The Hardest Thing to Do by Penelope Wilcock

The Hawk and the Dove  is a new series to me yet The Hardest Thing to Do  is the fourth in the series. It takes place in a fourteenth century monastery. Now for those who have never read about this time period or monasteries it would be a different world to you. I teach about this the Middle Ages, particularly the Church at the time and have read both fiction and nonfiction dealing with monasteries. Some may be familiar with the Ellis Peters series about Brother Cadfael, that takes place in the 12th century. There are differences between the centuries but not as much as between the centuries in modern times.  Both of this series describe Benedictine abbeys that are based on The Rule of Benedict, one of the books I have my students read.

The Hardest Thing to Do is about St. Alcuin’s Abbey where Abbot John, the former infirmarian has taken over the leadership. The abbey has a visitor, Prior William, who is seeking shelter after his abbey has been destroyed in a fire. It s believed that the fire was started by town people who hated the abbey. At least one of the monks knows how bad William treated one of their beloved and he does not want William to stay. The book walks with these men as they deal with the issues and you get to know and love them.

As there are many characters Wilcock provides a listing in the front that helps you keep track of everyone. The story takes place in an abbey but it is really the story of forgiveness. How do we love those who have hurt us, or hurt those we love? You get to know the monks, seeing they are just people like us who struggle but who do desire to live their lives in a way that honors God.  Can a person change, and should we trust them? These are things we all encounter sometime in life and I found this was a realistic view of how Christians work through these issues. I know others who have read the series and highly recommend it and I think I will have to check them out also.

In the beginning of the book Penelope Wilcock included several quotations. One by Alice Wilcock sums up this story:

Reconciliation can be initiated in an instant. It’s also a process.

Forgiving can be the hardest thing to do.

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