Well, it’s that time again. Time for me to do the most un-English thing anyone can possibly do, screw up my courage and ask for donations to help support the blogging effort here.
More and more I’ve come to think of this blog, whatever its faults, as my work. My “labora”. I do other stuff. I do quite a lot of gardening, and I am still painting, and still writing for the Remnant, but most of my thought and mental energy is going into this, for the time being.
The aim from the start has been to help people understand that they don’t have to be afraid, or “confused” by what has been going on in the Church. This situation is not inexplicable. It is outrageous and horrifying, but completely understandable once you are out of the “Matrix” of the new paradigm of Catholicism – that is, neo-modernism – that has become the ruling force in the Church since 1965. If you are a Traditionalist, you will understand completely everything that is happening. If you understand, you will be less scared. Simple.
I have heard many, many times that people have been perplexed as well as horrified by the Francis pontificate. I have also heard that many of them have ceased to be perplexed once they have started reading this blog and others that have taken on the work of using the current situation as a springboard, a way out of the darkness of the neo-modernist, “novusordoist” paradigm. I have seen many messages, emails, commbox notes, FB posts and Tweets that have said, essentially, “I used to be a good conservative neo-Catholic, but the Francis pontificate prompted me to learn more and now I am no longer confused.”
That, right there, is the goal.
I don’t know exactly how I came out of that Matrix myself. My whole life I have been governed by an insatiable urge to know and understand, particularly the big questions. I thought and asked incessantly even as a child about what was happening in the world. I was also granted, I think purely by the grace of the Holy Ghost, an innate certainty that things were drastically wrong in the world, that things were off course and that the ship of our civilization was heading for a catastrophic end. I believe we are seeing the beginning of that end right now.
I started reading about Catholicism when I was 17. In my 30s, after returning to the Church, I started talking to people, and visiting convents, and began to see there was an underlying contradiction, a perversion of logic and rationality at work in the Church that I could not explain away from the “conservative” position. I was lucky – I was guided, of course – to talk to people who did understand because they were not “conservatives” themselves. I started reading and talking and it was as though an entire parallel world had been made somehow visible to me that was invisible to everyone else but my fellow-Traditionalists.
I knew that the truth of Christ is utterly, absolutely and irrevocably the antithesis of falsehood, confusion and obfuscation, evasion, prevarication and mendacity. Where these evils rule, Christ is denied and crucified again, little ones are led astray and evil triumphs. And where these evils are defeated by clarity and truth, Christ triumphs.
I also knew that the understanding that I had been given was not meant for me alone. I knew that with this understanding had come a grave obligation to help others out of the confusion. I went into the pro-life movement in 1998 for that reason, and came out of it again in 2014 when the crisis had developed into an outright emergency. I believe Francis/Bergoglio and all his pomps and works, is merely the most visible and most obvious sign of that catastrophe. He is our warning.
I started this blog just before the start of the second Synod of Bishops on the Family, October, 2015 and had the intention then of just covering the Synod’s doings. I hoped to offer a different perspective from either that of the mainstream secular media, the so-called liberal Catholic media or the so-called “conservative” Catholic media. Very few people in the Church at that time understood the flaws of all these different approaches, and I like to think that we have been able to help clarify what these services have been unable to grasp. Fill in the background to make sense of the actions and outcomes.
The second purpose is to help people lighten up a little. I’ve been chastised for my somewhat jocular tone. I’ve even been called “juvenile” and “silly” for posting joke memes and for poking fun at people who, I think, the sin of pride has led to take themselves altogether too seriously. My sense of humour is not everyone’s and for those who either don’t get or refuse to get the joke I guess there are other websites. So, for the record, no, I’m not going to stop cracking wise. Sorry. The situation is far, far too serious to stop making fun of it.
We have our serious moments here, but the … let’s face it… apocalyptic situation in the Church and the world doesn’t need my help to make it more serious, more dark, more frightening and depressing. Humour is a gift from God that keeps us from going mad with fright and from doing stupid things out of panic. It’s a human, and indeed a grownup and responsible thing to do in the face of catastrophe. The very first thing the monks said to me when I came down the hill on the night of the earthquake was, “So, this is what it takes to get Hilary out of bed for Matins!” When they were teasing me, I knew they were OK and that I was too. I knew things were going to be OK, even if it was a bit of a mess for the time being.
That is the purpose of this blog in a nutshell. I want to help people pull themselves out of the rubble, dust themselves off and get on with the task at hand, while whistling a cheerful tune. We’re not dead yet. We’re not out of the game. There’s still a bit of fight left in us, so let’s get on with it.
Now, about the earthquake and my situation.
First, my house is fine. There is no structural damage at all. The electric and gas are on, and I and the kitties are doing OK. I was among the few lucky Nursini whose property was not damaged at all. (Thus far.)
This is not the case for the monks, and not the case for many people in town, even people just a few yards down the road from me. Many people in this town are sleeping in their cars or in tents either because their homes have been damaged or simply out of fear. Homes that were lightly damaged by the 6.3 on August 24th have been further damaged by the continual aftershocks, some of which have been large earthquakes on their own.
Many of my friends in town are staying with relatives or have even packed up and left. I know people whose businesses are now closed indefinitely and are struggling to figure out how to make a living.
The monks own a property outside the city walls, about 3 km up the side of the mountain. A few of them are living in the bits of the monastery in town that have been declared “safe-ish,” and the rest are living in a kind of tent-monastery they’ve erected on their fuori la mura property. They may possibly have been given permission to resume a weekly Mass in the crypt church – the ancient building that was the home of St. Benedict and dates to the 2nd century BC. But this is not yet for certain.
Every church in the city is closed, and will remain closed for possibly years to come. The extent of the structural damage to the co-cathedral and the Basilica cannot even be properly assessed until the aftershocks cease, and there is no indication that they are even slowing down. We have an average of about 30 a day, with usually at least five or six above 3.0. (There have been four small ones since I started typing.) There are, I think, 11 churches in Norcia and before the quake only four were in regular use. Nearly all the rest have been closed because of damage from past earthquakes and from lack of demand that they be re-opened. I will be writing soon about how the quake has exposed a reality in Norcia that is deeply disturbing.
At the moment, and for the last two weeks, there have been no daily Masses, no daily Office or any other religious services offered either by the monastery or the diocese within the city of Norcia. The diocesan Novus Ordo Mass has been offered on Sundays in the soccer field and the monks’ conventual Mass has been offered in a temporary chapel up the hill in a building loaned to them for the purpose in an “agritourismo,” a country B&B neighbouring their property. The walk is too much for me, so I have only been able to attend on Sundays when I’ve had a lift.
It has seemed completely incomprehensible to me that the diocese would have left us without the comforts of the Sacraments in this appalling situation, but apparently I and a few friends here are the only ones to have noticed this oddity. We are in great need of prayers that this almost unbearable situation be rectified as soon as possible.
In this situation I have been somewhat hesitant to launch my planned September bleg. Life here seems strangely suspended. The shops are open. The main supermarket, the Co-op, re-opened after a week of hasty repairs. (You should have seen the 20 men busy as a hive of bees fixing the broken pipes and throwing new stucco on the cracked walls.) People are returning to the piazzas and are out again for their evening passagiata, but it still seems strange and empty. The tourists all evacuated immediately, with the town turning into a veritable ghost town over night.
I know why I feel strange. The reason I chose to move here is suspended. My day has, for nearly two years, been oriented around the times of the Office. We have no idea when that regular life can be resumed, so I am fighting the psychological disequilibrium of simply not knowing what to do with myself. Just waiting for normalcy to resume. Personally, I’m fighting creeping depression and a sense of pointlessness. The temptation against stability – that I’m assured is a common subject of the desert fathers – the temptation to say, well, this is a sign from God that I need to go somewhere else, is a daily struggle. A great many hopes and even plans for the future are suspended too. No one really knows what will happen and we are all now just taking things one day at a time.
But this odd feeling of life being on hold does not stop the passage of time, and the weather from changing. The autumn has arrived, and we have had three days of September rain. I have started thinking about getting the gas turned back on, and about bringing in the winter’s load of firewood. Rent and electric have to be paid and the kitties fed.
So, this planned September begging letter must be expanded, I think.
First, here is the place where you can go donate money to the monks to help them rebuild the monastery. It is owned by the diocese, but if they can raise funds, the likelihood that it will get priority for reconstruction goes way up. This would go a long way towards normalizing life in Norcia for everyone, and give back a huge portion of the town’s sense that there is a future. (It will also help to establish in the minds of the people who would like to see the failure of traditional Catholicism that we aren’t going anywhere.)
Second, here are the websites of the various groups who are assisting people in need in the area. The epicentre of the quake, 10 km from Norcia, is right in the corner where three regions meet, Lazio, Marche and Umbria, so there are three regions that are pooling resources. The town everyone knows about, Amatrice, that was almost totally destroyed, is in Lazio (even though it is only about a half hour drive from here.) So if you want to donate to people in most material need, Lazio is the one you want.
Third, I think I ought to be completely transparent about my own expenses. I came to Norcia for many reasons, a large one of which is the very low cost of living. Rents here are a third of what they are in Santa Marinella. Gas, electric and food, however, are about the same. I don’t shop for fun – retail therapy is, I believe, an open door to many spiritual problems – and I am not the least interested in following fashions in clothes. I am trying to live a kind of eremitical lifestyle, so I have no TV and my internet connection is by a limited-bandwidth mobile modem. This means I pay about 30 E for between 10 and 30 gigabites per month. When I run out, I run out, and I have to go down the hill to get wifi. A hotel in town has generously offered to let me use their library to work when I don’t have the ‘net at home.
So, here’s a rundown of my basic monthly expenses (all in Euros and of course, utilities vary):
Rent – 380 per month
Electric – about 100 per month
Gas – between 100 and 50 per month
Food – about 200 per month
Internet – 30 per month
Water – 40 per month
Trash collection/ “communio” – 11.50 per month
Total (approx) – 836.50 per month
I’m struggling now to decide whether to stay here. I don’t want to move, and you can see that the financial advantages to staying are a pretty strong motivator. Until the quake, I was giving serious thought to buying a piece of property and possibly building a permanent home here. Financed how? I don’t know. Crowdfunding, perhaps. But my kindly and helpful realtor, Sandro, talked to me about it, and said that the financing on a small house with a hectare or so of land could possibly be less than the rent I’m currently paying. So, I’m thinking about it.
Many of my readers know there is a project I’m working on to help older women seek some form of consecrated life, a need that was created by the Asteroid of Vatican II and has not even begun to be addressed by anyone in the Church. My hope was to have at least a spiritual retreat centre here, where women could come to pray and have some quiet time, do some garden work, go for hikes and assist at the Divine Office. It’s kind of my dream, and it hasn’t been entirely squashed by the quake.
Ultimately, if there is interest, my little secret dream was to have a community here of women who would dedicate themselves to prayer and penance, reparation and the “lay contemplative” life, along the lines of the medieval Beguine movement. Pace the unsettling tendency of the earth to shake at times, this little quiet corner of Umbria is an ideal place for such a thing.
At this moment, we all feel a little overwhelmed. The quakes haven’t stopped, and more bits of the town fall down every day. But this is Italy, and Umbria, and the people here have been living with this for millennia. Life, including the religious life, will go on until the Parousia.
The other night, I was woken by the sound of someone in the garden. I jumped up and went outside and discovered to my surprise two young officers of the Carabineiri, the national police service, poking around the garden with flashlights. It seems the door of the flat downstairs, which is empty, had been shaken loose by the quake and was standing wide open, and they had come up to investigate. The flat is owned by some people who live in Rome and only use it for their holidays. I don’t have a key, so the young chaps let themselves in and boldly rummaged about in cupboards until they found a key. There was nothing wrong with the door, so they just locked it and gave me the key to give to the landlords when they come up from the City.
Meanwhile, being Italians and being cops, they wanted to know all about me. I was obviously not from here. I said, No I am Canadian and British but have lived in Norcia for almost two years. “Don’t you want to go home after the earthquake?” I said, “No. I am home. I have a garden and three kitties. Who would look after them if I left?” This seemed to please them no end. One of them gave me his card and said to call any time of the day or night if I have any trouble. I must say, I nearly fell in love on the spot with this nice handsome young fellow.
So, no. I think I’m not going anywhere.
My own donation button – Paypal only – is on the sidebar at the top of the page. Any amount is gratefully accepted. If only my 484 Twitter followers were to donate just five Euros each, expenses would be covered for a good couple of months. I think we average about 1000 readers a day here, so that math still works.
I know you all, my readers have been tremendously generous, and I’m grateful. And I’m even more grateful that you guys are here every day. Makes you feel less like you’re in the fight alone, doesn’t it?