Tag Archives: Italy

A taste of London in Rome, Tuscanshire Italian style

Sixty Italy trips ago, I was developing a new concept called Buca di Beppo (Joe’s Basement) with my partners and my wife, Connie. We traveled to Italy frequently while developing the menu, décor, and product sourcing, including wine.

Providentially, in 1997 we were told of the primo grill restaurant in all of Rome, a cozy, unassuming basement (buca) styled establishment off the Via Veneto called Girarrosto Tuscano — or, as we call it affectionately, GT.

Today we will feature GT’s crown jewel, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, with its blend of Italian seasonings, flair, and commitment to flavor profile that goes beyond mere taste to create a visual masterpiece. First, let’s return to 1997 as we stepped down the stone stairs to enter this zestful, aroma-filled location, greeted by a wood-fired, bread-filled oven and a charcoal-and-wood-burning griglia filled with cuts of beef, pork, and whole pescare (fish).

“Tuscanshire” refers to the English-inspired influence that would take volumes to detail. After World War II, the English fell in love with the Tuscan region. The wealthy who vacationed there bought hectares of land and brought their cooks with them to learn cuisine from all 20 Italian regions. Still longing for the great cattle of the United Kingdom, they brought in Angus, Hereford, Blue Grey, and British White breeds and raised them in the Tuscan region to produce the greatest bistecca beef.

In 1997, while traveling with my wife and two sons, Joe Jr. and Justin, we were blessed to meet Fr. Steve Pisano, S.J. It is not often when great memories and great dinning experiences can be draped in a loving, nostalgic loss.

Born in New York City, Fr. Steve spent years as dean and superior for the Jesuit community in Rome. We became friends through another priest and family friend who celebrated Justin and Renata’s wedding, and baptized our first granddaughter, Gemma.

The gift of that introduction to Fr. Steve lasted until his death last October. We had shared dinner at GT on each of 50 or so trips. He became part of our family. During an extremely special visit in August 2012, our 40th wedding anniversary, he was able to meet all three grandchildren and reconnect with our sons and their wives at GT’s of course! He has always been there for us.

While this may seem sad, I delight in the reality that we had so many magnificent meals at GT. Many an Angus were grilled to perfection as bistecca, and GT provided something more that we treasure for a lifetime: a place where the love of epicurean delights and spiritual friendship can not only coexist, but also grow for a lifetime and beyond. Ciao bella!

JOE MICATROTTO SR., KCHS, has been a founder and CEO in the restaurant industry for more than 45 years, including among his credits Buca di Beppo, Panda Express, and MRG Marketing & Management, Inc. (Micatrotto Restaurant Group). He and his wife Connie serve as councilors for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Western Lieutenancy. They reside in Las Vegas and travel extensively, especially in the Holy Land for the EOHSJ. This column is dedicated to the loving memory of Fr. Steve Pisano, S.J.

BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA • (serves three, or one very hungry)


3 lbs Porterhouse steak (well-aged)
3 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 sprigs rosemary/sage/thyme, wrapped
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp ground pepper


In small bowl, mix onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to make a spice blend. Rest herb sprigs in melted butter. Brush olive oil generously over Porterhouse; season generously with spice blend.

Place on hot grill at 500-550° for five to eight minutes per side for rare. Add three to four minutes for medium rare. After first flip of the steak, brush steak continuously with herb sprigs and butter. When grilled to your desired temperature, remove from grill and rest meat for four minutes. Carve. Finely dice herb sprigs, sprinkling over steak.

Eat, close your eyes, and sense the hills and aroma of Tuscany.

Visiting the Holy House of Mary in Italy

The simple stone house in which the Virgin Mary was born, where she received the invitaton of an angel at the Annunciation, and lived with the Holy Family, is believed to be in the small coastal town of Loreto in central Italy’s Le Marche region. To the marvel of scientists, the House disappeared from Nazareth, miraculously moved to Croatia, and then later to three different spots in Italy in a way that defies human explanation.

According to historians, after 13 centuries in Nazareth, on May 10, 1291, the house of the Holy Family disappeared overnight, completely undetected, confounding the community. It is believed to have been carried by angels first to the town of Trsat, an area in modern-day Croatia. It baffled the townspeople there on how a house could simply appear overnight. It is remarkable that just three years later, Muslims invaded the land around Nazareth and ransacked everything. Surely the house would have been destroyed.

 Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (September 8, 1774 – February 9, 1824) reported that among her mystical experiences was a recurring vision of the Holy House carried over the sea by seven angels. Historical, scientific, and archeological evidence attests that there is no other logical explanation.

 Four Stops

Father Donald Calloway, vocation director for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and author of five books on the rosary, visited the House of Loreto four years ago. “You get a sense of this being an extraordinary relic and that you are in a very holy place,” he said in an interview with Legatus magazine. “It’s almost overwhelming, like a spiritual generator.”

Father Calloway wrote about the House of Loreto in his newest book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father. He explained the path it took before its last resting place in Loreto. The house’s first stop was in Trsat, Croatia. Villagers were amazed that it had no foundation. After three years, it disappeared again on December 10, 1294, leaving only an outline of the spot it had occupied. To this day, a monument marks that spot.

From there it was taken across the Adriatic Sea to the town of Ascoli Piceno, Italy. It was there for only eight months, as robbers had begun stealing from the pilgrims. In August 1295, the house disappeared yet again and reappeared on a hill outside Ascoli Piceno. But the two brothers who owned the land fought over ownership and also exploited tourists for financial gain. So near the end of December 1295, the Holy House was taken to its final location in Loreto.

The History

A year after the house appeared in Loreto, the Catholic Church appointed 16 envoys to investigate. They visited Loreto, Croatia, and Nazareth. At all locations, the measurements of the house were exactly the same with absolutely no discrepancies. In 1469, the Basilica della Santa Casa (Basilica of the Holy House) was built over the Holy House where it still stands today, attracting approximately four million pilgrims annually.

Many saints have visited both before and after it moved. Biographers of Saint Francis of Assisi wrote that he visited the house in 1220 in Nazareth, and Saint Louis, King of France, visited it on the feast of the Annunciation in 1251. Other saints that visited include Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Francis Borgia, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, and Saint Therese of Lisieux.

An inscription from the 16th century on the eastern façade of the Basilica reads: “Christian pilgrim, you have before your eyes the Holy House of Loreto, venerable throughout the world on account of the Divine mysteries accomplished in it and the glorious miracles herein wrought. It is here that most holy Mary, Mother of God was born, here that she was saluted by the Angel, here that the eternal Word of God was made Flesh….”

Scientific Evidence

A scientific study undertaken by Professor Giorgio Nicolini was presented at a conference organized by the “Amici del Timone” Cultural Center in Staggia Senese, Italy on April 24, 2015. His talk was titled “The Story of the Incredible Move of the House of Mary of Nazareth to Loreto.”

Nicolini pointed out the impossibility of transporting the house over sea completely restored, given the poor technological resources of the time. He cited the existence of many documents and eyewitness accounts and noted that the chemical composition of the house’s stones, wood, and mortar are unique to the region of Nazareth and non-existent in all of Italy.

Detractors have claimed that a wealthy family had dismantled the house and transported it brick by brick at the request of the Crusaders, then rebuilt the house in Loreto. “Such an operation, with the transportation conditions of the 13th century, would have been a more miraculous feat than the angelic translation,” Nicolini said.

Last year, Pope Francis became one of almost 50 popes who have visited or written about the House. He prayed at an altar built into the house on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2019. Then in October, he designated December 10 on the universal calendar as the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. The decree stated that this new feast day “will help all people, especially families, youth and religious to imitate the virtues of the perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother, who, in conceiving the head of the Church also accepted us as her own.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Tasting Italy in Jerusalem… Grazie Dio!

My wife Connie and I are members and area councilors for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ), based in Las Vegas, NV. We are blessed to be making regular trips to our Lord’s homeland in the Holy Land.

Over the past seven years we have participated in and led pilgrimages for the EOHSJ, and we also are working with the Order’s newest project, FIAT (Faith in Action Today).

During a FIAT St. Helena Pilgrimage (St. Helena is a true role model for any pilgrimage), the pilgrims actually perform hands-on work at various facilities overseen by both the Latin Patriarchate and the Franciscans. What a joy to be a pilgrim who gives and not just receives from our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.

The EOHSJ’s number-one goal is personal sanctification, which is instilled best when we serve others first. The work of these two wonderful Catholic organizations in the Holy Land provides fertile ground for the Knights and Dames of the Order to build upon as a means of stepping into the Lord’s homeland and continuing the work He laid out for us to follow and perform.

Jesus was not simply a wonderful role model for all mankind, He was also one of the greatest “foodies” of all time. This statement may get me in a theological conundrum, but I am quick to point out the following biblical facts involving Jesus and meals:

  • The wedding feast at Cana: Jesus defies the aging process in producing great wine.
  • The miracles of loaves and fishes: Jesus provides marvelous food at low cost and wastes no leftovers.
  • The Last Supper: Jesus supplies the greatest dinner experience ever.
  • The grilling of fish on the shoreline: Jesus always knows how to welcome friends.
  • Jesus tells the risen child’s parents to get her something to eat: Jesus knows food is essential to good health.

Today, in the old city of Jerusalem, this wonderful foodie tradition is relived at the Franciscan Casa Nova Pilgrim Hotel on Casanova Street, New Gate, Jerusalem. Under the guidance and leadership of Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, O.F.M., atop this renowned hotel sits one of the great Italian restaurants, La Terrazza Italiana 360.

On a recent trip with my wife, Connie Micatrotto, DCHS, and Denise Scalzo, DGCHS, the Holy Land counselor for the Western Lieutenancy — the three of us had the opportunity to visit with Fr. Ibrahim and his outstanding chef, Anton Shaer. What a fabulous meal we enjoyed on top of the Old Jerusalem landmark while gazing at the Holy Sepulchre, the Kidron Valley, and the Garden of Gethsemane! This epicurean delight is available for special parties and groups. Be certain you contact them at casanova@custodia.org for more information and reservations.

Here we share a great primo piatto of lasagna. Directly from the 360 at Casa Nova… ShukranCiao.

JOE MICATROTTO Sr., KCHS, has been a founder and CEO in the restaurant industry for more than 45 years, including among his credits Buca di Beppo, Panda Express, and MRG Marketing & Management, Inc. (Micatrotto Restaurant Group). He and his wife Connie serve as councilors for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Western Lieutenancy. They are members of the Las Vegas Chapter and travel extensively, especially in the Holy Land for the EOHSJ.

Casa Nova Lasagna (serves 8-10)

Bolognese Sauce

2 to 3 medium onions
1 bunch of celery
3 carrots

Grind the above ingredients and saute in olive oil. Add 38 oz. minced veal or beef to the above mixture plus 1/2 bottle of dry red wine. Add 3 to 4 large cans of minced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 large can of tomato paste. Salt & pepper to taste.

Bechamel Sauce

2 sticks of butter
1-1/2 cups of flour, stir into butter with whisk
In a separate pan, warm 64 oz. of milk. Stir both pans together. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add salt, white pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Boil the lasagna pasta. When done, line bottom of large oblong Pyrex pan with red sauce.

Layer pasta on top of red sauce, then add more red sauce and Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta.
Next layer: lasagna pasta – bechamel sauce with Parmesan cheese.
Next layer: lasagna pasta – red sauce with Parmesan cheese.
Next layer: lasagna pasta – red & bechamel sauce – top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 325˚F for 35 to 40 minutes.

Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio (1817 – 1836)

Feast Day: May 5
Canonization: To be canonized Oct. 14, 2018
Patron of the disabled, blacksmiths, and workers

Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio proves that a young person and a worker can be a saint.

Born in 1817 in Italy, Nunzio Sulprizio was an orphan who was raised by his maternal grandmother until he was nine.

He was then taken in by a cruel uncle who exploited him, forcing him to work in his blacksmith shop. Sulprizio found refuge in befriending Jesus before the Tabernacle.

Sulprizio was afflicted by gangrene in one leg, which would force him to walk with a cane the rest of his short life. He was known to devote his time comforting the sick, and was considered by those who knew him to be a gentle and pious soul.

Sulprizio contracted bone cancer, and died from the illness shortly after his 19th birthday. Blessed Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1963. On June 8, 2018, Pope Francis confirmed the miracle needed for his canonization. Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio will be raised to the altars on Oct. 14.

Taking a step back in time, to touch eternity


Steve and Elizabeth Crawford, members of Legatus’ San Antonio Chapter, frequently look at each other and reminisce about the Legatus pilgrimage to Italy that they took last October with Legates from across the country.

Steve and Elizabeth Crawford

The pilgrimage was a memorable and life-changing experience for Steve, who has a career in real estate, and Elizabeth, the CEO of Senero Wealth Management in San Antonio. The Crawfords, who have been married for 19 years and have four children, discussed their private tours in the Sistine Chapel and their meeting with a saint’s daughter in an interview with Legatus magazine.

Where did you go on last year’s Italy pilgrimage?

Steve: We started in Milan. We took a day trip to Lake Como with the group. We also met with St. Gianna Molla’s daughter in another day trip and spent the whole day with her. Then after Milan, we went to Rome for the last five days of the trip.

What was it like spending a day with St. Gianna’s daughter?

Elizabeth: You think of saints as people who lived hundreds of years in the past, and here you were looking at the relics of a saint who was born in the last century and who has a daughter there present. I think one of the neat things to hear her talk was how she referred to St. Gianna as ‘Mama.’

Steve: We went to her mother’s grave, and while we were all there, this man came up, dressed as nicely as he could be in a suit, and he asked if St. Gianna’s daughter was there. Once he got her attention, he dropped to his knees and asked her to intercede on his behalf to her mother for some family members who were having trouble conceiving. Seeing her hold his hands and give a blessing was just an amazing experience.

Had you done the pilgrimage before?

Steve: Not the Legatus trip. Elizabeth’s parents are Legates and they went on the trip in 2005. So we’ve been hearing about the pilgrimage for a long time. During their trip they had an audience with John Paul II in his personal library. There are photos in their home of them holding and kissing the hands of John Paul II. We got the opportunity this past fall to do it, and we decided it was a trip that we needed to take, to experience it for ourselves. And it was undoubtedly one of the best trips that either of us has ever taken.

What were some of other highlights of the pilgrimage?

Steve: We’d never been to Lake Como, and it was beautiful. Everything in Rome, with the access we got in the Vatican, was Catholic-centric. We got to go to the North American College, which didn’t seem like it was going to be a highlight. But for me, I really enjoyed getting to have lunch with the diocesan seminarians who were there from not only North America but from all around the world.

Would you do this pilgrimage again?

Steve: Absolutely. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about it. Frequently we will look at each other and say how and when are we going to do this again. It’s difficult with a growing family and with small children, but it is very high on our bucket list to do the Legatus trip again.

What would you tell a Legate who is thinking about the pilgrimage?

Elizabeth: We look at each other and say all the time, “Italy.” It just created a bond between us and a bond with our faith. You’re just exposed to things you would never have access to. I got to do the readings at the St. John Paul II chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica when it was closed to the public. You’re investing in memories when you take the trip.

Autumn faith journeys

Last fall’s two pilgrimages, to Mexico in September and Italy in October, took Legates on intimate faith-intensifying tours of Marian apparition sites, miraculous images, renowned cathedrals, saints’ hometowns and modern-day families, Vatican treasures, and a private audience with Pope Francis.

Legatus’ spiritual expeditions are an unparalleled immersion for enhancing appreciation for the greatest ambassadors for Christ, and the extraordinary “meetings” of heaven and earth throughout salvation history.

The September 22-25 Mexico pilgrimage featured visits to the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe – the most visited shrine in Christendom – and the correlating site of the Virgin Mary’s 16th-century apparitions to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe (whose tilma displaying her miraculous image is prominently displayed in the Shrine). Also included was a tour of Mexico City, and visit to the Sisters of Mary’s Girlstown for underprivileged girls.

Legatus executive director Stephen Henley was overcome by the experience.

“The pilgrimage to Mexico City is one like I have never had. At the beginning of the trip, we saw the tilma of Juan Diego, the world’s only apparition-result we can still see. We see the faith and love of the people of Mexico. Then we see the fruits of the apparition when we visit Girlstown (Chalco, MX) where we see the joy and love of the Virgin Mary exuded by 3,500 girls. It is breathtaking and such an emotionally uplifting experience.”

Sharon and Steve Booma of the Jacksonville Chapter were captivated and penned this note of thanks to Tom Sullivan, one of the pilgrimage’s group leaders.

“We’ve been thinking about our Mexico trip and thank you for encouraging us to go. The expression of faith that we felt at the cathedral, the basilica — everywhere — was at times overwhelming. The purity and innocence we saw on the girls’ faces at Mass in Girlstown was so sincere — it was obvious that they love God. What a gift to be there! Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother were/are indeed present.”

Monsignor Robert J. Panke, rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C. and among the pilgrimage’s accompanying priests, said, “It was such a wonderful and grace-filled experience to celebrate Mass at Girlstown and see the extraordinary work begun by Father Al [Girlstown founder, the late Venerable Fr. Aloysius Schwartz] and continued by the sisters. It had a profound effect on me and the others.”

A late-October, 10-day sacred-art-and sites pilgrimage to Italy, during the most enjoyable season to visit, was divided between the country’s spectacular northern areas beginning in Milan, and finalizing in Rome. Premier hotels – such as Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia, and Rome’s Westin Excelsior – offered unparalleled respite and meals for Legates in each locale, as did renowned restaurants and exclusive al fresco dining. The group also enjoyed carefree, authentic shopping intervals.

Launching with a visit to Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper” painting at the Santa Maria della Grazie convent in Milan, the Legatus tour group also ventured to the nearby Basilica of St. Ambrose and Milan Cathedral (dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity). St. Ambrose’s relics were exposed for veneration and his basilica – one of Milan’s most ancient churches – was consecrated by Ambrose himself in the late 4th century. Noted art-historian Liz Lev primed the group beforehand with a presentation on the Last Supper as part of an overview of DaVinci’s art and its meaning. A trip to Magenta and Mesero, where St. Gianna Beretta Molla was born and raised, featured a personalized tour by her daughter, Gianna Emanuela (also a physician, like her mother). Included were churches and schools that St. Gianna attended regularly, as well as the house where she was born, and the one where she lived while married to her husband, Pietro.

A private cruise and wine-tasting lunch on Lake Como, nestled along the foothills of the Alps, featured a visit to the town of Bellagio with its formal lakeside villas and landscapes, narrow shop-lined cobblestone streets, Mass at St. James Church in Como, and a visit to the Cathedral of Como.

The group headed south for its final five days in Rome, which featured visits to St. Peter’s Basilica with guided tours by Liz Lev; private tours of Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and of ancient Christian Rome; the papal gardens; a special Italian cooking class; and a driving excursion to Castel Gondolfo at Lake Albano – the summer lakeside residence of the pope. The finale of the trip was a private meeting with Pope Francis.

And the Legate-pilgrims’ endorsements for the trip say even more.

Steve and Liz Crawford, San Antonio Chapter, said, “There were so many special moments, it is hard to name one. We saw fantastic behind the scenes things and had amazing guides give context to it …it made all the difference in the world. We highly recommend everyone do this at least once!”

“This was a first-class experience,” said Bill and Nancy Stemper of the Philadelphia Chapter. “We had outstanding care, and such a passionate and knowledgeable chaplain in Fr. Joe Fox to enrich our learning. Experiencing Catholic-Italian sites with a small group of like-minded Catholics … made this a pilgrimage, not a sightseeing tour. And we never could have imagined experiencing Pope Francis ‘up close and personal.’”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s managing editor.

Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

Feast Day: November 4
Canonized: November 1, 1610

Charles Borromeo was born into the Milanese nobility and was related to the powerful Medici family. His uncle, Cardinal de Medici, was elected pope in 1559 as Pius IV, and he made Borromeo, who was still a layman, a cardinal and administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 25 and consecrated bishop of Milan.

Charles Borromeo

Charles Borromeo

Borromeo was instrumental in having Pius V reconvene the Council of Trent in 1562. He is credited with keeping the council in session during difficult times and for helping craft the decrees of the third and final group sessions.

He was a leading figure during the Counter-Reformation, instituting sweeping reforms aimed at correcting abuses prevalent among clergy. In 1578, he instituted a society of secular priests now known as the Oblates of St. Charles. He devoted himself to charity, penance and preaching to bring back lapsed Catholics.

When plague and famine hit Milan in 1576, Borromeo ministered to the sick and dying and borrowed large sums of money to feed the city’s starving population. He is the patron of catechists, catechumens and seminarians — and a patron of learning and the arts.

Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia

This collection of Mary-inspired chant is destined to become a Catholic classic . . . .

monksBenedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia
The Monks of Norcia
De Montfort Music/Decca

My sister-in-law was placed on bed rest for much of her first pregnancy in 1994. She borrowed my my two-volume chant CDs to help her get through the long winter days. It’s been 21 years and I haven’t seen them since.

There was a mini-boom of Gregorian chant in the early 1990s. I’m not sure what sparked the revival of medieval prayer sung by monks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a new revival is sparked by the Monks of Norcia, who just released their first recording.

Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia was produced by 11-time Grammy Award-winning producer Christopher Alder and engineered by Grammy-Award winning engineer Jonathan Stokes. The album contains 33 tracks, including favorite Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum.”

These Benedictine monks live a quiet life of devotion in the Italian town of Norcia, about 100 miles northeast of Rome. Norcia’s medieval walls embrace the 1st-century basilica where St. Benedict was born in 480. Monastic chant echoed off the walls of the Monastero di San Benedetto di Norcia for more than 800 years before Napoleonic laws suppressed this branch of the Benedictine order in 1810, closing the monastery.

But when a Benedictine community founded in Rome in 1998 sought a new home, Norcia welcomed them warmly. Thanks to Fr. Cassian Folsom, the monks’ U.S.–born founder and prior, Gregorian chant once again echoes through the ancient halls. The young community (with an average age of 33) operates a craft brewery at the monastery.

Some pieces on Benedicta are sung by the entire group, some by smaller ensembles of monks and others by soloists, imbuing the disc with a variety of sounds. There is a youthful vitality to this music that is refreshingly peaceful and permeated with joy. I like this CD so much that instead of loaning it out this time, I’m going to buy a few copies for my friends and family!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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Guido M. Conforti (1865-1931)

BISHOP GUIDO CONFORTI longed to be a missionary, instead he formed missionaries . . .

Guido M. Conforti

Guido M. Conforti

Feast Day: November 5
Canonized: October 23, 2011

On his way to school near Parma, Italy, Guido Conforti would stop to visit a large crucifix in the Church of Peace. “I looked at Him, and He looked at me, and it seemed he was telling me many things,” Conforti said of the encounter, which led to his vocation. Inspired by a biography of St. Francis Xavier, Conforti longed to become a missionary. In 1895, the 30-yearold priest founded the Xavierian Missionaries in Parma with 14 men.

Pope Leo XIII named Conforti the bishop of Ravenna, Italy, in 1902. Here, he implemented a plan of Catholic education and catechesis because of the enormous amount of ignorance of the faith he found in the diocese.

Two years after being named bishop, he resigned due to ill health. Spiritually renewed, he was named bishop of Parma in 1907.

Over the course of his life, he attended 22 departure ceremonies of his missionaries, who served in Italy and China. In 1928, Conforti realized his dream through a 44-day missionary trip to India and China.

“We don’t need 3,000 missionaries in China, but 50,000!” he wrote. “I’ll look forward to that day when the whole of China will be called a Christian nation!”

TIM DRAKE is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Martyrs of Otranto (1480)

The heroic and newly canonized martyrs of Otranto are the Bravehearts of Italy . . .

Martyrs of Otranto

Martyrs of Otranto

Feast Day: August 14
Canonized: May 12, 2013

The martyrs of Otranto are the Bravehearts of Italy. Their story starts with Constantinople’s fall in 1453. After destroying almost every vestige of Christianity there, Sultan Mehmet II set his sights on Rome

By 1480, a great armada set sail. An ill wind blew it off course, forcing them to land at the city of Otranto. Inhabitants defended their city for two weeks, buying Italian defenders enough time to reach them, but it was too late. The Muslims had breached the city’s walls, slaughtering or enslaving survivors.

They offered 800 men freedom if they would apostatize. Speaking for the rest, an elderly tailor named Antonio Primaldo refused, telling the others, “Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for Our Lord. Since he died on the cross for us, it’s fitting we should die for him.”

They put him to death first. However, a strange thing happened. His body stood and, despite efforts to remove it, remained fixed in place until the last man’s execution. While it wasn’t the first time a city had to mount a defense of its Christian faith, it was the first and only time an entire municipality underwent martyrdom.

BRIAN O’NEEL is a writer, husband and father of six living in southeast Pennsylvania. His latest book is 39 New Saints You Should Know.