Totila was king of the Goths, one of the Germanic tribes that breached the borders of the Roman Empire when Rome was no longer strong enough militarily to maintain its boundaries against foreign immigrants. This is clear: Totila was a ruthless marauder. He was also a curious creature. He had heard about Benedict—the simple monk, yes, but also a prophet, leader, and spiritual strongman of the time. The thought of making contact with him firsthand was too fascinating an experience to miss. The very idea of it was too much fun for Totila to even think of passing up. So, he made an appointment to see Abbot Benedict himself. To test Benedict’s gift of prophecy, or to tease his troops, maybe, he sent his servant Riggio to the meeting disguised as himself. He could hear the stories over beer and beef already: “And there was Riggio, my horse guard, dressed like me! Ha! ha! And the great holy man bowed and scraped. Ha, ha! Some prophet, ha, ha! He never even knew the difference!” Except that he did.
When Riggio, dressed in fine garments and attended by servants, approached him, Benedict looked at him quietly and said, “Son, take off those gowns. They do not belong to you.” The laughing stopped. The meeting ended. Riggio was embarrassed. Totila was sobered to the core. We ourselves are left with a lot to think about:
People see through us when we pretend to be what we are not.
Wearing a mask does not make us what or who we are pretending to be.
Being free to be ourselves is one of the great achievements of life.
All the things in the world can’t make us something we aren’t.Copyright 2011 by The Order of Saint Benedict. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.