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Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain

Recently, a group of students from Christendom College in Front Royal escaped Rome and their studies during a semester abroad for a weekend pilgrimage to Norcia, a small town in the Umbria region of Italy. The men were rallied together by Dominic Mann, their resident adviser and parishioner of St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg, who chose the spot because of its spiritual significance: it is the birthplace of St. Benedict and home to a small community of monks who are trying to live out the saint’s original “rule of life.” Two of us from the North American College in Rome joined them for this adventure.

We all quickly found a kindred spirit in St. Benedict, who also was a student in Rome. Sure, much has changed since the 6th century, but there is a lot in this eternal city that is the same: the ruins from a fallen Roman empire, the titular churches as focal points for sacramental life and charitable work among the poor, the unique opportunity for theological education near the ministry of the pope, along with all the temptations to distraction and mundane pleasure that are inevitably found in a city.

Under an impulse of the Holy Spirit, St. Benedict abandoned his studies and fled to the hills to lead a life of “learned ignorance and unlearned wisdom,” as St. Gregory the Great said in his biography of the saint. For the Christendom men, the trip to these same Umbrian hills was, at the very least, a creative way to study for their ethics exam on Monday.

Certainly, one of the high-points of the trip (in more ways than one) was climbing Monte Patino, the impressive peak that overlooks the town and whose large cross at the top beckoned all of us immediately on arrival. The hike was more challenging than we had anticipated, but the views, the fellowship, and our shared quest to become saints — encouraged by the witness of St. Benedict and his sons in the valley below — made for an unforgettable experience.

God has used his mountains as privileged places to reveal himself throughout salvation history: Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor. As we prayed together at the top of the mountain, I think many of us came away with the sense that the spectacular views in every direction were a sign of the magnificent work he is accomplishing in our hearts.

Deacon Nyce, who is from St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, is in his fourth year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018