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Summer 2018 In Norcia

Here’s some very good news about the Catholic Church, and a sign of the Benedict Option in action. Above, a procession of the Monks of Norcia [1], outside their new monastery on the side of the mountain overlooking the town. Father Benedict, the prior, writes to say that they had help in doing some construction work this summer:

This past weekend, a group of 20 men from the famous Tipi Loschi [2] company along with their associates spent the weekend helping us with long overdue projects. Their ages ranged from 18 to 70. Some came to vigils at 3:30 AM, all came to prayers throughout the day and to one of the most important parts of our life: Pranzo (our main meal of the day).

Here is Father Benedict speaking to the Tipi Loschi building crew:

Father Benedict continues:

Men today who come to Norcia to become monks — and at present 4 have requested to enter this fall — come looking for a world where they can be truly free to love Christ as the Incarnate God, a truth that a modern day version of Arianism once again tries to reject. They come wounded by a society which has tempted them with the idea that either no happiness on this earth is possible at all, or that it is completely possible if one only pursues it by the standards of the world. But when their vocations flourish they find the opposite of both. They find a foretaste of joy here on earth, and then later, in death, that joy complete.

change_me

You can read Father Benedict’s entire letter here.  [3]

The Norcia monks are raising money to build their monastery on the mountainside. If you read The Benedict Option [4], you’ll recall that their old monastery, on the piazza in Norcia, was destroyed by the 2016 earthquake. Here’s how the book ends:

With dust still rising from the rubble, Father Basil knelt on the stones of the piazza, facing the ruined basilica, and accompanied by nuns and a few elderly Norcini, including one in a wheelchair, he prayed. Later amateur video posted to YouTube showed Father Basil, Father Benedict, and Father Martin running through the streets of the rubble-strewn town, looking for the dying who needed last rites. By the grace of God, there were none.

Back in America, Father Richard Cipolla, a Catholic priest in Connecticut and an old friend of Father Benedict’s, e-mailed the subprior when he heard the news of the latest quake. “Is there damage? What is going on?” Father Cipolla wrote.

“Yes, damage much worse,” Father Benedict replied. “But we are okay. Much to tell you, but just pray. I am well, and God continues to purify us and bring very good things.”

The next morning, as the sun rose over Norcia, Father Benedict sent a message to the monastery’s friends all over the world. He said that no Norcini had lost their lives in the quake because they had heeded the warnings from the earlier tremors and left town. “[God] spent two months preparing us for the complete destruction of our patron’s church so that when it finally happened we would watch it, in horror but in safety, from atop the town,” the priest-monk wrote.

Father Benedict added, “These are mysteries which will take years—not days or months—to understand.”

Surely that is true. But notice this: the earth moved, and the Basilica of St. Benedict, which had stood firm for many centuries, tumbled to the ground. Only the facade, the mere semblance of a church, remains. Because the monks headed for the hills after the August earthquake, they survived. God preserved them in the holy poverty of their canvas-covered Bethlehem, where they continued to live the Rule in the ancient way, including chanting the Old Mass. Now they can begin rebuilding amid the ruins, their resilient Benedictine faith teaching them to receive this catastrophe as a call to deeper holiness and sacrifice. God willing, new life will one day spring forth from the rubble.

“We pray and watch from the mountainside, thinking of the long three years Saint Benedict spent in the cave before God decided to call him out to become a light to the world,” wrote Father Benedict. “Fiat. Fiat.”

Let it be. Let it be.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

See? New life is arising from the rubble. I hope all American Catholics who are grieving over the scandals emerging in their church will see this and find hope. But notice that the new life is not just happening spontaneously. These monks and their lay followers are praying and working it into existence.

The people I wrote about in the book — monastic and lay — are real, flesh-and-blood folks. You can go to Italy to meet them, to pray with them, and to participate in their life. If you want to build ancient monastic Christianity in Norcia, and make a place for future monks to come to pray, work, and serve God as traditional Benedictines, direct your tithe here.  [5]

23 Comments (Open | Close)

23 Comments To "Summer 2018 In Norcia"

#1 Comment By Andrew On August 9, 2018 @ 11:38 am

Perhaps we could start a collection of stories that shows all the good things God is doing to bring about renewal in the Church.

Here are my 2 contributions:

[6]

[7]

#2 Comment By Lyn Perry On August 9, 2018 @ 11:58 am

Rod, We’re hiking from Assisi to Spoleto in a few months. Not sure if we’ll make it to Norcia. Should we? Any trip advice? Email me, thanks! – Lyn Perry

[NFR: It’s a long hike uphill to Norcia from there. If you have a car, drive to Norcia. The Norcini will be glad to see any tourists. — RD]

#3 Comment By Beth On August 9, 2018 @ 2:04 pm

Thank you for pointing out reasons for gratitude and hope. I know it seems trite to ask for it, especially when those in control seem to think that’s all that’s needed. But it’s necessary, not
to distract us from what we don’t want to hear, but to give us a reason to want to do the hard work of getting through the mess.

#4 Comment By Heidi On August 9, 2018 @ 2:49 pm

I wish I could say this gave me hope when I got the email from them this morning, but it did not. I live here, in America, not in Norcia. The church is lost here and may be lost to me as well. I can not express my feelings about all of this right now. It was definitely the last straw.

#5 Comment By James C. On August 9, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

Lyn,

When you arrive in Spoleto, take the bus to Norcia. It’s line E401 here: [8]

You can buy the bus tickets (around €6-7 each way) at the bar in Spoleto station. Do go, even if for the day! Stay overnight if you can!
There are hotels, affittacamere, and agriturismi available there.

The walk from the walls of Norcia to the monks’ new permanent home is only 1.7 miles:

Monastery of Saint Benedict in Monte
06046 Norcia Province of Perugia, Italy
+39 348 393 1121
[9]

Send me an email if you’d like any other suggestions about Assisi, Spoleto and Norcia. (Rod can give you my address).

#6 Comment By thomas tucker On August 9, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

Okay, let me ask a question, which I’m sure is irreverent, if not blasphemous. But, what the hell. In light of what we know about many religious orders and monasteries, and in light of us knowing that the appearance of orthodoxy is not a guarantee of anything- how do we know what these guys are doing with each other when the candles have been snuffed out? It’s not an inappropriate question.

#7 Comment By Andrew On August 10, 2018 @ 1:08 am

Heidi,

There’s lots of great things happening in the US. There are many young and growing orders in the USA which are like Norcia – Benedictine communities such as Clear Creek Abbey (monks) and the Benedictine sisters of Our Lady Queen of Apostles. Finally, there are growing and thriving Carmelite communities also. Here are some links. Check them out…

[10]

[11]

[12]

There are many other orders also experiencing renewal like Norcia in the USA. Have hope. 🙂

#8 Comment By Father Peter On August 10, 2018 @ 5:42 am

Thank you for writing about this, Rod. If I can second something that Heidi wrote, most of your readers can’t get to Italy easily. There are many signs of hope in American Catholicism. I would point to St. Michael’s (Norbertine) in Orange County and Clear Creek Abbey, for example.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 10, 2018 @ 10:58 am

It has never crossed my mind that the monks of Norcia are prey to the sort of sexual impositions so prevalent in much of the RC church. But this morning it crossed my mind to wonder why not (if not).

One is probably that it is a very new community, if founded in a very old building, and it has drawn its membership, so far, from men who were sincerely dedicated to the highest practice of RC theology, doctrine, and community. It doesn’t carry the baggage older components of the church do, and it isn’t attractive to those with an eye toward power and perks. If it is very lucky, it will be able to establish a culture that will continue to repel such creatures.

#10 Comment By thomas tucker On August 10, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

@Siarlys: I never wondered about them before now, either. And I have contributed financial support to them. But all of a sudden, due to what we have discovered, I am wondering, quite honestly. Apparent dedication to orthodox belief and liturgy, and devotion to tradition, appears to be a cover quite often. And the fact that I would even think such things is quite a shame.

#11 Comment By James C. On August 10, 2018 @ 8:10 pm

Apparent dedication to orthodox belief and liturgy, and devotion to tradition, appears to be a cover quite often. And the fact that I would even think such things is quite a shame.

Indeed it is a shame. A real shame.

What are they supposed to do, not dedicate themselves to orthodox belief and liturgy, not devote themselves to tradition? Would they escape your suspicion then?

#12 Comment By thomas tucker On August 11, 2018 @ 10:29 am

@James C: no, they are not supposed to refrain from those things. But neither am I supposed to refrain from looking at all-male Catholic communities with a gimlet eye. I think that, with our current knowledge, one should have a low threshold for suspicion. And, again, that it has come to this, is a shame.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 11, 2018 @ 10:35 am

James C., you entirely miss the point. I know you were responding to Thomas Tucker, not directly to me, but I don’t think he said any more than, given what is going on in many components of the church, how can one be sure about what seems to be a pristine, dedicated, practice of the highest monastic aspirations?

The truth is, one can’t be sure. Of course they should go ahead and dedicate themselves to doing it right. As a rough analogy, I am a single heterosexual male who enjoys working with children. I’ve passed several background checks when required, but I occasionally wonder, will someone either raise a false charge of abuse, or become suspicious because, after all, real predators can school themselves to be helpful and friendly and inspire children… but with an ulterior motive? I don’t let that stop me, but its an unfortunate feature of life that the bad guys often look like exemplary good guys, and they can be very good at it.

#14 Comment By James C. On August 11, 2018 @ 11:23 am

I think that, with our current knowledge, one should have a low threshold for suspicion. And, again, that it has come to this, is a shame.

Have a low threshold for suspicion, that’s fine. I’m with you there. I watched the film Doubt and was rooting for Sister Aloysius all the way.

My issue is that you seem to have not a low threshold but no threshold. You see a positive story from Rod about faithful monks, and your first response is, “How do we know they’re not sodomizing each other?”

[NFR: +1,000 — RD]

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 11, 2018 @ 3:37 pm

James C… that’s a low blow, directed at a man who said he has supported the Norcia community financially, and has stated no intention of withholding such support in the future. He merely notes that one can never be sure, and regrets that this lack of certainty makes it necessary for him to watch what happens to his donations with a gimlet eye.

#16 Comment By thomas tucker On August 11, 2018 @ 4:47 pm

@James C: did you miss the part where I noted that I have contributed financially to the monks of Norcia? That was my first, and continuing, response to them. All I’m pointing out is that, because of recent revelations, this thought arose in my mind. I knew by expressing it that someone would shoot at me, but I thought it, so I expressed it. To be constructive, perhaps someone like you could help us figure out how to go forward, supporting faithful communities despite not knowing how to tell if their are skeletons in the closets.
Rod- how do we proceed? You, more than anyone, know how orthodoxy and devotion to Tradition can be a false front. How do we figure out which groups deserve our support?

[NFR: No idea. Honestly, I have no idea. I’m eager to hear what others have to say. — RD]

#17 Comment By James C. On August 11, 2018 @ 5:40 pm

Thomas,

That was not your first response. Your first response is here:

Okay, let me ask a question, which I’m sure is irreverent, if not blasphemous. But, what the hell. In light of what we know about many religious orders and monasteries, and in light of us knowing that the appearance of orthodoxy is not a guarantee of anything- how do we know what these guys are doing with each other when the candles have been snuffed out? It’s not an inappropriate question.

Apparently you think it’s irreverent and maybe even blasphemous, but not inappropriate.

In answer to your question regarding how to overcome one’s cynicism so as to not prejudge some people based on other people’s sins, I can suggest prayer. Lots of prayer. Look for good fruits but also keep your eyes open. Put Christ at the center.

And if someone you loved turns out to have some terrible failings (that happened to me with Fr. Benedict Groeschel), look at it as a mercy: fallen clerics can help disabuse you of clericalism.

The monks of Norcia do not merit being suspected of perversion without any evidence. It’s unjust. Your first reaction was a good one.

#18 Comment By James C. On August 11, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

(I mean your first hesitation)

#19 Comment By thomas tucker On August 11, 2018 @ 11:47 pm

Well, James C, my first response to the monks of Norcia was support. If you mean my first response to Rod’s post here, then you’re correct that this was my response. And it is indeed not inappropriate given the current state of affairs. I don’t know why you seem to think that asking the question is inappropriate. I have not said that I suspect them of perversion. You are twisting my words to obfuscate the point of my comment which was to raise a larger question. It is not a matter of prejudging. It is a matter of prudence. But now we are speaking past each other. You may have the last word. Good day to you.

#20 Comment By James C. On August 12, 2018 @ 5:36 am

I have not said that I suspect them of perversion.

When your first reaction to Rod’s article is this:

how do we know what these guys are doing with each other when the candles have been snuffed out?

forgive me for thinking, yes, that you suspect them of perversion purely because they are Catholic religious. You weren’t talking about telling bedtime stories, I assume?

I understand where you’re coming from, but there’s more to Catholicism than clerical homosexual sex, and you know, it’s nice to hear about it on this blog once in a while between all the awful stuff.

The monks of Norcia are actually doing something for the Church’s renewal. Remember what Fr. Cassian told Rod: They know full well the state of the Church. But they don’t despair—they get right to work with joy planting a lush new garden amid the devastation.

So can we.

#21 Comment By James C. On August 12, 2018 @ 5:50 am

“How do we know…” is a cynical question that can be used for everything. Imagine you meet a woman, and she tells you what a wonderful husband she has. “He’s so considerate and generous and loving. He listens. He’ll sacrifice for me. I love him so much!”

And your first reaction to what the woman says is, “Considering the statistical surveys on the behavior of married men, how do you know your husband hasn’t cheated on you?”

Does that sound appropriate? Your general question is worth discussing, but applied to the specific context above, I think it was unseemly. And knowing the Norcia monks as I do, I could not let that go without a response.

I know this has gone on too long. I hope we understand each other better now. Good day to you as well.

#22 Comment By thomas tucker On August 12, 2018 @ 11:23 am

James, I’ve been thinking about your follow up comments. First, your analogy might be better if I said this directly and in person to an actual monk of Norcia, or his parent. Obviously, this online forum is quite different and all kinds of controversial topics are discussed.
Second, I understand why my question rankled you and why you consider it impolite. This is, after all, a group that you know and support. Parenthetically, I met several of them at their fundraiser in Dallas and receive their newsletter as a financial supporter. But, think about this- your response is a good example of what happens in the Church at large. No one wants to think such things are possible with their priest, their bishop, their diocesan seminary, or their favorite order. After all, they know them personally, and to even raise the question is unjust! Believe me, I know members of Regnum Christi who thought it was impolite if not blasphemous for people to be raising questions about their illustrious leader. Yet, we know the end of that story. Similar things have happened over and over. And Rod, since you supported James’ comment 1000%, let’s not forget that you yourself thought how holy and orthodox Cardinal Law was to the point of kissing his ring. Is it possible that you could be taken in again by a group that seems Holy and traditional? How would you know?
So, let’s ask this question of the monks of Norcia- do they have a lay oversight board? Do they have a mechanism by which monks can make complaints to an independent body? Are monks who leave interviewed by an independent lay board?

#23 Comment By thomas tucker On August 12, 2018 @ 2:05 pm

James, my last comment seems to have disappeared so I am going to try and repeat it. I hope this isn’t a double post.
First, I think your analogy of being impolite to a woman regarding her husband is poor. Perhaps it would work if I were speaking directly to a monk of Norcia, or his parent. But I am in an online forum, which is a very different scenario.
Second, your seeing my question as impolite mirrors on a small scale what is happening in the Church at large. You know these monks, so you bristled at my question. This is like Catholics who bristle at the suggestion that their priest, or their bishop, or their diocesan seminary, or their favorite religious community might be doing something evil. No one wants to think that about someone they know. And yet, we see how that has worked out. I know Regina Christi folks who thought it blasphemous that anyone could suggest that their leader might be a scoundrel. This is common, and trying to shut down the person who even suggests the possibility is not a healthy response. Third, Rod, having approved James’ comment with a thousand thumbs up, know yourself full well how you can be fooled by someone- remember you were impressed by Cardinal Law, and even kissed his ring, only to find out that he was guilty of serious misdeeds. Do you really think that you can’t be fooled again?
So, here are my questions for the monks of Norcia, and other communities. Do they have a lay oversight board? Do they have an independent monitor that monks can go to privately if they have complaints? Are novices or monks who leave interviewed by an independent entity to see if abuses are taking place? These are kinds of things that should be in place to ensure the quality and transparency of these communities. Sadly, their apparent devotion to orthodoxy and traditional liturgy are simply not enough.