Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

My Photo
Location: Rome, Italy

29 January 2007

If these walls could talk

Among the many architectural gems of Rome, our monastery is a ring made from a chewing gum wrapper. The reddish-brown brick structure looks like a part of the Aurelian wall that it lies near. The building is not old. It was built in the late 1800’s on land that the city of Rome acquired from a financially-strapped noble family. It was originally occupied by a group of cloistered nuns, but by the 1950’s the city had grown up around it and it became too noisy for the nuns. Our Order bought the building from them, added another story and a fourth wing to it.

Historically, the building is of no importance, but it does have one interesting story attached to it.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome, our Order’s monastery was located about four blocks away from our present location. Among the brothers living there at the time was a Frenchman who ran the printing presses for the Order’s publications. Between the scholarly journals and the General Minister’s letters to the Order, however, he was also printing fake baptismal certificates for the local Jews, despite the fact that the Gestapo were stationed a mere two blocks away from the monastery. When a Jewish family came to the door of the monastery to beg for food, the brother porter would get the names and ages of all the family members. The next time they came begging, they would get a sack of food with the baptismal certificates inside.

This went on until the Gestapo either became suspicious or were tipped off. They came to the door of the monastery one day demanding to conduct an inspection. The brother porter delayed them by claiming that only the guardian could give such permission. While calling the guardian, he also managed to warn the French brother, who ran to the printing presses, retrieved the plates and ran out a side door. He took refuge in the monastery of the cloistered sisters, our present-day monastery. He remained there a few days, even shaving his beard and donning the habit of the sisters, according to one account. He was eventually hidden inside the little truck that came each week to take out the sisters’ garbage. The truck took him to the outskirts of Rome, from where he made his way back to France.

For his efforts, he was included among the “Righteous Gentiles” by the government of Israel.


Anonymous pog said...

Brilliant. What a brave, brave man.

31 January, 2007 15:38  
Blogger heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a great story! It's always good to hear of someone doing God's work in those dark days.

02 February, 2007 08:38  
Blogger BroLo said...

Thank God for men like him. They make up for the likes of me!

02 February, 2007 17:17  
Blogger angela said...

I'm glad he survived; he deserved to.

03 February, 2007 08:52  

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