Here we go again. You all will see that I've put the begging bowl up on the sidebar again, and yes, I need some help.
Don't worry, it's not C. But it's one of those times when all the Big Expensive Things seem to be happening at once. It goes like that I guess. You see the first one coming and you adjust and figure out how to deal and you reckon you've got it worked out... then comes the second one and you're all, "OK, well just give me a little time and I'll work this one in too..." Then... holy helps!! as Grandpa used to say, who could expect that piano to fall out of the cargo plane and land directly on your head?!
But before we get into the Battalions of troubles, I've got some news: I'm moving.
The time is right and the auguries are all pointing to the need for some rather large changes. For a long time, I've complained both publicly and privately that my spiritual life is at a bit of a low.
Having had a good deal of time to think about things recently, it's clear that the succession of events, a lot of which I've not written about publicly, has really knocked the stuffing out of my "faith life". (Good grief! how I loathe frivolous God-talk!)
Oddly enough, living in Italy has significantly reduced my day to day involvement with the Faith. One would think that proximity to the Pope and all those incorrupt saints lying around in their baroque Snow White coffins would be sort of inspirational. But things have happened, let's just say.
Cancer treatment left me largely housebound and these days the trip into the City [to go to Mass at the parish] is hugely troublesome. A day in town must be paid for with two days in bed, and the rest of the week exhausted and draggy... I guess there's only so much I can force my poor old battered body to do.
And I haven't really got very much better since I wrote that post over two years ago. Indeed, as to Mass attendance and public liturgical devotions, the situation has actually gone downhill. I've found it more and more difficult either to drag myself all the way into the City on Sunday mornings or to face the horrors of the NO, with all its glories of the tambourines and hand-holding. Stuck in a bind.
And I am remembering more and more that I used to go to Mass every day. And I would sprint back to the church on Sunday evenings for Solemn Vespers. I had thought that the love of the liturgy was dying out in my wee soul, but after a week in Norcia I realise that it was really just starving to death. For a week, I attended at least five of the Offices a day and Mass, and there it was! my devotion!... I thought I'd lost it, but apparently it got up and moved to this astonishing little town in Umbria without telling me.
For some time now, I've felt the need to make a change, and for a while wanted to go to Malta to study at the university. But that has turned out to be, for the moment, logistically impossible. (Also, the Maltese Church has yet to figure out that the only way it's going to survive is to revert to the traditions that got tossed 50 years ago... There are problems, let's just say.)
So I sat down and thought and consulted smart people, and asked myself what I really, actually need. A week in Norcia answered the question. It turned out to be simple, and that I had known it all along:
What's the most important thing you have to do in this life? Save your immortal soul.
How do you do that? Through the ordinary means of the sacramental life.
What if you can't get that where you live? You have to go somewhere you can get it.
What if you don't want to give up the nice friends and seaside lifestyle? Those things are important, but not as important as the other thing. If you were physically starving, and there were no food in your house, you'd go out and buy some, right? If there were no shops, you would go and forage. If you couldn't find any food, you would leave your home and go pretty far to find some. Right? Well... this is the food of the soul, and without it...
So, when I was up there, I consulted and talked to people, and, as with most of these things in life, by the time I'd finished all that the decision had pretty much just made itself.
Now, here's the weird, spooky part. I sat in the basilica, and said, "OK Lord, I think it's a good idea, and so do these important people I consult. But if You think it's a good idea, You'll have to show me by a sign. And a helpful sign would be to find the right flat or house for rent. Here's my list..."
I started simple: clean, quiet and outside the walls but close enough to not be too hard to get to the Basilica for Mass and the Office. Then I added some bonus points for a fireplace, bath tub, garden and a view
of the Valnerina,
...just to make it so hard that the only way to fulfil all of it would be divine intervention. Clever huh? A priest friend of mine told me once that when you're asking for signs in discernment, you have to be specific, and make it hard. I figured I had it licked. I had seen places in S. Marinella with one each of those, but never with all of them together.
So the next morning, the last day before I was to leave, I set out with Sandro, the nice realtor, who showed me three places: one was a rather unpleasant holiday flat in someone's house (no). The second, quite a nice ground floor place with a garden. Mmmm...not bad, a bit dark...no fireplace...kitchen a bit small... which I was going to take because it more or less fit the bill. We left the second place and I said, "Well, why don't we just go see the other one? You never know..."
We drove a little further up the hill from the City's main gate and parked. On one side of the road, the land dropped off steeply giving way to an amazing vista of the valley, spread out like a rumpled green blanket. On the other, the hill continued straight up, and there was a three story villa built on the side of the hill. The entrance was through a gate and steps that brought you up past two levels of terraced garden and into the side entrance of the house that was the middle floor flat. The whole valley-side of the house has a row of shuttered windows looking out over the valley for miles. Inside, the kitchen is huge as are two of the three bedrooms. The fireplace is functional, and the bath is one of those English jumbo kind with a sloping back. We went through the house opening windows and I was almost laughing.
The flat below is empty and the flat above is occupied for about two weeks a year by the owners who live in Calabria the rest of the year.
I asked how much, and when Sandro quoted the rent, I realised that if I took it, I would be paying less than half of what it's costing me to keep this place now. I looked up at heaven and said, OK, I get it. Thanks.
The next day I told Sandro to please start drawing up a contract for one year and left him my information before getting on the bus back to Rome-Horrible-Rome.
So, now I'm working my way step by step through the mountain of things I've got to do, and am a wee bit intimidated. And dear heavens! the money! I started choking a bit when I got an estimate from a mover (after four years and a bunch more furniture, we're finally past the stage in my life where I can move with a few friends, a two-four of beer and a rented van). So far they're saying between €1000 and €1200 to pick up, pack and deliver.
I have to pay off the gas and electric for this place, which, due to the peculiarities of Italian utility billing systems, is going to be another €2000 or so, and then there's the new place, which is going to require, as always, first and last, damage deposit and Sandro's fee, which I figure will all come to about €1500.
Which, let's see.. do the math... comes to...Holy cats!!
But I was going to soldier on, cobbling it all together with my own salary and loans from friends and some extra work I could pick up. I told myself, (breathe, breathe...) it doesn't have to all happen right this second, and the utilities will let me pay off the balance for the estimates on a monthly schedule (it's complicated... Italy...) and the new place is such a low rent (normal in rapidly emptying rural Umbria) that the whole thing will work itself out before long. Just grit teeth and get through...
Haha... funny you should mention teeth...
For the last couple of weeks, I've been fighting a rather unpleasant abscess on a tooth that has been troubling me for decades. Seven years ago, just before I left Toronto, it flared up with a ferocious infection caught through an exposed root and I was in an agony I can't describe. The emergency dentist I saw gave me a prescription for antibiotics and said the dreaded words: "root canal". For the first time in my life, I'm starting to feel like a real grownup because the words filled me not with dread of pain, but of money. In Canada, as in Britain and Italy, you have to pay for your own dental, and root canal work is between 500 and 1000 wherever you go. I didn't have that kind of money then, and still don't.
Well, the other day, the swelling got started and culminated in this... well, I won't give details. I got some amoxycilin and crossed my fingers. They're still crossed, but facts have to be faced, as do dentists. And honestly, a root canal, once the initial difficulties are over with, is preferable to the recurring trouble and chronic pain and sensitivity of the damn thing untreated. It hasn't started hurting yet, and it hasn't been long enough with the antibiotic to see if it's going to get better and settle down for a few more months. So, I'm hoping it can be pushed back a bit.
So, it's kind of a funny thing. All this banal life stuff has succeeded in distracting me from that giant, flaming Asteroid. The week in Norcia (after recovering from the trip home) has left me chipper and energetic. And hopeful. The truth is that this place was just too expensive. Rents in S. Mar. have come way down since I moved here six years ago, and if it weren't for the Mass and Sacraments problem I'd happily take a cheaper flat across town. But it's not just that. More than that, I have known for a long time that I have not been living the way I need to be living, or doing the things I need to be doing.
And something is drawing me; time's up, and I have hopes that some things that have been a long time unresolved will be sorted out by this change.
There's more to tell, of course, and I'll tell it soon,
but for now, I could really use some help.
....but in the meantime,
Nero Norcia is the annual Tartufo nero festival. Black gold. My friend and I visited right in the middle of all this in February.