Michael Franzese is not your typical minister.
Around 30 years ago, he was listed among the most powerful mafia bosses, part of the notorious New York Columbo family. But after finding God while serving time in prison, he reformed. And on Nov. 13, he found himself talking about faith and redemption with Capitol Hill staff.
Staffers and other Capitol workers attended the Senate chaplain's weekly Bible study in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to ask Franzese and his wife, Camille, about how their faith helped transform their lives.
"It’s hard to explain and describe, having been in the lifestyle that I was in before, to come into this building, under these conditions and to be able to possibly be an encouragement to people that really have such an impact on our entire nation," Franzese told HOH after the event.
Senate Chaplain Barry Black invited Franzese to the Capitol, but it was not the first time the former mobster spoke there. On Sept. 11, at the urging of a Capitol Police officer who was impressed with his story, Franzese addressed the men's prayer breakfast.
Black told HOH that Franzese "made just a tremendous impact” at the men's breakfast, so he was invited back and this time he was joined by his wife.
Camille discussed leaning on her faith to get her through tough times, particularly when Michael was in prison, and she said after the event that she felt honored to be sharing her story on Capitol Hill.
"Michael and his wife, Camille, have an amazing story of having an encounter with God that was indeed quite transformative,” Black said.
“I think one lesson would be that reading sacred literature can really change the trajectory of your life," Black later added. "His life was basically changed by reading the Book of Proverbs while he was in solitary confinement. So there is a power to sacred literature.”
Though Franzese was on hand to discuss spirituality, he has recently taken to analyzing politics, after people started suggesting to him that the government appeared to be operating like the mob.
In writing his book, "Mafia Democracy," which is expected to be released at the end of 2016, Franzese said he found that the government is no longer serving the people, and instead people in power are focused on maintaining their power.
"In many ways, unfortunately our government operates under a Machiavellian principle. And that principle is that they can do anything they want to do to maintain power and control, even if it’s dishonest," Franzese said. "But to the public they always have to appear honest and upright. And that’s the way mobsters look. I mean Machiavelli was like our patron saint.”
Though Franzese has delved into analyzing politics, and he said a group in Las Vegas is pushing him to run for mayor, he said he doesn't think he'll go into politics himself. “I’d rather be in a position to influence elections,” he said.
But politics was not discussed at the Nov. 13 event, where the focus was on faith. Franzese said he would like to come back to the Hill, and he has received invitations to speak to other groups in the Capitol.
“Really, some of these people are going to be senators one day, and others are influencing senators," Franzese said, reflecting on the Dirksen discussion. "And to play a little part in that, and hopefully a couple of words I said today might stay with them and influence them in the right way that would affect our nation."
"It’s almost like a dream," he added. "It really is.”
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