“Thus we see, my son, that the blandishments of carnal love have more power over hermits and monks than over men who live in the world. All through my life the demon of lust has tempted me in various ways, but his strongest temptations did not come to me from meeting a woman, however beautiful and fragrant she was. They came to me from the image of an absent woman. Even now, though full of days and approaching my ninety-eighth year, I am often led by the Enemy to sin against chastity, at least in thought. At night when I am cold in my bed and my frozen old bones rattle together with a dull sound I hear voices reciting the second verse of the third Book of the Kings: ’Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat,’ and the devil shows me a girl in the bloom of youth who says to me: ’I am thy Abishag; I am thy Shunamite. Make, O my lord, room for me in thy couch.’
“Believe me,” added the old man, “it is only by the special aid of Heaven that a monk can keep his chastity in act and in intention.”
Applying himself immediately to restore innocence and peace to the monastery, he corrected the calendar according to the calculations of chronology and astronomy and he compelled all the monks to accept his decision; he sent the women who had declined from St. Bridget’s rule back to their convent; but far from driving them away brutally, he caused them to be led to their boat with singing of psalms and litanies.
“Let us respect in them,” he said, “the daughters of Bridget and the betrothed of the Lord. Let us beware lest we imitate the Pharisees who affect to despise sinners. The sin of these women and not their persons should be abased, and they should be made ashamed of what they have done and not of what they are, for they are all creatures of God.”
And the holy man exhorted his monks to obey faithfully the rule of their order.
“When it does not yield to the rudder,” said he to them, “the ship yields to the rock.”
III. THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT MAEL
The blessed Mael had scarcely restored order in the Abbey of Yvern before he learned that the inhabitants of the island of Hoedic, his first catechumens and the dearest of all to his heart, had returned to paganism, and that they were hanging crowns of flowers and fillets of wool to the branches of the sacred fig-tree.
The boatman who brought this sad news expressed a fear that soon those misguided men might violently destroy the chapel that had been built on the shore of their island.
The holy man resolved forthwith to visit his faithless children, so that he might lead them back to the faith and prevent them from yielding to such sacrilege. As he went down to the bay where his stone trough was moored, he turned his eyes to the sheds, then filled with the noise of saws and of hammers, which, thirty years before, he had erected on the fringe of that bay for the purpose of building ships.