By Friar Martin the Sanguine,
Translated by Françoise Noël
MIRACULOUS AND AWESOME is the light of the grace of God. Sometimes it comes as gentle as the soft glow of a candle in the heart of a repentant sinner; other times it bursts in as a bright, roaring fire from Heaven sent to consume evil like hellfire.
Such it was when Our Lady came to Bellegarde with news of her retrieval of the Sacred Basin of Christ. Holy preachers have long taught the story of the Sacred Basin and roving minstrels have sung of it, so that the whole of Christendom has now heard the wonderful tale. How God used the arch-heretic Simon Magus to rescue it after Our Savior’s death, how it was preserved at the orders of the Apostle John to be recovered and installed in Constantinople by the holy Empress Helena as one of the world’s greatest mementoes of the Passion. From there, centuries later it came unto our great King Charles as an heirloom of Empire, and so in the fullness of time ultimately passed into the care of the Poor Knights of the Temple.
The opening page of the earliest extant account of the Scolding Madonna, written at least two decades after her second and (so far) final appearance.
All men know what happened then; how the Mother of God herself reclaimed it as her own when it would have been betrayed with the Templars in the town of Bellegarde. Ever since the Pelluvium Sanctissimum disappeared, this city has drawn both the curious and the devout in ever-greater numbers.
Early among them came Pedilavists from the East, true worshippers of the Sacred Basin, seeking to wash their sins away as Our Lord, and later Flagellants arrived, the penitent brethren of the whip, from Paris, it was said, or even Italy.
Both groups were scorned, held in vehement suspicion by the fat priests, falsely accused of the most abominable sins and heresies by men of small souls envious of true piety. The sectarians supposedly held feasts, they outrageously claimed, where all candles were extinguished, and each person took their neighbor in lust in the darkness. Male or female, it mattered not. If babies were born from such unholy trysts, it was said, the infants were eaten by them unblessed in a diabolical mockery of the sacred meal of Christ. The shamelessness of these liars knew no bounds.
For all such tales as would make even troubadours blush were libels spread by the jealous mendicants. Yea, even the followers of the blessed Francis among whom I was once counted feared for their trade in salvation. The friars who swore not to handle money made merchandise of redemption, while condemning those pure souls as their unholy competition. Driven by their jealousy, the innocent practitioners of discipline and purification were hunted down alike, and put to the question.
That is what brought the dread Inquisition to Bellegarde there in that year of grace MCCCXXXVII, summoned not by any need to defend the truths of Holy Mother Church from error, but to save lazy monks from being shown up by sincere laymen.
Despite their efforts, the torturers could find no fault in any man or woman, nor any trace of the Sacred Basin they secretly lusted after like their false pope in Avignon.
But Squire Simeon, the sole Templar remaining yet then alive, spared because he had been but a boy, escaped from his cell to seek sanctuary in the holy House of God. He sought not temporary freedom in the woods, but the true and perfect freedom of the Sons of God, and it was granted unto him.
There in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mercy, at the boy Jacques’ vigil before his knighting, he, along with Jacques, and the blessed maid Madeleine, the baron’s daughter, all beheld a most glorious Vision. At the back of the Templars’ ravaged tomb, they beheld the Sacred Basin shining brightly as it floated in the air as foretold, in the middle of the night between Friday, June the thirteenth, and Saturday.
Not all there present were afforded such a rare grace, including Bishop Pierre of Bellegarde, and his bastard son Gilles. They missed the wondrous sight while they argued theology. Another so denied such a privilege and comfort was the Chief Inquisitor himself, a certain Friar Jehan D’Laval. In his towering impious rage, he slew Simeon on the spot, and seized all the others to be burnt the following day.
Shortly before midday, on Saturday when the Sun shone hot at its highest point on Midsummer Day, the great miracle occurred. The instruments of discovery [torture devices] had been set on display in the square before the Cathedral adjacent to the instruments of correction [the stakes]. The Assistant Inquisitor stood stiffly and haughtily in their midst awaiting the Act of Faith. The procession of the condemned had just begun when it happened before the sight of all, including this writer.
The doomed had not stepped five paces into the square when suddenly there came a flash of light, brighter than the brightest lightening, accompanied by a great ringing peal of thunder such as never been heard before.
Like the very Trump of Doom, the deep roar shook the ground and the people cried out in terror. A blinding bolt out of the clear sky struck the devilish instruments. For the wrath of God blasted them all into tiny bits, including Chief Inquisitor Friar D’Laval. The fire of Heaven left only the stench of Hell behind. Nothing larger than a belt buckle remained; and all was blackened and burnt.
While all the people marveled, an even greater wonder appeared. With the sound of rushing wind and another flash, behold the Virgin Mary stood above them in the unfinished window of her cathedral. Flanked by two angels with great torches shooting out great celestial flames and torrents of sparks, she carried one aloft herself. Clad in blue robes, the Holy Mother angrily berated her children with words that burned like the punishing fire of justice into all the hearts of the people.
“Dearest children, why must you grieve me so?” the Lady said. “Why do you persist in violence towards your brothers and sisters? Are they not children of God also? Often my heart has been broken seeing what you do to each other in the name of your heavenly Father. He wants no burnt offering, but the love of each and every one of you!
“There is more forgiveness found in comforting a hurt child than in slaying a thousand heathen. Salvation lies not in shedding another’s blood but in staunching it. If you gory villains were able to win Paradise in that way, you could storm Heaven over the piles of corpses that you have already made.
“Tempt not Your Heavenly Father to treat you the same way! If greed, pride, and intolerance cease not, God's fury will surely lay waste to your land. Unending war will stalk you, and disease like none you have ever seen will mow you down like grass for the fire.
“Forgive one another and repent while yet you can! Grant liberty to those condemned here unjustly. Do penance gladly and pray that God will forget his just anger. Only then might He overlook the great blasphemy done here in His Name. For my devoted servant Simeon, a true squire, was slain in this very House of God! His blood yet stains My church! For that offense you have been judged.
“Because of your sins, years ago I removed my Sacred Basin from the world. Likewise I have taken away the cursed gold and jewels that would pay for forgiveness yet tempted so many. Now today, because of your wickedness has not ceased, I declare that the Most Holy Footbath will never be returned to you until the End of Days when its grace will be needed most. Until then, rare glimpses only of it will I allow to those whom I choose to remind the world of the great evil you have committed. Rumors only will you know of it until then. Repent or face the cleansing fires of Heaven! So shall it be!”
There was a mighty flash and a great roar. All did cower and cross themselves, thinking doom had come upon them. When at last the people looked up, only a wisp of smoke remained in the empty window. The Virgin and angels had vanished.
All the people wept and praised God. Many abandoned souls were turned to grace that day.
During the days and years that followed, vigil was kept. The Pedilavists and Flagellants came together in keeping the remembrance of Mary, and so a company of the devout joined together with me. We took the name of the “Little Brothers and Sisters of Penance.” Unbelievers profanely mocked us as the “Little Brothers and Sisters of Misery” for we took no joy in earthly delights but were ever sober, mindful of the grief to come. We waited patiently upon the Mother of God, praying her to spare the world.
Yet the people’s repentance was not enough. Within a decade, the Great Pestilence descended, with invasion and war with the blasting fires she foretold. Famine and all the dire punishments threatened by the Mother of God fell upon France in a terrible judgment. The people were stricken without mercy and often seemingly without reason; lords and peasants, knights and merchants, priests and Jews alike all fell. So many fell at once, the corpses were dumped together in charnel pits. It was the beginning of the Time of Troubles, a sure foretaste, bitter as wormwood, of the End of the World.
Through it all, Plague, Famine, War, and Death, our brave, small, yet dwindling company maintained a vigil there before the Tomb of the Templars. Finally, on the very anniversary of the first Vision of the Sacred Basin, six years after the Black Death ceased its awful work, and nineteen long years after the Lady made her promise, she sent it again as a sign. There in the darkness, the six others remaining and myself were graced by the unearthly sight of the Sacred Basin, whole and undefiled, glowing spectrally before our marveling eyes. Only a few moments did it shine, then faded as quietly as it had come, leaving us all gasping in a rapture of awe.
The holy vision was a sight both pure and profound. We knew then, just as surely as if we had seen the Holy Tub before us in its bodily form, that we were saved. For the Sacred Basin appeared glorified just as we shall be when we rise from the dead: smooth, whole, and unblemished. And so that very night, with praise and thanksgiving we flogged and bathed each other in the full assurance of Heaven’s grace. No embrace was spared among us, I admit, for it had been revealed to us that we had passed the test.
We do not torture to punish nor question the truth. Pain in its purest form brings forth perfection, and by enduring it, we attain the purity and perfect freedom of the Sons of God. For us who have been purified by the vision, all things are pure: nothing shall be forbidden. The law has no more hold on us any longer; as our torments are not imposed but is willing payment for our sins, so the sacred joy it turns into is ours alone. No lord nor priest may judge nor condemn us to whom the judgment of the world shall be given when the End comes.
Though exceedingly glad, we eventually renamed ourselves “the Sorrowful Community of Penance and Perfection.” For the holy discipline is our delight, utter abasement is our pride, and stinging humiliation our supreme exaltation. In this we follow Christ, “For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.” To demean ourselves as sinners elevates us as angels, but it is not all that is needful. For Jesus also said, “Ye are clean, but not all.”
Washing Our Savior commanded for our final justification. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
Therefore after purification comes cleansing that our souls may pass from pain unto perfection. And so our community practices that which the Mother of God taught, but now that the Day of Wrath is come upon us, we no longer hope for its avoidance. Instead, we pray that She may permit the Holy Tub to come among men again that the final consummation of the world take place.
Until eternity dawns we, both the perfected and the penitent, wait in tender expectation.