Ladies and gentlemen, the peerless VFYT genius James C. writes from his rambles. He has been on retreat at the Benedictine monastery in Norcia:

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.

Today I walked out of the gates of Norcia and climbed my own Mountain of Purgatory. Monte Patino hovers over the town—as you might have noticed, its summit sports a large cross. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to make my Friday penance up there.

Like any good penance, it was painful but also joyful! The snow was knee-deep in places, but I kept praying the above psalm to help me get through. I wish I were one of Tolkien’s elves, so free of worldly cares that they can walk lightly on the top of snow! But my cares and attachments are many, and the extra weight I carry from my sloth and gluttony in recent months made the climb all the more difficult. But what a joy to be humbled and to hand over the reins of one’s life to the Lord! I invoked Him many times in my struggle to the top.

Unfortunately it’s Friday so no wild boar or anything. But I will be gladdening my heart this weekend on Laetare Sunday by going to what a local tells me is her favourite restaurant in Norcia (Cantina di Nursia on via Dante) and enjoying some cinghiale cacciatore and pappardelle with truffles and porcini mushrooms, along with soup made from the world’s greatest lentils. Birra Nursia too, of course. Sigh.

I was going to buy San Benedetto brand water only to discover that they come from the Venice area! The Viva water is Umbrian, and it’s still an appropriate name.

I feel so alive here. As I was telling Fr Cassian tonight, St Benedict himself would recognise this abbey. This place, filled with young men aspiring to the highest form of living in existence, is a miracle in the mountains.

I have to be in bed so I get up for Matins at 4am. I can’t wait.

James sent that on Friday, but I was away from the keys all day then, and didn’t see the e-mail until tonight. You’ve heard it from me before, and you’ll hear it from me again: that monastery in Norcia, built over the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, is one of the most spiritually luminous places in the world. Any Catholic who despairs of the state of the Roman church should make a pilgrimage to Norcia and be restored. Any Christian who despairs at all should do the same.

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