Francesco (Frank) Mannella
QUANDU LU CUORI SUPPLICA * LA PORTA S’APIRA * TRASA * ABBASCIA L’UOCCHI * IRGIA LA FEDI E’ CAMINA…
My story contains elements familiar to most human beings. The experiences of fear, trauma, guilt and resentment characterize large portions of my story. In light of the dominance of these feelings, a deeper question continued to surface.
“Why has the passion, joy and wonder that I felt during the early years of my life been replaced with ongoing negative emotions?”
I grew up in a small town known as Serra St. Bruno in Calabria. Calabria is a region in southern Italy that is full of natural beauty and wonder. It has a rich culture of artisans and is home to an ancient monastery that was founded by St. Bruno over one thousand years ago. It is a place of mystery, faith and deep spiritual power.
My early childhood was filled with happy memories. I spent most of my days out on the land watching wildlife, exploring new areas, and playing in the rivers. I felt a great sense of pride in my family and felt immense love and support from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
At the age of eight, I suffered a harsh trauma that began to change things. I buried this trauma deep within myself and never spoke to anyone about it. The feelings of joy and freedom that I used to feel slowly started to leave. At the age of twelve, my father left for Canada in search of work. I was left as the oldest male member of the family which involved taking on much more responsibility. Two-and-a-half years later, my father saved enough money to send for my family, and in August of 1957, my mother, my seven siblings and I immigrated to Canada. I remember the pain of leaving behind my grandfather, aunts and uncles, and a land that I absolutely loved. I entered into a new world that seemed cold and foreign. I didn’t know the culture, the language, or the people. At the age of fifteen, I joined the work force. I began shining shoes during the day and took a hairdressing course during the evenings. Less than two years later, I owned my own business and members of my family joined me. Everyone admired me for my success and they were impressed at how well I adjusted to this new land. But the truth was I felt like I was living in a box. I felt like I was so busy trying to impress others that I no longer knew who I was. Not long after, a client asked a question that changed my life:
“Do you know who you really are?”
This question was deeply unsettling and I now look back on this as a profound and pivotal moment in my life. I had no answer, and felt I was missing out on something far more essential to health and wholeness than the lifestyle designed by social systems.
I had the humility to admit that I did not know how to help myself, and I had the faith to reach out and ask for help.
The earlier passage quoted in my own Italian dialect is a message that I received from Spirit many years later. I now understand that this message not only related to this particular time in my life, but it relates to any time when individuals find themselves in a vulnerable or desperate situation. Its translation is:
“When your heart is crying and you are desperate, this is a powerful time to ask for the help and direction that you need. When you ask for guidance, an answer will come and a door will open. At this time, you must lower your eyes (humble yourself), trust your faith, and then begin your walk of truth.”
Step by step, I began following my heart and searching for “truth.” I began a slow process of breaking away from the expectations I had allowed to imprison me. I suffered many losses, and at times questioned my own sanity, but something inside of me kept me moving forward on my quest. Ten years later, my father passed. I remember feeling my father’s Spirit quite vividly after his passing. My father’s presence was so powerful that it affirmed for me that life continues after this world, and I felt a renewed encouragement and determination to continue forward in search of deeper truths. I became deeply involved in the study of Judaism because of a yearning to discover the true essence of Jesus’ teachings and the messages that he left for humanity. I began reading about ancient civilizations and discovered a passion for uncovering “origins” from the past. I discovered many beautiful teachings during this time, but continued to struggle with the hierarchy and hypocrisy that are characteristic of many organized religions.
It was only when I took part in a traditional ceremony held by a Mohawk elder from Six Nations that something was triggered deep inside of me. The language spoken was one of simplicity and equality. People were celebrated as unique and beautiful individuals with exceptional gifts and talents to offer to the world. No one was asked to convert or change who they were. Instead, people were encouraged to celebrate and embrace the beauty of who the Creator made them to be.
I began to learn about the ancient code of life that is written on the land and the world of Spirit that surrounds every one of us. I began to feel as though my search had finally led me to a place where I could find the answers and the peace that I was searching for.
I experienced deep healing under Diane Longboat’s guidance. For me, Diane has the ability to receive messages and guidance from Spirit, and to recognize and nurture the gifts that each person carries. I felt absolute trust in Diane and under her guidance I began a long process of addressing the traumas and the pain that had shaped my life. I learned to surrender my fears to the Creator and to embrace the medicine and the beautiful plan that the Creator had for my life. I also learned that faith is one of the most precious and powerful tools that we carry as human beings. I can summarize this teaching as follows:
When our ability to trust is eroded by fear, that fear drives us to buy into false notions of security. Faith is the opposite of this. Faith is understanding and trusting that as long as you are doing the work of the Creator, a higher providence will come to you and look after you. Moses, Jesus, and Abraham all speak about the journey through the desert. I believe that the journey they are referring to is the journey from the mind to the heart. This is most challenging and the most important journey an individual can make in their life, and can only be done by faith. Your mind will never lead you to your heart. Faith, on the other hand, allows you to surrender the darkness, the confusion and the fear, and leads you step by step into the light. When you are there, you discover the beauty of your true identity.
After seven years of service at the Sacred Fires of the Indigenous People, I felt a deep calling by Mother Earth to spend time with her in silence and solitude. Under the direction of my teacher, I set up a tipi by the river, lit a Sacred Fire, and tended to it day and night for the next six weeks. I received many dreams and visions during that time that are still unfolding to this day. One of the main messages that I received was a request from Mother Earth to commit to one full year’s cycle of keeping a Sacred Fire burning. I was told that during this time, many teachings would come about the sacredness of the man and the woman and how to find balance and form relationships of mutual love and respect for each other. I was specifically asked to work with the men during the time that the Sacred Fire would burn.
“Gather the men to fast each month during the full moon so that they can begin to feel the love from their original mother (Mother Earth) and create a safe and sacred environment where the men are able to speak openly about their feelings. Teach them to humble themselves and to surrender to the plan that the Creator has waiting for each of them.”
The Council of Soul of the Mother and I followed this vision and continued to keep the Sacred Fire burning day and night for a cycle of seven years. Prayers for humanity and all of creation were made at the Fire and all who tended the Fire received much healing and transformation.
Recently my life has come full circle when I returned to Serra St. Bruno, my hometown, in the fall of 2011. I came to learn that the enchanted monastery of my childhood is a place of strong faith and devotion. The adherents within the monastery choose to lead lives of silence and prayer, which they dedicate to all of humanity. I carried with me a letter written by my teacher Diane to give thanks for their sacrifice, faith and devotion and to invite them to join in a relationship of mutual support and unity to pray for peace for all of humanity. Delivering this letter was a very proud moment for me. It brought together two sources of great inspiration and healing for me – the people of faith from my homeland and Diane Longboat, the woman who helped me to find the essence of peace and truth that I was searching for.
I continue celebrating the pursuit of truth and my biggest joy, apart from my children and grandchildren, comes from assisting and witnessing others as they find the truth that they are searching for.
May you find the courage and humility that can lead you to discover your true identity.