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Title: In God's Garden - Stories of the Saints for Little Children
Author: Steedman, Amy
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In God's Garden - Stories of the Saints for Little Children" ***

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[Illustration: (front cover)]







  LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK, Ltd.



There is a garden which God has planted for Himself, more beautiful than
any earthly garden. The flowers that bloom there are the white souls of
His saints, who have kept themselves pure and unspotted from the world.

In God's garden there is every kind of flower, each differing from the
other in beauty. Some are tall and stately like the lilies, growing
where all may see them in their dress of white and gold; some are half
concealed like the violets, and known only by the fragrance of kind
deeds and gentle words which have helped to sweeten the lives of others;
while some, again, are hidden from all earthly eyes, and only God knows
their loveliness and beholds the secret places where they grow. But
known or unknown, all have risen above the dark earth, looking ever
upward; and, although often bent and beaten down by many a cruel storm
of temptation and sin, they have ever raised their heads again, turning
their faces towards God; until at last they have been crowned with the
perfect flower of holiness, and now blossom for ever in the Heavenly

In this book you will not find the stories of all God's saints. I have
gathered a few together, just as one gathers a little posy from a garden
full of roses. But the stories I have chosen to tell are those that I
hope children will love best to hear.

Let us remember that God has given to all of us, little children as well
as grown-up people, a place in His garden here on earth, and He would
have us take these white flowers, the lives of His saints, as a pattern
for our own. We may not be set where all can see us; our place in God's
garden may be a very humble and sheltered spot; but, like the saints, we
may keep our faces ever turned upward, and learn to grow, as they grew,
like their Master, pure and straight and strong--fit flowers to blossom
in the Garden of God.

  'Saints are like roses when they flush rarest,
  Saints are like lilies when they bloom fairest,
  Saints are like violets, sweetest of their kind.'



  SAINT URSULA,                                                          1
  SAINT BENEDICT,                                                       16
  SAINT CHRISTOPHER,                                                    29
  SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA,                                             41
  SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO,                                             54
  SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY,                                        62
  SAINT CECILIA,                                                        71
  SAINT GILES,                                                          79
  SAINT NICHOLAS,                                                       84
  SAINT FAITH,                                                          97
  SAINT COSMO AND SAINT DAMIAN,                                        102
  SAINT MARTIN,                                                        110
  SAINT GEORGE,                                                        119
  SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI,                                             128


                                                                  AT PAGE


 She slept calmly and peacefully until she dreamed a dream, _Frontispiece_
 Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the Prince,       8

    By Vittore Carpaccio at the Accademia, Venice.


 A little demon seized the robe of the young monk,                      22
 A terrible storm began to rage,                                        28

    By Lorenzo Monaco, Uffizi, Florence.


 The child upon his shoulder seemed to grow heavier,                    38

    By Titian, Doge's Palace, Venice.


 The Holy Child placed a ring upon her finger,                          46

    By Benozzo Gozzali, Uffizi, Florence.


 The child had digged a hole in the sand,                               60

    By Sandro Botticelli, Accademia, Florence.


 A crown of lilies and roses in each hand,                              74
 She taught them about the Lord of Heaven,                              78

    By Spinello Aretino, S. Maria del Carmine, Florence.


 He showed his daughter the gold,                                       86
 He went to the harbour where two ships lay,                            90

    By Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Accademia, Florence.


 But Cosmo turned and walked away,                                     104
 An angel guided them with loving care,                                108

    By Fra Angelico, Accademia, Florence.


 Saint George rode straight at the monster,                            124

    By Vittore Carpaccio, S. Georgio Maggiore, Venice.


 Then the Pope took the little poor brothers under his protection,     136
 He chanted the Gospel at the first Christmas mass,                    140

    By Giotto, Accademia, Florence.


Once upon a time in the land of Brittany there lived a good king, whose
name was Theonotus. He had married a princess who was as good as she was
beautiful, and they had one little daughter, whom they called Ursula.

It was a very happy and prosperous country over which Theonotus ruled,
for he was a Christian, and governed both wisely and well, and nowhere
was happiness more certain to be found than in the royal palace where
the king and queen and little Princess Ursula lived.

All went merrily until Ursula was fifteen years old, and then a great
trouble came, for the queen, her mother, died. The poor king was
heart-broken, and for a long time even Ursula could not comfort him. But
with patient tenderness she tried to do for him all that her mother had
done, and gradually he began to feel that he still had something to live

Her mother had taught Ursula with great care, and the little maid had
loved her lessons, and so it came to pass that there was now no princess
in all the world so learned as the Princess Ursula. It is said that she
knew all that had happened since the beginning of the world, all about
the stars and the winds, all the poetry that had ever been written, and
every science that learned men had ever known.

But what was far better than all this learning was that the princess was
humble and good. She never thought herself wiser than other people, and
her chief pleasure was in doing kind things and helping others. Her
father called her the light of his eyes, and his one fear was that she
would some day marry and leave him alone.

And true it was that many princes wished to marry Ursula, for the fame
of her beauty and of her learning had spread to far distant lands.

Now on the other side of the sea, not very far from Brittany, there
was a great country called England. The people there were strong and
powerful, but they had not yet learned to be Christians. The king of
that land had an only son called Conon, who was as handsome as he was
brave. And when his father heard of the fame of the Princess Ursula he
made up his mind that she should be his son's wife. So he sent a great
company of nobles and ambassadors to the court of Brittany to ask King
Theonotus for the hand of the Princess Ursula.

That king received the messengers most courteously, but he was very much
troubled and perplexed at the request. He did not want to part with
Ursula, and he knew she did not wish to marry and leave him. And yet he
scarcely dared offend the powerful King of England, who might be such a
dangerous enemy.

So to gain time he told the messengers he would give them their answer
next day, and then he shut himself up in his room and sorrowfully leaned
his head upon his hand as he tried to think what was best to be done.
But as he sat there thinking the do or opened and Ursula came in.

'Why art thou so sad, my father?' she asked, 'and what is it that
troubleth thee so greatly?'

'I have this day received an offer for thy hand,' answered her father
sadly, 'and the messengers are even now here, and because they come from
the King of England I dare not refuse their request, and yet I know not
what answer to give them when they return in the morning.'

'If that is all, do not trouble thyself, dear father,' answered Ursula;
'I myself will answer the messengers and all will be well.'

Then the princess left her father and went to her own room that she
might consider what answer might be wisest to send. But the more she
thought the more troubled she became, until at last she grew so weary
that she took off her crown and placed it as usual at the foot of her
bed and prepared to go to rest. Her little dog lay guarding her, and
she slept calmly and peacefully until she dreamed a dream which seemed
almost like a vision. For she thought she saw a bright light shining
through the door and through the light an angel coming towards her,
who spoke to her and said:--

'Trouble not thyself, Ursula, for to-morrow thou shalt know what answer
thou shalt give. God has need of thee to save many souls, and though
this prince doth offer thee an earthly crown, God has an unfading crown
of heavenly beauty laid up for thee, which thou shalt win through much

So next morning when the messengers came into the great hall to receive
their answer, they saw the Princess Ursula herself sitting on the throne
next to her father. She was so beautiful, and greeted them so graciously
that they longed more than ever that their prince might win her for his

And as they listened for the king to speak, it was Ursula's voice that
fell on their ears. She began by sending her greeting to the King of
England and to Prince Conon, his son, and bade the messengers say that
the honour offered her was more than she deserved, but since their
choice had fallen upon her, she on her side was ready to accept the
prince as her promised husband, if he would agree to three conditions.
'And first,' went on Ursula, leaning forward and speaking very clearly
and slowly, so that the foreign ambassadors might understand every word,
'I would have the prince, your master, send to me ten of the noblest
ladies of your land to be my companions and friends, and for each
of these ladies and for myself a thousand maidens to wait upon us.
Secondly, he must give me three years before the date of my marriage so
that I and these noble ladies may have time to serve God by visiting
the shrines of the saints in distant lands. And thirdly, I ask that the
prince and all his court shall accept the true faith and be baptized
Christians. For I cannot wed even so great and perfect a prince, if he
be not as perfect a Christian.'

Then Ursula stopped speaking, and the ambassadors bowed low before her
beauty and wisdom and went to take her answer to their king.

Now Ursula did not make these conditions without a purpose, for in
her heart she thought that surely the prince would not agree to such
demands, and she would still be free. But even if he did all that she
had asked, it would surely fulfil the purpose of her dream, and she
would save these eleven thousand maidens and teach them to serve and
honour God.

Ere long the ambassadors arrived safely in England, and went to
report their mission to the king. They could not say enough about the
perfections of this wonderful princess of Brittany. She was as fair and
straight as a lily, her rippling hair was golden as the sunshine, and
her eyes like shining stars. The pearls that decked her bodice were not
as fair as the whiteness of her throat, and her walk and every gesture
was so full of grace that it clearly showed she was born to be a queen.
And if the outside was so fair, words failed them when they would
describe her wisdom and learning, her good deeds and kind actions.

The king, as he listened to his nobles, felt that no conditions could
be too hard that would secure such a princess for his son, and as for
the prince himself his only desire was to have her wishes fulfilled as
quickly as possible, so that he might set sail for Brittany and see with
his own eyes this beautiful princess who had promised to be his bride.

So letters were sent north, south, east, and west, to France and
Scotland and Cornwall, wherever there were vassals of England to be
found, bidding all knights and nobles to send their daughters to court
with their attendant maidens, the fairest and noblest of the land. All
were to be arrayed in the finest and costliest raiment and most precious
jewels, so that they might be deemed fit companions for the Princess
Ursula, who was to wed Prince Conon, their liege lord.

Then the knights and nobles sent all their fairest maidens, and so eager
were they to do as the king desired, that very soon ten of the noblest
maidens, each with a thousand attendants, and another thousand for the
Princess Ursula, were ready to start for the court of Brittany.

Never before was seen such a fair sight as when all these maidens went
out to meet the Princess Ursula. But fairest of all was the princess
herself as she stood to receive her guests. For the light of love shone
in her eyes, and to each she gave a welcome as tender as if they had all
been her own sisters. It seemed a glorious thing to think they were all
to serve God together, and no longer to live the life of mere pleasure
and vanity.

As may well be believed the fame of these fair maidens spread far and
near, and all the nobles and barons crowded to the court to see the
sight that all the world talked about. But Ursula and her maidens paid
no heed to the gay courtiers, having other matters to think upon.

For when the soft spring weather was come, Ursula gathered all her
companions together and led them to a green meadow outside the city,
through which a clear stream flowed. The grass was starred with daisies
and buttercups, and the sweet scent of the lime blossoms hung in the
air, a fitting bower for those living flowers that gathered there that

In the midst of the meadow there was a throne, and there the princess
sat, and with words of wonderful power she told her companions the story
of God's love and of the coming of our Blessed Lord, and showed them
what the beauty of a life lived for Him might be.

And the faces of the listening maidens shone with a glory that was more
than earthly, as they with one accord promised to follow the Princess
Ursula wherever she might lead, if only she would help them to live the
blessed life so that they too might win the heavenly crown.

Then Ursula descended from her throne and talked with each of the
maidens, and those who had not yet been baptized she led through the
flowery meadow to the banks of the stream, and there a priest baptized
them while the birds joined in the hymn of praise sung by the whole

But all this while the Prince Conon waited with no little impatience for
news of Ursula. He had been baptized and joined the Christian faith, he
had sent the companions she desired, and now he waited for her to fulfil
her promise.

And ere long a letter reached him, written round and fair in the
princess's own handwriting, telling him that as he had so well fulfilled
her conditions, and was now her own true knight, she gave him permission
to come to her father's court, that they might meet and learn to know
each other.

It was but little time that Prince Conon lost before he set sail for
Brittany. The great warships made a prosperous voyage over the sea that
parted the two countries, and came sailing majestically into the harbour
of Brittany, where the people had gathered in crowds to see the young
prince who had come to woo their fair princess.

From every window gay carpets were hung, and the town was all in
holiday, as Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the
prince as he stepped ashore, and all that Conon had heard of her seemed
as nothing compared to the reality, as she stood before him in her great
beauty and welcomed him with gentle courtesy. And he grew to love her so
truly that he was willing to do in all things as she wished, though he
longed for the three years to be over that he might carry her off to
England and make her his queen.

But Ursula told the prince of the vision that had come to her in her
dream, when the angel had said she must first go through much suffering,
and visit the shrines of saints in distant lands. And she told him she
could not be happy unless he granted her these three years in which to
serve God, and begged him meanwhile to stay with her father and comfort
him while she was gone.


So Ursula set out with her eleven thousand maidens, and the city was
left very desolate and forlorn. But the pilgrims were happy as they
sailed away over the sea, for they were doing the angel's bidding, and
they feared nothing, for they trusted that God would protect and help

At first the winds were contrary and they were driven far out of their
course, so that instead of arriving at Rome, which was the place they
had meant to go to, they were obliged to land at a city called Cologne,
where the barbarous Germans lived. Here, while they were resting for a
little, another dream was sent to Ursula, and the angel told her that in
this very place, on their return, she and all her maidens would suffer
death and win their heavenly crowns. This did not affright the princess
and her companions, but rather made them rejoice that they should be
found worthy to die for their faith.

So they sailed on up the River Rhine till they could go no further, and
they landed at the town of Basle, determined to do the rest of their
pilgrimage on foot.

It was a long and tedious journey over the mountains to Italy, and the
tender feet of these pilgrims might have found it impossible to climb
the rough road had not God sent six angels to help them on their way, to
smooth over the rough places, and to help them in all dangers so that no
harm could befall them.

First they journeyed past the great lakes where the snow-capped
mountains towered in their white glory, then up the mountain-road, ever
higher and higher, where the glaciers threatened to sweep down upon them,
and the path was crossed by fierce mountain-torrents. But before long
they began to descend the further side; and the snow melted in patches
and the green grass appeared. Then followed stretches of flowery
meadow-land, where the soft southern air whispered to them of the land
of sunshine, fruit, and flowers.

Lower down came the little sun-baked Italian villages, and the simple,
kindly people who were eager to help the company of maidens in every
way, and gazed upon them with reverence when they knew they were on a
pilgrimage to Rome.

Thus the pilgrims went onward until at length they came to the River
Tiber and entered the city of Rome, where were the shrines of Saint
Peter and Saint Paul.

Now the Bishop of Rome, whom men call the Pope, was much troubled when
it was told him that a company of eleven thousand fair women had entered
his city. He could not understand what it might mean, and was inclined
to fear it might be a temptation of the evil one. So he went out to meet
them, taking with him all his clergy in a great procession, chanting
their hymns as they went.

And soon the two processions met, and what was the amazement and joy of
the Pope when a beautiful maiden came and knelt before him and asked for
his blessing, telling him why she and her companions had come to Rome.

'Most willingly do I give thee my blessing,' answered the old man, 'and
bid thee and thy companions welcome to my city. My servants shall put
up tents for you all in some quiet spot, and ye shall have the best that
Rome can afford.'

So the maidens rested there in quiet happiness, thankful to have come
to the end of their pilgrimage and to have reached the shrines of God's
great saints. But to Ursula an added joy was sent which made her
happiness complete.

For the prince, whom she had left behind, grew impatient of her long
absence, and the longing for his princess grew so strong he felt that he
could not stay quietly at home not knowing where she was nor what had
befallen her. So he had set out, and, journeying by a different route,
had arrived in Rome the same day as Ursula and her maidens were received
by the good bishop.

It is easy to picture the delight of Conon and Ursula when they met
together again, and knelt land in hand to receive the Pope's blessing.
And when Ursula told him all that had happened and of the angels whom
God had sent to guide and protect them, the only desire the prince had
was to share her pilgrimage and be near her when danger threatened. And
his purpose only became stronger when she told him of the vision she had
had in the city of Cologne.

'How can I leave thee, my princess,' he asked, 'when I have but now
found thee? Life holds no pleasure when thou art absent. The days are
grey and sunless without the sunshine of thy presence. Bid me come with
thee and share thy dangers, and if it be, as thou sayest, that it is
God's will that thou and all these maidens shall pass through suffering
and death for His sake, then let me too win the heavenly crown that we
may praise God together in that country where sorrow and separation can
touch us no more.'

And Ursula was glad to think that, through love of her, the prince
should be led to love God, and so granted his request and bade her
companions prepare to set out once more.

The Pope would fain have persuaded them to stop longer in Rome, but
Ursula told him of her vision, and how it was time to return as the
dream had warned her. Then the Pope and his clergy made up their minds
to join the pilgrimage also, that they too might honour God by a
martyr's death.

Now there were in Rome at that time two great Roman captains who were
cruel heathens, and who looked upon this pilgrimage with alarm and
anger. They commanded all the imperial troops in the northern country of
Germany; and when they heard that Ursula and her maidens were bound for
Cologne they were filled with dismay and wrath. For they said to each

'If so many good and beautiful women should reach that heathen land the
men there will be captivated by their beauty and wish to marry them.
Then, of course, they will all become Christians, and the whole nation
will be won over to this new religion.'

'We cannot suffer this,' was the answer. 'Come, let us think of some way
to prevent so great a misfortune that would destroy all our power in

So these two wicked heathen captains agreed to send a letter to the
king of the Huns, a fierce savage, who was just then besieging Cologne.
In it they told him that thousands of fair women in a great company were
on their way to help the city, and if they were allowed to enter all
chances of victory for his army would vanish. There was but one thing to
be done and that was to kill the entire band of maidens the moment they

Meanwhile Ursula and her companions had set sail for Cologne, and
with them were now Prince Conon and his knights and the Pope with many
bishops and cardinals. And after many days of danger and adventure the
pilgrims arrived at the city of Cologne.

The army of barbarians who were encamped before the city was amazed to
see such a strange company landing from the ships. For first there came
the eleven thousand maidens, then a company of young unarmed knights,
then a procession of old men richly robed and bearing no weapons of any

For a moment the savage soldiers stood still in amazement, but then,
remembering the orders they had received in the letter from the Roman
captains, they rushed upon the defenceless strangers and began to slay
them without mercy. Prince Conon was the first to fall, pierced by an
arrow, at the feet of his princess. Then the knights were slain and the
Pope with all his clergy.

Again the savage soldiers paused, and then like a pack of wolves they
fell upon the gentle maidens, and these spotless white lambs were slain
by thousands.

And in their midst, brave and fearless, was the Princess Ursula,
speaking cheerful words of comfort to the dying and bidding one and all
rejoice and look forward to the happy meeting in the heavenly country.
So great was her beauty and courage that even those wicked soldiers
dared not touch her, and at last, when their savage work was done, they
took her before their prince that he might decide her fate.

Never before had Ursula's beauty shone forth more wonderfully than
it did that day when she stood among these savage men and gazed with
steadfast eyes upon the prince, as one might look upon a wild beast.

The prince was amazed and enchanted, for he had never seen so lovely a
maid in his life before, and he motioned to the soldiers to bring Ursula
nearer to him.

'Do not weep, fair maiden,' he said, trying to speak in his gentlest
voice, 'for though you have lost all your companions you will not be
alone. I will be your husband, and you shall be the greatest queen in

Then most proudly did Ursula draw herself up, and her clear eyes shone
with scorn as she answered:

'Does it indeed seem to thee as though I wept? And canst thou believe
that I would live when all my dear ones have been slain by thee, thou
cruel coward, slayer of defenceless women and unarmed men?'

And when the proud prince heard these scornful words he fell into a
furious rage, and, bending the bow that was in his hand, he shot three
arrows through the heart of Princess Ursula and killed her instantly.

So the pure soul went to join the companions of her pilgrimage and to
receive the crown of life which the angel of her dream had promised her,
and for which she had laid down her earthly crown as gladly as when in
her peaceful home she laid it aside before she went to rest.


It was in the year of our Lord 540 that Saint Benedict was born at
Spoleto in Italy, and he was only a boy of sixteen on the night when our
story begins.

Such a cold night it was. Piercing wind swept over the mountains,
whistling through the pine-trees and hurrying on to the great city of
Rome that lay in the plains below. It was cold enough in the city where
the people could take shelter in their house and sit warming their hands
over their little pots of fire, but out on the bare hillside it was even
worse. For the icy breath of the winter wind, which had come far over
the snow, swept into every nook and corner as if determined to search
out any summer warmth that might be lingering in a sheltered corner.

And there in a cave high up among the rocks, a boy sat listening to the
wind, and thinking of many things, as he tried to wrap his worn old
cloak closer round him.

He was a tall thin lad, with sad dreaming eyes and a face already
sharpened by want and suffering. The cave in which he sat had little in
it, except a heap of dried leaves which served him for a bed, and it was
difficult to imagine how any one could live in so dreary and comfortless
a place, so far from any other human being.

But he was thinking of a very different home, as he sat shivering in
the cold that night. Only a year ago he had lived in a beautiful palace,
where everything was pleasant and warm and bright. His father was the
lord of the country around, and he, the only son of the house, had
everything that he could want. They were all proud of him, he was so
clever and brilliant, and as soon as he was old enough he was sent to
study in Rome, that he might become a great lawyer.

There the boy's eyes saw a different scene--the great city of Rome,
where all was gaiety and pleasure, where all pleased the eye, the ear,
and the taste, but where, alas, so much wickedness dwelt as well. He had
tried to shut his eyes to things he did not wish to see, but day by day
the sights and sounds around him, the talk of his companions, and the
things they thought so pleasant had become hateful to him. And one
day he had stolen secretly away from Rome, leaving everything behind,
determined to go away into a desert place and live alone. This it seemed
to him was the only way of truly serving God, to learn to deny himself
in everything and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

A tender smile came over the boy's face as the next picture rose before
his eyes. True he had left all and gone into the wilderness, but love
could not so easily be left behind, and his old nurse had found out a
way of following him, and would not be denied the pleasure of serving
him and caring for his wants; even begging food, from door to door, that
she might prepare a dainty meal for him.

It had been very pleasant, but its very pleasantness had warned him that
he must deny himself still further. So he had once more stolen away,
when his old nurse was asleep and had hidden himself in the cave among
the rocks of Subiaco. Here he was indeed alone, and the only food he had
was a little bread which a kind old hermit gave him daily, and his only
drink the clear water of the mountain streams.

And here he seemed to live with God alone, seeing no one but the kind
old hermit who brought him his daily bread. He was happy and peaceful,
never ceasing to pray for those who in the busy world might forget to
pray for themselves.

But this night the thoughts of past days were troubling him. And as he
sat there listening to the wind he began to long for the things he had
left behind. One beautiful face especially grew clearer than the rest,
and smiling upon him beckoned him back to the pleasures and comforts and
earthly joys he had put away from him.

With a cry he sprang to his feet and rushed out of the cave. For a moment
he felt as if his feet must carry him down the steep mountain-side, over
the plain and back to the beautiful city; and then he stood still, and
with a prayer for help to overcome this temptation of the Evil One, he
threw himself into a thicket of thorny briars that grew by the side of
the cave. There he rolled over and over until he was torn and bleeding;
then slowly returning to the cave he lay down upon his bed of leaves,
peaceful and contented. The evil thoughts had fled, the face that
tempted him had vanished, and Satan was conquered.

So Benedict began his life of self-denial and solitary prayer. Years
passed by and in spite of the loneliness of the place and the few people
who ever passed by that way, it began to be known that one of God's
saints lived in the mountain cave. The shepherds who fed their flocks
on the lower hills would bring him little offerings of milk or cheese
and ask his blessing, or perhaps a prayer for one who was sick. And
gradually people began to call him their saint of the mountain, and
to come to him for help in all their troubles. Thus the fame of his
goodness spread wider and wider, until a company of monks who lived
some way off sent and besought him to come and live with them and be
their head.

Benedict was grieved to think of leaving his little cell which he had
grown to love, and the simple mountain people, who so often came to him
in their need. But he thought this was a call he ought to obey, so he
sorrowfully set out and journeyed many miles till he came to the convent
of the brothers.

It was all very strange to him after the stillness of his mountain cell,
and he could not accustom himself to hearing voices all day long and to
seeing so many faces. Still he strove to do his duty and soon made many
changes in the convent life. He told the brothers plainly that there
were many comforts they must put away, and above all that they must eat
less and work more.

Now the brothers did not like this at all, and they began to repent that
they had asked so great a saint to come and rule over them, for he made
their rule so hard and strict, that few of them cared to keep it.

Then one day a strange thing happened. The brothers were all dining
together, and Benedict was silently eating his portion, his thoughts
far away in the little mountain cell at Subiaco, when some one touched
his arm and offered him a cup of wine. Benedict turned and looked
searchingly into the brother's face, and then with upraised hand made
the sign of the cross over the cup. Instantly it fell broken to the
ground, and the wine was spilt upon the floor, for there had been poison
in the cup, which the holy sign had destroyed.

Then Benedict looked round at the company of brothers, who sat with
downcast eyes, ashamed and silent, and, without a word, he rose and left
them. He returned, alone as he had come, back to his mountain home,
where instead of human voices there was the song of the birds, where the
wild flowers looked at him with pure, friendly faces, and even the wild
animals did not count him their enemy and would do him no harm.

Here he hoped once more to live quite alone, but one by one men came and
built huts close to his cave, that they might be near so great a saint,
and before long there was a great company living around him.

Benedict's fame had spread even to Rome, and two of the Roman nobles
sent their sons to be taught by him. One was only five years old and the
other twelve, and it seemed a hard life for such children. But Benedict
cared for them and watched over them, and they loved him as if he had
been their own father.

And after all life was very pleasant on the mountain-side, when the
sun shone and lessons and prayers were over. They could play among the
pine-trees and chase the goats over the rocks, and when the sun grew too
hot creep back into the cave to rest. In spring there were the first
flowers to hunt for, and they would come back with eager hands filled
with violets and mountain anemones. And in autumn there were nuts and
berries to be gathered, which they laid up like young squirrels for
their winter store.

And among the daily duties there was nothing they liked so well as to go
down to the lake to fetch water, when the mountain springs had run dry.
One day it was the little one's turn to do this, and as he was leaning
over, his foot slipped, and he fell into the lake, and before he could
utter a cry the water closed over his head.

At that very moment Benedict, who was kneeling in prayer on the hill
above, saw a vision of the boy's danger, and hastily sent the elder lad
down to the lake to help the child.

He never stayed to question why he was sent, but sped down the
mountain-side, and without a moment's delay threw himself into the
lake, hoping to be able to reach the little dark head that had risen
above the water for the last time. And lo! he found that the water grew
firm beneath his feet, and he walked as if he was on dry land, and
lifting the child, carried him safely ashore.

When Benedict saw that so many other hermits had taken up their abode on
the mountain, he determined to form them into a company of brothers, and
give them a rule to live by, and by and by they built a little chapel
where they could meet for daily service.

Now, strangely enough, every evening at the hour of prayer, one young
monk became restless and uneasy, and would steal silently out of the
chapel and disappear down the hillside. None of the brothers could think
what made him do this; but night after night the same thing happened
just when prayers were about to begin. All were troubled and disturbed,
till at last they went to Benedict, and asked him what it could mean.
Then the saint promised to watch, and that very evening he saw what no
other eyes had seen.

Into the chapel came a little demon black as coal, and he seized the
robe of the poor young monk, and dragged him out of the door. And though
the demon was so tiny he was stronger than the monk, and easily led him
swiftly away out of sound of the chapel bell.

Then Benedict followed, and touching the monk with his rod, bade the
demon begone and trouble him no longer. And after that the young monk
stayed in the chapel with the rest, and the demon was seen no more.


It seemed as if Benedict must always suffer from the malice of evil
brothers, who disliked his strict rule; and even in his own mountain
home the danger followed him. This time the poison was put into a loaf
of bread; but Benedict knew that it was there, and while the wicked monk
who offered it to him watched with evil eye, hoping to see him eat it,
he turned to a wood near by, where a young raven sat. 'Come hither,'
said Benedict, holding out the loaf towards the raven, 'come hither, and
take this bread and carry it where the poison that is hidden within can
do no harm.'

And the story tells us that the raven instantly obeyed, and carried off
the loaf. And ere long Death, more powerful than the raven, carried off
that wicked monk, so that the poison which lurked in his evil heart
could no longer do harm to any one.

It troubled Benedict greatly about this time to hear that not very
far off on Monte Cassino there was a heathen temple where the people
worshipped false gods, and were living in darkness and sin.

It seemed terrible that such a thing should be suffered in a Christian
land, so Benedict made up his mind to go himself and force the people
to listen to him.

It was a strange contrast to see him in his coarse, poor robe and thin
wan face standing preaching among the crowd of gay pleasure-seekers, who
cared for nothing but eating and drinking and making merry. They could
not understand why any one should choose to be poor, and suffer pain and
hunger for the sake of any god.

But as Benedict taught them day by day, the majesty of his face and the
solemn notes in his voice forced them to listen half unwillingly. Then,
as they began to learn about the true God, they saw that the gods they
had worshipped were false, and they pulled down their temple, and built
two chapels on the place where it had stood.

Here, too, Benedict built the first great monastery which was called
after him; and after this the brothers began to be known by his name,
and were called Benedictines.

But the Evil One saw with great rage that Benedict was taking away his
servants, and destroying his temples, and he tried in every way to
hinder the work. Once when the workmen were trying to raise a stone
they found it impossible to move it, though they worked hard all day.
At last, in despair, they besought Benedict to come to help them.

As soon as he came he saw at once what was the matter, for on the stone
sat a little black demon laughing at the efforts of the workmen; knowing
they could never move the stone while he chose to sit there.

'Get you gone, messenger of Satan,' cried Benedict.

And with a howl of rage the imp fled, and the stone was lifted easily
into its place.

Upon a certain day, not long after the monastery was built, as Benedict
was praying in the chapel of the convent, one of the brothers came to
tell him that a great company of soldiers were coming up the hill, and
at their head was Totila, king of the Goths, who had sent a messenger
to ask the saint to receive him.

Benedict, who cared little for earthly kings, was yet too courteous
to refuse any such request, so he went out to where the company was
gathered on the mountain-side.

The rough soldiers stood with heads uncovered, and from their midst came
one who wore a crown and sandals of gold and a kingly robe. He knelt
before the saint, and said in a loud, clear voice:

'I, Totila, king of the Goths, have come to crave thy blessing, father,
for thy fame hath spread even to the wild north country where I reign.'

The brothers, crowding behind Benedict, eager to see these curious
strangers, were surprised to hear no answering words of welcome fall
from the lips of the saint. And still more surprised were they when
Benedict pointed an accusing finger at the glittering crown that shone
on the king's head, and said:

'Why dost thou bear upon thy head the sign of royalty which belongs not
to thy station? And why have thy lips framed this deceit? Go to thy
master, and bid him come to me in truth, and think not that I could
mistake a servant for a king.'

And to the amazement of all, the real king, who had disguised his
armour-bearer to test the power of the saint, came quickly forward,
and with no royal robe or golden crown, knelt low before the saint,
confessing all, and praying to be forgiven. He was sure now that this
was indeed a servant of God, and he listened humbly while Benedict
reproved him for his many sins, and warned him of the fate that
awaited him.

And so the years passed on, bringing much honour and earthly renown
to him who had once lived a lonely boy upon the wild mountain-side.

Things had changed since those early days. He could no longer live quite
alone as he had once loved to do, for the world had followed him even
into the wilderness. But his heart was as pure and his purpose as strong
as when he was a lonely boy seeking only to serve God.

Perhaps the one great pleasure of his earthly life was the yearly visit
he paid to his sister Scholastica, who had for many years come to live
near him. She had formed a little company of nuns, who strove to live as
the brothers were living, working and praying and denying themselves all
earthly pleasures.

And as it was a great delight to Benedict to visit his sister, so to
Scholastica the day of his coming was the happiest day of all the year.
The only thing that grieved her was that the golden hours of that bright
day seemed to fly faster than any other, while she listened to his words
of counsel and advice, and told him all her troubles.

As it drew near the time for one of these yearly visits, Scholastica
began to long for her brother as she had never longed before. Something
told her that these bright summer days were to be the last she should
spend on earth; and the longing to see and talk to her brother grew
almost more than she could bear.

And when he came the hours slipped past even faster than was their wont,
and before she could realise it the time had come for him to go. There
was so much still to say, and she needed his help so sorely, that she
prayed him to wait a few hours longer. But Benedict was persuaded that
it was his duty to set off, and duty to him ever came before all else.
He gently told her it could not be; that he must return to the brothers
that night.

But while he spoke, Scholastica was not listening to his words, nor
heeding what he said. With her whole heart she was praying God that He
would grant her this one request, and prevent her brother from leaving
her so soon.

And as she prayed the light suddenly died out of the sky, great clouds
arose and, before Benedict could set out, a terrible storm began to
rage. The thunder pealed overhead, the hail came down in a blinding
shower, and it was impossible for any one to leave the shelter of the

Thus God answered the prayer of Scholastica, filling her heart with
thankfulness. And afterwards the heart of Benedict was also filled with
gratitude, for not many days later he saw in a vision the soul of his
sister flying like a white dove up to heaven's gate, and he knew he
should see her on earth no more.

Benedict had lived a long, hard life, eating but little, suffering cold,
and denying himself in all things. But though his spirit only grew
stronger and brighter as time went on, his body was worn out, and at last
he prepared to lay it aside, as men lay aside the worn-out robe which
has grown thread-bare.

And as he had longed to live alone, so, when death came, he prayed to
be carried to the little chapel, and there to be left before the altar
alone with God. Thus Benedict the Blessed went home at last, leaving his
tired body in God's house, while his spirit returned to God who gave it.



Long ago in a far distant land there lived a boy called Offero. He was
taller and stronger and braver than any of his companions, and he was
called Offero, which means bearer, because he could carry the heaviest
burdens on his broad shoulders, without stooping under their weight. His
was the grandest kind of strength too, for it was not only strength of
body, but strength of heart and soul besides.

As Offero grew into manhood he began to tire of being first only in
games and play, and he longed to use his strength for some real end,
feeling sure there was work in the world waiting for his hand.

Sometimes as he strode across the olive-clad hills, and felt the wind in
his hair, and drew in great breaths of life and strength, he would see
before him a dim vision of some great purpose, ever beckoning him on,
and in his ear a voice would sound, that bade him use his strength only
for the highest.

Night and day Offero thought upon the vision, and it seemed to him that
its meaning was that he should go out into the world and do a man's
work. And, since for him the highest meant strength and fearlessness, he
vowed that he would search until he found the bravest and strongest king
and would take service only with him.

So Offero set out and, after many weary wanderings, he came to the gates
of a great city. Here, in a palace built of alabaster, lived one whom
the people called the greatest king on earth. He had more soldiers and
horsemen and chariots than any other monarch, and the banner of crimson
and gold that floated over the palace roof, had never been lowered in
the face of any foe.

But Offero scarcely noticed all the glitter and splendour of the palace,
or the crowd of waiting men. He was only eager to see the king, whom
every one said was as brave and strong as a lion. No one stopped him as
he strode on. Even the royal guards at the palace door stood back to let
him pass. He was dusty and travel-stained, and his armour was dull and
dinted by many a hard blow, but there was that in his walk and in his
eyes, and the grasp of his great hand upon his sword, that made every
one fall back to let him pass.

The king was seated upon his throne making wise laws for his people,
when Offero entered the audience hall. Straight to the steps of the
throne he went, and kneeling there placed his sword at the king's
feet and offered to be his true servant. For a moment the king looked
in wonder and astonishment at this giant, and the great sword that
stretched along the widest step of his ivory throne. Then with a look of
pride at the strength of the man kneeling at his feet, he bade Offero
rise and use his sword henceforth only in the king's service.

So Offero became the king's servant, and not one of the king's enemies
could stand against him. Wherever there was danger to be met or fighting
to be done, there he was ever to be found, and he made his master's name
more feared and honoured than that of any other monarch in the world.
His work filled all his time and thoughts, and the vision he had seen
grew so dim that it had nearly faded from his memory, when one night
a minstrel came to the court.

This minstrel had a harp of gold and his fingers woke the sweetest music
from the golden strings, but sweeter than all was his voice as he sang
of brave deeds and mighty battles, the wisdom of the wise and the
courage of the strong.

The heart of Offero was charmed by the music as he sat idly among the
rest of the courtiers, listening in the great audience chamber.

But as the minstrel sang, Offero noticed that the king looked disturbed
and once or twice made a strange sign with his hand when a certain evil
name was repeated in the song. It almost seemed to Offero as if at such
times a look of fear came into his eyes.

Waiting behind the rest when the minstrel was gone, Offero looked
gravely into the king's eyes and said:

'My liege, wilt thou tell thy servant, why thou didst make that sign
upon thy forehead and what the look that came into thine eyes may
mean--thou who fearest no man?'

Then the king answered Offero saying:

'That sign is the sign of the cross, and I make it upon my brow whenever
I hear the name of Satan, the Evil Spirit, because I fear him, and because
that sign alone can protect me from him.'

And Offero bowed his head, and standing there before the king he
answered sadly:

'Fare thee well, O my king, for I may not serve thee longer. I have
promised only to serve the greatest and one who feared nothing, so I
must e'en seek this Evil Spirit. If thou fearest him, must he not be
more powerful than thou?'

So Offero went sorrowfully out of the king's presence, and away from the
splendid court and the fair city. And as he went the vision which of
late had faded from him grew clearer, and seemed to beckon him on and
on. And the voice that of old sounded in his ears spoke to him once
more, so that his heart became light and his purpose grew strong.

Now after many days of toilsome wanderings, Offero came at last to
the skirt of a great dark wood. The pines were so thick that never a
sunbeam could pierce through their tops, and the trunks of the trees
could only just be seen ghostly grey in the everlasting twilight that
reigned there.

Deeper and darker grew the wood as Offero went on, until he came to the
darkest part of all, and there he found the Evil Spirit and his court.

Offero could see nothing clearly in the gloom, but one great shadow
stood out, bigger and stronger than any of the other shadows that
flitted about, and on its brow was the outline of a kingly crown.

'What seekest thou here?' asked the Evil One, in a deep strong voice,
like the roar of distant thunder.

'I seek to serve the greatest and strongest king on earth, and one who
knows no fear,' answered Offero.

'Then is thy quest ended,' said the shadowy king, with uplifted head and
proud gesture, 'for I indeed am the greatest king of all, and I know not
what that word fear meaneth.'

So Offero became one of the servants of the King of Evil, and his work
was heavy and his wages light. But that seemed but a small matter to
him, if only he had indeed found the highest.

Time passed on until there came a day when the Evil One rode out with
all his servants and Offero at their head. And as they passed out of the
wood they came to a cross set up by the wayside. It was only a rough
cross of wood, standing out clear against the sky, the grass beneath
worn by those who had knelt before it, and a bunch of wild flowers laid
at its foot by some grateful hand. But when the eye of the Evil One fell
upon it, he shuddered and, turning quickly round, plunged back into the
wood, followed by all his servants. And Offero saw he was trembling from
head to foot.

'Stop,' cried Offero, barring his way, for he was not afraid even of the
great Shadow upon the fierce black horse. 'I would fain know what this
meaneth, ere we go further. Didst thou not say thou wert stronger than
all and feared nothing? and lo! thou tremblest like a child before a
piece of crossed wood.'

'It is not the cross I fear,' answered the Evil One, 'but Him who once
hung upon it.'

'And who is He that you should tremble at the very thought of Him?'
asked Offero. 'Is He a greater and stronger king than thou?'

'He is greater, and He is stronger,' answered Satan, 'and He is the only
one I fear.'

Then Offero rode away from the dark wood and the evil company, out into
the sunshine and light. And as he looked at the blue sky, and felt the
warmth of the blessed sunshine once more, the vision seemed to rise
again before his eyes, ever beckoning him onward, and in his ear the
same voice sounded, bidding him seek on, until he should indeed find the

Far and near did Offero wander, asking all he met if they could tell him
where he might find the Christ--this man who once hung upon a cross and
who was greater and more powerful even than Satan, the King of Evil. And
some said one thing and some another, but no one could aid him in his
quest, until at last in his wanderings he came to a little hut in the
midst of a desert.

Here a holy man dwelt, with no living soul near him, serving God day
and night.

Most gladly did he welcome Offero, but gladder still was he when Offero
eagerly asked him the question that had been upon his lips so long:

'Good hermit, canst thou tell me where I may find the King called
Christ, He who once hung upon a cross, and who is stronger even than the
King of Evil?'

'That can I,' answered the hermit, 'for He is the Master whom I serve,
and in His name thou art welcome indeed.'

And taking Offero into his hut, the hermit gave him food and made him
rest. Then in the cool of the evening, when the red sun was sinking
behind the belt of distant palm-trees, and a mellow glow turned the
sands of the desert into grains of gold, the hermit sat without the hut
and told the wonderful Christ story to the listening ears of the giant
who lay upon the ground at his feet.

Never had Offero heard words like these before. Even the vision had
not prepared him for this. With all his soul in his eyes he listened.
Filled with wonder was he at the thought that the King of all heaven
should have deigned to come to earth in the form of a little helpless
child. But as the hermit went on and told of His power and majesty,
His infinite compassion for the weak and helpless, His courage and
fearlessness in the face of His foes, ending with the great sacrifice
of the cross, Offero sprang to his feet, and grasping his sword in his
hand, he raised it to heaven and vowed he would be Christ's faithful
soldier and servant unto his life's end, and would fight under no other
banner but His, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The hermit was startled as he looked at the gleaming sword, upheld by
that strong arm, and in his calm, kind voice, he said:

'My son, the Lord Christ seeketh not to be served as an earthly king.
His soldiers fight not with earthly swords, but with the weapons of
prayer and fasting.'

'But, father,' said Offero, 'how can I fight with weapons I know nothing
of? If He has given me this great strength, surely there must be a way
that He would have me use it in His service.'

Then the hermit was troubled, for he saw that Offero must needs serve
Christ in some other way.

All night he pondered, and in the morning he bade Offero come with him,
and together they journeyed forth for many days until they came to the
banks of a river. There the hermit stayed his steps.

It was a very deep and dangerous river and, because there was no bridge
across it and the current was strong, many travellers lost their lives
in trying to ford it.

This the hermit told Offero, and bade him stay and watch there, so that
he might help those who wished to cross, and save the lives of those who
might otherwise perish without his aid.

'And in helping others,' said the hermit, 'thou wilt be helping Christ,
and it may be He will accept thy service, and will one day come unto
thee and take thee for His servant.'

So Offero built a hut on the river bank, and pulling up a palm-tree that
was growing there, he used it as a staff to lean upon when he waded
through the deep water. He was so tall and strong that no matter how
high the river rose he could always wade across it. He was ever ready to
help the weary footsore travellers, and often when they were too weak to
stand against the current, even with the support of his strong arm, he
would take them up upon his broad shoulders and carry them safely across.

For a long time did Offero live in his little hut on the river-bank,
doing his work well, in the hope that his Master might come to him as
the hermit had promised. But weeks and months went by, and still the
King did not come, and Offero began to fear that He never would pass
that way.

Then one night a terrible storm began to rage. The wind howled round
the lonely little hut, and the waters roared as they rushed past in the

'I need not watch to-night,' thought Offero, 'for no one will seek to
cross the river in such a storm as this.'

But as he sat listening to the roll of the thunder and the clashing of
the hail on the roof, he fancied he heard, above the noise of the storm,
a little voice crying outside and a faint knocking at the door.

It sounded like the cry of a child, and Offero hastily rose up and,
unbarring the door, looked out. For a moment he could see nothing in
the thick darkness and blinding rain, but presently he heard the cry
again, sounding quite close to where he stood, and looking down he saw
something small and white, and heard the little voice sounding clear
above the storm:

'Kind Offero, wilt thou carry me across the river to-night?'

Then Offero saw it was a little child who was standing out there upon
the threshold--a child who looked up at him with pleading eyes, his
golden curls lying wet against his cheek, and his little white robe
drenched with the driving rain.

Very tenderly Offero stooped down and lifted the little one in his kind,
strong arms, and asked him how it came that he was out alone on such a
stormy night.

'I must cross the river to-night,' said the child in his soft, clear
voice, 'and the water is deep and I am afraid. I saw thy hut and thought
perchance one might dwell here who would help me.'

'That will I gladly do,' said Offero, as he felt the little arms
clinging round his neck. 'The night is dark, and the river runs high
indeed, but thou art such a tiny child, I shall scarcely feel thy
weight. I will place thee high upon my shoulder, so that the water may
not reach even thy feet.'

So Offero took his great staff in his hand, and placed the child upon
his shoulder and stepped down into the roaring flood.

Higher and higher rose the water, stronger and stronger grew the
current, as Offero waded on. Never before had his strength been put to
such a test. And not only did the torrent threaten to sweep him off his
feet, but the child upon his shoulder seemed to grow heavier and heavier
with every step, until he could scarcely stagger on under the tremendous
weight. But on he went, fighting for each step. And now he was past
the worst and into the shallower water beyond. Putting forth all his
remaining strength, with one last great effort he struggled up the
farther side and with a sigh of relief he climbed upon the bank, and
gently set the little child upon the grass.


Then Offero stood looking at him in great wonder and astonishment and

'How is it that thou, who seemest but a feather-weight, hast yet become
heavier than any burden I ever bore in all my life before?'

And as Offero spoke, the child looked up into his face, and lo! a
strange light seemed to shine round the golden head, and his white robe
became bright and glistening as the light. And the wonderful look of
majesty in those eyes drew Offero down to his knees. And as he knelt
there, scarce daring to lift his eyes before that wonderful gaze, he
heard the sweet, clear voice of the little child again, and knew it for
the same that had guided him since the vision of his boyhood.

'No wonder that I seemed to thee a heavy burden, for I bear upon my
shoulders the sins and sorrows of the whole world. I am Christ, whom
thou hast sought to serve. I came to thee in the form of a little
helpless child, that I might prove thee, if thou wert indeed my faithful
servant. And because thou hast been faithful in helping others, thou
shalt be counted worthy to enter my service, and I will give thee
the new name of Christopher, because thou hast borne Christ upon thy
shoulders. Take now thy staff and strike it into the earth, and thou
shalt know by a sign that I am indeed thy King.'

Then the light faded away, and the child was gone. But where Christopher
struck his staff, behold, it took root and budded out into leaves of
tender green.

And Christopher knelt on there in the darkness with a great joy in his
heart, for he had seen the face of his King, and had found his Master at
last. He knew that his search was ended, and that henceforth he would
serve only the highest. And all the trouble and perplexity had vanished
away, for he understood now that in ministering to others he would
always be serving his King, even if the work seemed but small and mean.

So Christopher learned to be Christ's true soldier and servant even unto
death, and because he fought manfully under His banner unto his life's
end, he is called a saint. His old name of Offero has been long
forgotten, and we know him only by that new name which the Christ-child
gave him that stormy night, and call him Saint Christopher.


As the years pass by Father Time makes many changes in the busy town and
quiet country, but there are some places he seems to have forgotten or
passed over so lightly that they look very much the same to-day as they
did hundreds of years ago.

One of these places, which Time has dealt so gently with, is in the
heart of Italy, built high upon a hill. It is a town whose towers and
palaces and steep, narrow streets are little changed from what they were
five hundred and more years ago, when Catherine, the saint of Siena, was
born there.

To-day if you climb the steep winding road that leads up to the city,
and make your way through the gates and along the steepest of the narrow
streets, you will come to a house with a motto written over the door in
golden letters--'Sposæ Christi Katharinæ domus,' which means 'The house
of Katherine, the bride of Christ.' And if you go in you will see the
very room where Saint Catherine used to live, the bed of planks on which
she slept, her little chapel, and the rooms which her brothers and
sisters used.

It all looks just as it did when Benincasa, the dyer of Siena, lived
there with his wife Lapa. They had more than twenty children, but each
one was welcome, and when at last Catherine and a twin sister were born,
there still did not seem one too many. The little sister lived only a
few days, and perhaps that made the parents love Catherine all the more,
and it was not only her own family who loved her. She was the favourite
of all the neighbours, and however busy they were they would always find
time to stop and talk to her as they passed. It was not that she was
very beautiful, or even very clever, but she had a way of making every
one feel happy when she was near them, and she had the sunniest smile
that ever dimpled a baby's face. It was like a sunbeam, lighting up
everything near it, and it shone in her eyes as well, so that ere long
the people found a new name for her, and called her 'Joy' instead of

As soon as she could walk alone, Catherine would wander away, sure of
a welcome at every house, and though at first when the other children
cried, 'The baby is lost again!' the mother would be anxious, she soon
ceased to mind, and only said, 'She is sure to be safe somewhere.'

And safe she always was, for every one would stop work to look after her
as she toddled along, and wherever she went Joy carried the sunshine
with her.

It happened that one afternoon when Catherine was about six years old,
her mother sent her and an elder brother, Stephen, to carry a message to
a house some way off. It was a beautiful evening, and as the children
went hand in hand down the steep street and up the hill towards the
great church of Saint Dominic, Catherine stopped a moment to look at
the sunset. She always loved beautiful colours, and to-night the little
fleecy clouds were all touched with crimson and gold, like fairy islands
in a pale green sea, more beautiful than anything she had ever seen.

Stephen did not care for sunsets. He was much more anxious to be home
in time for supper, so he ran on alone, calling to Catherine to follow

Catherine did not seem to hear his voice or to notice that he was gone,
but stood there with eyes fixed on the sunset, her face shining, and her
hair like a halo of gold round her head.

It was not the evening sky she was looking at, but a vision of heavenly
beauty. For there among the rose-pink clouds she saw the Madonna seated
upon a throne and holding in her arms the infant Christ. It was no
longer the poor Madonna of the stable, but the Queen of Heaven, her
dazzling robe blue as the summer sky, and a jewelled crown upon her
head. Only the same sweet mother-look was there as when she bent
over the manger-bed. There are no words to tell of the beauty of the
Christ-child's face. Catherine only knew that as He looked at her He
smiled and held up His little hand as if in blessing, and that smile
drew her heart to His feet.

Then suddenly Catherine's arm was roughly shaken and her brother asked
her impatiently at what she was gazing.

'O Stephen,' she cried, 'did you not see it too? Look!'

But the vision had faded, and the grey twilight closed in upon the
two little figures as they went slowly home, the boy vexed with his
loitering sister, and she sobbing with disappointment to think that the
window in heaven was shut, and that she might never again look within.

As Catherine grew older, she never forgot the vision she had seen, or
how the hand of the Christ-child had been stretched out to bless her.
And it made her think often how she could best please Him, so that some
day He might smile on her again.

Catherine had heard a great deal about the good men who went to live in
deserts to be alone with God,--how they lived in caves and had scarcely
anything to eat, and how God would sometimes send the ravens to bring
them food. Now she was always fond of wandering, and the idea of living
in a desert seemed a beautiful way of serving Christ. She had never gone
beyond the walls of the town, and all outside was a new world to her; so
she was sure if only she could pass through the city gates, she would
soon find her way to the desert, where there would certainly be a cave
ready for her to live in.

So one day Catherine set out very early in the morning, carrying in her
pocket a small loaf of bread, just in case the ravens should forget to
come to a little girl-hermit.

In those days it was not safe to live outside the city walls, and there
were no farms nor houses to be seen as Catherine slipped through the
gates and began to find her way down the hillside, among tangled briars
and over rough stones. Soon her feet grew very tired, and everything
looked so forlorn and wild that she was sure this must be the desert at
last, and there, too, was a little cave in the rocks waiting all ready
for her.

It was very nice to creep in and out of the hot sunshine into the cool
shade, and to rest until the sun went down. But as night came on and she
knelt to say her evening prayer, she began to think of home, and the
kind mother waiting there, and she knew she had done wrong to come away,
even though she had meant to serve God.

Very quickly she left her cave, and as she ran home her feet seemed to
fly over the ground. The desert had not been so very far away after all,
and she reached the house before her mother had begun to grow anxious,
but she never again wandered away to live a hermit's life.

As Catherine grew older she loved to listen to the stories of the
saints, and there was one she was never tired of hearing. It was the
life of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the saint whose name she bore.

This young queen was said to be the wisest and noblest of all the
saints, and when her courtiers wished her to marry, she said she would
only marry a prince who was perfect in every way. Such a prince was of
course impossible to find, but one night a poor old hermit had a vision
in which the Madonna came to him and told him that our Blessed Lord, the
only perfect Man, would accept the love of the young queen's heart and
the service of her hands. And when the queen knew this her joy was great,
and that very night the Virgin mother came to her in a cloud of glory
surrounded by angels bearing crowns of lilies, and in her arms was the
Holy Child, who smiled on the queen and placed a ring upon her finger,
as a sign that she belonged to Him.

The more Catherine thought about this story the more she longed that
Christ would accept her heart and service too. And one night in a dream
He seemed to come to her, just as He had come to the other Catherine,
placing a ring upon her finger and bidding her remember that now she had
given her heart to Him.

Thus it was a great trouble to Catherine when she was told by her
parents soon after this that she was old enough to begin to think of
marriage. She said she did not wish to marry at all. But this only made
her parents angry with her, especially when one day they found she had
cut off all her beautiful golden hair, thinking to make herself so ugly
that no one would want her for his wife.

'Very well,' said her father, 'if thou wilt not marry as I bid thee,
then shalt thou do the house-work and be our servant.'

He expected this would be a great punishment, but Catherine was glad
to have hard work to do, and did it so well and cheerfully that her
father began to feel his anger melt away. Then it happened one day that
in passing her room he looked in, and there he saw her kneeling with
clasped hands and upturned face, and eyes in which the peace of heaven
shone, while around her head was a bright light that took the form of
a snow-white dove resting there.


From that moment he ceased to be angry with Catherine, and said all
should be as she wished, for surely the dove was a sign that God
accepted her prayers and approved of what she did.

So she was allowed to have a little room which She made into a chapel
where she could be alone to think and to pray. She wanted to learn to
conquer herself before she could serve Christ in the world, and for
three years she lived almost entirely alone, praying in the little
chapel, struggling to overcome her faults and to grow strong to resist

But in spite of all her struggles evil thoughts would come into her
heart, and it seemed impossible to keep them out. It was easy to do
right things, but so terribly difficult to think only pure and good
thoughts. She knew that Satan sent the wicked thoughts into her heart,
but the hardest trial of all was that Christ seemed to have left her to
fight alone--He seemed so very far away.

At last one night, as she lay sobbing in despair, suddenly the evil
thoughts left her, and instead she felt that Christ was near and that
He bent tenderly over her.

'Why, oh why didst Thou leave me so long, dear Lord?' she cried.

'I never left thee,' His voice said quietly.

'But where wert Thou, Lord, when all was so dark and evil?' she humbly

'I was in thy heart,' replied the voice; 'didst thou not hate the evil
thoughts? If I had not been there thou wouldst not have felt how black
they were, but because I was in the midst they seemed to thee most evil,
and thus I gave thee strength to cast them out.'

So Catherine's heart was filled with peace, and she learned to love
Christ more and more, and to deny herself in every way, sleeping on bare
planks with a log for her pillow, and eating the things she cared for

It was not that she thought these things good in themselves, but she
felt she must use every means to make her heart pure and fit to serve
her Master.

And before very long Christ spoke to her again in the stillness of the
night, and told her she had lived long enough alone, that it was time
now to go out into the world and help other people to grow good too.

When Catherine thought of the busy, noisy life which other people led,
compared to the quiet peacefulness of her little cell and chapel, she
was very sad, and thought she had offended God that He was sending her
away from Him to mix with the world again. But His voice sounded in her
ears once more, and told her it was not to separate her from Himself
that He sent her out, but that she should learn to help others.

'Thou knowest that love giveth two commandments--to love Me, and to love
thy neighbour. I desire that thou shouldst walk not on one but two feet,
and fly to heaven on two wings.'

So Christ spoke to her, and Catherine with fearful heart prepared to
obey, only praying that He would give her strength to do His will.
And after that her life was spent in doing good to others.

The smile that used to lighten her face when she was a little child
had still the power of bringing peace and gladness to all, as she went
amongst the poor, nursing the sick, helping every one in trouble, and
teaching people more by her life than her words to love God.

And as, when she was a baby, they called her Joy, so now again they
found a new name for her, and she was known as 'the child of the
people.' In every kind of trouble they came to her, even asking her to
settle their quarrels, so that she was the peacemaker as well as the
helper of the whole town.

There was one special reason why people loved Catherine, and that was
because she always saw the best that was in them. She knew there was
good in every one, no matter how it was dimmed or hidden by the evil
that wrapped it round. Where other eyes saw only evil temper or wicked
spite, she looked beyond until she found some good that she could love.
Every day she prayed to God that He would help her to see the beauty in
each soul, so that she might help it to get rid of the sin that dimmed
its beauty. And so, because she looked for good in every one, all showed
her what was best in themselves, and for very shame would strive to be
all that she thought them.

Catherine had joined the Dominican sisterhood and wore the white robe
and black veil, but she did not live in a convent as other sisters did.
Every morning when the sun began to gild the towers and roofs of the
city, passers-by would see her leave her home and walk up the steep
street towards the church of Saint Dominic where she always went to
early mass.

Strangers must have wondered when they saw the men uncover their heads
as she passed, as if she had been a queen instead of a poor sister clad
in a coarse white robe and black veil. But if they had caught sight of
her face perhaps they would have understood, for her eyes seemed as if
they were looking into heaven, and the holy peace that shone in her
smile made men feel that she lived in the very presence of God.

One morning as she was going to church as usual in the first light of
dawn, her thoughts far away and her lips moving in prayer, she was
startled by the touch of a hand upon her robe and the sound of a voice
asking for help. She turned to look and saw a poor man leaning against
the wall, haggard and pale, and so weak that he could scarcely stand.

'What dost thou want of me?' asked Catherine pitifully.

'I only ask a little help for my journey,' the poor man said; 'my home
is far from here, and the fever laid its hand upon me as I worked to
provide bread for those I love. So I pray thee, lady, give me a little
money that I may buy food to strengthen me before I start.'

'I would gladly help thee,' answered Catherine most sorrowfully, 'but
I am not a lady, only a poor sister, and I have no money of my own to

She turned as if to go on, but the eager hand still held her cloak and
the man begged once more.

'For Christ's sake help me, for indeed I need thy help most sorely.'

Then Catherine stood still. She felt she could not leave him so. There
was nothing at home she could part with, for that very morning she had
given away all the food that was in the house. Her father and mother
were good and kind, but she must not give away the things they needed.
Sorrowful and perplexed, her hand felt for the rosary which hung at her
side, for in every trouble she ever turned in prayer to her dear Lord.
Then as her fingers touched the beads, she suddenly remembered that here
was at least one thing which was her very own--a small silver crucifix
which she had had since she was a child, and which she had touched so
often as she prayed that it was worn smooth and thin.

Still it was silver and would buy the sick man a meal, and she quickly
unfastened it from the rosary and put it into his hand. The man's
blessings followed her as she went, and though she had parted with the
thing she loved best, she counted the blessings more precious than the

And as she knelt in the dim church, after the mass was over, God sent a
heavenly vision to reward His servant.

Catherine thought she stood in a great hall filled with things more
beautiful than words can tell, and in the midst stood our Blessed Lord,
holding in His hand the most beautiful thing of all--a cross of beaten
gold, set with jewels of every hue sparkling so brightly that it almost
dazzled Catherine's eyes as she looked.

'Dost thou see these shining gifts,' He asked, 'and wouldst thou know
whence they came? They are the noble deeds which men have done for My

And Catherine kneeling there with her empty hands could only bow her
head and say: 'Lord, I am only a poor sister, as Thou knowest, and have
nought to give Thee. The service I can offer could not find a place
among these glorious gifts.'

Then it seemed as if Christ smiled upon her, and holding out the golden
cross He asked: 'Hast thou not seen this cross before, Catherine?'

'No, Lord,' she answered, wondering, 'never before have mine eyes beheld
anything so lovely.'

But as she gazed upon it, her heart was filled with a sudden gladness,
for in the midst of the gold and jewels, in the heart of the glorious
light, she saw the little worn silver crucifix which she had given to
the poor man that morning for the love of Christ.

And as the vision faded there rang in her ears the words she knew so
well: 'Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren,
ye did it unto Me.'

As time went on the fame of Catherine spread to other towns, outside
Siena, and when there were disputes between the great cities of Italy
they would send for Catherine, and beg her to act as peacemaker, and
she helped them all just as she did her own poor people of Siena. Even
the Pope came to her for advice.

In the midst of all this busy life Catherine fell ill. Her love for
Christ was so real, and her sorrow for His sufferings so great, that she
prayed that she might bear the pain that He had borne. We do not know
how our Lord granted her request, but in her hands and feet and side
appeared the marks of nails and spear.

All her sufferings she bore most patiently, but her heart was glad when
the end came.

The same vision that had smiled on her that summer evening when she was
a child, appeared in the sunset sky again, this time never to fade away,
as Catherine, the bride of Christ, was led by the white-robed angels up
to the throne of our Lord.


The story of the life of Saint Augustine is different from almost
every other saint story, because it is taken from his own words and
not from what has been said about him. He wrote a wonderful book called
_The Confessions of Saint Augustine_, and in it we find all that he
thought and did from the time he was a little child.

Augustine was born in 354 in the northern part of Africa, which then
belonged to Rome, and was one of the richest countries in the world. His
mother, Monica, was a Christian, but all her prayers and loving care
could not keep her son from evil ways. He is often called the prodigal
saint, because he wandered very far astray for many years into that far
country of the youngest son in the parable; living in the midst of the
sins and evil pleasures of the world, until he learned to say, 'I will
arise and go to my father.'

And so Augustine's story comforts and helps us when we feel how easy it
is to do wrong, and how we fail every day to do the good things we meant
to do. There are so few days we can mark with a white stone because we
have really tried to be good, and so many days we are glad to forget
because of the black cross that stands against them. And yet, who knows
but, if we fight on to the end, we too may be saints as Augustine was,
for he won his crown through many failures.

The story, in Augustine's own words, begins from the time when he was
a very little baby, not from what he remembers, but from what he had
learned as he watched other babies in whom he saw a picture of himself.

First of all Augustine tells of the tiny baby, who does nothing but
sleep and eat and cry. Then the baby begins to laugh a little when he is
awake, and very soon shows clearly his likes and dislikes, and kicks and
beats with his little hands when he does not get exactly what he wants.
Then comes the time of learning to speak and walk.

After that Augustine begins really to remember things about himself.
For who could ever forget the trial of first going to school? Oh, how
Augustine hated it, and how hard it seemed to him! The lessons were so
difficult and the masters were so strict, and he loved play so much
better than work, and when he went back to school with lessons unlearned
and work undone, the result was of course that he was whipped. It did
seem so unjust to him, for he could not see the use of lessons, and the
whippings were so sore. And in his book he tells us how it made him say
his first prayer to God--'I used to ask Thee, though a very little boy,
yet with no little earnestness, that I might not be whipped at school.'

Augustine could not see the reason why he should be forced to stay
indoors and learn dull, wearisome lessons, when he might be playing in
the sunshine and learning new games, which seemed so much more worth
knowing. How those games delighted him! He was always eager to be first,
to win the victory and to be ahead of every one else. But then followed
the whipping at school, and the little sore body crept away and sobbed
out the prayer from his little sore soul.

He did not understand how it could all be meant for his good. We never
quite understand that till we have left school far behind.

I wonder if we all wrote down just exactly what we felt and did when we
were little children, whether we would have as many things to confess as
Augustine had? There are some faults which no one is very much ashamed
to own because they don't seem small and mean and pitiful. But who would
like to confess to being greedy and stealing sweet things from the table
when no one was looking? Who would care to own that he cheated at games,
caring only to come out first whether he had played fairly or not? Yet
this great saint tells us he remembers doing all these mean things and
looks back upon them with great sorrow. He warns other little children
to kill these faults at the very beginning, for he knows how strong they
grow and how difficult to conquer, when the mean child grows into a man
whom no one can trust.

As time went on and he grew to be a big boy he went further and further
astray. When he was little he stole things to eat because he was greedy
or because he wanted to bribe other little boys to sell him their toys,
but now that he was older it was out of mere pride and boastfulness that
he took what did not belong to him. He thought it grand and manly to
show off to other boys how little he cared about doing wrong.

Augustine tells us that in a garden near his house there was a pear-tree
covered with pears neither sweet nor large. But just because it belonged
to some one else, and he thought it fun to steal, he and his companions
went out one dark night and robbed the tree of all its fruit. They did
not care to eat the pears, and after tasting one or two threw all the
rest to the pigs. There was no particular pleasure in this he allows,
and he would never have done it alone, but he wanted the other boys to
admire him and to think he was afraid of nothing.

And so years went on and Augustine grew up into manhood, and it seemed
as if his evil ways would break his mother's heart. Through all his sin
and foolishness she loved him and prayed for him but he paid no heed to
her, and wandered further away into that far country, wasting all he had
in living wildly and forgetting the God he had prayed to when a child.

One day when Monica was weeping over this wandering son of hers and
praying for him with all her heart, God sent a comforting dream to her
which she never forgot. She thought she saw herself standing on a narrow
wooden plank, and towards her there came a shining angel who smiled upon
her as she stood there worn out with sorrow and weeping.

'Why art thou so sad, and wherefore dost thou weep these daily tears?'
asked the angel.

'I weep over the ruin of my son,' answered the poor mother.

Then the angel bade her cease from grieving and be at rest, and told her
to look and see that on the same narrow plank of salvation where she was
standing Augustine stood beside her.

His mother told Augustine of this dream, and though he only laughed at
it, it seemed to sink into his heart and he remembered it many years
after. And to Monica it came as a breath of hope, and comforted her
through many dark days. For she was sure that God had sent this dream
to tell her that in the end she and her son would stand together in
His presence.

But though Monica believed this she never ceased to do all that was in
her power to help Augustine. And once she went to a learned bishop and
begged him to talk to Augustine and try what he could do. But the bishop
was a wise man and knew that by speaking he would do more harm than
good, for Augustine was proud of his unbelief and had no longing in
himself for better things. But Monica did not see this and could only
implore the bishop to try, until the good man grew vexed with her and
said at last, 'I cannot help thee in this matter, but go thy way in
peace. It cannot be that a son of such tears should perish.'

And these words comforted Monica, as the dream had done, and made her
sure that in the end all would be right.

The good bishop spoke truly, for after many years had passed Augustine
began to be weary of his own way and to look for a higher, better life.
He longed to turn his face homeward, but now he had lost the way, and
for long he sought it with bitter tears.

At last, one day, he felt he could bear the burden of his evil life
no longer. His sins felt like a heavy chain dragging him down in the
darkness, and there was no light to show him which way to turn. Taking
a roll of the scriptures he wandered out into the garden and there, as
he wept, he heard a voice close by chanting over and over again 'Take,
read.' He thought it must be some game that children were playing, but
he could remember none that had those words in it. And then he thought
perhaps this was a voice from heaven in answer to his prayer, telling
him what to do.

Eagerly he took the holy writings in his hand and opened them to read,
and there he found words telling him what sort of life he should lead.
In a moment it all seemed clear to him. His Father was waiting to
receive and pardon him; so he arose and left the far country and all his
evil habits and turned his face to God.

And then he tells how he went straight to his mother--the mother who had
loved and believed in him through all those evil days, and he told her
like a little child how sorry he was at last.

Then, indeed, was Monica's mourning turned into joy, and so at her
life's end she and her son sat hand in hand, both looking up towards the
dawning heaven; he with eyes ashamed but full of hope, and she with tears
all washed away, and eyes that shone with more than earthly joy.

When his mother at last died and left him alone, Augustine did not
grieve, for he knew the parting was not for long. All that was left for
him to do now was to strive to make good those years he had wasted, and
be more fit to meet her when God should call him home.

And so it came to pass that this great sinner became one of God's saints
and did a wonderful work for Him in the world. He was made Bishop of
Hippo, and was one of the most famous bishops the world has ever known.

There is one legend told of Augustine which has comforted many hearts
when puzzling questions have arisen and it has seemed so difficult to
understand all the Bible teaches us about our Father in heaven.

They say that once when this great father of the Church was walking
along by the seashore, troubled and perplexed because he could not
understand many things about God, he came upon a little child playing
there alone. The child had digged a hole in the sand and was carefully
filling it with water which he brought from the sea in a spoon. The
bishop stopped and watched him for a while and then he asked:

'What art thou doing, my child?'

'I mean to empty the sea into my hole,' answered the child, busily going
backwards and forwards with his spoon.


'But that is impossible,' said the bishop.

'Not more impossible than that thy human mind should understand the mind
of God,' said the child, gazing upwards at him with grave, sweet eyes.

And before the bishop could answer the child had vanished, and the saint
knew that God had sent him as an answer to his troubled thoughts, and as
a rebuke for his trying to understand the things that only God could


It was market-day in the great city of Rome, and the people were busy
buying and selling and shouting, just as they do to-day with us, when
market-day comes round. But there was a great difference between this
Roman market and ours, a difference which would have seemed to us
strange and cruel. For instead of sheep and oxen, or green vegetables
from the country, they were selling men and boys, and even little
maidens. There in the great market-place, with the sun beating down on
their bare heads, they stood, looking with dull, despairing eyes, or
with frightened glances at the crowds of buyers and sellers who were
bargaining around.

Suddenly a hush fell on the crowd, and a stately figure was seen
crossing the square. People stood aside and bent their heads in
reverence as Gregory passed by, for he was Abbot of a great monastery in
Rome, and was much beloved even by the rough Roman soldiers. He walked
swiftly as if he did not care to linger in the market-place, for it
grieved his gentle heart to see the suffering of the slaves when he
could do nothing to help them.

But suddenly the crowd seemed to divide in front of him, and he stopped
in wonder at the sight which met his eyes. It was only a group of little
fair-haired English boys who had been captured in the wars, and carried
off to be sold as slaves in the Roman market. But Gregory had never seen
anything like them before. All around were dark-eyed, swarthy-faced
Italians, or darker-skinned slaves from Africa, and these boys with
their sunny, golden hair, fair faces, and eyes blue as the sky overhead,
seemed to him creatures from a different world.

'Whence come these children, and what name do they bear?' asked the
bishop of a man who stood beside him.

'From a savage island far over the sea,' he answered, 'and men call
them Angles.'

Then the kind bishop looked with pitying eyes upon the beautiful
children, and said to himself, as he turned to go: 'They should be
called not Angles, but angels.'

The sight of those boys, so strong and fearless and beautiful, made
Gregory think a great deal about the little island of Britain, far away
across the sea, from whence they had come. He knew the people who lived
there were a fierce, warlike race, having a strange religion of their
own, and that very few of them were Christians. But he knew, too, that
though they were hard to conquer, and difficult to teach, still they
were a people worth teaching, and he longed to win them to the side of
Christ and to show them how to serve the true God.

In those days people in Italy knew very little about that far-away
island, and it seemed to them as difficult and dangerous to go to
England as it would seem to us if we were asked to go to the wildest
part of Africa. True there were no lions nor tigers in England, but the
tall, fair-haired giants who lived there were as savage as they were
brave, and might be even worse to deal with than the wild beasts of
other lands.

So it may well be believed that when Saint Gregory, who was now Pope
of Rome, chose forty monks and sent them on a mission to this distant
island, they were not very anxious to go, and set out in fear and

But at their head was one who knew no fear and who was willing to face
any dangers in the service of his Master. This man was Augustine, a monk
of Rome, whom Gregory had chosen to lead the mission, knowing that his
courage would strengthen the others, and his wisdom would guide them

It took many long days and nights of travel to reach the coast where
they were to find a ship to carry them across to Britain, and before
they had gone very far, the forty monks were inclined to turn back in
despair. From every side they heard such terrible tales of the savage
islanders they were going to meet, that their hearts, never very
courageous, were filled with terror, and they refused to go further.
Nothing that Augustine could say would persuade them to go on, and they
would only agree that he should go back to Rome and bear their prayers
to Saint Gregory, imploring him not to force them to face such horrible
danger. If Augustine would do this they promised to wait his return and
to do then whatever the Pope ordered.

They had not to wait many days, for Augustine speedily brought back
the Pope's answer to their request. His dark face glowed and his eyes
shone with the light of victory, as he read to them the letter which
Saint Gregory had sent. There was to be no thought of going back. Saint
Gregory's words were few, but decisive. 'It is better not to begin
a work than to turn back as soon as danger threatens; therefore, my
beloved sons, go forward by the help of our Lord.'

So they obeyed, and with Augustine at their head once more set out,
hardly hoping to escape the perils of the journey, and expecting, if
they did arrive, to be speedily put to death by the savage islanders.

Perhaps the worst trial of all was when they set sail from France and
saw the land fading away in the distance. In front there was nothing
to be seen but angry waves and a cold, grey sky, and they seemed to be
drifting away from the country of sunshine and safety into the dark
region of uncertainty and danger. Nay, the island, whose very name was
terrible to them, was nowhere to be seen, and seemed all the more
horrible because it was wrapped in that mysterious grey mist.

But though they did not know it, they had really nothing to fear from
the island people, for the queen of that part of England where they
landed was a Christian, and had taught the King Ethelbert to show mercy
and kindness. So when the company of cold, shivering monks came ashore
they were met with a kind and courteous welcome, and instead of enemies
they found friends.

The king himself came to meet them, and he ordered the little band of
foreigners to be brought before him, that he might learn their errand.
He did not receive them in any hall or palace, but out in the open air,
for it seemed safer there, in case these strangers should be workers of
magic or witchcraft.

It must have been a strange scene when the forty monks, with Augustine
at their head, walked in procession up from the beach to the broad
green meadow where the king and his soldiers waited for them. The tall,
fair-haired warriors who stood around, sword in hand, ready to defend
their king, must have looked with surprise at these black-robed men with
shaven heads and empty hands. They carried no weapons of any sort, and
they seemed to bear no banner to tell men whence they came. Only the
foremost monks carried on high a silver cross and the picture of a
crucified Man, and instead of shouts and war-cries there was the sound
of a melodious chant sung by many voices, yet seeming as if sung by one.

Then Augustine stood out from among the company of monks and waited for
the king to speak.

'Who art thou, and from whence have come these men who are with thee?'
asked the king. Methinks thou comest in peace, else wouldst thou have
carried more deadly weapons than a silver charm and a painted sign.
I fain would know the reason of thy visit to this our island.'

Slowly Augustine began to tell the story of their pilgrimage and the
message they had brought. So long he spoke that the sun began to sink
and the twilight fell over the silent sea that lay stretched out beyond
the meadow where they sat before his story was done.

The king bent forward, thoughtfully weighing the words he had heard, and
looking into the faces of these strange messengers of peace. At length
he spoke, and the weary monks and stalwart warriors listened eagerly to
his words.

'Thou hast spoken well,' he said to Augustine, 'and it may be there is
truth in what thou sayest. But a man does not change his religion in an
hour. I will hear more of this. But meanwhile ye shall be well cared
for, and all who choose may listen to your message.'

Those were indeed welcome words to the company of poor tired monks, and
when the kindly islanders, following their king's example, made them
welcome and gave them food and shelter, they could well echo the words
of Saint Gregory in the Roman market: 'These are not Angles but angels.'

And soon King Ethelbert gave the little company a house of their own,
and allowed them to build up the ancient church at Canterbury, which had
fallen into ruins. There they lived as simply and quietly as they had
done in their convent in Italy, praying day and night for the souls of
these heathen people, and teaching them, as much by their lives as their
words, that it was good to serve the Lord Christ.

And before very long the people began to listen eagerly to their
teaching, and the king himself was baptized with many others. The chant
which the monks had sung that first day of their landing no longer
sounded strange and mysterious in the ears of the islanders, for they
too learnt to sing the 'Alleluia' and to praise God beneath the sign of
the silver cross.

Now Augustine was very anxious that the Ancient British Church should
join his party and that they should work together under the direction
of Pope Gregory. But the British Christians were not sure if they might
trust these strangers, and it was arranged that they should meet first,
before making any plans.

The Ancient British Church had almost been driven out of the land, and
there were but few of her priests left. They did not know whether they
ought to join Augustine and his foreign monks, or strive to work on
alone. In their perplexity they went to a holy hermit, and asked him
what they should do.

'If this man comes from God, then follow him,' said the hermit.

'But how can we know if he is of God?' asked the people.

The hermit thought a while and then said:

'The true servant of God is ever humble and lowly of heart. Go to meet
this man. If he rises and bids you welcome, then will you know that he
bears Christ's yoke, and will lead you aright. But if he be proud and
haughty, and treat you with scorn, never rising to welcome you, then see
to it that ye have nought to do with him.'

So the priests and bishops of the British Church arranged to meet
Augustine under a great oak-tree, which was called ever afterwards
'Augustine's oak.' They carefully planned that the foreign monks should
arrive there first, in time to be seated, so that the hermit's test
might be tried when they themselves should arrive.

Unhappily, Augustine did not think of rising to greet the British
bishops, and they were very angry and would agree to nothing that he
proposed, though he warned them solemnly that if they would not join
their forces with his, they would sooner or later fall by the hand of
their enemies.

Greatly disappointed Augustine returned to Canterbury and worked there
for many years without help, until all who lived in that part of England
learned to be Christians.

And Pope Gregory hearing of his labours was pleased with the work his
missionary had done, and thought it fit that the humble monk should
be rewarded with a post of honour. So he made Augustine Archbishop of
Canterbury, the first archbishop that England had known. It was a simple
ceremony then, with only the few faithful monks kneeling around the
chair on which the archbishop was enthroned, but Augustine's keen, dark
face shone with the light of victory and humble thankfulness, for it
seemed a seal upon his work, a pledge that the island should never again
turn back from the faith of Christ.

And could those dark eyes have looked forward and pierced the screen of
many years, Augustine would have seen a goodly succession of archbishops
following in his footsteps, each in his turn sitting in that same simple
old chair, placed now in Westminster Abbey and guarded as one of
England's treasures.

And he would have seen, too, what would have cheered his heart more than
all--a Christian England venerating the spot where his monastery once
stood, and building upon it a college to his memory. And there he would
have seen England's sons trained to become missionaries and to go out
into all the world to preach the gospel, just as that little band of
monks, with Augustine at their head, came to our island in those dark,
far-off days.

But though Augustine could not know all this, his heart was filled with
a great hope and a great love for the islanders who now seemed like his
own children, and he was more than content to spend his life amongst

And when his work was ended, and the faithful soul gave up his charge,
they buried him in the island which had once seemed to him a land of
exile, but which at last had come to mean even more to him than his
own sunny land of Italy.


It was in the days when cruel men killed and tortured those who loved
our Blessed Lord that, in the city of Rome, a little maid was born.
Her father and mother were amongst the richest and noblest of the
Roman people, and their little daughter, whom they called Cecilia, had
everything she could possibly want. She lived in a splendid palace, with
everything most beautiful around her, and she had a garden to play in,
where the loveliest flowers grew. Her little white dress was embroidered
with the finest gold, and her face was as fair as the flowers she loved.

But it was not only the outside that was beautiful, for the little
maiden's heart was fairer than the fairest flowers, and whiter than her
spotless robe.

There were not many people who loved our Lord in those dark days.
Any one who was known to be a Christian was made to suffer terrible
tortures, and was even put to death.

But though Cecilia's father and mother knew this they still taught their
little daughter to be a servant of Christ and to love Him above all
things. For they knew that the love of Christ was better than life, and
worth all the suffering that might come.

And as Cecilia grew into a stately maiden every one wondered at the grace
and beauty that shone out of her face. And every one loved her because
she loved every one. She was always ready and willing to help others,
and she specially cared to be kind to the poor. In the folds of her gold
embroidered dress she always carried a little book which she loved to
read. It was the book of the Gospels, and the more she read and heard
of Christ, the more she longed to grow like Him. She could not bear to
think that she wore fine dresses, while He had been so poor and suffered
so much. And so, underneath her soft, white robe she wore a harsh,
coarse garment made of hair. And when it hurt and rubbed her sorely,
the pain only made her glad, because she wore it for Christ's sake.

Some say the meaning of her name Cecilia is 'Heaven's Lily.' And that
name certainly suited this little Roman maiden. For as God plants the
lilies in the dark earth, and presently they grow up and lift their pure
white cups to heaven, so Cecilia seemed to lift her heart above the sins
and sorrows of the world, where God had planted her, and to turn her
face ever heavenwards.

And the poor people whom she helped and cheered with her kind sympathy
loved to look at her, for the peace of paradise shone in her eyes, and
it seemed to bring heaven nearer to the poor souls.

As soon as Cecilia was old enough, it was arranged that she should marry
a young Roman noble called Valerian, and this made her very unhappy. She
had so hoped to belong only to Christ, and this Valerian was a pagan who
knew nothing of the Lord whom she served. But she knew that her guardian
angel would watch over her and keep her from all harm, and so she obeyed
her father's and mother's wishes, and was married to the young Roman

When Valerian had taken Cecilia home and all the guests had gone,
and they were left alone together, she told him that, though she was
married, she belonged first of all to Christ, and that her guardian
angel, who never left her, would guard and protect her from all danger.

'Wilt thou not show me this angel, so that I may know that what thou
sayest is true?' asked Valerian.

'Thou canst not see the heavenly messenger until thou hast learnt to
know my Lord,' answered Cecilia.

And as Valerian eagerly asked how he should learn to know this Christ,
Cecilia told him to go along the great Appian Way, outside the walls of
Rome, until he should meet some poor people who lived in the Campagna.
And to them he should say:

'Cecilia bids you show me the way that I may find the old man, Urban
the Good.'

So Valerian started off and went the way Cecilia directed. And the
people guided him as she had promised, until they came to a curious
opening in the ground, down which they told him he must go if he wished
to find Pope Urban.

This opening was the entrance to a strange under-ground place called
the Catacombs.

There were miles and miles of dark passages cut out of the rock, with
here and there a little dark room, and curious shelves hollowed out of
the walls. It was here that many poor Christians lived, hiding themselves
from those who would have put them to death. And the little shelves were
where they buried the bodies of poor Christians who had died for Christ.

It was here that the old Pope, Urban the Good, lived, and he welcomed
Valerian most gladly, knowing why he had come. He began at once to teach
him all that he should know--how God was our Father, and Jesus Christ
His Son, our Saviour. And as Valerian listened to the strange, wonderful
words, the love of God shone into his heart, so that when the old man

'Believest thou this?'

He answered with all his heart:

'All this I steadfastly believe.'

Then Urban baptized Valerian, and by that sign the young Roman knew that
he was indeed a Christian, a servant of Christ.

All the world looked different to Valerian as he walked back along the
Appian Way to Rome. The flat, low fields of the Campagna, fading away
into the ridges of the purple Apennines, seemed almost like the fields
of paradise, and the song of the birds was like the voice of angels. He
scarcely thought of the dangers and difficulties that were before him,
or if he did it was only to feel glad that he might have anything to
bear for his new Master.


And when he reached home, and went back to the room where he had left
Cecilia, he found her there waiting for him, with a glad welcome in
her eyes. And as they knelt together they heard a rustle of wings, and
looking up they saw an angel bending over them, with a crown of lilies
and roses in each hand. These he placed upon their heads, and to
Valerian he said:

'Thou hast done well in allowing Cecilia to serve her Master, therefore
ask what thou wilt and thy request shall be granted.'

Then Valerian asked that his brother, whom he dearly loved, might also
learn to know Christ.

And just then the door opened, and the brother whom Valerian loved so
much came in. He, of course, only saw Valerian and Cecilia, and could
not see the angel, or even the wreaths of heavenly roses. But he looked
round in astonishment and said:

'I see no flowers here, and yet the fragrance of roses and lilies is so
sweet and strange, that it makes my very heart glad.'

Then Valerian answered:

'We have two crowns here, which thou canst not see, because thou knowest
not the Lord who sent them to us. But if thou wilt listen, and learn to
know Him, then shalt thou see the heavenly flowers, whose fragrance has
filled thy heart.'

So Valerian and Cecilia told their brother what it meant to be a
Christian. And after the good Urban had taught him also, he was baptized
and became God's knight. Then he, too, saw the heavenly crowns and the
face of the angel who guarded Heaven's Lily.

For a while the home of Valerian and Cecilia was like a paradise on
earth. There was nothing but happiness there. Cecilia loved music above
everything. Her voice was like a bird's, and she sang her hymns of
praise and played so exquisitely, that it is said that even the angels
came down to listen.

But before long it began to be known that Valerian and his brother
helped the poor Christians, and the wicked governor of the city ordered
them both to be seized and brought before him. He told them that there
were but two ways before them: either they must deny that they were
Christians, or they must be put to death.

But God's knights did not fear death, and they went out to meet it
as if they were on their way to a great victory. And when the soldiers
wondered, and asked them if it was not sad that they should lose their
lives while they were still so young, they answered that what looked
like loss on earth was gain in heaven--that they were but laying down
their bodies as one puts off one's clothes to sleep at night. For the
immortal soul could never die, but would live for ever.

So they knelt down, and the cruel blows were struck. But, looking up,
the soldiers saw a great pathway of light shining down from heaven. And
the souls of Valerian and his brother were led up by angel hands to the
throne of God, there to receive the crowns of everlasting glory which
they had won on earth.

And so Cecilia was left alone. But she did not spend her time grieving.
Gathering the people and soldiers around her, she taught them about the
Lord of Heaven, for whose sake Valerian and his brother had so gladly
suffered death. And it was not long before she also trod the shining
pathway up to heaven and met the ones she loved.

For the governor was not satisfied with the death of Valerian and his
brother, but ordered Cecilia to be brought before him.

'What sort of a woman art thou, and what is thy name?' he asked.

'I am a Roman lady,' she answered with grave dignity,' and among men
I am known by the name of Cecilia. But'--and her voice rang out proudly
as she looked fearlessly into those angry eyes--'my noblest name is

Then the enraged governor ordered that she should be taken to her house,
and put to death in her bath. But the boiling water could not hurt her,
and she was as cool as if she had bathed in a fresh spring.

This made the governor more furious than ever, and he ordered that her
head should be cut off.

But even after she had received three strokes from the sword she did
not die, but lived for three days. And these days she spent in quietly
putting her house in order and dividing her money among the poor, ever
singing in her sweet voice the praises of God.

And so at the end of three days God's angel came and led Cecilia home,
and all that was left of her on earth was her fair body, lying like a
tired child asleep, with hands clasped, gently resting now that her work
on earth was done.

And in Rome to-day there is a splendid church built over the place where
Cecilia's house stood. Some day if you go there, you will see her little
room and the bath in which the boiling water could not hurt her. You
will see too, a beautiful marble figure lying under the altar, and you
will know exactly how Cecilia looked when she left her tired body lying
there, and went up the shining path to God.



It was in the beautiful land of Greece that Saint Giles was born, very
far away from the grey northern city, whose cathedral bears his name.
His parents were of royal blood, and were, moreover, Christians; so the
boy was brought up most carefully, and taught all that a prince should

He was a dreamy, quiet boy, and what he loved best was to wander out in
the green woods by himself, with no companions but the animals and birds
and flowers. He would lie for hours watching the birds busily build
their nests, or the rabbits as they timidly peeped at him out of their
holes. And soon all the woodland creatures began to look upon him as
their friend, and even the wildest would come gradually nearer and
nearer, almost within reach of his hand; and they seemed to listen when
he talked to them, as if they could understand what he said. One thing
they certainly did understand, and that was that he loved them and would
do them no harm.

Saint Giles could not bear to see anything suffer, and his pity was
great for all those in pain; and often he would mend a bird's broken
wing, or bind up a little furry foot that had been torn in a trap; and
the birds and beasts always lay quiet under his hand, and seemed to know
that he would cure them, even though the touch might hurt.

It happened that one day, when Saint Giles was kneeling in church, he
saw a poor beggar lying there on the cold, stone floor. He had scarcely
any clothes to keep him warm, and his face had a hungry, suffering look,
which filled the heart of the saint with pity. He saw that the poor man
was ill and trembling with cold, so without a moment's thought, he took
off his own warm cloak and tenderly wrapped it round the beggar.

The warmth of the cloak seemed to bring life back to the poor chilled
body, and when Saint Giles had given him food and wine, he was able to
lift himself up, and to bless the kind youth who had helped him.

And when the people saw what had happened they thought Saint Giles had
worked a miracle, and cured the man by his wonderful touch; for they did
not realise that all kind deeds work miracles every day.

It did not please Saint Giles that people should think he possessed this
miraculous gift of healing, and he had no wish to be called a saint. He
only longed to lead his own quiet life and to help all God's creatures
who needed his care. But the people would not leave him alone, and they
brought to him those who were sick and lame and blind, and expected that
he would heal them.

It is true that many needed only a little human aid, and the food and
help which Saint Giles gave them would soon make them well again; but
there were some he could not help, and it wrung his heart to see their
pleading eyes, and to watch them bring out their little store of
hard-earned money, eager to buy the aid which he so willingly would
have given had he been able.

So at last Saint Giles determined to leave his native city, for he had
been all alone since his father and mother had died. He wished to escape
from the anxious crowds that refused to leave him in peace; but first he
sold all that he had and gave it to the poor of the city, an act which
made them surer than ever that he was one of God's saints. Then he
sailed away across the sea to a far-off country.

There Saint Giles found a lonely cave in which an old hermit lived.
'Here at last I shall find peace and quietness,' said he to himself,
'and men will soon forget me.'

But even here ere long his friends found him, for his fame had spread
across the seas. So once more he set out and went further and further
away, by paths that few had ever trod before, until in the depths of a
green forest he found another shelter, a cave among grey rocks overgrown
with lichens, and hidden by the sheltering boughs of the surrounding
trees. Saint Giles had always loved the woods and this was just the home
he had longed for. A clear stream flowed not far off, and his only
companions would be the birds and beasts and flowers.

Early in the morning the birds would wake him with their song, and the
wild creatures would come stealing out of the wood to share his meal.
And his silent friends, the flowers, would cheer and help him by their
beauty, and remind him of God's garden whose gate would one day open for
him, where he would wander in the green pastures beside the still waters
of Life for evermore.

But of all his companions the one Saint Giles loved best was a gentle
white doe, who came to him as soon as he settled in the cave. She seemed
to have no fear of him from the first, and stayed with him longer and
longer each time, until at last she took up her abode with him, and
would never leave him, lying close to him when he slept, and walking by
his side wherever he went.

This peaceful life went on for a long time and it seemed as if nothing
could disturb its quiet happiness. But it happened that one day as Saint
Giles was praying in the cave, and his companion, the white doe, was
nibbling her morning meal of fresh grass by the banks of the stream, a
curious noise was heard afar off. It came nearer and nearer, and then
shouts of men's voices could be heard, the sound of horses galloping and
the note of the hunter's horn. Then came the deep baying of dogs, and
before the startled doe could hide, the whole hunt was upon her. With a
wild halloo they chased her across the greensward and through the trees,
and just as she disappeared into the cave, one of the huntsmen drew
his bow and sent an arrow flying after her. Then they all dismounted
and went to see what had become of the hunted doe, and soon found the
opening into the cave. But what was their surprise, when they burst in,
to find an old man kneeling there. He was sheltering the terrified doe
who had fled to him for refuge, and an arrow had pierced the kind hand
that had been raised to shield her.

The huntsmen were ashamed of their cruel sport when they saw the wounded
hand of the old man and the trembling form of the white doe as it
crouched behind him, and they listened with reverence to the hermit's
words as he spoke to them of man's duty towards God's dumb creatures.

The King of France, who was one of the hunting party, came often after
this to see Saint Giles, and at last offered to build him a monastery
and give him all that he could want; but the old man begged to be left
alone in his woodland cave, to serve God in peace and quietness. So
there he lived quietly and happily for many years, until God took him,
and he left his cave for the fairer fields of paradise.

People loved the thought of this peaceful old saint who dwelt in the
woods and was the protector of all sorrowful and suffering creatures,
and so they often called their churches after Saint Giles, especially
those churches which were built in the fields or near green woods.

The surroundings of many of these churches are to-day changed. There
are no fields now round his great cathedral church in the old town of
Edinburgh; but the poor and sick and sorrowful crowd very near to its
shelter, and the memory of the pitiful heart of the gentle old saint
still hovers like a blessing round the grey old walls.


Of all the saints that little children love is there any to compare with
Santa Claus? The very sound of his name has magic in it, and calls up
visions of well-filled stockings, with the presents we particularly want
peeping over the top, or hanging out at the side, too big to go into
the largest sock. Besides, there is something so mysterious and exciting
about Santa Claus, for no one seems to have ever seen him. But we picture
him to ourselves as an old man with a white beard, whose favourite way
of coming into our rooms is down the chimney, bringing gifts for the good
children and punishments for the bad.

Yet this Santa Claus, in whose name the presents come to us at Christmas
time, is a very real saint, and we can learn a great deal about him,
only we must remember that his true name is Saint Nicholas. Perhaps the
little children, who used to talk of him long ago, found Saint Nicholas
too difficult to say, and so called him their dear Santa Claus. But we
learn, as we grow older, that Nicholas is his true name, and that he is
a real person who lived long years ago, far away in the East.

The father and mother of Nicholas were noble and very rich, but what
they wanted most of all was to have a son. They were Christians, so
they prayed to God for many years that he would give them their heart's
desire; and when at last Nicholas was born, they were the happiest
people in the world.

They thought there was no one like their boy; and indeed he was wiser
and better than most children, and never gave them a moment's trouble.
But alas, while he was still a child, a terrible plague swept over the
country, and his father and mother died, leaving him quite alone.

All the great riches which his father had possessed were left to
Nicholas, and among other things he inherited three bars of gold. These
golden bars were his greatest treasure, and he thought more of them than
all the other riches he possessed.

Now in the town where Nicholas lived there dwelt a nobleman with three
daughters. They had once been very rich, but great misfortunes had
overtaken the father, and now they were all so poor they had scarcely
enough to live upon.

At last a day came when there was not even bread enough to eat, and the
daughters said to their father:

'Let us go out into the streets and beg, or do anything to get a little
money, that we may not starve.'

But the father answered:

'Not to-night. I cannot bear to think of it. Wait at least until
to-morrow. Something may happen to save my daughters from such

Now, just as they were talking together, Nicholas happened to be
passing, and as the window was open he heard all that the poor father
said. It seemed terrible to think that a noble family should be so poor
and actually in want of bread, and Nicholas tried to plan how it would
be possible to help them. He knew they would be much too proud to take
money from him, so he had to think of some other way. Then he remembered
his golden bars, and that very night he took one of them and went
secretly to the nobleman's house, hoping to give the treasure without
letting the father or daughters know who brought it.

To his joy Nicholas discovered that a little window had been left open,
and by standing on tiptoe he could just reach it. So he lifted the
golden bar and slipped it through the window, never waiting to hear what
became of it, in case any one should see him. (And now do you see the
reason why the visits of Santa Claus are so mysterious?)

Inside the house the poor father sat sorrowfully watching, while his
children slept. He wondered if there was any hope for them anywhere, and
he prayed earnestly that heaven would send help. Suddenly something fell
at his feet, and to his amazement and joy, he found it was a bar of pure

'My child,' he cried, as he showed his eldest daughter the shining gold,
'God has heard my prayer and has sent this from heaven. Now we shall
have enough and to spare. Call your sisters that we may rejoice
together, and I will go instantly and change this treasure.'


The precious golden bar was soon sold to a money-changer, who gave so
much for it that the family were able to live in comfort and have all
that they needed. And not only was there enough to live upon, but so
much was over that the father gave his eldest daughter a large dowry,
and very soon she was happily married.

When Nicholas saw how much happiness his golden bar had brought to the
poor nobleman, he determined that the second daughter should have a
dowry too. So he went as before and found the little window again open,
and was able to throw in the second golden bar as he had done the first.
This time the father was dreaming happily, and did not find the treasure
until he awoke in the morning. Soon afterwards the second daughter had
her dowry and was married too.

The father now began to think that, after all, it was not usual for
golden bars to fall from heaven, and he wondered if by any chance
human hands had placed them in his room. The more he thought of it the
stranger it seemed, and he made up his mind to keep watch every night,
in case another golden bar should be sent as a portion for his youngest

And so when Nicholas went the third time and dropped the last bar
through the little window, the father came quickly out, and before
Nicholas had time to hide, caught him by his cloak.

'O Nicholas,' he cried, 'is it thou who hast helped us in our need?
Why didst thou hide thyself?' And then he fell on his knees and began
to kiss the hands that had helped him so graciously.

But Nicholas bade him stand up and give thanks to God instead; warning
him to tell no one the story of the golden bars.

This was only one of the many kind acts Nicholas loved to do, and it was
no wonder that he was beloved by all who knew him.

Soon afterwards Nicholas made up his mind to enter God's service as a
priest. He longed above all things to leave the world and live as a
hermit in the desert, but God came to him in a vision and told him he
must stay in the crowded cities and do his work among the people. Still
his desire to see the deserts and the hermits who lived there was so
great that he went off on a journey to Egypt and the Holy Land. But
remembering, what God had bade him do, he did not stay there, but
returned to his own country.

On the way home a terrific storm arose, and it seemed as if the ship
he was in must be lost. The sailors could do nothing, and great waves
dashed over the deck, filling the ship with water. But just as all
had given up hope, Nicholas knelt and prayed to God to save them, and
immediately a calm fell upon the angry sea. The winds sank to rest and
the waves ceased to lash the sides of the ship so that they sailed
smoothly on, and all danger was past.

Thus Nicholas returned home in safety, and went to live in the city of
Myra. His ways were so quiet and humble that no one knew much about him,
until it came to pass one day that the Archbishop of Myra died. Then all
the priests met to choose another archbishop, and it was made known to
them by a sign from heaven that the first man who should enter the church
next morning should be the bishop whom God had chosen.

Now Nicholas used to spend most of his nights in prayer and always went
very early to church, so next morning just as the sun was rising and the
bells began to ring for the early mass, he was seen coming up to the
church door and was the first to enter. As he knelt down quietly to say
his prayers as usual, what was his surprise to meet a company of priests
who hailed him as their new archbishop, chosen by God to be their leader
and guide. So Nicholas was made Archbishop of Myra to the joy of all in
the city who knew and loved him.

Not long after this there was great trouble in the town of Myra, for the
harvests of that country had failed and a terrible famine swept over
the land. Nicholas, as a good bishop should, felt the suffering of his
people as if it were his own, and did all he could to help them.

He knew that they must have corn or they would die, so he went to the
harbour where two ships lay filled with grain, and asked the captains
if they would sell him their cargo. They told the bishop they would
willingly do so, but it was already sold to merchants of another country
and they dared not sell it over again.

'Take no thought of that,' said Nicholas, 'only sell me some of thy corn
for my starving people, and I promise thee that there shall be nought
wanting when thou shalt arrive at thy journey's end.'

The captains believed in the bishop's promise and gave him as much corn
as he asked. And behold! when they came to deliver their cargo to the
owners, there was not a bag lacking.

It is said, too, that at the time of this famine there was a cruel
innkeeper in Myra who was wicked enough to catch little children and
pickle them in a great tub, pretending they were pork. It happened one
day as Nicholas was passing the inn-door that he heard the voices of
children crying for help. He went in very quickly and made his way to
the cellar whence the cries had come. There he found the poor children,
and not only rescued those who were alive, but by his prayers he brought
to life those who had already been killed and cast into the tub.

Another time there were two men in Myra who had been unjustly condemned
to death, and it was told the bishop how greatly they stood in need of
his help. No one ever appealed to Nicholas in vain, and he went off at
once to the place of execution. The executioner was just about to raise
his sword, when Nicholas seized his arm and wrenched the sword away.
Then he set the poor prisoners free and told the judge that, if he dared
to deal so unjustly again, the wrath of heaven and of the Bishop of Myra
would descend upon him.


There are many other stories told about the good bishop. Like his
Master, he ever went about doing good; and when he died, there were a
great many legends told about him, for the people loved to believe that
their bishop still cared for them and would come to their aid. We do not
know if all these legends are true, but they show how much Saint Nicholas
was loved and honoured even after his death, and how every one believed
in his power to help them.

Here is one of the stories which all children who love Saint Nicholas
will like to hear.

There was once a nobleman who had no children and who longed for a son
above everything else in the world. Night and day he prayed to Saint
Nicholas that he would grant him his request, and at last a son was
born. He was a beautiful child, and the father was so delighted and so
grateful to the saint who had listened to his prayers that, every year
on the child's birthday, he made a great feast in honour of Saint
Nicholas and a grand service was held in the church.

Now the Evil One grew very angry each year when this happened, for it
made many people go to church and honour the good saint, neither of
which things pleased the Evil One at all. So each year he tried to think
of some plan that would put an end to these rejoicings, and he decided
at last that if only he could do some evil to the child, the parents
would blame Saint Nicholas and all would be well.

It happened just then to be the boy's sixth birthday, and a greater
feast than ever was being held. It was late in the afternoon, and the
gardener and porter and all the servants were away keeping holiday too.
So no one noticed a curious-looking pilgrim who came and sat close
to the great iron gates which led into the courtyard. He had on the
ordinary robe of a poor pilgrim, but the hood was drawn so far over his
face that nothing but a dark shadow could be seen inside. And indeed
that was as well, for this pilgrim was a demon in disguise, and his
wicked, black face would have frightened any one who saw it. He could
not enter the courtyard for the great gates were always kept locked,
and, as you know, the porter was away that day, feasting with all the
other servants.

But, before very long, the little boy grew weary of his birthday feast,
and having had all he wanted, he begged to be allowed to go to play in
the garden. His parents knew that the gardener always looked after him
there, so they told him he might go. They forgot that the gardener was
not there just then.

The child played happily alone for some time and then wandered into the
courtyard, and looking out of the gate saw a poor pilgrim resting there.

'What are you doing here?' asked the child, 'and why do you sit so still?'

'I am a poor pilgrim,' answered the demon, trying to make his harsh
voice sound as gentle as possible, 'and I have come all the way from
Rome. I am resting here because I am so weary and footsore and have had
nothing to eat all day.'

'I will let you in, and take you to my father,' said the child; 'this is
my birthday, and no one must go hungry to-day.'

But the demon pretended he was too weak to walk, and begged the boy to
bring some food out to him.

Then the child ran back to the banquet hall in a great hurry and said to
his father:

'O father, there is a poor pilgrim from Rome sitting outside our gate,
and he is so hungry, may I take him some of my birthday feast?'

The father was very pleased to think that his little son should care for
the poor and wish to be kind, so he willingly gave his permission and
told one of the servants to give the child all that he wanted.

Then as the demon sat eating the good things, he began to question the
boy and tried to find out all that he could about him.

'Do you often play in the garden?' he asked.

'Oh yes,' said the child, 'I play there whenever I may, for in the midst
of the lawn there is a beautiful fountain, and the gardener makes me
boats to sail on the water.'

'Will he make you one to-day?' asked the demon quickly.

'He is not here to-day,' answered the child, 'for this is a holiday for
every one and I am quite alone.'

Then the demon rose to his feet slowly and said he felt so much better
after the good food, that he thought he could walk a little, and would
like very much to come in and see the beautiful garden and the fountain
he had heard about.

So the child climbed up and with great difficulty drew back the bolts.
The great gates swung open and the demon walked in.

As they went along together towards the fountain, the child held out his
little hand to lead the pilgrim, but even the demon shrunk from touching
anything so pure and innocent, and folded his arms under his robe, so
that the child could only hold by a fold of his cloak.

'What strange kind of feet you have,' said the child as they walked
along; 'they look as if they belonged to an animal.'

'Yes, they are curious,' said the demon, 'but it is just the way they
are made.'

Then the child began to notice the demon's hands, which were even more
curious than his feet, and just like the paws of a bear. But he was too
courteous to say anything about them, when he had already mentioned the

Just then they came to the fountain, and with a sudden movement the
demon threw back his hood and showed his dreadful face. And before the
child could scream he was seized by those hairy hands and thrown into
the water.

But just at that moment the gardener was returning to his work and saw
from a distance what had happened. He ran as fast as he could, but he
only got to the fountain in time to see the demon vanish, while the
child's body was floating on the water. Very quickly he drew him out,
and carried him, all dripping wet, up to the castle, where they tried to
bring him back to life. But alas! it all seemed of no use, he neither
moved nor breathed; and the day that had begun with such rejoicing,
ended in the bitterest woe. The poor parents were heart-broken, but they
did not quite lose hope and prayed earnestly to Saint Nicholas who had
given them the child, that he would restore their boy to them again.

As they prayed by the side of the little bed where the body of the child
lay, they thought something moved, and to their joy and surprise the boy
opened his eyes and sat up, and in a short time was as well as ever.

They asked him eagerly what had happened, and he told them all about
the pilgrim with the queer feet and hands, who had gone with him to
the fountain and had then thrown back his hood and shown his terrible
face. After that he could remember nothing until he found himself in a
beautiful garden, where the loveliest flowers grew. There were lilies
like white stars, and roses far more beautiful than any he had ever seen
in his own garden, and the leaves of the trees shone like silver and
gold. It was all so beautiful that for a while he forgot about his
home, and when he did remember and tried to find his way back, he grew
bewildered and did not know in what direction to turn. As he was looking
about, an old man came down the garden path and smiled so kindly upon
him that he trusted him at once. This old man was dressed in the robes
of a bishop, and had a long white beard and the sweetest old face the
child had ever seen.

'Art thou searching for the way home?' the old man asked. 'Dost thou
wish to leave this beautiful garden and go back to thy father and

'I want to go home,' said the child, with a sob in his voice, 'but
I cannot find the way, and I am, oh, so tired of searching for it!'

Then the old man stooped down and lifted him in his arms, and the child
laid his head on the old man's shoulder, and, weary with his wandering,
fell fast asleep and remembered nothing more till he woke up in his own
little bed.

Then the parents knew that Saint Nicholas had heard their prayers and
had gone to fetch the child from the Heavenly Garden and brought him
back to them.

So they were more grateful to the good saint than ever, and they loved
and honoured him even more than they had done before; which was all the
reward the demon got for his wicked doings.

That is one of the many stories told after the death of Saint Nicholas,
and it ever helped and comforted his people to think that, though they
could no longer see him, he would love and protect them still.

Young maidens in need of help remembered the story of the golden bars
and felt sure the good saint would not let them want. Sailors tossing
on the stormy waves thought of that storm which had sunk to rest at
the prayer of Saint Nicholas. Poor prisoners with no one to take their
part were comforted by the thought of those other prisoners whom he had
saved. And little children perhaps have remembered him most of all,
for when the happy Christmas time draws near, who is so much in their
thoughts as Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, as they call him? Perhaps
they are a little inclined to think of him as some good magician who
comes to fill their stockings with gifts, but they should never forget
that he was the kind bishop who, in olden days, loved to make the little
ones happy. There are some who think that even now he watches over and
protects little children, and for that reason he is called their patron


Among the many martyrs who long ago gave up their lives, rather than
deny their Master, we love to remember one little maid--a child-martyr
and saint. We do not know a great deal about her, for she lived so very
long ago, but what we know makes us love and honour her, and speak her
name with reverence.

Faith was the name of this little maiden, and her home was in France, in
the pleasant country of Aquitaine. Her parents were rich and noble, and
she was brought up carefully, and taught to be courteous and gentle to
every one. But she did not need much teaching, for her nature was sweet
and pure, and her face was fair, with the beauty that shines from within.

The town in which little Faith lived was called Agen, and lay at the
foot of a high rugged hill, which seemed to keep guard over it. It
was a quiet little place, and most of the people who dwelt there were
Christians, living happily together with the good bishop at their head.

But one day a heavy cloud of dust was seen rolling along the highroad
that led over the mountains to the city gates. And messengers came
running breathlessly into the town, warning the people that a great
company of soldiers was marching towards them. It was thought they had
come from Spain, and the news spread like wildfire through the town that
Dacian, the cruellest governor of all that country, was riding at their

In fear and trembling the people waited. They stood in little knots,
talking under their breath of all the evil this man had done; or
shutting themselves into their houses, they scarcely dared to look out
at the windows. And soon the great company came sweeping in, swords
clattering and armour glittering in the sunshine, rough soldiers
laughing carelessly as they rode past the frightened faces. And at their
head a cruel, evil-looking man who glared from side to side, as if he
were a wild beast seeking his prey.

Doubtless it pleased him to see how every one trembled before him, and
he smiled scornfully to think how easy a task it would be to teach these
Christians to deny their God and drag their faith in the dust.

And soon the reason of his coming was known to all, for he ordered it to
be proclaimed in the market-place, that every Christian who refused to
sacrifice to the heathen gods should be tortured and put to death. And
to make his meaning quite plain, the soldiers spread out all the
terrible instruments of torture, so that men might know exactly what lay
before them if they refused to deny Christ.

But in the night the terrified Christians stole silently out of the
town, and climbing the high hill that overlooked the city, they hid
themselves in the great caves among the rocks.

Scarcely any one was left behind: even the good bishop was afraid to
stay and face the danger, and it seemed as if Christ would have no one
to fight on His side against the evil company.

But when morning came, and the furious Dacian discovered that every one
had fled, he sent his soldiers to search and bring any who might remain
hidden in the city, that he might wreak his vengeance on them.

And among the few that were left they brought to him the little maid
Faith. She was only a little child, but she did not know what fear

'You cannot hurt me,' she said, looking at the cruel, angry faces around
her, 'because I am not yours, but God's.'

And then she signed herself with the sign of the cross, and with bent
head prayed:

'Lord Jesus, teach my lips to answer their questions aright, so that
I may do Thee no dishonour.'

Then Dacian looked in anger at the child standing there with clasped
hands and steadfast eyes, and asked her roughly:

'What is thy name?'

'My name is Faith,' the little maid replied with gentle courtesy.

'And what God dost thou serve?' asked the cruel governor.

'I am a Christian, and I serve the Lord Christ,' replied the child.

'Deny Him, and sacrifice to our gods,' thundered the governor, 'else
shalt thou endure every kind of torture, until there is no life left
in thy young body.'

But Faith stood with head erect and hands clasped tight together.
Not even the ugly instruments of torture could frighten her.

'I serve the Lord Christ,' she said, 'and you cannot hurt me, because
I am His.'

Such a little maid she was, standing there among those rough, cruel men,
offering her life gladly for the faith of her Master. Such a few years
she had spent in this bright world, and so many stretched in front,
holding pleasures and promises in store. And now she must give up all,
must put aside the little white robe and golden sandals, and take
instead the robe of suffering, and go barefoot to meet the pain and
torture that awaited her.

And though they scourged her, and made her suffer many cruel torments,
they could not bend her will, nor break her faith. Indeed it seemed as
if she did not feel the pain and anguish.

And God stooped down, and gathered the little faithful soul into His
bosom. And when the people looked, the child was dead.

But in the cave among the mountains that very day the bishop sat, sad
and troubled.

He was gazing away across the plain to where the town lay half hidden in
the mist, thinking of those faithful few who had chosen to stay behind.
And suddenly the mist broke in front, and a vision stood out clear
before him. He saw the child Faith being scourged and tortured; he saw
the flames leaping around her, and then, as he looked again, lo! her
head was encircled with a golden crown set with precious stones, each
jewel sparkling with light. And from heaven a white dove came gently
flying down, and rested on the child's head, while from its wings a soft
dew fell that quenched the flames.

And as the vision faded, the bishop bowed his head in his hands and
wept. The thought of what this child had dared to endure for her Master,
while he had shrunk from suffering aught for His sake, filled his heart
with shame. He could not stay there in safety while any of his people
might suffer as she had done.

So that night he returned to the city to help and comfort the few
remaining Christians. Before long he too was called upon to suffer death
for his Lord, and many others gave themselves up, led by the example of
little Faith.

Some say that even the rough soldiers were touched by the child's death,
and many became Christians. They began to think that such a religion was
worth living for, if it could teach even a child to die so bravely.

And so, though she lived such a short time on earth, she did a very
wonderful work for God, and we call her now Saint Faith, thinking often
of her as we read these words:

'A little child shall lead them.'


It is difficult sometimes to learn a great deal about the saints who
lived a very long time ago. So few people knew how to read or write in
those old days, and the only way they had of remembering and handing on
what was interesting was to tell it to their children; then these little
ones, when they were grown up, would repeat it again to other little
children, and so the stories were not forgotten.

But sometimes one thing would be left out and sometimes another, or
different people would add wonderful stories of their own, which would
become part of the true story. And so, when at last these histories come
to us, we find we have lost a great deal, and perhaps not gained very

The two saints, to whose story we are going to listen to-day, are of
this long-ago time, and the history of their lives has almost faded
from men's memories. But whoever happens to go to Florence, that city of
flowers, where the old Medici family has left its mark on every corner,
will see the portraits of our two saints wherever they go. For the old
painters loved to tell the saint-stories in their own beautiful way,
and to-day the little dark-eyed Italian children can read them without
books, for they are told more plainly and far more beautifully than in
any written story.

Cosmo and Damian were brothers, and were born in Arabia three hundred
years after Christ. When they were quite little boys their father died,
and they were left alone with their mother. She was a Christian, and
taught her boys, as soon as they were old enough to understand, that
though they had no earthly father, God was their Father in heaven.
She told them that the great King of Heaven and Earth called them His
children, and he who could do a mean or cruel act, or stain his honour
by an untruthful word, was not worthy to be called a King's son. And
because they were noble she taught them that they must do noble deeds,
bravely defend and protect the weak, and help those who could not help

So the boys grew up straight and strong in mind and body. Their
bitterest punishment was to feel that they had done anything unworthy
of their King, and although they often made mistakes and did wrong
thoughtlessly, they never went far astray since God's honour was their

Their mother was rich, for their father had had great possessions, but
there were so many poor and suffering people around their home that it
was almost impossible to help them all. So the boys learned early to
deny themselves in many ways, and often gave up their own dinner to
the starving poor. In that land there was a great deal of sickness and
suffering, and this was a great trouble to Cosmo and Damian. They could
not bear to see people in pain, and be unable to help them. They often
thought about this, and at last determined to learn all about medicine,
and become doctors, so that they might at least soften suffering when
they could not cure it.

After years of patient study they learned to be very clever doctors, and
their kind hearts and gentle hands soothed and comforted those who were
in pain, even when skill could do nothing for them.

They visited rich and poor alike, and would take no money for their
services, for they said it was payment enough to know they had been able
to make the worlds suffering a little less.

And it was not only people they cared for, but God's dumb creatures too.
If any animal was in pain, they would treat it as gently and carefully
as if it had been a human being. Indeed, they were perhaps even more
pitiful towards animals, for they said:

'People who can speak and complain of their ills are greatly to be
pitied, but these dumb creatures, made by our King, can only suffer in
silence, and surely their suffering will be required at our hands.'

It ever seemed strange to these great men that boys who would scorn to
ill-treat a younger child, or take mean advantage of a weak one, would
still think nothing of staining their honour by ill-treating an animal,
infinitely weaker and smaller, and less able to protect itself. It was
one of the few things that raised the wrath of these gentle doctor


Now it happened that a poor woman who had been ill for many years heard
of the fame of the two young doctors, and sent to implore them to come
to help her. She believed that though her illness seemed incurable these
good men might heal her.

Cosmo and Damian were touched by her faith, and they went at once, and
did for her all that their skill could devise, and, moreover, prayed
that God would bless their efforts.

To the wonder of all, the woman began to grow better, and very soon was
completely cured. In her great gratitude she offered all that she had
in payment to the two doctors, but they told her that they could take
nothing. Then she humbly offered them a little bag in which were three
eggs, praying them not to go away from her quite empty-handed. But Cosmo
turned and walked away and would not so much as even look at what she
offered, for it was a very strict rule with the brothers that they
should accept no payment or reward of any kind. Then the woman caught at
a fold of Damian's cloak as he also turned to go and begged him, for the
love of Christ, to take her little gift.

When Damian heard the name of his Master, he paused, and then took the
present and courteously thanked the poor woman.

But when Cosmo saw what Damian had done he was very wrathful, and that
night he refused to sleep with him, and said that henceforth they would
be no longer brothers.

But in the stillness of the night God came to Cosmo and said:

'My son, wherefore art thou so wrathful with thy brother?'

'Because he hath taken reward for our services,' said Cosmo, 'and Thou
knowest, Lord, that we receive no payment but from Thee.'

'But was it not in My name that he took the offering?' asked the voice.
'Because that poor woman gave it for love of Me, thy brother did well to
accept it.'

Then Cosmo awoke in great joy and hurried to the bedside of his brother,
and there begged his forgiveness for having misjudged him so sorely. And
so they were happy together once more, and ate the eggs right merrily.

In those days there were many pilgrims passing through Arabia, and
because the journey was hard and most of them were poor, they often fell
ill and came under the care of Cosmo and Damian. One night a poor man
was brought in, fainting and fever-stricken. He lay on the bed with his
thin, grey face pinched and worn with suffering, and the kind doctors
feared that he would die.

All night they sat by his bedside doing everything that their skill
could plan to ease his pain, and they only smiled when the poor man said
in his faint, low voice:

'Why do you take all this trouble for a poor pilgrim, who has nothing
wherewith to repay you?'

'We would not take thy payment if thou hadst all the riches in the
world,' answered the doctors, 'for we receive payment only from our

Then when the first pale light of dawn began to steal through the little
window, and the doctors anxiously watched the still form lying there,
they started with surprise. For the face seemed to change in an instant,
and instead of the bed of suffering they saw a cloud of glory; out of
the midst of which Christ's face, infinitely tender, looked upon them;
and His hands touched their heads in blessing as He said:

'All the riches of the world are indeed mine though I seemed but a poor
pilgrim. I was sick and ye visited me, and surely shall ye receive
payment from your King.'

Then Cosmo and Damian knelt in worship and thanked their Lord that they
had been counted worthy to minister to His need.

But soon the fame of Cosmo and Damian began to be spread abroad, and the
wicked Proconsul of Arabia heard about their good deeds. As soon as he
knew they were Christians, and helped the poor and suffering, he was
filled with rage, and sent and ordered that the two brothers should be
cast alive into the sea.

Immediately Cosmo and Damian were seized and led up to the steep cliffs,
and the guards bound them hand and foot. Not a complaint escaped their
lips, not a sign of fear, as the soldiers raised them on high and flung
them over into the cruel sea, far below. But as the crowd above watched
to see them sink, a great fear and amazement seized the soldiers, for
from the calm blue sea they beheld the brothers rise slowly and walk
towards the shore, led by an angel who guided them with loving care until
they were safe on land.

In a greater rage than ever, the Proconsul ordered that a great fire
should be made and that the brothers should be cast into the midst of
it and burnt to death.

But though the fire roared and blazed before Cosmo and Damian were
cast in; as soon as it touched them it died down and nothing could make
it burn again. It seemed as if God's good gifts refused to injure His

After that they were bound to two crosses and the soldiers were ordered
to stone them. But the stones did no harm to those two patient figures,
but instead fell backwards and injured the men who threw them.

Then every one cried out that they were enchanters, and it was ordered
that to make sure of their death they should be beheaded.

So the work of the two saint doctors was finished on earth, but for many
years afterwards those who were ill would pray to these saints for their

There is a legend which tells how a poor man in Rome had a leg which the
doctors feared would cause his death. So he prayed to Saint Cosmo and
Saint Damian and asked them to help him in his need. And that night when
he was asleep, he saw the doctor saints standing at his bedside in their
red robes and caps trimmed with fur. One held a knife and the other a
pot of ointment.

'What shall we do to replace this leg when we have cut it off?' asked
Saint Cosmo.


'A black man has just died and been buried near here,' answered Saint
Damian. 'He no longer needs his legs, so let us take one of them and put
it on instead.'

So they cut off the bad leg and fetched the leg of the black man, and
with the ointment joined it on to the living man.

And when he awoke he believed he must have dreamt about the visit
of the saints, but when he looked at his leg, behold! it was black and
perfectly sound and well. Then they sent and searched for the black
body, and on it they found a white leg. So the man knew that the doctor
saints had heard his prayers, and had come to cure him.

That is one of the wonderful stories which have grown up round the names
of Saint Cosmo and Saint Damian.

While we cannot tell if these things really happened, this we do surely
know to be true, that these two brothers, who lived in an age when men
were cruel and selfish, spent their whole lives in trying to help those
who suffered pain, and then went bravely to death in the service of
their King. And though we know but little about them, they have left us
an example of patient kindliness and helpfulness; and they teach us that
as servants of their King we also are bound in honour to protect the
weak and help those who suffer, whether they are people like ourselves
or God's dumb creatures.


It was a cold winter's day in the city of Amiens, and the wind swept
along the great Roman road outside the city gates with such an icy blast
that the few people who were out of doors wrapped themselves closer in
their cloaks, and longed for their sheltering homes and warm firesides.

But there was one poor old man who had no cloak to wrap around him, and
no fireside of which to dream. He shivered as the searching wind came
sweeping past him, and his half-blind eyes looked eagerly up and down
the road to see if any one was coming who might help him in his need.
One by one the people hurried past and paid no heed to the beggar's
outstretched hand. It was much too cold to stop or to think of giving
help, and not even a beggar could expect it on such a day as this. So
they left the poor old man hungry and cold and homeless.

Then a young soldier came riding past, but the beggar scarcely thought
of asking alms of him, for the Roman soldiers were not the kind of men
to trouble themselves about the poor and suffering.

The old man closed his eyes, weary and hopeless, for it seemed as if
there was none to help nor pity him. Then in a moment he felt a warm
cloak thrown around his shoulders, and in his ears sounded a kind voice
which bade him wrap it close around him to keep out the cold.

Half bewildered the beggar looked up, and saw the young soldier bending
over him. He had dismounted from his horse and held a sword in his hand,
with which he had just cut his own cloak in half, that he might share it
with the shivering old man.

The passers-by laughed and hurried on, but the soldier did not care if
they mocked him, for he was quite happy to think he had helped one who
needed help so sorely.

The name of this young soldier was Martin, and he served in the Roman
army with his father, who was a famous general. Most of Martin's
fellow-soldiers were pagans, but he was a Christian, and served the
emperor well, because he served Christ first.

The very night after Martin had divided his cloak with the beggar he
had a dream, in which he saw his Master, Christ, among the holy angels,
wearing the half cloak which Martin had given away that afternoon.
And as he looked, he heard Christ's voice speaking to the angels, and

'Know ye who hath clothed Me with this cloak? My servant Martin, who is
yet unbaptized, hath done this.'

Then Martin awoke, and he did not rest until Christ's seal of baptism
was set upon his brow, and he felt that he had enlisted truly in God's

Now Martin knew that to be God's servant meant doing everything day
by day as well as it could be done, and serving his earthly master as
faithfully and diligently as he tried to serve his heavenly commander.
So it came to pass that for all the fourteen years he served in the
emperor's army, he was known as the best and bravest soldier, and one
who had never failed to do his duty.

But as he began to grow old, he longed to serve God in other ways, and
so he went to the emperor and asked for permission to leave the army.

There was war going on just then, for Rome was ever fighting with the
barbarians who came up against her, and the emperor was very angry when
he heard Martin's request.

'You seek to leave the army because you fear to fight,' he said
scornfully to Martin, who stood silently before him. 'A Roman soldier
should scorn to be a coward.'

'I am no coward,' answered Martin and he met with unflinching look the
angry gaze of the emperor. 'Place me alone in the front of the battle,
with no weapon but the cross alone, and I shall not fear to meet the
enemy single-handed and unarmed.'

'Well said,' answered the emperor quickly; 'we will take thee at thy
word. To-morrow thou shalt stand defenceless before the enemy, and so
shall we judge of thy boasted courage.'

Then the emperor ordered his guards to watch Martin that night lest he
should try to escape before the trial could be made. But Martin had
no thought of escape, and was ready and eager to do as he had said.

Meanwhile, however, the enemy began to fear that they had no chance
against the Roman army; and very early in the morning, they sent
messengers to ask for peace, offering to give themselves up to the
mercy of the emperor.

So Martin was set at liberty, and no one doubted his courage and
faithfulness; since they believed that his faith in God had brought
peace, and given them the victory over their enemies.

Soon after this Martin was allowed to leave the army, and he journeyed
from place to place telling those who had never heard it before the good
news of Jesus Christ.

In those days it was dangerous to go among the mountains unarmed, for
robbers and brigands made their home there, and would swoop down on
unsuspecting travellers and rob or murder them.

But Martin took no companions with him, and with no weapon but the
cross, he climbed the mountain roads defenceless and alone.

One day, as he journeyed, a company of brigands appeared suddenly, as
if they had started out of the rocks. They seized him roughly, and one
of them aimed a blow at his head with an axe. But before the blow could
fall, another robber turned the axe aside and claimed Martin as his
prisoner. Then they tied his hands behind him and bound him fast, while
they made up their minds which would be the best way to kill him.

But Martin sat calm and untroubled, and seemed to have no fear of these
terrible men.

'What is thy name, and who art thou?' asked the brigand who had claimed
Martin as his prisoner.

'I am a Christian,' answered Martin simply.

'And art thou not afraid of the tortures which await thee, that thou
dost seem so calm and fearless?' asked the robber, wondering at the
peaceful look upon the prisoner's face.

'I fear nothing that thou canst do to me,' answered Martin, 'for I am a
servant of the great King, and He will defend His own. But I do indeed
grieve for thee, because thou livest by robbery and violence, and art
therefore unworthy of the mercy of my Lord.'

The astonished robber asked him what he meant, and who this great King
was whom he served; so Martin told him the whole story of God's love,
and of the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

No words so wonderful had ever been spoken to this brigand before, and
as he listened he believed that what Martin said was true. The first
thing he did was to cut the rope which bound his prisoner's hands and to
set him free; and after that he led him in safety through the mountain
passes, until he reached a road that led to the plains below.

Here they parted, and the brigand knelt and asked Martin to pray for
him that he might lead a new life. So there was one less robber on that
lonely road, and one more Christian fighting the battles of the Lord.

Although Martin loved to dwell in lonely places, he was always ready to
go where he was most needed, and so a great part of his life was spent
in busy towns. When he was made Bishop of Tours and could no longer live
in the solitude he loved, still he strove to be the best bishop it was
possible to become, just as when he was a soldier he tried to be as good
a soldier as he knew how to be.

Now Martin was growing an old man, yet he was very little changed since
that long ago day when he divided his cloak with the poor beggar outside
the gates of Amiens. It is said that one day when he was serving at
the altar, in all his beautiful bishop's robes, he saw a ragged beggar
standing near shivering with cold. At first he bade his deacon give
him clothing, but the deacon was too slow to please the kind heart of
the bishop, and so he went himself and took off his gold-embroidered
vestment and put it tenderly round the shoulders of the beggar. Then
as the service went on, and the bishop held up the holy chalice, the
kneeling crowd saw with wonder that angels were hovering round and were
hanging chains of gold upon the upraised arms to cover them, because the
robe Martin had given to the beggar had left them bare.

Now the Evil One looked with great mistrust and disfavour upon Martin,
for the good bishop won more souls by his love and gentleness than the
Evil One cared to lose. All the preaching and sternness of other good
men were not half so dangerous to the plans of the Evil One as the pity
and kindness of Martin. So one day the Evil One met Martin and began to
mock at him.

'Thy faith is beautiful indeed,' he said scornfully; 'but how long do
thy sinners remain saints? They have but to pretend a little sorrow for
their sins, and lo! in thy eyes they are immediately saved.'

'Oh, poor, miserable Spirit that thou art!' answered Martin. 'Dost thou
not know that our Saviour refuses none who turn to Him? Even thou, if
thou wouldst but repent, might find mercy with my Lord.'

The Evil One did not stop to answer the bishop, but disappeared with
great swiftness. Later on he returned, as we shall see.

The fame of Martin's life spread far and near, and the rich as well as
the poor did him honour. The emperor and empress invited him over and
over again to come to their court, but Martin steadily refused, for he
loved best to work among the poor.

A time came, however, when he saw that he might do great good if he
could persuade the emperor to cease from persecuting the Christians; and
so at last he agreed to attend a banquet at the palace and to be the
emperor's guest.

Everything was as gorgeous and splendid as possible, for the emperor
wished to do honour to the bishop, who was the one man who dared to
speak truly to him and not to flatter him with mere words.

But Martin scarcely seemed to notice all the grandeur and brilliance
of the entertainment. And when, at the banquet, the emperor took the
wine-cup and passed it to his guest, expecting him to bless it and
respectfully hand it back, Martin turned quietly round instead, and
passed the jewelled cup to a poor priest who stood behind. This he did
to show the astonished emperor that in his eyes the poorest of God's
servants was to be considered before the greatest ruler upon earth.

It was not long after this that the Evil One again visited Martin.
But this time he disguised himself that he might not be known.

It was evening and Martin was praying in his cell, when a bright light
filled the place, and in the midst of the light he saw a figure clad in
royal robes and with a crown of gold and jewels upon his head. His face
was shining and beautiful, so that no one could have guessed he was the
Evil One. Martin could only gaze upon him in dazzled silence, for his
shining beauty was beyond all words.

Then the Evil One spoke, and the sound of his voice was like music.

'Martin,' he said, 'dost thou not see that I am Christ? I have come
again upon earth, and it is to thee that I have first showed myself.'

But Martin still gazed silently at him and answered nothing.

'Martin,' said the Evil One again, 'why dost thou not believe? Canst
thou not see that I am Christ?'

Then Martin answered slowly:

'It seemeth strange to me that my Lord should come in glittering
clothing and a golden crown. Unless thou canst show the marks of the
nails and spear, I cannot believe that thou art He.'

At these words, with a horrible thunder-clap, the Evil One disappeared,
and Martin saw him no more.

Years passed, and Martin lived a long and useful life; but he was
growing weary now, and when God's call came, he gladly prepared to enter
into his rest, and to leave the world where he had laboured so long and

The night that Martin died he was seen in a vision by one of his friends
who loved him more than all the rest. The saint's robe was shining white
and his eyes were like stars and, as the friend knelt and worshipped, he
felt a soft touch upon his head and heard a voice that blessed him ere
the vision faded.

And so Martin finished his earthly work, and went to hear from his
Master's lips the gracious words: 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'


Every nation has its own patron saint whom the people love to honour,
and who is looked upon not only as their protector in war and peace, but
as a model of all that is best and highest and most worthy to be copied
in their own lives.

Ever since the days of the Crusades, when our lion-hearted King Richard
went to fight the infidels in the Holy Land, the special saint whom
England has delighted to honour has been Saint George. 'For Saint George
and Merrie England' rang out the old battle-cry; and the greatest honour
which our kings can bestow--the Order of the Garter--is really the Order
of Saint George, and bears upon it the picture of his great adventure.
And when you have heard the story of Saint George you will not wonder
that England took him for her special saint, and as an example for all
her sons to follow.

Saint George was born far away in Cappadocia, in the year 303 A.D. His
father and mother were nobles of that country and were also Christians,
although they lived under the rule of the heathen Emperor Diocletian.

Saint George's father, who was a soldier, was often away in the service
of the emperor. So it was the mother who had most to do with the care
and training of their only son. It must have been, then, from her that
the boy learned that gentle reverence towards all women, which made him
their protector and champion all his life.

When he was seventeen, he too became a soldier like his father, and
the shining sword, which he then buckled on, was kept all his life as
stainless as his honour. He never drew it in a wrong cause, but held it
as a trust given to him to defend the right and protect the weak and

Now in the same country there was a city called Selem, whose people had
once been as happy and prosperous as any in the land, but which was now
the most miserable spot in all the world.

The city itself was beautiful with splendid palaces and gay gardens,
and the king who ruled there was wise and good. But outside the city
wall stretched a grey, sullen-looking lake, half marsh and half stagnant
water, and in this gloomy bog there lived a dreadful monster called a
dragon. No one knew exactly what he was like, for those who were so
unfortunate as to have been near enough to see him plainly had been
killed by his fiery breath, which came rolling out from his great
yawning throat. He did not seem to walk nor to fly, although he had
what looked like wings and huge flat feet, but always moved along with
a crawling motion most horribly swift.

Nothing was safe from this terrible monster. One by one the sheep and
oxen belonging to the city were devoured by him, and when the people
had no more food to give him, he crawled towards the city, and his
dreadful fiery breath warned them that he was coming closer and that
they would soon be carried off, one by one, and devoured.

In their despair and terror, the king and all the people agreed to cast
lots each day; and it was settled that the one on whom the lot fell
should be put outside the gates to feed the monster, so that the rest
might live in safety. This was done for many days, and the grief and
suffering in that city was terrible to behold. But the darkest day of
all was when the lot fell upon Cleodolinda, the king's only daughter.
She was very beautiful, and the king loved her more than all else
beside, so in his anguish he called his people together, and in a
trembling voice, his grey head bowed with grief, he spoke to them:

'She is my only child--I cannot give her up. Take rather all my gold and
jewels, even the half of my kingdom; only spare my daughter, the one
treasure of my heart.'

But the people were very angry, and would not listen to the king, for
they too had lost their children, and it made them savage and cruel.

'We will not spare the princess,' they growled in low threatening tones;
'we have given up our own children, and why shouldst thou withhold
thine? Didst thou not agree with us to cast the lots? Why shouldst thou
make one law for us and another for thyself?'

And they threatened to burn down the palace and kill both the king and
Cleodolinda if she was not given up to them at once.

Then the king saw there was no hope of deliverance, and he promised that
in eight days the princess should be ready for the sacrifice. Those
were eight sad days at the palace, for all was dark and hopeless there,
and the only person who did not give way to despair was the Princess
Cleodolinda herself. She spent her time trying to comfort her father,
and told him she had no fear, but rather that she was glad to think she
was to die to save his people.

So the fatal day arrived when the monster was to be fed, and the
princess came out to meet the crowd stately and calm, dressed in her
royal robes as befitted a king's daughter. And when she bade farewell to
her father, she went forth alone, and the gates of the city were shut
behind her.

Now it happened that at the very time that Cleodolinda went out to meet
the dragon, and just as she heard the city gates clang heavily behind
her, Saint George came riding past on his way to join his soldiers.
His shining armour and great spear were the only bright things in
that gloomy place; but the princess did not see him, for her eyes were
blinded with tears, and even when he galloped up close to her she did
not hear him, for the ground was soft and marshy, and his horse's hoofs
made scarcely a sound as he rode past.

Slowly the princess walked along the desolate way towards the sullen
grey lake, where the monster was waiting for his meal. The path was
strewn with bones, and no grass grew for miles around, for the fiery
blast of the dragon's breath withered everything it passed over.
Cleodolinda never dreamed that help was near, and started in amazement
when she heard a kind voice speaking to her, and looking up, saw through
her tears a young knight on horseback, gazing at her with pitying eyes.
She thought that he had the handsomest, kindest face she had ever seen,
and the gentlest and most courteous manner, as he leaned towards her,
and asked her why she wept, and wherefore she was wandering alone in
this dismal place.

Cleodolinda told him in a few words the whole sad story, and pointed
with trembling hand towards the distant marsh, where already a dark form
might be seen crawling slowly out of the grey water.

'See, there he comes!' she cried, in sudden terror. 'Ride fast, kind
knight, and escape while there is time, for if the monster finds thee
here, he will kill thee.'

'And dost thou think I would ride off in safety, and leave thee to
perish?' asked Saint George.

'Thou canst do nothing,' answered the princess, wringing her hands; 'for
nought can prevail against this terrible dragon. Thou wilt but perish
needlessly in trying to save me, so, I pray thee, fly while there is

'God forbid that I should act in so cowardly a manner,' answered Saint
George. 'I will fight this hideous creature, and, by God's help and the
strength of my good sword, I will conquer him and deliver thee.'

And while he was still speaking, the air was filled with a horrible
choking smoke, and the dragon came swiftly towards them, half-crawling
and half-flying, his eyes gleaming, and his mouth opened wide to devour

With a swift prayer for help, Saint George made the sign of the cross,
and grasping his great spear firmly, spurred his horse and rode straight
at the monster. The combat was a long and terrible one, and the princess,
as she watched from behind a sheltering tree, trembled for the safety
of the brave knight, and gave up all for lost.

But at last Saint George made a swift forward rush, and drove his spear
right down the great throat of the monster, and out at the back of his
head, pinning him securely to the ground. Then he called to the princess
to give him her girdle, and this he tied to each end of the spear, so
that it seemed like a great bridle, and with it Cleodolinda led the
vanquished dragon back towards the city.

Inside the city gates all the people had been weeping and wailing over
the fate of the princess, which they feared might any day be their own,
and they dared not look out or open the gates until the monster had
had time to carry off his victim. So their terror and dismay was great
indeed when the news spread like wildfire that some one had seen the
great monster come crawling towards the town, instead of returning to
his home in the dismal swamp.


They all crowded, trembling with fear, around the watch-tower upon the
walls, to see if the dragon was really on his way to attack the city;
and when they saw the great dark mass moving slowly towards them they
thought that the end was come, for they could not see Saint George nor
the princess, and did not know that she was leading the dragon a
vanquished prisoner.

So it was all in vain for a long time that Saint George thundered at
the city gates, and demanded that they should be opened. Even when the
people saw that the princess was safe and that a knight was with her,
while the monster lay quiet at their feet as if half-dead, they still
hesitated to open the gates, so great was their terror and astonishment.

But when they were quite sure that the dragon was bound and could do
them no harm, they threw open the gates, and every one crowded to see
the wonderful sight, still half-doubting if it could be true, and
looking with fear upon the great beast which the princess led by her
girdle fastened to the spear of Saint George.

Then the king came in haste from his palace to meet his daughter, and
never was a morning of sorrow turned into such a day of joy.

Saint George and the Princess Cleodolinda led the dragon into the
market-place, followed by the wondering crowd; and there Saint George
drew his sword and cut off the head of the hideous monster. Then were
the people sure that they were indeed delivered from their great enemy
for ever, and they burst forth into wild rejoicings. They would have
given all they possessed to Saint George in their joy and gratitude;
but he told them that the only reward he desired was that they should
believe in the true God, and be baptized Christians. It was not difficult
to believe in the God who had helped Saint George to do this great deed,
and very soon the king and the princess and all the people were baptized
as Saint George desired.

Then the king presented the brave knight with great treasures of gold
and jewels, but all these Saint George gave to the poor and went his
way; keeping nought for himself but his own good sword and spear, ready
to defend the right and protect the weak as he had served the princess
in her need.

But when he returned to his own city he found that the emperor had
written a proclamation against the Christians, and it was put up in all
the market-places and upon the doors of the temples, and all who were
Christians were hiding in terror, and dared not show themselves openly.

Then Saint George was filled with righteous anger, and tore down the
proclamations in all the public places, and trampled them under foot. He
was seized immediately by the guards and carried before the proconsul,
who ordered him to be tortured and then put to death.

But nothing could shake the courage of this brave knight, and through
all the tortures he bore himself as a gallant Christian should, and met
his death with such bravery and calm joy that even his enemies were
amazed at his courage.

And so through the many dark ages that followed, when the weak were
oppressed and women needed a knight's strong arm to protect them, men
remembered Saint George, and the very thought of him nerved their arms
and made their courage firm. And boys learned from him that it was a
knightly thing to protect the weak, and to guard all maidens from harm;
and that a pure heart, a firm trust in good and true courage could meet
and overcome any monster, however terrible and strong.

And of all nations it befits us most that our men and boys should be
brave and courteous; for Saint George is our own patron saint, the model
of all that an English knight should be.


In the sunny land of Italy, high upon hills covered with olive-trees,
nestles the little town of Assisi. Such a strange little town it is,
with its tall city walls and great gateways, its narrow, steep streets,
and houses with wide, overhanging eaves. The road that leads up from
the plain below is so steep, as it winds upwards among the silver
olive-trees, that even the big white oxen find it a toil to drag the
carts up to the city gates, and the people think it quite a journey
to go down to the level land below.

Now, it was in this same little hill-town, many years ago, that Saint
Francis was born.

They did not know that he was going to be a great saint--this little,
dark-eyed Italian baby, who came to gladden his mother's heart one
autumn day in the long ago year of 1182, when his father, Pietro
Bernardone, was away in France. He seemed just like any other baby, and
only his mother, perhaps, thought him the most wonderful baby that ever
was born. (But mothers always think that, even if their babies do not
grow up to be real saints.) She called him Giovanni at first, but when
his father came home he named the little son Francesco, which means
'the Frenchman,' because he was so pleased with all the money he had
made in France. So the child from that day was always called Francesco,
which is his real Italian name, although we in England call him Francis.

Soon he grew into a happy, daring boy, the leader in all the games and
every kind of fun. He was the pride of his father and mother, and the
favourite of the whole town; for although he was never out of mischief,
he never did a cruel or unkind thing, and was ever ready to give away
all he had to those who needed help.

And when he grew older he was still the gayest of all the young men
of Assisi, and wore the costliest and most beautiful clothes, for his
father had a great deal of money and grudged him nothing.

Then came a sad day when Francis fell sick, and for a while they feared
that he must die. But, although he grew slowly better, he was never
quite the same Francis again. He did not care about his gay companions,
or the old happy life. There was real work to be done in the world, he
was sure. Perhaps some special work was waiting for his hand, and with
wistful eyes he was ever looking for a sign that would show him what
that work was to be.

Walking one day along the winding road, dreaming dreams as he gazed far
across the misty plains, catching glimpses of far-away blue mountains
through the silver screen of the olive-trees, he was stopped by a poor
old beggar, who asked him for the love of God to help him.

Francis started from his day-dreams, and recognised the man as an old
soldier who had fought for his country with courage and honour.

Without stopping to think for a moment, Francis took off his gay cloak
and tenderly wrapped it round the shoulders of the shivering old man.

He never thought that any reward would be given him for his kind action,
but that very night Christ came to him in a glorious vision, and,
leading him by the hand, showed him a great palace full of shining
weapons and flags of victory, each one marked with the sign of the
cross. Then, as Francis stood gazing at these wonderful things, he heard
the voice of Christ telling him that these were the rewards laid up for
those who should be Christ's faithful soldiers, fighting manfully under
His banner.

With a great joy in his heart Francis awoke, and hurriedly left home to
join the army, thinking only of earthly service, and longing to win the
heavenly reward.

But in the quiet night he heard again the voice of Christ telling him
that the service he was seeking was not what Christ required of his

Troubled and sad, Francis went back to Assisi and, when he was once more
inside the city walls, turned aside to pray in the little ruined church
of Saint Damiano. And as he prayed once more he heard the voice speaking
to him, and saying, 'Francis, repair my church.'

Now, Francis thought this meant that he was to build up the ruined walls
of the little church in which he prayed. He did not understand that the
command was that he should teach the people, who make up Christ's Church
on earth, to be pure and good and strong.

Francis was only too glad to find that here at last was some real work
to be done, and never stopping to think if he was doing right, he went
joyfully home and took some of the richest stuffs which his father had
for sale. These he carried off to the market, and sold them for quite a
large sum of money. Then, returning to the little church, he gave the
money to the old priest, telling him to rebuild the walls and to make
the whole place beautiful.

But the priest refused to accept the money, for he was afraid that
Francis had done wrong in taking the stuffs, and that his father would
be angry.

This was a great disappointment to Francis, and made him think that
perhaps he had been too hasty. He was afraid to go home and tell what
he had done, so he hid himself for some days. But at last, tired and
hungry, with his gay clothes stained with dust, he slowly walked back
to his father's house.

And very angry, indeed, was Pietro Bernardone when he found out what his
son had done. He did not mind giving Francis money for fine clothes or
pleasures of any kind, and he had allowed him to be as extravagant as he
liked. But to want money to build up an old church, or to spend in doing
good, that was not to be thought of for a moment.

Out he came in a furious rage and drove Francis indoors, and there shut
him up in a dark cellar, bound hand and foot, so that he could not escape.

But though his father was so angry, his mother could not bear to see her
son suffer, whether he deserved it or not. So she stole down when no
one was there, and, unlocking the cellar door, she spoke gently to poor
Francis, and listened to all his story. Then she took off his chains and
set him free, telling him to go quickly before any one should see him.

Francis had no place to shelter in but the little ruined church, and no
friend who would receive him but the poor old priest, so back he went to
Saint Damiano, leaving parents and home and comforts behind him.

His father, of course, was terribly angry when he found that Francis had
escaped, and he went at once to complain to the bishop, and demand that
Francis should be punished and made to give back the money he had taken.

The bishop spoke kindly to Francis, who promised gladly to give back
the money which had brought him so much trouble. And there, in the
market-place, with all the people looking on, he took off his costly
clothes, now all stained and worn, and standing pale and thin, wearing
only a hair shirt, he gave clothes and money back to his angry father,

'Listen, all of you. Until this time I have called Pietro Bernardone
father, but from this moment I will say no more "my father Pietro
Bernardone," but only "my Father which art in Heaven."'

Then the good bishop came quickly up and wrapped his mantle round the
poor shivering lad, and gave him his blessing, bidding him henceforth
be a true servant of God. A poor labourer gave Francis his rough brown
tunic, and the people were moved with pity and would have helped him,
for they thought he had been treated very harshly.

But Francis wandered away alone into the world, seeking to do all the
things he had most disliked doing, even at one time nursing the poor
lepers, and begging his bread from door to door.

Soon, however, he made his way back to Assisi, and to the little ruined
church; and began building up the walls with his own hands, carrying the
stones on his shoulders, happy and contented to be doing work for God.

And the more he thought of his past life and the wasteful splendour in
which he had lived, the more he came to see that to be poor for Christ's
sake was best of all.

'If Christ chose to become poor for our sakes,' thought he, 'surely it
is but right that we should choose to become poor for His dear sake.'

It seemed to Francis that no one had really loved poverty since the days
when our blessed Lord had lived amongst the poor on earth. And he began
to think of poverty as a beautiful lady who had been despised and
ill-treated all these long years, with no one to take her part or see
any charm in her fair face.

For himself he made up his mind to love her with all his heart, to be as
poor as his Master had been, and to possess nothing here on earth.

Even his coarse brown habit had been given to him in charity, and instead
of a belt he tied round his waist a piece of rope which he found by the
wayside. He wore no shoes nor stockings, but went barefoot, and had no
covering for his head. And being so truly poor was the greatest joy to
him. He thought the Lady Poverty was a fairer bride than any on earth,
though her clothes were ragged and her pathway lined with thorns. For
along that thorny path she led him closer to his Master, and taught him
to tread more nearly in His footsteps than most of His servants have
ever trod.

One day when Francis was reading the gospel, Christ's call seemed to
sound in his ears just as it did to Saint Matthew of old. He had often
read the words before, but that day they had a new message for him: 'As
ye go, preach, saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Provide neither
gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, neither two coats, neither
shoes nor yet staves.'

Then he knew that Christ did not want him only to be good, but to teach
others how to be good, and to look after Christ's poor and sick, always
remaining poor and lowly himself. And as soon as he heard the call he
rose up, left all, and followed his Master to his life's end.

Very soon other men joined Francis, eager to serve Christ as he did.
They all dressed just as Francis dressed, and became quite as poor as he
was. Their home was in the plain below Assisi, by the little chapel of
Saint Mary of the Angels, which had been given to the brothers. But it
was not often that they were there all together, for Francis sent them
out to preach to all the world just as the gospel commanded.

In spite of their poverty the 'Little Poor Brothers,' as they were
called, were a happy, cheerful little company. Francis had just the same
gay nature and ready smile as when he was a boy in Assisi, and though he
might have to go long solitary journeys on foot, sleeping in caves or in
woods, hungry and footsore, he was never sad nor lonely. He seemed to
love everything that God had made, and all the animals and birds were
his special friends. They were never frightened of him, and when he
walked in the woods the birds would come and perch on his shoulder and
sing their good-morning to him.

And sometimes Francis would stand still and let them all come round him,
and would preach a little sermon to them, telling them how they ought to
praise God for His goodness.

'Little sisters' he always called them, and it is said they would listen
quietly while he spoke, and then when he gave them his blessing, they
would rise up to heaven singing their hymn of praise, just as if they
had really understood their little service.

Once when Francis and some of the brothers were returning home, they
heard a great number of birds singing among the bushes. And when Francis
saw them he said to his companions--

'Our sisters, the birds, are praising their Maker. Let us go into their
midst and sing our service too.'

The birds were not in the least disturbed, but continued their chirping
and twittering, so that the brothers could not hear their own voices.
Then Francis turned to the birds and said--

'Little sisters, cease your song until we have given God our praise.'
And they at once were quiet, and did not begin to sing again until the
service was over.

And it was not only the birds that loved him, but every kind of creature
came to him for comfort and shelter.

Now this is a story which was told about Francis after he was dead, when
people tried to remember all the wonderful things that he had done, and
perhaps made them a little more wonderful, out of love of Saint Francis.

Once when the saint was living in the city of Agolio a terribly fierce
wolf began to prowl about the town. He carried off everything eatable he
could find, and grew so bold that he even seized the children and made
off to his mountain den with them. The whole town was terrified, and
people scarcely dared go out of doors for fear of meeting the terrible
wolf. And though the men hunted him, he always escaped and came prowling
down at nightfall again.

When Saint Francis heard this he said--

'I will go out and meet this wolf, and ask him what he means.'

'He will kill you,' cried all the people, and they tried to persuade him
not to go.

But Saint Francis set out, taking some of the brothers with him. They
went bravely along for a short way, and then the brothers turned back
afraid and ran home, leaving Saint Francis alone. And presently he heard
a deep growling and the sound of a terrible rush, and the great wolf,
with blazing eyes and open mouth, came bounding towards him. But as he
came nearer Saint Francis went forward to meet him, and making the sign
of the cross, he said: 'Come hither, brother wolf. I command thee in the
name of Christ that thou do no more harm to me nor to any one.'


And then a wonderful thing happened; for, as soon as the wolf heard the
saint's voice, he stopped, and then came gently forward, and lay like
a lamb at St. Francis's feet. Then Saint Francis talked quietly to him,
and told him he deserved to be punished for all the evil he had done,
but if he would promise to kill and plunder no more, the people of
Agolio would promise on their side to give him food every day. And the
wolf rubbed his head against Saint Francis's habit and gently laid his
paw in the saint's hand. And always after that the good people of Agolio
used to put out food for the wolf, and he grew so good and tame that he
went quietly from door to door, and never did harm to any one again.

Whether all this really happened we do not know; but one thing we are
certain of, and that is, that Francis loved all living creatures, and
they seemed to know it and to love him too.

It was not long before the little band of brothers grew into quite a
large company, and Francis went to Rome to ask the Pope, the head of the
Church, to give them his blessing, and his permission to live together
under their rule of poverty. All the world was astonished at this
strange man, in his coarse brown robe, who preached to them that riches
were not worth having, and that the greatest happiness was to be good
and pure.

At first the Pope would have nothing to do with him. But one night he
had a dream, and in his dream he saw a church leaning on one side, and
almost falling. And the only thing that kept it from falling quite over
was a poor man, barefooted and dressed in a coarse brown robe, who had
his shoulder against it and was holding it up.

Then the Pope knew that God had sent the dream to him, and that Francis
was going to be a great helper in the Church. So next day he called for
Francis and granted him all that he asked, and took the Little Poor
Brothers under his protection.

Soon the company grew larger and larger, and Francis sent them all over
the country, preaching and teaching men that they should deny themselves
and love poverty rather than riches.

Still they always kept the little home at Saint Mary of the Angels, and
the brothers returned there after their preaching was ended.

The convent was built close to a wood, and this wood was the place
Francis loved best. For he could be quite alone there, to pray and
meditate, with no one to disturb his thoughts. And often, when all the
other brothers were asleep, he would steal quietly out and kneel for
hours under the silent trees, alone with God.

Now there was a little boy at the convent who loved Francis very much,
and wanted to know all that he did, that he might learn to grow like
him. Especially he wondered why Francis went alone into the dark wood,
but he was too sleepy to keep awake to see. It was a very poor convent,
and all the brothers slept on mats on the floor, for they had not
separate cells. At last one night the boy crept close to the side of
Francis, and spread his mat quite close to his master's, and in case he
should not wake he tied his little cord to the cord which Francis wore
round his waist. Then he lay down happily and went to sleep.

By and by when every one was asleep, Francis got up as usual to pray.
But he noticed the cord and gently untied it, so that the boy slept on
undisturbed. Presently, however, the child awoke, and finding his cord
loose and his master gone, he got up and followed him into the wood,
treading very softly with his bare feet that he might disturb nobody.

It was very dark, and he had to feel his way among the trees; but
presently a bright light shone out, and as he stole nearer he saw a
wonderful sight. His master was kneeling there, and with him was the
Blessed Virgin, holding our dear Lord in her arms, and many saints were
there as well. And over all was a great cloud of the holy angels. The
vision and the glorious brightness almost blinded the child, and he fell
down as if he were dead.

Now when Francis was returning home he stumbled over the little body
lying there, and guessing what had happened he stooped down and tenderly
lifted him up, and carried him in his arms, as the Good Shepherd carries
His lambs. Then the child felt his master's arms round him, and was
comforted, and told him of the vision and how it had frightened him.
In return Francis bade him tell no one what he had seen as long as his
master was alive. So the old story tells us that the child grew up to
be a good man and was one of the holiest of the Little Poor Brothers,
because he always tried to grow like his master. Only after Francis died
did he tell the story of the glorious vision which he had seen that
night in the dark wood, at the time when no one knew what a great saint
his master was.

As time went on, Francis grew anxious to do more than preach at home;
for Christ's message to him had been 'Go ye into all the world.' He had
set out many times, but always something had prevented him from getting
far, until at last he succeeded in reaching the land of the Saracens
where the Crusaders were fighting. His great hope was that he might see
the Sultan and teach him about Christ, so that all his people might
become Christians. He had no fear at all, and when every one warned him
that he would certainly be put to death, he said that would be a small
matter if only he could teach the heathen about God.

But although the Sultan received Francis, and listened to all he had to
say, he only shook his head and refused to believe without a sign.

Then Francis grew more and more eager to convince him, and asked that a
great fire should be made, and that he and the heathen priests should
pass through it, saying that whoever came out unharmed should be held to
be the servant of the true God. But the heathen priests all refused to
do this, and so poor Francis had to return home, having, he feared, done
no good, but hoping the good might follow afterwards.

These weary journeys and all the toil and hardship of his daily life
began to make Francis weak and ill. Many things troubled him too; for
the brothers did not love poverty as he did, and they began to make new
rules and to forget what he had taught them. But in the midst of all
trouble, he remained the same humble servant of Christ, always thinking
of new ways to serve his Master.


There was no time Francis loved so much as Christmas. He loved to feel
that all living things were happy on that day. He used to say that he
wished that all governors and lords of the town and country might be
obliged to scatter corn over the roads and fields, so that 'our sisters
the larks,' and all the birds might feast as well. And because the ox
and the ass shared the stable with the Holy Child, he thought they
should be provided with more than ordinary food each Christmas Eve.

He wished every one to remember how poor and lowly our Lord was on that
night when He came as a little child; and so on Christmas Eve he made a
stable in the chapel, and brought in an ox and an ass and a tiny crib
and manger. In the manger he placed the figure of a baby to represent
the infant Christ, and there in the early hours of the Christmas
morning, he chanted the gospel at the first Christmas Mass.

It was in the spring of the year that Francis first went to the
hermitage among the mountains, which he loved better than any other
place. It was a small hut high among the Apennines, among crags and
rocks far away from any other place. Here he could wander about the
woods, which were carpeted with spring flowers, and hear his little
sisters the birds singing all day long.

And here one day, as he knelt thinking of all his dear Lord had
suffered, a wonderful thing happened. The thought of all that trouble
and pain seemed more than he could bear, and he prayed that he might be
allowed to suffer as his Master had done. And as he prayed, seeing only
before him the crucified Christ with nail-pierced hands and wounded
side, God sent the answer to his prayer, and in his hands and feet deep
marks appeared, as though there had been nails driven through them, and
in his side a wound as if from the cruel thrust of a spear.

And so Francis learned to suffer as his Master had suffered, and through
all the pain he only gave God thanks that he had been thought worthy to
bear the marks that Jesus bore.

Francis did not live very long after this for he grew weaker and weaker,
and they carried him back to the old house at Saint Mary of the Angels.
There the Little Poor Brothers gathered round him, and he spoke his last
words to them, bidding them live always as he had taught them to live,
in poverty and lowliness. And when evening came, and the birds he loved
so much were singing their vesper hymns, his voice joined in their
praise until his soul passed away to the Lord whom he had tried to serve
so humbly, and in whose footsteps he had sought to place his own.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In God's Garden - Stories of the Saints for Little Children" ***

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