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The Bishoping of Loris


By: Dennis Higbee
Posted: Thursday, September 23, 1999


The little chapel just off the nave of the great cathedral only had one occupant at the moment. The long, lean man paced the room nervously, unable for the first time in his adult life to seek comfort in prayer. He sighed, reflecting with a tiny ironic smile how ridiculous it was that on this day of all days--his consecration as a bishop--he could not even pray.

"A fine thing that, Edmund," he chided himself in the vaults of his mind, "Might as well spit out the Holy Host." Not that Edmund Loris would ever do such a thing. Within his intense blue eyes lived an abiding, almost fierce, love for the Church to which he had given his life. His father, Alvyn, a minor landholder in the Purple March, had raised his sons with a Bible in one hand a belt in the other, schooling them to the twin virtues of obedience and service; virtues that found their fullest expression in young Edmund.

And now, in less than an hour, Edmund Loris, no longer young, would be installed as Bishop of Stavenham, and his nerves threatened to overcome him. Now would begin the great work; the work that his friend and mentor Oliver de Nore had recruited him to join in. He would not neglect his flock in Stavenham, for his pleasure was to serve his congregation--to go among them, celebrate their weddings, mourn their funerals, learn their hopes and fears, forgive their sins, and gently guide them to God's will--but Oliver had convinced him of an even greater calling. For Edmund would not have guessed on his consecration day the corruption and worldliness that lurked within the Church, corruption the Haldane kings had been unable to root out. Old Malcolm had been a great king in his youth, and a strong one in his flower, but age had enfeebled him and with him the kingdom. His son Donal had come late to the throne and been a weak king for most of his reign, concentrating less on ruling than on training up his heir to be worthy of the Haldane throne. In this he seemed to have succeeded, for Brion, now six years on the throne, showed promise of being a fine king, even at the tender age of twenty.

Considering the Presence Lamp before him and the awesome task ahead, the soon-to-be Bishop decided that the decline of the Church could be traced almost directly to the death of Archbishop Jashan Haldane. The Haldane Primate, old Malcolm's uncle, had been a giant of the Church; though serving as his nephew's chiefest advisor and guiding the clergy of Gwynedd for over twenty years-- first from Rhemuth and then Valoret--Archbishop Jashan always had a moment to spare for the needy, the faithful, and the children of Gwynedd. Alvyn Loris always spoke with reverent awe of the blessing given him on his wedding day by an uninvited, but most welcome, guest. The aged Primate had declared that the mightiest princes of the Church could learn much from the simple faith of good hearts such as Alvyn and his bride.

Even Oliver, who was always quick to point out Jashan Haldane's softness on the Deryni issue, had a grudging respect for the man. He was much freer with his criticism of the men who followed Jashan, whose weakness and vanity had precipitated a schism in 1067. King Malcolm had been powerless to stop it, though Oliver hinted that Deryni had been somehow involved. Edmund, though he shared his friend's revulsion at the thought of magic, often thought that Oliver carried things too far. Less charitable men had said that Oliver de Nore saw Deryni behind every tree and was willing to burn down the forest to find them. Regardless, merely human corruption had clearly invaded the Church, and nor had it ended with the schism, or Malcolm's death several years later. By the time of Edmund's own ordination in 1084, the see of Rhemuth had been bought outright by one William McCartney, the scion of a wealthy merchant family, who bestowed the bounty of his diocese with an open right hand, always provided that some flowed back flowed back to the tightly clenched left. Upon finding himself Primate several years later, McCartney had immediately, over the strenuous objections of Oliver, convinced the Curia that his widowed brother Desmond, ordained a priest only three days before, would be the perfect choice for the vacated Rhemuth bishopric. The chaos that followed had rivaled even the degenerate courts of the Festils for wantonness and depravity. King Brion, much more interested in a healthy Church than his father, had been heard to say that the sudden deaths, though three years apart, of the despicable brothers were the happiest occurrences of his yet-young reign. Edmund Loris had no cause to disagree.

Such men disgusted Edmund Loris to the very root of his being. Those called to be God's priests were chosen to serve, not to rule. Spying the gilded crucifix over the tiny altar, Edmund considered the example of Jesus, and how He had set aside his royalty and Divinity and died a horrible death that His children might escape the fate decreed them by the Fall. It seemed that most of the high clergy of Gwynedd had forgotten that sacrifice, but Edmund Loris vowed that he would remind them. Eyes focused on the face of the Savior, heart pounding with the anger of the righteous, Edmund did not even hear the quiet knock on the door of the chapel. Oliver de Nore, his broad homely features schooled to solemnity, strode up to his protege, tapping him lightly on the shoulder. "Come Edmund," said the man who many said would be the next Primate of Gwynedd. "It is time." Oliver de Nore allowed himself a small smile. "It is finally time." Edmund nodded, but did not turn. "A moment, Your Excellency." The disquiet had faded from his soul, and with peace come upon him like a mantle, Edmund Loris found once again the strength to pray.

"Oh Lord, if it pleases You, let me be your instrument in freeing this land from the corruption that besets it. Let my love be as Your love, bountiful and ever-flowing, that I may have the strength to find the good in even the hardest of hearts and, in the finding, turn them back toward You. Yet let my strength be like Yours, that does not shirk from punishing the unrepentant, that their evil cannot continue to stain this fair land. Know that I am Your humblest and most loving servant and that if You have need of my life, I offer it freely as did Your Son. Amen." And, as the Presence Lamp glowed in benediction, Edmund Loris turned and followed his friend into the cathedral.



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