Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Welcome to Medieval Master, a fictional story about a historic
person who was an abbot during the Middle Ages. It's a story
about the different plateaus of Love--and Forgiveness.

To follow this story, go to the very last post--which is the
Introduction--and move your way forward.

(2) Reflection

And within those Benedictine houses, there was a communal life
that depended upon Love and Forgiveness. When humans are
living so close to one another, in family, in a monastery, even on
the battlefield, there is a need for Unity and Harmony if such a
social unit is to be successful. This condition of close living
depends on a practical form of Love and Forgiveness, else it

Also, as a prior first, later an abbot, I had to step onto yet another
plateau, by taking responsibility for the entire monastic community
under my aegis. Sometimes it was a pain attending to monks,
whose personalities were every which way. But I eventually learned
Patience, always a healthy companion to Love and Forgiveness.

Finally, in the winter of my life I was given the gift of Lady Helen.
I found the true mate of my soul. This relationship was about
the clear pure Flame of Love. It was intensely personal, yet near
perfect. After all my years, I had been granted this beautiful love.
And even though my good lady was gone, I felt the most
profound gratitude. Providence was kind to me.

So I reflected on all these different kinds of Love I experienced.
It seemed my whole life was predicated upon Love--even my
mistakes! And I wondered, too, what the future might hold for
me. Would I really see my Lady Helen again? Would we meet
in another form, in another space and time, as was put to me
by the Great Light? I could only hope and pray that this might be
so. Love need be Everlasting if it is to progress unto completion
after completion unto Completion.

(1) Reflection

Chapter Five. REFLECTION

Some days when I had any spare time, I would go to one of
my favorite spots to reflect. Not far from the abbey, I would walk
to a nearby cow pasture and sit under a tree. I had to smile,
noting to myself how much I had changed. No longer the teacher,
Master Alan, no longer a busy abbot either, I seemed more and
more content gazing at the cows. Placid creatures, they conveyed
a sense of peace. So here I sat under the tree, fully realizing that
I was reaching towards the far end of my life.

However, I didn't dwell much on my death--rather, I reflected on
my life, the whole of it, pondering what all my experience might
really mean. No doubt such a habit was common to old age.
To use a business term, it was like checking through an accounting
sheet. Something abbots are forced to do, alas. But now I was
tallying up my life!

I never forgot that special dream, when I was reviewing my life
whilst standing before the Great Light. So once again I started
at the beginning.

Not once had I forgotten the young maiden in the forest. We took
our pleasure, but it was she who first brought forth the issue of Love.
Spurning her love, I paid dearly with years and years of guilt. But,
now old, I had to wonder whether I actually had loved her--and, if
so, in what way would I have loved her if given another opportunity?

Later, at the end of the affair, I did have second thoughts and felt
that I did love her. But my feelings were so muddled, so frightening,
that I could never get a strong grip on them. No doubt it was an
immature youthful form of love, mostly encapsulated by my
sexuality. Going from boyhood into priesthood, moving from
adolescence into celibacy, one's youthful sexuality is thwarted,
under-nourished, and in some cases--like mine--could erupt almost

I clung to my fear and dismissed Love. But looking back, seeing
more plainly the conditions under which I lived, I could beg off to
some extent. Still it resulted in that young girl's suicide. Why did
God make us so vulnerable to the needs of Sex, to the desire for
Love? I cannot explain, only accept that we are allowed to make
wrong decisions. And then take the responsibility for our mistakes.
As a priest and monk, looking back through years meeting the
concerns of other people, I have come to realize that most of us
humans taint Love much of the time. It's a common condition that
many of us never outgrow.

Perhaps my searing sense of guilt prompted me to become far
more aware of the dangers of Love.

Fortunately I had moved on, teaching Scripture. In the Holy Book,
especially in Christ, I had found a whole new level of Love. Christ
not only taught Love, he *lived* Love. And I focused on his teachings
in this respect. His was a gentle, open life. He responded to all sorts
of people, men and women, bad and good. He never turned his back
on those in need. He stressed Forgiveness, too! He gave people
a chance to turn around their life--and "sin no more."

When I was teaching in Paris, I taught Christ's example of Love and
Forgiveness. And my students responded positively. Their souls,
like my soul, surely craved such. And in both of my monastic houses
I continued to teach Christ as the epitome of Love and Forgiveness.

(4) Winter

The warmth of our many years together was surely a godsend.
But it ended when I was near 65 years of age. We had become
accustomed growing old together. There surely was talk after
so many years, whether from my monks or even among Lady
Helen's family. But, evidently, no one saw any harm and probably
were quite amused by all of it. We both had white hair by this
time, so this marked us as "old." So what's the harm!

The "harm" set-in for me that terrible sad day when I was
summoned to Lady Helen's manor. Her son had sent a messenger,
urgently requesting that I come as fast as I could. My beloved
was dying! Incredible. It was all so sudden. Never a great
horseman, I pushed my steed to move furiously fast. Never
having been to my lady's manor, I followed their messenger.

Upon arrival I was taken to her bedroom. I could not fathom
what was wrong, what might have happened, but it was obvious
that Lady Helen was on the brink of death. She remained
conscious and requested that everyone in the room leave,
except me. With eyes glistening with tears, we both cried
together. Realizing that she was near her leave-taking she
quietly professed her love for me. I was nearly overcome,
but held her close. I told her that she was the mate of my soul.
She knew, knew from the very first time that she had met me.

All the trappings drifted away, my abbatial trappings, my monastic
trappings, my priestly trappings no longer meant anything in
the light of our profession to one another. I told her that I loved
her dearly and wanted her to stay with me. I didn't want her to
die. But we could not forestall Death.

Holding her, I gently kissed her on the lips. And with this kiss,
I had taken her breath away! My precious Lady Helen died in
my arms.

After her funeral, her burial, I could hardly function. Once again
in my life, I felt myself a "lost" soul. Life became aimless, and I
only carried out my duties in a perfunctory way. I had almost
become an automaton. It was like a part of me was no longer
there, like somehow my soul was nowhere. Sometimes I was
able to observe this strange condition of mine, and it seemed
really odd. I felt that I no longer really belonged on this Earth.

In time my Lady Helen returned in my dreams. It seemed as if
there was concern for me. She was supporting me, helping me
through my trouble. I let these dreams soothe me. Slowly these
healing dreams brought me back to life. And, once again, I
took on the mantle as the Abbot of Tewkesbury!

(3) Winter

In the midst of our meetings, I realized that both of us were
beginning to have strong feelings for one another. I had fallen
in love with Lady Helen. And it was obvious that she felt the
same for me. We never outright discussed our love for one
another, but we both knew that it was there. Besides our
wonderful discussions, there was now this underlying bond
that bound us more and more together.

When I first noticed that ours was becoming a love relationship,
I spent some considerable time praying over this situation.
As a monk, much less an abbot, surely we were drifting into a
taboo territory! But Love will have its way. This new love towards
this wonderful woman was not at all like the lustful love that I had
experienced with the young maiden so many years back.

Yes, there was a physical attraction between Lady Helen and
myself--but we kept it at a level where we could transform it in
other ways, just as pleasurable but more mature. Dare I say
the word "devotion" as a hallmark for the love that we held for
one another? We were not only devoted to our mutual spiritual
journey, but to one another!

Our twice-monthly talks continued over the years. And the warmth
of our love kept us spirited and young! Then, in the midst of those
wonderful years, it suddenly dawned on me that Lady Helen was
the true mate of my soul. I remembered that special dream that I
had when first traveling to Tewkesbury, when I met the great
Light. This majestic Light had foretold that I would soon meet the
"soul of my soul." Upon remembering, suddenly this dream took
on an incredible significance!

From that moment on, I utterly cherished my good Lady Helen.

(2) Winter

Looking back, I could see that it was no surprise that my
meetings with Lady Helen actually gave me more of an
opportunity to engage in a true sense of spirituality.

Lady Helen had been widowed about a year before we
began seeing one another. She never mentioned much
about her husband. What I did learn from others, he was
more an out-doors-man. It was rumored that he planned to
join some crusaders and go to the Holy Land, but before
he could go he broke his leg falling off his horse. The
accident crippled him, kept him away from his natural
inclinations; and, thus, he grew bitter and grumpy. Lady
Helen endured, however, and other members of her family--
her children, and later her small grandchildren--made her

Perhaps her hard life with her late husband, or perhaps her
being suddenly free to become more herself, had prompted
Lady Helen to look more inwardly, to inquire, to lean more
towards a mature spirituality.

All I can say is that this good lady was a "boon" for me!
As a spiritual guide and teacher, I would make my priestly
pronouncements over which Lady Helen would put very
sharp questions. In my effort to answer, this good woman
forced me to think over what we were discussing.

We both were unafraid to be honest, which is an utterly
wonderful condition when it comes to a relationship.
In time we both had overcome what we called the
"artificialities" of the Church. What was meant here was
so-called man-made interpretations that evolved into
dogma and doctrine, that was more about Church Authority
than about Christ.

If my monks had been listening-in to our conversations, no
doubt they would have been shocked--since most had not
been able to rise above the piety level. The few scholar-monks
we had at Tewkesbury might not have taken issue, nor would
my friend--the Abbot of Gloucester Abbey--have been upset.
At the higher levels of the Benedictine Order, there were some
who were more spiritually open. These special monks had
moved into a near universal approach when it came to Christ,
the Lord of the Universe!

And here we two were, Lady Helen and me, sitting in our quiet
corner nearly like explorers. It was like we were reconnoitering
new spiritual milieux. And the Christ grew ever larger and larger
in our minds, offering us horizons that we could hardly imagine
just a few years back.

Oft laughing together, sometimes nearly uproariously, Lady Helen
and I were having *fun.*

(1) Winter

Chapter Four: WINTER

Life continued to be busy at the abbey. Being near the
confluence of two rivers, the whole Tewkesbury area
was prone to flooding. There were a couple of times
that flood waters actually encroached the abbey, but
somehow miraculously stopped short of doing any
damage. Nonetheless we monks sweated it out.

Slowly I continued the education process at the abbey.
However--no matter how I might have wished, there
was no way that I could convert Tewkesbury into a
Canterbury. I came around that no matter how I might
try, Tewkesbury Abbey would definitely remain a country

Part of me remained somewhat forlorn, because by
nature I was a scholar--and I definitely missed that
aspect of being a Benedictine. But scholarship was for
the few, for the more urbane I guess. I would have to
accept the hand that had been dealt to me!

I did fill in hastening my effort towards putting together
a biographical book about Thomas a Becket. I still was
inclined towards keeping this work personal and private.
But the project was coming to an end, so I knew that I
would have to begin making some arrangements if the
book was ever to see the light of day.

Consequently I started making arrangements to send
my book to Gervaise, one of my promising scholar-monks
at Christ Church Priory. We were close friends, and I
knew that I could trust him. I arranged for one of our
monks here in Tewkesbury to study for a year at the
priory at Canterbury, and I gave him my packaged book
to give Gervaise. There were instructions to keep the
book a closely held secret, and it was not to be released
to anyone until several years after my death. Also, I knew
that Gervaise would be smart and do all this quietly, so
as to protect himself in case there were ramifications.

Other than the book, much of my time was now spent in
a near rhythmic ritual. Of course the Benedictine lifestyle
lent to this, in that we followed the hours of prayer throughout
the day until evening. Nearly all our monastic activities
were mainly prescribed by Tradition. But as the abbot, I
did have those other duties that encroached upon attending
to business rather than the spiritual life.

(4) Fall

After the death of King Henry, I decided it was fairly safe to dip
back into my project about the late Archbishop Thomas a Becket.
Henry's successor was King Richard I, who seemed a far more
fair and benevolent ruler. Still, I felt I should be careful. But I did
start writing the book about this martyr--in secret.

Also, my stress level subsided considerably. I was relaxing into
my duties quite nicely, and sleeping well at nights. Most curious,
but I kept having re-occurring dreams. I kept dreaming about an
older, kindly looking woman who probably was about my age.
Scratching my head, I knew that I had never met her in my life.
But I kept dreaming about this matronly woman.

Perhaps some six months later I had a visitor, the young scion of
one of the greatest families in the area. Indeed, earlier family
members of this aristocratic house had been responsible for
the earlier construction of Tewkesbury Abbey! The young man
asked a favor of me. His mother had heard good reports about
me, and she was hoping that I might serve as her spiritual guide.
I could hardly decline.

So arrangements were made for his mother, Lady Helen, to meet
with me perhaps twice monthly. Need I say that I was a little
nervous, but I almost dropped when I first saw her. Unbelievable,
but she was the woman in my recent dreams! It was as if her
arrival was foretold. After our first meeting, I relaxed. She was a
kind and intelligent woman, quite well educated, who not only
loved her children but also her grandchildren. Lady Helen was
my age, born exactly one month after myself.

Basically, she was interested in pursuing the study of Scripture
more in-depth, from a more mature perspective. Also, she was
interested in pursuing the Benedictine lifestyle as it might apply
to her and her situation as the matriarch of her great family.
Listening to her, I began to think that I might actually learn more
spiritually from her than she from me.

Lady Helen made me feel comfortable.

(3) Fall

Soon thereafter I stood before the monastic community and citizens
of the village, as well as members of the leading families in the
region, and kneeled before the Diocesan Bishop of Hereford and
the Abbot of the nearby Gloucester Abbey and took my Abbatial
vows. I had only entered into my 51st year. In full ceremonial
dress--that included a mitre and staff as well vestments and
insignia--I followed the great procession out of the church,
blessing the congregation. It was like a whirlwind, suddenly
realizing that I had become a Benedictine Abbot.

I suspect that I was made the fastest abbot in the Benedictine Order.
I didn't even have time to greet the monks properly. Later I found
that there were some 40 monks at Tewkesbury, less than half those
who resided at the Christ Church Priory. So I smugly thought that I
would be more than able to lead this new abbey community. My
smugness soon dissipated, when I discovered that we had a
considerable monastic diversity. Tewkesbury was a country abbey,
and a good number of its monks were "field monks." They were
barely literate, mainly tending to our adjacent lands, producing our
food, tending to large herds of cattle, seeing to it that the Abbey also
turned a profit producing flour in its mills, and sending cheese and
milk products down river to nearby villages.

It seemed as if I was challenged to be even more a businessman
than when I was at Canterbury. I had to spend a lot of time in the
saddle, inspecting the lands, visiting the mills. But this effort proved
a good thing, because I not only came to value more the work of
our field monks but also I had occasion to meet the common people.
Happily I got along very well with these good rough folk, and that
gave me a considerable satisfaction.

About one-third of the monastic community were "choir monks," in
that they were more educated and were usually younger sons from
the great houses in the area. But even these particular monks were
rough-around-the-edges. Though I had been a younger son, by
good luck I had acquired a more scholarly education than most
of Tewkesbury's choir monks. So I could see that my work was cut
out, trying to raise the education level of all my monks. Right off, I
needed to raise the standards of both the abbey's novitiate and
monastic school. This would be a long-term undertaking, so I really
had to remain patient.

Hard work, all of this, but I was really happy. As a scholar I was doing
what came naturally. I taught far more at Tewkesbury than I did at
Christ Church Priory. Basically I was the lonely scholar for a long
period of time. But the word got out that we were developing a
serious educational program, and over times the abbey began to
attract some scholar-monks who could help build-up the monastic

Beyond this, my new-found friend--the Abbot of Gloucester Abbey--
informed me that we abbots in the region took turns inspecting the
various Benedictine houses in the area. Hence my time as an
inspector would come around. Sighing at the thought, I knew I
would be spending far more time on horseback than I wished.
Still all this endeavor, traveling around and about, took my mind
far and away from the king and Archbishop Baldwin.

But that was soon to change. Almost exactly a year after my
arrival at Tewkesbury, the news came that King Henry had died.
This surprised me, in that he was only two years older than me.
As for Baldwin, his tenure as archbishop soon ended as well.
Ironic, very ironic. If I could have managed to have stayed at
Christ Church Priory, I probably would have found more smooth
sailing. However, Fate moves us as it will. For some unknown
reason, I felt strongly that I was meant to come to Tewkesbury
because of something special that I needed to experience.

(2) Fall

I knew that it would take a number of days to reach the Welsh
border where my new abbey was situated. Even though sad,
an ounce of humor slipped through when I realized that I was
being sent about as far away from Canterbury possible and
still remain in England. At least I was not sent to the North,
in that it is far more rugged territory.

About midway into our trip I figured that, if not by the king and
Baldwin, I might be put under anyway--what with the persistently
damp weather we had to trek through. I had chills and fever, so
we had to pitch camp in the middle of nowhere. I took to my cot
and slept. Shortly afterwards I had the strangest experience.

Laying still I suddenly felt very light, feeling no weight whatsoever
The tent seemed to have evaporated and, rather, I seemed totally
enclosed in a brown space. It was like a corridor, and at the end
I saw a great Light. As I went towards it, the more luminous it
became. The Light was as bright a light that I had ever seen. At
this point I seemed to be able to see myself, and it seemed as if I
were only a small globe of light standing before this great Light.
I heard thoughts coming into my mind. There was no speech,
just thought.

The Light was communicating with me, and I with it. I felt no fear.
My mind entertained my entire life in review. The great Light pointed
out where I had stumbled, where I could do better, where I had done
well. I cried over my guilt about spurning Love, about my concern
for the young maiden who I had met in my youth. The Light did not
condemn me, but rather relayed that the young maiden was all
right--having taken a new form in another space in another time.
She was well and living far more profitably.

I barely understood what any of this might mean. The great Light
continued, noting the young maiden and many other souls of my
acquaintance would forever be linked with my soul through all
space and time. But the young maiden was *not* the mate of my
soul. Rather I would soon meet the "soul of my soul." I felt very
comforted by this Light. There was only Love and Comfort. Then
I was told that I had to return, because there was yet much work
for me to do, much learning I must come to understand.

Suddenly I was back in the tent, wrenched awake. For a few
minutes I seemed paralyzed, not able to move, rendered
incredulous by this strange dream. But eventually a strong
energy moved through my body. My fever had broke, and I
felt refreshingly hopeful and ready to move on!

Several days later we finally approached Tewkesbury Abbey. It
was near a small village, situated near the confluence of the River
Severn and the River Avon. Drawing near I realized that I was
looking at an architectural gem. The Abbey and its Church looked
to be a beautiful masterpiece of golden stone. The sheer
magnificence of the place took my breath away!

(1) Fall

Chapter Three: FALL

At least Archbishop Baldwin allowed us monks food, albeit slim
pickings. That was all right, because we weren't into gluttony
anyway! As prior my duties were considerably reduced by the
imprisonment, so I bided my time teaching more. We began to
enrich the novitiate scholastically. And with the help of some
our older monks, I happened upon a project.

I started making inquiries about the tenure of that great archbishop,
Thomas a Becket. The memories of these monks who served with
him were still fresh. So I interviewed these monks, wrote down
their perceptions, and collated my notes. Over the course of more
than a year engaged in this project, I realized that I possessed
some considerably dangerous information. No matter how one
looked at this information about Thomas a Becket, it pointed to a
seriously awry relationship between this late, good archbishop
and King Henry II. Though the king claimed innocence in regard
to Thomas' death, my monk's reporting told a far different story.

What with our problems with Archbishop Baldwin, I wasn't about
to irritate the king by writing a book and making it public. If I did,
I knew that I likely would have pronounced my own death sentence--
albeit done surreptitiously! So I hid my notes, yet I kept them close
to me.

Towards the end of the second year of our monastic imprisonment,
Archbishop Baldwin asked me to meet with him. The man was
blunt. He said that I had been appointed to become the Abbot of
Tewkesbury Abbey, near the Welsh Border, and I had best accept
the appointment. He hinted that once I was gone, he would lift
the closure ban on the cloisters of our priory if I left.

Sadly I knew that Baldwin had the backing of King Henry II,
otherwise the offer to become an abbot would never had been
made. As far as I was concerned, I knew my fate had been
chiseled in stone. I had no real choice in the matter, else my
life--as well as Christ Church Priory--would be in jeopardy!
My heart was broken.

In less than a week I was sent packing. Tears flowed in the priory.
I had no idea how much the monks had cherished me as their
prior. Publicly I had to hold back my own tears, trying to boost
the morale of the priory. I told them the good news that soon
their cloisters would be unlocked by Archbishop Baldwin and
that presumably they would once again serve the cathedral.
But back in my own rooms, I wept. My so-called advancement
was a travesty. And in accepting, I would be taken away from
the monastic home that I had come to love so deeply!

The black day came. I stood before the gate of the cathedral,
dressed for travel, guarded by some of the king's soldiers who
presumably were to protect me during our long journey. Standing
at the gate, I asked for a sword from one of the soldiers. He was
leery, but relieved when I plunged the sword into the ground--
making its hilt into the sign-of-the cross. I knelt before it and
prayed hard for my beloved priory. Done, I rose, gave a farewell
blessing over my monks, and mounted my horse.

As we rode out onto the street, I was shocked. There stood
hundreds of the townspeople. They cheered, yelling out their
good wishes. I blessed them too! But it had to be one of the
saddest days of my life.

(4) Summer

For almost three years I had enjoyed being the prior of
Christ Church Priory, but than our good archbishop died.
His death brought disturbance, in that King Henry decided
to elect a henchman as archbishop. He did this, overriding
the priory's selections--who were all Benedictines. Instead
the king chose a Cistercian abbot, who earlier had been a
secular archdeacon and had worked in Rome for the Papacy.
Baldwin of Exerter seemed more the King's man than a
true monastic. Our new archbishop was more political than

Needless to say, there was lots of upset in the priory. Fuel
was added to the fire when Archbishop Baldwin was tending
towards making the Canterbury See more a secular church.
Rather than having the monks serve the cathedral, he was
thinking more in terms of canons.

This most certainly did not go down well with our monks.
And, alas, as prior I was caught in the middle of all this
dissension. Earlier I had voiced my support for the
Benedictine candidates the priory had put forth. I even
took our concern to the King personally. Emotions ran
high--and I even drew faint at one point. I was not used to
such discord. King Henry seemingly was kind towards me,
but he wasn't going to swerve away from his choice.

Baldwin became our new archbishop, but he believed that
Christ Church Priory was his enemy. Consequently, he
took away some the priory's lands. And, worse, he locked
the entire priory into its cloisters. We had become monastic
prisoners! As the prior, I assumed the sadness of the priory
onto my shoulders. It had become a tragic situation. Dire
times had fallen on our priory!

(3) Summer

Being a prior nearly immediately taught me that I could no
longer follow just the daily rhythm of the ordinary monk. I
discovered that I had many other duties beyond this quiet
pace that I had come to cherish. Being responsible for the
priory, I had to attend far more to practical business! I had
to adjust, else the priory would go under.

Christ Church Priory consisted of only choir monks. We had
no field monks who worked nearby agricultural holdings,
like those in country abbeys. Of course the priory owned
major tracts of land, rented out to villagers in the region.
Hence, I had to visit these areas, make sure that our food
supply was readily replenished. This meant getting out
amongst ordinary people; but, after even those short years
my being a monk, it was a bit of an adjustment for me.

Within the confines of the priory, I had to review the books
that marked our expenditures. As for "books," well I began
to realize that we had well over 500 books--on many monastic
topics--that were scattered all over the priory. Not easy to do,
but it was my intent to collect these books from hither and yon
and place them in the common room. I had in mind creating
a small library.

As for my teaching, during some of our chapter meetings I
would give a small talk. But it didn't equate to my teachings
when a Master. I had to let go this pleasurable duty and
delegate such to another qualified monk. The chapter
meetings were periodic, bringing the entire community
together to discuss their needs and their ideas.

During one chapter meet, the discussion turned to the topic
of music. Yes, we were choir monks--but our delivery of the
Psalms was mostly in monotone, rather than in song as was
put by choir monks in some of the Continent's major abbeys
and cathedrals. I decided that we need start developing a
true choral capability. Easier said than done, however, in
that finding musically inclined monks with good voices was
a hair-pulling endeavor. Still, slowly and sometimes painfully,
we made headway towards enhancing the liturgy and the
monastic hours into more beautiful ceremonies.

Also, we began to insert illuminations into our copies of
the Bible. Some of our monks were really excellent artists.
So under my tutelage, Christ Church Priory established a
small workshop where these monks could work copying
the Bible, adding their illuminations, for the purpose of
supplying them to other abbeys and priories in England.
In due course we became a center for such efforts.

(2) Summer

Work proved an outlet for me. All the duties in the priory were
held in common. One could work in the kitchen as well as read
scholarly texts in his cell. Some of my first work was helping in
the infirmary, tending to the sick. Early on, too, I helped serve
the poor who came our way. Canterbury was deemed a town,
but compared to places like Paris--or even Benevento--it seemed
more like an oversized village. Most of the town's housing was
near the Cathedral or the nearby St. Augustine's Abbey, yet
another Benedictine house. As for the poor, working with them
I got to meet a lot of the town's inhabitants.

Still life was picking-up for Canterbury, based on a tragedy--the
murder of the late Archbishop, Thomas a Becket. Originally he
was a close friend of King Henry II, but over time he was being
steadily pressured by the King's determination to interfere in
Church affairs. The King wanted to *use* Thomas as his own
point person, who would simply give over to him. The Archbishop
would not comply and became a troublesome thorn for the King.
Hence Thomas a Becket was murdered in the Cathedral, only
a few years before I arrived. The King's men martyred Becket,
though Henry tried to beg off.

Consequently, this tragedy spawned numerous pilgrimages
to Canterbury, to the Cathedral where Thomas a Becket was
murdered. This good Archbishop had become a favorite of the
people, and Canterbury had become a recipient of the pilgrim's
money. So life was picking-up for the town.

Anyway, after completing my novitiate I smoothly moved into
the various functions of the priory. Mainly I was designated
a "Master," once again, in that I was tapped to teach the monks
a myriad of religious and theological subjects. This was not
surprising, since only a few of the monks were actually even
fairly well-educated. Most of the monks were younger sons or
left as child oblates, and they were the monastic majority in
the priory. Nonetheless, most were open to learning. I made
it easier for them by trying to make theological and doctrinal
complexities somewhat understandable. And as I did in Paris,
I emphasized Love and Forgiveness.

No doubt everyone has a certain need for forgiveness. But
my need seem to become more critical as each day passed.
Guilt was eating away my heart and mind. Then came the
threshold that I had to pass through. When I was 44 years of
age, our prior left to become the Abbot of Battle Abbey. God
only knows why, but the priory's community voted for me to
become their new prior. I was both stunned and disturbed.

I was disturbed, because I had carried my hidden guilt all
through the years--not once talking about it in confession.
Worried about my position in the Church, I still did not trust
God to help me through. Carrying the guilt, I was not clean.
It wasn't so much the sinful act of lust as it was the terrible act
of spurning Love.

At last I garnered up the courage to take this guilt into
confession. I could do no less, if I were to accept becoming
the Prior of Christ Church Priory. I chose our now presiding
Archbishop Richard to be my confessor. He had once been
the Prior of Dover, and I believed him to be a good and
tolerant man. Nonetheless, as I entered the confessor's
box I was trembling with fear.

It proved a terrible hour for me, unburdening this guilt on
my Archbishop. Good man he was, but he was *not* easy
on me. Essentially he told me what I already knew, that I
would have to pay a lifetime of penance for my crime against
Love. Oddly, he barely made mention the sin of lust that
I surely had committed during the course of this affair. In the
end I came out of that confession feeling at least slightly
more cleansed.

My Archbishop made no objection to my becoming the Prior.
Hence, I accepted the monks' call to be their leader.

(1) Summer

Chapter Two. SUMMER

Happily my reputation as "Master Alan" from Paris had proceeded
me, and I was made welcome as a novice at the priory. I was in
for a year of training towards understanding the "Rule of Saint
Benedict" as well as undergoing the practical learning of the
Benedictine lifestyle. But first I was given a thorough tour of the
layout of both the priory and the cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral was also deemed an "abbey," in that
the monks served as its choir and serviced its sacred activities.
Overall, however, the cathedral was under the aegis of a selected
archbishop who basically was the abbot--and the priory was led
by a prior.

The priory buildings were separate from the cathedral, and were
mainly situated north of the cathedral. The monastic house
consisted of cloisters, a common room, a chapter building, but
the kitchens and dining halls were located even farther from the
cathedral. There were also hospitality sections for visitors as
well as an infirmary and a building to service the poor. All in all
the priory, including the cathedral, amounted to a big operation.

As a near 40-year-old novice, I had to quell any pride I might
have. It was a strict year, not only learning but engraining
personally the major elements of the Rule. They included
Stability, Obedience, Conversio Morum, Hospitality, and Ora
et Labora for beginners.

Being a priest long under Church authority, I had no trouble
understanding obedience to the prior. As for stability, remaining
all one's life in the same Benedictine house, well at the time I
savored the prospect. I had long languished for a "home," so
I was anxious to settle in and stay at Christ Church Priory for
the rest of my life. As for Ora et Labora--Prayer and Work--I
was more than willing to enter into that part of Benedictine life.

It was Conversio Morum--slowly developing a true Christ life--
that most concerned me. Of course the Benedictines were
reasonable people and realized that Conversio Morum was
the work of an entire lifetime. But inwardly I was still beset by
guilt. I had never told anyone about my affair with the young
maiden, not even in confession. I was afraid that I would be
dismissed as a priest, and now as a monk. Hence I kept my
secret, but it tainted my being a monastic from the very beginning!

(4) Spring

I grew ill, falling victim to a steep sickness. My guilt became a heavy
burden; but, added to that, was a growing sense of love lost. Out of
my muddled mind I had come to realize that I really had cared for
that sweet girl. But the physicality of it all had smothered my sense
of love down into a deep corner of my soul. I had killed the love
that we could have held for one another. I had killed the mate of my
soul. And now I had become a lost soul.

A fabric of my being had been torn asunder. I would never ever be
the same!

My rector was concerned for my health and decided that I need return
to my family in Brittany--at least for awhile. Thus, I returned to the
home I had left years back for the seminary. I got better, though there
now was a quiet melancholy that I knew I would have to carry for the
rest of my life. Returning to the Church as a priest, it was decided that
I should remain in France. I was to go to Paris where I would train as
a theologian and teacher.

After a few years of serious theological study, I was designated a
"Master" at the Sainte-Genevieve Abbey. It was an abbey especially
built for secular canons, like myself. And truth be spoken, the
Sainte-Genevieve Abbey was fast becoming a "place of learning"
with a renown reputation.

So here I stood, as "Master Alan," teaching advanced seminarians.

Dare I be a little bit happy? I thought over this as I continued my studies
and teaching. Sometimes there were little shoots of sunlight landing
on my soul, but not one day passed by that I did not think of my lost
little maiden. And I prayed for her every night. Slowly my melancholy
lost its edge, though I knew it was always there. The theology I taught
was hopeful, in that I began picking the parts of it that always stressed
Love and Forgiveness. It soothed my soul--and, evidently, pleased the
souls of my students. I became a very popular teacher.

My popularity lasted for a few more years, but much to my surprise my
soul was beginning to lean towards a far different form of life. During
this time in Paris I had begun visiting a local Benedictine house. I had
fallen in love with the monastic liturgy, the pace of life as I viewed it
there. It was a place of peace and quiet that I was craving more and
more as the years passed.

Not unexpected, I decided that I wanted to become a Benedictine monk.
I was nearing my fortieth year, rather late to enter a novitiate; but if I
put off my decision, it could only make my prospect being accepted
only worse. So I made inquiries and was told that my best chance was
to enter the Christ Church Priory at Canterbury, in England.

The idea of going to England appealed to me. Canterbury was in that
southeastern part of England that was the ancestral home of my family.
We had never lost the idea that we were Briton. Thus, with permission
from Church Authority, I crossed the Channel. And after traveling for a
small while touring Southern England, I went to Canterbury and knocked
on the door of Christ Church Priory.

(3) Spring

Shortly after my ordination I was assigned as a secular canon to
the Santa Sophia Church in Benevento, which was in the hill
country of Central Italy. A big church, it was thought that originally
the building--or at least parts of it--might have been a pagan temple.
The church was mostly a huge dome.

Being such a big church, a number of priests served there and shared
common housing--hence we were called canons, though not belonging
to any particular order or rule like "regular canons." Interestingly, near
the church there was also a Benedictine monastic house. I didn't know
the monks, but as an occasional observer of their ceremonies I felt a
certain draw.

After some time attending to my clerical duties, I began to relax. I
actually found that I could fit in some spare time for myself. So in the
late afternoons before evening prayer, I decided to take some walks
out into the nearby countryside. The walk and the fresh air refreshed
my spirit, and I always returned to the church energized.

Following a number of weeks, during one of my walks, I decided to
venture into a wooded area. Here I could sit next to a favorite stream,
listening to the wild sounds of birds and squirrels flying from tree-to-
tree as well unseen deer bounding through the forest. Then a very
special day arrived! I had a new forest visitor--a young maiden, quite
beautiful, probably no older than 18 or 19 years of age. She had
flaming red hair, and I instantly felt strong feelings for her.

We didn't even speak to one another, rather only walking towards
one another, falling into each other's arms, leaning down onto the
soft ground. I had never experienced such ecstasy! I held her so
tight that I thought she might break. After we were exhausted, I
stood up and walked away. Following the path back to the town,
breathing hard, I couldn't fathomwhat had happened. It was all so
sudden that I seemingly did not have time to think that what I
might be doing was sinful.

Safe in my room, I nearly collapsed on my bed. I fell into a
frightful turmoil. What to do, what to think? After vespers I returned,
still overcome with what I had done that afternoon. I decided I would
not venture back to those woods.

The next day I ignored the decision I had made the night before.
Walking briskly, I headed straight for those woods with the high
hope that I would see that lovely girl once again. Oh good fortune!
There she was, sitting on the embankment near my little stream.
Again no words, we took our pleasure. Our near daily love-making
lasted for many months.

Then one day this beautiful girl declared her love for me, hoping for
a greater commitment. I gasped, frustrated, not knowing what to do.
My words to her were terrible. I declared that both of us had sinned,
dreadfully sinned. And our meetings had to come to an end,
immediately, before both of us were irrevocably condemned to Hell.
The stern priest finally made his appearance! I turned foot and
walked away as fast as I could go.

I did not go back to those woods for several months. But during this
time I started to have second thoughts. I didn't even know the girl's
name. We never really talked until she declared her love for me.
I had spurned her cruelly, and I felt that I should go back and ask
her forgiveness for my actions. Alas, I never again could find her
in those woods.

Shortly thereafter our rector made mention at supper that he was
faced with a strange case. A beautiful young maiden, with gorgeous
red hair, had starved herself to death in spite of her family's
protestations. She had descended into a terrible sorrow, for
which no one could understand. Our rector was perplexed and did
not know whether this dead girl should be given a Christian burial.
My stomach turned and I had to leave the supper table. I knew, really
knew that this poor girl had been mine in the woods. She died of
a broken heart, and her broken heart was on my head.

(2) Spring

Yet, I had much to learn. Seminaries come in different
packages, so it seems. A youth still wet behind the ears, I
was placed in a preparatory seminary where I mainly was
provided a classical education. In this case, I was treated
to the basic doctrines of the Church as well as provided with
a glossary style approach to the Saints--especially those
great Saints of the Early Church. The preparatory students,
me included, were barely past their middle teens. Our
minds were malleable, mainly because they were near
vacant. So virtually all the teaching at this level was quite
simplistic. Still, we were acquiring a background for the
next stage in our learning.

By the time I was well into my 19th year, I had transferred to
a major theological seminary where we studied the Saints,
the Early Fathers of the Church in far more depth. We also
studied the Bible and St. Jerome's Commentaries. As for
the practical side of our priestly training, we were trained
liturgically--how to perform the Mass, providing the Eucharistic
Meal, listening to Confession, administering a parish, and
relating to the people. And, above all, we learned about
Church Authority and its Hierarchy. As a priest we must be
dutiful to this authority.

However, entering into Holy Orders went by steps. First we
aspirants had to serve as deacons for a period of time, before
we could be ordained as a priest. The deacon worked especially
on the practical side, helping with marriage rites, visiting the sick,
and attending to the poor. And if deemed ready by our immediate
Church authority and our teachers, we were declared candidates
for priestly ordination.

Before ordination we were required to reflect upon our life as
a priest. Was our faith strong? Could we bend to authority, no
matter where its dictates might take us? And, especially, could
we lead a celibate life?

At this point, only 21, I easily talked myself into meeting all these
requirements. Sitting silently in my room, I made an attempt
towards deep reflection; but, honestly, I was nowhere mature
enough to delve seriously into these questions. I just *felt* that
I had answered these questions, however--looking back--I doubt
that I was truly thinking about them.

Moving along, I declared before God that I was ready to be
ordained as a priest. The great day arrived! I was clothed in
white, suggesting purity, and I lay flat on the floor before my
presiding bishop. At the end of the ceremony, I rose and knelt
before the bishop. He placed hands on my shoulders, and upon
rising I had become a priest.

(1) Spring

Chapter One: SPRING

Born in the year of our Lord, 1135. named Alan, I come from
ancient Briton stock mostly concentrated in Southeast England.
But what with numerous foreign invasions of England, my family
decided to seek safe shelter in Brittany, which was a part of
France--a peninsula that was situated between the English
Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. And
in due course we became one of the leading families in Brittany.

I had no such luck being born the "first son" of my father's house,
hence I inherited no titles, no property. Younger sons had to
earn their fortunes in other ways, whether by knightly service,
adventurous speculation, becoming a priest or monk, or by
marrying into another great house that provided prospects.

However, in my childhood I didn't have to worry about such
issues as inheritance. I didn't worry about a future life either,
since my life at this time was fully in the past and present.
Constantly I was reminded of my Briton ancestry, an ancestry
that traced back to Southern England well before and even
during the Roman occupation. One could even see remnants
of this ancestry even in Brittany. I played among megalith
monuments scattered across the peninsula. Years later I was
to compare these smaller Brittany megaliths to those larger
megaliths at Stonehenge in England.

Though we spoke colloquially a Celtic-origin language I was
more formally brought up to learn Latin--speaking it haltingly
at first. The Catholic Church was very prominent in Brittany;
so, consequently, I was educated by priests, who spoke and
taught in Church Latin.

As it turned out, learning Church Latin pointed the way towards
my future. My father decided that I should become a priest.
He had conferred with my Church teachers--and always looking
to replenish their celibate ranks, they spoke most positively
about my spiritual leanings. Of course I wasn't consulted, and
I was far from sure that I possessed any spiritual leanings.
Nonetheless, the decision was made that I would enter a
seminary where I might ultimately be ordained as a priest.

Still a youth, I was packed off to Rome. As far as I was
concerned this fabled city was the "center of the universe."
The locale of ancient churches and the seat of popes,
Rome was ruled by the Church. This was the place to be,
especially if you were to become a churchman!



The following is a fictional account about the life of a relatively
unknown historical person, a Benedictine Abbot who lived during
the Middle Ages. It's also a little love story, following the different
plateaus of Love that "Master Alan" experienced.