Sunday, September 12, 2021

from Poppi

 September 13-17: teaching with the nuns at Poppi 

It was a great stay at the Sacro Eremo. As I had hoped and expected, there was little official business to do, just a brief meeting with one of the monks. The Prior General is here––and you can see that he is very much at his ease here, the community allows him all kinds of space––but I didn’t have much interaction with him either. The room upstairs in the chapel really is what you might imagine a recluse’s cell to be. I could imagine Sr. Nazarena living there. The only problem with it was that the guided tours went through once or twice a day, with very loud talking (going on right now). And from time to time, I had to slip through them coming or going, feeling very much like one the animals in a zoo that is allowed to walk around with the public. I just kept my head down.


I just wanted to spend all day sitting in my cell as long as I could get a good walk or run in each day. And I did, venturing out farther than I ever have. There is along trail that goes from up here all the way down to the monastery, a bit up the road toward the ridge and it takes about an hour and a half, as opposed to taking the paved road which takes about a half hour walking. I had only taken it once before, with Stefano and his family two years ago. I went looking for on Friday, planning on walking the whole thing, but couldn’t find it, even though Alberto had told me where it was. It turns out I hadn’t gone up far enough. So I went farther up and found it yesterday and did a long walk/run first thing in the morning. I just loved it. There was a well about a mile in, and then a little cabin two miles in. Later Alberto was explaining to me that it is just a resting place, but I had to inform him that there was obviously somebody actually staying there, with smoke coming out of the fireplace and laundry hung on the line. It would be so much fun to explore all the many trails that go through these woods. Just like at home I rarely see any of the monks out in them. These formation guys are lucky––I’d have them out on Rec Day hikes regularly!


Just like the old days being on the road, it’s really a lot of discipline to get into a regular rhythm in a new place. But I had borrowed a yoga mat from Axel, got out for exercise first thing after breakfast (which I didn’t think I should skip being present), and then happily spent most of the rest of the days reading, writing, playing the guitar. Speaking of the latter, that new little guitar (Taylor GS Mini) has worked out just great for me. It’s so easy to carry on the plane, I finally got the one that feels pretty good (a little adjustment still necessary) and I have gotten used to it, and it’s one of those guitars that I can’t wait to pick up and play when it’s sitting on the floor next to my desk. I did translate one of my favorite songs into Italian, Dan Schutte’s “Only This I Want,” which went quite well with today’s gospel––‘Take up your cross and follow me’––which was fun to work on. I also “worked” a little, but just a little, and was happy to simply follow the gentle rhythm of life here. They have little in the way of community life outside of meals (three a day together) and liturgies (usually four), but all seem to have their place and do their daily maintenance tasks, every one of them. Alberto is pretty clear about that, and he himself is a worker bee, happily watering the plants and wiping down tables and sweeping sidewalks. He’s just a great monk, the very model I think of what this particular life calls for, very open to other expressions of the life (like Axel going off regularly to teach yoga classes) but he himself never leaves the property, perfectly happen with the daily round and the common task, and really loves the Lord and the Word.


Speaking of Axel and his yoga classes, they have become very popular here at the Sacro Eremo, and around Italy. Apparently he has become a well-respected yoga teacher. They have given him a beautiful room to use above the portineria in the guesthouse, a wooden floor and a big stand filled with mats and blocks and blankets. 

We had group lectio in there the last evening too, just the monks. It was on the readings of Sunday, and it was really interesting to hear what they all had to say and how they said it. It was quite clear that a few of them, including but not only Alessandro, really know the scriptures! I only added the briefest thing, a little shy about the language. 

I tedeschi are still here until tomorrow when they will turn young Fabian over to the wiles of the novice master at the monastery. But we hadn’t seen much of them since they went to La Verna yesterday and all the way up to Fabiano in the Marche, where Saint Romuald is buried and one of our monks lives at the parish where the tomb is) and then to Val di Castro which is where he died. Especially Fabian came back feeling rather indignant about what bad shape cell where Romuald died is in as well as the abandoned monastery. But that is one of the properties that got taken over by the state in one of the suppressions and there’s nothing we can do about it. They invited me to go along for either or both treks, but I chose the better part, at least for me, staying home and soaking in the ambience. 

I realized today that thus far, outside of the airports, I have been in a monastery this entire time, from Hildesheim to Nütschau, then to the monastery at Camaldoli and the Hermitage, and now I’m here with our nuns in Poppi. I’m staying in the foresteria wing of their monastery with full access to their side as well. I’ll write some about that all later.