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Miracles in Spain - 5

The Prior & Uberto the Sexton

Gonzalo de Berceo
In this story, Fr. de Bercero records a story of how Our Lady helped a foul-mouthed Prior in the town of Pavia in Lombardy, Italy.

In a good town that they call Pavia, a town of great wealth that lies in Lombardy, there was a rich monastery of many good men, a very holy company. The monastery was erected in honor of the One who saved the world, the Holy Savior (Monastery of San Salvador of Pavia, founded in the 11th century).


The Monastery of San Salvador in Pavia dates to the 11th century

There happened to be a Prior in it who only wanted to live exactly as he pleased. The man had an erring tongue, he said much filth, which is forbidden by the rule. He did not lead a very ordered life but did say his hours in serenity.

He had one custom that profited him: He said all his hours like a proper monk; for those of the Glorious Virgin he always stood; and for that reason the Devil felt great animosity toward him. Although in some things he seemed dull and, as we told you, he was foulmouthed, in loving the Glorious Virgin he was quite devout. He said her Office de suo corde toto (wholeheartedly).

When God willed it, this Prior died. He fell into exile (Purgatory), in a harsh place, no one could tell you the misery that the prior bore, nor could one imagine it!

There was a sexton in that abbey who looked after the things of the sacristy. He was called Uberto, a prudent man and without folly: because of him the monastery was worth more, not less! Before Matins, very early one morning, this monk arose to say the Matins prayer, to ring Matins, to awaken the company, to set up the lamps, to light the dwelling. The Prior of the house, mentioned above, had been dead for a year.

This Uberto, before he began ringing the monitory bell, was cleaning the lamps to provide better light when he took great fright in a strange manner. He heard a man's weak, tired voice: It said "Friar Uberto" more than once. Uberto recognized it and did not doubt at all that it was the Prior's and took great fright.


The foul-mouthed Prior always prayed the Office to Our Lady with devotion

He went out of the church to the infirmary, his spirit was filled with fear, were he going on a pilgrimage he would not have moved faster. Being in such a state, out of his wits, he heard, "Uberto, Uberto, why do you not answer me? Look, have no fear – by no means be afraid; consider how to speak to me and how to question me."

Then Uberto said: "Prior, by your faith, tell me about yourself, how you are, so that the chapter will know what state you are in or what state you expect."

The Prior said: "Uberto, my servant, know that up to now my state has been miserable; I fell into a place of exile, cruel and unpleasant. The prince of the land was called Smirna. I suffered great misery. I could not tell you the evil I have suffered.

"But Holy Mary passed by there. She felt grief and sorrow for the harm I was suffering. She took me by the hand and carried me with her. She led me to a serene and sheltering place. She freed me from oppression of the mortal enemy. She put me in a place where I will live without peril.

"Thanks be to the Glorious Virgin who is full of grace! I am free from misery, I have come out of suffering."

With that, the voice became silent and the monastery awoke. They all went to the church with good will, and said Matins and prayers of intercession in a manner that would please God. Matins sung, the day dawned. Then they said Prime, and afterward the Litany. Then the holy company went to the chapter house obeying the rule, the custom of monks.

virgin monk

Our Lady has mercy on the Prior

Being in the chapter meeting and the lesson read, the sexton related to the assembly the entire vision.

All gave thanks to the Glorious Mother who to her vassals is always merciful. They went to the church singing a beautiful hymn to her and had the whole story set down in writing.

After a little while the sexton died. He left harsh winter, he entered fair summer, he went to Paradise where he will be forever safe.

This is summum bonum (the supreme good) to serve such a Lady, who knows how to aid her servants in such an hour. This Lady is a good shelter, she is a good shepherdess. She helps everyone who pray to her with a good heart.

All who heard of this vision gathered into their souls great devotion, loving the Glorious One with a better heart and calling upon her in their tribulations.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Adapted from Gonzalo de Berceo, Miracles of Our Lady,
trans. by T. Mount and A. Cash, Un of Lexington Press, 1997, pp. 49-53

Posted July 27, 2019

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