Historical setting: 564 C.E. Village on the Gaul Side of the Pyrenees
Last night we slept in comfort in the loft of the stable. We learn we are now in Gaul.
I was telling Nic and Brother August of the priest’s message to the villagers who thought the statue was Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt in the desert. August enjoyed the twist of story; Nic wonders if we should turn the statue to face front. But it survived mountains and flood why change it? And besides, the villagers needed the Father’s message of Christian duty to care for outcast rather than judge them. If the villagers assumed the stone woman was dauntlessly holy, like the Virgin mother of Christ no one would have mentioned it. It would seem sanctified and out of touch requiring a holy and silent distance.
This morning one of those who saw our procession and heard the sermon returns with gifts for the “needy desert father walking with the ox.” Along with a small sack of grain the kindly woman brings a cut of black wool said to be a better size than the larger hooded garb the monk is wearing.
As the villager leaves Brother August complains, “Why is it people are always trying to dress me up in clothes that don’t suit me?”
I know he is also bemoaning the required shoes. But I’m still glad we are demanding shoes on this icy journey.
The priest suggests we take these gifts on with us, and that we look for a particular ascetic, Brother Joel, who is known to live in a cave along the river where we will be traveling. He said a monk came this way recently and mentioned that this desert father in that cave is aged and frail and he may be in need of a warm wool and a supply of food soon. So maybe these gifts have the synchronicity of miracle that was intended by the villager who brought them.
After our morning prayers and the feast to break the night’s fast we set out on our journey to find that particular cave. Following the river, moving only at an ox’s pace we are not likely to pass by a cave without taking notice but Nic rides ahead to scout it out anyway. By this time when he returns the sun is already sending tall shadows, anticipating dark. He brings news that there are some caves dug into a hillside, but they don’t appear to be occupied.