‘Seventy Times Seven’

By |2006-08-31T09:00:00-04:00August 31st, 2006|Entertainment|

Jillian Bogater

Saugatuck author explores spirituality, sexuality in first novel

“Seventy Times Seven”
By Salvatore Sapienza
Publisher: The Hayworth Press
244 pages

Vito Fortunato was born with a caul, a thin membrane on his face. Some saw this as a veil between the physical and spiritual worlds, and as an indication of a sixth sense.
As he grew older, Vito struggled with an ongoing theme of duality in his life, most specifically placing Vito’s emerging homosexuality against his desire to become a Catholic priest. This conflict drives the plot of “Seventy Times Seven,” Saugatuck author Salvatore J. Sapienza’s first novel.
Sapienza draws upon his personal experience as a Marist brother in the Catholic Church, but maintains the novel is a work of fiction.
The book begins with Brother Vito leading a philosophical discussion with his religion class students about “seventy times seven.” The New Testament passage from Matthew reads: “Then Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my neighbor if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy times seven times.'”
As Vito’s story unfolds, he discovers this journey is more about finding and forgiving himself.
Each chapter begins with a biblical excerpt, reflecting the various issues Vito struggles with. The book also weaves spiritually infused music lyrics circa mid-’80s from Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and George Michael.
His double-life is starkly illustrated early on when a brother in his religious community wakes him after a night of partying:
{ITAL As I run naked toward the door, I notice that I’m wearing a cock ring. It’s one of those metal ones, not the leather kind with snaps. I vaguely remember trying to get it off when I undressed last night, but it was too difficult in the state I was in.
“Yeah?” I grunt.
“Are you coming with us to Mass?” asks the voice on the other side of the closed door.}
Vito lives his life at both poles, one as an out man cruising bars with his gay friends, the other as the Catholic teacher contemplating taking vows with the church.
His life changes when he travels to San Francisco to volunteer at an AIDS center. It’s there that his desire to take vows with the church are tested after he befriends Gabriel, a recently divorced yard worker.
Vito struggles. With the anti-gay teachings of the church. With his wish to live a life dedicated to God. With his carnal desires, his sins.
His spiritual adviser, a spunky nun, gives him sage advice: Choose life.
“Seventy Times Seven” chronicles Vito’s efforts to do just that.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.