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A Mighty Fortress Is Their Faith

The Norcia basilica by moonlight, from the piazza (Photo by Rod Dreher)

The latest update from our friends, the Benedictine monks of Norcia:

Dear Friends,

This will be a shorter update since we’ve been very busy today responding to journalists and townspeople, politicians and bishops, all wanting to help us in their own way, and we are grateful to all of them.

Inspectors finally came and as expected declared the church and most of the monastery unusable. Only the brewery a few rooms, and our gift shop will be allowed to be used as they are nearest to the ground and suffered the least damage. As a result, we’ll be setting up a new base camp at our monastery outside the walls, the restoration of which has not yet been completed, but which offers us various fields for tents and temporary buildings and a local farm house where we can take our meals. Alas the Basilica will remain closed for some months, but over the next weeks we hope to be able to gain access to the crypt or an adjacent room for daily celebration of Mass.

Today we were also able to stop in and see a few families and businesses and assure them of our prayers. The Archbishop of Spoleto Norcia made an official visit with the inspectors of all the churches in Norcia (all will remain closed) and made arrangements with the Pastor of the town for Mass to be offered outside in a field this Sunday as aftershocks continue to make all the already damaged churches dangerous. The monks in Rome also continue to care for the people of Norcia through their particular monastic role of intercessory prayer on behalf of and for the people.

The monks’ primary role in the life of the Church is one of praying quietly and silently, often unnoticed and even forgotten. Thus, we continue to strive to support the local parish clergy, who are charged with the particular sacramental needs of the townspeople, with our spiritual intercession, and collaborate with them when they request need. We know by faith our prayers help sustain their work and all those suffering and assist in healing the sufferings of many all over our region in these difficult times. Your continued support has inspired us in our prayer and mission.

Fr. Benedict

Note: If you want to help the rebuilding process, you can give to the monks by visiting: http://en.nursia.org/earthquake-relief/

Well, at least they saved the beer. That’s something.

My dark humor is an attempt to deal with the grief I feel over what has happened to Italy in general — all the dead, and all the suffering — but particularly for Norcia. As you will read in my Benedict Option book when it’s released next year, those monks and their monastery are a lighthouse to the world. That the monastery and the church will be closed for some time is a tragedy. But maybe there is a blessing in it. The stability of the Benedictine life will become evident in a new way, with the monks continuing their daily prayers, Scripture reading, liturgy, and work in tents and mobile buildings. The rock of their faith, and the practices that make that faith come alive, will be evident to all in a way nobody could have foreseen or welcomed, and they will become a source of hope and inspiration to believers the world over.

The earthquake can destroy the church and monastery buildings — or at least make them uninhabitable for a period — but it cannot destroy the faith and the community of the monks of Norcia. I have no doubt about that. And if you have been to Norcia, and prayed with them, and talked to them, you know it’s true.

UPDATE:From Father Cassian’s reflection on the earthquake:

There are two symbols from this story that can provide important insights for us. First of all, the Basilica of San Benedetto and the altar of the saint were seriously damaged. The Catholic culture of Western Civilization is collapsing. We can see it before our very eyes. The second symbol is the gathering of the people around the statue of St. Benedict in the piazza in order to pray. That is the only way to rebuild.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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