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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Dropout (05/12/11)

TITLE: Through the Gate
By Ann Grover


Brother Jude hacked at the sod with his hoe; his sweat-stained tunic was pulled up between his legs and tucked into his belt.

“What crime has the ground committed, that you pummel it so forcefully?” Brother Umfrey asked.

“Its only offense is that it is clay, like me. I am in great turmoil, Umfrey.”

“Aye, that much is clear. Your face is as gloomy as the clouds.”

“I’m thinking of leaving the monastery.”

Umfrey straightened and pressed his gnarled fingers against his back. “Lord keep us, Jude, have you lost your faith?”

“On the contrary, I have discovered my faith. Let’s hurry, before the sky opens on us.”


It had been a heart-rending decision to become a monk, as it must be, but also as natural to Jude as breathing. Painful to walk away from his mother, so proud of his calling, yet weeping and challenging God at his leaving. Tibby, who’d begun to give him shy glances.

Yet, so easy to relinquish a world filled with temptations, fleshly endeavours, and disappointments, to embrace a life where every heartbeat, every breath, would be in devotion to God.

Then, in the year before his final vows, a merchant passed through with a load of wool, seeking shelter in the monastery’s hostelry, and Jude learned from him that his father had died months before. Jude’s mother was failing, reduced to begging.

Jude asked for an audience with the abbot, his heart sorrowful.

“You are ready to take your final vows and you speak of leaving?”

“Yes, Father.”

“What brought on this denial of God?”

“I’m not denying God. My mother is widowed and destitute.”

Abbot Osbert leaned forward, his fingers forming a steeple. “We’re to follow in the steps of our Saviour and forswear our families, even our beloved mothers. Forsake her, as our Lord commanded.”

“To do so would render me worse than an infidel.”

“You are foolish and rebellious, kicking against the will of God and your calling. God did call you, did He not?”

“Yes, but . . .”

“Silence! You need discipline, to wrench this wickedness from you. You shall not attend prayers for seven days.”

Each day, from Lauds through Compline, Jude heard the soft rhythmic chanting of the Psalms coming from the chapel, and in his heart stirred a whisper that steadily grew stronger, “O Lord, Almighty God, Gentle Shepherd, hear me . . .”

His soul was comforted.


“Have you come to your senses?” Abbot Osbert asked at the end of the week.

“I believe so.”

“You believe so? Are you ready to renounce your foolhardy plan to rejoin the world?”

“I must go home.”

“Home! Remember, even the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. Tell me, did you learn anything at all from being denied the sweet fellowship of prayer with your faithful brothers?”

“I learned God hears my prayer whilst I hoe the potatoes, when I sleep in my cell, when I walk to the . . .”

“Blasphemy and insolence!” The abbot’s eyes bulged and his face reddened. “Your flesh must be mortified, conquered.”


Brother Umfrey gently applied a soothing salve to the welts on Jude’s shoulders.

“Jude, you’re being tested, having doubts as your final vows draw near. You must stand fast in your faith.”

“I shall, with God’s help,” Jude moaned.


Abbot Osbert drummed his fingers on the oaken desk. “Ah, Brother Jude. Have you gained any wisdom after your . . . scourging of the soul? Are you ready to serve God with a devoted and undivided heart?

“Is it serving God if I am serving myself?”

“Fulfilling God’s holiest work, embracing purity and piety, is serving yourself? In this blessed place where you have freedom from worldly distractions?”

“I fear it is but freedom to contemplate Him in sheltered seclusion. My faith shall prosper in the world’s mire. I abandoned the world once; in turn, I wish to resign from this sanctuary.”

“Then, did God lie when He drew you apart to be a monk?” Spittle speckled the abbot’s lips.

“No, Father. He used the opportunity to teach me of His spirit within, and that caring for others, outside these walls, is also God’s calling.”

“Heresy. You are not worthy.” The abbot clenched his hands and turned away. “I withhold my blessing from you, and you leave as a disgrace. Begone. Tend to your mother.”

“Yes, Father.”

Brother Jude relinquished his tunic and cowl, said good-bye to the brothers, and walked through the gate into the sunshine.

Yes, Heavenly Father, I hear You.

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Karen Deikun05/19/11
Beautifully told. I once heard a quote that "Cloistered Virtue is no virtue at all." Don't know who said it - but you have given those words a story. Well done.
Benjamin Graber05/20/11
Wow, this is excellent! Great job showing how faith doesn't always travel the beaten path that religion would dictate...
Colin Swann05/20/11
A good story - well written and interesting. Very well written - Thanks!
Theresa Santy 05/20/11
I picked up a writing tip once called, 'dotting the dragon's eye to make it come to life,' meaning the life of characters resides in the little details. You did this well, what with the abbot's spittle and all. I'm also impressed by how you pulled off time transitions, breaking up a largish span of time and events into a mere 750 words. Each transition flowed seamlessly.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/24/11
This is a wonderful story of hearing God's voice and following His will. All the little details bring the reader right in.
Charla Diehl 05/24/11
Good example of showing that we can serve God anywhere that we are planted. So glad that Jude got his guidance from God rather than his misguided superior at the monestary.
Bonnie Bowden 05/26/11
Such wonderful dialogue between the two characters. I love that the monk exchanged "religious law" for Christ's calling.

I think you did an excellent period piece story. Congratulations on your EC award.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/26/11
Love this one soooooo much! Your descriptions drew me and I felt as if I was standing there in the temple witnessing it all. What a message!~ Wow! Great job. This could be a movie. Congrats on your win!!
Kathleen Langridge05/26/11
Beautifully written. A well deserved win. I loved the thought, "I hear you, Father."
Lisa Johnson05/26/11
Very well written... well written indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. Congratulations on your very well deserved level and EC placement.
Eliza Evans 05/26/11
Really wonderful, Ann. As usual.
Felt real. Have you read "Door in the Wall" by Marguerite de Angeli? Check it out. You would love it, I think. I've read it at least 4 times. :)
Thanks so much for sharing your stories and wonderful talent here.
Andrea Willard08/23/11
"On the contrary I have discovered my faith." Through the gate is wonderfully descriptive and the young man's decision is hard won and valiently gracious.