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Miracles in Spain - 12

The Drunk Monk

Gonzalo de Berceo
Here is another charming legend of Our Lady related by the 13th century priest, Gonzalo de Berceo. He was the first Spanish author to write in the vernacular; he wrote in this way for the little people so that they might know the miracles of their times and increase their devotion to Our Lady, who he called the Glorious One.

I would like to tell you about another miracle that happened to a monk of a religious order. The Devil wanted to take him, but the Glorious Mother knew how to impede him. Ever since he was in the order, indeed ever since he was a novice, he had loved the Glorious One, always doing Her service. He guarded against foolhardiness and impurity, but he finally fell into vice.

drunk monnk

The monk overindulged in the wine cellar

One day he entered the wine cellar by chance. He drank a great deal of wine, this was without moderation. The crazy man got drunk; he lost his sanity, until vespers he lay on the hard ground.

Then at the hour of vespers, the sun very weak, he went out toward the cloister almost senseless, still half dazed. Everyone understood that he had drunk too much.

Although he could not stand well on his feet, he went to the church as he was accustomed to do. Seeing the monk in this state, the Devil tried to trip him up and easily conquer him.

In the figure of a raging bull, pawing the ground with his hooves, his semblance changed with fierce horns, the Demon traitor stood before the poor monk, as if to put his horns in him, in the middle of his entrails.

The good man was very frightened, but the Glorious One, Crowned Queen, helped him. Holy Mary came and put herself in between him and the Devil. The oh-so-proud bull was immediately tamed. The Lady threatened him with the skirt of Her mantle, and he fled and went away crying loudly. The monk remained in peace, thanks be to the Holy Father!

A short time later, the Devil attacked him again with an evil face, like a dog striking with fangs. It came viciously, teeth bared, brow furrowed, eyes open wide to tear him to pieces, back and sides. "Wretched sinner," said he, "grave are my sins!"

Indeed the monk, in great affliction, believed he would be dismembered. Then the Glorious One helped him again. As She did to the bull, so She treated the dog.

lion bull dog our lady

Our Lady vanquished the bull, dog and finally, the fearsome lion

As the poor monk finally reached highest step of the church, the Devil attacked him again for a third time in the form of a lion, a fearsome beast and fierce beyond imagination. There the monk believed that he would truly be devoured, because this was worse than all the past ones. In his mind he cursed the Devil.

Then he said, "Help me Glorious One, Mother, Holy Mary, may Your grace help me now, on this day, because I could not be in greater danger. Mother, do not dwell upon my great madness."

Scarcely could the monk complete the words, Holy Mary came with a stick in Her hand to strike the lion. She put Herself in the middle and began to say: "False traitor, you will not learn a lesson, but I will make you pay for your evil designs. I want you to know with whom you make war."

She began to give him great blows, the big blows drowned out the small, the lion roared loudly; he never in his life had his sides so beaten. The Good Lady said to him: "False traitor, who always walks in evil, you belong to an evil master. If I ever catch you here in these surroundings, you will get even worse than what you received today."

The Devil was glad when She ordered him to go. The figure faded and fled; never again did he dare to jeer at the monk.

The monk who had passed through all this was still not very recovered from the burden of the wine. Both the wine and the fear had so punished him that he had not strength to return to his customary bed.

The Beautiful Queen of excellent deed took him by the hand and brought him to his bed. She covered him with the blanket and the bedspread, she put the pillow comfortably under his head. Moreover, when She put him in his bed, She made the Sign of the Cross over him. He was well blessed. "Friend," she said to him, "rest because you have suffered greatly. As soon as you sleep a little, you will be rested.

"But I order you, I tell it to you firmly, tomorrow morning ask for a certain (priest) friend of Mine. Confess yourself to him, and you will be in good with me. For he is a very good man and will give you a good penance.

"Now I shall go on my way to save some other afflicted soul. That is my pleasure, my customary office. You remain blessed, commended to God, but do not forget what I have commanded you."


'I am the One who bore the true Savior to Whom the Angels do service and honor'

The good monk said to her: "Lady, truly you have shown me great mercy, and I want to know who you are or what your name is, because I will profit from it and You will lose nothing."

The Good Lady said: "So that you may be well instructed, I am the One Who bore the true Savior, Who suffered death and pain to save the world and to Whom the Angels do service and honor."

The good man said: "This I believe, for from You this deed could be born. Lady, let me touch your feet. Never will I have such great pleasure in this world."

The good man insisted, he wanted to get up and get on his knees to kiss Her feet. But the Glorious Virgin did not want to wait for him. She withdrew from his sight. He was very sad for he could not see where She had gone.

The next morning with the bright light of day, the good man did as She had commanded him. He made his confession with a humble face, and concealed nothing of what had happened. And when his confession was made, the confessor gave the monk good advice and absolution.

Now, if the monk were good before, he was from then on better. He always loved the Holy Queen, the Mother of the Creator, very much and always did her honor. He was happy that She welcomed him in her love.

Gentlefolk and friends, let this deed move us, let us all love and praise the Glorious One. Let us not throw away such a beautiful Protectress who helps us so much in a dangerous hour. If we serve Her well, whatever we may ask of Her we will gain it all, let us be very sure. May she give us Her grace and Her blessing. May She keep us from sin and tribulation, and may She win us remission from our licentiousness so that our souls may not go to perdition.

raging bull

Adapted from Gonzalo de Berceo, Miracles of Our Lady,
trans. by T. Mount and A. Cash, Un of Lexington Press, 1997, pp. 96-101

Posted September 19, 2020

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