The Saint in the Cellar

Once upon a time....

...there was a boy named Jacob who lived in a world of knights and dragons—when he wasn’t going to first grade, learning manners and waltzes, and eating steak tartare.

While his parents’ careers keep them occupied, he befriends the large and rambunctious family next door and explores his new home—the Summit Hill mansion of a 19th century railroad baron. Jacob is used to battling dragons. But even he is surprised to discover a man living in the walls in his basement! Anthony says he is a monk living in the medieval anchorite tradition, sealed in a cell for life to pray, hoping to become a saint.

Mama does not like his friendship with the kids next door. And she doesn’t believe there’s a saint in the cellar. But then, she doesn’t believe in dragons or King Methred, either.

What if she’s wrong….?

In 2015, Chris and I were looking at houses together. Among those we looked at was a fantastic historic home on the famous Summit Hill in St. Paul, just down from the Cathedral. It was built by a railroad baron of the late 19th century.

In the basement, we found a very odd, small room. A door from the hall led into it and inside there were bars with a window looking out into a sunny room full of plants that had, in a previous age, been where the laundresses worked. 

At the time, I was still heads-down in research for The Blue Bells Chronicles, and so had recently been reading about anchorites and anchoresses. This was a tradition in the Middle Ages, in which men and women would retreat from the world in order to devote their lives to prayer. They might be religious or they might be lay people. What differentiated the from hermits, who typically lived in the wilderness, was that an anchorite was sealed, for life, into a room built on the side of a church.

This room would have one window looking into the church so the anchorite (or anchoress) could partake of Mass, and another facing the street. From this window, the anchorite could speak with the people of the town, some of whom would come to them for prayers, for counsel, for advice. Of course, then as now, there were those who scoffed at God and faith and might also take the opportunity to heap abuse and ridicule on them. This, to an anchorite, was only partaking in Christ's sufferings.

They also had a servant to bring food and retrieve waste and perhaps a cat to take care of mice.

Key to the anchorite experience was being sealed into the room. This was symbolic of entombment, of dying to oneself, of dying to one's old life, in order to be reborn in Christ. An anchorite did not idly leave his cell. It was a lifetime commitment.

When Chris and I saw this small room with a grated window looking out to another room, we immediately thought of this anchorite tradition and one of us laughingly said the phrase, a saint in the cellar! Our minds started churning and Chris started writing Jacob, not quite six, with his vivid imagination and curiosity about the world--and parents who are far too busy.

The story evolved, as stories do, leaving many questions.

What does the author M.M. Love know about dragons and Methred? Are his stories fact or fiction? Is Jacob a boy with a vivid imagination and imaginary friends...or is something else going on? Who is Anthony, really? Is he a figment of Jacob's imagination? A ghost who doesn't know he's died? The angel Jacob's family needs? Or is he exactly who he says he is?

An early reader compared the book to Hinds Feet in High Places and said:

"I absolutely cried tears of joy in the end and it reminded me of the joy I felt when reading the end of “The Glorious Appearing” by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye that described the time when Jesus comes back to earth.
This is the kind of allegory that stands with The Pilgrims Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia, and yet still gives wonderful insight into the modern struggles we all have in finding the Peace on our earth that passes all understanding."

In addition to The Saint in the Cellar, please look for my other recent releases:


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