Three monks determine how best to live

Pocket Bard’s notes: I very nearly titled this section “The Medieval Three Little Pigs.” Because the story about the three monks reminds me very much of the story of the three little pigs who build houses of straw, sticks, and wood. Admittedly, the moral of the three little pigs story is to take the time and effort to build things well as opposed to slapdash and quickly, while the moral of the three monks is to live in solitude and avoid the cares of other people, I think you might be able to call the third monk’s works “building his soul well” or something, and maintain the parallel. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.


Three monks determine how best to live
The Golden Legend, Volume II, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.351-352

Regarding this need for quiet, we read in this same book [The Lives of the Fathers] that there were three brothers who had become monks, and one of them chose to make peace among the quarrelsome, the second to visit the sick, and the third to lead a quiet life in solitude. The first did what he could, but, faced with human contentiousness, he could not please everybody. Overcome with the futility of his efforts, he went to visit the second brother, whom he found weary in spirit and unable to carry out the commandment. [Matt. 25:43] They agreed to visit the third brother, who lived in solitude. When they told him their troubles, he poured water into a basin and said: “Look into the water while it’s stirred up!” A minute later he said: “Now look into it, and see how quiet and limpid it is!” They looked and saw their faces reflected in the water, and he said: “So it is that those who live their lives among other people do not see their own sins, but when they live in quiet, they are able to see them.”

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