Though those words were directed to St. Francis eight centuries ago, they could have been spoken to St. Benedict today.
Yesterday, I went to the town of Norcia to visit the Benedictine monks whose church and monastery were destroyed in a series of earthquakes last year. On the night of August 24, 2016, a powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck near Rieti in central Italy. It was a horrible tragedy: the towns of Accumuli, Pescara del Tronto, and especially Amatrice were destroyed. 299 people lost their lives, 365 were injured, and approximately 2,100 lost their homes.
Here are some pictures I took yesterday while driving through the area:
On the left is a photo I took last summer of the Church of St. Benedict; on the right is what it looked like on October 31: it is totally destroyed.
Finally, in the year 2000, several American monks -- guided by faith and hope -- left their land and homes and took up residence once again in the ancient monastery. Since then, their vibrant international community has grown tremendously with vocations.
The charism of the Monks of Norcia is "to return to the spirit of the founder", following the appeal of Vatican II. The monastery is unique in that in 2009, the Holy See entrusted the community with the special liturgical apostolate of celebrating the liturgy in both the Extraordinary Latin as well as the Ordinary Italian form.
The monks have made a name for themselves also through their enterprising know-how. They have developed a successful beer brewery (Birra Nursia) in addition to producing a CD "Benedicta: Marian chant from Norcia" (for a while, it was above the likes of Andrea Boccelli on the billboard charts!)
Visit the monks' website
However, all this came crashing down on the morning of Sunday, October 30, when their church -- already compromised from previous quakes -- crumbled to the ground.
Today only the facade stands. In the words of the Prior, Father Benedict, the town of Norcia appears "like those photographs of bombed-out churches from the Second World War".
Here are some photographs of the Capuchin church they are hoping to rebuild:
The entire Way is about 310 kilometers, broken down into 16 walks. I will walk it over the course of several stages. (For more information on the Way of Benedict, click here; Italian only!)
I will be posting videos and photos from the walk, in addition to textual information.
To make a donation to the monks, there are links in the above video, as well as on their website by clicking here:
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Blessings on your journey!