Tuesday, October 13, 2009

La Foresta

We just finished a marvelous lunch at La Foresta - a former Franciscan Monastery that is now a small community for an organization called Mondo X. Francis spent time there, he had a cave for solitude. His deeds were already widely known and people would come see him from miles around. A miracle attributed to him here is that upon the priest running La Foresta complaining about people eating his grapes, he said that his wine harvest would be at least double that year. And it was.

The idea for Mondo X started about 60 years ago by a Friar who set up a hotline for people dealing with addiction. It grew into present day communities where people come for help for anything from alcohol, drugs and gambling to bulimia or anorexia. There are places for everyone from young mothers (with their children) to older men.

People enter Mondo X on their own volition with the one prerequisite that it is their choice, not their family that is pushing them in. The leaders also have to agree that the person can be helped. It is a free program. Once accepted, they have to abide by the rules, which is a pretty tight interpretation of the Franciscan way of life. Father Andre pointed out that they lead a stricter life than he does.

There is no TV, radio, newspapers, alcohol, cigarettes or coffee. People get to write home once a month and their family can respond with a letter as well. Both correspondences are read by the person in charge of the community to look for problems that need to be worked on - sometimes it is the family exerting pressure that causes the issue.

Family can call and talk to the leader about the progress of those inside but can not visit for the first five or six months.

The day revolves around, prayer, work and coming together of the community to talk and learn about their struggles.

At La Foresta, there are now five men who take care of everything, from cooking and cleaning to growing crops, raising and slaughtering poultry and game, raising bees for honey and general upkeep.

The community leader at La Foresta is Matteo, a young man who first entered after admitting to having made some mistakes in his life. Now just a few years later, he is running the community.

He told us that people can stay for as little or long as they want. It is totally voluntary. My interpretation of what he told us is that it is a stripping away of all the materialism of the world as a way of figuring out the core reasons for destructive behavior. Through community, prayer and hard work, they rebuild themselves and their esteem. I asked if any people in Mondo X go on to join the order as Brothers or Sisters. He said a few have over the decades but it is by no means a recruiting tool (again my interpretation).

The dining room was set up with deep red table clothes and napkins with a flower bud (geraniums I think)on each plate and assortments of red, orange and yellow flowers spread across the table. They served us a typical Italian meal; starting with pasta and home made bread. The meat sauce took eight hours to make. Then salad, a cut of turkey that had mystified all of us. The consistency and color seemed to lean more towards veal. We attribute the difference being because it was from birds they raised right there at La Foresta. They served wine and water and finished with a deliciously rich chocolate pudding with some white cream.

All of this is all the more amazing because they were hit hard by the same storm we had last night in Assisi. There were four inches of water in the dining room last night and they apologized for not being able to clean up the grounds. What we thought was an idyllic setting, to them was a mess. There were some large branches down and a fallen grape vine but all we saw was an excellently manicured field of a variety of crops and flowers that would be the envy of any gardener.

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