The War of the Seven Heavens
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On the road before and after Milano, Michaele gave thanks. When he woke and was feeling particularly poor for sleeping among the sick, he thanked God. While he didn’t like actually being sick and feeling ill; he was grateful for being. His mind began to roam to visceral examples of his state of being. He wished his urination would last longer because there was nothing like a good long pee. He was grateful that he was clumsy, yet graceful. Michaele was able to chase the chickens, but trip over the leg of a stool.
Yes, it could be said that Michaele had begun to see himself, his God, the people in this world, the animals, emotions, souls… everything in a new sort of light. Light is an apt word to describe what he felt now. No longer was his patience as thin with those in positions of authority, whether they were clergymen or statesmen. He saw the bad decisions of others and then thought of his own misjudgments. He saw good things in people, and fought to bring that out by his example. For even though the stone floors of the Abbey, that he scrubbed daily for years, were freezing blocks of hardness in the winter, Michaele tried to show his Brothers that pain isn’t so bad. It isn’t something to “be avoided”, nor was the death and decay of the body. He was more worried about that which went beyond his mortal cage. Feeling pain is the same as feeling pleasure. They were simply two opposed versions of the same thing. Michaele could never be so selfish as to cry when people he loved died. He was more apt to cry being witness of a complete stranger’s pain than that. Not that the pain itself was bad, but that the poor person did not understand what he did. “There is so much fear here.”
Michaele never thought so well as when he was without people. The ironic part that made him laugh, even though to do so would be to invite a goodly amount of commercial road dust into his mouth, was that his thoughts usually centered on a certain person or humanity as a whole. He thought of ways to help others. He thought of things to pray for that only God could do. He thought of his father and his brothers. He thought of the things in his life that shaped him into the man he was. The examples of kindness & hostility, of pleasure & pain… and he was grateful for it all. That was the sort of man who now peered over the rolling hills of Padova.
Over the horizon, as he entered the city, the bellowing domes and steeples of the Basilica Santa Justinia came to his sight. Michaele knew that the basilica was built on the site where an early Christian noblewoman was killed, and this building was indeed a great tribute to such an enlightened and courageous woman. During his entire journey Michaele had thought about the sights along the way. He thought of poor Brother Antonio crucified. He thought of the people purchasing indulgences. He thought of the Archbishop and his family, which brought his thoughts back to his own family. His father came to mind, and a the few peculiar things he’d done for his sons. Normally, literacy was a gift given only to the few that could afford it. The only teachers were clergymen. They were the Guardians of Knowledge. Those guardians and their instruction were not free, nor were they inexpensive. Alfonso Venito knew the power of knowledge, because he was the only son that was granted the gift of literacy. He could, and did, cheat his way out of many difficult situations because he could read. This gift was never to be taken lightly, and since he did not want any of his sons to be taken advantage of, as he had his own brothers, he ensured each had a very basic understanding of literacy. Though none of those sons, except his eldest, was allowed to publicly show off those talents, Michaele was grateful to his father for the gift he had given. He was also grateful to the Archbishop, and resolved, as he now approached the Basilica, to make him proud of his decision. Attached to the Basilica there was a budding University, and the most impressive library of books in all of Christendom. The Archbishop knew Michaele could read, but never divulged the knowledge of it. Michaele suspected the grand man desired him to read and to learn, to teach that which he’d learned. Michaele resolved to do just that.
“But to teach I must learn.”
Michaele also knew that none of his Brothers in the Abbey were able to read in Genova, but since he was to live within a grand University there would surely be knowledgeable Brothers here.
He stabled the donkey, and thanked it for allowing him to sit on its back. Michaele had made a habit of doing such things. Thanking the buck for its’ life, the plant for its’ leaves, the river for a small portion of itself. In his mind, even though all of these things were pieces of God, it was in him to be respectful of the creatures that he, as a human, was charged to oversee. He was, after all, a Franciscan that could read Genesis.
“Fratello Michaele! Ciao!” The small monk had a voice much larger than his stature.
“Ciao Padre! Che giorna buonata en Dio!” Michaele liked him immediately. The Father’s smile widened as his statement involved his beloved Lord. The two embraced as if they were old friends, instead of having just met. The Father held Michaele’s shoulders and took stock of him. Though Michaele was taller than he, the Padre’s frame was strong while his own was lithe.
“You have a sickly frame Brother, no doubt too much fish from the Genovan seas! Fret not! We’ll get your body the way God wishes it to be!” He moved to Michaele’s eyes, and was thoughtfully taken aback. His head tilted slightly to the left, and the smile returned.
“Eyes of the skies. You are a thinker Brother!” It was more of an observation than a question, and he blinked as he smiled.
“Welcome Brother Michaele, to the Basilica Santa Justinia. You are very welcome here, and it is a joy for you to join us.”