Pilgrim: a journey of discovery, part 3

III            Brother Reginald

Brother Reginald was an austere man: tall and solid, and always immaculately turned out with his neatly-pressed habit carefully arranged with symmetrical tucks on either side. His face, cleanly-shaven, was stern and thoughtful, yet somehow gentle, as though the passage of time had softened what might otherwise be considered harsh, demanding features.

Brother Mattheus spoke to the pilgrim of the brother in reverential tones, with deep love and a sense of awe at this brother who was clearly so different from him. Brother Reginald spent most of his days in silence: reading in the library; wandering the cloisters deep in thought; or on his own in his reading room, working away at his books and papers.

He was working, Mattheus said, on a grand theorem to explain human behaviour and the Divine image.

Brother Reginald had been away to study psychology and sociology as well as the usual disciplines of theology and philosophy. He often travelled – to grand conferences amid the towering colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, or to meet with other great minds in universities across the country and throughout Europe. He had even travelled once to Rome, to present his thesis to a panel in the Vatican.

Brother Reginald also represented the public face of the monastery, often accompanying the Abbott on civic duties in the regional town, or meeting with visiting dignitaries or theologians who came to use the monastery’s great library.

Brother Mattheus spoke respectfully about how Brother Reginald could always be relied upon to know how things should be done. He knew the rule of the order by heart, and followed it assiduously. Brother Reginald was punctual to a tee, and if one of the young novices stepped out of line, or did something not quite according to the book, it was Brother Reginald who would gently take him aside and explain to him the way things should be done.

Brother Mattheus dropped his voice to a whisper. And with a mischievous grin on his face, told the pilgrim of one time, while he and Brother Reginald were themselves novices, when Brother Reginald had spoken out in the middle of a chapel service, disagreeing with something the Abbott had said. A sharp intake of breath from all the monks had greeted this interruption, but the Abbott, unperturbed, had heard the novice out, told him that he had made a very good point and that he would love to discuss it further following the service, then carried on with the liturgy as though nothing had happened. Mattheus recalled how, after the service, Brother Reginald had been mortified, hardly believing that he had done such a thing, and how, since that day, he had never spoken again of his misdemeanour. Nor had he ever, to this day, put a foot out of line with the many rules – spoken and unspoken – of the monastery.