Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty-Six
This post is probably the most blatant abuse of the ability to backdate that I have ever done. May those who know what date it really is today join me in begging George Orwell's forgiveness. My crime is compounded by the fact that what follows isn't even the Sightseeing in September post that was genuinely stumping me for weeks, but something that I dashed off today, inspired by a book I finished last night.
I do hope to finish that other draft and to publish the rest that I've been working on while this blog was so "silent"--but I'd better hurry before too many more of 2015's posts have to be backdated to be considered CLEARED!
Adam of the Road
by Elizabeth Janet Gray
"Does St. Swithin work miracles at his shrine?" asked Adam thoughtfully--"except to make it rain for forty days?"
"Sick people have been cured there. It's said that the first tower of the church fell down when wicked William Rufus was buried beneath it. That's not strictly a miracle, but it shows there is power in the place."
. . . Adam decided to try for a miracle. So he joined a group of pilgrims entering the Cathedral by the round-arched door in the north transept, which was the only door the pilgrims were permitted to use. The monks of St. Swithin's looked on the pilgrims who came to the shrine as noisy, pushing, untidy people, greedy for too easily earned merit, who cluttered up their beautiful church. They made them go from the north door straight to the shrine behind the High Altar, and they set up elaborate wrought-iron gates to keep them out of the rest of the church.
Apparently, before there were pesky tourists, there were pesky pilgrims! Wanderlust seems a constant of human nature, and its "baptised" incarnation in the Middle Ages wasn't necessarily any better than our less religious version today. Indeed, they're similar enough for them to be satires of each other.
At first I was surprised at the monks' adverse reaction to the pilgrims, to the point of restricting them to caged areas in the cathedral. (Compare these to that other oddity of our own time: the cages . . . and the police escorts . . . needed to ensure the safety of the visiting fans at international football matches.) But I soon had to admit that a natural antipathy would have existed among the first two groups: during the Middle Ages, the proverbial "two types of people in the world" would have been the Monks and the Pilgrims. That is, the types who put down roots in order to earn merit and the types who wander the world in order to earn merit. Happily, Christendom was big enough for both of them.
Adam Quartermayne is definitely a Pilgrim sort, while I am more of a Monk type. (It was wonderful for me to follow his cross-country journey through 1240s England from the rooted comfort of my bedroom reading area.) This is probably why he didn't mind being gated off from the rest of the miraculous Cathedral, while I knew I'd be highly annoyed if I actually exerted myself to travel to a distant Catholic church and were treated like touristy rabble upon arrival. (I'm a Trad, you bigots!) But even as I bristle under a totally imaginary insult, of course I get where my fellow Monks are coming from. When you've put down roots in a place, poured your sweat and tears into it, learned to call its other inhabitants your brothers, and even committed yourself to being buried in it with them, you'll have an appreciation of it that a mere visitor can't hope to have.
To which the Pilgrim might answer that there is also true appreciation in leaving one's home, risking a journey over unfamiliar lands, keeping hope alive even as other provisions run low, and finally seeing with the eyes of your body a place you formerly saw only with the eyes of your faith.
Question of the Week: When it comes to holy places, are you a Monk or a Pilgrim?
Image Source: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray