If You Give a Monk a Fishing Net

Monastic Monday
Br. Monday is now wondering why the abbot made him a fishing net…

Three old men, of whom one had a bad reputation, came one day to Abba Achilles.

The first asked him, “Father, make me a fishing-net.”

“I will not make you one,” he replied.

Then the second said, “Of your charity make one, so that we may have a souvenir of you in the monastery.”

But he said, “I do not have time.”

Then the third one, who had a bad reputation, said, “Make me a fishing-net, so that I may have something from your hands, Father.”

Abba Achilles answered him at once, “For you, I will make one.”

Then the two other old men asked him privately, “Why did you not want to do what we asked you, but you promised to do what he asked?”

The old man gave them this answer, “I told you I would not make one, and you were not disappointed, since you thought that I had no time. But if I had not made one for him, he would have said, ‘The old man has heard about my sin, and that is why he does not want to make me anything,’ and so our relationship would have broken down. But now I have cheered his soul, so that he will not be overcome with grief.”

Source: “Stories from the Desert Fathers”

Many ancient short stories seem to follow this tripartite structure of two rejections and a final acceptance. The legends of St. Christopher (the dog-headed giant) and Justin the Philosopher follow the same structure. The former is trying to find the most powerful king to serve and the latter is trying to find the greatest philosophy.

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