Carrying the Donkey

"There was a certain poor man in the Holy Land; he had a son and he was old, and his son said: 'Father, you cannot leave me many temporal goods; would you teach me something of your wisdom?' His father said: 'Willingly.' His father had a donkey. He told his son to lead the donkey with them when [they] went into town. He said to his son: 'Get on it.' Certain people met him and said: 'That peasant is stupid: he loves his son more than himself.' He said to his son: 'Get down;' and he himself then got on. Other people met them who said: 'That peasant is harsh and cruel, he has no mercy on that small lad; the peasant has long and strong legs, he gets on the horse and lets that young boy go on foot.' 'Listen, son,' said the father, 'get up with me.' And other people met him who said that: 'He is very cruel, that peasant: he has no pity on the dumb animal; both ride it; at least one ought to go on foot.' The father said: 'Let us both get down.' And other people met them who said: 'That peasant is stupid: he loves his animal more than himself and his son; at least one ought to mount.' The father said: 'The only thing left is for us to carry the donkey: there's nothing we can do without people talking. This I say to you, therefore, that when you do good actions, you should pay no attention to what people say, but you should always do the right thing, since, if you should want to pay attention to what people say, you will never do good actions.'"

--Pierre de Remiremont, O.P., cited by David d'Avray, "Sermons," in Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide, eds. F.A.C. Mantello and A.G. Rigg (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), pp. 663-64.


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