The Saxon's Seven Shirts

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In the year of our lord 771, the Catholic Church was trying hard to christianize the Saxons on the eastern boarders of the Frankish Empire. Yet these Saxons stubbornly refused to see the light of God. They simply couldn't see why they should content themselves with only one god, when they already had three dozen who were working perfectly well, thank you very much.

Besides, did you know that to become Christian you had to take a bath? That would bring them up to a total of two baths a year! Such an overtly hygienic religion couldn't be any good.

“Alas,” sighed Bishop Ethelred. “If only those Saxons weren't so stubborn, maybe we might make better progress.” The bishop sat in the high-backed chair in the audience chamber of his newly erected bishop's palace, his head in his hands. He was depressed. He had been in Saxony for six months now and during that time had been able to convert exactly one Saxon: a young fellow who had had his eye on a maid in the bishop's service and hadn't minded switching gods for the thing to work.

The couple was happily married now, at least. That gave the bishop real joy. However, he didn't think it would do the same for the Frankish king who had organized and financed the Christianization of the Saxons.

“What are we going to do?” He continued sighing. “In the Lord's name, what are we going to do?”

“Preach more convincingly?” Brother Petrus, an old friend and adviser of the bishop, suggested. He scratched his beard and yawned. “Either that or get a new job.”

“Petrus! Be serious!”

“I am.”

“If I may offer a suggestion, Your Excellency...?” came a voice from the shadows.

“Yes, Clemens?”

The thin, stooped form of Deacon Clemens, secretary to the bishop, stepped out from the shadows of a massive stone archway.

“Perhaps it would be a good idea,” he said in his smooth, elegant voice, “to offer these barbarians some kind of incentive to adopt the one true Christian faith. It is not to be supposed that their inferior minds can grasp the need their souls have for purification, so if we offered them some other small advantage...” he trailed of suggestively.

“You want us to bribe people into becoming Christians,” Petrus stated flatly.

“Is that true? Is that really what you mean, Clemens?” the bishop asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No, no,” the deacon hurriedly assured him. “Bribe people into becoming Christians? Whoever could think of such a thing!”

“Perhaps you?” Petrus indicated, and the deacon threw him a venomous look. It wasn't too hard for him – his eyes were narrow like those of a snake.

“So what are you suggesting?” the Bishop inquired.

“Merely that we... motivate the Saxons to become Christians. Heathen as they are, they cannot see the bliss of the true faith. Once they are converted, I am sure they will comprehend what we did for them and overflow with thanks.”

“Hmmm...” Thoughtfully, the bishop stroked his chin. “What did you have in mind to motivate the Saxons?”

“How about giving everybody who agrees to be baptized the white linen shirt in which he is baptized for free?” Clemens suggested. “A fine linen shirt – something almost nobody around here has. I'm sure the Saxons will be flocking to the altar.”

“Hmmm.” The Bishop stroked his chin again.

“You are not actually considering this, are you?” Petrus asked, incredulous.

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