Saturday, October 10, 2009


The rain came down hard early this morning, waking some people up. After a trip of only blue skies and temperatures in the high 70's we really can't complain.

Besides, by the time we finished our quiet breakfast and lecture on prayer, there were only scattered drops falling and hints of sun breaking down the cloud cover.

That meant John was on the run. It took him about 40 minutes of non-stop running, including some misdirection. We all passed him in the taxis on the way up. He made it in time for the service but couldn't find us, so he toured the Carceri three times before coming in just in time for the Eucharist.

Regarding solitude, before breakfast it was imperative to share baseball playoff scores. We have some Twins fans who are very unhappy with Alex Rodriguez. And we shared many incredulous looks for those who learned about Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. "I mean that's great, but what has he done," seems the common response.

The Carceri itself is really a testament to human will and fortitude. It was built up greatly in the 1400's to house about 12 Brothers and added on to several times after, so there is now this fairly large structure that sits inside and above the mountainside. It has a chapel that holds 40 people easily, as well as a number of other rooms for eating, a smaller chapel, walkways, offices and more. Father Andre implored us to wipe away all these building except for a tiny chapel that would uncomfortably fit four modern full-sized people and a space that is liberally called a "cave" where Francis slept. It's really more of a rock overhang with maybe one and a half walls.

We were able to walk on manicured trails to get to several of the other caves where Brothers spent their time in solitude.

There is no way that anyone could dream of describing this as comfortable. You are entirely exposed to the elements and the walk up and down, while possibly well-trodden by hunters and the like must have taken hours to get through the forest and brush. Food must have been scarce and cumbersome to bring up too.

We're told that Francis and the Brothers came up here to re-charge, to bring themselves closer to god after having spent time on the road preaching. I can only imagine the discipline needed to focus on spirituality.

Here we were, fully clothed, well fed and transported to the top by taxis (John excepted) and still finding it hard to remember the silence and solitude we were trying to focus on.

(See also - baseball scores and Obama.)

The walk down seemed pretty easy - isn't it always - and short. We went straight to lunch and of course I had no cell service and could not display my gluten free instructions that I had found online. It seems Celiac is the same word in Italian and I was able to get minestrone soup with no pasta and a roasted chicken. Pweph.


  1. Ah, the difficulties of solitude. I'm sure everyone has heard the story of the finicky toaster. Poor Bill couldn't imagine why his toast was taking so long. As he quietly picked up the toaster to investigate, the toast shot into the air, traveled 8 ft or so, and landed (luckily) on a chair. He simply picked it up and proceeded to butter it. Seeing the entire episode, I had to excuse myself as tears were running down my face. Solitude's not as easy as it seems!

  2. I forgot about the gluten free issue. How did you manage that in Italy???

  3. The people at Casa Papa Giovanni were amazing. They had gluten free food for me at every meal. They really went above and beyond anything I could have asked for. For the few other meals it was difficult because I couldn't just grab a slice of pizza, but I had a webpage with a translation of what I could and couldn't eat. I'd give them my blackberry and we worked it out. I ate mostly chicken, but some restaurants had gluten-free pasta which tasted really good.