Late in the month of August I returned from some vacation days in Italy, with friends whom I have known for many years. They live near a port city called Terracina. I met them when I was a student priest in Rome and I helped in their parish on a weekend basis, and have been blessed not only by their friendship, but by the knowledge of the faith and warmth of the Italian culture and people, and how much Italy (especially in the south, where I was) resembles our geography here, in Southern California.
California and Italy both have great beauty and challenges. Italy, like California, is a location where what are called the “tectonic” plates of the earth, can bump into each other, and one moves under the other. Thus, the result is both earthquakes and volcanoes, which we know here in California and on the West Coast, being part of the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” In California we have both Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta and the “Mono” volcanoes in the Mojave desert. In Italy, there is Mt. Vesuvius, Mt. Etna, Stromboli, and others. And we have known the destructive effects of earthquakes here in California. In Italy, a major earthquake nearly destroyed the basilica of St. Francis some years ago. There was a major earthquake in Ancona in the province of “Le Marche” also recently, and sadly, just over a month ago, a major earthquake struck in the area of Norcia and nearly destroyed the town of Amatrice in that region. This is all of the more tragedy because the town was full of people gathered that weekend for the annual “festa.” In Italy, the life of the towns and cities are always marked by the town feast day with major processions involving images of the patron saint, music, blessings, fireworks, sometimes the presence of the Bishop, many families, visitors, singing and praying and celebrating. This is a major part of the Italian culture, which is all interwoven at many levels with our Catholic Faith, even still today.
In the month of September my friend John Allen, editor of “Crux,” wrote a wonderful column on Italian life, culture and faith, especially in light of the devastating earthquake in Amatrice. He mentioned in that column that in Italy, and Rome, many celebrations are held, and meetings and problems resolved around the meal table, and often with “Pasta Amatriciana,” which comes from the town of Amatrice. From my experience of life and studies in the Eternal City, and traveling in Italy, I could immediately identify with this. John, in that same column, also wrote about an outreach, then, to the town of Amatrice, which could come from the proceeds of dinners and gatherings around “Pasta Amatriciana,” which would then go to help the earthquake relief fund for the people of Amatrice.
The end result of this conversation, together with John’s colleague, Ines San Martin, is that we are going to host a national event here on Christ Cathedral Campus, at the Cultural Center, on Friday evening, Oct. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. John Allen will be the Master Ceremonies, and this event is also co-sponsored by Archbishop Gomez and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This event will also have a national focus and involve video messages from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and others. The proceeds from this evening will go to Catholic Relief Services, which in turn will send the funds to “Caritas Italia.” Fall and winter will soon be coming along in the mountain area of Amatrice, so this event is very timely. Currently hundreds of families are living in tents. They need better transitional housing for the winter months.
I am personally inviting one and all to this event, which not only will be a great evening of food and faith and celebration, but most of all, will link us directly in the communion of Faith with those in great need in Italy. Most importantly, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked each Diocese to sponsor a major event of mercy for this Year of Mercy. I cannot think of a better gesture of mercy, solidarity and faith than October 14. Benvenuto, tutti tra noi il 14 Ottobre! Dio vi benedica sempre! (Welcome all on October 14, and God Bless you always!)
+Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange