The Bear was waiting for St. Corbinian and spied the old man making his way from the abbey toward their glade. When he arrived, the Bear bent down and gave him a hasty -- and wet -- kiss of peace to each of the old man's cheeks, and it was returned by his friend.
"Father, Bear has an important question!"
"My, you are impatient today! Then let us hear it."
"You said that 'trictshun --"
"Confishun, yes. You said that Bear had to want never to sin again."
"Yes, that is correct. If I were actually absolving you -- which I do not, as your nature is unclear-- it would not work, because if you intended to go out and sin again, you would make a sham out of the sacrament. Not only that, but it would be another sin, sacrilege. That is treating something holy with contempt."
"Oh, no," said the Bear in a mournful voice, shaking his head. "Then Bear is afraid he can never be a Christian. He has wasted Father's time."
"Why on earth not, Bear? Although I think I see your problem."
"Bear confesses ponies, and at the time he is determined not to go after them, but he knows that he probably will. He can never have confishun."
"Now this is a simple problem, my friend," said St. Corbinian in a kindly voice. "As long as you do not intend to go out and sin after confession, it is enough. Your resolution at the moment is sufficient for the Good God. No one expects you never to sin again, although you should respond to God's grace when He allows you to avoid sin. Work like everything depends on you, and pray like everything depends on God.
"And some sins -- like eating ponies -- we may commit again and again. Our sins are bad, and nothing good comes from them. But at least they humble us, and bring us back to God in the sacrament of confession. The main thing is not to become discouraged. Who knows? Perhaps you will not again commit a particular sin, or will be struck by lightning immediately after confession! Everybody sins, Bear, even your Father."
The Bear's eyes grew wide. "It is not possible! Only you could tame a Bear and give him speech! You are holy!"
"Whatever I am, I am by the grace of God, but I know that I am not perfect. Far from it! If St. Paul called himself the worst of sinners, what am I? Even so, the best of books says to be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
"Bear is confused. Who, then, can be saved?"
The saint smiled. "For man it is impossible. But with God all things are possible."
The Bear sighed. "Bear will never understand your religion in a thousand years. Bear will never be perfect, but must be, but maybe not? Bear's head hurts!"
"There is a decision I must make before Easter." The saint fell deep into thought. Finally, he spoke in that way the Bear had learned meant he was reciting words from the best of books. "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ's, then are you the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise."
"Bear is not a Jew or Greek. If he is, nobody has said. But he is male, and free."
"The question is," the old man said with a twinkle in his eye, "is there a child of Abraham in that furry wall you call a body?"
"Bear is Bear, son of Bear!" the Bear proclaimed proudly, causing his friend to erupt into peals of laughter that sent roosting birds scattering into the gloomy sky like sparks flying upwards.
"I am going to speak to the prior," St. Corbinian said. "I am old. Who knows which meeting may be our last? Try not to kill very many ponies, Bear. And do not easily trust men. Speak not in their presence unless it is necessary, or they have won your trust."
"I promise, Father."
As the old man walked toward the abbey, the Bear heard him laughing. "Bear is Bear, son of Bear!"
That was the last time the Bear saw St. Corbinian, and his last memory of him was of laughter.
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