320 AD (Shansa, Egypt) – 417 AD (Mountain of Ansena, Egypt)
Around 1700 years ago, there lived a boy called Bishoy in a small village in Egypt. Bishoy had six brothers and his family were all Christians. One day his mum saw an angel who said to her: “God asks you to give him one of your boys, so he may grow up to become a man of God.” What do you think that means, to be a man or a woman of God? That’s right, it means to be someone who cares for others and who brings Jesus’ love to everyone they meet. When Bishoy’s mum recovered from the shock of seeing an angel, she said: “Please, take whichever of my sons you like!” You can see how much she trusted God and how she put herself in His hands.
Next, the angel walked up to Bishoy, the thinnest and weakest of the boys, and took his hand. His mum was very surprised by this and said straightaway: “Lord, take one of the stronger boys to serve God.” But the angel didn’t budge and replied to her: “This is the boy He chose.” How strange! Why do you think God chose the weakest of the boys and not one of the other, stronger ones? It is because God loves every one of us, no matter whether we are strong or weak, smart or slow, beautiful or plain. What He looks for is someone who is ready to love Him and all the people around them. And Bishoy was certainly a very loving boy and grew up to be a very loving man.
When Bishoy grew up, he became a monk and joined other monks in the desert where they prayed together and put themselves at the service of God. Many people came came to Bishoy, asking for advice and learning from his example of kindness, simplicity and love. Because of how much he helped them, people started calling him Abba Bishop, where Abba means “father.”
Abba Bishoy loved God so much and wanted to be with Him so much, that Jesus appeared to him in person. When the other monks heard about this, they too wanted to meet Jesus. Of course! Wouldn’t you like to meet Jesus too? So, they asked him: “Abba Bishoy, couldn’t you, please, ask Jesus to show himself to us too?” Then, the next time Bishoy saw Jesus, he asked him to show himself to his brother monks too, and Jesus agreed. He said that he would be on a mountain near the monastery the next day at midday.
The next morning, all the monks raced out of their monastery first thing in the morning, to get to the mountain as early as possible, in time to meet Jesus. Abba Bishoy was the last to hobble out of the place as he was quite old by now and as he has been among the weakest all his life. Along the way, the rushing monks came upon an old man, bent double and barely holding himself upright with the help of a cane. This old man asked them: “Dear brothers, please, help me along my way. I need to get to the next village, but I am too weak and it is getting too hot for me to walk.” The monks hesitated, but their desire to see Jesus blinded them to the needs of this poor, old man. So, they apologized and ran on towards their mountain. Do you think they did the right thing? What would you have done? That’s right! You would have helped the old man. That’s great!
About an hour after the other monks, Abba Bishoy got to the old man and offered to help him straightaway – even before the old man had a chance to ask for it. At first, the old man refused, seeing how old and week Abba Bishoy was himself. But Abba Bishoy insisted, and, In spite of being old himself, he lifted the old man up on his back and proceeded to carry him towards the village. The old man was surprisingly heavy and he just kept getting heavier and heavier!
Suddenly Abba Bishoy realized whom he was carrying on his back: it was Jesus! He put him gently down, and, throwing himself to the ground, he exclaimed: “My Lord, heaven is too small for You and the earth trembles at Your glory. How can a sinner like me carry you?” Jesus helped him up and embraced him, thanking him for being such a great friend. We too can learn a lot from St. Abba Bishoy and become Jesus’ friends, and the friends of everyone we meet, like he did.
“My Lord, heaven is too small for You and earth trembles at Your glory.”