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When England Was Catholic

Gonzalo de Berceo
In his 12th century work relating true stories of his time, Fr. Berceo records the story of how Our Lady caused a canon to leave his marriage bed and return to her.

In the town of Pisa, an illustrious city that lies on the seaport and is extremely wealthy, there was a canon of good lineage. The place where he lived was called Saint Cassian's.

canon and Our Lasy

The canon had a deep love for Our Lady and prayed the Hours daily to her

Now, this canon loved Holy Mary very much, more than many Christians, and served Her hand and foot. At that time the clergy did not have the custom of saying any hours to the Virgin Mary, but he said them always and every day. In the Glorious One he took pleasure and delight.

His parents had only this one son, so when they died he was their heir. They left him very valuable holdings in personal property and he had a fine, quite covetable inheritance.

When the father and mother were dead, relatives came, sad and disheartened. They told him he should produce some heirs so that such valuable places would not be left barren.

And so he changed his intent from the one he previously had. The ways of the world moved him and he said that he would marry. They sought a wife for him who would be suitable, and so the day was set for the wedding to take place.

When the day to celebrate the wedding came, he was going down the road to fulfill his pleasure when he remember the Glorious One, Whom he had offended. He considered himself wrong and pondered this matter that would lead him to a bad port.

angry our lady

Our Lady chastised the canon on his wedding day

Reflecting on this matter with a changed heart, he found a church and entered to pray. He went to the most remote corner of the church, bent his knees and said his prayer. The Glorious One filled with grace came to him and angrily said these words to him:

"You ill-fated, stupid, crazy fool! What predicament are you in? What have fallen into? You seem poisoned, as if you had drunk herbs, or been touched with St. Martin's staff [that is, drunk].

"Young man, you were well wedded to Me. I loved you very much, but you go around seeking better than wheat bread. For that reason, you will not be worth more than a fig! If you will listen to Me and believe, you will not wish to cast aside the first life. You will not leave Me to have another. If you do, you will have to carry firewood on your back."

The chastised groom left the church. Everyone complained that he had delayed. And so the party moved forward to fulfill their mission and the whole business was quickly completed.

They had a splendid wedding and the wife was taken. Otherwise, if she had been disdained, it would have been an affront. The bride was well pleased with the groom, but she did not know where the ambush lay.

Now the newlywed knew well how to cover up; his tongue kept his heart's secrets. He laughed and made merry, all quite appropriately, but the vision had him quite disturbed. They had a lavish wedding made with very great joy, but Holy Mary cast Her net around there and on dry land made a great catch.


The wedding was merry but the groom had already decided to disappear that night

When night came, at the time for sleeping, they made the newlyweds a bed in which to lie. But before they had taken any pleasure with each other, the arms of the bride had nothing to hold.

The husband slipped from her hands. He fled from her. No one ever found out where he ended up. The Glorious One knew how to keep him well hidden. She did not allow him to consumate his apostasy!

He left a beautiful woman and very great possessions, which very few people would do nowadays. They never found out where he was - or was not. God bless anyone who does so much for Him!

We believe and imagine that this good man found some place of religion and hid there to say his prayers, for which his soul earned a good reward from God. Surely we must believe, since this man did such a great thing, that the Glorious Mother would not forget him, for She is merciful. And surely She had him dwell in the end there where She dwells.
glorious One

The Glorious One

Adapted from Gonzalo de Berceo, Miracles of Our Lady,
trans. by T. Mount and A. Cash, Un of Lexington Press, 1997, pp. 70-76

Posted August 22, 2020

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