A Legend of the Holy Infancy

In the early 1900's an ecclesiastical commission was formed by the Dominican Order to inquire into the life of Bernard of Morlaas, who has long beencalled Blessed, The touching episode from his life here related has beenhanded down as worthy of credence, in a tradition dating back to 1277.It is related in the chronicles of the Dominican Order that, between theyears 1250 and 1277 A.D, there lived in the monastery of Santarem, inPortugal, a holy friar called Bernard. He was a native of Morlaas, a littlevillage of the Lower Pyrenees, near Paul. At the age of nineteen he enteredthe Order, and was sent by his superiors to pursue his studies in Portugal.His student life was one of great simplicity and innocence; and when, havingcompleted his noviceship, he was ordained priest, he still retained a humbleposition in the monastery; being assigned to the care of the sacristy, andentrusted with the education of two little boys, who were joblates of theOrder.It was his delight, however, to guide those young souls in the paths ofholiness, and to watch their innocent hearts grow in the love of God and OurBlessed Lady. No wonder that he found joy in his occupation; for those boysof his seemed more like angels than human beings. His words of wisdom andpiety fell like golden seed upon the richest of soils when he spoke to themof God and heaven, of humility and poverty, of obedience and of purity; andtheir guileless ways, and their simple, confiding affection, well repaid thelessons he taught, making his task a sweet and easy one.At the noonday hour and at eventide, when their lessons were ended, thosetwo boys were accustomed to eat their modest meals together, kneeling at alittle table, placed before an image of Our Lady with the Divine Infant inher arms; and as they ate they talked together of heavenly things, oftenraising their eyes to the statue above them, and calling on the little Jesusand His Holy Mother to bless and protect them.One day, while they were at dinner, Bernard, unknown to them, went to thedoor of the room where they ate (the statue was in a sort of oratorydedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, which served as their refectory), andoverheard his little disciples, who were talking most earnestly, and withchildlike freedom, to the statue before them."Come down from Thy Mother's arms, sweet little Lord, and share our dinnerwith us. O Blessed Lady, let thy dear Son come down and keep us company fora while! We will give Him the best we have, and then let Him go back to thyarms again. Do come, sweet Jesus!We are your little friends, and we have no companions; come down and eatwith us."And, lo! the Mother's arms opened, her hands unclasped; and her DivineChild, no longer a mere statue of stone, but a living, breathing, speakingChild of flesh and blood, radiant with smiles and loving condescension,stepped down to the humble table, and shared the dinner of His two littleadorers.Fancy the amazement and delight of Bernard in the presence of such a miracleof love! Those little ones, so dear to his heart, were chosen, privilegedfriends of his Lord and Master; but they were too simple and childlike, tooguileless and innocent, to understand the wonderful favor and grace whichtheir prayers had gained for them. With joyful lips, they related to Bernardafterward the event which he himself had witnessed. They repeated to him thewords of their invitation, and told how kindly the little Jesus hadconsented to join them. They were eager to obtain some more choice viand fora future meal, that they might do honor to their Divine Guest.Fra Bernard not only pondered their story in the secret of his heart, withthanksgivings to God for having given him such angelic pupils, but he madeit known to his brethren of the monastery, as evidence of the blessings theywould bring to the community. The following day he said to his littlefriends (for he meant to encourage their miraculous intercourse):"When the Divine Child comes to dine with you the next time, ask Him to letyou eat with Him some day in His Father's house."With all simplicity, they did as Bernard told them; and related to himafterward that the Child Jesus had given them an invitation to dine in HisFather's house on the next great feastday that should be celebrated in themonastery."But," said Bernard, "one thing has been forgotten: you must tell the DivineChild that you cannot dine out of the community without your preceptor'spermission; and that you would like to have Fra Bernard included in theinvitation."Great, therefore, was his joy when his pupils told him that he also was toshare in this wonderful favor.Three days later was the Feast of the Ascension. Bernard said Mass, and thelittle fellows served it as usual, and received Holy Communion. When Masswas ended the three devoted friends, master and pupils, knelt together atthe foot of the altar to make their thanksgiving. They were so rapt in holyjoy that they did not observe how long they prayed-at least so the brethrenof the community thought; but when more than an hour had passed, and theystill showed no disposition to leave the chapel, the superior sent a friarto tell them that they had prayed long enough: it was now time for them tobreakfast and go to daily duties.They did not answer the call; when it was repeated, they still remainedsilent, absorbed, apparently, in their devotions. The friar touched Bernardon the shoulder, but he did not move; nor did the children stir when hepulled them by the sleeves. Could they be asleep kneeling at their prayers?Finally, looking into their faces, he found that their gaze was fixed uponthe altar; but it was the gaze of death: they had gone together to banquetwith the Infant Jesus in the heavenly home of His Eternal Father.From "The Angelus" - December 1980(http://www.angelusonline.org/)