THE MAIN TEMPLE OF DEMETER IN SICILY

According to some, the main temple of Demeter in Sicily stood where the cathedral of Enna now stands. The construction of the Catholic temple was commissioned by Queen Eleonora d’Angiò at the beginning of the fourteenth century. She was a fervent Catholic and wanted to eradicate the cult of Demeter which was still alive in the hearts of the people of Enna.

In 1942, the king of Italy declared the cathedral of Enna a national monument and in 2008, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

Since the building of the cathedral, the procession in honor of Demeter has been replaced by the one in honor of Our Lady, but basically nothing has changed. The devotion of the people of Enna towards Demeter is still unaltered; just the name of the deity has changed.

Today, the municipal band performed some musical pieces in front of the cathedral. However, the joy of the past years was missing. For the second consecutive year, the mother goddess Demeter could not be celebrated.

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 VISIT TO A DISUSED SICILIAN CLOISTERED CONVENT

Long ago, there were many cloistered convent in my hometown of Enna (Sicily). Over the years, they have been closed due to lack of vocations. Ten years ago, the Convent of St Mark was also abandoned. It was the last one left. The Carmelite nuns had lived there since the thirteenth century, but in the end they gave up, for they were too few to manage the large building which stood on an area of about five thousand square meters.

Yesterday, it was possible to visit a small part of it with a guide. I took some photos and tried to figure out life in a cloistered convent.

Nowadays, the world has become more and more atheist. People don’t even go to church, imagine if they lock themselves up in a convent.

Once, about one hundred and fifty Sisters lived in this place. After they crossed the threshold, they couldn’t get out anymore. Even after they died, they remained in the convent. In fact, there was a kind of cemetery in the basement where the bodies were placed on stone seats and decayed.

A long time ago, it was not easy to become a cloistered nun, for a dowry was needed. Usually, the nuns came from wealthy families and brought with them silverware and other goods.

I saw a lot of gratings in the convent. The nuns looked at the world only through the gratings, just like inmates.

Only one room on the top floor was surrounded by windows without gratings. The view was very beatiful. You could admire all of Enna from up there. A bell hung in one of the windows. Who knows what that bell was for? The guide said that the nuns came to this room to meditate. Was their life wasted? I don’t think so. A life spent searching for God is never wasted!

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

GREAT MUSIC PLAYED BY A BEGINNER

The book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, tells of an angel who plays the trumpet. There is closeness between religion and music. Famous is Saint Augustine’s saying, he who sings prays twice. It means that if one praises God by music or songs, his prayer is more effective than prayers made of spoken words.

Music is a universal language. Everybody can understand and feel it. Even with the extraterrestrials we can communicate through music. Music is a path toward God. I can’t imagine paradise without music.

As I searched for an answer to my basic question, is there life after death? I couldn’t miss this important path to God, music. But what to do? At that time I was sixty-three years old. My hands and brain were too stiff to play a musical instrument. Nevertheless, I wanted to study music. So, I started learning the piano.”

This is an excerpt from the autobiographical novel The Vibrations of Words

 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

MY REVIEW OF RUNNING TO RESURRECTION BY CLARK BERGE

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All great masters teach that the secret to get enlightenment is to live life here and now, neither in the past nor in the future. Running is not different from the walking meditation of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, on the condition that you are alert and watch yourself while you are walking or running.

A marathon is also a metaphor of life. Clark Berge took part in the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, California, when he was 58 years old. It was hard to complete the marathon, but he finally arrived at the finishing line in time.

What I appreciate a lot in this book is Clark Berge’s homily to the baboons he met while running in South Africa. “There is something beautiful about just being a baboon, just being who you are,” he says to the baboons.

What a difference between a baboon and a man! The former cannot have split personality, while men often show themselves differently from what they are. Don’t you think that being sincere, honest, consistent with oneself, natural, and spontaneous is the real finish line which we should run for?

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

CEMETERIES IN SICILY

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Enna’s cemetery is large enough to look like a town.  It has broad avenues and tall tombs. Many tombs are similar to small houses. They have a room inside with walled niches and an altar where once was celebrated Mass on November 2.

I dare say that the cemeteries in Sicily are unique. I have visited some burying places while traveling around the world, but they were completely different than the Sicilian cemeteries, for every population on earth has its own way of treating the dead, depending on its culture and traditions.

In Italy, before the Napoleonic edict, the dead were buried in the churches. Later, this custom fell into disuse.

My maternal grandmother, Paolina, used to keep in her family tomb a few chairs for herself and her family, relatives and friends that came to visit the tomb or had the chance to pass by it.

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

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

THE DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATION IN SICILY

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PRESS RELEASE
Now Available for Kindle, iPad, and other e-Readers

Novel Captures The Day of the Dead Celebration in Sicily

November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily is a thought-provoking story that captivates from beginning to end. The Day of the Dead is an important festival in many cultures, originating 3,000 years ago in Mexico with the Aztecs. Visiting Spaniards in the 1500s adopted the celebration, taking it home to Europe.

It is a day when children receive gifts from those who have died, and they eat special bone-shaped cakes. Cemeteries are packed with visitors placing flowers at gravesites and lighting candles in their tombs, which can look like small houses.

On such a day on the isle of Sicily, Mario Chiaramonte goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of his friends and relatives. As he strolls through the graveyard, he sees some special tombs, including those of a poet, a nobleman, and a Mafia boss. Mario also discovers some truths about living, its goodness and evil, and ultimately comes to see his own life in a different perspective.

Expect romance, adventure, life, death, and a rollicking good read, including this cultural note:

“In some tribes that I visited in Tanzania, the dead were buried in front of the house where they had lived, but before being placed into an underground niche on the side of the pit that had been dug, the dead person was put on a chair in front of his house for a few hours. This way, the relatives and friends could offer condolences to the family.” Such is life … and death.

About the Author: Ettore Grillo was born in 1946 in Enna, Sicily, where he was an attorney for 37 years. This is his fourth work. His previous books are Travels of the Mind, The Vibrations of Words, and A Hidden Sicilian History.

“The cultural heritage behind the fascinating celebration The Day of the Dead is explored in this finely honed novel. We are pleased to be the publisher.”Lynn Eddy, VP of acquisitions, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency

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

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

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

SAINT ELIJAH OF ENNA, A FORGOTTEN SAINT

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Even saints can be forgotten by their own fellow citizens. This happened just in Enna, the birthplace of Saint Elijah of Enna, also called Saint Elijah the Younger, to distinguish him from the prophet Elijah. He was born in Enna around 823 when the city was a Byzantine fortress. His baptismal name was Giovanni. When the Arabs occupied Sicily, they took Giovanni prisoner and sold him as a slave in Africa. After Giovanni had been set free, he started preaching the Gospel and arrived in Palestine where he became a monk and received the new name of Elijah. He was a great traveler and a wise man. He traveled to Egypt, Persia, Rome, Greece, Sinai peninsula, and so on to spread the Gospel. He founded a monastery in Seminara, Calabria, an Italian region near Sicily, where his body now rests. The fame of Saint Elijah’s wisdom and holiness spread throughout the world, so much so that the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Leo the philosopher invited him to stay in his court. Saint Elijah set off for Byzantium but died on the journey.
This saint is revered by both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, for the Eastern Schism had not begun at the time of Saint Elijah the Younger. At the time, there was only one universal church of Jesus Christ. The feast in honor of Saint Elijah of Enna is celebrate every year on August 17.
Strangely, this great saint is unknown in his hometown. No one in Enna had never heard of Saint Elijah the Younger until a historian wrote a book about him. I, too learned about him after attending a lecture on the Middle Ages at the Ennaion library in Enna.

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

OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, MOTHER GODDESS TONANTZIN, AND DEMETER

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The place where the basilica now stands was a holy place long before the Spanish conquered Mexico. It is called the Hill of Tepeyac. At the site there was a temple devoted to the mother goddess called Tonantzin. Later, the Spanish destroyed the temple and built a nearby chapel. But the destruction of the temple couldn’t prevent the natives from pouring into the site.
Ten years after the Spanish conquered Mexico, a local peasant named Juan Diego, who had recently converted to Christianity, had a vision said to be Our Lady in the same area, who asked for a chapel to be built in the place. People from all over Mexico rallied to the chapel to worship the shrine, and it is reported that many miracles occurred. Nevertheless, the natives kept calling Our Lady by the name of Tonantzin, the ancient mother goddess revered by the native population. This gave rise to the doubts of the Franciscan friars, who were convinced that the veneration of the holy image was a pagan cult.
Something similar also happened in Enna. In  fact, Our Lady, who is the patron saint of Enna, replaced the ancient cult of Demeter, who was the town’s mother goddess. The celebration in honor of Our Lady happens on July second every year, the same time when the old pagan cult of Demeter was celebrated. People of Enna today still invoke the name Kore, who was Demeter’s daughter.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter the name you give to God; what matters is the spiritual feeling that radiates from the worshipper. So you can call God Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva without losing the purity of your heart. Jesus and the Virgin Mary are beyond time, as they existed before time, long before coming into human history. They also existed in the pagan era and were worshipped differently.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in the form of a crossbreed maiden, and in the same place where the Spanish had destroyed the temple dedicated to the goddess Tonantzin. That means that nobody is allowed to destroy others’ temples, even if they are considered pagan. In fact, religion and spirituality are not related to a particular cult. Over the years people have given various names to God and worshiped Him in different ways, but it doesn’t entitle anybody to resort to violence to make one religion prevail over another.
As for the holy image imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak, it was kept for some time by the Franciscan friars until it passed under the custody of the diocesan priests. With the passing of time, possibly in good faith, the original image was retouched in some spots. For instance, the crescent on which the Virgin Mary stands was painted with silver. Apparently, nowadays the retouches have discolored naturally, while the original image is still unaltered.

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

TRAVELING FROM ENNA (SICILY) TO BANNEUX (BELGIUM)

 

our-lady-banneux-statue-source-inside-sanctuary-belgium-125672172[1]When we arrived in Banneux, the bus stopped next to a square. At the end of the square there was a street that led to the sanctuary. The atmosphere in Banneux was different from other Marian sanctuaries. It was much simpler and there weren’t many shops. We walked towards the chapel and found a water basin on the right, which was where little Mariette had dipped her hands. We too dipped our hands and drank some of the water.
After visiting the chapel, we walked through the woods that bound the water basin. While we were walking, I realized why Our Lady had called herself The Virgin of the Poor. We well-to-do people tend to underestimate the issue of poverty. It is one of the most serious social problems.

Here amid the woods of Banneux, in my mind I saw all the jobless, poor Sicilians that had migrated to Belgium to work in the coal mines after the end of the Second World War. Many of them died trapped underground, while those who survived contracted an illness called silicosis, which was a progressive disease caused by the inhalation of dust in mines. My mind went to the immigrants that try to reach the Sicilian coast packed in precarious boats, which sometimes wrecked, causing the deaths of hundreds of people, whose only fault is to be poor and searching for a better place to live.

I recalled a butcher in Enna who had a large family. My father used to go to his shop to buy lamb at Easter. Over time, many butcher shops sprang up in Enna, so that butcher couldn’t match the competition and became poor. He took on debts to feed his family, hoping he would be able to pay them, but things didn’t go well. He fell into despair and couldn’t find a way out. One night he left his home and told his wife that he had to cut a few lambs’ throats, but things went differently. He pulled down the shutters in his shop, and instead of cutting lambs’ throats, he cut his own. The following day his blood still leaked through the chink of the shutter, flowing into the street.
There are many tragedies caused by poverty that we don’t know about. Sometimes, even when we know about them we ignore them instead of doing something to try to overcome the scourge of poverty.
Here, where Our Lady of the Poor appeared, I saw in my mind’s eye how many conflicts were sparked off by poverty. Indigence gives rise to social malaise, and then to a Mafia, terrorism, and war. It is not by chance that terrorists and members of the Mafia are recruited from the poorest classes.

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

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