Monkish questions

I’m up to about 90K words on the founding of the monks of St. Possenti.  I think I’ve covered most of the bases as far as how they came into existence and how they developed some of their idiosyncratic methods and traditions. Are there any that bugged you when you were reading, and made you wonder where/when/how they came into being? If so, now’s your chance to ask, so I can make sure I’ve got a fairly complete back story. I’ve still got a few minor gaps to cover, I know, but its mostly there.

So: anything you wanted to know about them?

9 thoughts on “Monkish questions

  1. My biggest question is how Brother Libra and his brethren can get away with removing and restraining Bishop Fettig.

    Short term I can see them having the tacit support of Admiral Hawke in the moment but longer term they must have a massive in with the top of the hierarchy.

    1. excellent question, but that’s not a “founding” question, that’s more a plot detail from the future timeline.
      My thought was that there are a number of former monks that have rejoined the service after they got their act back together at a monastery. They can be called on occasionally for special duty. (But they mostly get damaged minds to to abbey where they can get help, because the former monks are in a position to recognize the mentally injured and get the word to them). So only Libra needed to be smuggled aboard and away. The higher-ups, like Hawke, know them well, and make sure that there is at least one Admiral who was a monk. He can sweep away Fettig’s objections with “hacking, looking into it, operational security,” etc. It may well be more than a few records really were altered. They don’t have to be at the top, but rather in key places to lend a hand occasionally. As it turns out, Hawke is a key player, and returns for a modest part in the sequel.

      Side-note: My original plan about the “little bird” was to use Flicker. Eh, oh, well, it still worked out OK. She comes back, too. 🙂

  2. As probably the most monk-obsessed of your readers (I’d consider becoming one myself if I had more faith and were younger), I have some questions you can ponder:

    1. Are they associated with a particular church, and are they an “official” order, or just an outlaw group? My reading is that they are officially part of the Catholic Church, or what passes for it in your universe.

    2. Since the men go to St. Possenti to clear their souls after engaging in traumatic acts and are then free to leave, the traditional vows of chastity, poverty and stability would not seem to apply, or at the very least not the vow of stability (to dwell in one place – – the monastery – – and submit to the Rule under which the monastery operates). You’ll need to outline the basic form of the St. Possenti Rule, the guidelines by which they live.

    3. Since it seems that, once they are “cured,” they may leave St. Possenti, do they have a continuing duty to locate similar lost souls to the care of the monastery? Even to the extent of paying transportation costs? “I am Brother Burnside, a member of the Order of St. Possenti – – if you need a refuge in which to heal, go to the monastery at Eridani and give the Abbot this token. I can arrange transportation, if needed.”

    Do the brothers become Catholics and take minor Holy Orders? (not all monks are priests, nor are all priests monks). Trappists and Carthusians have two types of monks in their monasteries – – brothers who are also priests, and brothers who mainly do manual labor – – lay brothers, they are called. I’d guess that the majority of the St. Possenti monks will be lay brothers?

    4. As the order becomes more wealthy, there would be a need for additional monasteries and priories – – daughter houses, they are called. The Templars had many of these, also, and they formed a sort of primitive banking network.

    5. Not all men can be cured. At least one example of what happens to a monk of St. Possenti who turns to evil should be detailed; killed? Returned to the monastery and imprisoned there? Turned over to the secular authority?

    6. How would a monastic habit (uniform, robe) be altered or re-purposed for a warrior? What colors would the habit incorporate? By this I mean that if a monk is to throw himself to the prone position, kneeling position, etc., to shoot a rifle, how would the habit be different from a standard monk’s robe? I picture the scene from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in which Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi doff their outer mantles before the duel with Darth Maul.

    7. Dietary restrictions? Most monks in the Benedictine tradition are mainly vegetarians, or are supposed to be. Would warrior monks be more inclined to include hunted meat in their diets, or would a strict vegetarian diet be incorporated into the healing therapy offered by the Order?

    8. The scene already mentioned where Brother Libra and his fellow monks restrain a cardinal does call into question the authority under which the Order operates. Are they a sort of secret service under the sole authority of a Pope? That scene, while dramatic, raised more questions than it might be possible to answer.

    That’s all I can think of for now – – will offer more based on responses.

    1. Oh, a most excellent list of questions! Thank you very much!
      Let me see. 1 & 2 answered already, fairly completely, I hope.
      3 alluded to, and easy to more add. In fact, I know the perfect spot. Thanks for that specific item.
      4 covered, but not in a lot of depth. Easy to add too.
      5. Ohh… Jackpot. Yes. Well, no, actually. Not addressed. Have to think about that. Good one! Many possibilities, there. at first blush, all options seem to raise more questions than they solve. Have to think about that one deeply before I address it.
      6. Got a chapter on that. Man of the cloth… ballistic cloth. 🙂
      7. covered, but not in detail. Easy to add. Got a place for it. Definitely not vegetarians.
      8. They are low profile. Sometimes very low. Sometimes Top. Men… (Oh, no, sorry, wrong reference 🙂 But it is addressed. When I get a bit more done, care to be a first-draft reader to look for holes, missing items that need explaining, church-related items I goofed?

  3. Random thoughts:

    Somewhere on the grounds of the monastery would be a statue of St. Gabriel Possenti. How would he be portrayed? Holding a rifle? Holding an uplifted Possenti cross?

    In the refectory (dining hall, mess hall, galley) the monks would eat in company while one of their number would read from the Bible, the Saints, or other spiritual writings. Why not include Jeff Cooper’s writings among them?

    All of the Benedictine tradition monks habitually rose around midnight to sing Matins and Lauds (often called Vigils in these later days). All of the reading I’ve done on this particular hour of the Office indicates it was the most important of the day; not intended simply to torture monks with lack of sleep, but to commune with God in the quietest hours of the night, free from all other distractions, when most other men and many animals are asleep. This should be the period in which most of the healing takes place, as each monk joins his brethren in praising God in the deep silence of the night. Traditionally it’s done in the church, but why not outdoors under the stars?

    Might have some fun getting soldiers used to calling objects and jobs by their monastic equivalent – – porter rather than gate guard, refectory rather than chow hall or mess decks, lavatory rather than head or latrine, the elimination of clocks in favor of bells ringing the Divine Office – – Matins, Lauds, Prime, Seconde, Tierce, Quarte, Sexte, the Angelus, Vespers, Compline. “What time is it, novice?” “Uh, half past Vespers, sir?”

    Ora et labora: Prayer and Work, the division between worship and labor devised by St. Benedict. There’s a morning work period of a few hours, and an afternoon work period, but all the monks drop their work when the bells ring the Office, and they hurry to the church to sing/chant.

    The importance of humility: St. Benedict put a lot of emphasis on this particular virtue. At St. Possenti, it might manifest as a lowly private being chosen as Abbot over a colonel, and the colonel charged with cleaning the latrines. Not intended as a slap at a great leader like Col. Lag, but that Major Kraut could use some humility, I’d say.

    1. Statuary. Hmmm.. The founding is very much in the early days, before the monastery is finished, so there isn’t any. And there are not any mentioned in TSCB. But adding a few comments about the possibility would be easy.

      They eat in shifts because of limited room, so having someone reading from St. Cooper as well 🙂 would be easy enough.

      Adding nocturnal activities would actually be simple. Out under teh stars I’d have to be careful to not make it sound totally Pegan.

      Monastic equivelants: I have a little of that, but not a lot. Easy to add more, and it’d add more “character.” One I had to think about a bit was “what’s the term for a bunch/group/herd of monks?” I mostly settled on mods of Roman Legion terms, which is also a play on both “I am legion” and the “evil legion of evil” (who are the good guys). Oh, “novice.” Yes, definitely need to use that.

      Ora et labora. maybe, but maybe not. they have different centuria and contubernium doing different things at different times.

      Humility per se is not stressed so far, but rather the practical betterment of yourself and western civilization when you follow the commandments and are virtuous. Got nothing in there about how future abbots are chosen, because I only go so far as the founding abbot, who was previously a Catholic priest with an attendance problem. So he, er, went recruiting former recruits, sort’a. Worth some thought.

  4. I don’t know if you have the new book broken into chapters, but a fun way to do so would be to use chapter headings from The Rule of St. Benedict, and maybe cite a bit of the pertinent chapter of the Rule in your chapters. Some examples:

    For the very first chapter, where the monastery is established, use “Prologue” from the Rule, with this quote:

    We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome.

    Other chapter titles from the Rule that might find their way into the book:

    Of the Kinds or the Life of Monks
    What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be
    Of Obedience
    Of Silence
    Of Humility
    Of Reverence at Prayer
    How the Monks Are to Sleep (Benedict actually specifies NO KNIVES!)
    Of Graver Faults
    Of Those Who Having Often Been Corrected Do Not Amend
    Of the Tools and Goods of the Monastery
    Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own
    Of the Weekly Reader
    Of the Daily Work
    Of the Reception of Guests
    Of the Clothing and the Footgear of the Brethren
    Of the Election of the Abbot
    If a Brother Is Commanded to Do Impossible Things (!)
    That No One Presume to Strike Another

    Each of these chapter headings provides a link to the text, here:

    Since the Rule is regularly read to the monks during their lives during meals and during the Chapter of Faults (where monks both confess their own sins and denounce those of their brothers) all of the monks will be fully aware of the Rule and will be able to recite portions of it, just as a US military man can usually cite sections of the UCMJ and the Code of Conduct.

    1. Yes, it’ll have chapters, but as with everything else they are flexible. I like the idea, and it would go a long way for making it look more like a serious book when in paper. No idea how it would be received in the “Christian bookstore” market. After all, they are heretics in a way. The Amazon Christian SF is a pretty small category, with the #1 spot being #9000 overall, and the #2 being a CS Lewis book at #32000. Ye gods. Hmm.. the “Christian fiction” overall is a much larger category, it appears: the current genre #20 is about #1500 overall. Hitting #1 in that category would be a major win. Any idea how such a book might be received by that audience?

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