In 1979 I was standing in the Uffizi in Florence directly in front of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" when a man approached me and started speaking French. I had been in Italy a month or two, and had a good smattering of French before I had arrived in Italy. But now Italian was soaking into my brain, and I had no room left for French....and apologized to him, in English.
He apologized to me, saying that he had presumed that I was French because of my chin..... I didn't know whether I was being flattered or not.
Long and short of it --he was an artist, and wanted me to model for him at his art studio.
Right.... but then he introduced me to his wife standing nearby and his students who were scattered about the Uffize, studying, copying, sketching. So, it all seemed on the up and up, and as I was 23 and foot-loose and fancy free, I went with them. And stayed about three weeks, in his studio in Monte Cassino.
I learned to grind fresh paint, mix it with stuff --all to his very particular recipes. And I got to see a small artsy city up close and personal.
One afternoon, I took a hike up a nearby hill. This hill.
I cut across the terraces and straight up to what I thought was a castle on top of the hill, following little paths up the slope. When I arrived at the castle, I came over the ridge and was immediately thrown to the ground by four men with machine guns. I screamed. They yelled. And told me I was under arrest. This was a monastery --no women were to approach the monastery up that hill.... at least, that is what I thought they were saying. I was terrifed, heart in my throat, the greenish-brown metal of their guns so deadly cold. And hot.
I was finally able to tell them where I had come from, speaking sideways with my face pressed to the gound--where my artist sponsor lived. They dragged me up on my feet, and threw me in the back of a small car. Went down a very windy road--I didn't know what was going to happen. We finally did go to the studio of my artist, and he affirmed to them that I was indeed living and working there. And then a very interesting thing transpired.... in order to release me, my artist was going to have to pay them $$$$.
I finally figured it out. I really had not done anything wrong. I was in the middle of a shake down.... black mail....
My artist paid for my release. Then told me the next morning that it would be better if I returned to Florence. Which I did.
Such was my experience in approaching the monastary in Monte Cassino, begun by St. Benedict.... and Friday is St. Benedict's day in our calendar......
Jesus said to the crowd, "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Heavenly Father, forgive us for all the castles we build on hills and try to protect....because if a house is not built with you in mind, we have built only a fantasy. And the Gospel needs no protection. And heavenly Father, protect the monks in Monte Cassino from marauding women who climb hills alone.....forgive all who abuse power and authority, and thank you for the life and example of Benedict.