THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY (Chapter 1)
As the last note of the chant escaped the Blessed Chapel a great silence fell, and with it came an even greater disquiet.
The silence stretched on. And on.
These were men used to silence, but this seemed extreme, even to them.
And still they stood in their long black robes and white tops, motionless.
These were men also used to waiting. But this too seemed extreme.
The less disciplined among them stole glances at the tall, slim, elderly man who had been the last to file in and would be the first to leave.
Dom Philippe kept his eyes closed. Where once this was a moment of profound peace, a private moment with his private God, when Vigils had ended and before he signaled for the Angelus, now it was simply escape.
He closed his eyes because he didn’t want to see.
Besides, he knew what was there. What was always there. What had been there for hundreds of years before he arrived and would, God willing, be there for centuries after he was buried in the cemetery. Two rows of men across from him, in black robes with white hoods, a simple rope tied at their waists.
And beside him to his right, two more rows of men.
They were facing each other across the stone floor of the chapel, like ancient battle lines.
No, he told his weary mind. No. I mustn’t think of this as a battle, or a war. Just opposing points of view. Expressed in a healthy community.
Then why was he so reluctant to open his eyes? To get the day going?
To signal the great bells that would ring the Angelus to the forests and birds and lakes and fish. And the monks. To the angels and all the saints. And God.
A throat cleared.
In the great silence it sounded like a bomb. And to the abbot’s ears it sounded like what it was.
With an effort he continued to keep his eyes closed. He remained still, and quiet. But there was no peace anymore. Now there was only turmoil, inside and out. He could feel it, vibrating from and between the two rows of waiting men.
He could feel it vibrating within him.
Dom Philippe counted to one hundred. Slowly. Then opening his blue eyes, he stared directly across the chapel, to the short, round man who stood with his eyes open, his hands folded on his stomach, a small smile on his endlessly patient face.
The abbot’s eyes narrowed slightly, in a glare, then he recovered and raising his slim right hand, he signaled. And the bells began.
The perfect, round, rich toll left the bell tower and took off into the early morning darkness. It skimmed over the clear lake, the forests, the rolling hills. To be heard by all sorts of creatures.
And twenty-four men, in a remote monastery in Québec.
A clarion call. Their day had begun.
* * *
“You’re not serious,” laughed Jean-Guy Beauvoir.
“I am,” nodded Annie. “I swear to God it’s the truth.”
“Are you telling me,” he picked up another piece of maple-cured bacon from the platter, “that your father gave your mother a bathmat as a gift when they first started dating?”
“No, no. That would be ridiculous.”
“Sure would,” he agreed and ate the bacon in two big bites. In the background an old Beau Dommage album was playing. “La complainte du phoque en Alaska.” About a lonely seal whose love had disappeared. Beauvoir hummed quietly to the familiar tune.
“He gave it to my grandmother the first time they met, as a hostess gift, thanking her for inviting him to...