Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons
On this new morning we are riding toward Châlons. There are sheep grazing all around us by this road and Ana hasn’t forgotten my promise to take time to find a sober shepherd for her questions. Somehow, what I intended as simply the point of view of drunken shepherds, that phrase “vexatious woman,” has come between us. Even though I clearly didn’t mean that was what I thought. I only meant the drunken shepherds might draw that generalization of all women. It was a misunderstanding. Our long ride is silent, except for her reminders of my promise. I won’t try to twist it into an excuse, but I could mention that bishops perceive themselves as shepherds and right now we on our way to visit the Bishop of Châlons. But I think better of mentioning this thought of bishops as shepherds. My jest wouldn’t lighten the mood, or even inform. I do know when not to speak.
These silent hours of riding take us into the city. I ask a stranger to tell us where we might find the Bishop of Châlons. His answer is much more informative than a simple finger pointing to a direction.
“There was once a Bishop of Châlons they say. St. Peter sent him here. These days we have a young priest minding the duties of the church.”
“So there is no Bishop of Châlons?”
“No. But Fr. Felix is a fine young priest.” He glances at Ana. “He will gladly hear your confessions.”
“Which way is the church?”
He takes a long look to the north, so I can guess it is north. Then he explains, “It’s under construction these days. The monks who oversee the work answer to the young priest as though he were an abbot or bishop. King Guntram has an interest in all the new ways of the church and he guides our young priest in the upbuilding of Châlons. The King assures us Burgundy doesn’t need the sour notes of an old bishop in these new times.”
Then Ana asks, “…and has Châlons any knowledgeable shepherds?”
He ignores her question, and points me toward a construction site to the north.
“It’s like no one can hear me,” she laments.
We could go on to the church, but the sun is already setting and Ana and I, and our horses too, are hungry and irritable and tired. We’d best find a common stable with an inn.