Friday, February 12, 2016

St. Corbinian Asks the Bear to Pray to the Devil

St. Corbinian had taught the Bear a few prayers he specially composed to suit a Bear's place in Creation. ("We'll make a proper monk out of you yet, Bear.") The Bear prayed them faithfully, but during one fall, grew increasingly troubled. He finally sought out the saint one afternoon in the woods on the sunset side of the abbey where the old man often retired to pray.

Immediately, St. Corbinian could see the Bear was unhappy. (He had a knack like that.) "My old friend, what troubles you this gray afternoon?"

"Father," the Bear began, "it's my prayers. Bear has been saying them for many moons. At first they were sweet in his heart. But now the honey is gone. Bear doesn't even feel like saying them anymore, and that is why he is troubled, Father."

"I see," said the saint, stroking his beard. "Who is it you are praying to?"

"The Good God," the Bear answered immediately.

"Ah. For a moment I thought perhaps you were praying to yourself. Praying for the honey."

"Bear does not understand."

"That is not surprising," the saint answered. "Many men do not understand either. I want you to do something for me Bear. Do you know who the Devil is?"

"Yes, Father," the Bear replied at once, for he had been well catechized. "He is is the Enemy."

"I want you to say a prayer to the Devil. Praise him, tell him that you wish to follow him and do his bidding. If you can, make up a song to sing in his honor. Go on, I'm waiting."

The Bear sat up in alarm, his muzzle wrinkled in distaste. "Father, you know Bear cannot do that!"

"Why not, Bear? You don't have to put your heart into it. Just say the words."

The Bear thought it over, then shook his massive head. "Bear has never disobeyed you, Father, but he cannot do this. He fears you have a distemper."

The saint smiled. "You instincts are good, Bear. I don't really want you to pray to the Devil. I want you to tell me why you would not do it, even without putting your heart into it."

The Bear thought some more. "Because it would be wrong to say such things. Even if Bear did not feel it in his heart. Bear has learned that words have the magic of men. Bear could never do what you asked."

"You are correct, Bear," the saint answered, clearly pleased with his enormous, furry pupil. "So just as you know praying to the Devil would be wrong, even if you didn't feel anything in your heart, praying to God is right, even if you don't feel anything in your heart. The honey, as you say, is a gift from the Good God. Sometimes He gives it to us, more often He does not. Be thankful when he does. Do not be discouraged when He does not. Above all, never give up on your prayers, Bear, whether you get honey, or straw. The driest prayers are the ones God loves best, because you are praying for Him, not for yourself."

"So I should just pray," the Bear answered, "even if I don't get the honey."

"That is today's lesson, Bear," St. Corbinian said kindly. "You have done well. Now, speaking of prayers, I must return to the abbey for Vespers. Good night, Bear."

The Bear watched St. Corbinian walk away, then called to him. "Father! Do you want to pray Vespers?"

The old man just smiled and waved, and continued toward the abbey.


  1. I was just having trouble with this yesterday, weird.

    1. The devil's repertoire is limited. When we ramp up during Lent, so does he. It's a hard lesson for all of us, because it is hard to keep just saying words when nothing seems to be happening. The things St. Corbinian says are not original to me. They are lessons I've found valuable, but forgotten where I originally found them, for the most part.

  2. You should write a book about Bear and the Saint. I enjoy your style and your insights into the faith

  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome. My ambition would be to every day have a different illustration of common spiritual issues many of us face. I doubt I'll be able to achieve that, but it will be enough of a difference to show the ephemeris in a Lenten light for a change.

  4. This blog is funny - I wish I'd found it earlier.

  5. Well, you can always binge-read articles since February of 2014. I'm trying to recapture the playfulness it had before Pope Francis percolated into my higher brain functions.


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