The Blessing of Benedict
Beside a lake, a monk wielded a scythe up and down in fluid arcs, clearing a thicket of thorns for a garden. He had hacked at the wild, tangled weeds most of the morning and stood briefly to wipe the stinging sweat from his eyes before returning to work. But when he swung the heavy scythe heavenward this time, its iron blade loosened without warning and flew from its wooden handle, landing with a splash far from shore. The dark water swallowed it up, along with his heart. His hand and the abandoned tool handle shielded his eyes against the sun while he searched the ripples for the blade. He began pacing beside the lake, thinking how hard tools are to replace. What will Father Benedict say?
The diligent, anxious monk-gardener was a Goth—a member of one of the pagan tribes marauding through Italy at the time. The abbot Benedict, however, had accepted this outsider into his monastery. Perhaps this Goth had once been a lowly soldier bullied by a sharp-tongued superior officer, or a servant beaten regularly with a stick. Whatever his former life, his panic at losing the tool's blade suggests that he was accustomed to being berated whenever things went wrong.
When Benedict heard of the Goth's dilemma, he sent no messenger to investigate, nor did he form a committee to look into the matter. He went himself and stood beside the Goth, who relaxed as he realized that he was not in trouble for losing a valuable tool. Benedict motioned for the scythe handle. The monk handed it over, then bent to rest his hands on his knees and studied the inexplicable movements of the abbot, who was sticking the scythe handle into the shallow water at the lake's edge. Then, out of the corner of his eye, the Goth saw something pop up through the wet surface ...