Toronto Deacon Anthony Pignataro has just published his first book of poetry, personal essays and meditations, "From Under a Linden Tree". Photo courtesy of Sarum House

Deacon pens prayer through poetry

  • December 9, 2011

TORONTO - For Toronto Deacon Anthony Pignataro, penning poems is merely a form of prayer and service to others.

Writing poetry is “another way of serving others as you disseminate the work and share it,” he said.

Drawing from his ministry as a deacon and 20 years of “inspirational walks through his garden,” Pignataro has just published his first book of poetry, personal essays and meditations, From Under a Linden Tree, published by Sarum House.

Pignataro hopes his poems will lead readers “to their own heart, (to) silence and wisdom” and deeper contemplation about their lives.

“Writing for me is a means of reflecting and contemplating,” he said. “It’s a way of listening to my own spirit, my own heart.”

While his poetry is not necessarily “theological” or “religious,” Pignataro says it does touch upon core spiritual questions like life and death. In the poem “More Soul Than Body,” he writes:

I am more soul than body.

I am uneasy in this skin of earth.

I am close to heaven, though this exile suits me

In my love for what I see and hear.

His passion for prose spills over into his ministry with his homilies.

“It’s a way I process and integrate my learning in ministry,” he said, adding his diaconate experiences are sometimes reflected in the poems he writes. This includes his ministry with seniors.

In “I Look Beyond,” he writes about the coming winter and alludes to the Christian view on death:

But it is only my heart that weeps 

For even as the wind about me howls

The green roots of trees implant themselves

Within my soul.

And I look beyond the mounds of leaves

And see there not death but life

Retreating to prepare.

Born in Rende, Italy, his family immigrated to Canada in 1952 and settled in Toronto’s west end. Pignataro attended St. Michael’s College School. The 62-year old retired Catholic elementary school teacher began writing poetry in his teens.

Pignataro felt called to the diaconate and was ordained in 1992. As a deacon, he served as volunteer chaplain at Sancta Maria House, a home for young women in distress.

After retiring from teaching, he earned a diploma in spiritual direction from Regis College where he now serves as spiritual director to those discerning a vocation to ordained ministry.

His daughter, Danielle, recalls her father turning his poetry into songs. Danielle, who is also her father’s publisher, says Pignataro “always sung around the house,” often turning his poetry into songs. One of these songs was about her mother, Laura.

Danielle says what she likes about her father’s poetry is its “universal appeal.”

“You don’t have to have a philosophy degree to read a poem. It can be anyone from any walk of life.”

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