My Grandmother, Annie Dintino, (1899-1995) was very devoted to her own form of Catholicism. Since she was a first generation Italian-American, it was laced with pagan overtones. All over her home were shrines to the saints, and pictures of ancestors with candles burning ferverishly day and night.
(to the left is a picture of my Gram and my sister Cecilia)
Every morning she walked to the 8 o’clock mass at her church in the small town of Keene, New Hampshire. She was a member of this congregation for most of her life. She lived to be 95. Her spiritual largess flowed out of her and into her daily life. Everyone wanted to be around her. She had an energy that was uplifting and buoyant. Despite many difficulties in her life, there was something that got her through them and let her come out the other side optimistic and loving.
She never pushed her peasant village form of Catholicism on anyone or preached about it. It was simply hers, what she chose to pray to and devote herself to. Through this daily practice she was centered and strengthened.
Every day after mass, she stayed for a couple of hours and cleaned the candles, tending lovingly the community prayers and petitions. She did it without complaining. It was her way to give back.
She was a very powerful prayer leader. She spoke her prayers from the heart, pounding her foot on the ground to accentuate each beat. She did not read them. She knew them intimately and she sang them with exuberance and joy. Hearing her say the rosary at a catholic wake, escorting the dead on their journey, was powerful and transformative.
(she loved the 4th of July and celebrated it heartily every year)
Now if I enter a church anywhere in the world and light a candle, I think of Gram. As I do so, I pray wholeheartedly to her saints, invoke her infectiously joyous presence and send her my heartfelt love.
Though I have not followed the path of Catholicism, I believe that witnessing her dedication helped me enter more strongly into my own chosen path, and continues to do so every day. In spite of difficulty and challenge in life, I have her modeling of persistent devotion, which grounds and enriches my life.
(Gram in the center with the pitcher having fun with her friends on Butler Court)
It does not matter necessarily what the path is, if we are devoted to our own chosen practice, regularly engaging the places inside us that need nurturing, steadily following that path is a valuable modeling for others.
~Theresa C. Dintino