Break technically began on Tuesday night at 5:30 but we really couldn’t celebrate because we were too tired to move very fast. I think most of lethargy had to to with serious colds and all-pervading darkness of the evenings this time of year. In any case, Wednesday morning I ran away to Norcia. I needed TLM, confession in English, compatriots, children, discussions, and fermented hops. Not to mention the challenge of heading off into goodness-knows-where with limited Italian; its called a ‘wing and a prayer’ adventure and the secret is to know ~ before the trip begins ~ that no matter what, you will land feet-first into whatever comes along.

The first leg of the journey was more heart-throbbing than the rest of the travels. I stared out from my apartment with an hour to spare ~ and the train station is only twenty-five minutes away. It all seemed fine and glorious until I saw a the clock on the post-office read 8:45; the train was scheduled to 9:00. So I ran the rest of the way, huffing and puffing my way through morning traffic with desperate abandon for decorum or safety only to arrive at the Bergamo station a full forty minutes early. The clock had been fast, or maybe it had just stopped the night before ~ who knows!

The remaining trip had its moments, but those stories will have to wait for another time!

As I’m sure many of you already know, Norcia is the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. The Benedictine monks that live in the monastery now are under the leadership of Fr. Cassian Folsom. They have an incredible story and you can read more about them here: 

The benefactors of my studies are remembered in a special way. I prayed for each of you and for your intentions here. And you made this trip possible! Thank you!

Here are some photos of Basilica, the Crypt, St. Benedict and views of Norcia from a hike I took one afternoon. 


This statue of St. Benedict stands in the Piazza of Norcia, outside the Basilica.


St. Scholastica is portrayed with a dove. On the night she died, St. Benedict saw her soul, in the form of a dove. ascending to God. The words from the Song of Songs is ascribed to her: “Arise my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come…”




St. Benedict again, holding the Rule and crosier of an Abbott. At his feet there is a crow.


A Romanesque  painting preserved in the Chapter room of the monastery.


If you notice the stones within the wall of the arch seem to be a diamond shape; this dates the house to before Benedict’s time. It was a style of Roman building popular in the 300’s. The stones are actually square, but turned on the point so they look like diamonds. Rather clever I think.


The crypt. The monks often chant the Divine Office here. These stones are the original of St. Benedict’s house.


Mass finishing up and the choir monks processing out.


Around the City:



The picture on the left is interesting because you are looking at old official measures of wheat and grain and other items that would be sold at the market. The Latin words for grains are inscribed on the front of each bin.


And, of course, the wild boar meat or cinghiale of Norcia is famous!  It gave the air a distinctive scent; in fact, the smell of meat and cheese with the whiff of a wood-fire across the sharp autumn air had the effect of making us constantly hungry. But because our hostel didn’t have any cooking facilities available, we had little choice but to eat bread with cold meats and cheese, washed down with Monk Beer. By the way, words stumble over themselves to describe the monkish brew. Not even Gandalf himself could make a brew so good. 


 More mountains and hills of Umbria on my way home (to Bergamo):


mother teresa

Two Quotes Mother Teresa’s National Prayer Breakfast Speech February 5, 1994

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.”

“And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere — “Let us bring the child back.” The child is God’s gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things — to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.”

We Montessorians do well to reflect on these words of profound wisdom!

What culture or civilization has ever put the child as a priority or first concern? Who would consider the nature child so important that He would choose to become a child? God took on our flesh that we might be glorified in Him but when He first walked this earth, He was a little child. When He grew up, He loved little children and even instructed us to “become as little children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

No other gods of ancient times or religions of the world have considered nature of a child as essential to eternal happiness. Only Christ has commanded this of us.

If we Montessori teachers wish to bridge religions, cultures, and social differences through our efforts of education of the child we must recognize the principles in action that we observe in human development. And these laws of natural development are wondrous to behold! Without recognizing them as natural, and therefore of Divine origin, we are deluding ourselves as peace-makers.  We will fall into trap of becoming pantheistic do-gooders  consumed by an exhaustive search of a humanistic utopia or, even worse, we become Machiavellian manipulators who perceive a way to promote and force our own agenda. 

Granting power  to the human potential without the full benefit of moral formation will result in men and women who know only how to manipulate society or men and women filled with sentimental confusion of mind, and therefore of life. What could be a greater dis-service?

If we place the needs of the child at the center of our culture and of our society, then we educators are brought to our knees in realization of God’s presence within our care. But in so doing, we must be honest enough to  realize  that we are subject to a higher law, which is Love Itself.


Have you ever wished to enter a time-warp? You know, like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy?  When they went to Narnia, time in England was ‘on hold’ while they adventured in other worlds and far distant lands. A part of me has always wanted their stories to come true in a literal way. I wanted to have tea with Tumnus and at least see the terrible White Witch and, most of all, feel the breath of Aslan. And then return to the real world in time to catch the next train.  But, as I might realize when I grow up, time doesn’t freeze. Books are wonderful, but time doesn’t stop. And this comes as a surprise to me every time I emerge from the mountains of papers and books around me. “What? The sun set? Did anyone see it rise?” “Today is Thursday? When did Wednesday happen?” “Time to go shopping AGAIN? We went yesterday…oh, no, that was last week.” I’m beginning to feel that the land of books and papers is the sum-total of my existence and the world out there is Narnia. 

Of course this is a dangerous way to live! But I prefer to look on the bright side: every time I emerge from studies, I’m on a new and unknown adventure ~ and its REAL with an ITALIAN  flavor!

Here are some notes from the past week:

Last Monday was our Second Album submission. Another milestone! No jumping picture this time because the book was to heavy for gymnastics. This mean only SIX more album submissions to go until completion!

For you Montesstorians out there, we are now onto Language. The wonderful and fascinating study that it is! I want more of it! I think we are quite lucky to know English as our mother-tongue. When it comes to language analysis, Italian is so much easier. In the course we are obliged to do English, but the presence of so many other nationals allows for great discussions on the development of linguistics and teaching language. (I’m so grateful that I studied Latin. Thanks, Mom! But why didn’t we do more Greek?)

 We are still doing Music, math (with fractions) and directed practicals.

A cultural adventure Last Friday: I dropped into the local church, S. Alessandro della Croce, and enjoyed a magnificent organ performance. Do you like the organ, I mean, do you enjoy it as an instrument? I’ve always been fascinated by it! First of all, they are huge. Then, there are two or more layers of keys and then pedals; in addition there are all kind of stops and pulls. How could anyone understand how it all works at once? And then the music seems to come from everywhere. The huge pipes, the cupola, the nave ~how does that work!

When I was a young girl, my dad and I stopped into the St. Louis Cathedral and happened upon the organist who was giving a tour of the organ to a high-school group. When he began to play Bach’s Fugue in D (minor)  I felt the tremors in the marble floors and the weight of the universe pressing on me. Never had I felt music in such a powerful way. It was all around me and shaking the very stones beneath my feet!

The music performed last Friday was from the Baroque period.  It couldn’t have been in more contrast to Bach’s Fugue; this music moved with life and joy and life. You could say it sparkled; where I felt the stones tremble in Bach’s music, Padre Davide’s music  ( the featured composer, German 1791 – 1863) was as though he was trying to breathe life into the cold marble and make it dance. To me, he very nearly succeeded.

Here is a link to Padre Davide’s Concertino per Flutta con Viola d’accompagnamento by the same musician who I heard  last week ~ Marco Ruggeri.

And a picture of the Church (at the end of the performance, just so I don’t scandalize the musicians who see this)


That’s what a friend asked the other day. Here is my response:

It’s called the ‘on’ button! Yes, here goes: Montessori Method is the studying human development from birth (and even before) through about the age of 24. It only ends there because Dr. Montessori didn’t really study beyond that age. Besides, she was more interested in the first stages of life (birth -6) where most development takes place.

The first part: So Montessori realized that there a definable periods of growth that a child goes through not just his body but the mind too. The stages are specific and each stage has characteristics that sort of define it. Here they are: birth to about age 6, absorbent mind stage. The person is sensitive (to an extreme, by comparison to how an adult mind works) to language, movement, order and his senses. And it’s obvious from a mother’s point of view, I think! We hear the phrase, “Don’t they grow up quickly!” because in fact, that exactly what the little guy is doing. Second Stage (what I’m studying now) from about 6 through age 12. These folks are sensitive to the moral order ( I think the Church is so wise to send her little ones to confession around this age and get 1st Communion), acquisition of culture, (make sure its good culture) and creative use of their imagination (keep trash like Harry Potter in the trash can and give them  good books!). Then we move on to the adolescent stage (12-18), which I know about because not very long ago I was one; but the child at this age is sort of coming into his own in the wider world and finding his place in it.  Finally, the last stage is 18-24 where we should have a fully functioning adult on the scene ready to take his place in society. This is the time when most children go off to College and begin that ‘merging’ into the adult world. So those are the four stages of human development in a nutshell.  We can see that growth of the mind (or even of the body) is not something linear, but comes in stages.

 Each stage is sort of hard-wired by God to help the person develop into a full-functioning adult. We can also understand these stages as a sort of efficiency on the part of nature to help the child acquire all the skills necessary to be a functioning adult. A Montessorian has to know these stages and teach the subjects (think of the classical disciplines: geometry, math, natural science, etc.) according to the abilities of each stage.

That is the Montessori Method. A poetical summary: “To assist life unfolding.”

And since that wasn’t two minutes, you get more:

The second part: The job of a Montessorian is two-fold: to understand these stages of development and to know the subjects she is teaching. She should master the subjects so well that she is able to give the information to the child in a way that the child can best receive it. She should have complete mastery of the classical disciplines.

Which why I am in school now!

The stages of human development are nothing new to the world. The cave-man’s child and a baby born today have the process of development. What differs is our (the adults) ability to understand and assist the child through life, especially in the realm of culture. If we want our children to know and love the best when they grow up, then give them the best when they are children!

Maria Montessori also understood about a child’s relationship to God. This is why we have the Mass materials and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. But this last point is so profound and beautiful, I will make another post about it.


Early Friday morning I took a chance to fly to Madrid and meet up with friends who came down from Ireland. Our destination was Gredos, to join in a festival in honor of Fr. Tomas Morales. ( Madrid is a beautiful city but I hardly saw it as we caught the train directly to Avila.


Avila is a town I remember well. The last time I was there I was a little girl of six or seven. The walls are still there, massive and imposing, rising out of the rocky hills as though city grew from the ground itself.


We had a few hours to visit the Convent of St. Teresa. It seemed a bleak and barren sort of place! The centuries have simplified the once grand sort of visiting place that St. Teresa knew. It is now a fully functioning convent according to the strict Carmelite Rule. A small section had been set aside as a museum filled with treasures as relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.

The walls are white plaster, the floor-boards worn down where the nuns have walked for the past five hundred years. In the old visiting ‘parlors,’ complete with the original grills, there were a few simple plaques: “This is where St Teresa and St John levitated in ecstasy” or another that read: “This is where St. Teresa saw a vision Christ at the Pillar”. The spiritual reality of the events that transpired within those quiet walls has not dimmed with time.

The Spaniards are not without a sense of humor, however, especially the holy ones. The little museum held an unusual statue of St. Joseph. It was too dark for a good photograph (he is holding Baby Jesus), but you get the idea:


He is known as “St. Joseph the Tattle-tale” because he would be placed in St. Teresa’s chair in her absence and tell her all that had transpired while she was away. Quite original, I think!

We saw El Escorial from the train, and I insert a photo from the internet since my camera was not working:


This is not far from Valle de los Caidos, the “Valley of the Fallen” A reminder of those who died for the faith and those who still need our prayers. In a few weeks, Pope Francis will beautify 522 more Spanish martyrs.


Gredos was a little town ~ but not to worry, it wasn’t the least bit sleepy. When the ‘whole town’ turned out for a festival, all 500 guests showed up. The mayor cooked up dinner. He also serves as the post-master, local bar-tender, guest-house facilitator, and evidently, the town chef. He actually built a sort of cook-house with an enormous frying pan suspended over a fire for just such occasions. Pealla is the obvious choice for a ‘big crowd’ for dinner. It took a moment for an adventurous American to get used to shrimp staring back at her from a steaming plate of rice. Yum!


And now, friends, the fun is back in the books!

Grace and peace,