Many, many years ago, back in the middle Ages, the Pope was urged by his advisors to banish the Jews from Rome.

It was unseemly; they said that these people should be living unmolested in the very centre of Catholicism.

An edict of eviction was drawn up and promulgated much to the dismay of the Jews who knew that wherever else they went they could only expect worse treatment than was meted out to them in Rome.

So they pleaded with the Pope to reconsider the edict.

The Pope, a fair-minded man, offered them a sporting proposition:

Let the Jews appoint someone to debate with him in pantomime. If their spokesman won the Jews might stay.

The Jews met to consider this proposal.

To turn it down was to be evicted from Rome.

To accept it was to court certain defeat, for who could win a debate in which the Pope was both participant and judge?

Still, there was nothing for it but to accept.

Only, it was impossible to find someone to volunteer for the task of debating with the Pope.

The burden of having the fate of the Jews on his shoulders was more than anyone man could bear.

Now when the synagogue janitor heard what was going on he came before the Chief Rabbi

and volunteered to represent his people in the debate.

“The janitor?” said the other rabbis when they heard of this.


“Well,” said the chief Rabbi, “None of us is willing. It is either the janitor or no debate.”

Thus for lack of anyone else the janitor was appointed to debate with the Pope.

When the great day arrived, the Pope sat on a throne in St Peter’s square surrounded by his cardinals, facing a large crowd of bishops, priests and faithful.

Presently the little Jewish delegation arrived in their black robes and flowing beards, with the janitor in their midst.

The Pope turned to face the janitor and the debate began.

The Pope solemnly raised one finger and traced it across the heavens.

The janitor promptly pointed with emphasis towards the ground.

The Pope seemed somewhat taken aback.

Even more solemnly he raised one finger again and kept it firmly before the Janitor’s face.

The janitor thereupon lifted three fingers and held them just as firmly before the Pope who seemed astonished by the gesture.

Then the Pope thrust his hand into his robes and pulled out an apple.

Whereupon the janitor thrust his hand into his paper bag and pulled out a flat piece of matzo.

At this the Pope explained in a loud voice, “The Jewish representative has won the debate.

The edict of eviction is hereby revoked.”

The Jewish leaders promptly surrounded the janitor and led him away.

The cardinals clustered around the Pope in astonishment.

“What happened, your Holiness?” then asked.

“It was impossible for us to follow the rapid thrust and parry of the debate.”

The Pope wiped the sweat from his forehead and said, “That man is a brilliant theologian, a master in debate.

I began by sweeping my hand across the sky to indicate that the whole universe belongs to God.

He thrust his finger downward to remind me that there is a place called Hell where the devil reigns supreme.

I then raised one finger to signify that God is one.

Imagine my shock when he raised three fingers to indicate that this one God manifests Himself equally in three persons, thereby subscribing to our own doctrine of the Trinity!

Knowing that it was impossible to get the better of this theological genius I finally shifted the debate to another area.

I pulled out an apple to indicate that according to some new-fangled ideas the earth is round.

He instantly produced a flat piece of unleavened bread to remind me that, according to the Bible, the earth is flat.

So there was nothing to do but concede the victory to him.”

By now the Jews had arrived at their synagogue.

“What happened they asked the janitor in bewilderment?

The janitor was indignant.

“It was all a lot of rubbish,” he said.

“Look. First the Pope moves his hand like he is telling all the Jews to get out of Rome.

So I pointed downwards to make it clear to him that we were not going to budge.

So he points a finger to me threateningly as if to say.

Don’t get fresh with me.

So I point three fingers to tell him he was thrice as fresh with us when he arbitrarily ordered us out of Rome.

The next thing, I see him taking out his lunch.

So I took out mine.”

The prayer of the frog. Volume – I

Anthony de Mello

1 Comment

  1. Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing on your rss feed and I’m hoping you write once more very soon!

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s