Happy hump day, everybody. Like a lot of people, I was shocked to hear about Christine McVie’s death last night. Guess who alerted me? It was none other than Stephen Bishop, whose book I reviewed yesterday. He left a comment on Christine McVie’s Facebook page, where it was announced that she passed away in a hospital after a “short illness”. She was 79 years old. Although her music has meant a lot to me over the years, I’m not going to dedicate this post to her passing. I did write a brief post on my Dungeon of the Past blog. Since we also lost Irene Cara a few days ago, that blog is getting some unusual attention lately, although not that many people read it these days. I’m waiting to hit $100 in AdSense, and then I’ll probably discontinue it. But it is a handy place to express my thoughts and prayers for musicians who made the years of my youth worth enduring.
Last night, before I read about Christine McVie, I was perusing the latest Ex nonsense. I noticed that she had made an intriguing comment.
I have no words for how repulsed I am at the thought of attending such a scary and surreal event. Of course… we could crash it…
I noticed that someone had responded, so I clicked the link, and there I found a most interesting post by some stranger from Birmingham, Alabama. Behold:
Well… given my love for investigating cults, this post interested me, so I went looking for more information, and I was led to this article written by journalist Greg Garrison on AL.com. There, I learned about a man named Terry Colafrancesco who has opened a “different” kind of business in Alabama called Villaggio Colafrancesco. Mr. Colafrancesco, who is an Alabama born Italian Catholic, was inspired by a visit to Italy 25 years ago, where he noticed people standing in line for gelato on a cold, November night. Colafrancesco is an entrepreneur, but he also happens to be super religious. His business, which sells all manner of Italian style treats from gelato to coffee to charcuterie, is operated as a tax paying enterprise. But he also runs a non-profit religious community called Caritas. Most of the people who work at Villagio Colafrancesco are members of the community. Colafrancesco will be directing all profits after taxes toward the Caritas ministry that he founded in the 1980s.
In 1988, Colafrancesco hosted one of the six famous visionaries of Medjugorje, who claimed to have daily visions of the Virgin Mary in their hometown in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the former Yugoslavia starting in 1981. Marija Pavlovic Lunetti came to UAB Hospital to donate a kidney for her brother, Andrija Pavlovic. She stayed with Colafrancesco and continued to have her visions of the Virgin Mary in a field in Shelby County. She has returned to Caritas to visit dozens of times.
The field where she had her visions in Shelby County became the focal point of the 250-acre world headquarters of Caritas, which still takes tour groups to Medjugorje and promotes the visions on its web site, Mej.com. It has a printing press and publishes Colafrancesco’s commentaries on the visions under his pen name, “A Friend of Medjugorje.” Hundreds of thousands of the books have been distributed worldwide.
The Medjugorje visions have never been endorsed or authenticated by the Catholic Church, which has approved other reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary such as the ones in 1858 in Lourdes, France, and in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.
So yes, this Italian treat paradise is very much a business, but it’s also influenced by religion. So patrons are required to be dressed “appropriately” and leave their electronic devices at home. Profanity is not allowed. People are supposed to hang out and talk to each other, rather than hanging out on their phones. Ex is apparently disgusted by this.
Now, I’ll be honest… I initially laughed when I read about these rules, because I have been to Italy a bunch of times, and I’ve never seen an establishment there that bans cell phones, skimpy clothing, or profanity. And while I don’t wear skimpy clothes anymore, and never purposely did when I was younger, I do have a strong tendency to curse. I also love to look at my phone. However, having grown up at a time when cell phones and Internet trolls didn’t exist, I do sometimes feel pangs of nostalgia for that time. Maybe this happens to everyone as they age, but once you get to a certain age, you look less favorably on “progress” and start remembering the “good old days”. So there’s a certain charm in the idea of visiting a place where patrons are required to put their electronic devices away.
BUT– while I do try to maintain basic respect for people and their religious beliefs, I don’t think I’d want to patronize a commercial business with an obvious religious agenda. Obviously, I don’t mind visiting churches or even spending money in them in the form of donations. I will, for instance, give spare change to the cathedrals when I visit them in Europe. But I’ve seen the damage that organized religions can do to many people, and I’ve also seen how cults can complicate people’s lives.
I also don’t think I’d feel comfortable at a place where workers are “dress coding” people. I can, however, see why some people love the idea of such a place, especially in Alabama, where there are a lot of “conservative” types. On the other hand, I’d be interested in seeing how many native Alabamians know what is, and what is not, authentic in Italy.
As Mr. Colafrancesco is operating a private business, he has the right to run it as he sees fit. And I would imagine people in Alabama will fully support that right. It’ll be interesting to see if this idea takes off. Some people don’t mind dress codes. Planet Fitness famously has a dress code to keep less fit people from feeling intimidated and uncomfortable by more fit people showing off. However, that chain has run into problems, as they have confronted people about their dress who didn’t feel they were shaming anybody. And my guess is that there could be trouble when someone outspoken and influential gets kicked out of Villagio Colafrancesco for wearing a halter top and leggings or something.
In looking at Mr. Colafrancesco’s blog, I see that he is no fan of “college”. In fact, he literally writes that in the section about his story. And while Colafrancesco is a very successful and apparently self made man, I can see that not going to college left him with a bit of a vocabulary deficiency. He writes that long hours and hard work had paid off, so that by the time he was in his mid 20s, he and his wife were living “financially comfortable”. He bought several “tracks” of land and “never had a mortgage or debt”. I think Mr. Colafrancesco means “tracts” of land, and a mortgage is, in and of itself, debt. It’s not that I don’t understands what he means, of course, and obviously he didn’t need college to succeed. Not everyone needs higher education to “make it”, and some people don’t “make it” even with fancy degrees. It’s just that as religion is important to him, proper grammar is important to me. 😉
In any case, more power and big props to Mr. Colafrancesco for “doing it his way”. I just wouldn’t necessarily assume that everyone can do what he’s done, or hold him up as an example of someone to emulate. Especially since it’s pretty clear to me that he’s politically conservative and probably would vote for Trump, in spite of his stated conservative values. Trump is a big fan of the skimpily clad, and he doesn’t mind swearing like a sailor as he hangs out on social media and talks about overthrowing the government. Edited to add: I see I was right. Colafrancesco is a Trump supporter. How can a man who self-righteously bars profanity and skimpy clothing in his establishment champion a man who grabs women by their pussies? What a hypocrite! Sorry, I just can’t respect someone who preaches about decency and supports Donald Trump.
Moreover, there is some belief that Mr. Colafrancesco’s group is a destructive cult. I don’t yet know enough about Caritas to state whether or not it’s a cult. I just learned the first about it last night, thanks to Ex. According to the above link, which dates from December 13, 2001:
Five former residents of Caritas of Birmingham have filed suit in state court seeking an unspecified amount of money from the group and its founder, Terry Colafrancesco.
The suit claims Colafrancesco lures people into Caritas with promises of spiritual enrichment and then drains them of money. Families are made to live in nasty trailers at the group’s compound, and Colafrancesco controls their lives almost totally, the suit claims.
The plaintiffs include a one-time lieutenant to Colafrancesco and five parents who sued on behalf of their children, who still live at the mission located about 30 minutes south of Birmingham.
The suit claims Caritas has assets of about $5.9 million. Colafrancesco “said he was knighted by Mary the mother of Jesus,” the suit says.
“It’s just bitterness,” Colafrancesco said Tuesday.
A 2012 Reuters article indicates that the lawsuit was later settled privately.
Anyway… I guess people have the right to decide if they want to buy coffee at a place where they aren’t allowed to curse, wear spaghetti straps, or look at their phones. I’m sure some people will think Villagio Colafrancesco is a very nice and inviting place for a treat. No matter what, this venture is sure to bring in money, press, and controversy… although it’s pretty rich that Ex is “repulsed” by it. This is the same woman who joined the LDS church and used it as one of her parental alienation tools. And when it turned out they weren’t going to give her what she wanted and expected things from her, like money and time, she suddenly decided it was “bad”. I’m sure the fact that church members helped younger daughter escape her clutches also contributed to her changed mindset about religion and politics. It sure is interesting and entertaining to watch.
But… it seems that Ex is pining to ditch America, too… Behold.
I’m a poor white girl. I have no power. I am a mother raising her kids and if Trump were to EVER hold office again… I’m leaving this country and won’t be looking back. He’s worse than a horror movie to me and I cannot fathom how ANYONE would vote for that scum of the earth.
Yeah… says the woman who causes multiple people to experience PTSD style nightmares due to her abuses of them. Just shaking my head and hoping she avoids Germany…