Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Marian Miracles

The Virgin of Miracles
The Virgin of Miracles is a statue in a monastery in Huelva, Spain.  It is 54 centimeters (21 inches) tall. By legend, it was made by St. Luke in the 1st century CE; by careful dating and artistic style, it is dated to the late 13th or early 14th centuries. Supposedly, it was thrown into the sea during the Arab conquest of Spain to save it from the infidels, and after the Spanish Reconquista it surfaced in the nets of local fishermen.

Miracles such as this are part and parcel of a religion and its saints, but Mary seems to have inspired more tales of miracles than any other figure in Christianity. The Middle Ages was full of them.

• A priest who was not capable of saying any Mass other than that of the Virgin Mary was suspended by his bishop for lack of competence. Mary appeared to the bishop and told him to reinstate the priest...or die. The bishop knew better than to disobey.

• Gregory of Tours tells us that a Jewish child wandered into a church dedicated to Mary and took Communion during Mass. Finding this out, his father angrily threw him into a furnace. When his mother pulled him out, he was unharmed. The boy claimed that a woman with a baby whom he had seen in the church appeared in the furnace and covered him with her mantle to protect him.

• A monastery suffering from famine decided to pray to Mary throughout the night. The next morning their barns were filled with grain and food. This miracle turned into an annual occurrence for several years.

• A medieval story from before the 13th century tells us a Flemish monk whose job was to illustrate the portals of the abbey with scenes of Heaven and Hell. While painting an ugly Satan, Satan appeared and begged the monk to portray him as handsome. The monk refused, Satan collapsed his scaffolding, and a statue of Mary extended its arms and held him from falling until help could arrive.

Tales of miracles were a comfort, assuring the populace that there were forces at work in the world to save them from the dangers therein.

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