Historical setting: 590 C.E. Cottage between Annegray and Luxeuil
No sooner has the family of visitors left than here again are monks from Annegray returning up the hill-path, this time leading four horses adorned in silk. We’ve seen this decoration on horses before.
“So the dead bishop of Rome sends another envoy and this time he remembered Annegray, I see.”
“Brother Ezra, these horses bring a far better message than the death of the Bishop of Rome!” answers the Brother Servant.
“The church of St. Peter in Rome sends word through the lands that God has appointed a new bishop as heir to St. Peter!”
We walk the horses to the stable to bed them down for the night. We are told the Pope’s envoy will stay at the guest quarters of Annegray.
“Though the Roman Empire fades,” I observe, “It’s so very Roman of a pope to dispatch messengers on imperial steeds. The face of Rome still shines through the Christian order.”
“Indeed, Brother Ezra, Christians have a new papa now. He’s a Gregory who hasn’t forgotten to take all his little chicks under wide wings even here in Burgundy.”
“Maybe, especially here,” I add. “It seems so Roman to consider the whole world near and far. In Rome they must think we are all just waiting to hear news of a new bishop rising.”
Brother Servant catches my note of sarcasm. “Maybe you weren’t waiting Brother Ezra, but we were. We hope the new Bishop of Rome will put a rein on those troublesome bishops of Gaul.”
The second monk adds, “as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wing…” [Luke 13:34]
Brother Servant amends, “But a pope would be more like a father hen.”
“A father ‘hen’? Is that even possible? Don’t you see how this might turn, Brother? It may be only a matter of time before every monastery will be under a single Benedictine Rule.”
“Not to worry,” says the second monk. “Pope Gregory has armies of heretics and a plague waiting at his door, and with no Roman Army left to save Rome he won’t have any time to spread rules and check on distant obedience.”
The horses will stay for the night and the monks will stay as well, so we’ve the stable full tonight. We put the horses’ silks aside and give them common woolen horse-blankets for the cold winter’s night. Colleen stretches the pot of porridge for these added guests. So much hospitality makes a very thin soup.