Sitting in that old stone country church in Northern Italy sure gave me a lot to ponder. We travelled half way around the world to now be sitting in perhaps the same pew in which my great grandmother Pia and great grandfather Serafino once sat.
Their hometown of Cloz, in the mountainous province of Trentino, is home to sprawling apple orchards, the Franch metal shop (supplying all of Italy with copper and steel decorative pieces), a handful of restaurants and one bar. Additionally, the town is known for its unique once-every-25-year Feast of San Innocenzo, the Saint and Martyr of whom the local parish San Stefano hosts the resting place of the Martyr’s remains.
Much like Cloz, not many outside the region know of his existence. We don’t even have record of the Saint’s true name, but was lovingly bequeathed the name “Innocent” (or Innocenzo in Italian) due to his dying a martyr’s death. He was likely a first or second century martyr; he is clothed in maroon and his bones have been tied together by golden thread. The parish displays his remains in a glass sarcophagus tucked in a side altar, but every 25 years the six hundred or so remaining townspeople of Cloz and their relatives who have emigrated away are invited to join in the feast bearing his name.
The feast consists of multiple masses, a choral performance, a talk, traditional dancing, an actual feast, and yes - the procession of the martyr San Innocenzo throughout the village of Cloz. I was blessed not only to be able to attend this four-day feast with my immediate and extended family over the first week of June 2023, but also to be chosen to help carry the Saint’s remains alongside my father. (Being the tallest one in my group of six, I definitely felt close to Simon of Cyrene that day.)
During the final mass, the Pastor of San Stefano took a few minutes to thank those descendants who travelled from foreign lands to join their town for this momentous occasion. He highlighted that in one way or another, it was faith that brought us all there. Not only our own, but that of our fathers and mothers. And their fathers and mothers. Throughout the feast I gathered that not all of my cousins, and uncles, and second cousins, etc. in attendance were currently “practicing” but we are all bonded by the same golden thread of faith. Regardless of each individual’s situation, it is the faith of our ancestors like Pia and Serafino that ties us together and brought us to Cloz.
My father asked me to make his relatives a Rosary to remember the occasion. Together we designed the Innocenzo Rosary which features gold and maroon to honor the martyr. Everyone who received this limited edition Bishop Sheen Rosary was beyond touched. Those who pray it, I implore you to remember the golden thread which holds San Innocenzo together. Remember it is our shared faith that unites us all and holds us together.
Thank you to my parents for gifting us with such an incredible opportunity to celebrate a beautiful piece of our family’s heritage. I pray that we will be able to share this experience with our children in the year 2048.