Even missionaries need a day off. In doing God’s work it is crucial to center on prayer and that is hard to do when you are fighting bus schedules and event schedules and police office schedules. We have been fighting the good fight all week long with the only down time being that imposed upon us by the police every time they send us packing, but I’m sure you will all agree that doesn’t really count as a respite.
So on Sunday we allowed ourselves to sleep in past 6AM and go to the 11:00 High Mass at Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini . The acoustics in that church are so good that even a less stellar choir would sound good, but these top-notch musicians sounded truly angelic from the choir loft. Paired with the beauty of every other detail of the space, the art and architecture, the vestments, the liturgy…it was a much-needed reward after this week’s labors.
After Mass we joined the parishioners for coffee in the back room and I finally got to meet “The Great Roman” Fabrizio that we all hear about on Father Z’s blog, as well as several other parishioners and visitors. We could have stayed all day, but a rental car awaited us for our journey to Norcia to visit the Monastery and pray with the monks.
We gathered our things and caught a cab and were halfway to the car rental place when I looked at the paperwork and realized…that it had closed already an hour ago.
Our taxi driver was marvelous, immediately suggested that we try the train station, as they would likely still be open, and even looked up some options on his phone for us (yes, while driving…yikes!). So it cost quite a bit more and took much longer to leave, but we did finally get a car and began the trip out of the city.
I was worried that the traffic would be extremely stressful, but even with the manual transmission I didn’t find the traffic to be any worse than what I have experienced in downtown Chicago at times.
Of course, with the delays, we did not manage to make it to the monastery in time for Vespers, but we did get there for Benediction and Compline, and obtained permission to come early in the morning for Matins and Lauds.
The valley where Norcia is located is surrounded by mountains and it is not unusual on chilly mornings like this one for cool mist to become trapped until the sun becomes warm enough to burn it all off. Therefore our trip back up the hill this morning was not only in the dark, but through thick pea-soup fog.
However, the monastery is perched up on the mountain, above the fog, so we could see the stars above and only murkiness below. It was like being in an island in the sky.
The monks at Norcia set their schedule according to the sun, not the clock, so Matins was timed to end just as the sky was beginning to brighten, and shortly after this, Lauds began while the sun climbed into the sky. These two full hours of prayer are chanted while standing. If you want to test your endurance, I recommend praying these hours with the monks and seeing if you can stand as long as they do without your back screaming at you. Let’s just say it was an excellent penance that we offered up for the sake of our Church.
We missed Prime because we needed a bite to eat in order to remain upright, and needed to check out of our AirBNB apartment. But we had plenty of time to recite it on our own while we waited for the Conventual Mass at 9:30.
To say that all of this was glorious is surely redundant.
After Mass we were honored to be able to speak for a few minutes with Father Cassian Folsom, the founder of the Monastery and now the guestmaster. And of course we didn’t neglect to pick up some Birra Nursia, which we finally tried after dinner tonight and I can say in all honesty that it lives up to the hype. Just get some.
Besides the opportunity to pray and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, one of the best parts of the trip from Rome to Norcia is the stunning beauty of the countryside. Here you will see the face of God.
Our little group will soon break up as our students from the Angelicum are busy with their studies, our Brazilian friend is out of town and my “right hand” who helped me plan this ambitious project is returning home too. I will stay on through the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage but I must now decide whether to face the police yet again this week, to renew our permission to stand in the ghetto by Castel Sant’Angelo, or to move on to other activities. Please continue to pray for us.