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The Lighted Taper

Matthew Paris, 13th century
Matthew Paris, a 13th century Benedictine monk, chronicler and manuscript artist in St. Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire, relates this story that demonstrates the value of lighting candles to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the year 1225, Count William of Salisbury, who had been fighting beyond the seas, entered his ship to return to England. After having tossed about for many days and nights, when all despaired of life, he cast into the waves his precious rings and gold and silver and rich clothing, that he might pass into his heavenly country as poor as he had entered his earthly country. For it seemed certain that he and all on the ship would perish.

our lady with candle

A beautiful Lady with a lighted taper
appeared to protect the ship

And when all seemed desperate, a large taper shining brilliantly was beheld by all at the top of the mast, and a most beautiful Lady standing beside it protected the lighted taper from wind and rain.

At this they all took courage. But while the rest did not understand what the vision portended, Count William assigned the grace to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This is because, from the day when he first put on the military belt, he had maintained a taper before the altar of the Blessed Mother of God, that it might burn continually at the Mass which every day was sung together with the canonical hours in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

The ship, protected by the light and Lady, survived the terrible storm. The next day they were driven on an island, and after some time reached England.

To critics who might be filled with scorn to hear such things, I will merely remark that when such scorners shall have reached that high state of veneration for the majesty of God and the sense of earthly nothingness that made William of Salisbury cast away all his worldly goods so that he might go more humbly into the presence of his Judge, then they will probably think differently on such matters.

Then, instead of passing censure, they should be more inclined to light a taper themselves before Our Lady's statue for having obtained for them such precious graces from her Son.

Our Lady altar in Malta

Candles burn before a shrine of Our Lady in Malta


Blason de Charlemagne
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Adapted from Our Lady's Dowry: How England Gained that Title
by T. E. Bridgett, London: Burnes and Oates, 1890, pp 272

Posted July 17, 2021

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