It has been nearly seven months – it was the dawn of 24th August 2016 – from the terrible earthquake that has wounded the geographical heart of Italy. Many other earthquakes followed, an infinite series, some of which have caused new collapses and serious hardship for the population.
The symbol collapsed
If there is an image that more than others refers to this lapse of time characterized by violent telluric movements, is the one of the basilica of Saint Benedict, in Norcia, semi destroyed by the strong earthquake of the 30th October.
In front of the remains of the Church, today enclosed in a lattice of scaffolding, the statue of Saint Benedict that incredibly survived the fury of the earthquake, still stands at the centre of the square. The symbolic meaning of this granitic simulacrum that stands out among the ruins is very strong. It is true that the collapses and the loss of human lives cause anguish. But it is also true – and the earthly experience of St Benedict teaches it – that drama can generate the seed of a rebirth.
On the territory
Father Benedict Nivakoff, since November of last year prior of the Order of the Benedictine monks of Norcia, addresses a message of hope in an interview with in Terris. The presence of these religious, on average all young people, is a certainty for the local population.
Rooted in the territory in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, the monks continue to give spiritual and material help. Today for them is a special day. And not because it is the start of spring. The 21 March they make Memory of Saint Benedict of Norcia, their founder and patron of Europe. A feast that this year inevitably assumes a different flavour.
Sunday evening, the torch which is lighted for fifty years to symbolize the commitment of the great missionary monks who have helped bring Christianity in pagan areas of Europe, returned to Norcia after having made a stop also at the European Parliament. In lands devastated by wars and plagues, the Benedictine spirituality lit the flame of the rebirth that the local population, today, yearns once again.
“This is a time of anxiety – says Father Benedict – because winter is now passed, the climatic conditions improve and people quivers in wanting to rebuild their town and their homes. However, there are some impediments. I am not able to identify the causes, I am not aware of all the events, but I understand the frustration felt“.
The prior says that “people still lives in a state of emergency “, they talk of “shoring components, safety works, prefabricated”, but “they have not started the restructuring work”. The same monks currently live in the wooden cottages located in the countryside outside Norcia, among wolves and wild boar.
The strength of faith
It is here that they continue to gather for the daily prayers and to celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, in Latin. “We try to testimony stability and spirituality – says Father Benedict -. People see us, know that we are here and that we are not abandoning this land”.
The Benedictine monks are also famous for the production of a good beer, Nursia. “The brewery – explains Father Benedict – is the only area of the monastery that is still usable”. Restructuring works are in progress. “If God wants – he continues -, next week we will be able to open a part that will enable us to resume the production of beer“.
The opening of the plant will be a sign of the rebirth, which could happen right in the period of the feast of St Benedict. “This saint – tells the prior – is the symbol of the rebirth of Christianity after the fall of the Roman Empire. We all hope that Saint Benedict today can inspire a new rebirth, of reconstruction but also of faith”.
Two aspects, these, which often coincide. There can be no material reconstruction, if it is not founded on solid spiritual basis. The thought of Father Benedict goes to the Europe of today: “Over the last fifty years, but even before that, going up to the French Revolution and the Reformation, there has been a process of oblivion of the aspect of the incarnation of God. The dominant culture has forgotten that God wanted to live and die with us”. That is why – concludes the prior of Norcia – “returning to St Benedict means recognizing that not man, but God is the centre of the world“.
Desire for revival
This awareness penetrated the hearts of so many people in the wake of the natural catastrophe. The earthquake was joined by a real shock of the Spirit. Father Benedict tells us about it: “The view of eight churches of their own town collapsed, cannot not scare. Even not practicing people, today feel this lack, because the churches were points of reference. We know people that are experiencing this event as an opportunity for rebirth and purification“.
The fact that the violent earthquake devastated buildings but has miraculously spared human lives, did not leave indifferent the inhabitants of Norcia. “God here in Norcia kept everyone alive, there were no casualties – observes the monk prior -. This was a miracle of Saint Benedict”. The earthquake – concludes Father Benedict – “served to awaken in the hearts of many the conscience of the Divine Providence“.