Remember Brent Mangum, the Apple store manager who I saw doing relief work at the flood shelter? He sent this yesterday:
I took the [above] picture in our church service on Sunday and felt prompted to share it with you.
It was a sabbath day like no other I had ever experienced. The pictures below are of nearly 1000 folks from seven states to help strangers they had never met. Many of them (Mormons and Non-Mormons) slept in tents, on floors and in their vehicles. These men and women sacrificed time with their loved ones and personal resources to help strangers miles away with no thought of recognition or compensation. Robin and I hosted a handful of these individuals from Houston and they spoke of what a great blessing it was to be able to serve and at no point did they bicker or complain.
I left this makeshift and humble meeting inspired to be a better Christian.
That’s what I meant when I said that this terrible flood has also occasioned a flood of grace.
Meanwhile, in earthquake-stricken Norcia, the monks are nearly re-established in tents outside the city walls. They received a famous visitor yesterday: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Below, the photo, and the latest report from Father Benedict, the subprior:
As the monks slowly but steadily get back to routine, these updates too will be less frequent. Your prayers and financial support in this critical time have helped us to get on our feet and allowed us to help others here in Norcia and beyond with our prayers and even material support. Still there is much to report!
Yesterday was a day of visitors and homecomings. What no doubt garnered the most attention from the press was the visit of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who came in by helicopter to Norcia to see the damage. Accompanied by the mayor, the archbishop and the president of Umbria, Renzi was able to see first hand the damages done to the Basilica and assure us and all those in Norcia of his support. Fr. Cassian and I were able to greet him personally.
Much closer to our hearts, though, was the return of our dear brothers from Rome who arrived at the same time the prime minister did. They were less noticed but much needed. Their presence in Norcia had not been possible up until yesterday as the cells and other parts of the building had been declared unsafe by the fire marshals and they were required to evacuate. But we have found a few rooms that are usable for 4 brothers, and 3 brothers are sleeping in what were once our small guest quarters, which was not damaged since our neighbors who own it had it rebuilt after the last earthquake from the ground up.
With the community now all safely back in Norcia the monks were able to pray vespers together at Fuori Le Mura and Br. Michael posted his first recording since the quake. Afterwards we had a warm celebration together with a little Birra Nursia and a large Minestrone soup prepared by a friend of the monastery. All of us thanked God that in spite of the damage we are all safe and alive and we renewed our intention to be present to the people of Norcia through our prayer and support, now needed more than ever.
One more visitor is pictured below. The first snake we’ve encountered was thankfully already dead, which the brothers took to be a propitious sign: the reclaiming of our property from the beasts! Other visitors have been hedgehogs, wild boar, and a neighbor’s cow which feeds near our stone wall.