Historical setting: 589 C.E. Ligugè near Poitiers
It’s nearly dark when I reach Ligugè after getting Ana settled in as a guest with the nuns. I arrive for vespers and stand in the back near the door. It is only the abbot and few monks here now. The abbot sees me immediately and at first his surprise shows as a smile, then he finds his composure and turns toward the altar to continue the blessing of the host.
Tonight I share the guest room with a very young layman who wears a laborer’s simple tunic; but he seems refined, not as a worker. So I ask. He says he was assigned by his own father to work on the commissioned piece of art.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist. My father hopes I will become a monk. Here I can taste life both ways.”
“So you are working with Brother August?”
“You know Brother August?”
“I was here once, all tonsured and ruled. But I believe I had a holy purpose with family, so I left with the abbot’s blessing. How about you? Are you seeking holy orders?”
The boy answers, “Even the abbot doesn’t think Ligugè is a good fit for me. It has so few monks now and they are all so old. He suggested I would fit another community. But I fear the boys would just pick over me for my frailties.”
“Everyone has frailties. Maybe some will be kind. Caring for one another is always the rule in a Christian community.”
“Did my father send you here to sway my intentions?”
“No, no. I have no sway at all, with anyone’s father. Believe me.”
“My father is the one who commissioned the work in marble for our own courtyard. He thought owning a statue would satisfy my longing for art. But having art and doing art are not always of the same spirit.”
“Is Brother August a good master?”
“He’s a very good master. He allows me to step back with him and consider the possibility for the whole large work.”
“That makes him a good master?”
“My first teacher would just tell me where to lay the chisel, and how hard to tap. But Brother August talks with me and allows me to recognize the purpose of each cut. Here I can learn to discern the art, not just do it.”
Someone outside the door reminds us of the required silence.