My Ex-Voto and How I Came to Write: THE CROSS WE BEAR

I never heard of an ex-voto before until a trip we took to Lago Maggiore, Italy back in 2011. Our guide pointed out a wall mural depicting an artist painting, while standing on scaffolding, a portrait of the Madonna. Apparently, at an earlier time, the artist, while painting the portrait, stumbled, and was about to fall from the scaffolding to his death, when suddenly the painting of the Madonna came to life and stretching out her hand caught him before falling. He later produced the mural of this miraculous event, as a sign of his devotion and gratitude for the Grace received – the ex-voto. I thought it was a lovely story and the beautiful mural art stayed in my memory.

Then at the end of 2013, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. After a year of treatments, I got enough strength back to begin writing and painting again. I wrote the novel The Cross We Bear (finally published on Amazon this year where proceeds will go to cancer research); and I decided to paint my own ex-voto for the Grace I received (through the Grace of Heaven, the cancer never returned and the doctors declared I beat the odds).

My portrait of the Madonna was a vision in my mind’s eye, and those who have seen it ask why She appears so sad. I believe while on earth She was sad. My own feelings at that time were hyper sensitive to the sufferings of others around me. On one occasion I had to go to the hospital emergency department, and while waiting in my wheelchair, a woman with two police officers came in. She was yelling and swearing at everyone around her. I noticed some people making fun of her in low voices and even one of the officers had a smirk on his face. I felt really bad for her and began to quietly cry. The officer who had the smirk noticed my concern, and came over to tell me she was really alright. I responded by saying how could she be alright if she was here, in a hospital emergency department with police escort, and how could other people laugh at this sad situation? Anyway, sadness was my mood at the time and it transferred on to my ex-voto. Caring sometimes causes sadness.

Ex-voto
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Colours in Full Glory – Poem

Winter Cardinal – Acrylic on canvas By: I. V. Greco

Colours in Full Glory

The temperature falls as do the autumn leaves in all their colourful glory

Another summer has come to an end and I feel so melancholy

Summer is the best part of the year, at least it is for me

But seasons change, the world keeps turning, turning, as time marches on relentlessly

What if I could have frozen time when I was most vital and young,

And had before me the best years still yet to come?

–But then I would have frozen time too soon–

One day, I awoke, and I realized it had passed, gone by

In the present, now I live, because on the future, I cannot rely

It is as they say, the autumn of my life, so like the season, I’ll embrace the colours in their full glory

Savour what I can before the cold, the bitter cold, takes a strangle hold on me.

By: I. V. Greco

The Cross We Bear – Excerpt

By: I. V. Greco

Update: If you prefer HARDCOVER FORMAT, The Cross We Bear in now available in hardcover in addition to ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.

Brief description:

Jonathon a Catholic priest, believes the rest of his life will be spent in the service of God as it had been for almost two decades. But unbeknownst to him, he has a teenage son he never knew about with his first, long ago love, Katelyn. In their youth they shared a contentious relationship, but wanting more, she betrayed him and ran off with the another man, never telling Jonathon of the child’s existence. Their lives go on separately until Katelyn, now widowed and in need of someone to help with her rebellious son, returns to her home town of Toronto where their paths cross again. She is the only one who knows the truth and worries the discovery of her secret will ruin her relationship with her family, friends and above all, her son J.J.

Here is a short excerpt of the reaction by Jonathon when he sees Katelyn, for the first time after many years, when she unexpectedly presents herself for Communion during a regular Sunday Mass.

The woman had a slight smile, almost a smirk, as she patiently waited with her hand lifted before him. But then that expression disappeared and was replaced with a look of alarm as she saw his face turn ashen and he seemed to be frozen. For a moment she feels that time has stopped. And he, in his shock, appears to have forgotten where he is and to finish what he was doing. A dreadful panic rises within her and she fears the worst – that she is not wanted there. Pleading with her eyes, she implores him to continue and complete the holy exchange. But he falters. The line he had been repeating over and over to many others before her, now came out as an inaudible slur of words, and before the “Amen” leaves her lips, he drops the wafer into her hand as if it had reverted back to common everyday bread, old and stale.

She felt the inquisitive eyes of the congregation burrowing into her back, like hundreds of sharp stones being thrown at her, in an attempt to shatter and break her open, and reveal why she had this perplexing effect on the priest. She moved swiftly in retreat, heading to a pew somewhere in the back of the church and she did this in a manner hoping to be as inconspicuous as possible. Hunched over slightly and keeping her head down so as not to meet the gaze of any of those curious invasive eyes. She finally reaches her seat and attempts to settle her rattled nerves by taking deep breaths. And slowly, a wave of relief does begin to wash over her. There in the far back, she felt herself safely hidden and lost amongst the faithful once more.

But Father Jonathon had remained motionless, suspended somewhere in the earlier days of his youth. Suddenly, the resonating clatter of the fallen chalice which had slipped from his hand, followed by dispersed gasps from some parishioners, brings him back from his stupor. As he looks around in bewilderment, two scurrying ushers come to the rescue and begin to pick up the Body of Christ – the holy wafers which were now scattered around the floor. Reverence for those holy bits seemed to go out the stained glass windows, as they unceremoniously put them back in the chalice and then one of the ushers, hands the chalice back to Father Jonathon who accepts it with a slight apologetic nod

The Cross We Bear by I. V. Greco is available on Amazon in e-book and print formats.

Art and Poetry – Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada – Arriving

ARRIVING

I arrived a tired weary traveller

On a wind-swept rock in a distant corner

Jutting out over the shore of the sea

As the raging waves mesmerized me

The great expanse took my breath away

And in its place came a blast of spray

I least expected to find this awakening

The mayhem gone, my body left shaking

I lunged, I soared, then fell – I arrived

But the being I was had not survived

I was transformed and fused with Creation

A powerful, liberating, overwhelming sensation

I am the sky, the land, and the sea

And roam no longer now that I’m free

By: I. V. Greco

Some Poems

Write down two lines

That sound profound

But does that a poem make?

I read your jots

My mind’s in knots

What are you trying to say?

Words, they are free

So use them liberally

Don’t let your thoughts be fake.

Be they glad or sad

Be they good or bad

But don’t leave them muddled that way.

By: I. V. Greco

Art – Cover art of The Cross We Bear

Some readers have asked me about the cover art of my novel The Cross We Bear. So I decided to post a brief explanation of what I had in mind when I designed the cover:

The novel is about the heavy burden – a life changing secret – carried by the main character, Katelyn, and also, the personal burdens of some of those around her. She carries this burden – her cross – which weighs relentlessly on her life as she looks for someone to help her with her struggles. On the book cover, standing precariously in the darkness, the cross is slightly leaning and appears as if it is about to fall. This is an analogy of Katelyn’s situation – alone in her darkness, she is barely keeping it together as her conscience and fears gnaw at her sanity. But there is a faint illumination in the background. This represents the hope and the faith she must allow into her life before her burden can be lifted. Will the weight of her cross cause her to stumble into ruin? Or will she find the courage to carry it high and face the fallout of her past transgressions?

The Cross We Bear by I. V. Greco is available on Amazon in e-book, paperback and hardcover formats.