[This monk and cow story comes from Erin Manning (aka the blogger Red Cardigan) at the And Sometimes Tea blog...]
There was once an Abbey where a strange Abbot lived. He had to be very, very holy, because nothing he ever said or did made much sense to ordinary men. He gathered around himself a following of monks, to whom he gave strange advice and directions. Some he sent to minister directly to the rich, who were under-served by traditional religious orders; some he sent to instruct children in the lesson that the best wisdom of all could be found at the Abbey; and some he sent with curious orders to find poor families who owned only one or two cows, and push their cows over the nearby cliffs (the story takes place in a mountainous region). The monks often wondered what this program of holy bovicide could possibly mean, but they didn't ever discuss it, because the Abbot's law of charity forbade such conversations among the monks.
One evening, having successfully pushed eight cows and one donkey over a cliff, a monk was walking along the village road. He was sad, because of the donkey; the light had been failing, and in his haste and zeal to exterminate a few more cattle for the Abbot before the day was over, the monk had made a dreadful error. So engrossed in his penitent thoughts was the monk that he collided with a man who was carrying a basket over his shoulders.
"I am so sorry that you did not see me!" exclaimed the monk, not stooping to help the man pick up the things he had dropped; monks don't stoop, for it is as undignified as eating an apple without the proper utensils. "Are you a food-seller, perhaps?" he continued hopefully; he had not had time to eat this day, aside from his breakfast, and the lunch he had packed, and the dinner he had eaten with a poor family before going out to send their cow to bovine glory.
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