The Bishop’s Beggar


Benet, Stephen Vincent




The transformation and education of the Bishop of Remo are charted in Stephen Vincent Benet's mythical short story. When the bishop's carriage runs into a young poor man, paralyzing him, the bishop is hesitant to interact with him, let alone allow him to become a beggar in his name. But this wry "bishop's beggar," has a plan of his own for the bishop, and by the end of the story the illustrious Bishop of Remo has turned down the prestigious red hat of the cardinal in favor of the company of the impoverished--he has become, in fact, their leader, the "beggars' bishop." How and when this transformation occurs and the ways in which it affects the bishop, the paralyzed man, and the city of Remo are complex and engage us as we ponder themes of charity and leadership.

Full Text*

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The Perfect Gift, ed. A. Kass (Indiana University Press, 2002).


Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Ability and DisabilityConnection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceFaith and BeliefGiving and ReceivingIdentity and CommunityLeadership and ResponsibilityLove and CompassionMoney and WealthMotives and ValuesOrganizing and ActivismPoverty and NeedPower and PrivilegeRoles and BoundariesServing and VolunteeringSocial and Political Change

Big Questions

How do we connect with those who are different from us?How does a person become a leader?What is my responsibility to the people I lead?How does a person learn compassion?Why do some have so much and some have so little?Where do our values come from? Why do we care about what we care about?How do communities have a voice?What role do I play in my organization? Who determines this role?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do we know about the bishop of Remo? Why is he described as a “child of his time”?
  2. How does the bishop feel after saving the boy hit by his coach?
  3. Does “doing good” ever feel like a duty to you? Why and in what ways?
  4. Why does Luigi want to be a beggar?
  5. Do beggars contribute to society? In what ways? Why is the bishop resistant to having beggary be a chosen profession?
  6. Who or what is responsible for the transformation of the bishop?
  7. How and why does his change come about?
  8. How has being exposed to people from different backgrounds changed you?
  9. What changes occur in Luigi over the course of the story? Who or what is responsible for these changes?
  10. Why does the bishop ultimately choose to stay in Remo? What does this say about him as a leader?
  11. How does one become a good leader?
  12. What is the relationship between learning how to lead and learning how to serve?
  13. How do we learn humility? Is humility necessary lead? Is it necessary to serve? In what ways?
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