Monday, May 25, 2009

A visit by rather than to Monte Cassino. A Benedictine oblate blog

St. Scholastica
at Monte Cassino Abbey, Italy

[Click picture to enlarge]

A display case at St. Leo Abbey in Florida, USA, contains a small piece of block labeled “Monte Cassino.” The display case is in the main waiting area of the monastery and the piece of block is unique among the historical memorabilia that St. Leo Abbey has available to view.

I assume the piece of block was obtained after the USA’s WWII destruction of Monte Cassino — and I have been led to stop and remember the long history of all the Benedictines rebuilding monasteries all over Europe (and now the world) after invasions, fires, earthquakes, and government acquisitions. When you have been around since the dust was still in the air after the collapse of the Roman Empire, ora et labora (prayer and work) covers a lot of labora in 1,500 years.

Other than the name, Monte Cassino, the small irregular piece of block in the display case at St. Leo Abbey is not explained. Those familiar with history know the significance of this bit of rubble that is resting far from its origins and sacrifice, but I also know that many visitors who look into the display case do not know what they are looking at. They see, but do not understand. This always leads me to the frequent self-evaluation: I am the one who sees many pieces of art, sculptures, paintings, stained-glass windows, clothing, documents, artifacts, and carvings at St. Leo Abbey — and in the abbey’s Church of the Holy Cross — yet, I have no clue what many of them mean. And like that piece of Monte Cassino, I know those items have much to say — that is why someone thought they should be part of what we see when we visit the monastery — someone long ago thought I should know "just in case" so that everything is illuminated. I appreciate that. Being able to see with understanding is on my list!


The picture is "Statuadi Santa Scolastica nel monastero di Montecassino," by Beatrix and is used subject to and may not be used except according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license, which is gratefully acknowledged.

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