A long time ago, a 60-year-old Monk set out on his travels accompanied by his assistant, a young Brother. Night was falling when the Monk told the Brother to go on ahead to find lodging. The Brother searched the deserted landscape until he found a humble shack. A poor teenaged widow and her infant son lived in the hovel.
The Brother returned to the Monk, who asked - in the interest of the Brother's soul, of course - whether he found the Widow (and with a little more discretion, her infant son) cute.
The Brother blushed.
"Ah," said the Monk. "You better stay here and sleep in the barn, less the Devil tempt you with a widow younger than yourself. Vocations are a fragile and precious gift. They are given to us from all of eternity. Thus a lost vocation means sure damnation."
"Nevertheless," said the Monk. "We cannot leave her alone with a little one while Freemasons, Jesuits and town criers like Jason Berry roam the night. I will go ahead and keep her company. I'm an old man - nearly 60 - who has never said no to the Holy Ghost. And you know I suffer from severe cramps in the lower stomach area. These bring me relief when temptation strikes."
The Brother nestled down in the back of the cart, to save the cost of an inn for the night, grateful to God for having co-founded a monastery with a such a wise Monk.
The Monk approached the Widow's hovel. It occurred to him that the young widow likely had little means of supporting herself and her son. Her husband had probably been around her age when he died - too young to build up a pension. The Monk guessed that she was Catholic - after all, she had offered him and the Brother room and board for the night. This presented further complications as the Pope had recommended the Monk to the Governor and to the Archbishop as an efficacious guide to young people. The monk was famous! The widow might recognize him immediately and offer what little substance she subsisted on, perhaps at the expense of her infant son!
"There must be a better way," said the Monk under his breath. "I know, I'll disguise myself as a wealthy horse breeder. Or perhaps as one of the King's spies." In the end, he decided to do both.
The widow answered the door, and the Monk, disguised as a spy disguised as a horse breeder, invited himself in for the evening. As he walked through the door, he could not help but notice how big and energetic the Widow's toddler was.
"I bet he drinks a lot of milk," said the Monk to the Widow as she nursed her son to sleep. "And milk is so expensive these days. If you marry me, I will give you your own cow to feed him." Of course the disguised Monk had only the welfare of the Widow and her son in mind. The Monk had taken a special vow of charity, which sometimes required him to break his more traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Nevertheless, the Monk knew that the Widow was a devout Catholic. She would never think of seducing a Monk (her name was not Lucretia), so to protect her conscience he kept his disguise. This was done out of Christian charity, which God had chosen the Widow from all of eternity to receive from the Monk.
The Widow was taken aback by the Monk's offer. Despite his mustache weaved from horse hair, she could not help but notice he was three times her age. Nevertheless, she accepted his proposal in good faith - and given that our story takes place before the Council of Trent's imposition of canonical form for marriage had received wide promulgation throughout the Church -- the two exchanged wedding vows in the privacy of the hovel.
The years passed and the Monk traveled back and forth between the Widow's cottage and the monastery. The widow never suspected the Monk's true identity. She just assumed that horse breeding and spying for the King kept the Monk busy and away from home. The couple had two more children together.
One day, when the Monk was back from his business trips, the Widow walked into the barn and caught him painting portraits of her sons as the three males stood in a stall. This would not be so unusual except that the Monk and her sons were completely naked. She looked up to their faces: Her younger son looked terrified, her older son looked confused, and the Monk (wearing nothing but his fake mustache) looked guilty.
The Widow had passed the Town Crier on her way home from the market. He had described a suspicious monastic wanted in connection with disappearing cows throughout the county. It suddenly dawned on the Widow. This was no horse breeder. [DELETE EUPHEMISM OF YOUNGER SON PRACTICING HIS MILKING, SINCE WE ARE TO BELIEVE NONE OF THE EVIL WE HEAR IN MEDIEVAL LEGENDS] In fact, she was the one who had been milked - by the seductions of a renegade priest through some unspeakable sorcery.
"This is all a misunderstanding," the Monk pleaded as the Widow invited him to jump over a cliff. "However, I will suffer this temptation to jump like Our Lord tempted in the desert by the devil." He did not have much choice. The Widow was backed by her three sons, while none of the Monk's brothers were around to cover up for him. (Which was quite a shocking scene given that the Monk was still naked.)
The Monk somehow survived the fall and he petitioned the Pope to allow him to recuperate in a special monastery, where he could spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. It was not a bad life. The Pope had suspended the Monk's faculties to preside over public prayer, including celebration of the sacraments. Out of zeal for this penance the Monk also forswore - for the good of the Church, of course - his right to private prayer.
The Widow and her sons returned to the cottage. There they noticed the Brother standing in the place of the cow given to them by the Monk.
"Where's our cow?" the youngest lad said.
"You have a duty to remain charitable," said the Brother. "We've taken the cow as payment for the seed your mother stole from the Monk who founded our monastery. How dare she take advantage of him while he was weakened from stomach pains. How dare you embarrass us by demanding the Monk's cow back. That's extortion!"
"But he promised us the cow after lying about being a Monk, bringing me into this world, and making me practice my milking whenever he was home," said the lad.
"Extortion! Extortion!" cried the Brother as he covered his ears and ran toward the cliff.