Letter #65, 2016: “The Church Has Collapsed”

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October 31, 2016, Monday — The Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy, at the birthplace of St. Benedict (480-529 A.D.), has completely collapsed due to an earthquake, but thankfully… no lives have been lost in Norcia and the monks and nuns in the city are all safe

“The Basilica of St. Benedict is destroyed.'” —Father Benedict, an American Benedictine who is one of the leaders of the Benedictine monastery of Norcia, Italy, tweeting yesterday morning after an earthquake destroyed the basilica where their monastery (link)

In this image below, you can see a strange sight: the facade of the Basilica of St. Benedict still stands, silent, in a certain sense… majestic.

Behind the facade is the blue sky of central Italy — God’s blue sky… and then the green hills, off to the right in the background, that surround this beautiful Italian hilltown, located in almost the exact geographical center of Italy, just a bit more than an hour’s drive from the more famous hilltown of Assisi, where St. Francis was born and lived.

The large front door of the basilica, the arches over the door, the rose window — all the way up to the very top, the facade is still there.

But there is nothing behind the facade.

Behind the facade, the entire church has collapsed.

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This is how it used to look, when we visited there on so many occasions in recent years, to visit with the monks and spend time in Norcia:

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This is how a regional road sign looks today. There is rubble everywhere throughout the region:

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The monks had left the town and because of earlier shocks, and none were inside the church when it collapsed.

If they had been in the church, where it was their custom to prayed seven times daily, they would likely all have been killed.

So there is much to be thankful for, and now, much work to do to rebuild.

This is what Father Benedict wrote via email earlier today:

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 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.

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
Subprior

Here is another view of the church as it is today…

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To help the monks rebuild, you may contact them at their website and send donations: link.

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What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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Comments

  1. Michael says

    Dear Robert,

    When I see that picture of the Church facade standing and the rest of the Church destroyed, I could not help but think of an interview with the late Fr Malachi Martin in the 1990s who spoke of the institutional Church being a facade which would eventually implode, while the Mystical Body of Christ would go on hidden underground, just as Our Lord’s body was entombed and hidden for a short while. Satan will have his hour with his denying Peter and disloyal Judas, but God will have His eternity.

    Michael