This is the mountain monastery, Monastero Dell'Assunta Incoronata, which translates The Monastery of the Assumption Crowned. It sits atop Monte Corona in Umbertide (oom-bare-tee-day), Italy. In September of 2008 I stayed there for two silent weeks, by the forest's edge, in the little hermitage on the far right of the picture. The monastery is about a half mile up in the air, where the rain and the thunder originate, accessible in good weather by a rough, narrow, switch-backed dirt road. How did the 16th century monks get the building materials to the mountain top?
The founding monks at Monte Corona were Camaldolese who for centuries faithfully lived a balance of hermit and communal life. Having been expelled by Napoleon, the monastic order suffered and the buildings were abandoned. But today the monastery is being reclaimed by the Brothers of Bethlehem, a new monastic family following the spirit of the 11th century hermit-rule of Saint Bruno.
Though few in number there will always be monks: men and women who retire from the world's obsession with usefulness, prestige, power, entertainment and possessions - proofs that we can live peaceful, hospitable, godly lives of simplicity in loving communities.
Brother Marie Luke was the Receiver of Guests during my stay. As the monks would be housing and feeding me, at the start of the retreat I asked him what monetary offering I should leave. He answered, "We ask for nothing." His answer didn't help me, so I tried asking another way, "But what would you like?" He replied at once, "Only your comfort."
What a stunning answer: "Only your comfort." Can you imagine!