Friday, February 26, 2016
The Bear and the Noonday Devil
"So, you're alive after all," said the Bear's friend. "I haven't seen you in awhile."
The Bear got up and stretched. "Has it been long? I'm sorry."
The saint looked at the Bear with alarm. "Bear, let's go for a walk. At the end of the walk, I will show you something you have never before seen."
"I don't know," the Bear answered doubtfully. "Bear feels like going back to bed."
"No," the saint said firmly. "That is exactly what you must not do. You will come with me."
The Bear sighed. "Bear doesn't feel like it. He's tired of all this."
"You have not been saying your prayers," the saint said. It was not a question. "You need not answer. Oh, my dear Bear, what straits you find yourself in, and you do not even know it. Once you carried a pack all the way to Rome for me. Surely you can walk unburdened a short distance with an old friend."
"Bear will go. But only because we are friends. And Bear might find something to eat."
"Oh, we shall find something, but I am afraid you cannot eat it," the saint warned.
Once they started their walk, the Bear knew they were headed in the direction of the abbey. The saint asked, "How many of us are there on this walk, Bear?"
The Bear thought a moment. "Two?"
"You may have a different answer before we're done. I want to talk to you about the Noonday Devil. The name is from a psalm of David. Its effects are sometimes called acedia. But I want you to know what he is not, first. It happens that a monk may fall into melancholia. A feeling of listlessness, and sadness. We treat that as a malady of body and soul. Sometimes singing psalms will help. But in melancholia, nothing is appealing, no activity is enjoyable. Do you understand."
"Yes, Father. Bear has suffered from this distemper before."
"The Noonday Devil is similar, but not the same. Around noon, a monk in the field may grow weary, and hot. A long afternoon still stretches before him. He watches the sun. Oh, how slowly it moves! It seems his work will never end, and he will never get his supper. As day follows day, he begins to neglect his prayers. I have seen monks even disappear before the Opus Dei, the work of God. I must start you on your Latin, Bear! And reading! Oh, we have so much work ahead of us, my old friend!"
The Bear sighed, but said nothing.
"No, of course not," the saint muttered. "To continue, melancholia, the 'distemper' as you call it, affects everything. But the Noonday Devil cares only for your religious obligations. Someone with melancholia might stay in bed for days. But someone under the spell of the Noonday Devil is restless, and may even flee the monastery. It is a very serious matter, Bear."
The Bear did not answer, and they concluded their walk in the glade on the sunset side of the abbey. Unexpectedly, St. Corbinian fell to his knees and raised his eyes toward heaven.
"God, one of your majestic creatures is suffering. I ask you to free him in the name of Jesus Christ, at whose name every creature in the Heavens, and on the earth, and under the earth must bend their knee. But if you grant the prayer of your worthless servant, I ask the additional favor that this Bear's eyes may be opened, that he may never forget that our struggles are with the world, and the flesh, but also, the devil."
No sooner had St. Corbinian finished his prayer, than the Bear felt a powerful tug on his arm. He looked and was horrified to see a richly dressed boy, as black as charcoal, grinning up at him, pulling him away from St. Corbinian with irresistible strength. Suddenly, the fiend cried out with a voice the Bear has never forgotten, delivering a message the Bear has never divulged. Afterwards, he disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly the Bear felt wrongness in his heart, and sorrow.
"I'll hear your confession, Bear. But first, how many were on our walk?"
The Bear took some time working it out, then said, "Three?"
"Correct. Never forget this, Bear. Devils are real. The Noonday Devil is an especially dangerous threat. Your protection are your prayers, and Bearish stubbornness. When you do not feel like praying, that is the very moment you must pray. When you hear the first whisper of rebellion, sing a psalm, make the sign of the cross, recite holy scripture, work with your hands, er, paws. The Noonday Devil loves nothing better than to ruin Lent for souls. But never give up. You can always beat him if you do what I say. He only wins if you give up."
"I want psalms," the Bear said earnestly.
"Then I will teach you to read," St. Corbinian said with a smile.
"And write," said the Bear.
"A writing Bear," the old man mused. "I will consider the wisdom of that. There is no telling where that might lead."
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