Historical setting: 589 C.E. Ana’s cottage in the Vosges Mts.
The Lenten pilgrims reported to their bishops that Father Columbanus, while true to the creed, allows, and in fact, supports some contrary practices. The complaints seem not about spiritual practices, but more about external details. The Irish tonsure, shaven clean across the top of the head from ear to ear, with no specific rule about the hair in the back of the shaven line. This appears to those with Roman orders, meaningless, and in fact “paganish”. The Roman Catholic tonsure is a circle akin to a crown of thorns. Meanwhile, the Kings of the Merovingians who rule now have their own dictates for hairstyle. The Roman tonsure is allowed, but the Celtic tonsure must be trimmed short in back because only kings are allowed to have long hair. In this land King Guntram is one among those royal Merovingian brothers called “long-haired kings.” They are of the superstition that their uncut locks allow them a supernatural power that only a king may have. So length of hair matters.
Furthermore those of Roman order howl at these Celtic monks that Easter is celebrated on the wrong day. This issue has truly riled the rule of the all-powerful bishops.
Since the power of the bishops is scattered among many, there is no one bishop to whom Father Columbanus answers. So for a lesser abbot from a foreign land it would be unheard of to call a council of bishops. And like the kings, each bishop is powerful in his own see. So each message of complaint must be answered individually.
Father Coumbanus himself confides to me, “A messenger on horseback is needed.”
The father has a gift for eloquent rebuttal so I’m sure his responses will be gracious and will offer ways forward in Christian peace. I would be glad to deliver such news. But I also suppose they wouldn’t see Father Columbanus as a threat if he weren’t so popular. Father Columbanus gives us a messenger’s purse for our needs as we travel.
And I will need directions to these cities. Since the father himself has never traveled throughout the lands he has asked the iron merchant for help in drawing a map for us. This itinerate merchant has lots of helpful information about roads and travel seasons and locations for inns and hospitality for two people on horseback.
Dear God, thank you for calling both Ana and I to purpose. May we always consider our first calling to serve Holy Love in all that we do. Amen.
(Continues Tuesday, July 5, 2022)