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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 September 27, 2020

Do not worry yourself overmuch … Grace has its moments. Le...

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September 27

 

Do not worry yourself overmuch …
Grace has its moments.
Let us abandon ourselves to the providence of God
and be very careful not to run ahead of it.

St. Vincent de Paul


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

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Vincent de Paul

“Perfection in love does not consist of ecstasies, but in...

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St. Vincent de Paul

Born in 1576, ordained to the priesthood in 1600, he suffered many trials and setbacks and did not become a pastor for a number of years after his ordination. He was captured by Muslim pirates and held in captivity for two years after which he escaped with an apostate Italian, whom he succeeded in converting back to Catholicism. It was only in 1617 that he became a pastor and also the chaplain to Queen Marguerite, the separated wife of King Henry IV.
During this period, he founded many hospitals and orphanages, and frequently visited prisons. Through all of these arduous works, he remained calm and pleasant with everyone despite the tremendous amount of work he had undertaken, because as Father de Laurent states, Vincent possessed treasures of goodness. His bright eyes reflected his burning charity and his copious undertakings were the fruit of his pure goodness for “no one exerts a serious influence upon his surroundings if he is not fundamentally good.” He welcomed all with a beaming smile and charm, and firmly believed that the hours that he sacrificed to charity were never lost.

He saw the wealthy as a reflection of the Divine nobility of Our Lord, and in the poor, His voluntary and sublime poverty. While Vincent received many considerably large donations along with notable recognition from on high, none of this affected his profound humility. He also led an intense spiritual life. His contemplation of God gave him the graces and strength to accomplish what ordinary men could never do. He was a man of action, but he also was a man of continual prayer. His actions were a mere overflowing of his interior life, which was well nourished. He would often say “There is not much to hope for from a man who does not like to converse with God.” Rising at four in the morning, he would go directly to the chapel to spend an hour in meditation, celebrate daily Mass and afterward, recite his breviary.

Visitors would come by seeking consultations in grave matters during which he would remain silent for a few minutes, praying to God for good counsel and then dispense advice. He would bless himself each time that the clock struck the hour or quarter-hour. Vincent said that he saw the soul of Jane Frances de Chantal rise to Heaven in the form of a fiery globe during one of his Masses. He was a humble man who never divulged his prayer life, often recommended communal prayer and would frequently say, “Perfection in love does not consist of ecstasies, but in doing the will of God.”

Most importantly, he had a special devotion to Our Lady. He began this devotion in his youth and increased it throughout his life. Ultimately, he went forward in life after contemplation and prayer, not relying on human support, and by doing the Will of God.

Vincent was taken ill and died in 1660. He was canonized by Pope Clement XII in 1737.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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