Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The priest and his son

Author: Paulo Coelho

By Paulo Coelho

For many years, a Brahmin priest had looked after a chapel. When he had to go away, he asked his son to carry out his daily duties until he returned. One of these tasks was to place the offering of food before the Divinity and to see if the food was eaten.

The boy set off cheerily to the temple where his father worked. He placed the food before the Divinity and sat waiting for the image to move.

He remained there all day. And the statue did not move. However, the boy, faithful to his father’s instructions, was sure that the Divinity would descend from the altar to receive his offering.

After a long wait, he said pleadingly:

‘Lord, come and eat! It’s very late and I cannot wait any longer.’

Nothing happened. The boy spoke more loudly:

‘Lord, my father told me I must be here when You come down to accept the offering. Why do You not do so? Will You only take the offering from my father’s hands? What did I do wrong?’

And he wept long and hard. When he looked up and wiped away his tears, he got a tremendous fright, for there was the Divinity eating the food he had placed there.

The child ran joyfully back home. Imagine his surprise when one of his relatives said to him.

‘The service is over. Where is the food?’

‘The Lord ate it,’ the child replied, taken aback.

Everyone was amazed.

‘What are you talking about. What did you just say? We didn’t quite hear.’

The child innocently repeated his words:

‘The Lord ate all the food I gave Him.’

‘That’s impossible,’ said an uncle. ‘Your father only told you to see if the food was eaten. We all know that the offering is merely a symbolic act. You must have stolen the food.’
The child, however, refused to change his story, even when threatened with a beating.

Still suspicious, his relatives went to the temple and found the Divinity sitting, smiling.

‘A fisherman threw his net into the sea and got a good catch,’ said the Divinity. ‘Some fish lay utterly still, making no effort to get out. Others thrashed about desperately, but were unable to escape. Only a few fortunate ones were successful and managed to get away.

Just like those fish, three kinds of men came here to bring me offerings: some did not want to speak to me, believing I would not respond. Others tried, but soon gave up, for fear of disappointment. This small boy, on the other hand, did not give up, and so I, who play with men’s patience and perseverance, finally revealed myself.’

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