"What things are those, Bear?" They were sitting in their old familiar glade on the sunset side of the abbey. St. Corbinian pulled his cloak around him more tightly against the cold. Their breath fogged the afternoon air. Soon it would be time for Vespers.
"No flesh. No fish. No honey. What is Bear supposed to eat? Trees like Beaver? There aren't any berries, even."
"Well, my old friend," began St. Corbinian in a kindly tone, "who imposed that discipline on you?"
"I don't know," the Bear answered gruffly.
"Bear," warned the saint.
"All right, Bear made up stupid rules for himself. But this is the first time he Lented. He didn't know. You should have warned Bear."
"The lessons we teach ourselves are learned best," the saint replied. "Although I have to admire your sheer excess, it is not uncommon for unwise men to bite off more than they can chew. Their intentions are good, but they are just setting themselves up for failure and discouragement. That's why the abbot approves each brother's plans. Yours, I approved for a different reason, To teach you a lesson."
"Your religion is one lesson after another," the Bear complained. "Bear won't learn them all should he live ten more years."
The saint burst out laughing. "Bear, you never stop learning the lessons. For one thing, you're never the same person from year to year. Do you remember the parable of the tower I recited to you last time?"
"Bear didn't understand. Bears don't build towers." He was still grumpy.
"Think about your experience and see how it fits with the parable. I'm confident that you can do this. Soon we'll have you reading scripture on your own."
The Bear sighed deeply. "The man did not look down the path and make sure he could finish the journey he started. Bear did not make sure he would be able to Lent with his stupid plan. Bear left himself with nothing at all to eat for forty days. The poor villagers didn't get their fish because when they were in the Bear's mouth he just ate them. But he was hungry!"
St. Corbinian clapped his hands. "Well done, Bear! It is better to be faithful in something small, than to promise some great thing and fail. I see men who run from one devotion to the next. How I wish they would pick one and do their very best! That is why here at the abbey -- oh, goodness, it's almost time for Vespers -- everyone does the same things. It keeps pride in check, too. Now, as your spiritual advisor, may I suggest that you give up honey for Lent? It's something you enjoy, but you don't need it to live. You may still eat flesh and fish, since you are a Bear. That's wild flesh, Bear. You're coming along nicely, my great, lovable pupil." The old man reached his arms as far as they would go around the Bear and hugged him.
The Bear was surprised, but felt warm inside. The corners of his mouth went up. That had never happened before. "Yes, Father," the Bear called after the fleeing figure of St. Corbinian. "I will give up honey!"
"And don't forget to save something for the poor villagers!" St. Corbinian called, his voice now nearly swallowed by the freezing distance.
The Bear turned and lumbered into the gloom of the forest, being careful to take a different way, as St. Corbinian had reminded him. How could he forget basic Bearcraft like that? The Bear suspected that in some ways he was already less of a Bear than when St. Corbinian began instructing him. He was not sure how he felt about that.
Then he began thinking about honey. He could practically taste it. No honey for forty days!