Dear ________ ,
I suddenly realised while doing the washing up yesterday that my holy Catholic pilgrim knife – carried all the way while walking from Worcester to Compostela in 2008 is the same holy Catholic pilgrim knife as is sitting in my kitchen drawer now and was the same holy Catholic pilgrim knife that was also sitting on my holy Catholic pilgrim table when I was staring out from my holy Catholic pilgrim hermitage in the biggest holy Catholic working monastery in Europe, Parkminster. Living the dream for a short while as a holy Catholic pilgrim monk in the propper foreign legion of the monastic life, I now had my own Carthusian hermitage.
See photo of table in said holy hermitage, with pilgrim knife sitting next to pots of nourishing but horrible Carthusian food, cunningly contrived to make you feel full up but not tempted into sin by liking it. At least there was no washing up – a practice that we were entirely excused in that place – as you posted your empty pots through a 19th century hatch and never saw them again. (Yay!)
I also remembered I still have the same Hotmail address as I had way back then this one @hotmail.com, and so still had the email of @DomHugh who is – astonishingly – the real Novice Master who writes the anonymous spirituality series attributed to “A Carthusian.” But I never told you that.
What you also need to know is that the Carthusians are not even allowed a typewriter in their hermitages, let alone email, and the rather impish Dom Hugh – who speaks with a broad Irish lilt and looks like George Bernard Shaw – was for many years the Novice Master at La Grande Chartreuse in the Alps. It was a thought that always sent tingles down my spine. Like the Orthodox staretz figures in The Way of a Pilgrim, (also anonymous but not written by Dom Hugh) he was very, mysterious and would always be there when you were doing something you were not supposed to. Like tasting a bottle of monastery cider – just out of vague interest – when you had been given the more demanding but unrewarding job of stacking the crates in the cider store.
And when you went to ask if you could have your mobile phone back to thank a nice girl in Germany – who you met on the Camino de Santiago – for sending you a bottle of Estrella Galicia and a slice of tarta de Santiago (and a plastic toy goat but there was no explanation for that) in a cardboard box – and Dom Hugh would say, “What are you doing getting post from outside anyway?” and “You shouldn’t talk to women on the Camino de Santiago – it always ends in tears.” And many such wonderful words of wisDOM.
Then, when you had passed him a quarter of an hour ago, way back on the opposite side of the quarter mile of vaulted cloister, he would suddenly appear in front of you on the limestone flagstones, walking rapidly towards you, and you would turn to look behind you to see if – perchance – there were two of him.
So, to cut a long story short, as is unlikely, I want to tell you that I used that email today and you and I and our loved ones are rather privileged to now have the Carthusians of Parkminster putting our names into their 6 am Mass, for our protection from the Devil (which is always a useful thing) but principally our Lord and our Lady’s protection – together with most of the angels (some of them is quite busy) – against the perfectly normal part of creation (viz, a virus) which is simply a rather norty bit of the life force which has simply “gone off on one” you might say, in non scientific laymens language, rather than complicated biology. Think of it like a bit of woodworm in your garden shed. And we don’t get hysterical about that and we don’t lie awake all night with visions of collapsing sheds, do we?
Which is an prolly unnecessarily long way of saying the Carthusian monks are praying for our families: for the __________ s’s, the ____________ s’s, the ___________ s’s and all the people of Sella, Orxeta and Finestrat. (I didn’t ask them to do Benidorm as it’s like broadband Internet and you need to be careful not to let the signal strength get watered down.)
If you want people praying for you in these weird times you won’t get better than these, I assure you Although I suppose you’ll say the last time I assured you of anything it was that the excavations under St Peter’s were a good thing to see, and my mate Dave from the Scots seminary went with you to walk through a first century paved Roman street underground and say hello to the Apostle deep under St Peters; so you ended up in adark, damp place, when you’d prolly have been better advised to enjoy the Italian sunshine.
Safe self-isolation everyone, and I’m fully back on board meticulously doing proper Catholic things now, as we all do in a plague crisis.
P.S. I am putting this onto the blogue, for the spiritual nourishment of the heathen, but anonymising the names.