Saturday, July 11, 2015
The Hardest Thing To Do
The Hawk & The Dove series, vol 4
By Penelope Wilcock
Published by Lion Fiction, 2015
It is Lent at St Alcuin's Abbey. Always a time of extra prayer and rigorous fasting, this year's Lent also sees the monks anticipating the return of their much loved Infirmarian to be their elected Abbot. After a year away studying at Cambridge and being ordained priest, Father John is finally on his way home to Yorkshire when he hears about a mysterious fire which has destroyed St Dunstan's Abbey and killed many of the monks. To his great surprise, he meets one of the surviving monks, outcast and avoided, injured and begging for food. John, being John, immediately and willingly provides what food and treatment he can to help before continuing on his way home to take up his responsibilities.
John finds that adapting to his new position at the Abbey is difficult at best, stressful at worst, and soon he is faced with a situation which puts him at odds not only with his helpful attendant, Brother Tom, but even with most of the monastic brethren when one of the dispossessed monks from St Dunstan's arrives, injured and seeking succour. It is none other than Tom's archenemy, Prior William, who had publicly tormented and mercilessly humiliated Abbot Peregrine in the past. William has now been brought low by circumstances but certainly not lowered his self-esteem, pride and arrogance; he has a quite remarkable ability to cause dissent, squabbling, unease and bad feeling wherever he goes, like a rivulet of poison tainting a well of fresh water.
The tranquil and loving atmosphere of the Abbey is quickly shattered by his arrival. Brother is set against brother when John has to determine whether or not Prior William should be admitted to St Alcuin's or sent on his way to fend for himself and face an uncertain future. William could destroy the peace of the community- or the community could reach out to William and help to heal him.
Just how far can and should forgiveness extend when there is little sign of repentance? How much can or should be risked or sacrificed by a community for the sake of one monk? Is any soul beyond hope of saving? The situation is a major test of John's leadership ability, and the wisdom and compassion of both the Gospel of Christ and the Rule of St Benedict prove to be sure and certain guides to the difficult decisions John must make...
Yet another stunning and thought-provoking installment in this remarkable series by Penelope Wilcock, and an absolute joy to read.