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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
In the Thebaid, where many orthodox recluses lived, there was also a Manichean (a member of a heretical sect in the early days of Christianity). One day, while on an excursion, he strayed and found himself near the cottage of a Catholic hermit in the evening. Fearing that he would fall prey to the wild animals of the desert, he decided to knock on the door of the hut. As he entered he apologized for asking for a place to stay for the night, even though he was a heretic. The solitary received him cordially and prepared a soft bed for him. When the heretic saw this, he said to himself, “This man is truly a servant of God, for charity is, according to the word of the Savior, the surest sign of the disciples of God. A Manichean would not have received a Christian with the same kindness.” He was so touched by this that he returned to the bosom of the Church.
A similar fact is reported about Saint Pacome, the great founder of the monks in Egypt. While still a soldier and a pagan, he was once lodged with a Christian family in the city of Thebes, and was treated with all due respect, as if he had been a child of the family. This behavior made the greatest impression on his soul and he instinctively conceived respect for the religion that inspired him. This was the cause of his later studies which led him to Christianity and to the organization of the monastic life, where he acquired so many merits.
The Saints knew how to win the hearts of heretics and sinners by their charity. Harshness and intolerance would have produced the opposite effect. Our Lord would say to us, “Go and do likewise.” We must be tolerant of those who are not members of the Church; for though they are in error, they are our brothers.