THE FEAST OF LA MADONNA DELLA CATENA (OUR LADY OF THE CHAIN) IN SICILY

Every year, late in August, in Calascibetta, a town in the center of Sicily, there is the procession in honor of La Madonna della Catena (Our Lady of the Chain).

The statue of the Virgin Mary with Child Jesus, who hold a chain in their hands, is carried in procession. The women that follow it are dressed in black and bear heavy chains on their feet. Why do they drag those heavy chains?

To solve the mystery we need to go back to the year 1392. Sicily was under Spanish rule. The king was Martin the Younger and under his reign three criminals had been sentenced to death. The place of the execution was the Piazza Marina (Marina Square) in Palermo. At that time, capital punishments were carried out publicly.

The square was crowded with people. As usual, there were also street vendors who sold carobs, licorice, and the like. When everything was ready for the execution, a violent storm broke out. People left the square and the execution was postponed to the following day.

The guards and the criminals took refuge in the church of La Madonna del Porto (Our Lady of the Port). The violence of the storm didn’t allow them to leave the place. Therefore, they chained the condemned men to the altar and waited for the storm to end.

There was an image of Our Lady above the altar. The chained men looked up at it and begged the Virgin Mary to help them. Suddenly, the chains broke, the guards fell into a deep sleep, and the doors of the church opened wide.

The criminals went out but the next day they were caught to be taken again to the scaffold. Meanwhile, the news of the miracle of the breaking of the chains had reached the ears of King Martin who granted the pardon to the three men.

From that day on the devotion to the Our Lady of the Chain is widespread in Sicily. People consider her the protector of prisoners and immigrants.

Ettore Grillo author of these books:

November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

A JOURNEY FROM ENNA (SICILY) TO LOURDES (FRANCE)

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The cult of the Virgin of Lourdes is followed by many in Enna, and every year in May a train loaded with pilgrims, volunteers, and seriously ill people travels to Lourdes. It is called the White Train. Lourdes is a place for pilgrimages for Catholics from all over the world, and every year around five million visit the cave where the apparitions happened.

The journey from Enna to Lourdes takes forty-eight hours, as the White Train stops continuously to give precedence to regular trains. The volunteer’s main task is serving meals in the train and pushing the wheelchairs once arriving in Lourdes.

During my staying in Lourdes, I wanted to do my very best to serve the sick people that I looked after. One afternoon I took a sick lady from the hospital courtyard. She was around sixty years old and dressed in black.
“Where would you like me to take you?” I asked.
“I want to go shopping!” she answered.

The sick lady wanted to buy a small golden medal, so we went around many shops to find the item she liked. After two hours of shopping, she found the one she wanted. Afterwards, she wanted me to take her to the top of the hill, as she wanted to cover the Stations of the Cross. At last, after a long day of walking, I took her back to the hospital.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital courtyard, the sick lady got up from the wheelchair and walked at a brisk pace. I looked at her with a slight annoyance. Why had she asked me to carry her around when she was able to walk by herself? But suddenly the lady started crying out, “It is a miracle! A miracle! I couldn’t walk before. That volunteer can testify to it,” she said, pointing to me.
A few people gathered around me. “Is it true?” one of them asked.
“What?”
“It was really a miracle?” he insisted.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I can only say that the lady was already sitting in the wheelchair when I took her out to the shops. Then I took her to the hill where the Stations of the Cross are, but I cannot say if she was able to walk before I met her.”
“Okay, thank you,” said the man who had questioned me, and soon the small crowd of onlookers dispersed.

Many years went by, and that episode seemed to have fallen into oblivion, but one day it came to mind for some reason. I wondered why that sick lady would have deceived me, pretending to have been miraculously cured when she was already in good health. What was the point?

I decided that there had to be a rational explanation. Maybe the old lady was lazy and didn’t want to walk by herself. Perhaps she took advantage of me to stroll around Lourdes while sitting comfortably in the wheelchair. Nevertheless, my conjecture collided with the fact that the lady had been admitted to the hospital in Lourdes.
If my memory serves me right, there were two hospitals for sick people at that time in Lourdes, one bigger and one smaller. Neither of them admitted patients that were not disabled. There should be medical records certifying her disability. Being wise after the event, at that time I was very shallow. I should have investigated the matter in depth.
However, if she is still in my mind after so many years, perhaps something supernatural really did happen that afternoon in Lourdes.

This is an 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
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

TRAVEL TO ROME

rome-night-14453025[1]I arrived at Termini Station in Rome. It was the year of the Jubilee. I wanted to follow the instructions that the Catholic Church imposes on the occasion of the Jubilee. Besides doing a good deed, like giving alms, a pilgrim is asked to visit the catacombs and all four patriarchal churches.
Leaving from the side exit of Termini Station, I walked to the Basilica of Saint Mary the Greatest, and then I kept walking on Merulana Street and visited the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran. From there, I took a bus to the catacombs. When I arrived at the Vatican, I headed for the basements. I meditated for a few minutes before the tomb of Pope John XXIII and made an offering for his beatification.
It was already late. To complete my Jubilee, I needed to visit the Church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. I took the subway and got there in time, a few minutes before the basilica closed.
After having admired the harmonious and austere colonnade outside the church, I went in and stopped briefly to have a look at the splendid mosaics on the ceiling.
While I was admiring the drawings, a gray-haired guy about forty-five years old, with a southern Italian accent, came up to me.
“What about dividing the cost half and half?”
I was surprised by his asking and had a quick look at him to make sure he was a good guy. He wore casual clothes and looked very self-confident. Soon, I recovered from my astonishment.
“What cost?”
“If we insert some coins into the slot of this telescope, we can see the mosaics on the ceiling closer.”
“Yes, of course!”
We inserted the coins and admired those gorgeous mosaics. Then, the stranger told me something about the basilica.
“It stands on a place where it is believed that Saint Paul was buried. This basilica is the biggest after Saint Peter’s. The emperor Constantine erected a small building in this place, but the subsequent emperors demolished it to build a new basilica, which lasted until a disastrous fire. This basilica was rebuilt similar to the one before the fire. Under the altar, there is the tomb of Saint Paul.”
“I would like to confess. Have you seen any priests who hear confession?”
“Yes, I saw one near the door on the way out.”
We walked together toward the priest, but he refused to listen to me because it was too late, and the church was about to be closed. Actually, the priest was tired because he had heard confessions all day long, and for him it was enough! So, my new friend and I went out of the church and walked down the street.
On the way, we talked about the Jubilee, morals, and religions.
“There is too much theology in your mind. You should use your heart not your brain!” the stranger said.
“Maybe you are right.”
“Once, I knew two exceptional persons. One of them was Padre Pio, a Franciscan friar with the stigmata in his hands just like Jesus. He bore the signs of Jesus’s passion for fifty years until his death when the stigmata disappeared, and his hands returned to be normal. He had the ability to read people’s minds. He was able to be present simultaneously in two different, distant places. Another remarkable person is Natuzza Evolo. Like Padre Pio, she can read people’s minds. She lives in Paravati, Calabria.”
We said goodbye, and then, he headed for the subway station. I kept hanging about the area. After about half an hour, I saw him again, sitting on a bench, waiting for his train.
“You are here again! Well! Since we meet again and not by chance, I want to give you this gift.”
He took from his pocket a sheet of paper, a little bit crumpled, with writing on the front and back and handed it to me. Meanwhile, the train arrived. Getting on the train, he waved his hand to me and smiled from ear to ear.
The train left. I have never seen that man again in my life, but the precious sheet of paper is still with me. I sat on a bench and unfolded it. It contained a list of forty-four titles of books. Later, just to be on the safe side, I made some photocopies.
The first book in the list was, The Book of Mirdad; the last, Dogen and Soto Zen.
The listed books range over many subjects: literature, philosophy, meditation, cultures, and religions. There are books about Sufism, Gurdjieff, Saint Augustine, Plato, Osho, and so on. The titles are handwritten, so difficult to decipher. Some are almost impossible to read. Yet, there is a bookseller in my hometown who helped me to read the titles. Finally, we deciphered all the titles except two.
From time to time, I give a copy of the list to some friends of mine. So far, I have read more than half of the listed books. I hope to read all of them before the end of my life.
At Termini Station, I collected my baggage from the checkroom, and I then took a train to Paris.

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

SYRACUSE

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In 1953 in Syracuse, a bride and a groom had been presented with a plaster plaque portraying the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The newlyweds were very poor and went to live with the husband’s parents for some time. The plaque was hung on the wall over the headboard of the bed.

The wife, Antonia, had a difficult pregnancy and suffered with convulsions and clouded vision. One day, after a seizure and a bout of temporary blindness, Antonia opened her eyes and noticed that the plaster plaque portraying the Virgin Mary was weeping. When she called out to her relatives and told them that the effigy was weeping, nobody believed her. But later, everyone saw that the small statue really was in tears.

Tears kept flowing from the statue’s eyes for a few days and were seen by the people that flocked around Antonia’s house. Filmed sequences of the plaque showed the phenomenon. The tears were collected and sent to laboratory to be analyzed. The tests showed that they were human tears.

The Catholic Church declared the lacrimation a miracle. Now a church has been built in the area, where more than sixty years ago there were an unsurfaced square and a cluster of low houses.

I remember as soon as we arrived in Syracuse and parked our car at the end of the square, there were so many people in the square and around the house where the miracle happened that it was impossible for us to move on. As I wanted to see what was going on, my father, who was taller than average, picked me up so that I could see the happenings.

I noticed a line of detached one-story houses on the opposite side of the square and people standing and looking at those houses. Suddenly, I heard a voice that sounded like stammering.

What happened?” I asked my father. “Why is that person stammering?”

That man has been cured miraculously. He couldn’t walk, but now he has left his wheelchair and is walking.”

When I returned to the same place many years later, the square and the low houses didn’t exist anymore. The plaster plaque portraying Our Lady had been moved inside the new church to be exposed to the believers.

Excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind
http://www.ettoregrillocom.wordpress.com
http://www.ettoregrillo.wordpress.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo