Jacques Maritain Center
Desert Answers

How one yearned for perfection, and God taught him to be humble.

There was a certain old man who dwelt in the desert, and it seemed to him that he had learnt the perfection of all the virtues which he practised. So he prayed to God, saying, "Show me what is yet lacking for the perfection of my soul and I will accomplish it." Then God, who wished to teach him humility of mind, said to him, "Go to the leader of a certain congregation of monks, and what he bids you, that do." At the same time God spake to that leader of monks and said, "Behold, the solitary of whom you have heard comes to you. Bid him take a whip and go forth to herd your swine." The hermit arrived, knocked at the door, and entered. When they had saluted each other and had sat down, the hermit said, "Tell me, what shall I do to be saved." The other, doubting within himself, replied, "Will you do what I bid you?" The hermit said, "Surely, yes." Then said the other, "Lo! Take this whip and go forth and herd my swine." While the hermit drove the swine out to their pasture there came by some men who knew him, and they said, "Do you see that famous hermit of whom we heard so much? He must have gone mad, or some demon possesses him. Look at him feeding swine." All this the hermit endured patiently. Then God saw that he had learnt humility, and was able to bear the insults of Therefore He bid him return to his own place.

-- Wisdom of the Desert

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