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 Theophilus: The Prelate who sold his Soul to the Devil Header

As enclaves in modern European cities, medieval cathedrals reach up to the skies like giants of stone, challenging the persistent work of time and weather.  They were built by souls full of fervor who wanted to immortalize their Faith down through the centuries.

 

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Theophilus - Cathedral

Cathedrals: the Gospel etched in stone

These cathedrals, silent witnesses of successive historical eras, constitute a living instruction in the wisdom of the Holy Catholic Church. In their stone sculptures and delicate stained glass windows, they reflect the ideal order of the universe as established by God. Because of this, the cathedrals were called “the Bibles of the poor.”

In these new Bibles of stone and crystal, the artists of the past have carved innumerable parables teaching in a living manner the virtues that a faithful Catholic must practice. Among these stories carved in stone is one about Theophilus. The episode took place in Sicily and gave birth to a famous legend which inspired "The Miracle of Theophilus", one of the most famous works of medieval literature.

 

Turning to Black Magic for answers

At midnight, the narrow, winding streets of the city were empty. Concealed in his black gown and hidden by the shadows of the night, Theophilus stole away to the door of a dreary house in an outlying neighborhood. Soon afterward, he was received inside by a wizard who listened to his woes and problems.

“No,” the wizard pointed out to him. “My alchemy can do nothing in such delicate case.”

What was Theophilus’ problem? As a parish priest in a prosperous diocese in Sicily, he had for a long time administered Church properties with care and dedication, making it easier for his bishop to govern souls.

However, to the great sadness of the faithful, one day the bishop died. Who was to become the new bishop? “Theophilus, of course!” everyone declared. When the honor was offered to him, Theophilus declined with simplicity, stating that it was his vocation to remain a parish priest.

Eventually, a new bishop was installed in that diocese. But the prelate did not trust Theophilus and dismissed him a little later.

 

Despair and the Devil’s artifice

Theophilus - Image 1Sadness and desolation invaded the priest’s soul. While he wandered about the streets of the town the devil whispered to him, “To lose your post! To lose your career! How could they do this to you, Theophilus? You can’t let this situation stand!”

It was in this state of soul that the unfortunate priest knocked on the wizard’s door. The latter, however, told him the solution is not easy.

“There’s only one way out, “said the wizard, “to invoke the help of evil powers.”

Theophilus hesitated for a moment, but resentment ate up his heart. He finally accepted the proposal. Invoked by the wizard, the devil immediately appeared in all his hideousness.

Amidst shouts, blasphemies and course words, Satan dictated to Theophilus the terms of his contract which was to be written on parchment by Theophilus’ own blood, and sealed with his ring. He was to renounce the Catholic Faith, the Church, the Most Holy Virgin, and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Theophilus - Image 2

 Gaining the world at the loss of his soul

This infamous scene is etched in stone above the door leading to the cloister of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Kneeling down, the former parish priest pays homage and promises obedience to the devil that appears as a monstrous figure. As in a medieval ceremony of vassalage, wherein the vassal promised obedience to his lord, Theophilus put his hands together, palm to palm, and the devil clasped them with his own, signifying that he would protect the person placing himself under his authority.

Theophilus soon recovered his post. Fortune and pleasures smiled on him, but a great malaise tormented his soul. He felt as though an invisible hand were crushing his heart.

In addition, he felt extremely unhappy with the simple idea that one day his happiness was going to end. Most of all, he was terrified with the knowledge of who his master was.

 

Remorse and Our Lady’s pardon

Unable to bear that situation any longer, Theophilus entered the church and threw himself at the feet of the Most Holy Virgin and bitterly wept for his sin. He did this for forty consecutive days, renewing his supplications and begging for forgiveness.

Theophilus - Image 3One evening Our Lady appeared to him and severely reproached the infamous deed he had committed. Always in tears, Theophilus implored mercy from the Mother of God, reminding Her of so many examples of sinners such as David, King and Prophet; St. Mary Magdalene; and St. Peter. Our Lady said She would forgive him for having denied Her, but that She could not forgive him for having denied Her Son.

Theophilus prayed fervently, but he dared not to address Our Lord, but asked Our Lady to intercede for him.

The Holy Virgin reminded him that, before anything else, it was necessary to retrieve the contract he had signed with the devil. The contract was in hell, She said, and Christ would not go to such a hideous place to get it. Finally, full of mercy, Our Lady decided to retrieve the contract Herself.

For three days, Theophilus lay prostrate on the ground. Then, the Immaculate Virgin appeared again and gave him the contract as a symbol of Her pardon.

 

Our Lady, an icon of strength and fortitude

This apogee of mercy of the Mother of God is depicted in the impressive illustration. While the repentant priest prays fervently, the Most Holy Virgin with sword in hand – a model of fortitude – obliges the devil to return the parchment. In this picture, Theophilus shows confidence and calm; Our Lady appears full of strength and maternal protection; and the devil displays cynical hatred and profound despair.

However, this is not the end of the story. After Sunday Mass, which was celebrated by the Bishop, Theophilus publicly confessed his sins. The cursed parchment was burned as the people chanted in thanksgiving. Three days later, Theophilus died, comforted by the holy Sacraments, and was buried in that same church.

 

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 *Adopted from Crusade for a Christian Civilization Magazine, Vol. 7, Number 6, November-December, 1977

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 9, 2020

Outpourings of affection for God, of resting in His presence...

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April 9

 

Outpourings of affection for God,
of resting in His presence,
of good feelings toward everyone and sentiments and prayers like these …
are suspect
if they do not express themselves in practical love
which has real effects.

St. Vincent de Paul

 
My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

 

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Waudru or Waldetrudis

Waldedrudis retired to a small house where she lived a life...

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St. Waudru or Waldetrudis

Waldedrudis, or Waudru in French, was the daughter of the Duke of Lorraine, St. Walbert and his wife St. Bertilia and closely related to the Merovingian royal family. Her sister, St. Aldegundis of Maubeuge, was a foundress and abbess.

Waldedrudis was married to the noble St. Vincent Madelgar, Count of Hainault with whom she had four children, all of them canonized saints.

Although her family life was serene and exemplary, she suffered much from the slander of others, and from severe interior trials and temptations. God, after some years, recompensed her fidelity with a holy peace, and great spiritual consolations.

Sometime after the birth of their fourth child, the Count Madelgar withdrew into the Benedictine Abbey of Haumont which he had founded, taking the name of Vincent. Waldedrudis retired to a small house where she lived a life of prayer, poverty and simplicity. Such was the influx of people seeking her counsel, however, that the holy matron eventually founded a convent around which grew the city of Mons in Belgium.

St. Waudru, as she is known in Belgium, was renowned for her works of charity and for the numerous miracles she performed during her life and after death. She is the patroness of Mons.

Photos by: Guy Debognies

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort...

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And He Stole Heaven

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.
 
On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.

Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.  
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

 

By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

 

Free Meditation Booklet - Be Still and Know That I AM GOD

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

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