“Tell us another, Good Eminenza!” cried little Paolo.
His sweet, babyish eyes sparkled with delight. Patting Paolo’s messy brown hair, Cardinal Fratelli laughed.
“This next tale is about a donkey…”
“Come on,” Antonio suddenly blurted out, “A donkey? How boring and stupid!”
The cardinal frowned for a moment- then he grinned and chuckled to himself.
“Perhaps Antonio, you can learn from this story…”
Antonio kept silent, not necessarily feeling rebuked but curious as to how a story about a donkey can be anything exciting. As the priest-attendant sighed tiredly and leaned upon the stone railing nearby, Cardinal Fratelli began:
“A long time ago, in a distant desert land, there lived a donkey. His fur was grey, his eyes big and brown and his hooves wide like dishes. He lived on a farm with other animals: cock, ox and horse. They laughed at the donkey and mocked him.
“I wake our master in the morn so he may plant the crops we eat,” said cock.
“I pull the plow so that the crops planted may grow and we can eat,” said ox.
“I carry our master to the market so he may sell the crops and we can have more to eat,” said horse.
Thus, the donkey tried to wake their master at morning but he made an awful braying noise. He tried pulling the plow but it fell loose on his narrow shoulders and would not move. He tried to carry their master but horse pushed him aside. “I am useless, mean and ugly,” said the donkey, “I will run away.”
The very next day, the master left for a journey. He brought with him cock and ox. He rode off on horse, leaving the donkey alone, tied to a fence. Sadly, the donkey hung his head. “Now I shall run away” he said.
However, just as the donkey began chewing through his rope, some strange man came forth and untied him. “Just as well” said the donkey, “If I am stolen and killed so be it…” Suddenly, another man in a red cloak approached. The donkey felt peace. With kind eyes, he beheld the donkey, patted his mane and whispered. Then in one quick leap, he mounted. The donkey had never been ridden before, that was horse’s duty, yet he easily supported this man’s weight. Great noise arose as the donkey was urged forth. Many people appeared in the streets. At once, the donkey raised his head. Crowds of men women and children clamored round, hailing this man: this seeming prince who had borrowed him. Crying out: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they strewed palm branches about and laid down their cloaks.
The donkey’s master suddenly arrived- along with cock, ox and horse. They halted before him. Yes, his former tormenters gazed in amazement, for the one deemed useless now carried a King. The one not good enough for the master was now goodly for a Lord. The one, ugly and mean, was now a bringer of beauty, nobility and Truth. Ignored, mocked and esteemed not, this lowly donkey bore aloft on his back, the very Son of God, the exalted King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords, Jesus Christ!”