"In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum," Sorin read aloud, whispering quietly to himself from the old Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible he held in his hands, which he had bought from the local Catholic bookshop a few days ago, then turned to the corresponding verse in the English Bible he had found lying around the house somewhere, gathering dust: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Bibles had been easy enough to procure. The Latin one had been fairly cheap and the English one had been free and available for the taking. What would have baffled his parents, and indeed anybody, had they known about it, was why on earth he would want to do such a thing. He had not been raised in a particularly religious home, his father took him and his younger brothers to the local Lutheran Church occasionally - very occasionally - but there had never been any strong tradition of religious observance in their household. The children were never taught to pray, and his depressed mother, as far as Sorin had been able to ascertain, was agnostic at the most, and never went to Church. It did not make sense for the son of Mr and Mrs Vanvittig to be the kind of person who spent his time reading the Bible and learning Latin. It was not quite respectable in the bustling, business-centred town of his youth. Thus, he conducted these exercises at night, under cover of darkness, hidden under his sheets with only a torch and two Bibles for company. Had his parents been aware of it, they would have been puzzled indeed. Why would their son want to do such a thing?
In short, he did it because he was a teenager. Though, of course, this does not, by itself, explain his behaviour, the feelings of rebelliousness and the desire to form an individual identity and to be somewhat different certainly provided the courage for him to act in such an unexpected way. The particular nature of his 'rebellion' was, admittedly, somewhat unique, but the rebellion itself was not entirely unexpected in a teenage adolescent. Some teenagers defy their parents by spending their nights drinking, others by spending their nights vandalising bus shelters, and still others by spending their nights in secret trysts with their sweethearts. Sorin Vanvittig defied his parents by spending his nights reading the Bible and learning Latin.
Which brings us to the second question his parents would have asked: why Latin? Having a religion is all well and good, but knowing Latin is quite unnecessary to practice one's faith. He already spoke fluent Norwegian, his father being a Norwegian immigrant, and most would think that two languages is quite enough. You, my dear reader, being an educated and knowledgable individual, have most likely deduced the answer for yourself, but Mr and Mrs Vanvittig, earnest, hard-working, and kind as they were, did not have any great interest in religion, or anything really besides fishing in the case of Mr Vanvittig and gardening in the case of Mrs Vanvittig. Thus they would not have deduced, even had they been aware of these midnight rendez-vous with God, what would be obvious to many: their son was secretly, slowly converting to Catholicism.
It had all begun when Sorin had wandered, attracted purely by curiosity, into a service at the local Catholic church. He sat at the back, enraptured by the ornate Latin and the beautiful vestments. When the choir sang, he felt he had heard a choir of Angels. His interest was, at first, purely aesthetic - he was attracted to the spectacle as one might be attracted to a beautiful aria from an opera or a beautiful painting. It was pleasing to the eye and the ear. However, there was something else in that service, something which shook him to his core and left him with a profound sense of awe and humility. He walked away from that service feeling as though he had heard the voice of God.
He began attending these services more and more often, and eventually began spending time in the church even when there was no service, on his way to and from school, to kneel before the altar and pray. He would spend hours each week wandering through the church, looking at the stained glass windows and reading the Latin (none of which he could understand), just to feel it on his lips. One day while doing this, he heard a voice behind him.
"You're pronouncing it wrong," the voice said. "It's Day-um, not Dee-um. It means 'God'. Deum." The voice was kindly and gentle and, turning around, Sorin could see it belonged to a Priest.
"And....what does the rest of it mean?" Sorin asked.
To his surprise, the Priest began chanting softly. "Te Deum Laudamus: te dominum confitemur. Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur." He turned and smiled at Sorin. "We praise thee, O God: we ackowledge thee to be the Lord. All the Earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting. It's a hymn, a very old hymn. 4th century, it was written."
"Oh. Well, thank you."
The Priest smiled at him. "You're welcome," he said. It was after that experience that Sorin decided he wanted to learn Latin.
He also decided he wanted to read the Bible. This was, of course, an unusual pastime for most teenage boys, but perhaps not so unexpected for Sorin. Those who had grown up with him had learned to accept his oddities. He was always unusual, but never unsettling: always strange, but never creepy. Nobody ever teased or bullied him (though he, in his gentle nature, was a very easy target) because they never felt unsettled by him. Those who are different are not always hated - only those whose difference makes others feel uncomfortable. This includes both those whose unusual nature frightens or unsettles others, and those whose purity of heart and goodness of spirit (or, sometimes, achievement in other areas) makes others keenly and harshly aware of their own shortcomings.
Sorin possessed neither of these characteristics. He was neither aggressively unusual nor unusually good and pure. He was just....different. Thus, he was left well alone (which, being an introverted boy, he quite liked) but he was not teased or bullied (which, being a human being, he also quite liked). Thus, he had a good childhood, quite alone, but not lonely. His family never moved house or town. He got on quite well with his brothers. His childhood years were fairly unremarkable, until the time he attended the Catholic service which has been spoken of, and took up the habit of ploughing his way through the Bible in both English and Latin. Even at this point, his life was still uneventful, if not normal. It was only when his father woke up one night, saw the light coming from Sorin's bedroom, and entered to find his son muttering in Latin and poring over the Bible that his life became somewhat more complicated.
Mr Vanvittig was not at all happy with this discovery. In his opinion, which he frequently expressed to his wife in frustration: "Boys his age should be obsessing over girls, not God!"
Of course, Sorin was not at all ignorant of the existence of the opposite sex, and his feelings towards them were much the same as most teenage boys. However, as time went on, he gradually grew to fear the strength of these strong and powerful feelings. The boy who growing up had known little of friendship (not that he minded this), knew even less of love or romance, so his only experience of attraction to the opposite sex was entirely physical. Hours spent listening to frightful descriptions of the horrors of hell reserved especially for fornicators and adulterers did little to mitigate his fears of these powerful urges he first experienced in his adolescence.
It did not take much for him to begin to associate his feelings for the opposite sex with the opposite sex themselves. He began to fear them just as he feared his powerful feelings. He saw them as temptresses - every one of them was Eve enticing him to partake of the forbidden fruit, urging him on to his own Fall from the Edenic paradise of the Catholic faith he had come to embrace. Of course, it didn't matter to him that most of them were completely indifferent to his existence, and certainly none of them harboured any desires to 'partake of the forbidden fruit' with him. As far as he was concerned, if it wasn't for them, he would not teeter so close to the edge of sin, thus to him they represented his downfall. They were a threat, a risk, and his business-minded father had always taught him that risk was to be avoided. Thus, in his mind, these seductive temptresses, tools that Satan could use to drag him away from his new-found salvation, must be avoided at all costs.
It was thus that he found himself, three years after his father's discovery of his newfound faith, standing before Mr Vanvittig, boldly declaring: "Father, I would like to enter a monastery."
"No," said Mr Vanvittig, quite decisively.
"You cannot stop me. I am of age."
"No son of mine will spend their life tucked away from the world, muttering prayers and bowing before wooden statues. This religion nonsense has gone far enough. If you want to start reading the Bible and going to church, I may not understand what you see in it, but that's fine as long as it doesn't interfere with your work. But when you start talking about shutting yourself away, abandoning your family, your livelihood, your future career, I must speak up. There is a limit, Sorin. And I forbid you to do this."
"You cannot forbid what God has commanded."
"Sorin, you are needed at home. Your mother needs you. It will break her heart to see you go. What kind of monster are you? She is... unwell.... as it is. If you go, I doubt she will ever get out of bed again." his voice was serious and earnest, and Sorin knew that this was not merely hyperbole designed to sway him. He faltered for a moment in his decision, but what could he do? Choose earthly family over eternal salvation?
"My mind is made up, father," he said quietly. "All the arrangements are made. I will enter the Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Father Francis knows the Abbot there, and he assures me I will do well there. I will see mother as often as I am permitted."
His father's eyes hardened. "Very well, Brother Sorin," he spat the words out with heavy sarcasm, his eyes cold and glaring. "Take your things, leave my house, and run away to your God."
"Goodbye, father," Sorin said sadly, and stepped forward to embrace him.
"Get out," repeated his father coldly. "I want you gone in the next hour."
Sorin took full advantage of the hour allotted to him, saying goodbye to his mother and brothers. None of them understood his decision and all were sad to see him go, but they did not react as violently as his father.
After the hour was finished, Sorin embraced all his family one last time, and then left. The town was peaceful, and strangely, so was he. He looked forward to a life devoted entirely to God, prayer and meditation. As he passed the Catholic church he had entered so many years ago, he paused a moment and whispered: "Thank you, God, for bringing me into thy church."
As he walked the short distance to the monastery, he sang loudly and confidently: "Te Deum laudamus: te dominum confitemur." His faith was unclouded, his soul at rest, his mind at peace. He harboured no doubts, no reservations. "I am yours to command, Lord. My life is yours. I have no master but you. You alone are my delight and my joy. 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.'"
Thus, with a mind free from care and worry, he entered the Dominican Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He would leave it in a very different state of mind.