Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Exempla: The Runaway Nun

An Exempla is a medieval parable meant to teach moral lessons.  I'm going to start collecting them here.

“Never be so bold as to tamper with the acts of God. I shall relate to you a beautiful miracle that Our Lord Jesus wrought in this regard at the request of his mother, St. Mary. I relate it so that you will understand how much it grieves Him and how evil He considers the man who would steal of His nuns from a convent”. (1) 

In A Benedictine house of nuns called Fontenblay in England, there was a young noble woman who was very beautiful and good, and renowned for her devotion to Mary. Whenever she passed Our Lady’s statue she would always address it, “Hail, Mary!” and genuflect. 

However, it happened that through the devil, “who is ever accustomed to contrive and fabricate such things,” a noble knight fell in love with her. He had heard about her beauty and pretended to be her relative in order to speak to her. He managed to convince her that they should steal away together one night. On the planned night, as the nun returned from Complines, she slipped out of line to hide inside a narrow postern door instead of going to the dormitory. As soon as she was sure all the sisters were gone, she left her hiding place, went to the high altar, knelt and said “Hail, Mary!” following her custom. 

But when the statue of Mary, which was close to the crucifix, saw her leaving, it called out and said: “Where does thou go, my daughter? Dost thou leave me and my Son for the devil? And dost thou make mockery of the prayer with which thou art accustomed to hail me?” 

Then the image from the crucifix moved, and Our Lord removed one of the nails that had fastened him to the Cross, and raised His hand to throw it, so that the nail pierced the nun from one cheek to another. The nun fell unconscious to the floor. 

The next morning the sisters came to the convent, and found the crucifix on the cross with the right hand raised in the attitude of striking. To this day it remains so as proof of what took place. Then the nuns discovered the sister on the floor, plucked the nail from her cheek, and she regained her senses. The poor sinner wept greatly and repented utterly for her sin, confessing all that had taken place and why she had been so punished by Our Lord. Thenceforth she was a pious and holy sister and ended her days in the convent in God’s service. 

And the knight? After waiting with four of his kinsmen the whole night, he left, humiliated and believing he had been mocked by the sister. The author draws this lesson: “So it was that even though the devil had prepared the hearts of the nun and the knight to be joined as one, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is always the devil’s adversary, nullified and undid everything that the Evil One had wrought. For the nun turned her mind away from the knight because of God’s punishment, and the knight put away the love of the nun from his heart from anger at being humiliated. Further, when he learned what had happened, he considered himself to be a great sinner and repented for all the sins he had committed, left the world to become a monk, and served God well, ending his days piously.” 

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Oustside The Asylum by Ted Seeber is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
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