Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Abbeys of Jerome and Francis

Shortly after the first library disaster, when 60% of the holdings existent on arrival of Avenir in the 94 Ceti System were lost, the Catholic hierarchy decided to launch the Byblos Project. This consisted of the various Christian and Jewish texts, and those of some other religions, still in the collection being printed out on hard copy (plastisheet) and archived in libraries and caches in a number of places in the 94 Ceti System. This was done in spite of assurances from Administration and the Council that it was impossible that such a loss would again happen in the future. At the time, St. Gunther of Sheba, then Bishop Juan Hiro Gunther, remarked that his own experience and that of most people taught that it was highly unwise to believe in the concept of “impossibility” or to use the word, “Never.” As the library crashes of the next several decades showed, the churchman proved correct. After the second crash, part 2 of the Project was set in motion.

The Abbey of Jerome was founded by the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) in the worked-out shafts of a platinum mine on Sheba by St. Gunther, who stepped down from his diocese to become the first Abbot. As the platinum veins were exhausted, the Abbey grew to fill the empty space. The reason for the Abbey's existence was to train young men to memorize the various versions of the Bible that had been rescued before the final Terminal Crash.

In the Abbey, each boy memorizes a single version of the Bible, for instance The King James or the Ignatius, to mention only two. The students are referred to as “Manuscripts.” Upon entry to the Abbey, they are given or pick a name that they will be known by as long as they are in holy orders. After the required years of study, when they have mastered their Bible's version, they are graduated as “Bibles” in the Rite of Publication. At this point, they will be known by the name of their Bible and their religious name. Later, after retirement--some to return to teach manuscripts at the Abbey—they will be known as “Brother” and their religious name. Once “Published,” the new Bibles are sent into the outside world, to carry the Word of God to all who wish to hear it. Most are teamed with a priest trained in the seminary at the Abbey of Francis on Assisi. Others' services are rented by some Protestant churches—usually, the King James Versions, New International Versions, and Jerusalem Bibles.

The Abbey of Francis, founded on the asteroid, Assisi, by the Third Order Regular (TOR), produces priests in its seminary for the missions and some dioceses. The Abbey shares the asteroid with a Jesuit operated observatory complex noted for the massive optical telescope and radio telescope of the St Joseph Cupertino and Consolmagno Observatories. The feature that makes Assisi extremely suitable for astronomy is that its orbit is tipped at an angle of 78.654 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. Thus, its is able to allow observations with less regard to the location of the other bodies of the system.


  1. Say Walt, I've got a question concerning your use of the term "Catholic hierarchy" in regard to Avenir. Are they still in contact with Rome on Earth? Or have they established some kind of "New Rome"? If not, who (or what) is the ranking Catholic authority in the Avenir region? An Archbishop maybe? A cardinal? A group of cardinals? This is something that could potentially come up in other stories...

  2. There can be no contact, so it must be something else... Walt?

  3. When contact was lost with Earth, the local Catholic Church continued the practice of the early Church with a synod of Bishops and as numbers of the faithful grew, Archbishops. The synod is led by a Patriarch elected by the other members of the synod (the term, "Pope," is not used in deference to the Holy Father in Rome, whoever he might be), with questions of doctrine and practice decided at periodic Ecumenical councils (Avenir VIII being the latest). As there is no local election of a Pope, there are no Cardinals.

    For an example of this sort of thing in other science fiction, it's hard to beat The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (not to mention, it's a hoot).

  4. OK, thanks for the clarification. How may Archbishops are there more or less? Specifically, does Avenir rate one or more than one? And where does the Patriarch reside and the synod meet?

  5. The Patriarch resides at the cathedral of his see, whether he is a bishop or archbishop, as he normally functions in his primary role as shepherd of his diocese or archdiocese. While respected for his opinions on questions of Theology, Tradition and Practice, he normally only acts as Patriarch when calling an Ecumenical Council. According to the present Patriarch, Michael (Mike I), "I'm first among equals, especially when the bills come due." His see is the diocese of Christchurch.

    Avenir is indeed an archdiocese, at this point, the only one. Allegedly, there is talk among the synod about bumping the diocese of Christchurch to the status of archdiocese due to growth.

    Bishop Guash, who makes an appearance in "Academic Question: Rising Expectation" and "Word Carrier: Publication" (awaiting publication, as it happens), has the Diocese of South Polar Sea on Eclectia (in the first story, he filled in for Michael who was indisposed; in the second, he is the guest of the Franciscan Provencal).

    The synod doesn't really meet as a group unless it is in an Ecumenical Council. There is no set place for them to convene, but all have met either on Avenir or in one of the O-HABs, as of this writing.

  6. Thanks, Walt. I think you've clarified some potentially helpful points.