The gently spoken monk stood next to an old stone well and said “If only these stones could speak…”. We had been clambering over stone walls and past some obliging farmers to see an old well that was likely an old baptismal pool. Or it could have been a well. He couldn’t be sure – but it was ‘instinct’ (and a lot of research) that led him to believe it was a baptismal pool. I liked this man with his instinct. Others smiled – but I liked it. I mean, what else have you got, really, when you’re guessing about the history of some old stones?
Just prior to this, we had been in a churchyard in a small village nearby. A motley gathering of interested farmers, clergy and a cult expert were clustered around a High Cross as the Brother explained the different engravings in the stone. St.Anthony caught my attention (or was it another name? I can’t remember). What I do remember is that he was remembered for being the first religious hermit – living in the desert for many years. As the monk outlined the common features of the engraving, all I could think was how I would hate to be a hermit – and to be remembered for being a hermit. It struck me as ironic that the way he was engraved in memory was with a picture of him and a visitor (another hermit saint whose name I can’t remember) sitting on chairs in the desert. Did they talk as they shared the bread that a raven had bought them? I hope so.
At the front of the church there was a cylindrical stone resting on some other small stones on the ground. This could have been an old Irish King’s grave – or maybe not. We all liked to think it was – but no one was old enough to know for sure! It was certainly ancient. One of the interested farmers could remember when they all found it as they tidied up the church graveyard one day many years ago. He remembers it was a great day.
Inside the church, still used on Sundays, there was a beautiful patchwork wall-hanging. It was made in memory of the seamstress’s husband. I can’t remember who he was, but the quilt was lovely. I wonder, now, if the husband would have liked to be remembered with a quilt on the wall? I hope so. On the back wall there was a noticeboard with rotas for flowers and wardens to help people remember their tasks. So many memories. So many reminders.
Then, looking at one of the stained glass windows, we saw a reminder of something well worth remembering. A sower with seed, on the path, surrounded by thorns, with harvests in the background. And an inscription at the top “The Seed is the Word of God”. I stood at the window with the man who was my boss at the time. A man who lives by this conviction. He said “If I die and they make a stained glass window in memory of me, will you make sure it’s like this one?”
I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t literally want a stained glass window made in memory of him – but I know he’d want to be remembered for that. And as I stood there, I wanted that too. I saw how ambiguous stones can be. How carvings and stories and pictures and quilts can be open to all sorts of rememberances and intuitions. But the word of God stands forever and impacts lives forever – beyond the life of a carving in stone – beyond the length of a flower rota.
After our tour we were invited to lunch back at the Brother’s monastry. A hearty meal served by the Brother himself. We had tea and conversation with him after lunch and asked about his spiritual journey. He spoke of how it was the word of God that had most impacted him in his life. We didn’t get to ask him how it had impacted his life – time was short.
On the way home, I kept thinking of how I’d like to be remembered – a sower of God’s word. I’d prefer a patchwork quilt to an old stone – but the memory of being one who lived for something that lasts forever – that’s what I really want.
(In response to the Daily Post)