Historical setting: 589 C.E. In the Vosges Mountains
Ana is telling me a terrible story, I would try not to listen if I could. She has been released from the hold of a young monk, by the flailing of her knee. She tells me she was surprised he released her, as he fell. I can understand what she doesn’t know.
She continues. “He fell to one side taking the robe that covered us, so there I was naked and unhidden looking skyward and into the faces of a circle of silent monks who probably heard my screams and were standing all around us looking on.
“The young monk was terrified and burst into tears. Through his anguish he was sobbing that he was sorry, until he got his wits about himself then he just blamed me. He said it was my sin alone. I had tempted him. The monks said nothing at all. They simply wrapped him in his robe and took him off to see Father Columbanus. One covered me with a piece of my dress as they were leaving.
“I drew the robe up from the ground and pulled it over my shoulders, and I just sat there for a very long time. At first I was sobbing until clarity came over me like a wayward splash of sunlight. Then for a very long time I whispered psalms I knew, then I said a prayer, over and over again, ‘Dear God what can I do?’ It went from plea to curse and then back into a plea, then I felt someone near me. I turned, expecting to see the farmer of this meadow, or maybe the gardener on whose land I was sitting. It was the servant monk, and he had a proper linen woman’s tunic for me to wear when I went to answer for my sins before Father Columbanus.”
“Did you meet Father Columbanus in person then?” I asked.
“Yes. I found him to be very thoughtful and kind though I am sure the story I told made no sense to him. Both the young monk and I were given the privacy to make a confession only to the father, as the Irish Rule allows. And apparently what I told him, and what the young monk had said was the same thing. Neither of us told a better tale. But which of us sinned wasn’t at all clear.”