Wednesday, 1 November 2017


“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.” - George Bernard Shaw 

The theme for this week’s Midweek Motif at Poets United is “Saints”. Here is my contribution: 

The Saint and the Sinner 

The old man built a hermitage in the desert,
For this was to be his lonely retreat,
His escape from a world gone mad.
Here he would come close to his God,
Leave all sinners behind him
In hellish City populated by devils incarnate.

He prayed day and night, fasted, sang hymns,
All for the glory of a God who expected all,
The old man’s penance genuine, his belief unshakeable.
The desert was harsh, his solitude immense,
His self-delivered punishment great
With snakes and scorpions his only companions.

The old man was proclaimed a Saint,
And his fame grew and people flocked to him,
Craving his blessing…
He sent them all away – annoyed as he was
That his eremitic ways were disturbed
And his prayers were interrupted.

The young man in the City was a sinner,
That he knew, as well as he knew the void inside him;
His shame was unfathomable, his remorse endless.
He stayed there in the thick of it, with others of his kind,
For he knew their weakness first-hand, and felt their pain
Deep in his damaged soul, which was contested by the Devil.

He fought hard, with countless temptations to vie with;
His will (almost all lost), first to be regained
And then to be made of iron – no, of tempered steel.
The belief in himself to be won in an unequal battle
With those who taunted and bullied and harassed him;
And once he believed in himself he could believe in a kind God.

The young man stayed and risked being labelled a Sinner,
As he worked with addicts and ex-cons, pimps and street-walkers,
Giving comfort to those in most need of it.
He welcomed all and shied not away from pain, disease, misfortune;
He endured harsh words and harsher beatings, sometimes,
For violence from great misery is begotten.

The old man lived to be a centenarian, a hermit to the end,
His life devoted to his jealous God who doted on his devotion.
The young man died young as the sick he tended
Gave him a disease for which no cure existed.
You tell me then, once you’ve made your mind up,
Who is the Sinner and who the Saint?


  1. Exactly! Thanks for spinning the fable, for voicing the parable that might sink in. It's possible the world needs both, I hope, tending myself to be more like the first than the second. I worry about this a little, and send money and love to those who are more like the second.

  2. I think both the working life and contemplative life are needed to realize God. Nicely put :)

  3. Wow this was powerful! i like it, it really makes one think and yes I know about this ambiguous sentiment. Great write Nicholas! Happy All Saints!

  4. Great juxtaposition, of beings and their sensing God.
    Happy All Saints Day Nicholas


  5. A very hard hitting question and the truth is very well clear to all of us..

  6. ....and sometimes sinners make the best saints, and conversely purported saints make the worst sinners. One has only to read the newspaper or listen to the news to find need to consider that thought. A beautiful parable, well written!

  7. First, great shaw quote. and how true.

    I would def find my home among the one that knew he was a sinner, over the one that thought he was a saint. This is the failing of religeosity. The detachment and inhumanity.

    I told my story once and a man came up to me afterward and said, I am glad I have not sinned like you. And that told me much about him.

  8. What a powerful story, Nick. I think oftentimes the 'true saints' of this world are those who get their 'hands dirty' with their work with the 'sinners.' The hermit old man was not a I don't believe a person can be a 'saint' in isolation. I like Susan's answer above.

  9. You make an excellent point, my money goes on the younger life.

  10. Oh this is wonderful. I lean towards the young man who does the work of helping, yet envy the recluse his solitude and focus. I believe Jesus would smile most on the young man helping those who need help most. He would join him.

  11. I think that being willing to be in the front lines and help in the midst of despair certainly is a higher calling that deserves sainthood. Excellent, wise and beautiful Nicholas!

  12. Nicholas,
    I believe that the act of physically helping our fellow humans is a true reflection upon the meaning of those who might be considered as saints. Doing good without expectation of reward, is the sign of someone with saintly qualities. An excellent contrast between two perspectives..Eileen

  13. A way of life that is judged by the ignorant, hated by the wicked and loved by the just.