I recently visited the town of Spoleto, with the rest of the community. After touring the city itself we hiked up the MonteLuco beside it to have lunch beside a Franciscan convent that goes back to St Francis himself.
Reaching the castle at the top of Spoleto (the city is on a hill), MonteLuco is right in front of you but a gorge drops down several hundred feet between the two. A huge, thirteenth century aqueduct breaks this valley square down the middle with a certain antique beauty. Thousands, perhaps millions, of bricks are pilled one on top of each other, making 9 square columns connected by arches of varying sizes atop and a few half-removed arches near the bottom. This is the only way across.
Vertigo almost overcame me as a peered straight down at the dry riverbed from the bridge, appropriately named the “bridge of towers.” Several brothers tried throwing snowballs or other small objects off to count the time they took to hit the ground. Walking on the lower of the two old aqueduct paths, we could only see one side; one arched window in the middle breaks that side’s monotony of bricks but it is broken even clearer a few feet later with a little 80-year-old shrine to Mary.
When I first looked at this structure I was rather cautious to cross – bricks make a good house to last 100 years but I am looking at a tower that is straight up, a few hundred feet high and was build 700 years ago – however, the trip across was completely safe and secure.
This bridge can, in a way, be an analogy for the religious life in the Church. At first the whole idea of religious life seems so impossible, so improbable but as each faithful religious builds upon the religious before him, we have a huge tower. Each tower is its own size and the arch on either side is a different size, but they all hold up. Religious life will always be a contradiction manifesting the world to come but we religious can walk safely across this seemingly implausible bridge.
The Legion may seem like something new but it is only new because we have received and live out the entire heritage of religious in the Church. Likewise, any Christian can be supported and renewed by the Church’s inheritance.