I found this story of Saint Paulinus the Merciful (aka: St. Paulinus of Nola) in the Prologue of Ohrid during my morning reading and was struck by the sacrifice this bishop was willing to make for a mother and child entrusted to his care. This story is, for me, the epitome of a true shepherd of Christ. Here is a short excerpt:
“St. Paulinus deserved to be called the Merciful, for he was truly compassionate in the full Christian sense of the word. Once, when the Vandals looted Nola, they took many men into slavery. The Vandal Prince Rig took a certain widow’s only son as a slave. The widow came weeping to her bishop and sought money from him to pay the ransom for her son. Not possessing anything, Bishop Paulinus dressed in the clothes of a simple man and asked the widow to take him before the prince and exchange him for her son. The prince released the widow’s son and took Paulinus with him to Africa – where Paulinus served as the prince’s gardener until, by God’s providence, he was freed and returned to Nola with the other slaves.”
Just as Christ – the Eternal Good Shepherd – will leave the 99 sheep to seek out and save the one who left His care, this saint serves to remind us that Christ has truly blessed His people with the grace needed to show such acts of mercy, if we will only attend the beckoning of the Holy Spirit.