VI The Abbott
With a little trepidation in his heart, the pilgrim knocked on the Abbott’s door. He need not have worried. The door was opened by a warm, jovial man, his white beard and hair encapsulating a smiling, wrinkled face. Something about that face suggested that here was a person who had lived through deep pain. But, far from leaving him bitter or broken, that suffering had somehow been transformed into an even deeper compassion. This was a man who knew his own belovedness, and that rich assurance spilled over in love and care for others.
‘I was wondering when you might come and see me.’ Gently placing an arm around the pilgrim’s shoulder, the Abbott led him to a couple of comfortable chairs set over by a large window looking out over the monastery grounds.
‘I didn’t want to bother you father, but I have so much to try and think through’ the wanderer began. But as he looked into the Abbott’s wrinkled face, he felt as though all that he was bursting to say just melted away. It was as though the Abbott knew and understood it all already.
‘Only you can make your choices,’ the old man said, answering the question that was burning in the pilgrim’s heart. ‘Each of us must walk our own road, creating our journey as we go along. There is no right or wrong way, just your way: the path you choose, and what you make of it.
‘I am not going to tell you whether you should stay here or go. But one thing I will tell you: whatever you choose, to remain or to leave, you will not be alone.’
When, an hour or so later, the pilgrim got up to go, he did so with a heart full of peace.
They had talked in that time of many things, and as he stepped over the threshold to go his way, he did so carrying the Abbott’s blessing: of love and joy, hope and peace.