The Visit

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The morning sun was shining as bright as if it was Spring. But it wasn’t. Very, very close to the last days of Fall, we could see how the Tagus river carried the brownish fallen remains of dead leafs,  broken ashen tree twigs and orange tanned grass leftovers tried by a few days of hard rain and sweeping winds. Winter was coming, the air was cold. But the sun was having none of it! And in that fine lit morning, towering above the river waters in an impossible island, the invincible walls of the 850 year old Templar Castle of Almourol stood up, proud and mysterious.

We had the good fortune to have been found by the boat owner, who, after having spotted us looking at the towers with a smile on our eyes, asked from a distance “Do you want me to take you to the island?”

Sure!

HE Fr+ Bryant Jones, Grand Prior of the Grand Priory of the United States (OSMTJ – Lamirand/Haimovici branch), whom I had never met before, was visiting the Templar region of Tomar, in Portugal, and asked me if I would show him around. I was pleased to be his guide. Often some of our brethren, when they have a stopover in Lisbon in their travels, like to meet with me for a chat, a couple of beers or dinner. Sometimes they have time to go to Tomar. Sometimes they accept my invitation to visit Sintra. Many times, however, they are only educated tourists. They love to tour the places they have come to admire on the internet or their printed tour guides. But the real deal moves them no more than a 360º degree iPhone App with HD photos. They would hit the “Like” button, sure. But Fr+ Jones was hitting the “Love It!!!!” button for two straight days! His passion and knowledge for everything related to the Templar Order and its history was amazing. And uncommon. A real revelation. How I wish all High Officers of the Order in its several branches would show such knowledge and appreciation for Templar history, values and life lessons as Prior Jones does! The amount of problem that would be solved… And the drama that would not unfold…

Yes, we visited every corner of the Templar Castle and Convent of Christ that can be visited and spoke hours on end about every little subject that came to mind. Over the two days it took to visit Tomar and Sintra, I almost lost my voice, so much so that I was forced to cancel a class I was teaching that night. We belong to different branches in the Order and we have – and will keep – our commitments to our own branches. However, we struck a real friendship, firmly based on shared values and passions, shared objectives and visions for the future. So, don’t be surprised if ever see us crossing the gates of Jerusalem wearing the same white mantle!

Luis de Matos