Peace and Good! One of the blessings of making a retreat at Montecasale was being a part of the community of friars who live there. This place was kept as a Franciscan hermitage for many years after the death of Francis, then was left behind by the friars until the Capuchins came back in the 1500s. It is now a house of the Tuscan Province. There are four friars stationed there. The guardian, Fra Pio, has been there many years. While I was on retreat there, a friar from Nigeria, Fra Clemente, was helping for the summer.
It was a joy to rise each day and go to the small choir to pray the Divine Office with the friars, then to celebrate the Eucharist with them and the people who would come. The chapel is not very large, but is quite old and lovely. Keeping in the Franciscan tradition of simplicity, it is most wood and stone. There is an ancient statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child, reportedly brought to the friary by St. Francis himself.
What was wonderful was to live in such a place and know that it is still serving the same purpose it did in 1212, when Francis came there. It is still a place of quiet prayer and contemplation, and also of welcome. Pilgrims who come are invited to spend time in prayer in the chapel, in the woods, or sitting out on the terrace enjoying the spectacular view of the valley below. The spirit of prayer is still alive in the world, and the need for it is still calling people.
Montecasale reminds me that we have to look at our past not as in a museum, but as a living part of who we are. Also, that those who have gone before us have shared with us wisdom from God about the meaning of human life and activity.