Eye-Witness Reporting from Cori and Sermoneta, Italy

Paul Keggington

April 01, 2009

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Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, Sister Marie Kolbe Zamora, OSF, completing her doctoral studies at the Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, shares her experience.

img_1518.JPGOn Saturday, 28 March, I participated in the day-trip that was planned by the Office of Student Relations at the Gregorian University.  About seventy students from all parts of the world boarded early morning buses that took us to three small medieval cities just outside of Rome.

Our first stop was Cori, where Pope Leo XIII was born.  We enjoyed Mass in the parish Church where he grew up, and walked up the hill to the top of the city, taking in various ancient monuments, many of which predated the Romans. 

sermoneta.jpgOur second stop was Sermoneta, a walled medieval town at the top of a hill, famous for its massive castle that was built by the Caetani family (Pope Boniface VIII’s family), and later owned and reinforced by the famous Borgia family (Pope Alexander VI). 

Our last stop was the once Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, famous for being the place where St. Thomas Aquinas died in 1274 after an accident on his way to the Council of Lyons.  The Abbey is currently in the custody of the Conventual Franciscans, and they are the ones who preserve the memory stthomas.JPGof St. Thomas’ death there in 1274.  I was pleased with the ecumenical flavor of this experience.  
Coming from the entirely modern and post-modern United States, I was most impressed by the tangible experience of the middle ages in Sermoneta, a beautiful town that would have merited the entire day itself.  I was also impressed:

  • to learn that, intrinsic to the design of a castle was the presence of at least one cistern within its walls, to guarantee a safe, non-poisoned supply of water.
  • by the tangibly purposeful design of the Castle that was intended to protect its inhabitants.
  • by the fact that the road leading towards the Cathedral was paved with special stones meant to indicate the way to the Cathedral, central to both spiritual and civic life in the middle ages.
  • that the Italians on the trip took this kind of historical data for granted, indicating their profound sense of history that, in the U.S., we come by only with great difficulty.
  • with the Syrian religious community that took the day to generously show us around.  The Syrians exuded a prayerful welcome to each person, no matter the culture, no matter the personal cost to themselves.  They were for me a reminder of the call I experience as a Franciscan to strive to be a “place” of welcome where all feel at ease . . . a call I was finding difficult to be faithful to at the beginning of the day. 

smkprofile.JPGFinally, I was grateful for the Lord’s gift of the Gospel that morning, calling us not to rule out the possibility that His grace for us might just come from the places or people we consider to be our own personal “Galilees”.


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