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!)