The Order had been in decline for years. Several of the outlying houses had been locked and abandoned. Those were the dark years, and indifference to the spiritual seemed to sweep over the land.
But then there was “the Awakening.” Churches began to fill and religious communities again began to prosper.
The brethren of the central house were finding the quarters and chapel becoming too cramped. Solitude and reflective prayer were difficult and under these conditions the superiors of the house made the decision to reopen the chapel in the foothills. It was a fine old building, and cluster of five small heritages and a ten man dormitory stood nearby.
The plan was to send a contingent of friars to complex to carry out necessary repairs, and to prepare the site for the construction of a larger dormitory in the spring.
The six brothers arrived in early November, and began shoring up roofs and replacing and repainting weathered woodwork, the facility having been abandoned for nearly forty years.
At the end of their first full week at the site, it began to snow. This seriously hampered their external efforts. There was plenty to occupy them indoors, however. The continued to clean and paint throughout the afternoon.
By time for evening prayers the snow was so deep that it was decided that the brothers would remain in the chapel for the evening.
The next morning was bright, but cold. The glare of the morning sun upon the three foot deep snowbanks was nearly blinding.
The friars held their morning devotions, and then Brother Cuthbert took their single shovel in order to clear a path back to the dormitory. As he shoveled he overturned what was thought to be a flagstone. Underneath it, there was something heavy wrapped in time-soiled oilcloth.
Cuthbert stopped his shoveling and leaned down to pick up the bundle, and found it contained a book. He had just begun to flip through the first pages, when Brother Derek called out.
“What do you have there?” Derek urged from the doorway.
Cuthbert held up a finger to indicate that he wanted his brother to wait a minute.
“A book, but it seems blank,” Cuthbert eventually responded, still flipping through pages.
He returned to the chapel doorway, and showed the ancient volume to Derek.
“How odd,” Derek reflected, he too now flipping through the blank pages.
“I don’t see why anyone would have bothered themselves with wrapping it so carefully, and then burying it under the path,” Cuthbert mused aloud.
“Brothers, what do you have there?” Brother Simon called from near the altar rail, which he had just varnished.
“A book,” the other two responded, almost in harmony.
“Bring it here, let’s have a look,” Simon urged.
“There’s not much to see,” Derek responded, as they walked down the aisle. “It’s blank.”
The book was laid upon the altar, and opened. It did indeed seem to be blank.
Just then, Brother Anselm who was working on the east end of the outside of the building removed the boards from the window above the altar. Streams of light poured through the stained glass illuminating the pages.
Now rather than blank pages the friars could read handwritten text which had taken on the reds, greens, and blues of the stained glass.
Cuthbert turned quickly to the first page where he read in a clunky Latin script, “The Journal of Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone.”
Who knows what secrets they might find therein? Especially in times like these.
Snowy and Cold
Wait (holding out the hand or holding up one finger or similar)