Today is a festive day for the Sisters in the Novitiate, as they celebrate the feast of St. Louis Bertrand, O.P., patron saint of Dominican novice masters and novice mistresses. Each year sees a joyous celebration of his feast day in honor of our Novice Mistress here at Marbury.
There are many wonderful stories of St. Louis Bertrand worthy of their own post. The story below, however, features not St. Louis Bertand himself, but Blessed Bernard of Moraas, a forerunner of his in the history of holy Dominican novice masters.
A Novice Master’s Prerogative: A Dominican Saint Story
There is scarcely a more beautiful story in the Chronicles of the Order than that of Blessed Bernard of Moraas and his novices of the Convent of Santaren in Portugal. This holy man was a native of Gascony, and exercised the office of sacristan in his convent. He also taught some of the children of the nobility living in the neighborhood. Amongst these there were two in particular, who, according to the custom of the time, wore from devotion the habit and tonsure of the Order, for which they were probably destined, though, on account of their tender years, they continued to return at night to their homes.
Whilst their holy teacher was discharging his duties about the church, the two boys were accustomed to prepare their lessons in one of the chapels, where there was an altar with the statue of our Lady bearing the Holy Child in her arms. Here also they used to eat the food they had brought with them, sitting on the altar-step. In their childlike simplicity they one day invited the Divine Babe to come and share their meal; and lo! In answer to their invitation, Jesus descended from His Mother’s knee and came and sat beside them. Day after day and week after week the miraculous favour was renewed. The children spoke of it to their parents, who naturally attached no credit to their words, imagining the story to be a pretence for securing a more abundant supply of food. But Blessed Bernard, who knew the innocence and holiness of his little pupils, formed a different judgment, and hearing them complain that their Divine Guest never brought any contribution to the meal and never invited them in return, he bade them, next time the Holy Child should condescend to come to them, ask Him to let them sup with Him in His Father’s house.
Accordingly, on the first of the Rogation days, when our Lord had come as usual to share their repast, they proffered their request. “Your petition is a very just one,” replied the Divine Child, “and I now invite you to a solemn banquet in My Father’s house in three days’ time.” The children hastened to carry the good tidings to their teacher, who charged them to return to the statue and say to the Holy Child that it was not according to the custom of the Order for novices to go out unaccompanied by their Master, and that therefore he begged to be included in the invitation. On receiving a favourable answer to his request, he began with unspeakable joy of heart to prepare for his approaching end.
When Ascension Day came he offered the Holy Sacrifice at the very altar where these heavenly feasts had taken place, and gave Holy Communion to the favoured little ones. Mass being over, he knelt down between them to await the summons to the heavenly banquet; and there all three were found kneeling lifeless, with eyes and hands raised to heaven, when the community came from dinner [processing into choir during the grace after meals, as we do to this very day!]. This wonderful event is believed to have taken place A.D. 1277; and steps are at the present time [c. 1910] being taken to procure the solemn beatification of Blessed Bernard and his novices.
From The Spirit of the Dominican Order: Illustrated from the Lives of Its Saints (1910) by Mother Frances Raphael (Augusta Theodosia Drane) of the English Dominican Congregation of St. Catharine of Siena. Illustration by the Dominican Nuns, Marbury, Alabama. (We wish to render a BIG THANK YOU to St. Anthony and St. Jude, without whose heavenly assistance the above illustration would have remained quite lost!)
St. Loius Bertrand and Blessed Bernard of Moraas–pray for us and for all Novice Masters and Novice Mistresses!