La Verna: St. Francis’ Hilltop Home-Away-From-Home

All the bells summon the monks to prayer.

St. Francis, after whom our new pope is named, is most often associated with the Italian village  of Assisi.  And fair enough:  Assisi was home base for Francis and the other monks of the Order of Friars Minor.Sometimes, though, he just needed to get away.  That’s what happened when, in August 1224, Francis withdrew to La Verna, about a day’s walk away, for an extended 40-day period of prayer and fasting.Pope Francis has invited the monks of La Verna to attend his inaugural Mass tomorrow … [Read more...]

Orvieto and the Feast of Corpus Christi

Orvieto atop a butte

The town of Orvieto is an Etruscan city located in the scenic region of Umbria, between Firenze (Florence) and Roma (Rome).I first visited the medieval town of Orvieto in 2002, and again in 2006.  It’s the eucharistic miracle which is preserved there that I want to tell you about today—but first, let me tell you a little about this picturesque little town. *     *     *     *     * Getting Up There - Orvieto sits atop a volcanic rock, on a high butte overlooking the plain; and our group rod … [Read more...]

FOR THE GUY WHO HAS EVERYTHING: How About a GARGOYLE for Christmas?

Gargoyle - Duomo

Get them while you can:  Milan’s Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, is putting its 135 gargoyles up for adoption.Italy’s “culture budget” is smaller this year; but the Duomo requires essential maintenance, even in a lean economy.  The gargoyle adoption program is an effort to protect the world’s fourth-largest cathedral and, as Cathedral management has stated, “to encourage the Milanese and citizens of the world to be protagonists in the history of the cathedral."I should note … [Read more...]


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