The Dialogue of Two Friars

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two Friars engage in dialogue as they clarify and argue for the role of reason and faith in their lives. One friar is on the side of faith and total dedication to it while the other advocates the rigorous study of the sciences and philosophy. Sorry if I have to categorize this one as a short story I can't decide where to put it. It's fashioned after an old style called the dialogue.

Submitted: September 08, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 08, 2012



Thirty Minutes after Sext[1] during the Midday refection[2]



Fray Timoteo (FT): What Barbary! The revolutionaries have destroyed the church of St. Thomas and no one survived.

Fray Geronimo (FG): Indeed what Barbary.

FT: God has punished those friars in black and white for speculating too much about the universe looking at the stars and writing about them. It is with their intellectual stubbornness that God has decided to smite them with atrocity of the rebels.

FG: Dear brother tell me what those Friars in black and white do everyday. I suppose that they did not do anything that would displease God and instead a more pleasing act is done within their midst.

FT: From what I hear about them from eyewitness accounts, they spent most of their time in their scriptoria writing treatises and then printing them. The sin here is that most of their time is spent in that philosophical adventure. Indeed it is a sin, a sin of pride. Have not the LORD said that he has hidden truth from the learned and gave it to the childlike?  Dear brother, the sin against God’s mystery is being done in that wretched place. Let me tell you more for you are in want of more. They even speculate about the Universe, Stars et cetera. Have they no time for prayer? It seems to me that they are indulged under the ecstasy of pagan knowledge that God has slipped away from their minds and hearts. I pray for their souls. Requiem donna eis domine.

F.G Brother such pessimism has entered thy heart! What has made you so infuriated about speculating? What should we do then? I myself am writing a treatise defending a particular position in the philosophy of St. Tomas (whose Church was destroyed). But brother what a proposition! Death! Destruction! What is your point Timoteo?

FT: I have been in this monastery more than you Geronimo. I have worked the fields. I made the oven and all the clay instruments we have. Those were good times. We pray the lauds with gladness in our hearts and recite the compline with the hope of God’s continuing sustenance for the life we offer to him through our bodies. Indeed it was noble times.

FG: Do other brothers go to the scriptorium?

FT: we never had a library before. We don’t have enough money to buy books from the bookseller. But the wisdom of Tertullian whose name I have ascribed to be my monastic name said: Believe in order to understand and then stop! The wisdom in those lines was endless and I have taken it as the supreme axiom of my monastic life. You ask whether they work in the scriptorium. The last abbot called them the “knowledgeable scoundrels.” He never expelled them but he distrusted them and ordered strict penances from them. Do you remember Fray Paulus who was sentenced with flagellation for writing a treatise against a saint?

FG do you consider then that the acts of these people who dedicated themselves in the academic labors as mere persons who avoid the rigors of physical labor which according to you is the prime of religious life?

FT: indeed you grasp my point all too well my brother. Christianity is not founded on philosophical search on truth. Rather it is through the Truth itself which habitavit in nobis. Moreover, it is not through Greek philosophy or Scholastic ambitions that this church stood. It is through the blood of the martyrs along with the king of martyrs. Do you read in the martyrology the violence of ancient Rome under the ecstasy of blood? Now, I suppose that you are convinced of my point that this church survived because of the martyrs and not through your academic labors.

FG: splendid usage of the martyrology Timoteo. Thirty years of attending prime has shaped your mind in the acts of the martyrs. However, do you not remember when the emperor issued the decree of Milan in which Christian and pagans lived together?

FT: yes but I don’t get your point.

FG: listen, after the fall of Rome did not the pagans blamed the Christians for it downfall? What if the Church Doctor did not write De Civitate Dei to defend our faith then pagan mobs would be destroying churches. The church won’t survive at all, you may not be aware of this fact but it is also with the effort so some intellectuals that this church was able to survive.

FT: indeed what do you propose?

FG: you claim the friars in black and white were not humble and thus a sin of pride……….

 At this moment Fray Timoteo stood up and said in a loud voice

FT: a sin against the vow of poverty!

FG: indeed what is your point; a breech against the vows?

FT: Fray your insistent position on the importance of studies proves of your ulterior motive for you participate in this sin. You indulged in the study of pagan writers and it would presume that you have read more of these people than looking into your own. Don’t you realize thus sick vanity? Aristotle and Plato have passed away fray. The world has descended into a new paganism. Go outside! Women are selling themselves out for money, they throw the sanctity of their own virginity for want of pleasure or a vain indulging of the passions. Even the apostle tells us in his speech to the Greeks about the vanity of their gods made of gold and silver. Fray you are becoming more pagan as you read them [the pagan writers]. Save thyself remember the Psalm: in his riches man lacks wisdom he is like the beast that are destroyed. Take brother this psalm that you may not be enticed by the hollow riches of your pagan philosophy let the friars in black and white suffer from their won vanity of intellect and let us enjoy the never ending sustenance of the Lord in saecula saecolorum.

FG:  indeed what brilliant position you have defended. However, let me ask you to expose on what you said a while ago on “looking into your own,” may you be so kind so as to expound my dear brother.

FT: what has paganism brought you my brother? You are now clouded with the concepts of Esse and ens, fray you are being too much obsessed. What I was discussing is a very important point in our monastic life. We go to the inner labyrinth, the very fiber of our being. From the world, we search ourselves have not one of your philosopher told you that? The Church doctor has instructed us to think that way. We look, perceive and feel things outside and we infer through the lack or the scarcity of the world thus, a realm of our own scarcity and an awareness of God’s own omnipotence. Through this and only through this can we go and proclaim the gospel. You may ask my dear brother why? Pardon me from assuming that you would ask. The gospel is founded on truth for dominus, domine nostri, omnipotens est semper eum veritatem esse.  Who were the disciples? Are they learned men who studied Homeric Greek or Ciceronian Latin? Are they disciples of Platonism? Are they students of great Jewish Rabbis? Are they experts on the law? They were fisher men, tax collectors, et cetera. How were they able to speak Greek? Did they read the works of Plato? Did they study the histories of Herodotus and Lucan or went to study the sublimity of Homeric poetry and Ciceronian eloquence? It was with the fire of the Holy Spirit that they received such ability. They were simple men but the LORD God was in their hearts. Only in such sublime awareness of the mystical can we comprehend Perfectissimus Deus.

FG: again brother the way you delivered yourself to me says more of your enthusiasm for the vocation of the Monachus yet, may I ask you.

FT: Let it be then.

FG: Suppose that St. Jerome never learned the language of the Hebrews and without knowledge of their syntax can he translate the Bible?

FT: Not at all that would be utterly impossible. I can’t see where is this going brother?

FG: As you have said a while ago those who embark in the field of study partake of the sin of pride and a sin against the vow of poverty by possessing more in the skill of philosophizing or the faculty of knowing languages. Yet a while ago, you showed me in a rhetorical fashion par excellence the concept of humility. You are no idiot on syntax rather you know how to use it better than our prior. I guess in that fashion also you preached the gospel with eloquence. I know oftentimes in when you preach in the town your preaching would draw a crowd. Is it not a property you owned? So you violated the vow of poverty?

FT: how can that be? I used my words for the greater glory of God. How can then it be a breech in my vows?

FG: precisely God has bestowed us with different gifts as much as another person is gifted with prophetic vision. Part of his will is to bestow it on someone like Augustine or Thomas who in their status as learned in both Christian and pagan knowledge was able to produce work of such sublimity that they were able to fuse seemingly contradicting positions. Then, to people like us, we are no Augustine or Ambrose or Albertus Magnus and moreover, we are not the apostles who received the fire of the Holy Spirit rather we are individuals still in the process of knowing. We accumulate the skills through pedagogical means like reading Horace or Virgil and studying their syntax. There are various pearls of wisdom in the world and books are to be seen everywhere nowadays (ever since that German invented that machine). A few pieces of silver are enough to procure a copy of the latest works. I suppose it is not a breech of the vows at all.

FT: I still don’t get the point of your love for worldly knowledge and how it applies to our life in the monastery and our task to proclaim the gospel. For what I know these people (those who dedicate themselves to study) have no Amor for the people outside. They prefer the confines of their chambers and scriptoriums rather than the city. They look towards the heavens or they look too much on the earth. Who remains in the middle? Are they who remain pygmies or swine that dwell the earth naked and covered in mud? Remember what the scripture tells us: the LORD has hidden this from the wise and the intelligent.  What is required of us is not to dwell on unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos but rather to the contemplation of what is within as scripture says go into your room.

FG: The sun and the stars are never sublime in themselves; rather they are part of a greater reality. If we do not know the intertwining participation of the divine essence with that of the individual things how can we tell the people that all things are good. If I am present before a council assembly how can I tell the abbot of the destruction of monasteries or what if St. Boniface never understood the attitude of the Germanic tribes and he did not cut the Oak of Thor? Would the pagan Germans listen to him?

FT: he may be mangled or worse he may be killed.

FG: indeed, you know all too well that to understand means to immerse oneself in the field or in the field of study. I do not undermine the capacity of faith rather with reason and observation one can encounter the divine in his sublime personality as the creator. I do not propose that reason overcomes faith rather the two complement each other. The former looks at God as in his immanence thus, knowing that he has created all things. The latter tells us of God’s transcendence and mystery we then realize that all our reason is but a mere looking glass at unable to grasp the whole thing. Without this intertwining faculties, we cannot preach. Indeed to love God is better than just knowing him, however, as Augustine says how can we love what we do not know? Moreover, how can we instruct people if we ourselves have not undergone this stage ourselves? You say that service in the town is better than the confines of the scriptorium. But, let me tell you without the labors of the people who studied then there would be no doctrine at all. Indeed Jesus revealed himself to the innocent yet it is our task o understand what he has revealed through the various writings they have left. The heresies of the past remind us to watchful in our words and if I go into the field and proclaim that Jesus is not the son of God like the arians proclaimed then I led the people to the wrong path indeed I have faith but the wrong understanding of revelation which is a great sin and then made greater by leading other people to the same error.

FT: you have demonstrated your point well my brother. However, I am sad to tell you that there are more than great things to do than just sitting in the refectory and discuss these things. Time runs like a river and it does not come back so it would be better to depart from here and continue if God will allow us. But, I do admire your point brother and I shall hold on to mine until I have perfectly grasped what you have just said.

FG: the world will move in a continuous flux of events but remember brother as we depart that God will bless us in what we do for the greater glory of his name. As we proceed to the field lat us put into our hearts that grants us the wisdom to proclaim and the worldly knowledge we accumulate are but means for the great glory of our Lord. Deo Gratias

[1]Midday prayer

[2] Common meal


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