"The Breath of Peace" is the seventh book in Pen Wilcock's "Hawk and Dove" series. These beautifully told tales invite us into the world of St. Alcuin's monastery and the various lives of the brothers who serve there.
This particular episode focuses on William, recently married (!) to Madeleine. This is their story of fumbling along towards fuller understanding and deeper love. As with any marriage they have a common life as a couple and two separate lives as individuals, and the flourishing of the former depends on the health of the latter.
Over the course of these chapters we see William and Madeleine struggle and hurt, drawing blood when they brush against each other's broken edges. It's painful, as conflict always is.
And yet.... we also see them seek counsel from wise sources and excavate their own souls, bringing their memories and burdens into the light.
It's been said that a good story will make you laugh and make you you cry. The stories from St. Alcuin's always do. I think that is because both tears and laughter are responses to life's fragility, and Penelope knows all about that. The ironic and the whimsical, the painful and the redemptive.... it's all mixed up in her tales, just as it is in the world today.
I always come away from my literary time with the monastic brothers feeling refreshed. Each "visit" imparts a new image of the way God works, and grants me a renewed appreciation for vulnerability and tenderness.
"The Beautiful Thread" is the eighth book in the series that began with "The Hawk and the Dove."
If you've been following these adventures, then you've probably been on the edge of your seat waiting for this installment. Our main character is Abbott John, the man with healer's hands. Since the day he was entrusted with the community of St. Alcuin's, he has endeavored to present the heart of Christ in all his teaching and living.
Now, John is a wee bit overwhelmed. As it often happens, it isn't a crisis that undoes him. It's just the pile of obligations, each one reasonable on its own but added up they make a man a bit unsteady.
Taken all together, the element of humor is strong in this particular book. You'll be laughing at some of the situations the poor brothers become embroiled in. (Dear Cormac, I can't blame him for the trouble he caused in this case.)
Don't let the comedy fool you, though. John's story- of wrestling with his own heart, which had seemed so content for so long- has something very true to say to us. What is it that draws us to another person, making us spill our story into their lap and pour our affection onto their head? How is it that the most chaste of encounters can feel so intimate? How do we enjoy the people who are special to us, without transgressing their prior commitments or our own? Can we have passion and restraint in our relationships, without being afraid of either?
These are some of the questions raised in "The Beautiful Thread."
I thank Kregel and Lion Hudson Publishing for providing my review copies of these books.