I have climbed lots of Mountains, mostly in my younger days: Yosemite, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Red Peak, Mt. Sinai, St. Gaspar Mountain. St. Gaspar Mountain is the name given to a rather steep climb up the hill beyond Giano del Umbria in Italy, above the Abbey of San Felice where the Precious Blood Community was founded in 1815. Actually the proper name for this high place is Monti Martani, and just below the peak is a place called Rifugio San Gaspare. In the banner picture above, Monti Martani is the peak to the left, and in the clouds, if you look close is a faint hint of the cross that sits at the peak.
A few years ago I was at a meeting of 40 Precious Blood Missionaries from 17 countries. During the meeting we held a day of prayer. Our General bid us undertake a trek up the mountain as an image of the missionary life.
As always, with any mountain trek, the journey becomes a sacrament of the life we lead, the journey to the kingdom. When you climb a Mountain at first there is a distant glimpse of the summit. You know where you are headed but you cannot see what you will see at the summit. Further up the trail the view of the summit disappears. You can only see the road in front of you and the nearby rocks and flowers. You lose sight of the goal, but you remember seeing it from a far and you still take steps to reach the goal. The journey continues, but the trail gets tougher, steeper. At one point you are given again a glimpse of the summit and there is renewed focus, but soon all that is seen is the steps in front of you, the trees and rocks around you, and the companions who accompany you. There are vexing and bothersome moments on this journey. You have climbed so far and you turn a corner expecting a plateau, yet here you are faced with a steeper climb and you still cannot see the goal. But you climb. Eventually you come to a clearing above the tree-line, and there it is, not far. You still must climb but suddenly the goal appears to be within reach. Then you reach the summit. You are tired, but the struggle for the journey is suddenly unimportant as you see the splendor of the world laid out before you. It remains today a significant memory.
A few years after that meeting, I returned to Italy, this time with my sister and with Peggy Doherty, a Precious Blood Companion. As part of our stay in Assisi I took them over to Giano to the Abbey at San Felice and then we drove up to the top of Monti Martani. After exploring the peak where there is a large cross and an altar, we stopped into the little restaurant called Ristorante Rifugio San Gaspare. It turned out to be the least expensive but most expansive meal of the whole trip.
St. Gaspar continually invites us to this mystical mountain so that we may listen and contemplate God’s word in creation and return to the valley with this message of God’s generous love.
Our most loving God calls us to the mystical mountain. Moses of old received the supreme commandments of the Most High from the midst of the burning thorn bush so that he might later carry them out faithfully. In like manner should we upon the mountain of perfection heed the voice of our most affectionate Father so that we might afterwards be able to communicate his divine will to others. How should we not humble ourselves before God when contemplating our sublime calling and the responsibilities which we have in virtue of our sacred duties, our talents granted by the Lord, and the heavenly treasures entrusted to our care! (from the Second Circular Letter, 1827)