Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, May 27, 2013

A heroic Catholic priest vs. the Sicilian mafia

I have been reading Giuseppe di Lampedusa's great historical novel, The Leopard (Il Gattopardo). It portrays the Italian Risorgimento and the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy through its penetrating, melancholy portrayal of its main character, the Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, who is closely based on Lampedusa's own great-grandfather. I had already seen the famous film, The Leopard, which has been spectacularly restored for the Criterion Collection. The film complements the book almost to perfection, more so than any book-to-movie that I can think of, let alone great-book-to-great-movie, an almost nonexistent category. (The casting of Burt Lancaster as Don Fabrizio caused great uproar, as can well be imagined, but it turned out to be uncannily successful even in dubbed Italian. It's important to see the Italian-language version of the film rather than the butchered American version.)

The book gives a fascinating portrait of Sicily itself, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and its relationship to the rest of Italy during the years of the Risorgimento and unification. This very week, therefore, I was electrified to read the story of a modern Sicilian priest. First Things has an excellent article about him. The first paragraph reads,
On May 25, a mere twenty years after his murder, the Italian Catholic priest Don Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi will be beatified. A figure much beloved in Sicily, Puglisi will be the first victim of the mafia to be declared a blessed by the Catholic Church. Puglisi’s beatification is a sign of how a Church once deeply complicit with organized crime came to stand heroically against it.

It's so important, in these days of shame and blame for the Roman Catholic Church, to remember and honor the many priests who have served the Lord and the people faithfully and courageously. I have recently posted a notice about another true story of a priest-hero: 

And here is the link to the Fr. Pino Puglisi story: