In June I was blessed to be part of Villa Madonna Academy’s trip to Italy. It was a fantastic trip to a truly remarkable country. Two important events from that trip left a lasting impression.
First was our visit to Monte Cassino. the most famous of St. Benedict’s monasteries where he actually lived and died. Being at Monte Cassino was such a blessing for me as a Benedictine. As we approached Monte Cassino after a harrowing bus ride up any number of hairpin turns the first thing we saw was the main door with the word PAX above it: PEACE! A feeling of peace really did overwhelm me.
Monte Cassino is a beautiful, light and bright monastery with a beautiful church and museum. It’s amazing that it’s even there. The monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt four different times since it was built in the early 6th century. The last time was after it was almost completely destroyed in the bombing of World War II. I can still see the room where St. Benedict lived, now a small chapel, and his tomb which was not destroyed in the bombing of World War II. We saw many other parts of the monastery but the PEACE door stays with me the most.
We, as Benedictines and Catholics, carry that tradition of PEACE forward in whatever we do as we strive to be respectful and helpful and peaceful. I thought to myself, what if we put the word PEACE over every door throughout our homes and work places. Would that encourage all of us to be more peaceful; more aware of the need in our world and in our lives for PEACE? I think it’s worth a try.
On our second last day we were in the 10th to 12th rows at the Pope’s audience in St. Peter’s square. It is hard to express how moved I was, and I’m sure others were, just by being in Pope Francis’ presence. This second experience with Pope Francis was equally as remarkable as being at Monte Cassino. First of all, when he passed us in the Pope-mobile I am sure that he was waving just to me. We made eye-contact, for sure.
His message that day which was translated in five languages was one of acceptance of each person as a brother or sister. He spontaneously welcomed a group of about 10 refugees that he had spotted in the crowd to join him under the canopy. It was a moving moment for all of us. He truly lives what he proclaims.
What would be the effect if we also welcomed others who are not like us? What would happen if we truly showed mercy to those in need? I believe that can be the path to true peace.
And finally, shortly after we arrived home from Italy the sniper shootings in Dallas occurred. I have good friends in Dallas and contacted them to be sure they were okay.
When I expressed my feeling of hopelessness in the face of such senseless violence my friend offered the advice that we should all pray ceaselessly for peace.
I was humbled that she had to tell me that. I think that would be St. Benedict’s and Pope Francis’ advice as well.
So, in our world, so in need of peace, let us make it our goal to live in peace, to proclaim peace, to write it in our hearts and minds, and pray for peace every day.
God bless you and your school year.
Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB