Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
Brother August and I are here where the old, earthly bones of the monks are buried. This sculptor’s image of a soaring bird incised on the stone marks this heap of earth for Brother Joel in the most fitting way. “As it is on earth it is in Heaven,” was a favorite phrase of Brother Joel’s.
“I will let the abbot know you are our guest with us today.” August leaves me here in this bone garden considering the immortal natures of us all.
Dear God, thank you for these brushes with life we are granted between our earthly births and deaths. Amen.
The abbot here is an ancient man. He seems more kindly now, and doesn’t remember me at all. But he is the same one who, so many years ago, sent me fleeing into the dark of night because my son came for me with the cart and donkey that were known to collect the dead of plague. He feared that all my coming and going as a messenger had given me the plague and now this gravedigger had come to take me. So the last time I saw this abbot he was raging with the fear of death, chasing me off and burning down my cell behind me.
“So glad to meet you Father. Brother Nic was a dear friend of our family, and I have come to visit his grave. But I have another matter I ask you to consider. Nic was teaching a child to read and write with a particular ancient book of herbs and remedies we’ve had in our family. That child was hoping to have some descriptions from this book copied onto a trimmed end of parchment.”
“Oh, that isn’t done here. Scribes are rare in these times, and our commitment here is to the gospel.”
“Have you inks and edges of parchment? I myself, am an able scribe and I will do the work of it.”
He has to consider this long and hard before he can answer.
“Brother Nic came and made his poverty here. He endowed us well, and perhaps his lessons for this child will one day yield another worthy scribe; so I shall allow you to stay with us as long as you are obedient to the rule of this abbey.”
“I am familiar with the rule.”
“Here we do not adhere to The Rule of St. Benedict.” So you may only think you know.”