Historical setting: 590 C.E. The path back to Annegray
Now we are discussing the possibilities that a new bishop of Rome will impose Roman rule on these outlands like Frankish Gaul. The monastic Rule of Benedict echoes Roman order and the Irish Rule has subtle distinctions that, in practice, make a big difference.
I know this Roman kind of rule too well because so many centuries past I was a son of a Pharisee living in Bethany, a Judean settlement under the Imperial Roman rule. It was the heavy hand of empire that nailed Jesus to a cross. And now even these Christian monks are worrying over how they will be judged under an old Roman uniformity of order.
Any measure rumored to be “perfection” is likely a human invention. First God said of all Creation “it is good.” So a hierarchy of humanity surely isn’t a God thing, even if rank and structure seem useful. God pronounced goodness but it took human minds to standardize and sort a perfection of it. It becomes a power play of one person over another.
At Annegray now, I look up across the wooded hills, and sure enough, I see a building not quite hidden in the bare branches of winter. I ask if that is a church.
Brother Servant affirms that it is a “barbarian church,” as he calls it. It is said to be “secular,” because it is not under a bishop or an abbot so the assigned priest is local. I ask him, maybe rhetorically, if barbarian Christians worshiping where the priest was not assigned by the strictures of the church are less than perfect Christians. “Are they flawed, being as they are, outside of the episcopal structures of Christianity?”
“I don’t know. Father Columbanus has walked by that place and prayed only that God will sort it all out when it needs to be dealt with.”
“See what I mean, Brother Servant? Having a leader who looks first to God rather than speaking as God matters a lot. It matters to us, but also to other people going to a priest at that place, and yet they receive their baptisms and their spoken blessings from God even though it may seem to have no rule.”
“You don’t know, Brother Ezra. What if the priest there brings his followers false teachings? I sometimes worry over the things the father leaves for God to decide.”
Dear God, this question seems yours alone to answer. Amen.