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CHAPTER XXI.

Of two hundred measures of meal found before the man of God’s cell.

At another time also in the country of Campania began a great famine, and all people suffered from great scarcity of food, so that all the wheat in Benedict his Monastery was spent, and likewise almost all the bread, so that but five loaves remained for the Brethren’s refection. When the venerable Father perceived them sad, he endeavoured by a mild and gentle reproach to reprehend their pusillanimity, and with fair promises to comfort them, saying: “Why is your soul sad for want of bread? To day you are in want but to-morrow you shall have plenty.” The next day there were found two hundred sacks of meal before the Monastery gates, by whom God Almighty sent it as yet no man knoweth. Which when the Monks beheld, they gave thanks to God, and by this were taught in their greatest want to hope for plenty.

PETER.

Tell me, I pray you, is it to be thought that this servant of God had continually the spirit of prophecy, when himself pleased, or only at certain times with some discontinuance.

GREGORY.

The spirit of prophecy, Peter, doth not always cast his beams upon the understanding of the Prophets, for as it is written of the Holy Ghost: “He breatheth where He will.” So likewise must we conceive, also, when He pleaseth. And, therefore, Nathan being asked by the king if he might build the Temple, first allowed him to do it, and afterwards forbade him. This was the reason that Eliseus knew not the cause why the woman wept but said to his servant who did oppose her: “Let her alone for her soul is in anguish, and the Lord hath concealed it from me and hath not made it known.” Thus Almighty God of His great mercy so disposeth in His providence, for the end that by giving the spirit of prophecy sometimes, and at other times withdrawing it, the minds of the Prophets be both elevated above themselves, and also be kept in humility, for by receiving the spirit they may know they are inspired by God, and again they receive it not, they may consider what they are of themselves.

PETER.

It standeth with good reason what you have said. But, I beseech you, prosecute what else you remember of the venerable Father Benedict.

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