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The Miracle of the Jewish Boy

Gregory Johnson

Let us bear well in mind those miracles of Our Lady which are true stories and show us how helpful she ever is to mankind.

This miracle happened in a city where Catholics and Jews both dwelt, living together in one street. The Catholic children often gathered and played in a pleasant field, and there a Jew's child often played with them. The child's father took no heed of this and never cast an eye upon him; therefore, the child came and went whenever he chose to play. So often did the Jew's son join the games of Catholic children that he was welcomed to play with them.

At one Christmas time, which the Catholics kept with great solemnity, a beautiful monastery chapel had been completed in the midst of the city. The people went to it to hear both matins and Mass. Everyone in best array, both husbands and wives attended.

Our Lady, Christ Child

So comely a Lady and lovely a Child was never seen
The children followed their parents in a group, as they were wont to do, and the Jew's child happily went along with them. When he was inside the church, he thought he had never been so glad as he was at that seemly sight, such as he had never seen before - both lamps and tapers burning brightly, altars wonderfully ornamented, and beautifully wrought gold images of many good saints.

In a chair sat a comely Queen, all decorated with gold. Upon her arm she bore a blissful Babe, in kingly crown as He should be. The child looked long at that Lady and at that joyful Babe, and noted how people told their beads before them. The Jew's child felt such pleasure in all the sights he saw and thought them all so sweet that he was almost ravished with joy.

As the High Mass of the day was done, the priest bade all men kneel down. The Jew's child took heed of this and knelt among the Christians. Although he was pushed about by the crowd, he was not afraid, and he spared no pains until he too received the blessing of the priest. Of such a child no one took notice.

When all things were brought to an end and every Catholic drew towards home, the Jew, seeking his child throughout the town, saw him come from the church. He asked his son where he had been while he had sought him all that day. The boy told the whole story of what he had done and seen.

The father then waxed mad with anger and said at once, "Now take your reward!" Going to his hot oven, which was round and gleamed as does a glowing coal, he cast the child into it, intending to burn him to ashes. With the mouth-stone he sealed the oven, and thought that the truth would not be revealed.

When his mother heard this, she entered into a frenzy and became as if mad in her sorrow. Wailing and tearing her hair, she ran out into every street in that city, up and down, everywhere, and folk wondered about her sorrow and felt great pity. When they heard her wailing, the mayor and the bailiffs of the town halted her and inquired why she cried so wildly and sorrowed, especially on Christmas Day.

Outdoor medieval oven

The villagers went to examine the oven of the Jew
As soon as she could cease weeping, this woeful mother answered, "Sirs, you have this city to keep; as lords you must execute law. Alas! alas! I am destroyed, and must beg your help. I pray for a just judgment; I shall prove my cause before you. My husband has burned my child - shut him up in a glowing oven! Go, see, sirs, and I will give you gold enough."

Mayor and bailiffs, together with the people, went to the Jew's oven. As they had arrived, the mayor commanded, "Put down the stone." Then every man there saw how the oven roof, that was round, was in appearance like glowing glass from roof to ground. The child sat there whole and sound, not harmed in hand nor hair, amid the coals which were all about, just as if he sat in a cool arbor.

Seeing that, the child's mother was overcome with joy. She quickly removed the boy and embraced him to her. All the people present there wondered at that strange sight and praised God, for a miracle is more than man's might.

Then they asked the boy how it was that he had come to no harm among the brands that burned so brightly. The child answered at once:

"Never in all my life have I had such great happiness as came to me after I was put into the oven. Both brands and coals, in truth, that were beneath my feet like fair flowers, like rare spices, seemed sweet to me. The blissful Queen, that Maiden mild, who sits in church on her throne, with that comely King, her Child, that blissful Babe that she holds on her bosom, shielded me from all harm, from coals and brands that burned so clearly, from all the flames that flowed so wildly, and they could never come near me."

Then all who were there, men and women, small and great, low and high, praised God heartily for this miracle. The Jewess, through her son's word, was converted to Christ anon, and the child and she accepted the law of Christ.

The mayor himself examined the Jew to judge of his crime, and 12 men were sworn to speak the truth and to give their verdict upon the case. They took counsel together, and came back with one common sentence. The words of their verdict were, "In that same oven he shall be burned."

Thus is ended this story of the miracle of the Virgin. Grant us joy in heaven on high, Lord Jesus, for Thy Mother's love. Amen.

Adapted from Legends and Satires from Medieval Literature,
ed. by Martha Hale Shackford, Boston: Ginn and Co., 1913, pp. 83-86.
Posted December 18, 2010

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