St Aidan Story: Gifts Shared
Gifts poured into the monastery, not only money but horses, cattle, land, ploughs, boats, gifts for the church, and for the building of other churches. Aidan did not mind this as long as the brothers did not set their heart on these things. They were simply tools for furthering the kingdom of God. . . Nothing was hoarded, all was meant to be shared and held in common.
If Aidan was given more than he felt they could use, he gave it away. As God had freely given, so he gave it away. There was no loss in this but a great gain. All the countryside around was talking of the generosity of the monks of the island. Many came for help and no one really in need went away empty. What amazed some of the visitors was that the monks kept so little for themselves and ate so frugally. These men lived like the early disciples and their lives showed the power of the gospel. Truly they lived what they taught.
Aidan would go to the local market where slaves were being sold. [He set them free, and some remained with the community.] People were talking about this school where members of the royal family and slaves shared in the learning. In the schooling there was no distinction . . . Aidan himself lived as the poorest of the brothers. He continued to follow the teachings of Columba: ‘Follow almsgiving above all things. Take no food until you are hungry. Sleep not until you are weary. Speak not except you are on business. Every increase which comes to you in lawful meals, or in wearing apparel, give it for pity to the brethren that want it, or to the poor in like manner.’ Time and time again Aidan’s heart sang for joy as he gave away what had been given to him. He thrilled to see the pleasure that others showed from receiving gifts that he did not need. He remembered the story of St. Lawrence, [who was ordered to produce the treasures of his church. He gave everything to the poor, then declared the great crowd of poor and disabled people ‘the treasures of the church’.]
|St. Lawrence Giving Alms, Fra Angelico, 1449|
Aidan was sure that the more you poured out for God, the more you were fuilled with well-being. The more you gave away, the more room there was for God to enter. . . If you give of things you give but little, but if you give of yourself you give all that you have.
This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and is reproduced by kind permission of SPCK." You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flame-Heart-St-Aidan-Today/dp/0281050333.