Dear Blog Readers — I have had a difficult couple of weeks for various personal reasons that I am sure all of you would understand, but I will spare you the details, I am sure you all have enough of your own. Of course, you can imagine that writing blog posts gets quickly shoved aside when more important matters emerge. There have been several topics which I have been eager to write about which are briefly listed below, however, I would like to write a quick post today on powerful gestures. This week, as I struggled with some of my own difficulties, I was unexpectedly uplifted by the revelation by Angelina Jolie that she had a double mastectomy. See her op-ed in the New York Times here: My Medical Choice
Back in 2004, I saw Angelina Jolie at a press conference inside a tent at Circus Maximus in Rome. She was speaking to the press before a concert organized by Quincy Jones to raise money for children in war zones. Angelina was young, a single mom of her first child, and was stunningly beautiful– glowing, radiant. As I listened to her, I looked around and saw many of the male photographers I know starring at her in awe. Aside from her beauty, she was intelligent, articulate and clearly committed to the cause. She went on to continue her massively successful career, to adopt again and have children of her own and to marry Brad Pitt. In recent years, while I admired her, I was envious and perhaps a tad hostile towards her. She was rich, beautiful, too skinny in my opinion, and probably had dozens of Nannies. Several years ago, a friend of a friend of mine (note readers: this is gossipy chit chat, not journalistic accuracy) worked as a cook for Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their brood while Jolie was shooting “The Tourist” with Johnny Depp in Venice. The cook told my friend that Angelina Jolie was a wonderful mother– kind, generous and gracious and that her children are well-behaved and polite. Aarrggh. That got on my nerves even more — not only is she beautiful, rich, and married to Brad Pitt but she is the perfect mother too. That is too much for a poor wretch like me to take.
Then this week, as I was struggling with my own difficulties, out pops the news — I first saw it on a tweet– that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy. As obvious as it is, it suddenly dawned on me that yes, indeed, bad things can happen to rich, beautiful, powerful, perfect mothers too. I am not getting any joy out of Jolie’s suffering, but I am grateful that she had the courage to share her story. It will make a difference to so many women, and not just those with breast cancer. THANK YOU ANGELINA!!
Speaking of powerful gestures, in a post on March 28th (see: Francesco Frenzy), I wrote about Pope Francis going to a juvenile detention center in Rome on Holy Thursday and washing the feet of teenage inmates. This gesture meant a lot to many people. Below I am copying some letters from inmates in Los Angeles who were impressed by the gesture and wrote to the Pope. The below notes were provided to me by Father Thomas Rosica.
“Los Angeles County has one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the country. Up to 90% of the county’s juvenile justice youth are Latino or African American, and up to 70% of incarcerated youth nationally are said to have some kind of disability…
When the young boys at the juvenile detention facility in LA heard of Pope Francis’ wish to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison with the young inmates there, many of them expressed their desire to participate from afar and in close solidarity to what the Pope was going to do in another juvenile hall….
…they have written letters to Pope Francis, thanking him for his gesture of love and service, praying for him…describing the sadness of their lives in detention, and asking for prayers to help them endure the darkness and hopelessness of their situations…
Some of these youngsters will spend the rest of their lives in prison….”
LETTERS FROM AN L.A. PRISON
Dear Pope Francis, I don’t know if you have ever been to where I live. I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence. I have seen people killed. I have been hurt. We have been victims of violence. It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness. Pray for me that one day I will be free and be able to help other youth like you do.
Dear Pope Francis, I know the same youth feet that you wash are like me. Drugs have been part of me life for so long. We all struggle to be sober. But you inspire me and I promise to be sober and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.
Dear Pope Francis, My many friends are in two different maximum security prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons. (Calif.) I am writing to tell you that I feel bad that more youth of color are in prison in our state than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison. God bless you.
Dear Pope Francis, Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy. We also are young and made mistakes. Society has given up on us, thank you that you have not given up on us.
Dear Pope Francis, I think you are a humble man. When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like. I am writing this letter because you give me hope. I know one day with people like you us kids won’t be given sentences that will keep us in prison for the rest of our lives. I pray for you. Dont forget us.
Dear Pope Francis, I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St. Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods.
Dear Pope Francis, Tonight we pray for all victims of violence. The families of people we have hurt need healing. Our families need healing. We are all in pain. Let us feel Jesus’ healing tonight.
Dear Pope Francis, I read that the harshest sentence that a youth can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here. I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic because I have a pope like you. I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are in this violent world.
Dear Pope Francis, When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.
Dear Pope Francis, I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.
Dear Pope Francis, I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we got a new law called SB9 * this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.
Dear Pope Francis, From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and help other people understand we can change and want to change.
Powerful, moving responses to a powerful gesture on the part of Pope Francis. My heart goes out to these young boys at the Juvenile Detention Center in Los Angeles who have lived with gang violence, drug addiction and life sentences. The difficulties they face make mine shrink in comparison.
A final note–Coming soon on Mozzarella Mamma:
As I mentioned above I have a Blog Post to do list, so here are so items I am hoping to get to soon.
1) NUNS 2013 –
Last Monday, the Vatican released a series of statistics on the Catholic church in the world including the following on nuns or as they say “professed women religious`’
“A strong downward trend was observed in data for the professed [women] religious, with a decrease of 10% from 2001 to 2011. The total number of professed religious, that counted 792 thousand units in 2001 is now at just over 713 thousand 10 years later. The decline particularly affects three continents (Europe, America and Oceania), with significant variations (-22% in Europe, -21% in Oceania and -17% in America). In Africa and Asia, however, there has been a sustained increase, more than 28% in the first continent and 18% in the second. Consequently, the fraction of professed religious in Africa and Asia out of the global total increased from 24.4% to about 33%, at the expense of Europe and America, whose dropped respectively by a total of 74% to 66%. ”
I can see a few reasons for not wanting to be a nun. Nuns have (presumably) no sex, no children of their own, little power in the Vatican, they can’t say Mass, some of them have reprimanded by one pope (Benedict XVI) for overreaching and chided by another (Francis) for being “old maids”. They are the foot soldiers of the Catholic Church, doing a lot of the toughest jobs without much recognition. What is in it for a nun in 2013? Why are the numbers increasing in Africa and Asia while dropping so dramatically elsewhere?
Blog readers, this is a story I also want to do for AP Television, so if anyone reading this is a nun, lives in Rome, and would be willing to talk to me on camera about some of these questions, please let me know.
2) BUNGA BUNGA REPERCUSSIONS
Yesterday Karima el-Mahroug the famous “Ruby” who is at the center of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s prostitution-with-a-minor trial took the stand yesterday, revealing more juicy details of the bunga-bunga parties- odd costumes, envelopes of cash etc. I have written quite a bit on this bizarre story in various posts (see: Berlusconi’s Babes, Veronica’s Revenge) but the trial is nearing its conclusion in June and I would like to post once more on this unusual court case, some of the female protagonists from Karima to the powerful prosecutor Ilda Boccassini (see: The Italian Tiger Mamma)
3) WORLD MOTHERS REPORT
This week my dear friend Phoebe Natanson from ABC News sent me the Save the Children’s 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report. On the list of the best places to be a mother, Italy comes in 17th, the US comes in 30th, Australia 10th, the UK 23rd, and the booby prize goes to the Democratic Republic of Congo where mothers face all sorts of tragedies. Yet again, the Scandinavian countries take the prize as the best place to be a mother. I have lots more to say and write on this topic and hopefully that post will be coming soon.
All comments, suggestions, corrections on any of the topics above are most welcome.
“Senate Bill 9 (also called SB 9) became California law in January 2013. This law gives a second chance to most people who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime and sentenced to life without parole. They can ask the court for a new sentencing hearing. At that hearing, they will have the chance of getting a new sentence with the possibility of parole.” (taken from www.fairsentencingforyouth.org)