Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I'm here, and ... it's awful...

I got off the bus yesterday in the brilliant sunshine, and a feeling of gloom and hopelessness settled over me like a dark fog. Fr. Benedict said in an interview recently that people have been very depressed, and I can understand now why.

The town looks like one gigantic construction zone, with piles of masonry everywhere, scaffolding, cranes and people in hard hats and steel-toed boots... in which the world's biggest circus has come to camp for the winter. Norcia has become a strangely silent and depressing place. The centro is open, (and the blessed pizza place is running.. thanks be to God!). A few shops, a couple of restaurants are running, but at night it's a ghost town, with most of the piazza blocked off and full of carefully preserved, numbered and labelled masonry from the basilica laid out, piles of rubble and equipment taking up the rest.

I was awake half the night, my mind racing around and around over the same territory. There are at least 3000 displaced people in Norcia, nearly all of whom want to come back, and 70% of the residential structures badly damaged, "inagibile," or outright collapsed. Many, many people with a good deal more 'natural right' to be here than I can't come home.

I just kept going over the options over and over and over - maybe a year in Perugia to study Italian; maybe a stint in Narni where there are at least affordable rents and a Mass to go to (albeit, SSPX); maybe Spoleto and take the bus up on Sundays to Norcia to come to the little Mass in the container here at the monastery... Really, anything... ANYthing but summer in Lazio - that miserable swamp of sweaty tourists, heat, humidity and mosquitoes...

All night, round and round and round... all interspersed with unpleasant dreams [again... sigh] of being trapped in a collapsing building carrying a huge box of cats. Aaaaand about six times this lovely state of mind interrupted with earthquakes... just in case I forgot what this was all about.
I'm sitting now in the hall of the agritourismo - one of only two places left able to receive guests - listening to Blue Oyster Cult and having my coffee, and nearly despairing. Thank God for coffee... thank God for kindly Umbrian ladies with beautiful, sturdily reconstructed country houses...

It seems impossibly selfish of me to even imagine I could be the one Special Person who could find a house or flat to rent, while so many people are still sleeping in campers and trailers and anything else they can find. Or living in hotels unable to return. Really, what am I thinking?

But then the roundabout starts from the beginning again: where else is there to go? What else is there to do? For good or ill, no matter what, this seems to be my place, and I've spent my whole life looking for it. I found it and now it's been taken away.

It reminds me with rather grim humour of a conversation I had with Fr. Cassian once after Mass on the Basilica steps: "Everything is so perfect, the only thing I'm worried about now is that some catastrophe will take it all away. A piano will fall out of an airplane onto my head..."

Who knew? Apparently me.

I'm really not very good at making decisions. I have usually done things by the Sherlock Holmes method of figuring out all the things that are impossible, and doing whatever is left. But this is a puzzle, a conundrum that is nearly stumping me.

Everybody so inclined, I could use some help. This puzzle is more than I can figure out. I need some kind of miracle, a sign or at least a clear path. I'm praying to St. Philip Neri - who has never let me down before, and to Sts. Scolastica & Benedict, St. Anthony to "find" a solution, St. Joseph who knows all about how important home is.


Caterina said...

This is the link to an excellent, affordable and effective Italian language school in Assisi. About half the students are religious or seminarians. They will help you find lodging. Classes are relatively small and are from 9 to 1, Mon through Fri. After a few weeks you will be speaking with confidence. You should be able to go through the structure of the entire Italian language in 6 months.

As for Mass there is the 7:15 am Mass at Santa Chiara preceded by morning prayer. It's chanted by the cloistered nuns. Although it is Novus Ordo it isn't crazy. There is also the 7:15 at the Basilica of San Francesco. On Sundays you can go to Florence or Rome for the Traditional Mass. Vespers are all over town including San Damiano which is a very pleasant walk.

Do NOTgo to Perugia. The classes are large and filled with young kids looking for a good time. Not to mention the huge migrant and drug problem there. Assisi is safer and will be a much more pleasant experience. And yes, if you are going to live in Italy invest in 6 months to learn the language!

Anonymous said...

You haven't mentioned Our Lady. Total consecration is your answer.

Anonymous said...

Seems like excellent advice from both of the above for you and your "box of cats".

Thank you for sharing your heart and mind with us, Hilary. It's very obvious to me that
God has blessed you with a golden pen.

Whatever you decide, I'm sure many of us will be praying for you.


Michael Demers said...

Yes, if you're going to stay in Italy you might as well learn Italian. Move to Perugia and stay there a year just for stability's sake. And all the while, of course, keep checking in on Norcia.

SqurtCapt said...

I am no expert in things of depression, but a retired Fire Captain. Building collapse and so much debris is so hard for the mind and emotions to behold, yet after the rebuilding it is like Easter! Many times entire high rise buildings had to be vacated for rebuilding and neighborhoods destroyed by fire or wind leave one home per block. The grief is heavy and
the lack of old neighbors and friends unthinkable, yet you may be called to be there to support the Monks and the locals. While the town is being rebuilt learn Italian from your neighbors. My how they will miss you if you are not there.

Elizabeth O. said...

Dear Hilary,
I'm with SQURTCAPT, you may be called to support the monks and your neighbors there! See what an incredible job you did for that family when you gathered funds to help them! And also the man trying to re- establish his tech business...I also seem to recall that your monk spiritual director had suggested to you to make a decision regarding your commitment there.
At any rate, these Umbrian ladies, would they have a room or two where you could rent from them, make some temporary arrangement for you and your beasties while something else shows up?
And in the meanwhile, a suggestion for learning Italian, could you sign up in a U.S. Or Canadian Library District? Mine, for example, has access for free of a software called Rosetta Stone, with written and recorded voice lessons on a bunch of languages including Italian which you could study online then go practice with your beloved monks and neighbors. It's worth a try! I think it will work!
Going to Assissi or Perugia or wherever will be more painful, you'll be away from the people you love doesn't make sense. And I write this with experience in studying in Italy and learning Italian on my own there.
Give these ideas a thought, discernment.

Anonymous said...

oh herro

Emily said...

Hilary, this will do it for you. I kid you not. I have multiple impossible things going on in my life right now. One thing has been a struggle for 15 years and it is, through Her intercession, being resolved in a way that was more than I could hope for. So try this on for size. I would recommend doing it daily, with confidence. This was given to me by Fr. Chad Ripperger and I happily give it to you!

Consecration of One’s Exterior Goods to the Blessed Virgin Mary
I; (Name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose thee, O Mary, this day for my Mother and Mistress. Knowing that I have received rights over all my exterior goods by the promulgation of the the Natural Law by the Divine Author, I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, all of my exterior goods, past, present and future; I relinquish into thy hands, my Heavenly Mother, all rights over my exterior goods, including my health, finances, relationships, possessions, property, my job and my earthly success and I retain for myself no right of disposing the goods that come to me but leave to thee the entire and full right of disposing of all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity. As I now interiorly relinquish what belongs to me exteriorly into thy hands, I entrust to thee the protection of those exterior goods against the evil one, so that, knowing that they now belong to thee, he cannot touch them. Receive, O good and pious Virgin, this little offering of what little is, in honor of, and in union with, that subjection which the Eternal Wisdom deigned to have to thy maternity; in homage to the power which both of you have over this poor sinner, and in thanksgiving for the privileges with which the Holy Trinity has favored thee. Trusting in the providential care of God the Father and thy maternal care, I have full confidence that thou wilst take care of me as to the necessities of this life and will not leave me forsaken. God the Father, increase my trust in Thy Son’s Mother; Our Lady of Fair Love, give me perfect confidence in the providence of Thy Son.


Anonymous said...

What does Spiritual Director say? I suppose he didn't realise your house was out of commission. I'd be tempted to get or build a yurt and park it in a field near the monastery (if anyone would let you). But then, I haven't seen Norcia, especially as it is now, and I've never lived through major earthquakes.
I'm so sorry you're going through all this. Our prayers are with you. Chloe

Unknown said...

Praying for you Hilary. Lost also, in circumstances that don't even approach the complexity of yours; very sincerely, Tom Mc

Unknown said...

"albeit, SSPX" - really, Hilary! One cannot advise the SSPX do avoid the 'full communion' agreement with Papa Berg on one hand, and put some modifier on attendance at an SSPX chapel on another!

Anonymous said...

"It seems impossibly selfish of me to even imagine I could be the one Special Person who could find a house or flat to rent..."
Why? What might appear to be selfish to you may indeed be God's plan. You cannot see the bigger picture or the long-term plan that God may have for you. Be open to whatever God may place on your path and just ask Him, with the aid of His Holy Mother, to show you the way. You are His child; He is your Father. Think less, pray more.

God bless you.