THE PRIORESS’S TALE OF A LITTLE CHRISTIAN MARTYR
O Lord, our Lord, Thy marvellous name resounds
Through all the earth. To Thee do children cry
“Hosanna to the King of kings!” E’en I
Will add my voice in honour of the Maid,
That Lily Flower, Thy Mother, loved of Thee.
Grant me Thy grace and pity, deign to hear
My prayer, and take of all I do, the praise.
In a great city of Asia, among the Christian folk, many Jews once dwelt, gathered there by the lord of the land for villainous usury, and through their street, year in year out, passed children on their way to school. Among these children went a widow’s son, a little chorister seven years of age, and as he went to school never did he fail to kneel and do reverence to the statue of the Virgin and sing the Ave Maria.
One day at school the elder children were singing the anthem Alma Redemptions, and the little child, looking up from his primer, drew as near to them as he dared, and listened till he knew by heart the first verse. However, he was too young to know what the Latin meant, so he besought his friend to explain, even going down on his knees to beg him to tell it all correctly. The friend was willing to teach him. “They say,” he said, “that it is in honour of Our Lady, and it is to Her we sing it, but I can tell you no more. I know the song, but not enough Latin grammar to translate it.” Then the child was even more eager to learn, and daily his friend taught him till he could sing it perfectly, words and music: and as he went to and from school each day, he sang it merrily as he passed through the street of the Jews. But Satan, who first led mankind astray, whispered to the Jews to be revenged on one who dared to praise the Mother of Jesus so boldly in their streets. And they plotted with a murderer, who one day seized the child, killed him, and cast away the body in a pit.
("O cursed folk!” then cried the Prioress, “your secret is in vain. Murder will out whatever men may do. But thou, O blessed martyr, thou shalt sing pure songs among the choirs that John of Patmos saw in his vision as he stood before the great White Lamb.”)
The poor widow waited all that night, and in the morning, pale from anxious thought, she sought the child at school and everywhere through the town.
Distraught with a mother’s grief, she cried piteously throughout the town, until she learnt that her son was last seen in the Jewry. Then by Jesus’ help she came to the very place where her young son lay, and though he was dead already, as she drew near he began to sing the Alma Redemptions so loud and clear that all the Christian folk passing through the street gathered together. Seeing how things were, they sent for the provost, who arrested the Jews. Their guilt was clear, and he dealt with them according to the law, praising Christ and His Virgin Mother for this marvellous revelation.