By Sally Madison
Elizabeth trudged through the water and sand of the ebb tide’s last remains with her eyes staring at the granite rock and, hopefully, her salvation. Her slippers were sucked off as she struggled through the muck. Her dress was filthy from the last four weeks of her nightmare. She needed to feel alive again; she needed to feel the joy she once had. The drizzling rain began to wash the outside of her, but only a pilgrimage to Mont Saint Michel would cleanse the inside.
She had seen the granite island with the majestic abbey on it’s precipice from the ocean, as the pirate ship passed on its way to San Malo. She could hear the monks chant from across the bay, calling her like a siren. Elizabeth knew that, if she were ever delivered from her captors, it would be to this Abbey she would pay homage.
As she climbed the granite steps, the people passed around her, jostling her, but she never faltered. Some people stopped to buy a bread twist or a cup of tea, but she never smelled anything. Some people stopped to buy trinkets, but she never looked. As she climbed, her eyes stayed focused only on the steep hill ahead. The first 200 steps chaffed the skin of her delicate feet on the cold slippery stones, rounded by the pilgrims who had come before her. Following the mass of people in front of her, she entered into the chapel of Saint Peter and fell to her knees in prayer. After several minutes, she looked up and focused on the small alter before her. She realized that she was not in the abbey, but had veered off the steep stone passage. Grateful for the refuge, she prayed with every ounce of her being. The lack of feeling she had previously experienced began to leave. Comforted by the chapel’s spiritual warmth, her body awoke to her pain. Her stamina revived, she began her assent of the remaining 200 steps to the abbey, on her journey of forgiveness. She was one of thousands that had made the journey to pay homage to the angel who had built the magnificent sanctuary for desperate people. She peered over one of the stone walls along the stairway and could see the wooden crosses in a cemetery for people who had made this, there final resting place.
Hanging her head in reverence, she heard, “This is the body…” The morsel dissolved giving her arms and legs strength. “This is the blood…” She sipped, her heart swelled. Her eyes sparkled and shown, as if she had been reborn. She had heard those words every Sunday since she was a child, but this time it was as if it was for the first time.
Realizing her weakened condition, the monks gave her sustenance and then a blanket to rest while until she was ready to leave and begin life anew.