Study Guide

A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz Summary

Fiat Homo

While on a Lenten vigil, Brother Francis encounters an old wanderer in the desert. There is a minor misunderstanding involving some cheese and a cudgel, but they straighten it out, and the wanderer agrees to help Francis.

Francis needs to build a sound shelter, or else the monsters roaming this post-apocalyptic wasteland might try to eat him while he's sleeping. So the wanderer does Francis a solid by finding a rock that'll make his shelter more secure.

But when Francis goes to retrieve the rock, he discovers a fallout shelter from before the Age of Simplification. Snazzy.

Now, don't worry if you don't quite understand everything what we're talking about here, Shmoopers—that's precisely Miller's style. He wants to set you down right in the middle of the action, and have you strap on your Discoverer Hats along with Brother Francis. Like, what do you think was "simplified" in the Age of Simplification?

Okay, so, imagine you're right there with Brother Francis in this fallout shelter, which is essentially a time capsule. And you're sifting through trinkets and mementos from the long-vanished era. Then, hark: Brother Francis discovers a treasure trove of Memorabilia with the name Leibowitz on it.

This is all very curious, because this Leibowitz character is currently up for sainthood in Brother Francis's very own abbey—he was the founding member, you know. So discovering any more information about the guy's past, and what he did before the Age of Simplification, is both dangerous and thrilling; it's like finding out your parents actually had lives before you were born. (Whoa.)

Francis presents the news to his abbot, but Abbot Arkos is less than impressed. Sounds like he's choosing "fear of danger" over "thrill of discovery" here. Arkos thinks that sharing Francis's story with others will only make Leibowitz's bid for sainthood more difficult.

Instead, Arkos suppresses the story by locking up the fallout shelter and keeping Francis a novice for upward of seven years. Which is basically like being a freshman for seven years straight despite passing grades. It's a very personal hell that we'd never wish upon you, dear readers.

Eventually, New Rome does reopen the investigation, however. And Francis is given a job as a copyist, where he begins working on an illuminated copy of Leibowitz's electronic blueprint. Finally, some new light can be shed on this long-buried—er, locked—mystery.

Years later, Leibowitz is finally beatified. Brother Francis is invited to the ceremony, and en route to New Rome to attend, he is robbed by a highwayman. The dude takes his illuminated manuscript. Eek.

At New Rome, Brother Francis is thanked for his contribution to the Memorabilia church and given the money to buy back his precious illuminated copy. Upon returning to the site of the robbery though, Francis is killed by two mutants who decide Francis foie gras will make a tasty afternoon treat.

This post-Simpflication world is pretty nasty.

But just as everything's about to fade to black, as they say, the old wanderer discovers the body being feasted on by the buzzards. He cares for it and gives it a proper burial. Hm. Kind of makes you wonder who this "old wanderer" is after all, huh?

Fiat Lux

600 years later, Thon Taddeo, a famous scholar, hears word of the abbey's Memorabilia. Like most famous scholars, he wants to figure out if he can criticize the Memorabilia. Just kidding. Kind of.

What he really wants is to study its authenticity—is any of the stuff real anyway? Dom Paulo, the new abbot, accepts Taddeo's request to visit. But he worries about what Taddeo will discover, or have to say about his discoveries, since Taddeo is not a man of God. He's just a regular old secular scholar.

Before Taddeo comes to call, Dom Paulo visits his old friend Benjamin. He wants to return a goat the hermit lost to the Poet in a game of chance. Benjamin and Paulo discuss Taddeo, and wonder whether he'll be able to change the world for the better.

Or, will Taddeo simply continue a cycle of death and destruction? Sounds like a pretty big logical leap, we realize. But not for Benjamin. He claims to be immortal, or near enough, and so he's seen this same cycle time and time again. So he's thinking on a much bigger time scale than us puny human types.

When Taddeo arrives and studies the Memorabilia, he's totally amazed by the wealth of knowledge it contains. He's even more impressed by Brother Kornhoer, whose arc lamp has returned electric light to the world. But not everything is peaches-and-creamy awesome.

Taddeo has little patience for religion, and it's soon learned that Hannegan, the mayor-royal of Texarkana, has declared the Pope a heretic. Hannegan clearly wants more power than the church, and so he's out to take it away from the Pope.

After brawlin' a bit with the monks of the abbey over the validity of religious knowledge versus scientific knowledge, Taddeo leaves. Dom Paulo offers to let Taddeo, or any scholar who wishes to return to the abbey, stay. Paulo believes communication between religion and science is necessary to keep the peace and prevent people like Hannegan from assuming too much power.

But not long afterward, Dom Paulo dies. And his vision of power-based war comes to life: conflict breaks out across the land.

Fiat Voluntas Tua

Another 600 years passes—shazam. And now that the world has rediscovered its lost technology, nuclear weapons maintain a tenuous peace. Very tenuous. Yikes.

Abbot Zerchi and New Rome prepare a mission to the colonies so that the Catholic Church and Memorabilia might survive the all-but-inevitable destruction of Earth. Zerchi tasks Brother Joshua with leading the mission. Joshua is hesitant, at first, but eventually agrees (probably because slim odds are better than no odds, are we right?).

Then a nuclear weapon strikes near the Leibowitz Abbey. Zerchi opens his doors to aid those in need and grants Doctor Cors permission to run a Green Star relief camp within the abbey—but only with the understanding that euthanasia may not be administered or even suggested.

Remember that whole bit of religious doctrine where suicide is a sin? And so is murder? Yeah, that stuff is pretty relevant here.

Anyway, Doctor Cors agrees to the terms, but shortly thereafter encounters a hopeless mother and child. So the doctor breaks his promise and sets up a euthanasia-administration-stand down the road. Father Zerchi tries to talk the mother and daughter out of assisted suicide, but is unsuccessful.

Heartbroken and discouraged, Zerchi hears the confession of a mutant named Mrs. Grales, a two-headed woman who wishes to have her "sister," Rachel, baptized. During the confession, a nuclear explosion destroys the abbey.

Zerchi manages to survive but is trapped beneath the rubble. As he awaits his ultimate fate, Mrs. Grales comes to him; only it is the head of Rachel that lives while Mrs. Grales slumps dead on their shoulders.

Seemingly free of sin and pain, and possessing miraculous powers, Rachel gives Zerchi the sacrament of communion before he dies. Elsewhere, the church's mission to the space colonies launches, leaving a devastated Earth behind for an unknown future.

Dun, dun, dun. Unknown future, ahoy.

  • Chapter 1

    • This one dude, Brother Francis Gerard, is on a Lenten vigil in the desert when he spies a wanderer coming up the road.
    • And he's all, "Oh hey, wanderer." Nope, wait, that's not what happens.
    • Here's what happens: the wanderer rests to have a tasty snack of bread and cheese. When he finally notices Francis, there's a small misunderstanding concerning the possibility of cannibalism.
    • The wanderer is waving a cudgel, but that's only because he wants to eat other stuff. As in, not Brother Francis, but bread and cheese.
    • Thanks to a bit of chalk and the wanderer's ability to read, they sort things out. Then the wanderer offers the novice some of his snack.
    • Francis douses him with holy water because, well, you never know. This morsel-offering man could be a demon.
    • Again with the misunderstandings. Anyway, Francis goes back to fortifying his makeshift shelter and ignoring the non-demon man.
    • Eventually, the old wanderer asks if the abbey up the road will offer him shelter. Francis says yes, and that they'll give him food and water, too.
    • In exchange for that generosity, the wanderer agrees to help Francis find an odd-shaped rock to fit a particularly difficult hole in his shelter.
    • Then Francis prays. He is a monk after all, you know. And the old wanderer yells back that he's found the perfect rock and marked it. So he bids the novice farewell.
    • That perfect little stone is marked in chalk just as the wanderer said it would be. And since Francis wants to put as much shelter between him and the wolves as he can, he pries the rock free.
    • When he does, a hole is revealed.
    • Francis continues building the shelter, but his mind wanders to the mysterious hole often.
    • He eventually goes back and tries to make the hole larger, in order to find out what's inside. But he accidently causes a landslide that knocks him into a subterranean pit.
    • Truly "inside" now, Francis discovers a fallout shelter.
    • Who knows what's inside? Not Francis.
    • Fearing the dreaded Fallout Demon might await him, Brother Francis arms himself with his holy water. Because that's his Worst Case Scenario go-to.
  • Chapter 2

    • In the world of Francis's mind, we're remembering a religious verse with references to nuclear weapons and radioactive isotopes.
    • Outside in the really-real world, Francis comes across a door labeled "INNER HATCH"… and hopes the Fallout Demon is safely trapped inside.
    • He also finds a desk, some lockers, and a skull with a gold tooth.
    • Eventually, he overcomes his initial fear of whatever might be contained in this shelter and hopes the desk and lockers might actually contain Memorabilia—precious documents written before the Age of Simplification (we'll learn more about that bit of future "history" in Chapter 6).
    • He explores the contents carefully, remembering the incident of the Venerable Boedullus. This infamous incident involved a search for Memorabilia, the discovery of a "launching pad," and the creation of a new lake (2.14).
    • In a box, Francis finds Memorabilia including a memo, shopping list, and a circuit design. He notices the circuit design is signed in the name of Leibowitz, his order's founding member.
    • He's ecstatic, believing Heaven has sent him "a token of his vocation" (2.37). For those non-monks out there, imagine acquiring a vintage copy of the White Album, in mint condition, signed by all of the Beatles. Then you might begin to understand Francis's excitement.
    • That night, Francis wonders what the Fallout Shelter will mean for the Leibowitz Abbey and his future as a monk. He falls asleep and awakes alone with the box. Well, except for the wolves prowling around the shelter. Eep.
  • Chapter 3

    • Francis makes his confession to Father Cheroki, who's more than a little miffed at Francis's verbose style. There really is an art to the confession, and Francis hasn't quite mastered it yet.
    • The novice brings up the Fallout Shelter and something about Leibowitz, and Father Cheroki believes the young man's gone daft with heat and hunger. He commands Francis to return to the abbey.
    • Francis grows upset on his way down the road. He wishes he could have shown Father Cheroki the Fallout Shelter but couldn't since the man was carrying the Eucharist.
    • En route, he bumps into Brother Fingo.
    • Fingo's an ugly but cheerful monk hailing from Minnesota territory. He works in the kitchen, and is making the rounds with food and water for the Lenten novices.
    • Fingo asks Brother Francis what's wrong, and Brother Francis says he's being sent back for being touched in the head. The novice then shows Fingo the contents of the box, but Fingo doesn't know what to make of them.
    • Francis asks his brother to double-check and make sure the cave is really there. Brother Fingo rides on and waves back that, yep, there's definitely a cave. Guess Francis isn't totally bonkers after all.
    • Later, Father Cheroki heads back to the abbey and encounters an unconscious Francis on the side of the road.
    • Reviving the novice, he notices Francis was carrying a box. At least he helped Francis come to before paying attention to what the poor guy was carrying.
  • Chapter 4

    • Abbot Arkos talks with Father Cheroki, assuring him that he did the right thing.
    • The abbot is super upset at the whole situation.
    • Francis's story has spread throughout the abbey, and the fellow monks are adding all sorts of embellishments to it with each re-telling. You know how games of telephone go…
    • In some versions, Leibowitz himself told Francis where to look for the Memorabilia.
    • (Is this foreshadowing or some other kind of literary hint we should be paying attention to? Hm.)
    • The abbot fears this will hurt Leibowitz's chances of being beatified as a saint by New Rome.
    • Later, Francis is sent to the abbot's chambers. Arkos tries to get the novice to deny the old wanderer's part in the story.
    • Francis doesn't, and Arkos goes all "spare the rod, spoil the child" on Francis's behind.
    • Afterward, Francis tries to explain how he never said it was Leibowitz. In fact, he doesn't think that the blessed Leibowitz would chase a man with cudgel. That'd be pretty wacky, right?
    • Arkos mentions no stranger passed by the abbey, and Francis suggests that novices sometimes daydream while on tower duty. So who knows what he really saw?
    • The abbot tries to determine whether Francis believes the old wanderer was natural (of this earth) or supernatural.
    • But those are the same thing for Francis, so the whole debacle keeps spinning out of control with its circular logic.
    • So Arkos kicks Francis out. Harsh, dude. Real harsh.
  • Chapter 5

    • Francis returns to finish his Lenten vigil. Different spot; same weaksauce desert hangout.
    • He's mystified at the whole situation, wondering why everyone is so excited about the old wanderer and not the new Memorabilia.
    • Thinking on his past, Francis remembers that he only ever wanted to "devour such knowledge" (5.6)—to get himself an education.
    • The reason he signed up for monkhood was that the Church was the only name in the education game. So his choices were either become a monk or become a warrior. And that meant to die young.
    • Francis keeps thinking deep thoughts for a while.
    • After his vigil ends, Francis returns to the abbot.
    • Arkos demands he tell him the old wanderer was not the Blessed Leibowitz. Francis states he cannot say one way or another.
    • Dissatisfied with this answer, he informs the novice that Francis won't be permitted to profess his vows with the others this year.
    • Like the class clown who goofs off too much to get his work done, Francis is getting held back a year. Even though all he really did is make a major discovery. Lot of thanks that got 'im.
  • Chapter 6

    • Gossip of the old wanderer continues to spread through the abbey, with each retelling adding intricate layers of fabrication to the story.
    • Arkos has the cave resealed to try and keep the chattiness to a minimum.
    • The novel then gives us a history of the nuclear holocaust and the Age of Simplification to follow. Ah, glad Mr. Miller decided to get us up to speed eventually.
    • And wouldn't you know it, a detailed analysis of the Simplification just happened to have made its way into our "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" Section. Coincidence? Nope. Pretty deliberate actually.
    • Anywho, with the shelter closed, Arkos tries to weed out the other source of gossip, Francis's story.
    • Francis, unfortunately, doesn't know how to look out for his own interests. He continues to tell everyone only that he can't say one way or another—maybe wanderer dude was The Famous Leibowitz, maybe he was just The Dude. Who knows.
    • Francis isn't permitted to profess his vows again. But there are plenty of hickory ruler spankings to make up for that absence in our hearts.
  • Chapter 7

    • Seven years later, Brother Francis is still rocking it in the abbey, novice-style.
    • Poor guy. He just wants a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, you know?
    • One day, a messenger from New Rome arrives to tell Brother Francis he believes the documents Francis discovered are authentic. Like, they are really, really old.
    • Because that's basically what "authentic" means to scholars… and hipsters.
    • The messenger explains to Francis that Arkos turned the relics over to another Order so that the examination would have no taint of bias. Since Liebowitz was the founding Bro of Arkos's Order and all.
    • Francis is pretty stoked, because now Leibowitz's case for sainthood will be reopened, along with the shelter.
    • The messenger asks for Francis's side of the story, which he receives.
    • A few days later, Arkos tells Francis it is time he took his vows. Francis faints. This moment has been a long time coming.
    • Two weeks pass.
    • Francis takes his vows, having set the record for most Lenten vigils. Way to go, buddy.
    • He receives a job in the copyroom where the monks make copies of the Memorabilia's books. By hand. The rediscovery of "Copy and Paste" cannot get to these guys soon enough. Ugh, pre-computer history is such a drag.
    • A monk named Horner is in charge of the copyroom. He says Francis can pick a pet project. He has this fun theory that people do better work they have a pet project to keep them invested.
    • Francis chooses to make an illuminated manuscript of the Leibowitz blueprint. Snazzy.
    • He spends the next few months working on a copy of Leibowitz's "'STATOR WNDG MOD 73-A 3-PH 6-P 1800RPM 5-HP CL-A SQUIRREL CAGE'" (7.54). You read that right: months.
    • A fellow copyist, Brother Jeris, teases Francis at his lack of understanding of the diagram. But Francis has faith that one day the diagram will become illuminated—get it?—if not to him, then to someone else.
    • One day, Abbot Arkos spies Francis working on the manuscript. The abbot asks him what it is, and Francis tells him.
    • The abbot walks away as if it's nothing. Francis doesn't notice. He's too busy lying on the ground after fainting.
    • Guy's kind of an avid fainter, we have to admit.
  • Chapter 8

    • With Abbot Arkos off his back for once, Francis is free to pursue his illuminated copy without care.
    • Fingo also returns to his project of carving a wood statue of Leibowitz. Francis enjoys watching the brother carve his statue, and as the face materializes, he feels he's seen it somewhere.
    • Then Francis falls ill.
    • When he manages to return to the workshop several months later, he's still sure he's seen the bloke somewhere (psst, it's hinted to be the old wanderer at 8.18).
    • Brother Horner dies. Brother Jeris takes the kind monk's place.
    • The new master of the copyroom quickly puts a kibosh on Francis's pet project.
    • Not long after, Monsignor Aguerra arrives at the abbey. He's serving as Leibowitz's postulator in the case of sainthood—in other words, he's the guy trying to prove Leibowitz is totally saintly.
    • Francis is sent to talk with the postulator. Abbot Arkos warns him to be careful what he says, with the minor threat of a deadly beating thrown in for good measure.
    • Monsignor Aguerra provides Francis with a written account of his meeting with the old wanderer. Francis is awestruck at how horribly not like reality the account is and corrects the matter in his ever-honest way.
    • Aguerra is mildly disappointed at losing "miracle number seven," but believes he has enough evidence to support Leibowitz's case all the same (8.65).
    • Before leaving, he stops by the scriptorium to ask Francis to see the illuminated copy. He loves it, and begs Francis to finish his work.
    • And that's how Francis got his groove back.
  • Chapter 9

    • A few months after Aguerra, the devil's advocate, Monsignor Flaught, pops in for a little friendly interrogation. Flaught, of course, is the guy who's out to prove that Leibowitz is not a saint.
    • Flaught is way more hardnosed than Aguerra, but he gets the same story out of Francis.
    • Like his predecessor, Flaught also asks to see the illuminated copy. He finds the imagery vivid and comments that Francis has much work still to go. That's it.
    • The years pass, and Leibowitz is officially recognized as a Saint.
    • Arkos informs Francis that they both have been invited to attend the canonization but, since Arkos's health is poor, Francis will have to make the journey himself.
    • He's also been asked to bring both the original blueprint and his illuminated copy to the ceremony.
    • Francis leaps for joy. Just kidding. He faints.
    • But you saw that coming, didn't you?
  • Chapter 10

    • The trip to New Rome will require three months, so Francis heads into the desert on a donkey with no name
    • It's a good thing Francis hasn't bothered naming the donkey because he soon has to part with him. Why, you ask? Well, he meets a robber who kindly relieves him of his beast of burden
    • (Zing. Two-fer links, for the win.)
    • The robber's two mutant companions want to eat Francis, but the robber suggests he's too scrawny. Guess asceticism has its practical purposes as well.
    • Then the robber finds something new to get interested in: the blueprint and illuminated copy Francis has been working on. He decides his woman would like to hang those on her cabin wall.
    • Who wouldn't, we wonder?
    • Desperate, Francis begs for them back. The robber says he'll wrestle Francis for them, and Francis accepts.
    • It goes about as well as you'd expect. This is Fainting Francis we're talking about here, Shmoopers.
    • Francis begs for the manuscript back once again, after his big loss, telling the robber it took him fifteen years to complete.
    • The robber assumes the illuminated copy is the original, and offers to give it back to Francis for two heklos of gold. He gives Francis the original back, believing it worthless. He rides away and laughs at spending fifteen years on that.
    • Francis is distraught at losing his life's work, but happy to have saved the original. He is tempted to start chanting, "I am so smart, I am so smart."
    • But instead, he gets to walking.
  • Chapter 11

    • Francis watches the canonization ceremony in awe. It's filled with litanies and hymns spoken in Latin. We recommend having Google Translate at the ready.
    • After the ceremony, Francis is shuffled into a room with other important guests.
    • The Pope speaks with the guests one at a time, eventually making his way to Francis.
    • The Pope thanks Francis for his contribution to the Memorabilia and assures Francis that he did not waste his fifteen years working on the lost illuminated copy.
    • After all, had the illuminated copy not been present, the original might have been lost in its place.
    • There is a moment when Brother Francis notices the holes in the Pope's cassock and the spotted, worn carpet.
    • This clarity about the fallibility of the Church lasts only for a moment before its holy perfection is restored in his eyes.
    • After the meeting, Monsignor Aguerra meets with Francis and gives him two heklos of gold to buy back the illuminated copy. It's the Church's way of thanking him for his service.
    • Francis travels back to the spot of the robbery but the robber is not there.
    • We're not sure why he's surprised about this. Aren't you supposed to leave the scene of the crime after you rob someone?
    • Anyway, he waits. And as he's waiting, he spies a figure coming up the road.
    • The figure looks familiar to Francis, but before he can figure out who it is, the monk takes an arrow between the eyes.
    • The robber's mutant companions can be heard chanting, "Eat! Eat! Eat!" Creepy.
    • The old wanderer comes up the road and notices the buzzards circling.
    • He waits until he deems it safe and then proceeds. He finds the remains of Francis and buries the poor monk before continuing on.
    • The years pass. Generations of buzzards live, breed, and die.
    • Then, in the Year of Our Lord 3174, war comes to the land.
  • Chapter 12

    • Marcus Apollo knows war is coming because a courier came back alive from Mad Bear's nomadic camp. Only a courier bringing Mad Bear a treaty to go to war could have pulled off such a feat.
    • Nope, we don't know who these people are either. Just roll with it, okay?
    • Apollo moves his way through the crowd to the punch bowl.
    • Noticing a dead roach amongst the spices, he graciously offers Brother Claret the first glass before sharing the news of the courier.
    • They are interrupted by Thon Taddeo, who wants to discuss the Memorabilia with Apollo.
    • Taddeo wants to see if the documents are authentic. If they are, the knowledge will be invaluable. If not, then someone needs to say so. Right? Right.
    • Apollo tells the scholar to just go and see, but Taddeo wants them brought to the collegium.
    • The short answer: no. The longer answer: absolutely no way, no how, not a chance, not going to happen, no.
    • Apollo does agree to talk the matter over later in his office, however.
    • When Taddeo leaves, Apollo tells Claret he's being sent to New Rome to present Apollo's estimate of Mayor-royal Hannegan's upcoming war.
    • Apollo must use Claret to deliver the report orally because a written correspondence is way too incriminating.
    • Never leave a paper trail, Shmoopers.
    • Next scene: Taddeo arrives at Apollo's study in the evening.
    • He informs Apollo that his work centers on physics, and that a letter from a Brother Kornhoer mentioned Laplace, Maxwell, and Einstein. Yeah, we said it: Einstein.
    • If the abbey really does have their work on file, Taddeo simply must be allowed to see it. (And make certain it's authentic.)
    • Apollo wants to know why, and Taddeo takes him to the window. He points out a man with syphilis walking a donkey through the mud.
    • This sounds like the start of a bad joke, we know. But Taddeo needs to understand how Mr. Donkey Man's forefathers created machines that flew, and harnessed the power of Nature.
    • Apollo asks what he can do.
    • Taddeo requests for him to write to the abbot of Leibowitz Abbey with assurances that the documents will be treated with the utmost of care.
    • The novice deduces that the documents need to come to Taddeo because Taddeo's colleagues will argue he's been fooled otherwise. He's got to show other people the goods.
    • Apollo really isn't too stoked to get involved in this whole mess, since he's pretty saintly and hates deception of any kind, no matter how nuanced or mild.
    • He agrees to send the letter, but only if he can frame it as Taddeo's request, not his own.
    • When Taddeo leaves, Apollo tells Claret he'll be delivering a letter to Leibowitz Abbey after delivering word to New Rome.
    • Claret is then to hurry back so Apollo can give Taddeo what he's sure will be bad news. For Tadeeo, that is. As in: no way, no how, dude. You can't move our special Memorabilia.
  • Chapter 13

    • Dom Paulo, the abbey's new abbot, glowers at the village of Sanly Bowitz in the distance. Drama, drama, drama.
    • He orders the monk to read Apollo's letter to him again.
    • The letter informs Dom Paulo that Thon Taddeo has finally agreed to go to the abbey.
    • It also warns him that Taddeo is a secular scholar and a political captive of Hannegan and his state.
    • As the monk reads, Dom Paulo thinks about Taddeo's childhood. The scholar spent those kiddie days in a monastery instead of playing with army men, Hot Wheels, and Barbies. He had pretty much no fun at all.
    • The abbot wonders if Apollo is trying to tell him something between the lines. Why mention this other information?
    • Dom Paulo's reverie is interrupted by Father Gault, who's wondering if Old Benjamin is dead yet. Always a pleasant conversation starter, that.
    • Dom Paulo says he's going to go visit the Old Jew in a day or two, so they don't have to guess one way or another.
    • And because being a hermit must be lonely work.
    • Father Gault tells him that there are three small matters that need attending to. First, the Poet needs a boot. Second, Vespers has to be dealt with. Third, there's Brother Kornhoer's experiment.
    • Dom Paulo says he'll handle the Poet and has Father Gault take care of Vespers. Then he asks about Brother Kornhoer's experiment.
    • Seems Kornhoer and Brother Armbruster are butting heads over it.
    • Kornhoer says the work is progress, but Armbruster claims it's perdition (13.57). Can't it be both?
    • And then the team breaks. Dom Paulo heads to the Poet's room where he finds a goat.
    • Seems the Poet won the beast from Old Benjamin in a game of chance.
    • The Poet lies in bed with a bottle of wine, and is told to move into the stable boy's cell.
    • Dom Paulo also tells him to return the goat. Or else.
  • Chapter 14

    • The basement/library is all a-ruckus with novices working to finish Brother Kornhoer's machine.
    • Brother Armbruster sulks (piously, we guess) in the corner.
    • Dom Paulo questions Brother Kornhoer about the machine, and he states his light will be the most important improvement to the abbey since they went and got themselves a printing press.
    • Well, someone's got an Edison Complex going on.
    • He then gives the abbot a tour of the arc lamp, praising Thon Taddeo for helping Brother Kornhoer piece together the information he needed to get it working.
    • Dom Paulo asks where the bulb will be hung, and hits the problem on the head.
    • Kornhoer wants to hang it in a special place to act as Taddeo's work station, but Armbruster says he can read in the lectern like everybody else.
    • They eventually decide on the alcove, but that means removing the crucifix from the wall.
    • Armbruster goes straight-up Exorcist on that idea.
    • Dom Paulo reminds Armbruster that the library is not a church, so religious icons are optional.
    • He orders the crucifix taken down… for a time.
    • Gulp.
    • The next day, Dom Paulo remains in his study during the test, nursing his hemorrhaging stomach. He tastes the blood in his mouth before passing out.
    • Gault finds him slumped over his desk and revives him. There sure is a lot of passing out and reviving in this book.
    • Gault wants to get the medic, but Dom Paulo tells him to sit down.
    • He's all, "I'm just bleeding a little internally, no biggie."
    • Gault informs the abbot that the test of the arc lamp was a success.
  • Chapter 15

    • Hongan Os, who goes by the stage name Mad Bear, opens the chapter by having some of his warriors flogged. Seems they had some captives quartered, and Mad Bear just didn't think that was cool. For the horses.
    • Mad Bear knows the lax discipline from his warriors results from his treaty with the "grass-eaters" of Texarkana.
    • But he can't explain the plans he's made with Hannegan to keep word from reaching the Laredans.
    • The deal with Hannegan is simply way too sweet for Mad Bear to pass up.
    • He gets weapons from Hannegan and all he has to do is not wage war against Texarkana.
    • So he's like, "Fine, I'll wage war against Laredo instead."
    • Mad Bear dons his wolf robes, has a totem painted on his face, and tips back a pint of steer's blood.
    • One of the captives asks why they don't drink water. In Mad Bear's tribe, drinking steer blood is just what manly men do. Because they're so manly.
    • The other captives complain to the questioning captive, one Thon Taddeo, why they have to drink blood too.
    • Thon Taddeo requests guides to see him and his men to the Leibowitz Abbey. Mad Bear ensures Taddeo he'll have real men to accompany him. Ouch.
    • To prevent further insults, Taddeo retires early while his soldiers discuss the impending war with Mad Bear.
  • Chapter 16

    • Benjamin stands at the edge of his mesa and watches Dom Paulo's approach.
    • Dom Paulo mentions that he's returned Benjamin's "prodigal," but the old hermit says the Poet won the beast fairly—even if he cheated (16.10).
    • We're not exactly sure how that logic works out, but that's okay.
    • The two friends say their hellos, and Dom Paulo mentions how he's heard Old Ben is throwing rocks at novices again.
    • Benjamin says it can't be helped.
    • A long time ago, one of those novices mistook him for a relative of his, a Leibowitz, and he doesn't want that to happen again.
    • Dom Paulo is surprised at Benjamin's knowledge of abbey history and muses on the old hermit's claim to being "older than Methuselah," who clocked in a respectable 969 years (16.37).
    • The two head to Benjamin's hut for a drink and some chitchat.
    • Dom Paulo tells the hermit that Thon Taddeo is coming to visit the abbey, and Benjamin says he's heard of this scholar.
    • Dom Paulo wants to know Benjamin's opinion on the man, but the old hermit's mind wanders toward the past.
    • You know how old hermits are about talking about the past.
    • Dom Paulo thinks on his friend's burden, how he feels the need to take on the responsibilities of the entire Jewish people while waiting for his Messiah.
    • Heavy stuff.
    • Then the two discuss the differences between Christian and Jewish theology because, hey, what's a little theological debate between friends, right?
    • Dom Paulo confesses that he's afraid the abbey will lose its purpose in a world where people like Thon Taddeo and places like the collegium have taken stock in the education game.
    • The hermit says he'll not commit to a prophecy until he's seen Taddeo and that light contraption of Kornhoer's.
    • He will say this though: he hopes, this time around, Taddeo is on their side rather than that of the "Pharaoh[s], Caesar[s]," and Hannegans of the world (16.152).
  • Chapter 17

    • New chapter; new conversation.
    • We eavesdrop on a palaver between Dom Paulo and a messenger. The abbot gets up-to-date on politics and current affairs.
    • Dom Paulo is informed that Hannegan is going to "defend" the frontier from Mad Bear and the State of Chihuahua.
    • The messenger further notes that Hannegan plans to have Mad Bear's clan deal with Laredo while the Laredans drive hundreds of diseased cattle into the tribe's herd for some old-fashioned chemical warfare.
    • In other words, Hannegan wants his enemies to kill each other off. Sly guy.
    • The messenger advises Dom Paulo to secure the abbey, especially considering those new hazards: gunpowder and grapeshot.
    • Not long afterward, tribesmen in wolf skins appear outside the abbey's gate, causing a bit of an uproar.
    • Then Taddeo makes his appearance and the misunderstanding is resolved.
    • Dom Paulo notices Taddeo's "icy eyes" that study "him as one might study a lifeless curio" (17.56). We're a little freaked out. But he extends to him all the courtesies of the abbey anyway.
  • Chapter 18

    • In the refectory, a reader recites another rendition on the Flame Deluge. This one is written in a style similar to the Book of Job.
    • Taddeo asks if that's their version of the nuclear holocaust, and Dom Paulo mentions it's one of several they have.
    • Taddeo asks when he can study the Memorabilia, and he's told that he can start right away.
    • He's excited, obviously.
    • They make their way to the library. As they enter, Brother Kornhoer turns on the arc lamp.
    • A little help from a couple of monks on treadmills—no, really—gets the electricity flowing nicely.
    • The light scares a curse out of Taddeo and causes a clerk to scream, "Fire!" (18.39)
    • Once the shock wears off, Taddeo is transfixed by the machine. He demands to know why they hide such a wonder from the world.
    • When Brother Kornhoer explains that he built the thing, Taddeo's pride takes a bit of a hit.
    • Taddeo is definitely the kind of guy who believes he's the smartest person in the room.
  • Chapter 19

    • The hullabaloo of the arc lamp quiets down eventually, and Thon Taddeo begins his studies.
    • One day, Brother Kornhoer finds that Taddeo isn't in the library.
    • He's studying the stone entranceway to the refractory.
    • The brother asks him what he's up to, and Taddeo says he's measuring the wear of the stones to determine their age.
    • Rather than rely on the abbey's records, Taddeo will use objective evidence to determine their age. This is a science, Shmoopers.
    • Dom Paulo is also interested in the inspection of their abbey, but he's more curious as to why the soldiers are making such detailed sketches of their fortifications.
    • Gault wonders if Taddeo's influence as Hannegan's kin might get the soldiers to stop, but Dom Paulo must find a way to broach the subject delicately.
    • On the fifth day, Taddeo discovers physics formulas from the 20th century and is totally stoked.
    • Got to love a man who finds equations beautiful.
    • Dom Paulo requests that Taddeo give a seminar on what he's studying—and in the simplest language possible.
    • You know how those stuffy academics can be. Boring and unintelligible, that's how. Yawn.
    • As one of those academics, Taddeo isn't sure he can make his language any simpler. But he agrees.
    • Taddeo also worries about offending their religious beliefs, but Dom Paulo assures him that will not happen.
    • The community of the Leibowitz Abbey looks forward to seeing the world take interest in the knowledge of the Memorabilia once again.
    • The abbot is relieved, believing more communication between the Church and the secular scholars will help ease the tensions between them. Then Gault goes all Commando Killjoy and reminds him of the sketches.
  • Chapter 20

    • In the refectory, the prayers are said and Dom Paulo lifts the rule of abstinence to make the dinner a party. Rock on.
    • All is dandy until the Poet steals a seat at the table where Taddeo's sitting.
    • Dom Paulo apologizes for the Poet's presence, but the Poet steals the scene in addition to stealing a seat. He says that everyone should always have someone else apologize for them.
    • That way, people never have to apologize for themselves (which is no fun at all).
    • Following his own rules, the Poet apologizes for Dom Paulo, and suggests that Thon Taddeo would have found the new apology system of great benefit.
    • Alas, they will never know, for someone has stolen the Poet's blue-headed goat. And now all is lost.
    • Taddeo assumes the goat is meant to be the "scapegoat" (get it? nudge nudge, wink wink?). But the Poet says he misses the point.
    • The goat was to have been praised while Thon Taddeo can blame Leibowitz for all of the mistakes.
    • The Poet then jokes about the soldier's sketches, and how they'll one day hang in a museum of fine art. One of Hannegan's soldiers has an "oh, no he didn't" moment, and draws his sword.
    • This Poet is quite a pun-ner and a jokester, and it gets him in serious trouble sometimes.
    • Dom Paulo kicks the Poet out (who leaves his glass eye to watch the men).
    • Taddeo demands the other soldiers usher the angry, sword-drawing one to his room to cool off.
    • Dom Paulo takes this chaotic opportunity to inform Taddeo about the soldier's sketches. Taddeo is mortified by the news, and promises to speak with the abbot about the matter before he leaves.
    • Taddeo begins his presentation by stating he's 99.9% sure the Memorabilia documents are authentic, and the wealth of knowledge within them is staggering.
    • With that said, it'll take many experts and several generations to understand the Memorabilia thoroughly. He's in it for the long haul.
    • He discusses his own studies on refracted light, all while hoping his conclusions don't offend anyone's religious beliefs.
    • A monk asks him what it is about refracted light that could possibly offend these pious people.
    • Taddeo mentions Marcus Apollo's belief that the rainbow was created by God as a covenant with Noah, so refracted light couldn't have existed before the Biblical Flood.
    • The congregation busts a gut laughing. Clearly, for them, that part of Genesis is best read as symbolic.
    • Taddeo continues discussing the work of the collegium. Every time he thinks their work counters some religious belief, he finds that the monks are accepting of his ideas.
    • Brother Armbruster heckles Taddeo, and Dom Paulo kicks him out.
    • After this super friendly reception by the religious folk, Taddeo believes they are on the path to change since Truth (yep, capital Truth) has returned to the world.
    • Although the change will be violent so long as Ignorance remains king.
    • Boom, in pops Benjamin. The old hermit walks up to Thon Taddeo, stares into the scholar's eyes, and proclaims, "It's still not Him" before hobbling out (20.151).
    • Um. Okay then.
  • Chapter 21

    • Word arrives that Hannegan has made his move against Laredo.
    • Oh, and Marcus Apollo has been found guilty of treason and espionage. Reading about Apollo's execution makes our skin crawl.
    • We're sorry, where were we?
    • Right. Taddeo offers to leave the abbey. He condemns Hannegan's actions personally, but publically, he's still the mayor's kin.
    • And must consider the collegium's wellbeing.
    • Dom Paulo says his "'common humanity makes [him] welcome'" and that he may stay (21.15).
    • But a rift has formed between Taddeo and the monks all the same, and Taddeo keeps to himself.
    • Later, the townsfolk demand sanctuary within the abbey's fortifications.
    • Dom Paulo opens up the abbey to all women, children, and elderly, and requests nothing of them.
    • But the men must pledge their loyalty to the abbey. The pledge is to ensure no outside political forces use the abbey as a garrison.
    • Even the Poet leaves, and that is a bad sign.
    • Taddeo discovers the Poet jacked his boots. But, as he explains to Dom Paulo, he's put one over on the joker too. He stole the Poet's glass eye.
    • Dom Paulo explains how the Poet crafted a jest around the glass eye, calling it his "'removable conscience'" (21.48).
    • Taddeo likes that, and decides he knows someone who could use the eye.
    • The two decide to be honest with each other.
    • Taddeo says he cannot oppose Hannegan, for the sake of the collegium.
    • Dom Paulo notes that Taddeo promised to restore Man's control over Nature. But he wonders who will profit from Taddeo's work, and who will suffer.
    • He says Taddeo has the choice: serve God or serve Hannegan.
    • Taddeo will not serve the Church. But we knew that would happen.
  • Chapter 22

    • Taddeo discusses an experiment with Brother Kornhoer, mentioning the brother's gifts for conceiving of practical applications for his abstract theories.
    • He then offers Kornhoer an opportunity to work with him at the collegium.
    • Kornhoer is flattered, but he decides he's once a religious dude, and always a religious dude.
    • Taddeo mentions the collegium paying a stipend of a hundred gold hannegans… which is completely the wrong thing to say, given the current political climate.
    • Dom Paulo heads into the guesthouse, where a near-dead Brother Claret is having his wounds tended.
    • Claret, it turns out, smuggled a letter out of New Rome.
    • The letter is a proclamation by Hannegan calling the Pope a heretic. You know, because this guy collects enemies like Pokemon (gotta catch 'em all).
    • In the basement, Taddeo argues with Father Gault and others over the book of Genesis.
    • Gault says many of the monks "'feel that Genesis is more or less allegorical'" (22.57).
    • But Taddeo has uncovered a document that suggests a pre-Deluge race might have created Man itself. He speculates that maybe the Simplification was a rebellion by Man against this master race. (Someone's an Assassin's Creed fan.)
    • Dom Paulo has had enough. He demands to see this amazing reference, only to find that Taddeo didn't read the document closely enough.
    • He had merely discovered a fragment of a play.
    • Bahaha.
    • Trivia Snack: the play is a reference to Karel Čapek's R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). R.U.R. is the story of a future society that creates robots to do labor, but the robots eventually rebel, causing the extinction of humanity.
    • It's a classic.
    • Anywho, Taddeo argues that his remarks were only conjecture, and that people must be allowed to speculate.
    • Dom Paulo agrees, but believes "'to abuse the intellect for reasons of pride, vanity, or escape from responsibility'" is a problem (22.100).
    • Yikes. What's he trying to say, huh?
    • Dom Paulo asks why Taddeo wants to "dehumanize[e] the last civilization," but Taddeo yells that the Memorabilia should be in competent hands (22.102).
    • Wow. Open mouth; insert foot.
    • And with that, the arc lamp is put out, and Brother Kornhoer returns with the crucifix for Dom Paulo to put in its place.
    • When he descends the ladder, he tells Taddeo to give a message to the collegium. Anyone who wishes to study at the abbey may do so.
    • Later, a knock comes on the abbot's study door. It's Thon Taddeo. He has taken the sketches of the abbey's fortifications and is giving them to Dom Paulo.
    • They shake hands, but Dom Paulo "[knows] that it was no token of any truce but only of mutual respect between foes" (22.148).
    • That same year, the states of Denver and Texarkana make and break a deal.
    • The old hermit resumes his wanderings, and the Leibowitz Abbey buries their abbot.
  • Chapter 23

    • The Poet lies hot, thirsty, and dying by the roadside, while an officer screams nearby for his mother.
    • "How in the world did I get into this fix?" the Poet wonders. He'd been hiding from the battle, because he thought that it wasn't his battle.
    • Then he saw this officer hacking away at a woman, and the Poet leapt from his hiding spot to stab him three times.
    • The officer's fellow soldiers did not take kindly to that, and now the Poet is digesting a bullet.
    • Of course, the officer isn't doing too hot either. He pleads for God.
    • The Poet drags himself toward the officer. Pretending to be a priest, he blesses the man before ending his life.
    • Then the Poet takes a sip from the officer's canteen, has an unpleasant bowel movement, and dies.
    • Thanks for the gory details, Mr. Miller.
    • The buzzards wait a few days for the Poet to properly cure before eating him.
    • Generations of buzzards come and go. (Are you sensing a theme here?)
    • The Year of Our Lord 3781 is peaceful. The people pray it will remain so.
  • Chapter 24

    • In this era, there are spaceships and humanity has begun colonizing the stars. Finally, our author is adding some of science fiction's more recognizable flavors to this novel.
    • We then get an experimental part of the text, which contrasts soldiers performing a marching ditty with monks singing a canticle.
    • Good stuff. Weird stuff, but good.
    • Then we're presented with a news briefing. The Defense Minister manages to answer all of the reporters' questions, but it's obvious he isn't telling the whole story.
    • Isn't it always obvious?
    • When a reporter asks him if he's read the scientific materials on the subject of nuclear tests, the Defense Minster answers "no." So much for Thon Taddeo's vision of the future.
    • Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, er, the Leibowitz Abbey, Father Zerchi is fiddling with his Autoscribe.
    • Brother Pat tries to help, but all he does is potentially void the warranty.
    • After the fiasco, Zerchi says a small prayer to Saint Leibowitz and has at it again.
    • Because prayer always helps.
    • He then sends a cryptic message to a Sir Eric Cardinal Hoffstraff informing him that their part in the Quo peregrinatur is being maintained, and can be ready in a week if necessary.
    • He receives a response on paper—paper? in the future? how delightfully quaint—and calls for Brother Pat.
    • Brother Joshua tells him Pat is out, and the Zone Defense Interior has ordered all private transmissions halted.
    • By midafternoon, that same Brother Joshua is on the abbey roof taking measurements while below, the children talk of old Lazar.
    • Joshua's dust measurements read "MAX NORM" for the levels of radioactive isotopes (24.136). After a quick bath, and accidently mooning Sister Helene, Joshua shuts down the laboratory.
    • Back at the office, he receives a call from Father Zerchi. They discuss the data, but Zerchi really wants Joshua with him when he receives a response to his radiogram. It concerns Quo peregrinatur.
    • On his way out, Joshua spies Mrs. Grales's two-headed silhouette near the gate.
    • He's not repelled by the woman's disfigurement, but he uses the underpass to return to the abbey. Now is not a time for idle chitchat with an old woman.
    • This is war, kiddos.
  • Chapter 25

    • Another go-around between the reporters and the Defense Minister.
    • The Defense Minister denies the charges of violating international law, on account of a nuclear disaster at Itu Wan that resulted in a fierce standoff with the Asian Coalition.
    • Zerchi feels pretty down in the dumps after that news broadcast.
    • Then Brother Joshua enters and is shown the message. The Quo peregrinatur, the Church's very own spaceship (aha, it's a spaceship owned by the Church, of course), will be launching to the Alpha Centauri colony with the Memorabilia.
    • The kicker? Zerchi wants Brother Joshua to lead the Leibowitz Order into space.
    • Brother Joshua doesn't know what to say, so he's given three days to decide. Maybe less. Depends on how that whole World War IV thing goes.
    • The two head for the new refractory, crossing the deadly, multilane highway to get there.
    • They bump into Mrs. Grales, who wishes to offer a tithe to Zerchi's poor box and ask a favor. Mrs. Grales wants her "sister," Rachel, to be baptized.
    • Zerchi says that's a matter for Father Selo, back at her own parish. During the conversation, Joshua swears he sees Rachel smile.
    • People say Grace at the new refractory. During dinner, Father Lehy informs the monks that "'Lucifer is fallen'" and other war announcements are given (25.145).
    • Zerchi tries to assure the monks that all-out WWIV might not be imminent. The leaders of the world have seen nuclear war before, they know what will happen, and this might keep them from fighting.
    • At the beggar's table, Zerchi spies an old man smiling at that claim.
    • After the talk, Zerchi asks the man who he is, and the man replies, "Call me Lazarus" (25.162).
    • That night, Joshua dreams of a surgery meant to separate Mrs. Grales from Rachel, but the head comes alive, stating it is the Immaculate Conception right before the scalpel comes down (25.170). Freaky.
    • Elsewhere, an entire city is wiped off of the Earth.
    • Also freaky. And sad. Very, very sad.
  • Chapter 26

    • A cease-fire order is issued by the World Court of Nations (the future U.N.), and Zerchi wonders if he can believe anything he hears on the radio.
    • Zerchi shows Joshua a letter. The message basically means that Zerchi needs an answer from the brother now.
    • Although Joshua is willing, he isn't sure about accepting the priesthood.
    • Zerchi asks him to consider what he's made of, and gives him some extra time.
    • In the church, Zerchi gives the mission monks a pep talk about bringing the Memorabilia into space. That way, when humanity needs it again, it'll be there for them.
    • Also, when the going gets tough, the tough… blah blah blah.
    • Outside, Brother Joshua prays for a sign, and sees a snake instead.
    • Okay, maybe the snake was a sign. And maybe it wasn't. But he returns to Zerchi and accepts the offer.
    • With that, the monks charter a flight to New Rome, and Quo peregrinatur is underway.
    • Zerchi realizes that those who stayed behind truly have it easier. They simply have to wait (to die, probably) and pray.
  • Chapter 27

    • Zerchi listens to a radio announcement about the recent nuclear attack.
    • The announcement mentions the government's Mori Vult ("He will die") laws. These laws require those who desire euthanasia to be properly certified, and to report to the nearest Green Star Relief Camp.
    • Yikes.
    • The abbot mentions to his visitor that he considers the process "state-sponsored suicide" (27.9).
    • The visitor, Dr. Cors, says he doesn't want to argue moral theology. He simply wants to set up a relief station at the abbey since the courtyard is filled with sick refugees.
    • After some back and forth, Zerchi agrees to allow Dr. Cors access to the abbey, under one condition: he cannot recommend euthanasia to anyone. Period.
    • Dr. Cors agrees, albeit reluctantly.
    • Zerchi receives a letter informing him that Brother Joshua and the others have left for an unspecified location and that the government has gotten word of the Church's intent. (It's illegal to launch a ship without approvals, so they're in hot water. Or, um, hot space stuff.)
    • Later, Zerchi is told that Green Star Relief is setting up a camp down the road. Zerchi is happy to hear this, since he's had to turn away three trucks of refugees already.
    • He climbs the abbey's tower to read a book by Saint Poet, a "satirical dialogue in verse between two agnostics who were attempting to establish by natural reason alone that the existence of God could not be established by natural reason alone" (27.83).
    • You know, just for fun. (A Shmooper after our own hearts. Aw.)
    • He observes them setting up MERCY CAMP 18 (27.88).
    • At first, he is confused by the pottery, but soon realizes they are urns. He puts two and two together, and figures out what the mercy camp is all about.
    • Then he finds Dr. Cors, but the doctor doesn't have anything to do with MERCY CAMP 18, and so he can't move them out of the area… not that he would if he could.
    • Instead, he calls for Brother Pat. He has the man gather five novices for a good, old-fashioned picket line.
  • Chapter 28

    • That evening, Dr. Cors finds Father Zerchi to tell him he broke his promise.
    • He encountered a truly hopeless woman and her child. Each had fatal flash burns and radiation sickness, and the doctor just couldn't let them go on suffering.
    • Both he and Zerchi think it'd be best if Dr. Cors would leave.
    • Zerchi finds the woman and begs her not to be an accomplice to her own murder. He provides her with a rosary, and notices she knows how to handle it.
    • The next day, Zerchi watches the Guam Conference—that's what they're calling the peace talks in those days—but the news irritates him so much that he has to go outside for some air.
    • That's when he meets up with Mrs. Grales, who has a basket of tomatoes for the refugees.
    • She asks Zerchi to hear her confession, and the abbot agrees to do so in about thirty minutes.
    • Zerchi goes for a drive in his robot car, which sounds awesome. But just wait.
    • He spies the sick woman carrying her child to the Green Relief Station.
    • He asks her where she's going, and she lies and says she's heading to town. He offers her a ride.
    • As they pass the Green Relief Station, he tells her a story from when he was a boy.
    • It goes something like this: Once, his cat was hit by a car, and he tried to put his pet down to ease her suffering. But everything he did only made the suffering worse and worse, and didn't kill the animal.
    • The moral is that God inflicts nothing on us we can't handle.
    • So he says she should offer her and her child's suffering up to Heaven.
    • The woman understands his sermon but says it's the baby who can't understand anything but the pain.
    • Solid point, we have to admit.
    • They go to town, and Zerchi posts a letter.
    • On the way back to the abbey, a police officer stops Zerchi's robot car with a wave of his baton. See, robot cars sound cool in theory, but they never work out well in practice.
    • He wants to question Zerchi about the picket line in front of the mercy camp.
    • Zerchi says he'll return once he's delivered the sick woman home, but the woman says she wants to get out of here.
    • Zerchi tries to stop her, but the police officers pin him down and call out to Dr. Cors to help the woman.
    • The police wonder whether they should charge Zerchi with kidnapping or not. Dr. Cors tries to talk to the abbot, but Zerchi hits him square across the jaw.
    • One cop takes Zerchi over to his cruiser, while the others talk with Cors.
    • Dr. Cors doesn't charge Zerchi with assault, feeling he had that one coming.
    • Zerchi returns to the abbey, beaten and sullen.
  • Chapter 29

    • Father Lehy listens to Zerchi's confession about the punching-Dr. Cors incident.
    • Although Zerchi is unsure about whether or not he can face Mrs. Grales, he goes to listen to her confession anyway.
    • Mrs. Grales asks for God's forgiveness, and also wishes to forgive God for making her as she is.
    • The confession continues until they hear a distant roaring.
    • Mrs. Grales screams that the "'Dread One'" is there (29.28).
    • Zerchi quickly provides her an act of contrition. He then orders her to wait until the light fades, and run.
    • He bolts from the confession booth and grabs the Eucharist before the building tumbles on top of him.
    • When he comes to, his back is pinned down by five tons of rubble that used to be the abbey. He calls for help, but hears no one.
    • He thinks back to Dr. Cors, finally realizing what he wanted to tell the doctor.
    • His words: when people seek "only [minimized suffering and maximum security]" they find "only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security" (29.58).
    • Now that sounds like a good scifi novel sound bite to us.
    • Zerchi hallucinates, imagining Brother Pat. He realizes he's afraid to die "before he [accepts] as much suffering as that which came to the child who could not comprehend it" (29.63).
    • Then he finds a skull from the abbey's crypts. The skull has a hole where an arrow pierced it. Hello, Brother Francis, long time no see.
    • Zerchi sleeps a while. When he awakes, he tells an inquisitive buzzard that dinner will have to wait. He's not dead yet.
    • He hears someone singing in the distance, so he calls for help again. Rachel comes to him. Mrs. Grales's head slumps over dead on their shoulders.
    • Rachel mimics Zerchi's words in a childish manner. Zerchi decides to baptize the woman, but Rachel refuses the sacrament.
    • Instead, she takes the Eucharist and provides Zerchi with communion.
    • The abbot accepts the offering and tries to teach her Mary's song (no, not the Taylor Swift song).
    • He wonders why God chose to grant this creature the gifts of Eden, but sees in her eyes the promise of resurrection.
    • Then he passes away.
    • See ya.
  • Chapter 30

    • The last child is boarded onto the spaceship, and a monk stands in the hatch.
    • He wipes the sand from his shoes, watches the mushroom clouds in the distance, and bids the world a farewell.
    • This is not just the end of the world as he knows it, but the end of the world period.
    • The spaceship launches toward an unknown future in the heavens.
    • In the ocean, nuclear fallout kills the shrimp first, and then the fish.
    • A lone shark swims out to the old, clean currents.
    • There, he is very hungry.
    • Kind of like how we here at Shmoop always hanker for pizza after a long, fun day of making you laugh.