A Year with the Saints – 27 June


Whoever wishes to be a good Religious must make himself like the ass of the monastery. This animal does not choose what burden he is to bear, nor go by the road he prefers, nor rest when he likes, nor do what he wishes; but accommodates himself to all that is chosen for him. He walks, he stops, he turns, he goes back, he suffers and labors day and night, in all kinds of weather, and bears whatever burden is put upon him without saying, “Why?” or “What for?” “It is too much;” “It is too little;” or the like. – Abbot Nesterone

This holy Abbot, as is told in the Lives of the Fathers, at his very entrance into religion made this beautiful resolution: I and the ass are one. I will consider myself to be the monastery ass. And so, he became one of the best Religious.

Saint John Berchmans considered himself in the same light. Whatever was commanded him, he never refused to do, nor excused himself, nor gave any sign of discontent or discouragement, but accepted all cheerfully and executed it promptly and faithfully. And so, when the Superiors were in perplexity as to assigning some difficult task or finding a companion for a brother who was going out, he was always their resort. Thus, it sometimes happened that he had scarcely returned home with one, when he was appointed to go out with another; and this might occur three or four times in one day. And with these companions he would go back and forth, in one direction or another, stop anywhere and as long as they pleased, without objecting or complaining of the loss of time, or of not being as well treated as others; for his only aim was to obey and serve.

But Saint Felix the Capuchin put on this character most completely of all, for he did it not only in his own mind, but by an avowal that others might have the same opinion of him; and he even valued the title of ass. Sometimes he was passing through a crowded street with baskets full of bread or wine, when he would shout: “Make way for the ass!” And if anyone should say that he did not see any ass, he would answer: “Do you not know that I am the Capuchins’ ass?” As he was walking one day in the city, he fell down by accident in the mud, and not being able to rise he said to his companion: “Do you not see that the ass has fallen? Why do you not put on the whip and make him rise?” When any Religious called him by his own name, he would often answer, “You are mistaken, Father; my name is Brother Ass.” Nor was all this a mere matter of words; for the Superior could employ him at all times and places, precisely as if he had been an ass, and give him whatever he pleased to do, without the risk of a word of excuse or the slightest sign of reluctance.

MLA Citation