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Posted: December 10

The short days of December

(Rome) The opening of the general congregation is less than a month away now, and my To Do list keeps growing longer no matter how many tasks I scratch out as I finish them. With so much to do, I had no choice this weekend except to escape the city and enjoy two days of rest in the countryside. “Agere Contra” –as my novice master used to say; ie: go against your inclinations. The best way to get work done is to let it set aside for a bit. We’ll see how that strategy works as the week begins, but I think it is wise even if a bit unusual for me here at the Curia. Our normal pace is a steady treadmill marked by very regular hours for meals. It is efficient but tiring. In the past we had the tradition of a “villa” to get away to, a country house that the community owned where you could easily slip away. The Curia used to have something like that, only it was a huge building, not just a vacation house, so the place was sold before I got here. Now there is no place to get away to and so people just stay on the treadmill. It’s an easy temptation when your office and bedroom are only a short walk apart.

Fortunately, there are many farms throughout Italy that have opened up guest rooms; they call it “agroturismo.” Some research on the internet uncovered a little place not far from Rome, accessible by local train. Perfect, I was able to slip away without any big production and found myself sitting in a little apartment in the center of an olive farm near Passo Corese on the edge of the Sabine Hills. I was the only guest on a rainy December weekend. After Christmas it will be different since Italians love to get away from home after Christmas. For the moment I was delighted by the quiet and the chance just to walk through the woods and sleep, and then sleep some more. (Is there a theme here?)

November and December are two of the rainiest months of the year, so the forest had a rich, damp smell of moldering leaves that brought back memories of long-ago walks through the woods near the novitiate at Florissant, Missouri. We had a villa there too, one that we used regularly. This Saturday the sun came out for a bit while I was exploring the property and I got some nice images for future paintings. Then the clouds sealed out the sun and it began to drizzle. By four o’clock in the afternoon the light was fading as night approached to settle in again. Rome is far enough north, that the winter days are as short as summer’s days are long. I actually like the change in rhythm, and it makes sense of the liturgical year. The harvest is over and the farm fields I saw around me were plowed and resting quietly. Most trees had lost their leaves which were slowly dissolving in the rain to nourish the new growth that would come some time in the future. As the days grow shorter, we feel the need for a new light to come. Advent makes sense in this climate, as does the long wait for Easter and the eventual rebirth that will come. For now, I enjoyed the brief hours of sunlight and the rain that renews the earth, and the sleep that renews my own energy. It’s Advent after all.

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