Today is the feast of St. Thomas, so I thought I'd retell my favorite hagiographical legend about Thomas.
Thomas the Apostle, traveling with a merchant into India, was brought before King Gundaphorus, who asked him his craft. Thomas said that he was a carpenter and a builder, capable of building many things, including palaces for kings. So Gundaphorus asked him to build him a palace. Thomas replied that he would wait for the winter months to build the palace; which amazed Gundaphorus, because everyone else built in the summer. Thomas insisted, and Gundaphorus gave him a large quantity of money for building the palace, and continued to send him large quantities of money and provisions as the months went by. But Thomas took all the money and provisions he received from Gundaphorus and began dispensing them to the poor, saying, "Kings know how to receive the reward of kings, but at this time the poor need the things that sustain."
After a while King Gundaphorus sent a messenger to Thomas, and asked him how the palace was going.
"Everything is built except the roof," Thomas replied. So Gundaphorus sent him gold and silver to roof the palace, and Thomas gave it all to the poor, saying, "This is the gift of the Lord to you, for He is rest and relief to those who are poor and afflicted."
After a while the king came to the city and began inquiring of his friends and allies about the palace. They told him that Thomas had done nothing about any palace, but instead had been going about giving large sums of money to the afflicted, healing the sick, and preaching a new God. Needless to say, Gundaphorus was a bit angry and sent for Thomas.
"Have you built me my palace?" he asked.
"Yes," the apostle said.
"Then show it to me," the king said.
Then Thomas shook his head. "You cannot see it now; you will only be able to see it when you have departed from this life."
The king, of course, was exceedingly angry; Thomas was thrown into prison to await being flayed alive.
In the meantime the king's brother Gad had become deathly ill and, apparently, died. The king loved his brother, and with great sorrow made preparations to mourn him. However, as they were putting the burial-clothes on his body, Gad revived. The king was overjoyed and ran to his side.
Then Gad said to Gundaphorus, "Brother, I know your generous heart, and how you would give half your kingdom to anyone asked for my sake; I beg that you grant me one favor."
And Gundaphorus said to Gad, "Ask anything and I will grant it."
Then Gad said, "Brother, sell me your palace in the heavens."
The king was amazed by this request and asked, "How could I have a palace in the heavens?"
Then Gad told him that when he died, his soul was carried by angels up to the heavens, where they showed him many palaces. At length they approached to one that was particularly beautiful, and Gad had begged the angels to let him live in even the humblest room of this beautiful palace. But the angels shook their heads, saying he could not dwell in that building. It had been built by Thomas for his brother. Then Gad had asked them to let him return to his brother in order to buy the palace from him. And they let him return for this very purpose.
Then Gundaphorus said to his brother, "Brother, it is not in my power to sell you that particular palace. But if you wish to build such a palace for yourself, it is in my power to give you the means to build it."
So Thomas was set free in order to build a palace for Gad, just like the one he had built for Gundaphorus. The two brothers were baptized and devoted much of their lives to relieving the poor in their dominion; for it is of such stewardship that the best palaces are made.