The Healing by Joy Margetts
Philip de Braose dare not use his real name. He has too many enemies. In any case, as far as he is concerned, Philip de Braose is dead. That was public knowledge.
An agonizing betrayal in his youth had left him with no aim in life. Unless the desire to kill and be killed as a mercenary, hired by whichever of the various regional factions of France paid the most, can be called an aim. In that, he fails. A wandering monk, Hywel, is attracted by a magnificent warhorse. Next to it, in a ditch, he discovers the severely wounded and unconscious Philip. He carries him to the nearby abbey to be nurtured back to reasonable health.
Disguised as a Cistercian, Philip travels back to his homeland, Wales, in the company of the older Hywel. The journey proves to be more than geographically challenging. Under Hywel’s tutelage, Philip explores and discovers deep spiritual truths about himself, life and God.
Margetts recounts engaging details of their travels, such as Hywel’s seasickness as they sail from Bordeaux to Bristol, and Philip’s soul-searching as he becomes aware of his arrogant, selfish attitudes. We also gain a realistic impression of the modest living conditions and spiritual aspirations prevailing in thirteenth century Cistercian monasteries.
I particularly appreciated the following passages – life lessons Philip had to learn from Hywel:
‘I forgive you,’ he said. ‘Now you must learn to forgive yourself.’ …
‘I can tell you, from my own experience, that forgiveness is the key… to your freedom, your healing, for you to move on. I assure you, you will feel a lighter man when you can find it in your heart to forgive. And I believe once you have forgiven them, you will sleep a dreamless sleep again.’P. 184
‘You can still live a life of devotion to Him, brother, out there in the world. You can still serve Him in serving others. In telling your story, you can instil hope in the hopeless. In loving others as you have been loved, they too can experience the love of God. Caring for the poor and needy, sharing your life and sharing your faith – you don’t need an abbey church, or a cloister, or a monk’s habit to do those things. Nor do you need prayer offices, and rules and vows…’P. 206
This book has a deeply Christian message, with many Biblical references. As such, it speaks to readers who may be finding it difficult to trust God as they struggle with past wounds and failures. The dénouement at the end is unexpected, but both life-asserting and encouraging.