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.


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 β€œAmen” 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.