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    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Let's celebrate! New fervor among young Italian Catholics

    Sister Cristina is one of 550 young Italian women who joined the country's 7,500 cloistered nuns in 2005 - a dramatic increase from the 350 who became nuns in 2003.Vatican officials say the sudden rise in Italian monasticism mirrors a resurgence in Catholicism among young Italians during recent years.

    Clergy credit much of young people's interest in Catholicism to the latePope John Paul II, stressing the impact of the World Youth Days he started in 1984. Catholic fervor reached a crescendo with his death in April 2005. "This pope really brought the faith closer to young people; there was a strong bond between him and us," affirms Giovanna, a young biologist praying by John Paul II's tomb in Rome.

    "There's a culture of renunciation [to monastic life]," Sister Ilaria says, "but you choose something, too: happiness. It's like falling in love - everything else vanishes from your senses."

    Sister Cristina, 31, lives with 179 other monks and nuns at a small red-brick monastery north of Rome. She reads, does chores, meets visitors, and prays five times daily, starting at 3 a.m.

    "I was far from God," she says quietly, wrapping her hands around a hot mug in the monastery's drafty dining hall. "I experimented with everything you can experiment with to find happiness. Now that I've left everything, I've found everything."

    She isn't alone in her devotion. A small but burgeoning group of young Italians are turning to Catholicism with new fervor, suggesting a reversal of Catholicism's decades-long decline in Italy.

    Many monasteries reach out to ordinary people, offering them the opportunity to pray, receive advice, or even share in the cloistered life for a few days. "They're a visible sign ... of taking the gospel seriously and letting it shape your life," says Father Raymond Studzinski, a professor of religious studies at the Catholic University of America.

    Increasingly, cloistered orders have their own websites and e-mail addresses, easing the transition to the monastic life but also helping to spread their message. Sister Ilaria fields daily e-mails requesting prayers, counsel, and organized visits to the monastery.

    "Monasteries can be a beacon, a light for the community," says Sister Ilaria. "One sees a great desire [among young people] to understand God."



    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Re: "Monasteries can be a beacon, a light for the community," says Sister Ilaria.

    In the Orthodox Church we this saying: "Christ is the light to the Angels, Angels are the light to Monastics and Monastics are the light to men."

    There is also a monastic revival in the Christian East among the young people. A sign of the times?

    March 02, 2006  

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