Fourth Sunday of Advent
A LEGEND OF THE HOLY INFANCY
In the early 1900’s an ecclesiastical commission was formed by the Dominican Order to inquire into the life of Bernard of Morlaas, who has long been called Blessed, The touching episode from his life here related has been handed down as worthy of credence, in a tradition dating back to 1277.
It is related in the chronicles of the Dominican Order that, between the years 1250 and 1277 A.D, there lived in the monastery of Santarem, in Portugal, a holy friar called Bernard. He was a native of Morlaas, a little village of the Lower Pyrenees, near Paul. At the age of nineteen he entered the Order, and was sent by his superiors to pursue his studies in Portugal. His student life was one of great simplicity and innocence; and when, having completed his noviceship, he was ordained priest, he still retained a humble position in the monastery; being assigned to the care of the sacristy, and entrusted with the education of two little boys, who were joblates of the Order.
It was his delight, however, to guide those young souls in the paths of holiness, and to watch their innocent hearts grow in the love of God and Our Blessed Lady. No wonder that he found joy in his occupation; for those boys of his seemed more like angels than human beings. His words of wisdom and piety fell like golden seed upon the richest of soils when he spoke to them of God and heaven, of humility and poverty, of obedience and of purity; and their guileless ways, and their simple, confiding affection, well repaid the lessons he taught, making his task a sweet and easy one.
At the noonday hour and at eventide, when their lessons were ended, those two boys were accustomed to eat their modest meals together, kneeling at a little table, placed before an image of Our Lady with the Divine Infant in her arms; and as they ate they talked together of heavenly things, often raising their eyes to the statue above them, and calling on the little Jesus and His Holy Mother to bless and protect them.
One day, while they were at dinner, Bernard, unknown to them, went to the door of the room where they ate (the statue was in a sort of oratory dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, which served as their refectory), and overheard his little disciples, who were talking most earnestly, and with childlike freedom, to the statue before them.
“Come down from Thy Mother’s arms, sweet little Lord, and share our dinner with us. O Blessed Lady, let thy dear Son come down and keep us company for a while! We will give Him the best we have, and then let Him go back to thy arms again. Do come, sweet Jesus! We are your little friends, and we have no companions; come down and eat with us.”
And, lo! the Mother’s arms opened, her hands unclasped; and her Divine Child, no longer a mere statue of stone, but a living, breathing, speaking Child of flesh and blood, radiant with smiles and loving condescension, stepped down to the humble table, and shared the dinner of His two little adorers.
Fancy the amazement and delight of Bernard in the presence of such a miracle of love! Those little ones, so dear to his heart, were chosen, privileged friends of his Lord and Master; but they were too simple and childlike, too guileless and innocent, to understand the wonderful favor and grace which their prayers had gained for them.
With joyful lips, they related to Bernard afterward the event which he himself had witnessed. They repeated to him the words of their invitation, and told how kindly the little Jesus had consented to join them. They were eager to obtain some more choice viand for a future meal, that they might do honor to their Divine Guest.
Fra Bernard not only pondered their story in the secret of his heart, with thanksgivings to God for having given him such angelic pupils, but he made it known to his brethren of the monastery, as evidence of the blessings they would bring to the community. The following day he said to his little friends (for he meant to encourage their miraculous intercourse):
“When the Divine Child comes to dine with you the next time, ask Him to let you eat with Him some day in His Father’s house.”
With all simplicity, they did as Bernard told them; and related to him afterward that the Child Jesus had given them an invitation to dine in His Father’s house on the next great feast day that should be celebrated in the monastery.
“But,” said Bernard, “one thing has been forgotten: you must tell the Divine Child that you cannot dine out of the community without your preceptor’s permission; and that you would like to have Fra Bernard included in the invitation.”
Great, therefore, was his joy when his pupils told him that he also was to share in this wonderful favor.
Three days later was the Feast of the Ascension. Bernard said Mass, and the little fellows served it as usual, and received Holy Communion. When Mass was ended the three devoted friends, master and pupils, knelt together at the foot of the altar to make their thanksgiving. They were so rapt in holy joy that they did not observe how long they prayed-at least so the brethren of the community thought; but when more than an hour had passed, and they still showed no disposition to leave the chapel, the superior sent a friar to tell them that they had prayed long enough: it was now time for them to breakfast and go to daily duties.
They did not answer the call; when it was repeated, they still remained silent, absorbed, apparently, in their devotions. The friar touched Bernard on the shoulder, but he did not move; nor did the children stir when he pulled them by the sleeves. Could they be asleep kneeling at their prayers? Finally, looking into their faces, he found that their gaze was fixed upon the altar; but it was the gaze of death: they had gone together to banquet with the Infant Jesus in the heavenly home of His Eternal Father.
From “The Angelus” – December 1980 – http://www.angeluspress.org
Sincerely in Christ,
Our Lady of the Rosary Library
“Pray and work for souls.”
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