Thursday, April 23, 2009

Give Unto Others

One of the monks told this story about John the Persian, how because of his many virtues he attained a deep simplicity and innocence. He lived in the part of Arabia that is near to Egypt. Once he borrowed a shilling from another monk and bought linen with which to make things.

A brother came and asked him, "Abba, give me a little linen and I will make myself a shirt to wear." John gave it to him gladly.

Then another brother came and asked him for a little linen, so he could make himself a coat and John gave it to him. Many others came and he gave simply and cheerfully.

Later, the owner of the borrowed shilling arrived and asked for his money back. John said to him, "I will get it for you." When he could not find anything with which to pay, he went to Jacob the steward to ask him for a shilling. Along the way, he found a shilling lying on the ground. He did not touch it, but said a prayer and went back to his cell.

Again the owner of the shilling he had borrowed came and began to speak harshly to him asking for his money. John said, "I will give it back to you." Then he went away again and found and found the shilling still lying on the ground; again he prayed and went back to his cell.

Then the owner began to be demanding and John said, "Wait for me just once more and I will bring you your shilling." He went to that place where he had found the shilling lying on the ground. He said a prayer and picked it up and went to Jacob, and said, "Abba, on my way here I found this shilling lying on the ground. Of your kindness, tell all our neighbors, to see if anyone has lost it."

Then Jacob summoned everyone and announced the find, but they could discover no one who had lost it. Then John said to Jacob, "If no one has lost it, give it to that monk there, because I owe him a shilling."

Jacob was astonished that when John was being pressed to pay his debt he had not picked the shilling up at once when he had found it and used it in payment.

There was another remarkable thing about John. If anyone came to borrow something from him, he did not take it in his own hands and lend it, but said, "Come in, take what you need." When a borrower brought anything back, John used to say, "Put it back where you found it." If a man borrowed something and did not bring it back, John said nothing to him about it.

~~Legend of Saint Francis, Saint Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

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