He lifts his fingers towards the skies
Where holy brightness breaks in flames;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
And on his lips, a whispered name. -- 'How To Die' by Siegfried Sassoon
A Whispered Name is the third novel by William Brodrick. Like his debut novel The Sixth Lamentation, it features Father Anselm, a monk at Larkwood Priory.
In The Sixth Lamentation, Occupied France casts a long shadow over the future. In A Whispered Name we visit the horror of the trenches of World War One. Men were shot for cowardice and desertion. They were shell-shocked, pushed beyond human endurance.
The late Father Herbert Moore was highly regarded by his fellow monks at Larkwood. What they did not know was that he had a past. He was a captain during the First World War and involved in a Court Martial of an Irish soldier charged with desertion. Only the Prior knew of his secret. Father Anselm learns of the secret when a lady comes to visit the grave seeking answers.
In A Whispered Name we learn how Father Anselm came to be a monk at Larkswood Priory. He was drawn by words he was later to learn it had been written by Father Moore.
We can't promise happiness,
but if God has called you to be here
you will taste a peace this world cannot give.
It was Father Moore who some years later, was the catalyst in Anselm joining the Priory. On learning that Anselm was a lawyer, Father Moore groaned 'Ah, the Lord wasn't that fond of lawyers.' He then grimaced 'Law and love, it's not always a happy marriage.' Anselm volunteered an alternative view 'that love without law would be licentious, and law without love would be ruthless'. Father Moore liked that one.
Anselm raised with Father Moore 'I came across you by accident. What would you have done if I hadn't turned up?' Anselm had found Father Moore in a battered Cortina in a ditch. Father Moore thought for a moment and replied 'Nothing happens by accident.'
It was on meeting Father Moore that Anselm, like Santiago in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, listened to his heart. He learnt how to read the signs, to communicate with the Soul of the World.
Entering the Priory was not though to be that easy. The novice master suggested that he dwell upon Isaiah chapter 11 verses one-ten, which lay out the wondrous qualities of a good judge!
Anselm was eventually admitted, and Father Moore became his mentor. Anselm developed a soft spot for Father Moore. It was Father Moore who shaped his vocation. Therefore after his death, when a woman came asking questions and Anselm learnt that Father Moore had been Captain Herbert Moore and had served on a Court Martial in Flanders during WWI, a chasm opened up before him.
It was his experience of the trenches that caused Captain Herbert Moore to enter a Gilbertine Monastery in Belgium. He was to go on to found Larkwood and become its Prior. His experiences of WWI never leaves him, but he never discussed what he went through with his fellow monks.
He was told by the Prior at the Belgian monastery where he sought refuge to "Have courage. Approach the darkness in your heart, a darkness that needs more than enlightenment. ... Herbert, you are forgiven. But you have wounds that will never heal. They are part of your loving. Use the suffering, your immense suffering, to heal others."
He was to be haunted until the day he died by what he'd been through. He'd seen the annihilation of a civilisation. He'd lost faith in its past and its future. And he had done things for which he could never forgive himself.
A court martial is usually well documented. In the case of Private Joseph Flanagan not so. Papers have gone missing, there is no record of his execution for desertion, no record of his death, he just seems to have vanished off the face of the earth, and no one seems to know why. The only person who would know, Captain Herbert Moore, joined a monastery and never spoke of the matter again, and now he is dead. Over sixty years a monk and not a word to a soul.
Under the Army Act, only the subject of the Court Martial may make application for the release of the trial papers held by the War Office no one else. If the subject has been executed, the family is left to grieve, never fully understanding what took place. This means that on all capital offences, the papers are sealed for seventy-five years. Only then are they released to the Public Record Office.
The problem with a morally necessary war, is that morally unnecessary things can happen. On any one day that one soldier was executed, four hundred of their comrades died in the senseless slaughter of fighting for King and Country. Tragedies do not compete for pole position, there are no winners.
Captain Herbert Moore, now Father Herbert Moore, looked into the abyss and still believed. That was the magnitude of his faith.
A very powerful novel. A moving tale, at times too painful to read.
Father Anselm is a barrister turned monk. Author of A Whispered Name William Brodrick is a monk turned barrister.
The writing of William Brodrick has a strong affinity with that of Paulo Coelho. The style is not the same, the style is very different, but both writers have the ability to communicate with the Soul of the World.
The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick [see BCID 6937151]
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks [see BCID 5582295]
The Girl at the Lion D'or by Sebastian Faulks [see BCID 5622227]
Brida by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 6974601]
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