For Lent: Bridling the tongue

March 13, 2009

. . .The holy man was sitting one day in his cell, alone with God and himself, when his glance fell on a cape recently sent him by a prior who held him in regard, and he noticed that it had been nibbled by a mouse.  He took the mishap somewhat hardly.  ‘Perish the mouse,’ he exclaimed, ‘that has damaged my cape!’  At this the mouse shot out of the wall, scurried across and fell dead at his feet.  Such was the force contained in a passing word let fall without any real intent, that the mouse, as though accused of a crime, came running to submit to the death sentence, and by dying gave glory to God and peace to his saint.  It was a trifling matter, yet it gave signal proof of the love of Christ, who caught the word thrown out so lightly and, lest it fall to the ground, gave it the power of a decree.  But that most simple of men was more humbled than otherwise by this sign.  Brooding over the matter and muttering to himself about what he had done, he sent for Brichtric the priest, who during his lifetime bore witness to all these things, and humbly confessed that he had killed a mouse by an unthinking curse.  ‘If you would only be good enough to dispatch all the mice in the same way!’ said Brichtric.  ‘God preserve me,’ replied the holy man.  ‘Once, with one mouse, was a very grave fault.  And,’ he added, ‘if I didn’t think it would displease my Lord, I would pray to him to bring this mouse to life again.’  Such was the man: a marvelous combination of greatness and simplicity. . .

— John of Ford, The Life of Wilfric of Haselbury.

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