Historical setting: 602 C.E. The Cottage a few miles from Luxeuil
Ana answers the boy’s query for stories of their mother’s adventures with royalty by asking them to imagine a king’s library and name some books. Naming books they’ve never seen? Impossible.
She hints. “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Gabe announces, “Psalm 23!”
Greg adds, “A Psalm isn’t a book it’s a chant.”
Ana affirms, “It is a chant from a book of scripture, and Gabe was right to name the book and the chapter: Psalm, 23.”
So she has turned her amazing adventures riding through Gaul to visit kings and bishops into a lesson. Even though we live in a world of great oral recitations of legendary saints and royals, actual literacy and real books are rare outside of monasteries. Ana and I still demand these academic lessons for our children. My obstinacy about this is probably an anachronism she blames on my oddity of life and life again. But I’ve seen in other generations that literacy is how commoners become secretaries for counts, and how a woman raised as a pagan healer is privy to a king’s library. Literacy is how my children will always be safe from the fetters of autocrats – be it the rule by bishops or by kings.
And maybe I’m caught out of step with time, but my own yearning to visit the temple at Passover seems sated in joining with the pilgrims that visit Luxeuil each Lenten season. Now we are in that season and Simon and Hannah are old enough to take on the chores and help Ana if I wish to take Greg and Gabe with me to Luxeuil. It is an easy walk, only part of a day, hardly an actual pilgrimage by distance. But they would have a chance to see that great wonder of all the pilgrims wandering there from far places simply to join their voices in the mighty chants, to feel the common prayers moving through the crowds and be at one in the scents and the silences of worship. I’ve long imagined this day when my sons could share in this. Dear God, stay close.
The boys find packing for a pilgrimage very different from packing for a hunt. Christian Pilgrims share in a unity of poverty, while hunters are burdened with the dream of carrying more on their backs than they might need. Both find hunger, then by the grace of a loving Creator, are fed.
(Continues Tuesday, March 14, 2023)