Benefits of Church

Feastday of St. Anne, the eighth year in the reign of King Richard

It isn’t often I find myself in the vaulted spaces of our parish church, but now that my young apprentice looks to me for guidance, I feel I neglect his soul if I do not appear more frequently at the Communion table. For Jack follows me wherever I go. It is sometimes vexing. And I am in no small way troubled to consider some of the lessons he is learning by my example. If I were still a proper knight, we would have a prie dieu in our rooms to which he would make frequent visits. He would be instructed on prayers and on how often to say them. We would march ourselves here each Sunday and feastday. We would celebrate in procession with the wealthy and lordly of the town, casting our piety about like blossoms for the townsfolk to observe and collect. And make a right spectacle of ourselves.

There is none of that now. We need no longer be performing apes for a crowd that sees us not. Our piety is in our actions and the quiet prayers we pray for one another, for I know that in the dim shadows of our little room above a tinker’s shop, Jack prays for my soul. I have heard him when he thought I was asleep. I listen to his fervent whispers, grateful for what he has been given more than any prince could appreciate. A child he is, but he thinks like a man, of the sorrows he has known and can easily slip into again. And God help me but I pray for him, too. For he relies so on me to keep the wolf from the door and little help there is for the both of us, though we have managed thus far.

And so today, we kneel on the hard tile floor, each in our own thoughts as the incense rises around us, the Host dissolving in our mouths. And we each beg in our own way for the Lord to smile down upon us, pick us up when we fall, to feed us as He fed the hungry with loaves and fishes, to take us in the hollow of His hand and deliver us from the evils of the world.

With hymns filling my ears, I wonder further. Why is it that His relics seem to seek me out? Abbot Nicholas of Westminster Abbey once seemed to intimate that there was a greater purpose that they should come into my hands. Looking at the ragged hem of my coat, I certainly do not see it. But then again, I am a mere mortal, a disgraced knight, and more often than not, a drunkard. What greater purpose could there be for such a man?

Meanwhile, I keep an eye on Jack, who though praying beside me, sometimes flicks his eyes toward a lovely girl not more than several paces away. Her hands are fixed in an attitude of prayer, yet her eyes keep wandering back to my young lad.

Church is not what it was when I was a boy.