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A Kind Word

The venerable one [St. Macarius the Great of Egypt] was on his way from Skete to Mount Nitria, and as he neared his destination, he sent ahead his disciple. The disciple noticed a heathen priest approaching. He shouted, "Do you hear me? Do you hear me, demon? Where are you bound?"

The priest was carrying a heavy staff and gave the monk a severe thrashing, leaving him half dead. Hurrying on his way, he came upon Abba Macarius, who saluted him, "Greetings, greetings, weary man!"

The puzzled idolater asked our father, "How is it that you greet me so amiably?"

"I am sorry to see you toil in vain," replied the elder.

"Your words touch me, Father," said the idolater. "It is clear you are a man of God. I encountered another monk a short time ago and beat him almost to death for his impertinence." Then the priest fell at the saint's feet and cried, "I will not let go until you make me a Christian and a monk!"

Macarius persuaded the priest to hurry with him to the brother's assistance. They found the monk in a sorry condition and carried him to the church at Nitria. The fathers living on the mount were amazed to see the saint and the pagan priest together. After baptizing the priest, Macarius made him a monk. Learning about this, many heathen became Christians. Whenever he related this story, Abba Macarius commented, "A harsh word renders the good evil; but a kind word, the evil good."