Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Some what mystified by the commotion at the abbey, Brother Francis returned to the desert that same day to complete his Lenten vigil in rather wretched solitude. He had expected some excitement about the relics to arise, but the excessive interest which everyone had taken in the old wanderer surprised him. Francis had spoken of the old man, simply because of the part he had played, either by accident or Providence, in the monk’s stumbling upon the crypt and its relics. The pilgrim was only a minor ingredient, as far as Francis was concerned, in a mandala design at whose center rested a relic of a saint. But his fellow novices had seemed more interested in the pilgrim than in the relic, and even the abbot had summoned him, not to ask about the box, but to ask about the old man. They had asked him a hundred questions about the pilgrim to which he could reply only: “I didn’t notice,” or “I wasn’t looking right then,” or “If he said, I don’t remember,” and some of the questions were a little weird. And so he questioned himself: Should I have noticed? Was I stupid not to watch what he did? Wasn’t I paying enough attention to what he said? Did I miss something important because I was dazed?

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (54)

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