As the Bear and his party approached Turin, they were met by no less than the Lombard King of Italy, who seemed fascinated with the Bear. The King -- Liutprand -- walked with the Bear into the city as maidens scattered rose petals before the Bear's feet.
One day, the Bear was fast asleep in his den when a familiar voice intruded.
"Bear! How soundly you sleep, Bear! I thought I would never wake you." It was St. Corbinian.
The Bear sat up with a start."Why...?"
"Why? I'm here to proselytize you, Bear. I was sent to convert the heathen Germans. You're in Germany, so Bear or not, I'm here to proselytize you."
"Prosta... tize? What does that mean?"
"I mean to make a Christian of you. To save your soul. To bring you safely into the ark of the Roman Catholic Church, my friend. You don't look like Christian material, but I have no doubt that you have a soul worth saving. I can't say why, but my heart is certain."
"But how did you find Bear's den?"
"Oh, it's easy enough to track you back to your den. You take the same way every time you come to meet me. You might be more careful. Not all men are well-disposed toward Bears. And men will always try to use you. Remember that."
"Bear never thought about it," the Bear answered. "He keeps his Bear-smarts in the wild, but Bear forgets them when he is going to you, or coming back with your words in his head. But why are you here Father? You have never come to Bear's den before. Would you like some honey, or, um, nice elk to cook? There is a stream nearby with fish. Bear could --"
"Elk, Bear?" St. Corbinian said suspiciously. "What kind of elk wears horseshoes?"
"Did Bear say elk? Bear meant to say he found this pony dead. Of natural causes."
The old man held up his hand and shook his head. "Just stop, Bear. You're only adding to what you must confess. Open those round, fuzzy ears, Bear! Did you not hear the good news? I have come to make you a Christian! Are you ready to make your confession?"
"A real confession, Bear. This is serious. You are an intelligent being with a soul. Just like a man has a soul. You have a body, just like a man has a body. Yours happens to be large, shaggy, and -- it must be said -- rather smelly. But I now know what I must do. That is why I walked such a very long distance. Bear, I'm going to see that you get baptized."
The Bear was silent.
"Well, do you want to be baptized or not?" the saint asked gently, after waiting a long time.
"Bear would be Christian?"
Tears, tears, for the first time ever, welled up in the Bear's big, brown eyes. "Yes, Father, more than anything. More than fish, and more than honey."
"Well, then, good!" the old man said with a smile. "There's still quite a bit of Bear in you, Over time, that will change, if you live up to your baptismal vows."
"Will it hurt, Father?" the Bear asked. "To be baptized? And will I have to stop being a Bear?"
"It will not hurt right away. But even a Bear must take up his cross. Yes, Bear, it will hurt. There is no way to avoid it. And yes, though on the outside Bear you may be, you must become less of a Bear on the inside."
"But Bear likes being a Bear."
"I daresay," answered St. Corbinian. "Many men like being bears, or wolves, or weasels. Many of them are in the Church, between just you and me. Nonetheless, you must allow the Good God to change you, over time. Every day, try to be less of a Bear and more of a good man. You will run. But just when you are about to seize your prey, you will stumble and fall. This will happen many times. Sometimes you may forget our time together entirely and be just a dumb brute. Pray that the Good God always reminds you to come back to yourself. To return, like the prodigal Bear." The old man smiled, but there was a sadness in his eyes.
"Bear remembers that story, Father. How long will it take to go to Heaven?"
"Nobody knows, except for the Good God. And you know there is another destination that you must fear. But you can count on Him giving you all the time you need. In your case, Bear, something tells me it will be a very, very long time. I have gone on before you. I explained all of this to Abbot Gunther. Now I must go, my son."
Before he could say wait, or say goodbye, somehow the Bear was no longer with Father Corbinian, but with Brother Gunther. "You will always have a friend at the abbey, Bear. Now take us to that stream of yours, if you're still willing. The one that flows from Heaven."
"Yes, my stream," the Bear murmured, and was overwhelmed with homesickness. But he felt close to Father Corbinian, even though --
The Bear woke up with a start. Father Corbinian was dead. And Bear was a long way from his stream.
Beams of sunlight shone through the tall, narrow windows of his room. But they brought him no pleasure. He was in a cage in a large room. "Father Corbinian, could you not see? I can never be baptized this Easter. Bear has been betrayed again." And yet Father Corbinian said he would see to it. The Bear decided that Father Corbinian would not lie to him even in a dream. So Bear would watch, and see how the Good God would have him baptized.
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