Writer’s block—are you kidding me?

For the last two weeks or so, I have been mulling what I can write about. What can I say that I have not said before? Maybe I just should look back at some old blogs and re-post them.

Nah, that just will not work. I am in a dilemma. My brain is going around and around looking for subjects to write about. I am looking at the news, I am reading the newspaper. Nothing is really hitting me. I have writer’s block!

I say to myself, “Okay Francesco, get serious.” I sit down in my favorite chair and take a deep breath. In a moment of silence, I ask the Lord to help me out on this. Then it hit me! (Or did He hit me?) Just sit down and start to write and the words will flow. Forget about a subject and just write what comes into your mind. So here goes. It’s amazing what a few moments of silence and a call for help from God can do. Try it sometime.

I must tell you it has been on my mind, especially during Lent, to visit an old friend who is a shut-in. This week I did it. It was good to see him, but better yet, he was so happy to have someone visit him. We spent the better part of an hour together. I could see the gladness in his eyes and in seeing that, it made me sad and remorseful that I have waited so long to see him. I promised him that we will meet again. When I left, my soul was refreshed knowing that I gave a shut-in some moments away from his maladies. If you know a shut-in, I implore you, make a visit. If distance is a challenge, call. It is a blessing waiting to happen for both parties. And what better time than during Lent?

While we are at it, and the mention of Lent has come up, here is a thought for you: I know, I just know that many of you think maybe I just should make a visit not only to a shut-in, but maybe to a church of my choice. “The visit to a shut-in maybe,” you’re thinking, “but a visit to a church? Nah, I just do not have the time to do that too.”

Is that the real reason? Nope! You know as well as I do that is not the reason. Maybe it is because you have been away too long. Maybe a cleric did something you did not appreciate. Guess what? Enough of the excuses. Stop for a moment, dig down deep—and I mean really deep—and you will find that something is telling you to make a visit. Dwell on that for a moment. And then think of the words from the prayer, “The Our Father.” The following words will hit home: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Does that not open wide the doors of the church for you?

Now think about it. You can make a visit to spend a few minutes with God in silence. And just like a shut-in, God is soooo glad to see you! I guarantee you will be soooo refreshed, just as I felt after my visit with a shut-in. It is a blessing waitng to happen!

Writers block—are you kidding me? The story of life has so many daily meaningful nuggets that give us joy and serenity, just waiting to be written about!

A.M.D.G.   …   Francesco



It’s time…yes, it’s time!

It’s a hot day. It’s in the 90s, and you’ve been busting your butt. Why? Because the yard work has to be done. I just let it go too long, and the wife says our yard looks like a mess.

So out I go. Where do I begin? First on the agenda is clipping all the shrubbery. After ten minutes or so, the sweat starts pouring out of me. Nasty insects are buzzing all around me. This is not a pleasant situation. Thank God I am done with this chore.

Staring me in the face is the lawn that has not been cut on the last two Saturdays: I had more important things to do, like fishing. So, for the next two hours, I am pushing the mower, sweating like a greased pig and constantly wiping my brow. Finally, I am done. I cannot wait to get into the shower.

It’s time…yes, it’s time. I climb into the shower, and for minutes on end, I let the warmth of the shower cleanse my body. I am left with a feeling of accomplishment for a job well done, but more importantly, I am refreshed!

You may ask the question: Why is Francesco writing about yard work, sweating, mowing a lawn and finally taking a shower? Good question! I ask you to think of the season we are presently in. It’s Lent. It’s time…yes, it’s time! Just as our body needs a good scrubbing to get rid of all the filth on our body, doesn’t it make sense that our souls need a good scrubbing to clear our souls of the many transgressions we may have? And also, it is the time that we need to think of others by doing charitable works. Remember, we are all sinners and the season of Lent is open to all regardless of the seriousness of your past transgressions.

You may say, “Hey, I am too far gone to participate in the beauty of Lent.” No, you are not! Just remember this: When Christ was on the cross, he told the remorseful criminal next to him, also on a cross, that he would be the first one to enter Paradise with Christ. Look it up. Luke 23:39-44.

God forgives all sinners, regardless of their transgressions. So it’s time…yes it’s time! The season is upon us, and just like a hot shower that refreshes our body, participation in Lent will refresh our souls.

From a Jewish prayer book: The Lord, the Lord God is merciful and gracious, endlessly patient, loving and true, showing mercy to thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and si, and granting pardon. Need I say more?

So yes…it’s time. Yes, it’s time to partake in the beauty of Lent.

Alleluia!! Alleluia!!





A visit to our spiritual roots

This past December, during the season of Hanukkah, I decided to accept an open invitation to the public that welcomed them to visit the Temple Anshe Hesed on Liberty Street in Erie, Pa. Both my wife, Marie, and I were warmly greeted at the door and given a card which outlined the journey on which we were about to impart.

The greeting by the ladies was very sincere, and reminded me of the greeting we receive when entering our Christian worship Space. Also, it brought me back to when I visited a Mosque a few months ago; there, I also was given a warm and sincere greeting.

The first place we visited at the temple was the chapel, a very simple but holy place. It is where they keep the Torah when not in use. An explanation of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of the Lights, was given.

Briefly, it is the story of how the Temple was once restored by the Jews. However, they had only enough oil to light a single candle, when they needed to light eight candles. God interceded, and the oil lasted for all eight days.

It was a miracle, like when Jesus fed the multitude with only seven loaves of bread and fish—and then had some left over. Miracles never cease!

We then proceeded to the library. Here, prayer books were offered at no cost. I took one, browsed through it, and decided to take it home. It contains beautiful prayers in Hebrew, along with an English translation. Today, I periodically will read a prayer from it. The prayers are not only spiritual but melodic as well. More importantly, they are universal: that is, they have meaning for everyone regardless of faith and they give you comfort.

Our journey then continued to a second library, which at this moment was acting as nursery and offering a teaching experience for the children of the congregation. Sounds like what is done both in the Christian and Muslim faiths as well.

We then visited an area called the Hall of History. Here displayed was a beautiful piece of art which depicted the history of Judaism. It was sincerely and reverently explained by someone I expect was an elder of the temple. This is one place I wish where I could have spent more time. The art was a maze of paintings all on one canvas. It follows Jewish history and includes the Holocaust. A very moving piece of art.

Our journey then took us to the sanctuary, where the congregation gathers for weekly services, which are Fridays at 6:15 pm. All are welcome.

The space is very simple in its layout. In front is a dais, which we call the ambo in the Christian faith. It is the stand on which the Torah is placed and from which the reader presides. Again, not only similar to what we do in a Christian church, but also similar to what happens in a Mosque.

I was deeply impressed by a young man in his early teens. He was asked to do a reading. He opened the Torah. In his hand was a silver pointer with a miniature hand at the end. Then he pointed to the passage in the Torah, never touching the words with his hand. I believe it was a sign of deep respect for the Torah.

He then read line by line, reading left to right in the Hebrew language. I was left full of emotion and humbled at the same time. Why? Here is a teenager, proclaiming the word of God in a foreign language. And I, a lector in the Christian faith who is at least four times his age, proclaiming the Word in English only! The congregation must be very proud of this young man.

Without a doubt, it is very evident that this congregation is a spiritual and giving one. It is one that professes the love of God and is demonstrated by opening the temple to all and welcoming all, regardless of their faith, with cordiality and open arms.

Rabbi Emily Losben-Osrov thanked us all for coming, and welcomed us to the Friday services. Both Marie and I were glad we made the visit. It demonstrated to us why we must honor our Jewish roots. We have more things in common that unite us.

Sound familiar?

Ps. One of these Fridays I plan to join in a Jewish service.




It’s the night!

“It sure is a different night tonight, isn’t it? I can’t believe how quiet it is,” the shepherd says.

“Something is in the air. Even the sheep are quiet. Notice the wolves are not howling. It is so peaceful. What the heck is going on? I wonder if our friends on the next slope are experiencing the difference as well. Let’s go over and ask them.”

Well, after visiting with them, the second shepherd says, “Yes, they feel the same way as we do. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe the wolves are not on the prowl tonight, who knows?”

At that moment, they both look upward and see a great light over their town, Bethlehem. As dark as it is, the light is streaming very brilliantly, and they can see a number of people heading where the light will take them. Both shepherds are now very excited and in a quandary. They want to see what’s going on, but do not want to leave their flock.

The shepherd says, “Ask our friends on the other slope if they will watch our flock while we see what’s going on.”

Their friends agree. They take off for Bethlehem, and are startled by the soft but spiritual sounds emanating from the skies. They look at each other in awe and are dumbfounded as a spiritual mood encapsulates them. Their walk turns into a pilgrimage. Is this the night that… Isaiah 9:1 was talking about?

“The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

upon those who dwell in the land of gloom

a light has shone.”

Definitely, something is going on. They make haste and find Mary and Joseph and an infant lying in a manger. And then it hits them!

Luke 2:17

“When they saw this,

they made known the message

that had been told to them about this child.

the message… Isaiah 9:5

For a child is born to us, a son given to us;

Upon his shoulders dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God Hero,

Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

Both shepherds look at each other in a solemn way, nod, and say…
“It’s the Night!”



A Blessed Christmas to All and a Happy New Year!!!


The visitation to a mosque… Continuing with the things that unite us

In my last blog, you may recall, Marie and I were invited to Rawan’s home, where the family prepared a Muslim meal. Also at that time, Marie invited Rawan and her family to our home.

When they arrived at our home, they presented us with a beautiful teapot and a can of the tea. It was the same tea that they served us at their home. Marie prepared a typical dinner of chicken, baked with carrots and potatoes, and lasagna made with cheese only. The lasagna was made as such, to respect their belief. For dessert, we offered the Italian delicacy: cannoli (tubular shells with cheese or cream inside). They were very gracious in their compliments. Great food … great conversation … great things that unite us!

If you recall, previously upon the request of Rawan’s mother to see a Catholic church, we visited both St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. George’s. After the visitations, I requested to see a mosque. So, let me discuss that visit.

I was met by Rawan’s father, whose name is Jamal. We seemed to hit it off immediately. A sincere and kind word between two individuals always seems to break barriers.

We entered the mosque, and before we entered the prayer area, we took our shoes off. It struck me immediately of the message God gave Moses, “You are entering hallowed ground, remove your sandals.” After we removed our shoes, he showed me the washroom. There is a washing ritual of purification that every man must go through before entering the prayer area. He must wash three times the following parts of the body: face, hands, hair, feet and ankles. Also, a swish of water as a mouth rinse and a wash of the nostrils.

Water is very important in our faith, too. Do not we bless ourselves as we enter Mass? Another thing that unites us!

The prayer area is completely covered with a rug. The simplicity of the prayer area is what hit me. There are no pews, no statues. On the walls there are sayings in Islam and the weekly prayer schedules. You are there to pray every day if your schedule permits. The women are in a separate room. Jamal proceeded to kneel, and said, “We pray in a prostrate position and repeat a series of prayers three times.” Their prayers, in essence, are similar to ours: for praise to ALLAH (GOD) … for blessings … for forgiveness and for good works. Do not we incorporate all those practices in a Christian Mass?

Jamal said on Friday the Imam (like a pastor) will give a talk equivalent to a Christian sermon. Sound familiar? Do we not do the same, even though the rituals are different? Another thing that unites us.

Also, they have an alms box and a clothes rack for gifts to the poor. Again, sound familiar? They also have a room for children, where they are taught the faith. Sounds like religious instruction classes that we have. So many things unite us.

Jamal made a point to say that Islam is not a closed religion, all people are welcome to their prayer service. The visitation did something very powerful for me. It brought home the fact that ALL individuals are ingrained with the same principles and they are given by ALLAH (GOD), regardless of their faith. And, it starts with love.

After the visitation, as we were about to depart, both Jamal and I embraced, two people of different faiths, united in ALLAH (GOD).

In closing, I would like to post the Principle Articles of Faith that the Muslims believe in. They are a belief in the following:

  • One God. The prophets. The Angels. Judgment Day. Predestination.
  • God’s revelation through the Torah, the Koran and yes, the Gospels.

We have more things that unite us than keep us apart!
Praise GOD. Praise ALLAH. We are brothers and sisters, regardless of our differences.



A continuation of the things that unite us: I see family

If you recall on the last blog, upon the request from a Muslim family to visit a Catholic  Church, we visited both St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. George Parish in Erie. After the visitation, each of us had a request.

“I want to visit a Mosque,” I said. They said they would arrange it.
“We would like to have both your wife Marie, and you, over for dinner,” they said.  I readily accepted.

Both Marie and I were excited as we drove to their home, but I’ll admit, we both were a little bit nervous, too. Upon entering their home, we were greeted by Abdul, a member of the family who was cooking fish outside.

A happy, “Hi!” greeted us. Introductions on both sides were given, along with smiles. It reminded me of my uncle when we attended his yearly family gathering. Really no different.

I see family.

Abdul ushered us into the homestead where we were greeted by the rest of the family: the mother and three daughters.

At first, since they never met Marie, it was a little bit anxious for both parties. But soon, conversation got going with translations from Arabic and English. Why? The mother of the home knows very little English. Both she and Marie hit it off right away. Language is no barrier between two loving moms. Her facial expressions went from hesitancy to smiles.

I see family.

The mom then departed to the kitchen with two of her daughters to prepare the dinner that was coming. Rawan, the other daughter, stayed behind to serve us Arabic tea and a sweet. No different in our home, and I’m sure yours. While waiting for dinner, don’t we do the same? (Although the refreshments and sweets may be different!)

I see family.

It was time for dinner. The cuisine was strictly Arabic. I must mention that when we were invited, I stated that Marie had a very delicate stomach and spicy foods can cause her problems. So, when we sat for dinner, our hostess explained the foods Marie would want to eat. Our hostess eyed Marie very closely to make sure Marie was happy with the selection, which she was. She and Marie went back and forth in conversation with the help of a translator. Before the dinner was finished, both our hostess and Marie were talking and smiling like old friends.

I see family.

As for me, that is another story. The two ladies could converse to their hearts’ content. I was too busy eating. No stomach problems for me! The fish that Abdul was cooking on the grill was slightly charred and stuffed. It was excellent! Then I progressed to the chicken cooked with vegetables. Though different, it was not unlike how Marie cooks her chicken in a similar way. The side dishes of two different types of greens were excellent. Finally, I had enough. It was a great meal. Two different ethnic groups enjoying a good meal garnished with conversation.

Before we left, Marie invited the family for dinner, which they accepted. Upon leaving, it was heartening to see Marie and our hostess, who does not speak English, smile and hug like two old friends. These are the things that unite us.

I see family.

A.M.D.G.  (For the Greater Glory of GOD)


The items that unite us

Too many times in our lives, we look at people, also situations, and see them as unfavorable. However, after more careful introspection, we say to ourselves, “It’s not as unfavorable as I thought.” In many cases, we then become more tolerant, once we know more about them or the situations.

Today I do not have to tell you that many people have a very unfavorable opinion of Muslims. With that said, I would like to comment on a personal spiritual happening.

A young Muslim and her mother approached me and said, “Francesco, we would like to visit a Christian church, would you take us to one?” I thought it was an unusual request. Why? Simply because they were very devout Muslims. I could not understand why would they want to visit a Christian church.

Nevertheless, my answer was yes. So, our journey began. When we arrived at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, before we went in, I pointed across the street to a Protestant church. I explained that they were also a Christian church, but different than St. Peter, which I explained was Roman Catholic.

When asked why, I proceeded to give a short explanation about the Protestant Reformation. And I commented, “ It’s like the Muslim faith—you have your schisms also. We all are human beings, and we sometimes like to take different paths to God.”   Likewise, it was duly noted by them.

I also proclaimed that the three greatest faiths in religion are the Jewish faith, the Christian faith and the Muslim faith. We all believe in the same God. This fact unites us. It is the bedrock of those three faiths. We then proceeded to enter the cathedral.

I explained that it is the home church for the diocese and that is why it is so impressive. Also, St. Peter was built more than 100 years ago.

Upon entering, they were enamored by the beauty of the cathedral. We stopped first at the baptismal font. I discussed how it is used to bless and baptize newborns, and that we use it to bless ourselves upon entering. Their comment was that water also plays an important part in the Muslim faith. Again, another item that unites us.

The Pietà

A statue of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus is displayed at St. Peter Cathedral in Erie.

Our next stop was at the blessed oils. After that, we went to the statue of St. Mary holding Jesus. This really aroused their interest. Why? They honor St. Mary as well. Another item that unites us.

I then took a missal from the pew and opened it to a reading from the Old Testament, a book which they honor as well. Another item that unites us!

Also, I pointed out why we sing: It is another way of praying. I said it reminded me of when the Muslim is called to prayer; the Imam invites them by singing. Another item that unites us!

We than traversed to the altar, where they took many pictures. I pointed out to them that above the altar was a stained-glass picture of St. Mary. They took many pictures of her. It just demonstrated to me how much adoration we both have for St. Mary.

We then proceeded to the reserved Eucharist and I explained our belief that the Lord is with us. We then stopped at the angel. I asked them if they believe in angels, and yes, they do. Another item that unites us.

Our last stop was at the confessional where I explained that the purpose was for asking for forgiveness of our sins. They also confess, obviously in a different manner. Another item that unites us.

Lastly, I explained how Ramadan and Lent in some ways are very similar. We fast, they fast; we ask for forgiveness of sin, they do likewise; and we both are encouraged to perform works of mercy and charity. Another item that unites!

Upon leaving, I recommended that we visit one more church. We proceeded to St. George Church. The reason I went there was to show them how the newer churches are built. Here, they could see how the parishioners are closer to the altar and therefore more involved in the service. Lastly, I showed them where people will light candles for special intentions and pray to the saints to intercede for them.

That concluded our visits, and hopefully all parties had an appreciation of the other’s faith. Again, there are more items that unite us than tear us apart. These ties that bind us together bring us all closer to God.

As a closing note, the mother invited both my wife and I to dinner and I accepted. After a moment of silence, I said “I have a request. Now that you have visited my church, I would like to visit a mosque.” They said, “Gladly, let us do it.” I look forward to the visit.

A.M.D.G. … (For the Greater Glory of God)  …   Alluh Akbar … GOD is GREAT!!



We the people, in order to form a more perfect union

Something interesting happened this past weekend to prompt me to write this blog. First I just finished reading the book, A More Perfect Union, authored by Ben Carson, MD. As you probably remember, he ran for the office of the presidency on the Republican ticket.

Secondly it was the Fourth of July. The reading of his book could not have happened at a better time. In it, the good doctor gives an excellent understanding of the Constitution and the reason it was written as such. It should be mandatory reading for every student in high school.

Presently, as you well can understand, there seems to be a lot of discussion about what is right with this country and— equally importantly—what is wrong with it. There seems to be distrust of our government and people are somewhat concerned.

we_the_peopleBut guess what? When push comes to shove, we unite! We are a nation of many faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hinduism and the list goes on.  And yes, we are also non-believers or agnostics. We are native-born, we are legalized immigrants, we are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are independents and we are no party. We are laborers, we are CEOs, we are rich, we are poor, we are middle class. We come from many walks of life. We are all of the above and much more.

But come July 4th, we all come together and unite to celebrate the birthday of our great nation. Let any person or nation try to disrupt and destroy the diversity of our country, and especially our constitution, and we will stand to protect both. That is what the Fourth is all about.

We are not a perfect union, but as the Constitution says, “We the people, (remember all of the above) in order to form a more perfect union…”

We are a work in progress, and slowly but surely, we are getting there. Just look how far we have progressed over the last few hundred years! And as the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day.”

GOD Bless America, land that I love.

Be a proud American!!!





Practices of a devout Christian?

Shortly after Lent, I met a young person who described to me what she does during the season of fasting, a very spiritual and holy season. I must say it was a very interesting discussion.

empty_plateBy her demeanor, I could tell she was very devoted to her faith. Obviously, her meals are contained during the season. Only one full meal at the end of the day. Medical conditions and/or other conditions such as old age can override the practice. This is also a time when she reflects on any sinful behavior that she has committed, such as lying and lack of compassion against her fellow human beings.

She fervently prays for forgiveness. It is a time to cleanse the soul. Prayers are very important during this period. It is also a time to show sympathy to those in need. Charitable works are in order, such as almsgiving and concern for those who need help, especially those in the community. In those instances, you visibly see the requirement for compassion and resources. It is a blessed journey you are on during this season.

And at the end of the fasting period, a gala affair with friends and family and sumptuous food takes place to celebrate their spiritual rebirth. It is a time of joy.

I surmise that you may believe that this young lady was talking about the Lenten season. Guess what? She is not! She is a devout Muslim, and is talking about Ramadan, the season she is in right now. Wow! Is it not amazing how similar it is to Lent? Just like Lent, Christians do similar practices to renew their spiritual lives.

So, next time you see a practicing Muslim, wish them well. We both worship the same God (there is only one, after all). We all are cut from the same cloth. Small world isn’t it?

Allah Mashala!!   Vaya Con Dios!! Go with GOD!!



Do you believe in miracles or are you a doubting Thomas?

This May is very special in the eyes of the Christian community. It is the month in which one of the miracles of the faith happened. One hundred years ago on May 13, 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared to the three children of Fatima. It was the first of six visits.

Fatima children

(CNS photo) Jacinta Marto, 7, Francisco, 9, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos, 10, were photographed during the time of the apparitions in 1917.

These children had a difficult time convincing the people that they saw and talked with Mary.  Most people thought they were just childhood religious fantasies. Still, the crowds continued to watch the children on ensuing visits of the Blessed Virgin.

When the children told the Blessed Virgin, people did not believe and were skeptical. She said, “Tell them to be here on Oct. 13 and I will give them their miracle.”

Oct. 13 arrived along with a crowd of approximately 70,000 anxious people. They were all soaked to the skin because of heavy rains. The ground was a muddy mess. Then, after a sign from the Blessed Virgin, the children asked the throng of people to look up at the sky.

The continuous rain halted, the sky was opened and the sun shone brightly. People stared without blinking in amazement as it zigzagged and danced throughout the sky. And then it was gone. The people, though they stared at the sun, had no problems with their eyes. In addition, their bodies, their clothing and the ground beneath them was completely dry. The Blessed Virgin gave the people their miracle. That day many confirmed their faith and non-believers were brought into the faith.

We all know the story of the Apostle St. Thomas, who was not at the first meeting after the resurrection, where Christ appeared to the Apostles.  When he heard the story, he said to the Apostles, “I will not believe until I am able to place my hand in his side.” On a subsequent visit by Christ, Jesus invited him to do so.

Pope Francis once pointed out that although Thomas doubted, he is also the first in Scripture to proclaim Christ’s divinity, as upon encountering Jesus, he fell to his knees saying, “My Lord and my God.” There are people today who deny that Fatima was a miracle; they say it was a natural phenomenon. Again, more doubters.

To me, the question they cannot answer is the following: Here are three children who are not the least bit educated in the natural sciences. They are given the date of Oct. 13 by the Blessed Virgin and she requests that they tell the crowd they will have their miracle. Oct. 13 arrives and the miracle happens! That is the miracle no one talks about!

This month, pay homage to your faith. Say a rosary, say a prayer and believe. The miracle of Fatima is not just some religious hocus-pocus, but is validated by actual accounts of people who were there. Google it, and you will have all the proof you need to erase any doubts you may have.

A.M.D.G.  Alleluia!!!

Francesco Scicchitano