Autobiography of an Italian Yogi


It was a long time since I had set foot in a church, but the compulsion was irresistible. St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church in Boston’s North End stood like a beacon, proud and defiant against the changing mores of life in Little Italy in the 1960s. 

St Stephen’s had been my parish church, the place where I’d rung the bells and received Holy Communion every Sunday. But I’d drifted away from church and dogma. It was the last place you’d expect to find a kid like me who was mired in the violence of Little Italy’s streets. And yet, there I was, not knowing what I was doing there, or why I had come. 

The dim light and heavy, sweet air of the church were in stark contrast to the piercing light and heat of the summer day. Stepping over the threshold was like stepping into another world. 

Sitting utterly alone, I savoured the stillness and silence. I must have sat there for an hour or more when the I could feel the atmosphere start to change… Slowly at first, and then suddenly, as the air grew charged, I could feel the prickling sensation running across my arms and down my neck, and I knew what was going to happen. The church was going to be struck by lightning. It wasn’t an intuition; it was an understanding.

Almost immediately, the stillness was shattered by a huge explosion. The church seemed to shake to its foundations. The lightning flash turned the church incandescent. A peal of thunder roared above me. There was no rain, just flashes of luminosity and thunder crashes of sound.

I sat, transfixed, for minutes more, and then stepped out into a different world. Literally and figuratively. 

The quiet street scene I had left was now a riot of blaring sirens and frantic activity. The church was surrounded by firemen and people all looking up at the steeple, wondering what they had witnessed. The sky above was still just as clear as it had been before I’d stepped inside. 

I had gone into that church an angry young man, unsure of my place in the world. Hurt by the pain that I had seen and experienced. But I woke up the next day a changed man. I was no longer violent. I was transformed…