Today, April 23 is the feast of St. George the Martyr and the name day of Pope Francis who was baptized Jorge (George) Mario Bergoglio. It is a longstanding tradition in Italy for people to celebrate their onomastico or name day – the day of the saint for whom they were named at baptism. Many Italians celebrate their onomastio in a bigger fashion than their actual birthday.

To mark his name day, today Pope Francis donated 6,000 rosaries to youth from the archdiocese of Milan. This was done through the auspices of the Office of Papal Charities (the papal Almoner or Almsgiver) with rosaries that had been made for the 2019 World Youth Day held in Panama in January.

A Vatican note explained that the rosaries were made of olive wood from the Holy Land. Caritas Jerusalem organized the production of the rosaries, which gave work to the poor, to refugees, and to families of prisoners.

Tomorrow morning, the young people from Milan will attend the weekly general audience with the Holy Father.

In a note, the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti said that, “accompanying [the Pope’s] gesture, the Holy Father asked the young people to remember him in a special way in their prayer, particularly by entrusting him to the Virgin Mary just a few days before the month of May” which is dedicated to the Mother of God.

In 2018 on his name day, Pope Francis offered 3,000 servings of Italy’s celebrated gelato to the homeless and needy and he actually marked this day by spending time with the needy and homeless of Rome, according to a brief note from the Office of Papal Charities.


Here is the latest missive from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia as they continue to rebuild their monastery and the basilica of St. Benedict after the October 2016 earthquake. They have been men of faith with a very positive outlook since day one of the catastrophic event that flattened the celebrated basilica. In this Easter letter, they also offer a link to their recent digital newsletter – definitely worth your while, lots of news and some great photos.

“We wish you and all of your loved ones a holy Easter week.

”The Easter Solemnity this year brings us face to face with the mystery of death, new life and Christ’s sacrificial act which brings those two together. First with news of the fire at Notre Dame in Paris and then the stories of the hundreds of dead and wounded Christians in Sri Lanka, we try to unite our prayers at the foot of the Cross, with all those suffering from these tragedies, and we pray that the light of the Resurrection will come through the darkness of sin and death.

“Our most recent print newsletter has just been sent to press, and in it, we have included some photos of the Easter Triduum at the monastery, details about our new canine guardians, and our progress in learning monastic sign language to maintain silence within the clausura. But because we want to share these many good things with you during this time of holy celebration, we’ve included a digital copy of the newsletter in this e-mail. You can view it by clicking here.

“To close on a lighter note: Those of you who have been regularly following developments “in Monte” will recognize the name Tertullian; not the early Christian Latin author but the monastery’s tortoise who freely roams our cloister. Dug into the ground hibernating, as is his custom during the winter months, we had started to worry that we had lost him because he had been “away” for an unusually long period this year. However, recently, he emerged from his hole and is now trotting about (at a turtle’s pace) again, much to the delight of the monks.

“May God bless you and reward you for your prayers and help as we, renewed with light from the Paschal mystery, continue to work to bring new life to Norcia through the rebuilding of our monastery. Prior Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.”

The monks ask people to keep their homemade beer in mind as its sales help in the rebuilding of the monastery after the devastating earthquake of October 2016 that destroyed their monastery and razed the basilica of St. Benedict to the ground. When the monks announced the damage in a series of tweets, they also announced that the monks were all safe. They have been rebuilding every since.




On Thursday July 26, my second full day in Prague, I was privileged to visit the Benedictine monastery of Brevnov on the outskirts of Prague with my new friends from the bishops’ conference, along with our guide, Benedictine Father Ales.

Brevnov, the first monastery on Bohemian land, was founded in 993 (!) by Duke Boleslav and by Prague’s second archbishop, St. Adalbert. It kept its Romanesque features until the the mid-13th century and was one of the most significant institutions of the land, eventually becoming a “parent” monastery to others.

Over the centuries, with political vicisstudes, conflicts and economic downturns, the monastery struggled and its members, even for brief periods, had to leave for other convents. There were years when the priests returned, years of rebuilding and prosperity that alternated with years of struggle and hardships.

The brewery – the brewers, the malt, some tasting, the hops –

Much of what you see today at Brevnov, the many buildings used for the hotel, the restaurant, and the brewery and the many rooms available for academic groups and for pilgrims and retreats date from the 17th century.

The earliest foundations – 

From the 1950s under the communists to the 1990 return of buildings to the Benedictines, the main convent was the seat of the State Secret Police! This happened in many instances for Church property in the communist years – sometimes total destruction, sometimes partial devastation and more often ecclesiastical buildings were confiscated to use for prisons, hospitals or offices of communist officials.

The grounds –

This is all important to know when we look at the post-communist years, from 1990 on, when parishes, monasteries, convents, dioceses with their buildings and offices – all had to do enormous rebuilding, both material and spiritual.

Rooms and halls open to groups for study, retreats, etc.

Father Ales, in addition to spending hours with us and explaining every nook and cranny of Brevnov as well as the spiritual and material rebuilding, gave me a small booklet on the history of this monastery. I was still grappling with the fact I was spending the day at a living, breathing, working monastery that was 1,025 years old!

The booklet noted that, among the vicissitudes of history, “certain forms of monastic life have changed throughout the centuries. The monks had to react to the changes in society in which their convents belonged and where they were active. There is, however, one significant constant: the day of the monks is now, as it was a thousand years ago and in compliance with the Rule of St. Benedict, divided between prayer (public liturgy, ie, the Mass and the Divine Office, as well as private prayer) and work.”

The church of St. Margaret –

Today, in addition to the St. Adalbert hotel, the great restaurant and the brewery and a small publishing house, the monastery is a fully functioning parish of St. Margaret.

I immensely enjoyed my visit to this Benedictine monastery and so wished that I could have just registered at the hotel to spend a few days in the calm and peace of this abbey and the Czech countryside.

Here we are, over a post prandial coffee, reflecting on our memorable visit to Brevnov monastery –

I focus on monasteries, the ones that I visited in the Czech Republic, because, in case you did not know it, staying at a monastery in most European nations is an eminently doable possibility for travellers. Your mind will whirl with ideas if you start an Internet search on this possibility!

But start here, near Prague, at Brevnov monastery!



I am about to go to Mass at Our Lady Victorious, the church in Prague that is home to the lovely Infant of Prague, a statue whose name is known the world over.

I have spent another amazing day in this very beautiful and hospitable country but time is short now so this is more of a “please come back tomorrow” column than it is a daily diary. You see, I want to write about my day at the historic Benedictine monastery of St. Adalbert and St. Margaret when I have time to do the story justice and post my photos, and tell you about my new friends, workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

I’ll be visiting another monastery tomorrow, well outside of Prague. These stories are all about the rebirth of the Catholic Church and religious congregations in the Czech Republic in the post-communist years.

Thanks for understanding! More tomorrow!




Join me this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

The 4th American to occupy this post, Abbot Gregory will tell us about the history of the order, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk and he looks at the growth of the order in the world.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


An eloquent, impassioned voice for the Catholic Church, particularly for relations between Catholics and Muslims, was silenced yesterday.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, died in the United States on July 5 where he was being treated for Parkinson’s disease. (photo: vaticannnews)

Born in France, this Prince of the Church was at the Vatican for many years, serving in the Secretariat of State in particular. He was secretary of the nunciatures to the Dominican Republic and Lebanon, came back to Rome and over the years participated in special missions in Haiti, Beirut and Damascus and knew the Middle East especially well.

In 1990 he was appointed Secretary for Relations with States, and in 2003 was named Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church. In 2007 Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, 2014 named French Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had turned 80 on December 2.

On March 13, 2013, as camerlengo, Cardinal Tauran announced the election of Cardinal Bergoglio who took the name Pope Francis:

And this is only the tip of a very large iceberg that is the cardinal’s years of service to the Church.

Cardinal Tauran, a true gentleman and a brilliant scholar, was considered one of the most knowledgeable and capable diplomats of generations of papal diplomats.

A reserved personality, he nonetheless always made a remarkable impact when he was a member or head of a Vatican delegation to international conferences. Cardinal Tauran was a terrific listener and yet, when he spoke in his soft voice, he made his audience become the good listeners. You knew you were listening to someone with vast knowledge of the topic he was speaking about, someone of great authority.

I had the wonderful great luck, in my years at the Vatican Information Service, to have interacted with Cardinal Tauran on a number of occasions. When he was Secretary for Relations with States, VIS was constantly writing news stories about his speeches, his interventions on the international stage, his meetings with foreign leaders and so on.

When he was made a cardinal, he was the first one I went to see during the afternoon courtesy visits.

In May 2004 I was one of six journalists chosen by Cardinal Tauran to join him in Doha, Qatar for the Qatar Conference on Muslim-Christian Dialogue.

Those were amazing days, not just the conference but breaking bread with the cardinal or sitting around in the lobby with my journalist colleagues, chatting away and asking questions of him like mad.

There is much more to say about those days and about Cardinal Tauran and his life and work and I’ll do so next week. I published an interview with him in the National Catholic Register, I did three stories for the Vatican Information Service and in later years, June of 2009, I interviewed him for Vatican Insider. I will re-air that conversation.

I admired and respected so very much about Cardinal Tauran – the man, the diplomat, and the humble priest who found time behind the scenes for personal charities and helping people and institutions. My esteem grew with every encounter.

What was most remarkable about Cardinal Tauran, certainly in these later years, was his indefatigable spirit, his endless love for the Church, for diplomacy, for trying to bring peace to a world that so badly needs it. He never stopped working. He was in his 11th year at the council for Inter-religious Dialogue, He seemed to be tireless, when it came to all things Church, notwithstanding the increasingly devastating effects of Parkinson’s.

And today he is resting in the Lord. RIP!


I wish Pope emeritus Benedict XVI God’s choicest blessings as today he marks 67 years of priesthood! God sit on your shoulder!


Join me this weekend for my conversation with Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation Gregory Polan. Born near Chicago Illinois, Abbot Polan is a linguist, a scripture and theology scholar, a translator and, I have heard, is quite the organist. As abbot primate of the Confederation, he is also the abbot of St. Anselm in Rome and chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm and its Pontifical Liturgical Institute.

Abbot Polan was ordained a priest on May 26, 1977. After some years of teaching and pastoral experience in a parish, he completed his doctorate in Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Faculty of Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. He served in the administration at Conception Seminary College from 1985 until 1996. In 1996, he was elected Abbot of Conception Abbey, and subsequently in September 2016 was elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation.

Listen as Abbot Polan tells us about St. Benedict, the history of the order, its famous motto, his specific ministry as Abbot primate, what it means to be a monk, the difference between monastery, abbey and priory, the Benedictine Oblates and so much more.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)


Here is a terrific update from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia about the progress in re- building since last fall’s devastating earthquake. I could not get the Facebook icon in their email to work so this is the next best thing: http://mailchi.mp/nursia/springatthemonastery-494285


(Vatican Radio) At an audience for a delegation from the Nigerian diocese of Ahiara, Pope Francis said he had been “deeply saddened” by the refusal of the diocese to accept the Bishop appointed for them. (photo: news.va)

During the audience, the Pope requested explicitly that the diocese receive Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed to Ahiara by Pope Benedict in 2012. In his address to the delegation, the Holy Father, while asking pardon for the harsh language, said the Church in Ahiara “is like a widow for having prevented the Bishop from coming to the diocese.” He called to mind the parable, from the Gospel of Matthew, of the murderous tenants who wanted to steal the inheritance. “In this current situation, the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has lost her fertility, and cannot bear fruit. Whoever is opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the diocese wants to destroy the Church.”

In such a situation, Pope Francis continued, where the Church is suffering, “the Pope cannot remain indifferent.”

In response to that situation, which he described as “an attempted taking over of the vineyard of the Lord,” Pope Francis asked “every priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and personally. We all must share this common sorrow.”

Whoever fails to do so within thirty days, the Pope said, “will be ipso facto [by that very fact] suspended a divinis [‘from divine things,’  such as the celebration of the sacraments] and will lose his current office.”

This course of action was necessary, he continued, “Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences. Maybe someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.”

Following the Pope’s address, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, thanked the Holy Father. Following his remarks, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, asked the Holy Father that the Diocese of Ahiara, with its Bishop, might make a pilgrimage to Rome to meet with him when the situation was resolved; a request the Pope accepted.

The audience concluded with a prayer to Mary and the blessing of the Holy Father.

Complete text of Papal letter here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-receives-delegation-from-nigerian-diocese-of


When Okpaleke was appointed to the diocese, the announcement was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy.

Nevertheless, he was ordained a bishop in May 2013, although the ordination took place not in the Ahiara diocese, but at a seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri.

Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo State in southern Nigeria.

Okpaleke is from Anambra State, which borders Imo to the north.

A petition to Pope Benedict launched by the “Coalition of Igbo Catholics” said, “That no priest of Mbaise origin is a bishop today … is mind boggling. Mbaise has embraced, enhanced the growth of and sacrificed for the Catholic Church, has more priests per capita than any other diocese in Nigeria and certainly more than enough pool of priests qualified to become the next bishop of the episcopal see of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise.”

According to the Vatican, the diocese has close to 423,000 Catholics and 110 diocesan priests.

Trying to calm the situation, in July 2013 Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Onaiyekan to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese, and the following December he sent Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to Ahiara to listen to the concerns of the diocesan priests and local laity.

Onaiyekan joined Okpaleke on the “ad limina” visit to Rome, as did Kaigama and Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri. Three priests, a religious sister and a traditional elder also made the trip.





The Vatican today released a video message from Pope Francis for the XXXII World Youth Day to be held in the dioceses of the world on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017. The Pope’s written message was also released (see below). Following is the text in English of the video message:

Dear young people,

With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you young people.

We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story.

Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.

As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it.

Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019. May God bless you all.

For the video: Go to: http://www.news.va/en and scroll down until you see VIDEO CHANNEL – click here to see Pope Francis who speaks in Spanish

Here is the link to Pope Francis’ written message for the 2017 diocesan level celebration of the XXXII World Youth Day, which takes place on Palm Sunday on the Marian theme: “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” taken from the Magnifcat. The Holy Father tells young people that the world “needs your courage, dreams and ideals.” http://www.news.va/en/news/our-lady-at-the-heart-of-2017-wyd-message


Following is a letter and some photos sent by Father Benedict Nivakoff, OSB, Prior with an update as they mark the transitus of St. Benedict:

Dear Friends, On this Feast, for several centuries, monks, clergy and citizens of Norcia have celebrated St. Benedict’s Transitus – his earthly death and birth into Heaven — in a packed basilica with local townspeople in medieval costume. In the crypt of that basilica, the saint (and his saintly sister) was born to life, while in the upper church his birth into heaven was remembered. Eight months after the great earthquake of 2016, the celebrations have a different character.

The Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia offered the Mass at a portable altar in front of the statue of our great patron in the piazza with the ruins of the basilica and its still-standing facade covered in scaffolding in the background. Beloved traditions do not die easily and today’s solemnity is a timely reminder that “deep roots are not touched by the frost.”

The Feast comes in Lent and along with St. Joseph and the Annunciation, this week brings a sort of intermission to the monk’s Lenten routine. Many ask me about it. Here is a brief sketch. Our day still begins at the same time, 03:15 AM. Private Lectio, devotions, low Masses and classes punctuate the morning between vigils, lauds, prime and terce. The sung Conventual Mass is at 10:00 as usual then we go outside to work. The main difference to our schedule is that the one meal of the day is moved to 17:30. St. Benedict was keen that the monks not eat until after vespers, or near sunset. Afterward, there is a short meeting called collation, then compline and bed time. Each monk suggests to the Prior a little extra fasting, a little extra prayer and some almsgiving (within the house) and these are added to his daily schedule.

For one of our monks, Fr. Basil, this Lent has an added gift of service. He is spending the month of March with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, India. Last year, Br. Anthony was able to help the sisters there for a month and it proved an invaluable source of inspiration for his monastic vocation and for our community at home. While it is true that there are many ways we try to help people near us in the earthquake zone, the stark poverty that affects that region of India brings an added urgency and we are glad our monks can lend a hand.

One way we help locally is through our beer, and we are grateful to God to be able to announce that after moving some equipment and making minor repairs we will finally be reopening a part of the brewery next week for production. Most of the brewery is still badly damaged but a small part remains intact. Re-opening that part (with some modifications) will allow us to get Birra Nursia out — albeit in limited quantities — to more local shops trying to open again. I’ll have more information about that next week. May Nursia help to gladden hearts in Norcia and abroad and may God bless each of you for your continued support of lour many needs!



Dear Friends,

Although aftershocks continue, we are doing our best to return to our normal monastic life. As we try, we are still responding to the ever-new and evolving challenges of life in a heavily earthquake-damaged region. The difficulty of this task was epitomized this past week as we returned to one of our community’s “wilder” customs.   Every week, we take a three-hour hike in the mountains near the monastery. Four times a year, though, we extend that to an all-day or even overnight excursion. Last week we retraced an old favorite route of the path from Norcia to the monastery of Sant’Eutizio in Preci. St. Eutizio was a hermit and, along with St. Fiorenzio and St. Spes, educated the child St. Benedict. The walk we took was the walk our patron would have taken 15 centuries ago to build up his foundations in virtue and learning.

Except for the sighting of a family of 12 wild boars – which we chased for 200 yards before we lost them in the thick woods — this normally gentle and welcoming path looks nothing like it did six months ago. Much of the attention after the earthquakes has understandably been paid to the bigger disasters of the towns of Amatrice and Norcia, but what isn’t so often reported are the saddening blocks of tiny ruined country villages. We saw church after church lowered to the ground and house after house destroyed beyond repair in hill towns that news cameras didn’t reach. As we hiked, they seemed to all blend together into one long tragic chain. Even though lives were spared by the grace of God, the men and women of these places have no home to return to and many have no jobs to sustain them. They also must confront the question of whether to stay and wait for the rebuilding of a brand new town, or settle with friends and family in better conditions.

Uniting our prayers to those suffering, we began earlier this month a new tradition of a community rosary procession with a statue of Our Lady, which we pulled from the rubble of our monastery in town. Painstakingly repaired by one of the novices with glue and plaster, we wandered with her through the hillside and up and down the mountain paths asking her to intercede so that new life will spring up in these millennia-old towns and villages. Quia non est impossibile apud Deum.

With the assurance of our prayers and gratitude for your support,

Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B. Prior



From the Benedictine Monks of Norcia –

Dear friends,

How can I even begin to describe the scene we witnessed yesterday in Norcia?

It was like those photographs of bombed-out churches from the Second World War. It reminded me of all those ruined monasteries one sees passing through the English countryside. It was an image of devastation. All the churches in Norcia are on the ground. Every single one. The roofs caved in on all of them; they are no more. What remains of them are a few corners, a facade, a window with the sun coming through from the wrong side. Inside are “bare ruin’d choirs” as Shakespeare wrote of the destroyed monasteries in his time.

The Church of the Madonna Addolorata in Norcia, crumbled to the ground. Notice the still-standing inscription above the door, which bears the words from the Book of Lamentations: Missit ignem in ossibus meis. (He hath sent fire into my bones.)



The wonder, the miracle, is that there were no casualties. All the fear and anxiety following the first few earthquakes now seem a providential part of God’s mysterious plan to clear the city of all inhabitants. He spent two months preparing us for the complete destruction of our patron’s church so that when it finally happened we would watch it, in horror but in safety, from atop the town.

The Basilica of San Benedict, Norcia.


Is it over yet? We do not know. These are mysteries which will take years — not days or months — to understand. We watch and pray all together on the mountainside for Norcia and for the world. The priests go into town to visit the sick and the homeless. We are grateful for your prayers, as ever.

In Christ,

Fr. Benedict




Here is the latest letter from Fr. Benedict, subprior of the Monks of Norcia, a town struck once again by Wednesday’s earthquake in central Italy:

Dear friends, I am hesitant to implore you all again for prayers and support. In the midst of so much suffering, one cannot help but feel a kind of embarrassment to invite your attention to our situation so soon after the first series of earthquakes in August. Since then, we monks have been trying to determine God’s will for our lives and community. Perhaps, at least for us, this second quake is God yelling even louder His will for our lives. We pray for understanding.   Over the past 24 hours, a powerful series of earthquakes passed through Norcia, once again graciously sparing the lives of the monks and inhabitants to Norcia. Unfortunately, however, it has brought many of the townspeople to the brink of despair and more damage than any of us can yet assess. As before, we are busy at work trying to respond to the crisis on multiple levels. Therefore, my time is short to update all of you, even though you each have found so much time to support us through your prayers and donations.

The Basilica fared the worst. Entire walls of decorative plaster crashed to the floor and the dome has begun to cave in. The roof collapsed in two places, leaving the ancient Basilica exposed to all the elements. Most dramatically, perhaps, the Celtic Cross which adorned the 13th century facade came crashing down.


The 50% of the monastery which had been considered “habitable” after the August quakes has now been damaged far beyond what one might call safe livable conditions. At 10:30 PM last night, 5 of the town monks escaped to San Benedetto in Monte to join the 8 of us already here, where, after a common sip of Birra Nursia Extra, we camped out for a night of turbulence. After a few scant moments of sleep, we rose at 3:30 AM for Matins and started to accept once more that our life is not our own and God had altered our path once again, solidifying it here on the mountain top. Sadly, for the foreseeable future, this means it will no longer be possible for us to offer Mass in the crypt of the Basilica for the public. But, if God wills it, we will soon offer Mass here on the mountain.

In closing, and on a note of hope, I want to tell you about a special visitor we had this morning. In an act of both ecclesiastical solidarity and paternal support, and as the ground beneath us continued to tremble, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon, became the first Bishop to offer Mass in the private chapel of our modest dwellings. The Bishop was in Norcia to participate in the fifth annual Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage. (photo from Summorum Pontificum)


Following the earthquake, the pilgrimage’s Norcia events were cancelled, and so the Bishop spent time with our community. He was able to join us for coffee and offered soothing words of support, which we in turn repeat and offer to all of those in the region affected by natural disaster: “God will bring good to you out of this suffering and this earthquake will become the cornerstone on which generations of monks will build their monastic life.”