Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons
Father Felix is telling me about King Guntram’s plan to move Father Columbanus from Annegray to Luxovium. Columbanus has not yet heard of this plan but already preparations have begun to send the workers who are completing this project on to begin another similar build in the foothills of the Vosges.
“It is the King’s plan to move the Irish monks to a new location.”
“So the Romans planted another rock heap in those mountains?“
Father Felix explains, “It would seem the Roman emphasis up there was on baths and strategic outposts. So ruins are in places without cities. And now, we find the wildernesses have fine ruins that the king thinks would be places where monks would thrive. Maybe he doesn’t understand that the Holy Spirit is flexible and can show up anywhere.”
“Yes, I guess a king would suppose monks can only thrive in a sparse land. But, Brother Felix, the ways of the Irish are different than that of the Franks. In Ireland, where there were no cities in Patrick’s time they made their monasteries into full communities where people eventually gathered for farming and trade followed. So in Ireland, the monasteries become the cities; in Gaul the cities add the monasteries to places that are already known for their saints and churches.”
Felix points out, “But the pilgrims to Annegray are mostly monks; they aren’t the common people who will build their homes all around there.”
“Then here we are, Ana and I making our home in that wilderness place which may soon to become even more obscure than it seems right now if the monastery moves. I was kind of expecting we would find ourselves in an Irish-like town very soon.”
Father Felix means to offer assurance. “Well, it could happen in the Irish way. And if they had a holy relic or two, then who knows how people would flock there.”
This thought of an economic purpose for relics answers the question I’ve had for years. Maybe relics are kept to make a place into a popular destination for superstitious visitors so that the wealthy donations will follow. It’s not the suffering wilderness that is the economic boon for a holy place. Rather it’s the rumors of earthly miracles. So here I am, a sign of the spiritual resurrection of life, when what people are really looking for is just rumors of magic said to inhabit old bones of saints.
“Dear Friend Jesus would you ever have guessed it?”