Rules of hospitality

#1
26-th of April 1792, in the morning
The rumour circulated within San Giorgio monastery before the morning prayers: there was a travelling Cardinal Inquisitor hosted among them for the duration of his studies in Venice. Agustin wasn't sure where exactly he had heard it from, but it mattered less. One would think that in a community of men devoted to the Church, gossips and rumours wouldn't be as rife as in a ladies' finishing school. But the truth was that… yes, they were rife among men who, besides prayers and mundane obedience duties, might have not many preoccupations, neither many contacts with the world outside the monastery.

Agustin was willing to meet the newcomer. As one of the few people here born and raised in Venice, he felt as a personal duty to welcome him, to help him with any questions he might have. Ultimately, these were the basic rules of hospitality. He had no idea where exactly he was from and if he had to talk to him in Venetian, in Latin or in French, but he was ready to try. He asked the Father Superior, with a whisper, to introduce him to the newcomer.

The Father Superior did it after the Mass.

"Padre Agustin, meet His Eminence, Cardinal Nehemiah Osborn. Your Eminence, may I introduce you Padre Agustin Barbaro? He is one of our scholars, who is preparing for the degree of Doctor of Divinity at Collegio Flaningiano," he said.

Agustin blushed. He had never seen a Cardinal from close before. The Patriarch and a couple other bishops, yes, but nobody higher until today.

"Glad to meet you, Your Eminence, and welcome to Venice! I am at your service, anytime, if you have questions or if you desire another kind of help."
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#2
Although he was quite capable of absentmindedness, easily distracted, especially by his own wending and wandering thoughts, 31-year-old Nehemiah Cardinal Osborn at least had the sense to remove his red galero before stepping into the church proper. He had arrived at San Giorgio Monastery--finally!--after one of the daily Masses had started, so he paced around outside until the holy service was over. Even a socially inept sort such as Nemo understood that walking into a chapel after a service had already begun was extremely bad form.

Dressed in his red watered-silk cassock, fringed fascia, and mozzetta (with golden pectoral cross and ecclesiastical worn properly), Cardinal Osborn had been recognized by the Father Superior of the Monastery upon first sight. After quick introductions, including the Father Superior acknowledging that the few personal possessions Nemo had shipped ahead had arrived, the Cardinal, escorted by the other cleric, entered the rapidly emptying the chapel and both made their way over to a young Priest (Barbaro).

From the moment Nehemiah had arrived at the chapel--through his meeting the Father Superior, and now being introduced to the younger cleric--he was nervous. The young Cardinal did not handle social situations well, in general, and tended to get especially anxious when it came to meeting strangers. He was afraid he would somehow embarrass himself. Of course, it rarely crossed Nemo's mind that the yellow and white rag doll, which he had named 'Ecce', and that he, presently, hugged to himself with his left arm (in his left hand, he held the doffed galero), might cause others to look askance at him, but it made Nemo feel more secure, calmer...although that still left him full of anxiety, just less so.

The grand introduction provided by the Father Superior left Nehemiah blushing a little--he didn't think he'd ever get fully used to all the pomp and rigmarole that went with being a Cardinal, a Prince of the Church as it were--but he knew he had to say something now. Nervously, but in fluent Italian, Nemo replied, bowing politely (one could never go wrong doing that) as he did so, "It is v-very nice to...to meet you, Father Barbaro, and thank y-you for your k-kind w-words," he tended to stammer when he was nervous, which only heightened his social anxiety since he knew it did not sound well to others. Thus, by way of explanation, he continued, "I am s-sorry for my n-nervousness, it...it is an is-issue I have h-had for m-many ye-years." He always felt it was just better to just admit that up front, and hope for mercy and understanding from others.

To the Father Superior, Nemo bowed as well, and continued in Italian, "And...and th-thank you for introducing us, and f-for welcoming me to San Giorgio."

With formal greetings out of the way, albeit extremely awkwardly handled on Nehemiah's part, he waited to see what the Father Superior or Father Agustino would do. No, social situations were never easy for the Cardinal-Inquisitor, but he also knew he would have to get more and more used to them with his new august position within the Church, and he still wished, and fervently at that, that His Holiness had selected someone else for incardination.
word count: 565

#3
Agustin saw some of the nervousness of the Cardinal, and he looked at the man without understanding it. They, the underlings, had to be nervous in the presence of a prince of the church, not the opposite! The man was stuttering, but he was speaking fluent Venetian too, despite being a foreigner. Most people who came to these areas were speaking Florentine, which was considered the scholars' language, and fewer cared to differentiate and learn the local people's language.

The Father Superior just smiled and told the Cardinal:

"Your Eminence, Father Agustin will show you around our place. I made sure that your luggage got to your room. Father Agustin, after you finish the tour of the monastery with his Eminence, bring him, please, to his room. It is next to mine."

Of course a Cardinal deserved the best room in the monastery. For Agustin it was an honour to be chosen as the guide of the high official. Turning to the man, who didn't seem too much older than him, he said on a warm tone:

"I am ready. We will start with the church's side chapels, then I am glad to show you our little garden as well, and before going to your room, the library, which isn't far from it."

The man's name sounded English. Or maybe Scandinavian. He wasn't sure, as he hadn't met anyone from these countries from close.

"Your knowledge of Venetian is admirable," he said. "Are you for the first time in Venice?"
word count: 257

Re: Rules of hospitality

#4
"Th-thank you again, Your Reverence, f-for your k-kind and generous welcome," Cardinal Osborn bowed again, more deeply this time, "and...and my sin-sincere apologies for any inconvenience my v-visit may have c-caused," although he was still stammering, it was beginning to taper off. While Nemo's current level of nervousness would be considered high, maybe even intolerably so, by the average person, for the neurotic prelate, it was a marked improvement from mere moments prior. In many ways, he felt more secure in politeness and obsequiousness. After all, how could anyone find fault with someone else's self-abasement? And so, what to others might have seemed as extreme humility, one of the Virtues, was also a psychological coping mechanism.

Once the Father Superior departed, Nemo turned to Father Barbaro, who appeared only a handful of years his junior, nodding politely at his description of the planned tour, "Padre, th-thank you for t-taking the time to show me around. I hope I am not keeping you from any important t-tasks or duties. I-I don't want to be a burden," and he always worried about that when interacting with other people, too. Holding himself in low esteem, and often frustrated by his own neuroses, Nemo tended to assume others felt similarly about him. At one level, intellectually, at least, he understood his anxieties were in his own head, and that, especially now, as a Cardinal, most others would view him as a personage of importance, but, for all his mental abilities, he could never quite overcome his feelings of inadequacy, worry, and lowliness.

"Yes, this...this is my first time here...in Venice, but I...I interacted with many Venetians while st-studying in Rome...at the An-Angelicum, and then, later, while s-serving in the In-Inquisition," while his anxiety often rendered Nehemiah quite shy, it could also, once in conversation, lead him to ramble on. At least, this time, he caught himself before he started down a rabbit trail of his life story. One near axiom he had noticed was that a lot of people love to talk about themselves, but they are not particularly interested in hearing others go on similarly. Thus, good sense would dictate Cardinal Osborn discuss himself and his background as little as possible, and instead keep the conversation focused on his priestly tour guide. Taking a deep breath, one of several tactics he applied to at least try and steady his nerves, Nemo continued, "The Father Superior says you are w-working on a doctoral d-degree. I hope your studies are going well. How...uh...how do you like it at the Collegio, and here...here at the monastery?"

@Agustin Barbaro
word count: 460

Re: Rules of hospitality

#5
The Father Superior insisted that there was no inconvenience and His Eminence was welcome. Then he left, and Agustin was alone with the Cardinal.

"You can never be a burden, Your Eminence," he replied. "I love showing you around. I have been here for the latest one year and a half, so I am rather familiar with San Giorgio Monastery. Any task I have until the next mass is not time-conditioned, so we are free to take a walk as long as you resist to it. I think you must be tired after your trip," he said.

Agustin could somehow understand him. While he had no anxiety, and he had accesses of the family pride, he had, at the same time, a rather low self esteem, which determined his ambition to always do more, achieve more, hoping to be noticed and maybe there would be someone pleased for his successes. For his father, utterly discontent by his second son's choice of a path which wasn't the Army, nor the Navy, no achievements of his would be ever enough. He was always treating him as having failed him. His elder brother had become more and more of a stranger in time – not that they had ever been really close. His mother and sister had their moments when they were glad and proud of his achievements, and all his efforts were worth these moments. Lately, only Michela and Thurenza had succeeded to make him feel better, more self-assured, by showing interest and encouragement for his work.

"I haven't interacted with any people having English as mother tongue," he expressed it more generally, knowing that the Americans now didn't want to be found any similarities with the Brits they gained their independence from. "Angelicum, then the Inquisition… it's a wonderful career path, congratulations!" he further said, with genuine enthusiasm in his voice. "I have finished all my exams at the Collegio Flaningiano, but I have barely started writing my dissertation. So I still have a bit more until being called a Doctor of Divinity."

He also asked about the monastery.

"San Giorgio Monastery is a lovely place, with a well endowed library. The Father Superior received me as a Deacon, upon the recommendation of my principal in the Seminary, as this was one of the best places to further learn and grow in God's service. I have been ordained as priest on Easter, and hopefully I'll get soon a parish to call mine, as I have not joined the Benedictine Order," he said, as they started walking around.

The rules of hospitality required him to give the Cardinal a full tour of the Monastery.

@NH1
word count: 451

Re: Rules of hospitality

#6
At the Father Superior's departure and the continued friendliness of the more junior cleric, Cardinal Osborn felt better about being here. He had been genuinely concerned that his visit would create a hubbub--another reason, among several, why he had not thrilled at the Pope's decision to incardinate him. Still, so far, things seemed to be going okay, and the Priest's amity struck him as genuine, not that Nemo was always the best when it came to reading others, but neither was he terrible at it. What he might have lacked in intuitiveness, he made up for with strong observational and analytical skills, not to mention an excellent memory.

"I appreciate your understanding, Padre," and, for now, at least, the nervous stutter had mostly departed from the young prelate. When in the throes of it, it frustrated Nemo to no end, yet when it seemed to disappear, as he gained some measure of calmness, he would then wonder why it all happened in the first place. As as a young adult studying at the Angelicum, he had approached a few specialists de physique, but they could find no medical, that is to say physiological, cause for his intermittent stammer. Since it almost always accompanied a heightened bout of neuroses, the 31-year-old Cardinal had long suspected it was an issue of the mental and/or emotional faculties, but he could not for the life of him figure it out, especially how to prevent it from occurring.

"From the little I have seen so far, San Giorigio is quite beautiful, a lovely place to live and labor. I'm looking forward to my time here," and it would be a nice change from the rigmarole at the Papal Court (not that Nemo would ever vocalize such an opinion, for he counted the Pope as a friend, which was one reason the Pope had insisted on giving Osborn a "red hat": the latter was trusted by the former as apolitical and not one gunning for higher ecclesiastical office). "Oddly enough, Father, while the journey itself was fatiguing, as all such things usually are, I also feel...energized to be here. It's strange, I always get more nervous--than usual, at least--at new experiences, visiting someplace new...new to me, anyway, yet it is also quite invigorating. I suppose, even for the neurotic, there is a certain thrill in novelty," he admitted quite frankly.

Nodding solemnly at the Padre's comment regarding English-speakers, Nemo sighed plaintively, "Alas, since Henry VIII abandoned the Mother Church, and Queen Elizabeth cemented that sundering of ecclesiastical bonds on the British Isles, there are all too few Anglo Catholics. It is a tragedy how it all played out, and, sadly, we seem to be facing similar difficulties now with France," even as his nervousness around the other Priest had begun to wore off, so, too, did Nemo's verbal inhibitions. He was quite opinionated regarding the problems of the Church in England (and her colonies, current and former) and, now, France, and, honestly, he recognized the Church was not wholly innocent in either situation. There had been too much corruption, oppression, and stifling of philosophical pursuits, especially by the more unlearned of Churchmen and laity. Too much superstition and intellectual laziness, really, but he could not say that in public, either.

A somewhat sour look crossed the Cardinal's face at the mention of his 'wonderful career path', "Well, I think I was assigned to the Inquisition because it was recognized I lacked a certain...suitability for parish life. The curse of being an intellectual is asking questions that the average person, especially the average churchgoer, might have difficulty understanding, or even be discomfited by. Up until very recently, my time at the Angelicum and in the Inquisition had afforded me the opportunity to do what I love, to study, to debate, to ask those difficult questions, and to do so in peace, my eccentricities and ideas tolerated, if not always appreciated, but, now, well..." he could not quite come out and say he was still unhappy at the Pope's decision to elevate him, but Nemo could certainly imply it, "Anyway, I am sure you will do well on your dissertation. Personally, I found the various examinations the most difficult, if only because of the time constraints and...and sense of pressure, while the greatest problem I ran into during the dissertation was tedium."

Cardinal Osborn already knew San Giorgio had an excellent library, but that facet of the locale being brought up elicited a genuine smile to his face, "I am sure I will spend a great deal of time there, Father," and that was the truth: Nemo was an inveterate reader. Listening to Barbaro discuss how he had come to be here, Osborn nodded at the appropriate times to show he was actively listening. At the mention of being only recently ordained, Nemo smiled, "My congratulations, then, on your ordination, and I hope parish life suits you well. It is not for everyone," and Nehemiah counted himself among those for whom such a clerical role was not suited, "but it is one of the most important arenas a Priest can serve in. You will have many people counting on you, not just to guide them spiritually, but also to assist them in temporal matters: whether financial concerns, familial squabbles, and the like. I hope you will handle this role with the utmost seriousness that accompanies such a grave responsibility," and his words were spoke in a very serious tone. Nemo knew of far too many clerics who were disreputable, corrupt, and brought embarrassment and scandal on the Church through their misbehavior and lackadaisical approach to their sacred and secular duties, and it galled the Inquisitor to no end.

@Elena
word count: 971

Re: Rules of hospitality

#7
It seemed the more His Eminence discussed with him, the more at ease he felt. He smiled at the compliment made to the monastery, and the fact that he confessed being energized to be there.

"Novelty is always good, and I can understand it, even if I haven't travelled so much. I have been up in the mountains at the beginning of spring, before my ordination, in two villages who hadn't seen a priest for two – three generations," he said. It was a six days trip one way, and it was memorable for me. From a cave with memories of Hannibal ante portas scribbled on the walls, to incredible landscapes and fascinating animals,"[/b] he added on an enthusiastic tone.

The Cardinal explained why Agustin had met no English people until him, making a reference to the French as well.

"I know the problem with the French. The monastery is hosting some priests and monks refugees from Bretagne," he replied. "I have heard that there are some English people in Venice too, just that I hadn't met any."

His Eminence told him more about his carreer path. He didn't seem too enthusiastic at the promotion.

"I am sure in your new position, Your Eminence will find more intelectual pursuits," he tried to encourage him.

Actually, Agustin didn't know much of what being a Cardinal actually entailed. To him it seemed he would have more free time for everything he wanted.

The discussion turned to the dissertation.

"I was a little emotive at the examinations too, but they passed very well. I like writing the dissertation. Or at least… I think I like more the research than the actual writing," he admitted.

He smiled at the mention of spending time in the library. This was what he had done as well. As the discussion turned about him, he showed his warmth and enthusiasm.

"Thank you very much for your kind words, Your Eminence. I hope to be able to help people. Yes, I know, I have been teaching the young for first communion and for confirmation even before being ordained, I have done charity work, I think I have been among the people. Then, that trip in the mountains had been also a lot of work… I couldn’t have believed that one could do missionary work so close to home, not in far away continents."

Agustin hoped to never disappoint. Actually, this was one of his fault - seeking perfection and seeking acceptance.
– THE END –
word count: 419
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