Friday, March 19, 2010

The Cow That Stole the Monk

A long time ago, an Abbott set out on his travels accompanied by his assistant, a Brother, and a cow. Night was falling when the Abbott told the Brother to go on ahead to find lodging. The Brother found a humble trailer, in the middle of nowhere, which he ignored. The family was obviously poor since they lived in a trailer. And from the statue of St. Peter Claver standing beside the doorsteps, the Brother discerned that the family was probably of darker complexion.

This was hardly suitable lodging for the Abbott, who suffered from a rare allergy to eumelanin - the pigmentation that causes darker skin tones in humans. In fact, the Pope had secretly dispensed the Abbott from ministering to Catholics with dark complexions. Now the Brother had never actually spoken to the Pope or read the letter of dispensation (after all, it was so secret it could only be passed on through the confessional!), the Abbott had assured the Brother that this was the case. Of course, an exception was made for Catholics of African ancestry who possessed a lot of gold (since the metal's bright glistening reflected sufficient light from other sources to neutralize the darkness of their skin tone) or those who wore special red hats given to them personally by the Pope.

However, the Brother noticed a heard of cows nearby, which meant the family were probably migrant farm hands working a nearby dairy farm. So the Brother continued up the road until he notices a large, stately, country manor.

The mother, father and children were dressed in the latest styles usually found only among the big city bourgeoisie. It was pure fashion! And the Abbott, having received a vision of clerical fashions in the 1950's, required his Brothers to conform to his vision, despite the fact the 1950's were still several centuries away. Some would call this the Abbott's charism.

So the Brother asked if he and the Abbott could spend the night in their dwelling. "You are most welcome to spend the night," said the father of the family. They prepared a feast of expensive hams, fine cigars, and brought in some Mariachi minstrels for entertainment. The Abbott's cow was put out in the pasture with the other cows.

The next morning, the Brother and the Abbott said their good-byes and set out to continue their journey. They had an important meeting in Rome and far was their journey. They were even a little behind schedule as it would be several centuries before the invention of airplanes.

"Could we borrow a horse and carriage from you?" said the Abbott.

"Sure," said the Mother. She trusted the Abbott and Brother were holy men of God who would remember her in prayer once they got to Rome, despite the Abbott having been too tired to preside over grace during the visit.

"That's very charitable of you," said the Abbott. "But what about our cow? She could hardly keep up with this horse and carriage. And I have important business with the Pope."

"We could keep her here with the other cows," said the Mother. "I'm sure my husband doesn't mind."

"That's been your vocation since before eternity," said the Abbott. "I knew you would not say no to God. So understand that my cow requires extra care. She has been personally blessed by the Pope. So she is a sacred cow, who due to delicate health has required golden treatment since a young calf. You must massage her three times a day, feed her only the best grains and at specific times, and milk her gently in the morning and in the evening. She requires her stall cleaned daily, and fresh straw to sleep on. Here's the checklist. Plus, because it would be sinful to waste her milk, you must promise me you will feed only her milk to your family. This may sound like a lot, but I know you won't say no to God."

The woman promised and the Abbott headed off in the coach with the Brother. Years later, a Bishop ordained the Brother a priest. So he too became a Monk. One day he found himself on the same road where he found lodging so many years ago. Remembering the comfortable digs and the special treatment, he decided to visit the family. He rounded the curve in the road and to his surprise, he saw the mansion reduced to rubble, surrounded by gardens that had been taken over by weeds. In the middle of the field, flies buzzed around the rotting carcasses of an entire herd of cows.

The Monk knocked on the door. A poorly-dressed man answered. The Monk asked, "What ever became of the family who used to live here? Did they sell the property to you?"

The man looked surprised and said he and his family had always lived on the property. The Monk told him how he had stayed in a nice mansion on the same spot, with his master the old Abbott. "What happened to the family that lived here?" he asked.

The man pointed a pike at the Monk's throat. "You know Father, we used to have a herd of cows. They kept us alive. Quite comfortably, I might add. But then my wife invited your cow into our field, as an act of charity toward you and the Church. Your cow required a lot of care - my wife started spending all her time in the barn, to the neglect of our children, me and the household. The effort burned her out. I tried to reason with her, but you had her convinced the cow was sacred and that God would punish her if she did not put your sacred cow before everything else."

"Moreover, our kids - who had always been of strong constitution - fell ill most of the time, and could no longer help out around the farm. Either they were helping Mom keep up with your checklist, or they were suffering from the effects of their sickness. At first I thought the sickness was due to them and their Mother spending too much time in the barn, stressing out over your cow. I called the doctor. He informed me that my wife and children had Mad Cow disease, which we traced back to your cow. But by then it had spread to my herd. Our family is ruined is because of the charity you extracted from us!"

"How dare you say such uncharitable things," said the Monk. "That cow was blessed by the Pope!"

"Well this morning my farm hand Cyrene Porres came over to the farm, roped your cow, and at my instructions pushed it over the cliff," said the father. "Although it is too late for my family and herd, your golden cow will not be infecting any more families or herds."

And with that the Monk rushed over the cliff attempting to save his sacred cow.

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