In moments of tragedy when all seems lost, God calls us to trust that somewhere, somehow, good can come from it.
Over the last 9 months, we monks of Norcia have set out to follow that path. Our home, the monastery and basilica of St. Benedict, the birthplace of our patron, was destroyed. We have lived in tents, then cabins, all the while wrestling with nature’s coldest and snowiest winter of recent memory. And we have dirtied our hands and habits in mud, working together to begin the work of constructing new buildings, and with them, a future.
With that recent history in mind, we thanked God deeply and joyfully this past Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Apostles. We believe that same Spirit was there in our new wooden chapel, built to accommodate as many as 150 faithful and 24 monks. Finally, those ancient chants swelled through the new wooden rafters and once again we were able to open our doors to those eager to immerse themselves in the mysteries of God alongside the monks. While the formal inauguration of the building, which is the first phase of our future abbey, will take place September 17, we chose to celebrate Mass even with an unfinished roof. In this way, we remember: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eum. Unless God builds the house in vein do the laborers build it.
The entire first phase has been possible with the help of hundreds of individuals and groups from around the world. For their generosity, we are deeply grateful. But on the heels of the opening of our new chapel, one sponsor deserves special recognition: Leffe beer. Leffe took on the construction of our chapel as a special way of contributing to the efforts to rebuild Norcia and give hope to the whole earthquake-affected region.
Leffe beer, one of the most highly prized beers of Belgium and brewed in the monastic tradition, launched a special limited-edition brew with Birra Nursia, our own beer, as a joint label with Leffe Blonde. While the two beers, Leffe and Birra Nursia, remain distinct, the Nursia name on the Leffe Blonde bottle signifies the shared commitment of the two breweries: to rebuild Norcia and bring hope to the tragedy-stricken region.
The beer is available in Italian markets starting this week. 100,000 bottles will be sold, and all the profits will go to sponsor the chapel, which is not just for the monks, but is open to all those thirsting after God. Read more about the Leffe project at leffepernorcia.it. Every purchase directly benefits the monastery.
The announcement of the Leffe sponsorship of the chapel also provides a fitting occasion to remind our friends that we hope to break ground on our own new brewery this August. To meet that goal, we need 250,000 in funds. We hope that you might help us by making a gift to this project.
As Summer heats up, the monks are hard at work building, planning, but most of all, praying that out of the darkness of this recent period in this mountainous region’s history, God might bring graces upon the people of Norcia and all those in Italy who have suffered from the earthquakes. The monks also look forward to the more formal inauguration of the new structure, which is planned for September 17. We hope to share that moment with our friends, so please consider making a visit.
May God Bless all of you as well for your prayers and your material support of the monastery.
Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.