“Well, son?” Mattathias asked Lukas as they walked in the barley fields together. “Have ye decided?”
“Nay, I haven’t,” Lukas admitted. “I’m too hapless to copy manuscripts, I can’t switch between languages fast enough to be a translator, and I can’t be an herbalist fer fear I’d give someone the wrong medicine.”
“Ye oughtn’t avoid a task simply because ye’ve failed at it,” Mattathias said. “No one expects ye to be perfect the first time ye try something.”
“I know—but—the jobs in the scriptorium just felt...stuffy,” Lukas said. “I can’t sit still long enough fer those. Ye know that.”
“I do.” Mattathias chuckled to himself. “Even as a toddler, Lukas, ye squirmed….”
“Don’t all toddlers squirm?”
“Not as much as ye did.”
Mattathias’s eyes shone, and he ruffled Lukas’s brown curls. “God has big plans fer ye. If He didn’t, ye wouldn’t be here right now. I’m not about to know what they are, but ye will. Give it time, give it faith.”
“But how will I know?” Lukas asked.
“What is it that ye love doing, more than anything else?”
Lukas thought. He enjoyed reading. Praying wasn’t that bad either, although he knew he didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as some of the other monks did. The one thing he loved, foolish as it sounded, was getting his hands dirty in the fields. He always loved the smell of soil, its cool feel between his fingers. He laughed inside when he scattered seed, and pride mixed with the sweat and soreness of harvest.
“More than anything else, Father,” Lukas said, “I like being out in the fields with ye.”
Mattathias smiled and knelt to examine the base of a barley stem. “A lad who speaks three and a half languages oughtn’t waste his time doing what an illiterate man could.”
“I can spend all winter in the scriptorium.”
Lukas held his breath. He would ask Father Sean’s approval, of course, but he wanted his own father’s first. Finally, Mattathias stood with a smile in his eyes.
“Do what ye will, lad,” Mattathias said. “I’d be glad of yer help.”
Lukas beamed. “I’ll go ask Father Abbot!” he shouted as he ran inside.
After some searching, Lukas located Abbot Sean in his cell. The door was open, and voices came from the inside. Lukas stopped and listened.
“...They’re coming too close, too often,” a voice was saying. “The monastery is hidden from the coast, but if they were to settle here….”
“I am aware,” Father Sean sighed. Lukas peeked into the room. The abbot was sitting at his desk, his head in his hands, while Lukas’s cellmate Eoghan was trying to keep his fear off his face and his hands, which doubtlessly reeked of the fishnets he worked with, behind his back.
“They didn’t come too near the coast this time,” Eoghan said. “We watched until they were out of sight.”
“Ye did well not to startle the others,” Father Sean said. He looked up and saw Lukas. “Let me think and pray, Eoghan. Thank ye for yer information.”
Eoghan smiled at Lukas as he left, and Father Sean bid him come in the cell. “Father Abbot, what are we to do about the Norsemen?” Lukas asked. “Why do they come so near St. Anne’s Cleft?”
“There are many things that have no answers,” Father Sean said. “Do not be afraid, my son. I’ve faith yet that the Lord will protect us.”
“Will we fight them if it comes to it?”
Lukas opened his mouth to protest, but he quickly shut it again. What wrong was there in self-defense? Did not even Peter have a sword? Yes—and the Lord rebuked him for using it.
“Father Abbot,” Lukas said, “the reason I came was—I wish to apprentice myself to my fa—I mean, Brother Mattathias—and learn farming.”
“Farming, my son?”
“Aye, Father Abbot. I have Brother Mattathias’s blessing.”
Father Sean managed half of a smile. “Ye’ve mine as well.”
Lukas smiled and thanked Father Sean as he left. His failures in the scriptorium, his excitement at the eminent Easter feast, and even his fear of a Norse invasion seeped out of his mind. He had a task on earth, one he loved, one he’d do for his whole life. And he was excited.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.