|THE PROPHET, A XMAS TALE|
(Editorial note: the tale is kept from a book published in Italy in 1989, the author Francesco Bollorino, editor of POL.it Psychiatry on line Italia, will be happy to recieve your comments about this tale and to be contacted for an english version of the book, which contains 14 tales and 14 tables painted by the famous italian illustrator Lele Luzzati. By clicking the image below inserted in this page you can download a full A4 edition of the illustration. Merry Xmas and happy new Century!!!!)
Once upon the time there was a Prophet.
He had been living for an eternity, as a Monk, in a Monastery at the top of a mountain.
He was a very innocent and sprightly old man, perhaps the exact opposite of what we have been taught to imagine prophets to be; creatures in the dotage, and fundamentally birds of ill omen.
He was endowed with a strange, mysterious power: on every Christmas eve at the stroke of midnight, he became able to see the future of those who begging him to.
It was not long before everyone in the World discovered his talent and the mighty ones of the Earth vied with one another in order to gain the privilege of knowing their destinies.
The Holy Monks (and our Prophet) never broke off their cloister life. They didn't understand why only bejeweled ladies, full dress uniform soldiers and dignitaries with sumptuous furs came to their Christmas Night Mass and why poor people, who crowded into their Church every other day, never did.
But, if they had been more worldly they might have noticed that the steep and winding bridle path that led to the monastery was blocked for many days before Christmas Eve. The local landowners exacted a hefty toll of all those who hoped to gain the old man's wisdom and foresight.
At the end of the service, the Prophet sat next to the altar and, one by one, welcomed the rich and mighty who begged to know their future. Looking deep into their eyes, he revealed the truth to them about their future. The truth was sometimes happy or sad, sometimes sweet or bitter, but at least it was the truth, since his gift and his holy vows didn't let him lie.
Years went by, the Christmas Eve services were always the same, and the old Prophet got more and more downhearted: every night, in his solitary confinement cell, he prayed to God that he might be enlightened, to find again the peace of mind, he felt was irredeemably lost to him.
One night, plucking up his courage, (for monks, you know, are like children), he went to knock on the Cloister Prior's door.
The Prior was very old and wise and immediately perceived the trouble within his brother's soul.
" Sit down here, close to me, and open your heart. Maybe God will grant me the way to ease your soul."
" I fear I have lost my Faith, Brother. It's as if everything I have been doing for all these years has not brought me one step closer to our Lord. I feel so sad and confused"
The Prior sighed and shook his white haired head, "You see, Brother, I was already a Monk, when, many years ago, we found you as a small child at the door of the Cloister and we made you grow up with us in the Holy Law of the Seclusion. This is acceptable for those like me, who freely chose to turn their back to the World, but, even if you, never compelled, were glad to go on living such a cloistered life for so long, may be God, giving you this suffering, wanted to test you."
"What do you mean, Holy Brother?"
"I mean that now it's time for you to go around the World to know it at last and, just after discovering it, you could decide peacefully to come back here to the end of your days"
" But, where shall I go, Holy Brother? I don't know anyone or anything outside these stone walls."
"You see, Brother, you have been giving your prophetic virtue to many people who have journeyed here at Christmas. We, your Brothers, gained their names and adresses in this book, which will be useful for your pilgrimage: since you gave them so much, they'll be sure to do the same for you"
With the Prior's address book in his hand the Prophet started roaming the World. He was endlessly disappointed however. Whenever he reached a new town, he looked for the address of someone he had enlightened to ask for welcome and comfort. Invariably he was rejected: if he had foreseen happiness and wealth, he was not recognized, if he had foretold troubles and misfortune he was invariably remembered. But, since he was identfied with troubles, he was thought to have caused them. He often had to run away, closely followed by insults, sticks and stones.
"This world is very strange," he thought. "It does not know the meaning of gratefulness and hospitality" He was even more demoralized than before.
Leaving the useless book behind, growing more dejected and skinny, the Prophet decided to return to the protective Cloister walls The way was long and hard and his strength was failing. So it happened that he collapsed onto the hard, frost covered ground just in front of the door of a little house close to a wood. Exhausted, he lapsed into unconsciousness.
|"Hello, Grandpa. Welcome to our home." The Prophet groggily opened his eyes. Standing close to the warm bed was a young man with his wife and son. "Oh, you were lucky, you know if I hadn't gone outside to draw water last night I wouldn't have seen and with last night's snow...well, you would have frozen to death."|
"Thank you, my son," said answered the Prophet, struggling up onto his elbows. "But I must...I must be on my way...."
"What's the hurry, my dear?" said the Mother.
"Have you some urgent message to run?" asked the Father.
"Well, to be honest, none" The old man sank back onto the pillow, suddenly aware of how tired he was.
"So, take it easy, I don't think you are in good enough shape to journey anywhere" said his host.
"But I cannot trouble you...would not take advantage of you like this..."
"We'll give you nothing free, Grandpa. We couldn't afford it. My wife and I till the ground. We have none who could take care of our child: you could do it for us. You seem a man of learning, yes? Teach him something and we could support you till you're well enough to travel. You'll share with us what we have, although it is little......."
"I will give him the gift of letters", answered the Prophet. "if he will learn.." And the boy smiled at the old man, who smiled back. He had always liked children.
So for the old man a new life began.
Now, so much time had passed by in the outside world that it was Christmas Time again. The Prophet felt the his gift of foresight beginning to return.
He sat down at the table to their Christmas Eve supper with his new little family. In the distance the Church bells were ringing in the villages of the hills.
"It's time to reveal exactly who I am. I come from a Cloister. Because of a vow of poverty I own no property, but God gave me the talent of foreseeing the future at the beginning of Christmas Day. Once, they told me (and I believed) that this talent was very famous in the outside world. People from near and far came to me."
"Then, Grandpa, are you the famous Prophet of the mountain?" - asked the Father. "We'd have met with you to ask about our future once upon a time."
"Why did you never come? At Christmas our Cloister was open to anyone who would meet with me."
"Absolutely impossible!" - answered the Father."What are you saying, Son? I don't understand you!"
"We'd never have had money enough to come up there."
"I go on not understanding, Son. We never asked money of anyone!"
"Didn't you know that the ways to the Cloister were guarded - that those who tried to pass there paid a high toll?."
"We knew nothing of this, but now, knowing all that I know about the World, I can believe it. But, tonight I can, at least, redress that wrong."
"Can you reveal our future?" asked the Mother.
"Yes, of course! All I need to do is look into your eyes to see it running and tumbling in front of me."
"No matter of my husband and me. we know that our future will be always to slave under the sun; but, our child is young, he still should blossom.
"I'd like to know about his future, to see if our effort will finally be rewarded. Please, Grandpa, tell us what is to be his fortune?"
The old man embraced the child and, as he usually did, looked at him...but now with different eyes, and saw.
He saw hunger, famine; he saw war, deportation, deprivation and trouble; he saw the death in the solitude of captivity, flesh for slaughter in the midst of flesh for slaughter.
The old man raised his eyes and watched the anxious faces of the young couple; with a breaking heart he smiled at them and said:
"Our little Prince has a great future, I just see glory, luck and happiness for him!"
"You don't cheat do you, Grandpa?" asked the Father.
"How could I? I must always tell the truth!"
So that, for the first time in his life the Prophet lied, lost his talent and deserved Heaven.