I grew up in a Catholic family. Half of my family is Italian, and the other half is English and Irish. Both sides attended Catholic churches, and from an early age I learned that there was a self-perceived difference between “Italian” and “Irish” Catholics and their churches. I believe this is what started my open mindedness toward religion and faith in general.
I grew up in a small town in rural Connecticut that was beautiful, but less than diverse. We were lucky, however, to be within two hours drive of both New York and Boston so were able to view, if not interact with, a variety of global cultures.
I began to travel extensively starting at a young age. It started with family vacations and evolved into school trips, study abroad and
I make it a key point to get as involved in the local culture as much as possible while in a new place and this often leads to religious sites or ceremonies. I have stood in cathedrals around the world, visited ancient monasteries and toured Hindu temples. I have attended an Indian wedding, visited a Pima medicine woman and danced in a Carnival parade in Dominica.
I have seen God in all these places. I have seen God in the rays of light shining through the windows of St. Peters basilica, in the darkness of the cave where St. Thomas lived out the last years of his life and in the silence of the ruins of Delphi from which the Oracle once spoke. I have also seen God in many non-religious places: in the face of a smiling child, in an endless turquoise sea and in a crystal clear lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
The inconceivable beauty of this world has also come with its share of awfulness. From the bleeding man hopelessly pleading for admittance at the locked hospital doors one night in Haiti to the terror I felt as I was abducted by criminals in Budapest, these memories will always stay with me. In these darkest times, however, I have also seen God. There was the woman who came running up to me on the street in Prague having just been assaulted with bruises all over her beautiful face who showed me God in her smile of extreme relief as I assisted her in making a call for help. There was Woody who showed me God as he danced with excitement after I gave him $20 to buy food for his family as we prepared to depart Leogane. There was also Bill, who showed me God while I held his hand as he took his last breath.
None of these experiences are unique to me, my culture or my religion. They are all part of the human experience which is lived by every person on this Earth. There is only one God, and he is everywhere.