Holy tomb, which often has been visited
With blood you have been made clean
For two days you were washed
So us sinners you could redeem.

O Sipurcu

O Sipurcu visitatu
chi di sangu fustu lavatu
fustu lavatu pi quarantottu uri
pi nuiautri peccaturi.

Addendum:
Typical southern Italian Easter sweets include marzipan Paschal Lamb, or Lamb of God, and pupa cu l'ova, a delicious bread with eggs baked in it.
"Paschal Lamb"
Pupa cu l'ova

Rocco Petrone: A Modern-Day Cathedral Builder

Rocco Petrone
By John A. Stavola

"The Invisible Pyramid" by Loren Eisely contains a chapter entitled "The Spore Bearers". In it the fungus, Pilobolus, is likened to a rocket. The spore which will project the descendants of Pilobolus into the future prepare themselves with a light sensitive capsule to aim ever toward the brightest light. When the right chemical pressures are built up the cells beneath the capsule explode, hurling it several feet away. This enables Pilobolus, which grows on the dung of cattle, to transport itself to fresh grass where they will be consumed again by the cattle.

The influential German "philosopher-poet'" Oswald Spengler's attempt to discern an organic pattern to cultural history and the zeitgeist or spirit of an age is also invoked by Eiseley.

"Perhaps what he (Spengler) terms the Faustian culture-our own-began as early as the eleventh century with the growing addiction to great unfillible cathedrals with huge naves and misty recesses where space seemed to hover without limits. In the words of one architect, the Gothic arch is 'a bow always tending to expand.' Hidden within its tensions is the upward surge of the space rocket." ( The Invisible Pyramid, pg. 84) Continue reading

March 30, 2013

Mr. Rhythm

Frankie Laine
The Frankie Laine Story

By Niccolò Graffio
“All things that great men do are well done.” – H.G. Bohn; Handbook of Proverbs, 1855
I am a child of the 1970’s.  I was too young to truly enjoy the music of the ‘60’s (and all the drugs that went with it).  Instead, I was ‘lucky’ enough to go through adolescence during that most wonderful epoch of music known as the Disco Era.

Unlike many of my peers in high school, however, I carried with myself something they didn’t – an appreciation for musical genres of previous generations.  Being from a fairly tight-knit family, growing up I was regularly exposed to the music of my parents and grandmother.  As a result, I often found myself listening to songs my fellow teens mocked, if they bothered to listen to them at all!

From my paternal grandmother, a deeply religious woman, I gained an appreciation for Gregorian chants and the moving prayer songs of Southern Italy. She would sing them often while sitting on the sofa, sewing.  From my father I learned to like opera and Southern-Italian folk songs.  Being older Italian immigrants set in their ways, neither really liked listening to anything else.

It was my mother, an American-born Sicilian woman, who taught me the love of American genres of music.  Her tastes were more varied and modern than my father or grandmother’s.  She liked listening to music from the swing and boogie-woogie eras, as well as 50’s and even some ‘60’s era rock music.  Having spent part of her youth living in Texas, she also liked listening to country western music.  Growing up at her knee, I listened to such musical luminaries as The Andrews Sisters, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.  In addition, I can recall hearing the music of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.

When I was in high school one of my mom’s favorite singers was Engelbert Humperdinck.  One of the most amusing memories of my adolescence was that concerning a beautiful silver-haired German shepherd we owned, appropriately named “Silver”.  This dog apparently shared my mom’s love of music, especially Humperdinck.  Whenever she would play one of his albums on the stereo, Silver would come running into the room, laying down next to one of the speakers and pressing his ear against it.  He usually wouldn’t leave until my mom turned off the stereo.  If I then tried to play one of the (then) modern rock and disco songs on the radio, the look I got from him before he left the room was hysterical!

My mom amassed a large collection of albums from various genres and artists.  One of the ones who left an impression upon me was Frankie Laine.  Unlike many of the “one-trick ponies” out there in the music world, Laine didn’t limit himself to just one or two genres.  Rather, he sang across the musical spectrum.  He also had the voice to do it.  Maybe that’s why he was always one of my mom’s favorite singers.

Singer, songwriter and actor, his influence has spanned generations.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise to me to discover this musical pioneer was, in fact, a Southern Italian.  Additionally, the centenary of his birth is rapidly approaching.  What better time, then, to pay homage to him, a true Titan of the South?
Francesco Paolo LoVecchio was born on March 30, 1913 to Giovanni and Cresenzia (neé Salerno) LoVecchio in Near West Side, Chicago.  The oldest of eight children, his parents were immigrants from Monreale, Sicily.  As what has happened all too often to so many of our people (and so many other peoples), his name was ‘Americanized’ on his birth certificate to “Frank Lovecchio”.  To add insult to injury, his mother’s name was likewise written as “Anna Salerno” on the same certificate.  Thus, from birth began the inexorable process of cultural hegemony to rob him of his true heritage!

Historical evidence shows his family had several connections to organized crime. His father’s chief claim to fame was at one time he was the personal barber to gangster Al Capone.  Young Frankie was living with his grandfather when the latter was gunned down by Chicago mobsters.

Franke was first introduced to singing as a member of the choir in the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s elementary school.  Later he attended Lane Technical High School (now Lane Technical College Prep High School).  It was here he first realized he wanted to be a singer when he cut school to watch Al Jolson’s film The Singing Fool.  Years later, in 1949, when both were filming pictures, Al Jolson would visit Laine and remarked he would soon put all other singers out of business..

Frankie Lovecchio’s vocal talents were already apparent to those around him in high school.  Older students would invite him to parties and local dance clubs to sing for them.  By the time he reached the age of 17 he had already achieved enough local renown he performed at The Merry Garden Ballroom before a crowd of 5,000 people!  His performance elicited such a positive response from the audience that he wound up performing five encores his first night!

A number of singers from various genres influenced him at this point in his life including Enrico Caruso, Gene Austin, Carlo Buti and especially Bessie Smith.  It was Smith’s songs that introduced the young Frankie Lovecchio to jazz and the blues, thus beginning a musical love affair that would last the rest of his life.

After graduating high school Frank Lovecchio (as he was still billing himself) signed on with The Merry Garden’s marathon dance company, touring with them.  This was good work to find during The Great Depression.  He would entertain crowds with his singing during the fifteen-minute breaks the dancers were given each hour.  It was during this time he also set the world’s record for dancing (3,501 hours in 145 consecutive days with partner Ruthie Smith at Atlantic City’s Million Dollar Pier in 1932).  

During his days touring with The Merry Garden’s marathon dance company he worked with a number of up-and-coming entertainers including Rose Marie, a fourteen-year old Anita O’Day (for whom he served as a mentor) and the now legendary Richard Bernard “Red” Skelton.  

Even with his job, he needed to supplement his income, which he did by doing car sales and machinist work.  

As he grew older, other performers of the time began to influence his singing style including Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Nat “King” Cole.  Frankie befriended Cole in Los Angeles.  Cole later performed a song Frankie had written, It Only Happens Once.  The two would remain good friends for the rest of Cole’s life, and Frankie Laine was one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

While living and working in Los Angeles, one day Frankie noticed a young boy struggling in a neighborhood swimming pool.  Jumping in, he saved the boy from drowning.  The boy was Ronnie Como, son of crooner Perry Como.  By an amazing coincidence, Frankie Lovecchio was hired to replace Como with the Freddy Carlone band.  Como had left but changed his mind at the last minute.  When he found out about Lovecchio’s predicament, Como called Carlone and got him a job touring with them.

It was not to last.  As Laine later recounted, because bookings were scarce, two weeks after hiring him, Carlone fired everybody!  Nevertheless, Laine and Como would remain friends.  Como, in fact, would later “loan” Laine $27 to get to a possible singing gig (which Laine later sheepishly admitted he never paid back).

In 1938 Frankie received a job singing for radio station WINS.  The program director, Jack Coombs, urged him to Anglicize his name because Lovecchio sounded “too foreign” (sound familiar?).  He decided on the surname “Laine” with the “I” added to avoid confusion with a girl singer who worked at the station named Frances Lane.

WINS, however, eventually dropped him, but he was able to find a job singing on a sustainer (non-sponsored) radio show at WNBC.  Unfortunately, as he was to begin, Germany invaded Poland.  All sustainer radio shows were dropped in deference to military needs.
Frankie Laine

In 1943 he made his way to California where he landed a job singing in the background of several movies including The Harvey Girls.  The following year he met and befriended composer/pianist Carl T. Fischer.  Fischer would remain Laine’s songwriting partner, piano accompanist and musical director until his death in 1954.

At the end of World War II Laine found himself out of a job again.  He “crashed” at the home of Al Jarvis, a disc jockey he had befriended several years earlier.  Jarvis tried to promote his friend’s small singing career while Laine went from club to club hoping bandleaders would invite him up on stage to sing.

In late 1946, while at the Billy Berg club in Los Angeles, jazz singer and songwriter Slim Gaillard invited Laine up on stage to sing.  Frankie decided to sing “Rockin’ Chair” by Hoagy Carmichael.  Unbeknownst to Laine, Carmichael was sitting in the audience.  Carmichael liked his rendition so much he approached him afterwards.   This chance encounter eventually led to a contract for Frankie Laine with Mercury Records and his first big break in the music industry.

While still singing at the Billy Berg Club Laine did a cover for a song first produced 15 years earlier entitled That’s My Desire.  Though the song had been recorded a number of years earlier, Laine’s rendition was a smash!  It catapulted him into being the star attraction at Berg’s.

Frankie Laine wound up cutting the song for Mercury Records which quickly went to the #3 spot on the R&B charts.  Hysterically, many people listening to the song for the first time thought Laine was black as few white performers previous to him had made it to the R&B charts.  The song proved so popular that other performers, including Hadda Brooks and Sammy Kaye, did their own covers.  Laine’s, however, became the standard and it went gold.

By the late 1940’s Laine became recognized as a major talent in jazz when music giant Mitch Miller, then the A&R (artists & repertoire) man at Mercury Records, decided to branch him out into popular songs, especially those of a folksy and western bent.

The duo soon began producing chart-topping songs.  One of the first was That Lucky Old Sun which went gold just three weeks after its release.  It was Laine’s fifth gold record and it helped to establish him as a great singer, not just a “one-trick-pony”.

Laine and Miller’s next song, Mule Train knocked Sun to the #2 slot and gave Laine the honor of being the first singer ever to hold the #1 &#2 slots on the popular music charts simultaneously.  The duo’s domination of the Top 40 charts would continue until the rise of rock ‘n roll in the 1950’s.  Frankie Laine had already established himself as an influential force in the music industry and his vocal renditions would later influence others such as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and even The Beatles.

In 1950 Mitch Miller left Mercury Records to sign on as the A&R man for Columbia Records.  A year later, when Laine’s contract with Mercury expired, Miller convinced him into signing on with Columbia, as well.  Frankie Laine’s contract with Columbia would remain the most lucrative in the music industry until RCA bought Elvis Presley’s contract five years later.

It was also in 1950 that Frankie married actress Nan Grey and adopted her two daughters (Pam and Jan) from a previous marriage.  They would remain married until Nan’s death in July, 1993.  

His time at Columbia would prove the most fruitful of his long career in music.  Among the hits he produced for them was Jezebel, High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) and Your Cheatin’ Heart.  His fame reached across the Atlantic into the United Kingdom.  In 1954 he did a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II (which he later stated was one of the high points of his career).

Many of the songs he recorded at Columbia were used as theme songs for major motion pictures and TV programs with a Western theme.  He became so identified with Westerns, in fact, producer Mel Brooks would later hire him to sing the opening theme song of his hilarious Western spoof Blazing Saddles (1974).

The rise of rock ‘n roll artists like Elvis Presley cut into Laine’s stardom.  Ironically, as Laine’s star was setting somewhat in the U.S. it was rising in the UK.  Many of the songs he cut that were only minor sensations here in America went to the top of the charts in the UK.  In fact, by 1960 he was still way ahead of Elvis Presley on British charts in terms of popularity!  His song, I Believe, which has a spiritual theme, was the most popular song in the UK during the 1950’s, beating out even Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets.

Frankie Laine translated his popularity into social activism.  When his friend Nat King Cole tried to have his own TV show, he could not get any sponsors.  Laine “crossed the color line” and appeared on it for scale, foregoing his usual $10,000 per appearance fee.  He encouraged other white performers to appear as well.  The show ultimately flopped, however, as Cole was still unable to find any sponsors.

Frankie Laine also worked tirelessly supporting many charities including Meals on Wheels, The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul Village.  He was especially active in supporting charities in and around the San Diego, California area.

A tireless workaholic, nevertheless he slowed down in the 1980’s due to heart bypass surgeries.  Incredibly, though, this stalwart force in the music industry was still recording songs well into his 70’s.  He cut an album in 1986 entitled Round Up with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra which made it to the Classical music charts.  Laine was reportedly pleased and amused to have recorded songs that made it to the Classical, R&B, Country & Western and Popular charts during his lifetime.

On March 30, 1993 (his 80th birthday) the U.S. Congress declared him a national treasure.  Shortly after the infamous 9/11 attacks by Islamic terrorists, he recorded his last song, Taps/My Buddy, which he dedicated to the firefighters of New York City.  He directed that any and all profits from the song were to be donated to the FDNY in perpetuity.

He made his last public appearance (which I had the honor of watching) on PBS’ My Music special in 2005.  This in spite of having suffered a recent stroke.  He sang That’s My Desire and the audience showed their appreciation to this living legend by giving him a standing ovation!  

He died of heart failure on February 6, 2007 in Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, CA.  Like so many others among our people, his influence on those around him (in his case, in the music industry) is rarely mentioned, yet it is also undeniable!  As previously mentioned, he influenced the likes of Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and The Beatles.  Yet there are also many others, too many to be listed in this short space.

That fact, plus his 21 gold records and global record sales totaling over 100 million more than adequately justify his being labeled a “Titan of the South”.  This past Sunday, March 24th, 2013 his family and friends threw a centenary tribute to him at the Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island in Point Loma, San Diego, CA.  How I wish I could have been there.

Further reading:

• Richard Grudens: Mr. Rhythm – A Tribute to Frankie Lane; Celebrity Profiles Publishing, 2009

Freedom Won and Lost: The Sicilian Vespers

The Sicilian Vespers (1846) by Francesco Hayez
By Niccolò Graffio

“Freedom cannot be granted. It must be taken.” 
– Max Stirner: The Ego and His Own, 1845.

Americans in general today certainly take for granted the freedoms they still possess. This is not an unfair or inaccurate statement to make. How many Americans, for example, take the time out of their busy schedules watching television, surfing the Net, playing video games, “hanging out” in bars/clubs or just gaining weight to engage in such innocuous activities as educating themselves on the latest bills before their legislators? How many of them go further and contact their legislators to offer them their opinions on these bills? How many even bother to just vote on Election Day? You get the point, I’m sure. Every day things go on among our elected officials that will ultimately affect our daily lives, positively or negatively, and most seem content to remain blissfully detached from these proceedings. Continue reading

March 27, 2013

Personal Artifacts Tell A Story At Bush-Holley House

Click here to view the It's Relevant promo for the "From Italy to America" exhibit at Greenwich Historical Society.

Also see:

Villabate Pastry Shop Advances Historical Novel Set in Sicilian Hometown

“Dough” Donated in Several Forms to Bolster Book and Author of Shared Family Lineage

Anthony Di Renzo
(Brooklyn, New York) Villabate is the name of the New York Metropolitan area’s finest Sicilian bakery and pastry shop. It is also the name of the ancestral town of the Alaimo family, who have owned and operated this Bensonhust institution for 35 years. For family and historical reasons, their hometown of Villabate, Sicily is now the primary setting for Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily, a novel that the Alaimos are helping to support and promote.

“This may be a case of the Princess and the Pastries, or of the Bourbons come to Brooklyn,” said author Anthony Di Renzo, whose roots also extend to Villabate. Inspired by a town legend, popular when patriarch Angelo Alaimo was still a boy, Di Renzo’s novel pays tribute to their common heritage.

The author’s great-grandfather, Antonio Coffaro, supposedly smuggled food and supplies to Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose troops invaded Sicily as part of the Risorgimento, the Italian unification movement of the mid-1800’s.  Garibaldi and a hand-picked retinue came to Villabate and personally thanked him in the municipal square. 

Di Renzo’s thanks, however, acknowledges the Alaimo family’s literary patronage. For contributing “dough” towards the book’s production and distribution, the Villabate-Alba Bakery and Pastry Shop will appear in the novel’s acknowledgment section.

Di Renzo’s collaboration with Villabate-Alba honors Sicilian family, Sicilian history, and Sicilian craftsmanship. “After all,” he said, “the Alaimos are artists, too.”

For three generations the Alaimo family has created the finest Sicilian pastries, cakes, cookies and breads, whether in Bensonhurt, Brooklyn or back in Villabate, Sicily. The author’s mother, Maria Coffaro Bilo, and Angelo Alaimo, the founder of the Brooklyn pastry dynasty, were distant cousins and childhood playmates. 

Trinàcria
When the economic recovery from World War II proved too daunting, Angelo and his son Emanuele immigrated to America. For over a decade, the two worked hard as simple breadmakers in bakeries all over Brooklyn, earning a reputation for quality and craftsmanship. Encouraged by their neighbors and customers, father and son in 1979 started their own place: Villabate of 18th Avenue.  On opening day, Di Renzo’s 48-year-old mother, who had moved to America several years before Angelo, drove in from New Jersey to be among the first customers. 

Since then, Villabate-Alba has passed from Emanuele Senior to Emanuele Junior, Anthony, Lina, and Angela. As the family explained in a 2010 feature on Brooklyn Independent Television, Manny, “the quiet one,” runs things in the back; Anthony, “Mr. Personality,” entertains customers and handles the advertising and public relations; and Angela “basically bosses everyone around.” The new generation is proud of its Sicilian roots and visits Villabate almost every year. However, Trinacria became a rich source of knowledge, providing the Alaimo family a whole new perspective on their roots and their ancestral town’s actual history.   

From the days of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Villabate, a suburb of 20,000 people, has been an important agricultural center in the Conca d’Oro, or Golden Conch, the fertile plain surrounding Palermo. In 1700, Antonio Agnello, an aristocratic abbé and an amateur botanist, founded a commune to develop the hardy strands of olive and citrus that became the area’s chief crops. Most of the town, not incorporated until 1858, would be parceled from the abbé’s huge estate; hence came the name Villabate, a contraction of Villa dell'Abate (Abbot’s Villa). 

This land forms the heart of Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily. The book’s title derives from the ancient Greek name for Sicily. Trinàcria refers to the island’s triangular shape and the three-legged gorgon on its regional flag. It is also the nickname of the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Zita Valanguerra Spinelli (1794-1882), Marchesa of Scalea, who moves from Bagheria to Villabate to grow prized blood oranges. Her turbulent life mirrors Sicily’s rocky transition from feudalism to capitalism. Guernica Editions, an independent literary press in Toronto, Canada, plans to release the novel by November.

Brioche con gelato, Villabate-Alba
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
The Alaimo family played a key role in the book’s online campaign and live fundraising event, both sponsored by the Italian Cultural Foundation and Casa Belvedere and organized by consultant Roberto Ragone. The Villabate-Alba Bakery and Pastry Shop not only contributed money but supplied a large tray of ossi di morti for the November 29 reception at Umberto’s Clam House in New York’s Little Italy.  Shaped like human bones, these traditional almond-paste cookies are served throughout the month when All Souls Day falls. They seemed a fitting symbol for a book whose narrator speaks from beyond the grave.

“We’re pleased to do whatever we can to move this book forward,” said Antonio Alaimo, “but we’re just as pleased to reconnect with a long-lost relative. Cousin Anthony and I share the same heritage. Sicilian stories and Sicilian sweets: who can get enough of them?”

Di Renzo agrees. “It’s about tasting the past. I think of that passage in Proust, where he bites into a madeleine and remembers his childhood. A slice of cassata or a pistachio cannolo has the same effect on Sicilians and Sicilian Americans. It unlocks memories and brings back the dead, whether in Palermo or Brooklyn. In fact, I hope this all inspires post-St. Joseph's Day Order zeppoli and sfingi from Villabate-Alba.”  

Readers may sample authentic Sicilian pastries at the Villabate-Alba Bakery and Pastry Shop, 7001 18th Avenue, Brooklyn. Business hours are: Monday through Saturday, 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM; Sunday, 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM; Holidays, 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Villabate-Alba also ships practically anywhere. Order through their website at http://villabate.com and taste the past. 

For more information, please contact Roberto Ragone at 917-923-4765 or roberto.ragone@gmail.com

Also see:  

March 25, 2013

A Nightmare on Greene Street

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
Scene at the morgue
By Niccolò Graffio
Sitting there in the motorman’s class, I listened intently to the instructor as he attempted to impress upon us the importance of safety in the workplace. Picking up a soft cover book about the size of a notebook, he waved it in front of the class, trying to garner the attention of the know-it-alls who invariably find such lectures boring.
“This is a copy of New York City Transit’s code of safety rules.” he loudly announced. “We have a saying about this book: ‘This is a book written in blood!’ When I first came on this job, this book had only four pages. As you can see, this book is now a lot thicker. Every time someone was killed on this job, another page was added to this book.” Suddenly he had everyone’s attention. His grim meaning was abundantly clear to all: the job of transit worker is not an easy one. In fact, it’s a very dangerous one! Continue reading

March 24, 2013

To My Hero of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

A Tribute to Joseph Barbera
A screenshot of Goggles Paesano at the Indianrockolis 500
By Niccolò Graffio
“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination?” – Carl Jung
From the earliest days our ancestors walked this earth they sought out activities during their leisure time to amuse themselves or else divert their attention from the rigors of life. These activities are today collectively called “entertainment”. Whether passive forms of entertainment, such as spectator sports or reading, or active forms, such as participatory sports and social dance, the underlying purpose was basically the same. Continue reading

March 20, 2013

Remembering Civitella del Tronto: The Last Bastion of Bourbon Resistance

The Fortress of Civitella del Tronto, Abruzzi
Photo courtesy of fortezzacivitella.it
By Giovanni di Napoli
"Rather than stay here, I would love to die in the Abruzzi in the midst of those good fighters." — Queen Maria Sofia, during her exile in the Papal States
March 20th marks the anniversary of the surrender of Civitella del Tronto, the last bastion of Bourbon resistance during the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. We honor the stalwart defenders by remembering them and those who fell before them.
When Giuseppe Garibaldi and his motley band of freebooters invaded Sicily on May 11, 1860 he set in motion a series of events that proved to be calamitous to the people of Southern Italy. Upon landing at Marsala he declared himself dictator in the name of King Vittorio Emanuele II and L'Italia (Italy). Unsure what L'Italia meant, many Sicilians assumed it was the name of the King's wife, la TaliaContinue reading

Happy Spring!

Photo by New York Scugnizzo
The March or vernal equinox marks the beginning of spring, a time of rebirth and fertility. In celebration of the new season I would like to share a poem by the great Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo from The Night Fountain: Selected Early Poems translated by Marco Sonzogni & Gerald Dawe, Arc Publications, 2008, p. 69.

The Seeds of Light

Sure, the fragrant cedars are wet with dew
but I smell your mouth only: scented star;
sure, the dawn spreads the seeds of light,
but I see because your eyes look at me.

I will sketch you in the petal of a magnolia,
in woods of myrrh, where at night sounds of water
soothe butterflies to sleep in satin cradles.

March 19, 2013

Feast of San Giuseppe

Viva San Giuseppe!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

March 19th is Saint Joseph's Day. As a carpenter and spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of the Infant Jesus, he is the patron saint of workers and protector of the family. He is also invoked in the fight against Communism and the grace of a happy death. 

In Sicily the day is popularly celebrated with La Tavulata di San Giuseppe or Saint Joseph's Table. Dating back to Medieval times, the ritual meal is held in honor of the Saint's intercession during an especially bad famine. According to legend, a severe drought struck the island inflicting widespread suffering and starvation. Saint Joseph answered the peoples' prayers and relieved them from the dreadful plight. 

Eternally grateful, a special feast was prepared by wealthy families to help those less fortunate. Fava beans are a staple because it is said the hardy vegetable was the only food that would grow during the famine. Toasted breadcrumbs are sometimes sprinkled over pasta dishes, which symbolizes sawdust from Saint Joseph's workshop. Other delicacies include sculpted breads (Pane di San Giuseppe) and the famous sfinci di San Giuseppe, decadent cream puffs filled with sweetened ricotta, chocolate and candied fruits. Traditionally meat is not served during the Feast because it takes place during Lent. The celebration is still observed by devout Sicilians around the world and variations of the Table are found in Campania, Puglia and other places in Southern Italy.

In the South, Saint Joseph's Day also serves as Father's Day (Festa del Papa). It's a wonderful opportunity for us to show appreciation to our fathers and honor our forefathers. 

To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Joseph. The accompanying photo of the Saint was taken during my 2010 pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine in Sorrento, Campania.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

Blessed St. Joseph, I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you, that you may always be my father, my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life. After your example, may I perform my actions for the greater Glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pray for me, Saint Joseph, that I may experience the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

March 17, 2013

Announcing Westbury, Long Island's 103rd Annual Feast Of The Assumption

Sponsored by the

August 14th - 18th 

2013 Feast Information: 

Join us in celebration of our 103rd annual Feast beginning on Wednesday, August 14th through Sunday, August 18th at St. Brigid's School Parking Field on Maple Avenue, Westbury. There is fun for the whole family!! You will enjoy home-cooked Italian food and musical entertainment, rides, games, vendors, raffles, auctions, fireworks and much more! The Feast opens nightly at 6pm. 

2013 Mass Information: 

A mass in honor of the Blessed Mother will be held on Thursday, August 15th at 5pm at St. Brigid's Church, 75 Post Avenue, Westbury.  Immediately following, the members of the Maria SS. Dell'Assunta Society will lead the procession from St. Brigid's Church up Post Avenue to the Feast grounds. All are welcome to attend the mass and join in the procession.

Maria SS. Dell'Assunta Society of Westbury
373 Maple Avenue
Westbury, Long Island, NY 11590 

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

For more information, email the Maria SS. Dell'Assunta Society of Westbury at dellassunta@aol.com or visit them at www.dellassuntasocietyofwestbury.com

They can also be found on Facebook

March 16, 2013

Announcing the 138th Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Hammonton, New Jersey

The Longest Running
Italian Festival in the United States
and a Hammonton, NJ
Tradition Since 1875!

Sponsored by the

July 10th–16th

There will be food, a beer garden, music, rides, and games!

On the final day of the Feast (16th) there will be a procession at 4:00 PM, mass throughout the day, and a fireworks display at 10:00 PM.

St. Joseph, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish
220 Third Street
Hammonton, NJ 08037
(609) 561-0180

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

For more information visit them of Facebook

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society
PO Box 182
Mt. Carmel Lane
Hammonton, NJ 08037
(609) 561-4818

March 15, 2013

Announcing the 2013 Saint Anthony of Padua Procession, Verona, New Jersey

Sponsored by the St. Anthony of Padua Society of Verona, NJ
Fr. Michael Verra leads procession with St. Anthony Relic 
(Photos courtesy of the St. Anthony of Padua Society of Verona, New Jersey)
Viva Sant'Antonio!
June 15th (3:00 PM)

Outdoor Chapel
32 Hamilton Road
Verona, New Jersey 07044

It is once again time for The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, and for the 6th consecutive year it will be celebrated with a Procession in his Honor. All Members and devotees are welcomed to participate. Come and help keep this wonderful tradition alive!

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

For more information please call Peter DiPetta at (973) 239-6076 or visit them on Facebook