Dublin, Ireland 1073
Clutching tight to his Mother's hand, Brian looked around him in wonder. There were so many people. He never failed to be amazed by it every time that he and his family left their home and made the journey into the city to attend Sunday church services. As amazing as it was, though, it also scared him. He imagined himself getting separated from his family and lost forever in the vast crowds. And so, as he and his family made their way into the church, he clung to his Mother for dear life.
They had arrived later than usual. Brian had heard his Father grumbling about how late they were before they had left. It was not the first time, but his Father had seemed especially angry about it today. He had said that today was a special day, though Brian didn't see what was special about it. When they reached their usual pew, it was already occupied by another family. There was a young boy in the family about his own age and Brian smiled at him. The boy did not smile back, but looked down at the ground instead. While Brain stared at him in confusion, he heard his Father say something to the family and they got up from the pew quickly. They bowed in his Father's direction and hurried away. His Mother guided him to a seat in the pew. Once seated, he twisted around in hopes of catching sight of the family that had so quickly given up their seats, but they had vanished among the crowd of people in the back of the church. The service began then and Brian quickly faced forward lest his Mother admonish him for not paying attention.
Brian went through the motions as he had every Sunday for as long as he could remember. When directed to sing, he sang. When directed to pray, he prayed. In between, he let his mind wander while the priest droned on in Latin. Then something new happened. His parents got up from the pew in the middle of the service and pulled him along with them. His older brother remained seated and Brian looked to him for an explanation. Brian saw that he was crying and was suddenly afraid.
Pulled forward by his Mother's hand, Brian went down the aisle and soon stood before the altar. He looked up at the priest and saw him smiling down at him kindly. A man came forward that Brian had never seen before. He was dressed all in black and had a strange haircut. Brian knew that the man was a monk, but was frightened by the man's stern visage. He watched as his Father picked up the altar cloth and slowly wrapped it around his right hand. Once his hand was tightly wrapped, his parents kissed the cloth and gave his hand to the priest. Brian began to tremble as the priest made the sign of the cross over his head and the black-clad man took his hand. In all of his seven years of life, he had never been so terrified. This was all so strange and he had no idea what was happening. The monk poured cold water on Brian's head and then cut off some of his hair. The monk then began to lead him away and Brian looked to his parents for help, tears in his eyes. But they had already gone back to their seats and their heads were bowed in prayer.
Brian was led out of the church and put into an open cart. The monk climbed in after him as a second monk took the reins and urged the horses onward. They clattered down the road and soon they had left the city behind. The two monks said not a word as he wept in the back of the cart. He considered jumping out and running away. Running back to his family or just running anywhere, but he understood that he was supposed to go with these men. He had always been taught to obey his parents, and they had obviously given him to these monks. It would be wrong to run away.
The cart entered a complex and came to a stop in a sizable courtyard. Brian climbed from the cart and was ushered inside of a simple looking building. Before he entered, he had been able to see large tracts of farmland and many other buildings just as simple as this one, only smaller. He was placed in the center of a circular room and more monks approached him. They began to strip his clothes from him and he cried out in alarm. His Mother had always cautioned him to be careful with his clothes. The monks ignored him and continued their work, even stripping off his undergarments. They then pressed a plain tunic into his hands. Once he had put it on, he was then given a black robe similar to the one that they wore which he also put on. This was followed by sandals and a belt and many other items that they dumped into his arms before leading him from the room and back outside. He was taken to one of the smaller buildings that he had noticed earlier and brought to a small room that contained nothing other than a small bureau and a mattress that seemed to be made of long grass. One of the monks smiled at him and said quietly, "Take the time to arrange your things. You may spend the remainder of the day in prayer. Tomorrow you will begin your initiation." Without any further word, the monks shut the door and left him alone in the small room.
Brian walked to the bureau and placed his extra clothing inside. On top of the mattress was a linen sheet and a pillow. He spread the sheet over the mattress and placed the pillow at one end before lying down. He stared at the ceiling and tried to comprehend what had happened. Young though he might be, Brian was able to understand that life as he knew it had changed. His old life with his family was over and a new life among these monks would begin tomorrow. He wondered if he would ever see his family again. Tears began to sting his eyes and he rolled over to sob into his pillow.