The Holy Men
The following is an adaptation of a story that was told by Tolstoy:
Once upon a time there was a bishop whose learning and wisdom brought him
great honors. People everywhere praised his ability to preach and teach. His
congregation grew, and he gained great respect in his town as a man of God.
Finally his notoriety spread all the way to the halls of the Vatican. He
received word that the Pope would very much like an audience with this great
spiritual giant. The town was enthusiastic about this unprecedented
opportunity for one of their own. The bishop, too, felt his sense of self
importance swell. When the day of departure arrived, the townspeople
swarmed to the docks to see him and his entourage off to Rome.
The weather and winds were with the ship as she sailed off. After a few days
of travel, the captain pointed out to the bishop a tiny island off in the
distance. "That," he said, "is the home of the three hermits." (In those days
some people had chosen to cut themselves off from all of society in order to
better serve and love God.) "It is said that they are the holiest men in the
land," continued the captain.
The bishop, his vanity poked and his interest piqued, asked if there might be
time for him to visit the hermits. Since the winds and weather had been so
favorable, the captain indicated that they would have no problem stopping
for a visit and still making their scheduled appointment in Rome.
Soon the bishop, dressed in his splendid robes and surrounded by his
advisors, boarded a rowboat that carried them off to the little island. As
soon as the bishop stepped on the sand, the three hermits prostrated
themselves in front of him. After blessing them the bishop asked, "What do
you spend all of your time doing here in this desolate place?"
"We spend our time seeking to better love God," responded one of the
"And what are you studying?" queried the bishop.
The puzzled hermits looked at each other and did not respond.
"Simpletons," thought the bishop, and he decided to waste no more time with
"Let us say the Lord's Prayer, and then I will be off," said the bishop with a
yawn. Again the hermits looked at each other in bewilderment.
You mean you do not know the Lord's Prayer?" the bishop cried in
The hermits shook their heads no.
"Then how can you seek him?" he muttered.
The hermits lowered their heads apologetically and said, ????? "Oh sir, if it
would help us to love God more, we would be pleased to learn".
The bishop, with an air of patronage, replied dryly, "At least I can teach you
this," and he begin to recite the Lord's Prayer. He then encouraged the
hermits to repeat it after him.
They were very slow learners. For several exasperating hours the bishop sat
with the hermits, going over and over the words until each could haltingly
make their way through the exercise.
The bishop quickly said a prayer over the three hermits and tumbled back
into the rowboat. The entourage made their way wearily back to the ship.
"Well?" the captain asked.
"Sheer idiots, mindless morons, a waste of my time," spat out the bishop.
"Let's get under the wind!"
As the crew raised the anchor, one of the sailors cried out for the captain.
"Ahoy! Men off the starboard bow," he shouted.
It was the three hermits, and to the astonishment of everyone on board,
they were walking towards the ship on the water! Once on board they bowed
low before the bishop, and with heads hung low one of them said, "Your
excellency, we desire for you to teach us how to love our Savior more, but
we are ashamed to say we have forgotten the last line of the prayer you
Then the bishop, humbled to his core, got down on his knees in front of the
three hermits and said, "My brothers, you have no need of me to teach you
anything. Give me your blessing and I will go in peace."
True spirituality comes not from how much you know about God but from
how much you love God. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who
thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the
man who loves God is known by God" (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
[ Wayne Rice -- from 'Daily Wisdom' ]
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