A story about childbirth for Advent and Mary’s feast. I am sure Joseph felt anxious as Mary’s due date drew near, and there they were, away from home, with just the ass to keep them company – and bring Mary safely to Bethlehem. (Don’t say the Ass does not appear in the Gospel accounts of the Nativity: would Joseph not have made provision for her comfort?)
Saint Francis sent two friars to dwell at Alvernia; and he sent back with them the peasant, who had come with him behind the ass, which he had lent him, desiring that he should return with them to his home.
The friars went with the peasant and, as they entered the county of Arezzo, certain men saw them afar off, and had great joy thereof, thinking that it was Saint Francis, who had passed that way two days before for one of their women had been three days in travail and could not bring to the birth was dying; and they thought to have her back sound and well, if Saint Francis laid his holy hands upon her.
But, when the friars drew near, the men perceived that Saint Francis was not with them; and they were very sad. Nevertheless, albeit the saint was not there in the flesh, his, virtue lacked not, because they lacked not faith.
O marvellous thing! the woman was dying and was already in her death agony, when they asked the friars if they had anything which the most holy hands of Saint Francis had touched. The friars thought and searched diligently, but could find nothing which Saint Francis had touched with his hands save only the halter of the ass upon which he had come. With great reverence and devotion those men took that halter and laid it upon the belly of the pregnant woman, calling devoutly on the name of Saint Francis and faithfully commending themselves to him. And what more? No sooner had the aforesaid halter been laid upon the woman than, anon, she was freed from all peril, and gave birth joyfully, with ease and safety.
Let us thank God that most women in the West today are unlikely to die in childbirth, and let us pray for women elsewhere who have difficulty in bringing their child to birth, perhaps due to genital mutilation. And let us pray for the women and men striving to abolish this practice. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Image from FMSL