By Paulo Coelho
The monastery was having a difficult time. According to the latest fashionable idea, God was just a superstition, and young men no longer wanted to become novices. Some went to study sociology, others read treatises on historical materialism, and gradually the small community that remained realised that they would have to close the monastery.
The old monks were dying. When one of them was about to deliver up his soul to God, he summoned to his death bed the few novices who were left.
‘I have received a revelation,’ he said. ‘This monastery was chosen for something very important.’
‘What a shame,’ said one novice. ‘There are only five of us left and we can barely cope with the ordinary tasks, let alone something important.’
‘It is indeed a great shame. Because an angel appeared to me here on my death bed and told me that one of you five young men was destined to become a saint.’
And with that, he died.
During the funeral, the young men kept looking at each other in some alarm. Who would be the chosen one? The one who had given most help to the villagers? The one who always prayed with particular devotion? The one who preached with such fervour that he reduced the others to tears?
Moved by the thought that there was a saint amongst them, the novices resolved to postpone the closure of the monastery for a while and they began working hard, preaching enthusiastically, repairing the crumbling walls and practising charity and love.
One day, a young man came to the monastery door. He was impressed by the work of the five novices and wanted to help them. Only a week later, another young man did the same. Little by little, the novices’ reputation spread throughout the region.
‘Their eyes shine,’ said a son to his father, when asking to be given permission to enter the monastery.
‘They do things with such love,’ remarked one father to his son. ‘Look, the monastery is more beautiful than ever.’
Ten years later, there were more than eighty novices. No one ever found out if the old monk’s prediction was true, or if he had merely found a way of using enthusiasm to restore to the monastery its lost dignity.
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