Tag Archives: Italy

St. Romuald, Abbot

June 15, 2018

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St. RomualdSt. Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, in 950, into the aristocratic Onesti family. When he was twenty, he witnessed his father Sergius kill another man in a duel, and deeply disturbed by what he had seen, fled to the nearby Benedictine monastery of San Apollinare at Classe where he became a monk to make expiation for his father’s sin.

St. Romuald quickly embraced the Benedictine Rule of Life, and he meticulously observed it in every detail with prayer, simplicity, and strict self-discipline. Some of the monks had grown lax in their spiritual lives and were offended when St. Romuald admonished them with his fraternal correction, and their antagonism toward him forced him to leave the monastery.

St. Romuald found a hermit named Marinus near Venice to serve as his spiritual director, and he spent the next ten years in a secluded location in an austere life of solitude, self-denial, prayer, and meditation, and made great headway in virtue and holiness.

St. Romuald’s father was so moved by his son’s example that he decided to enter the monastery of San Severo near Ravenna to atone for his sins. St. Romuald learned that his father was being tempted to leave the monastery and go back to his worldly ways, so he went in haste to attempt to persuade him to remain, and his father persevered as a monk until his death.

Ironically, after having left San Apollinare years earlier, in 998 Emperor Otto III appointed St. Romuald the abbot of the same monastery. He served only two years and then resigned in order to return to his life as a hermit at Pereum. Sometimes his prayer seemed dry, his spiritual energy low, and his outlook dark, and one day when reciting a Psalm he had a mystical experience of a bright light and the presence of God which propelled him for the rest of his life.

Even though St. Romuald was a monk and a hermit, it was also his desire to be a missionary and suffer a martyr’s death. The Pope approved his request to be a missionary to the Magyars in Hungary. As he made the journey northward he became seriously ill, was forced to abandon his plans, and returned to Italy to resume the monastic life.

St. Romuald subsequently moved to the monastery at Monte di Sitrio. During those days he chastised a young local nobleman for his immoral behavior, and in retaliation, the aristocrat falsely accused Romuald of a scandalous crime. Incredibly, the monks believed the false allegation, imposed a severe penance, and excommunicated him. He suffered this terrible hardship in silence for six months, and then, prompted by God in prayer, he broke silence, repudiated the unjust sentence, and resumed his ministry.

St. Romuald spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries and hermitages in northern and central Italy, particularly at Fonte Avellana and Camaldoli near Arezzo in Tuscany. He also founded a religious order, the Camaldolese monks and hermits [O.S.B. Cam.], and wrote a new rule of life based upon the Benedictine Rule. He combined the cenobitic life, a common life in religious community, with the eremitical life, the solitary life of a hermit. The monks assembled each day for Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and some meals, and spent the remainder of the day in solitude. St. Romuald died alone in his cell at Val di Castro, Italy, on June 19, 1027.

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14 murders. Serial killer. Florence. True-detective-story. Can’t go wrong!

March 14, 2012

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If you’ve ever wanted a reason to be glad you’re an American, read “The Monster of Florence.”

Italy has the judicial system from hell, and Doug Preston and Mario Spezi describe it the way Dante did — only this time it’s a true story.

The best-selling American novelist and the hard-working Italian reporter found out just how devilish that corrupt, ethics-barren system could be when they began investigating what appears to be serial killings in the hills around Florence.

Over the course of 14 years seven couples were found slain after parking in “lovers’ lane” types of spots in the scenic Tuscan hills. The males were shot with the same Beretta, the females pulled from the cars, killed, stripped and their sexual parts cut out with a knife and taken.

When I get to that latter part of a book, that’s when I usually toss it aside. But the misogyny here is not what “The Monster of Florence” is about.

It’s a page-turner

This is a nonfiction crime story told as well as any of the novels by Doug Preston (“Relic,” for example) that have sold millions. Once the authors start on the trail to see the murder cases solved and justice done, the tale is can’t-put-it-down reading.

Along with being a compelling story — who doesn’t want to find out who The Monster of Florence is ? — the ineptness and unprofessionalism of Italian police, investigators, judicial administrators and judges all turn the story on its head to the point where the reporters covering the story become accused of involvement in covering up the crime, and Spezi is suspected himself as being the Monster and gets thrown in jail.

But listen to this: He isn’t told what he’s being charged with.

In Italy, you can be arrested and the charges “sealed” because they are a “secret.”

And investigators can prevent you from talking with an attorney. In the meantime, the investigators leak the charges to the media, making up whatever they want without any evidence. The salacious Italian media eat it up with a spoon, not checking the statements, not demanding evidence.

Ever hear of Amanda Knox?

This book has been out for more than two years, so no, it’s not new. But there is a coincidence that makes this story fresh and worth reading.

Remember Amanda Knox? Spent four years in jail waiting for her murder trial to be held, was convicted, then the conviction thrown out on appeal?

The same investigator who jailed “The Monster of Florence” authors handled the Amanda Knox case.

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What if you knew a secret you dared tell no one?

May 6, 2010

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Im not scared cover

“I’m Not Scared,”

by Niccolo Ammaniti

Can a nine-year-old be brave?

Brave enough to try to save the life of another boy?

Niccolo Ammaniti’s little, 200-page mystery is one you’ll read in one sitting.

You’ll have to.

You’ll just have to find out what happens when young Michele makes an amazing discovery as he and his friends are out exploring in the Italian countryside where they live.

Ammaniti captures Italian family life, community tension, childhood fears and blunders that anyone who has been a child will identify with.

Best of all is how he puts readers inside the mind of his nine-year-old hero. He lets us see how someone who is just a boy knows the difference between right and wrong and is willing to risk the consequences of doing what his heart tells him he must.

This is not a new work but one first published in Italian in 2001 and translated into English by Jonathan Hunt in 2003. That “I’m Not Scared” has been translated into 20 languages should tell you how good a read it is. — bz

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Everything by a top-selling author is not gold

February 11, 2008

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“Playing for Pizza,”
by John Grisham

Do not waste your time reading “Playing for Pizza” just because John Grisham’s name is on the cover.

With a weak, predictable plot, this will make a made-for-TV movie of the poorest kind.

Here’s a guess: John G. went on vacation to Italy, and, to write-off the expenses on his taxes, he wrote this garbage-y tripe to pass off his airfare, train, hotel and restaurant bills as “research.”

All the “local color” can be found in any guidebook on Italy. Actually, some of those guidebooks make better reading than this football-based schlock.

If Grisham had the slightest sense of shame he would travel the world buying back this book from all who have wasted their money on it. – bz

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