Father Benedict Nivakoff writes from Norcia:

Dear friends,

Our life as monks has entered an entirely new phase, one we never expected but in which we see, unmistakably, God’s hand. He asks us to build up our community here on the mountain strongly and decisively based on prayer and conversion so that we might become saints for our time. He also asks us to rebuild the ruins of our monastery at St. Benedict’s home and to make it a source of light, hope and truth for monks and nuns throughout the world, as well as for all those who long for God.

In the days of aftershocks since last Sunday’s powerful quake that destroyed our ancient basilica and monastery, God has brought calm to our monks’ hearts in this new mission. In fact, one of our observers went ahead and received the tonsure and choir cape of postulancy at Vespers the same evening of the massive quake. We offered him the chance to go home, of course, but he would hear nothing of it. That is the way with this earthquake: it binds the monks to the very ground that shakes.

Visitors now regularly include state officials and international celebrities. The President of Italy came two days ago and gave personal greetings to the 3 monks who had served the faithful on the morning of the earthquake. The new Abbot Primate joined us also for prayer and a meal in fraternal support. We are cheered by these and in awe at the worldwide outpouring of support. We have become friends with the firefighters who now guard the entire city. A forced evacuation has meant the whole town is now empty.

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

In Christ,
Fr. Benedict

“Fiat” means “let it be ” — the words the Virgin Mary spoke to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation.

Look at the photo that leads this item. That’s Father Benedict on the far left, and Father Basil and Father Martin on the right. Do those look like men who just lost their home and everything they own less than a week ago? They have the peace which passes all understanding. I cannot wait to see what God does through them.

Marco Sermarini, the godfather of the Tipi Loschi, e-mailed the following today, though he started the email a few days ago. I had written to him lamenting the destruction of the tiny mountain village of Castelluccio, which he had shown me from the distance when I was with him in February:

Almost the whole of Castelluccio is ruined. There are still twenty wonderful, crazy people resisting up there. They don’t want to go away, the same as many other people living in Norcia, Accumoli, Amatrice (the hometown of the renowned spaghetti all’amatriciana), Pievetorina, Preci and other small villages. They want to remain there, in their own small beloved towns. They want to see the day when things will be rebuilt.

We are very sad for this: these places are part of our own civilization, we love those places and it’s hard to see them flattened to the ground. They are so familiar.

Today is 1st November, and it’s the 23rd anniversary of the foundation of our fellowship. We are now spending good time together, eating and drinking all together, and we are watching old pictures of our brief history. It was a sad moment when we saw a beautiful picture at the end of one of the walking pilgrimages to Norcia through the mountains: there was Father Cassian outside the Basilica waiting for the pilgrims arriving tired but happy. Now the Basilica is ruined — but not our faith.

Today Father Cassian succeeded to enter the ruined monastery with the help of the Fire Brigade men to take his notebooks and some other things. It’s a moment of trial for them, it’s aching for us, and we pray for them all the time.

We Tipi Loschi are fine, always with a sense of suspension: the earthquake was so strong that now things are different. We didn’t have damages, even if damages were in some towns not so far from here. You can touch those damages. From time to time earth makes us conscious that she keeps on moving (late at night while you are sleeping with your wife and your children, or talking during the day…). You can perceive that you are not the owner of your life, that you often trust in untrustworthy things and that you have to put all your life in the hands of Our Lord. No other way.

The Tipi Loschi helped the monks to build the wooden houses where they are living now. It was a spontaneous movement. All the hobbits wanted to go and help them, for a sense of gratefulness and Christian friendship; also the Northern Tipi Loschi (our friends from Brescia, Northern Italy) gave a wonderful hand to the Monks because they came with a gigantic truck with wooden houses and tools, and they spent a lot of time working for our beloved monks.

We ask every day the meaning of all this, but we believe that this is a moment of great consciousness. The Monks have always the right word to say to us, and things make always sense. When I say “ask the meaning,” I mean the sense of every small piece of your life changed by this earthquake. The Monks moved outside the town, for example, and this is something clear. The Basilica came down, and this is something to reflect on. It seems the image of the present moment of the world and of the Church.

I am very hopeful for the future: I am sure that from this ruin Jesus Christ will start again good things. Small people will understand that things can start again only helping each other just like we did during the old ages. That basilica didn’t grow by the help of any government, but for the love of the people for Jesus Christ and Saint Benedict. This is once again the story of Pimlico, that G. K. Chesterton tells in Orthodoxy.


A postscript: Here is video from the Italian president’s visit to Norcia. Watch the first minute. See the weeping woman who greets him? It’s Mamma, from the peeg farm!