The monastery in Norcia

Hoping for an early Spring


On the Feast of St. Scholastica on the 10th of February, locals have always been able to tell if Spring is coming, or if Winter will persist. If sparrows are chirping near the roof, Spring will come soon. So says the received wisdom.

We hope Spring does come soon. This has been the coldest and snowiest winter in Norcia for at least 16 years. Our pipes froze shortly after Epiphany and have remained frozen for about 10 days. Without running water, we’ve had to be a bit like pioneer-monks. You can guess what kind of adventures through the woods we had to undertake without running water at the monastery! On top of that, a pack of wolves mysteriously started making nightly visits — we think for prayer! By the sound of their howls we guessed they were not more than 50 yards away.

More animals were spotted during the annual feast of St. Anthony, January 18th. The Feast of St. Anthony of the Desert is traditionally the feast when animals are blessed in Norcia. Outside the makeshift parish church, which is a tent, horses, donkeys, dogs and cats waited while Mass was offered. All the monks participated because this great Desert Father is also patron to the Benedictine nuns in town whose convent was severely damaged. It was good to see our sisters again in their full black habits and veils, a reminder of a once-common occurrence in Norcia. While offering Mass in a tent is a reminder of how dire the situation is in the region, the keeping of local traditions provides hope to the people that some day life will return to normal.

Annual gatherings like the Chesterton Gala also bring delight. This year Fr. Cassian and I represented the monastery at the dinner in San Benedetto del Tronto to benefit the classical education the Chesterton School offers to students in the area, many of whom came to the Basilica once a month (a 90 minute drive) for Sunday Solemn mass. What the monks try to do in our own vocation, with prayer and conversion, the Chesterton School does with teaching and care for students — all for God.

Little by little work has begun to clear away rubble from the Basilica floor. Though years remain before we can enter there again, all the monks are eager to see the work of rebuilding begin so that out of the dust of those rocks, Gregorian Chant and incense can once again be offered there to God.

In Christ,

Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.