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My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles Hardcover – May 20, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After learning that his grandfather's late cousin would soon be canonized (declared a saint), Catanoso, a journalist, made several trips to southern Italy, taking part in family feasts and funerals and listening to stories about Padre Gaetano Catanoso's holy life and amazing miracles. Back home again, he researched the American branch of the family founded by his grandfather, Carmelo, Born eight years and half a mile apart, the two young men would take differing paths. Gaetano stayed in Calabria and became a priest; Carmelo emigrated to America in 1903, fathered nine children and rarely spoke of his Italian roots. The book starts slowly, with a barrage of information about the saint, the province of Reggio Calabria and the immigrant experience. A hundred pages in, the writing becomes more personal: Catanoso meets his Italian cousins and begins reflecting on his own experience as a Catholic Italian-American. Informative and thought provoking throughout, the chapters on his brother's bout with cancer are especially poignant. Why, he wonders, would a family saint answer some prayers for healing, but not others? (June)
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“Justin Catanoso went to Italy in search of his canonized cousin. In finding the story of his own family, he has written a warm and candid memoir that I admire.” (Gay Talese, author of Unto the Sons)

“Glorious. . . . It’s a great story: part travelogue, part detective story, part spiritual journal, and beautifully told.” (America: The National Catholic Weekly)

“A fascinating quest for ancestry and an illuminating wrestling with faith.” (washingtonpost.com)

“Worth worth reading for the travelogue alone.” (Greensboro News & Record)

“A glorious book! Part spiritual journey, part detective story, part travelogue, Justin Catanoso’s engrossing new memoir shows how discovering God always leads to discovering yourself. His quest to learn about his saintly cousin leads him to a fuller and richer understanding of his faith, his family, and, ultimately, himself.” (James Martin, SJ, author of My Life with the Saints and frequent commentator for the New York Times and National Public Radio)

“A beautiful book that brings with it the joy and recognition of family and of faith.” (Antonio Monda, author of Do You Believe?: Conversations on God and Religion)

“Vividly brings to life one of the Church’s newest canonized saints.” (The Catholic Standard & Times)

“A book for history lovers. . . for students of theology, for those who question their faith, or for anyone stumbling down life’s highway.” (Cape May County Herald)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (May 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231025
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,810,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"My Cousin the Saint" is a terrific account of both branches of a family from Calabria, the part of Southern Italy that is in the tip of "boot" on the map. One from the side of the author's grandfather, Carmelo Catanoso, who emigrated to America in 1903 when he was 16 years old, and all his descendants, and the other branch that remained in Italy, and included the pious priest, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, who died in 1963 and was canonized in 2005.

It is the author Justin Catanoso who has brought both branches together in the writing of this lovely book, because of Padre Gaetano becoming a saint. Family members who did not know of each other's existence now were united, and the roots of their Italian ancestors bringing meaning and depth to the life of those in America. The author weaves both sides of the story seamlessly and skillfully, contrasting the poverty in Calabria, that had its share of the horrors of both world wars, to the Catanosos in Philadelphia, where with diligence and hard work, all things were possible for Grandfather Carmelo and his sons.

If the book has a weakness, it is when the author focuses on himself rather than his relatives; even the language loses its beauty and becomes more ordinary, even coarse on 3 or 4 occasions (which might be jarring for those who are reading this book specifically because of Padre Gaetano, and are used to a more "sublime" tone of writing). Nevertheless, "My Cousin the Saint" is a lovingly written book, and the author did a tremendous amount of research which handsomely pays off. Also greatly appreciated are the wonderful photographs, especially the older ones, with the stupendous portrait of Padre Gaetano as a young priest of special value. The book also includes a map and a "Cast of Characters," that are useful.
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Format: Hardcover
It has probably been a couple of years since I learned about a story I found striking. The editor of the Triad Business Journal-- Justin Catanoso, who is of Italian descent-- had learned that a late distant cousin from the vicinity of Reggio di Calabria in southern Italy was being canonized by the pope. He was writing a book about it.

It was a story that has some meaning for me because my own grandmother-- Ernoldina Molinari-- was also from a part of Calabria, about 60 miles north of Reggio. And my two paternal grandparents were from a place close enough to be considered a part of "Old Calabria".

As I read Catanoso's book, I recognized some of the experiences his American family had that probably are shared by many of Italian descent. He revealed much about his family in the United States. But he also described the detective mission he undertook in Italy, part of which involved rediscovering and reconnecting with his extensive family in Calabria. I had done the same thing last year, on a much smaller scale, and was able to appreciate the excitement and poignancy that he experienced, all of which he related so well in his book. I found his descriptions of these meetings particularly moving.

But he also did a great job of describing the desperate circumstances of those who lived in this region one century ago-- and those who left at that time to go to the United States or South America. It was then an awful place, with horrendous poverty and living conditions. What he wrote about these matters is entirely consistent with information I had learned through other sources. He paints the picture particularly well of what life was like in those days, and of the paucity of leadership that would lift the locals above their circumstances.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author is a most talented and engaging writer and he has quite a story to tell. He finds out that a deceased priest from Italy, who happens to be a cousin, is at the cusp of being declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. This leads the writer to explore his family roots in southern Italy and to delve into a faith that he has mostly set aside, all the while dealing with the emotional turmoil of losing a relatively young brother to cancer. While confronted with stories about the miracles attributed to the intercession of his cousin, St. Gaetano Catanoso, his own beloved brother appears to be beyond the aid of medical science or divine intervention. The author, however, never opts for the "cheap grace" that fails to question God's existence, purpose or goodness. Throughout this spiritual journey, this fine writer and reporter delves ever deeper into the meaning (if there is one) to his cousin's canonization, the impact of immigration on a family, and the role of faith in his own life. Mr. Catanoso provides a delightful picture of an extended, supportive Italian family that suggests that we pay a price for our independence, namely isolation. I read wistfully about a society that goes out for walks in the park in the evening rather than stays home to watch whatever is on television. This is not a book just for the devout, but for those questioning their faith, their priorities and values. Behind it all is the spirit of a remarkable priest whose death was not the end of his story.
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Format: Hardcover
What is it like to have a saint in the family? Go on - you can answer that. If you don't know already, you will discover, after reading Justin Catanoso's book about his cousin, that our families are full of saints, and that we, too, are on the same path. It's just that Justin's cousin won an Academy Award - so to speak--for his journey.
You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy this book, it is not about religion, it is about God manifest in the family - Love, something common to us all. And, it's loaded with every-day miracles, prayers answered and petitions declined. Daniela, a Calabrese cousin and self-described miracle herself, has an answer to why not all requests for miracles are granted. I'll not reveal it here.
Take the book to the beach - it's not heavy reading--and about two thirds of the way through the book and the day, when you have an inexplicable hunger for swordfish, gather the family together for dinner and your own little communion of saints. Can it be any wonder why Jesus chose a meal to share Himself with us?
Reading My Cousin The Saint after finishing Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito, another satisfying book about family, food, love, and more than a little wine, I think these Italians are on to something. Or is it up to something? Either way we are no longer strangers but pilgrims heading for the same place. What a pleasure to encounter Justin and his family on this path.
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