(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In Godric, the fictionalized life story of the twelfth century hermit and saint as told to the monk Reginald, Godric recalls experiencing a miracle as a youth: While drowning, he has a vision of a porpoise who speaks to him in the words of Christ. After being rescued by his sister Burcwen, an act that binds the two of them together for the remainder of their lives, Godric leaves home to seek his fortune. Though Burcwen wants to accompany him, Godric forbids her, fearing her love for him and his for her. Godric then recounts the story of Peregrine Small, who is mistaken for a Jew who has converted to Christianity and is stabbed by a rampaging mob. Godric feels partially responsible for Small’s death, yet he profits from it by selling relics supposedly stained with Small’s blood.

Godric next becomes a sailor. With his partner Roger Mouse, he buys a ship, the Saint Esprit. The two transport pilgrims from England to the holy sites of Europe; Godric hides until they are at sea and then appears, pretending to be a pirate and robbing the passengers. Godric adopts the name Deric and keeps this identity as rogue separate from his other self. He makes periodic trips to the island of Farne, where he buries the money gained through piracy and deceit and where he has had a vision of Saint Cuthbert, who tells him God has long been calling him.

Godric returns home to learn his father, Aedlward, has died. Burcwen has blossomed into a young woman. Aedwen, Godric’s mother, has a dream in which Aedlward, in purgatory, asks her to go on a pilgrimage to Rome to pray for him. Godric makes this trip with his mother and finds Rome a corrupt, broken city, an emblem of human wretchedness. On the return trip, he has a vision of a bear feasting on figs and defecating “all that sweetness out its hinder part.” A mysterious woman named Gillian appears to him and tells him the bear represents Godric himself who has for years enjoyed “Christ’s sweet grace and charity” but has abused that grace by living a life of lust and greed. Gillian then brings news that Aedlward has escaped purgatory and now awaits Godric in...

(The entire section is 874 words.)