Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREED (avarice, particularly for wealth and things) (01/22/15)
TITLE: The Persuading of Petr
By Ann Grover
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“I simply said I wouldn’t malign an innocent man.”
“Innocent? Petr, Jan Hus is a heretic.”
Kateřina turned away, her shoulders shaking with sobs. I put my hand on her arm, pleading for her to understand. Her weeping became more forceful, and finally, she turned. “You care nothing for me, Petr, or you would cooperate with the cardinal. Look at this pathetic hovel.” She pointed to the smoke-darkened ceiling and the rough sheet. The humble timber-and-daub building in a crowded and narrow street in Prague was crumbling and windowless, but it’d always been sufficient, I’d thought.
“It is my best, love.”
“No, you don’t love me. You care more for that wretched heretic than you do for me.” She rolled away from me again, scorching fury radiating from her back.
I sighed and blew out the candle. I loved Kateřina with my whole heart, but I would not bear falsehood against my brother in Christ.
Morning had not sweetened Kateřina’s mood. She all but flung my breakfast in front of me, the cup of ale splashing my tunic. She slammed the door, and the hard bread turned to bitter ashes in my mouth.
I was janitor at the Bethlehem Chapel where Jan Hus preached. To be sure, he was revolutionary, but blasphemous, no. In the way of Wycliffe, he preached passionately against corruption in the church and the selling of indulgences. Jan Hus was a humble man; never had I witnessed vice nor guile in him, nor the faintest whisper of sin. Surely, his efforts were worthy of Rome’s favour, not condemnation, for the Bride of Christ must be pure and unblemished.
The cardinal had first approached me at the chapel, suggesting I give accounts of Jan’s blasphemy, encouraging me to obtain parchments of his sermons. The cardinal’s arrogant demeanour and furtive eyes belied his smooth assurances of his holy desire to restore Jan to our Lord’s ways. I swore to report the smallest apostasy, knowing fully that Jan never deviated from Scripture.
After visiting me at the chapel, the cardinal came to our home, offering me more than the surety of Paradise; he alluded to heavenly comforts on earth. And from behind the curtained-off bed space, Kateřina had heard his grand proposition.
Evening came and Kateřina, her rage abated, curled next to me and laid her hand on my chest.
“Do you truly love me?”
“You know I do, Kateřina.”
“Surely, it pains you to force me to live in such squalor. I must carry water and use the communal privy. I have no oven. The neighbours are ...”
Just then, an obscenity echoed in the narrow alley, uncannily well-timed.
“Our home is God’s provision.”
“Is God delighted when His servants dwell in poverty and hardship?”
“The Scriptures say, ‘Blessed are the poor ...’ We ought not covet, Kateřina.”
“Oh, Petr. You say you love me, yet you rebuke me, and I feel repulsive.”
“You are beautiful, Kateřina.” I stroked her tear-streaked cheek.
“Wouldn’t I be more beautiful in a silk gown? With a maid to dress my hair? Another to knead the bread and scrub the floors. Please, Petr.”
“Jan Hus has done no wrong. I cannot incriminate him.”
“Give the cardinals what they seek and let them decide his guilt. They are God’s authority over you, are they not? Perhaps I should speak to the cardinal myself,” Kateřina said coyly. “His ring alone is worth an estate in the countryside.” She laid her head on my anguished heart.
I did not sleep.
And so, each day, Kateřina seesawed between seething tantrums and honeyed wheedling, continuously reminding me of my failures, my lack of love for her. My soul was grieved when I saw the impious glint in her eyes as she spoke of country manors and servants, sumptuous food and extravagant entertainments. All ours, but for my unreasonable and unbending support of Jan Hus, alleged enemy of the True Church.
In the end, the terrible end, the dreaded, imperious knock drummed on our door again. The cardinal, trailed by an entourage of knights, extended his hand for me to kiss as he swept into our home, his cassock billowing like a crimson sail. Crimson, like flowing blood. Whose blood? I suppressed the horrifying thought.
“Your Eminence.” Reluctant and heartsick, I bowed. “Welcome.”
Note: Tried and convicted of heresy, Jan Hus was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
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