Friday, August 24, 2007

A Retreat at Montecasale

Peace and Good!

It was a great blessing to be able to make a retreat at the hermitage of Montecasale before the recent pilgrimage.

This is a place of prayer cared for by the Capuchin Franciscan friars since the 16th century. It was one of Saint Francis’s favorite places to stay and spend time in prayer. Like most of the places he chose for this, it is high up on a mountainside, outside the ancient town of (Borgo) Sansepolcro. Also like most of the places we associate with him, this was a place of prayer before Francis of Assisi ever arrived. It had served as a hermitage and hospice and was given by the Camaldolese monks to Francis and his followers as early as 1212 or 1213. It is associated with several stories about St. Francis, including his conversion of the three thieves and the incident of planting cabbages upside down. I will reflect on these later.
Montecasale is a relatively small hermitage. Unlike some of the other places where Francis stayed, such as the La Verna or Le Celle, a large complex never grew up here. The friary is bigger than it was when he was here, but it is still small and simple. While it is visited by pilgrims, it is less crowded usually than La Verna or such sacred spots. This makes it still a wonderful place to make a retreat. It is set up on a mountainside, amid a lovely forest. It is said that not only St. Francis, but also St. Anthony and St. Bonaventure spent time here in prayer and reflection. It was an honor and blessing to be able to do the same.

I hope to reflect on Montecasale and Francis for the next few entries, then move on to other sites from the pilgrimage.

God bless and keep you!

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