Thursday, August 25, 2016

Miracle Stories of the Middle Ages
Caesarius von Heisterbach als Novizenmeister

The legend of Our Lady of Mercy giving shelter under her outstretched cloak seems to have originated with the Cistercians c. 1230 in a collection of miracle stories entitled Dialogus Miraculorumrecorded by Caesarius of Heisterbach. One story tells of a Cistercian monk mystically transported to heaven.  St. Dominic and several of the first friars he gathered to found the new Order were originally Cistercians.  It is possible the Cistercian monk in this story refers to St. Dominic before the Order of Preachers was founded.  

The monk was enraptured to behold the heavenly host of angels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, holy men and women and people of all diverse types singing and praising God’s glory, when he noticed there was not a single Cistercian among them. Seeing the Queen of Heaven he asked her where his brothers were and why he did not see any of them in heaven.  Our Lady replied, “They who are of the Cistercian Order are most familiar and pleasing to me.  I keep them hidden here under my arms.”  Stretching out her arms she showed him an innumerable multitude of his fellow monks, lay-brethren, and nuns together under her mantle. Triumphant and thankful he came back to life and told the abbot what he had seen and heard.

The abbot repeated the vision to all of his fellow abbots and they told it to all the monks to increase their love of the Blessed Mother.  Caesarius confessed himself to be too unskilled a scribe to write all that ought to be written in praise of the Blessed Mother whose graces surpass all the Saints. He asked his readers to make up for his insufficiency so that the things which he has written would bear fruit and increase devotion.  Medieval readers took liberty with the story and recast it many times with their own family and friends sheltered under Mary’s protection.

(Heisterbacensis 1851), p. 79