The setting for “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does” is a Franciscan monastery during a bleak, snowy winter. Father Didymus, an aged priest, is being read to by his friend, Brother Titus, a simple, holy, and rather forgetful old man. As this elegaic story opens, Titus reads from Bishop Bale’s critical Lives of the Popes, which reminds Didymus of the foibles of even great church leaders.
As the two friars go for a walk in the cold snow, Didymus meditates upon his own spiritual lapses. He is especially distressed with his decision not to visit his ninety-two-year-old brother, Seraphin, also a priest, recently returned from Rome after twenty-five years. Didymus feels that by adhering to the letter of his vows as a cloistered priest in not visiting his brother he has exhibited spiritual pride and has hurt his brother. Upon returning from his walk, he receives a telegram informing him that his brother has died.
Later, during the Vespers ceremony, Didymus collapses and wakes to find himself confined to a wheelchair. Titus brings a caged canary to his room for companionship and continues to read to him. This time, however, he reads from the writings of the mystic saint and poet Saint John of the Cross. One of Saint John’s paradoxical tenets is that one may be closest to God during the moments one believes oneself to be abandoned by him. Powers clearly implies that Didymus, despite his religious scruples and his sense of failure, achieves a...
(The entire section is 502 words.)