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Il filo infinito [The infinite thread] by Paolo Rumiz has as its subtitle Viaggio alle radici dell’Europa [A journey to the roots of Europe]. The journey begins in the heart of the Apennines between Castelluccio, Amatrice and Norcia, struck by an earthquake, where the statue of St Benedict, patron saint of Europe, stands intact among the rubble. These are places that have been abandoned as a result of the moral atrophy of politics, and yet they are powerful places endowed with immense, if not fully recognized, strength. One’s intuition is that the telluric Apennines are the centre of Europe, still today the driving force just as they were for Benedictine monasticism which through its founder spread from there both southwards and northwards, weaving a fabric that gave a shape to Europe. The aim of this book, achieved in a serious and sometimes unsettling manner, is to discover what Benedictine monasticism is today, revealing it through places, voices, faces, silences, music and ventures, and at the same time giving content to the much misused formula of the “Christian roots” of Europe.
Written by a non-believing researcher, Il filo infinito leads us to Italy, France, Germany, Austria and Hungary. However, before undertaking this journey, Rumiz takes us back in time to the sixth century, when the Western world, an orphan of the Roman Empire, shaken by the upheaval of the Graeco-Gothic conflict, fragmented, impoverished, lacking bonds and prey to armed peoples, found in the Rule of St Benedict the strategy and tranquil impetus to give life to a new Europe. Rumiz compares today’s Europe to that terrible threshold in a similar state of turmoil not this time because of invasions but rather because of crises, the deprivation of values, fear and a loss of human sentiment. Rumiz wonders whether today too the answer might lie precisely there, in that Rule and that approach which bear a surprising resemblance to the best of Europe which we have experienced and imagined. Thus from Paglia to Viboldone, from Muri Gries and Marienberg to Cîteaux, from Orval to Altötting and to Pannonhalma and in the other abbeys scattered across Europe, encountering monks and more seldom nuns, people who often have extraordinary histories, he finds the key to Benedictine monasticism in the “democracy” and stabilitas of the abbeys – which wherever they are build nuclei that are self-sufficient and have relations with the territory – and in the Rule and rules which give an order to space and time in silence, in prayer and in work, holding together practical activity, prayer and reflection in listening and in the value of hospitality.
In Norcia to which the nuns, who had been moved to Trevi because of the earthquake, returned to care for their vegetable garden and their bees, Abbess Caterina Corona tells them of how African nuns propose a path to prayer through the body and through dance, and of how this innovation is enriching. And it is in a women’s abbey, at Viboldone, that Rumiz finds the actual and symbolic thread which gives the book its title: an elderly nun spinning, her ball of yarn on the floor beside her black robes. The Abbess, Maria Ignazia Angelini, tells of how “in the 14th century” the humble nuns “spun and wove wool, while the monks worked on the dyeing”. The symbol of weaving, according to the Abbess, expresses precisely “the work of the humanization of Europe which young people today are called to imagine and to create”.
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