Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hiking in the Monti Sibillini

While I was in Norcia, I took the oppurtunity of the closeness of the mountains to take a few hikes during the day.  It was a good physical activity to keep me from going stir crazy on my retreat.  

Norica is in the Southwest corner of Italy's largest National Park, Monti Sibillini.  It is absolutely gorgeous and even reminds me a little of the Smoky Moutains.

Here is a picture of me and of the trail leading up to Monte Patino which is something like 17oo meters tall (around 5,500 feet).  

The trail was practically straight up!  I guess the Italians never heard of the switchback method of climbing a mountain.

Another day during the retreat, I went up to a little mountaintop town called Ospedaletto (my poor Italian translates it as either the town of 'Guestbed' or 'hospitalbed')  That mountain was only 1000 meters!  It was a cold and drizzly day but that sometimes makes for good hiking and there were some beautiful views on the way up.

 I brought a lunch made up of 'Norcineria'   Norcia is famous for its cured sausages made from pork, wild boar (Cinghiale) and other game.  It is also famous for its cheeses especially its pecorino or goat milk cheese.  Yum, very tasty!  I had some Cinghiale and some deer meat sausage as well as little pecorino and another cheese that tasted a lot like Bell Paese (softer like Mozzarella and really creamy).  Slap all of that on some bread and you have a meal, but wait, there's more.  On my first hike I stopped by a Honey store.  They had fresh honey from Castellucio where the bees collect pollen from all the flowers of the great plain of the Monti Sibillini.  It is the most savoury honey I have every tasted!  It tasted so good I hiked it up the mountain for my lunch!

Put it all together on a slice of bread and this is what you what you get:

After lunch, I was able to rest for a while on top of the mountain looking out over the valley of Norcia.

Here is a self-portrait of me and Norcia after I had come down from the Mountain.

Again, the trail was straight down to the point where I had to hang on to the trees and gingerly step my way down so that I didn't fall off the face of the mountain.  I am glad that I had taken the long way up the mountain, that is, around the back.  If had taken the path that I took down on my way up I would have had to have some climbing gear!

Retreat in Norcia

I just got back from a week-long retreat in Norcia, Italy.  Norcia is a beautiful town nestled in the Umbrian countryside.  It is not too far from Assisi or Cascia where St. Francis and St. Rita came from, respectively.  Now Norcia is not to be out-done by these other Umbertide saints.  It is the famous home of St. Benedict, the founder of western monasticism and the Patron of Europe. (also the name taken by the current sucessor of St. Peter)

The Monastery is located right on top of Benedict's childhood home.  There he lived with his parents and his sister St. Scholastica.  The home that they lived in has been uncovered though archeological digs in the crypt of the Basilica.

In this picture you can see the Basilica and main piazza of Norcia.  Notice the Statue of St. Benedict in the middle of the Piazza.  Notice also the mountains climbing up behind the town.

The town where Benedict lived was of Roman origin.  The Latins called it Nursia.  There has been a Christian influence there from very early in the town's history.  The Church of St. Lawrence in which Benedict was baptized and received the other sacraments is still standing to this day.  It was erected in the fifth century.

I was on retreat for six days with the monks.    They got up for Matins at 4:15 and didn't stop praying or working (ora et labora is the benedictine motto) until Compline at 7:45 p.m.  During the winter schedule (which began on the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, Sept. 14)  They only eat one meal a day!  A very austere bunch these monks are.  Here you see some of their robes hanging outside the chapel.  They put these on over their regular habits for Lauds and Vespers.  

This is the chapel where the monks pray the midday hours of prime, terce, sext and none (1st, third, sixth and ninth hours).  The Blessed sacrament is also reserved here.

The monastic way of life is a refuge from the world so that heaven might be contemplated.  The monk's whole life is fixed on praising and glorifying God; another Benedictine motto, Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus!  (That in all things God might be glorified!)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Visit to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

This afternoon I had to go out and get a few amices from Barbiconi (a clerical taylor shop) and so I made a plan to stop by and visit the famous Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  The highlight of the church for me is the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church.  The Church itself is a rarity in that it is in the gothic style - not found very much in Rome where many of the churches are Romanesque, Baroque and Rococo.  

The tomb of St. Catherine of Siena is in the transept and is the located under the main altar 

The Church is located just around the corner from the Pantheon.  You can see it right when you walk out into the piazza.

I leave for Norcia tommorrow morning.  I will be there for a week of retreat before my studies begin.

Oremus pro invicem

Casa Santa Maria

I am getting set up in my new residence, the Casa Santa Maria.  The Casa is the graduate priest department of the Pontifical North American College.  There are about 70 priests from North America studying at the various Roman Universities who have their residence here. This place is really beautiful with long corridors and green gardens in the courtyard.  It is very Roman in its layout and style.  Here are some pictures to give you an idea.

As we used to say up on the 'hill' (The Seminary Division of the North American College), "It 'aint home but it sure is much!"

My room is one of many here at the Casa.  They are mostly set up like monastic cells because this at one time was a convent and the rooms were the sisters cells.  The building is kind of a patch work of add-ons and additions and so no two room are the same.  Mine faces the Via dell'Archetto which is a noisy little alley way not much bigger than a normal driveway but with cars and motorini passing by all day.  There is also a little restaurant across the street that has outdoor seating right underneath my window which makes for noisy nights when it's hot outside.  The romans love to eat outside and I have to leave my window open because there is no AC.  Here is a picture of my little 'cell'.  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Up and Running

This post serves to inaugurate my blog, Praedica Verbum, on my life as a priest of Jesus Christ.  I intend to use it as an 'updater' to all who might be interested.  

Oremus pro invicem