The Ghostly Chapter Meeting
On the night of The Vigil of The Nativity, after all the hours had been observed a young novice monk was lying awake, restless and unable to sleep, in the friars dormitory.
Towards dawn he saw an elderly friar coming up the steps of the dormitory towards him. When he recognized who it was he became frightened because it was his own uncle, a former prior of the monastery named Achardus, who had died many years before.
Achardus came straight towards him and sat down on a bench beside the boy’s bed, where he greeted the boy with a gentle smile. At that, out of the darkness another figure appeared which the boy immediately recognized as another former prior name Guilleimus whom the boy had never met but knew of from an image in the chapel and who had passed into the afterlife a century before.
There they stayed talking, the boy listening to their conversation on diverse topics of theology until the worthy Guilleimus took his leave and disappeared, leaving only Achardus sitting beside the bed. Turning to the boy, he asked whether he wished to see something marvelous. If so, he was to get up and come with him to the friars’ cemetery.
Fearfully, speaking in a whisper, the novice replied that he was supposed to remain within bounds, and that if anyone saw him going outside the confines of the dormitory he was likely to be severely beaten. His uncle told him there was nothing to be afraid of, and to trust him, since he could foresee that nothing would happen to the boy and that he would be taken out and brought back safe and unharmed.
Reassured, the boy got up, put on his habit and followed his uncle. They went through the main abbey cloister, past the infirmary, and through the open gates of the cemetery. The boy noticed that a large number of seats had been placed close together around the walls of the cemetery, and that on these seats were the phantom forms of men dressed in monastic habit. Achardus told him that a seat had been prepared for him among the others and he was to sit down immediately upon arrival. His uncle had also indicated that a complaint was likely to be made about their late arrival, and Achardus himself was likely to be summoned by the presiding dignitaries.
As they entered the boy saw in the middle of the cemetery a massive raised stone platform surmounted by an area large enough to bear a quantity of torches and lanterns illuminating that sacred place as evidence of the faith that endures there. A flight of stairs led to the dais which was of sufficient size to accommodate two or three men sitting or standing upon it. But most impressive of all was a massive throne atop the dais where sat a great judge of venerable appearance.
As soon as Brother Achardus and the boy entered the assembly and sat down, a clamor arose and one of those sitting near them complained about their late arrival. Immediately Achardus got up and went to the middle of the assembly where he prostrated himself before the massive throne and the presence which sat upon it, asking for pardon.
The boy could not hear what was said, though he could see all that occurred because of the powerful and unearthly light that shone throughout the cemetery without the aid of any human agency.
In that strange light the boy watched as the judge handed his uncle a scourge and required him to do penance in accordance with monastic custom; the boy remaining quietly and humbly in his place as instructed though he watched with all the rest as the penance was being carried out.
After a time Achardus returned to his seat, the ghostly wounds on his body showing in the strange glow. The boy made way for him, giving up his seat and placing himself at his uncles feet.
And then the great judge stood and spoke of strange and wonderful things. Terrible things but wonderful things. Things so strange that the boy to this day does not remember them, or will not speak of them.
When this strange sermon was over the judge vanished, fading into the darkness. After that the entire assembly stood to leave, not by the entrance through which Achardus and the boy had arrived but by another gate on the other side of the cemetery. On the threshold of this gate a great fire was burning and as they took their departure the members of the assembly passed through it, some quickly, others lingering in the fire itself.
The boy watched until all had gone and only he and his uncle remained in the cemetery. Then, as promised, Achardus took his nephew safely back the way they had come, suddenly disappearing when they had reached the boy’s bed in the friars dormitory.