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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
Exclusive Representation of the Nativity Scene.
Charity must lead all the faithful, without exception, to be interested in the sufferings of the poor souls who expiate their sins by fire; but it creates a duty even more pressing if it is a question of relatives, friends, benefactors. Queen Gude, wife of Sancho, King of Leon, understood this.
This great prince had just triumphed over a revolt by the value of his weapons, and the rebels were brought to a complete submission, when their chief Gonzalve, seeing that he could not resist the force, called the cunning to his assistance. He came to throw himself at the feet of the monarch, humbly asked for forgiveness and obtained it. Admitted in the intimacy of Sancho, or at least in his good graces, the felon prepared a horrible treason: he presented to the king a poisoned fruit. As soon as Sancho had tasted it, he felt mortally wounded and wanted to be taken back to his capital immediately, but he died on the way. It was a great desolation by all the kingdom, where Sancho was very liked. But how to paint the pain of his wife Gude? She did not cease to cry, to moan, to pity the victim of such a cowardly perfidy. But, as she was a Christian, she was especially occupied with praying and requesting prayers for the deceased; it is in this that she placed the greatest luxury of his funeral. The body was taken to the monastery of Castillo, where many masses were celebrated. The pious widow did not want to leave these beloved remains; she laid down her diadem and took the veil of penitence among the nuns, accompanied in this sacrifice by several ladies of the court. She devoted herself to God and to holy works, especially in favor of her deceased husband.
At night as well as during the day, she made the most ardent prayers go up to heaven; but on Saturdays, the day consecrated to the divine Mary, she redoubled her prayers, her penances, her alms, the rigor of her fast, in order to deliver this soul from the torments of the purgatory, if it was still detained there. One Saturday when she was kneeling before the altar of the Queen of Heaven and was fervently carrying out this touching duty, Sancho appeared to her. He was covered with mourning clothes and had for belt a double row of chains reddened by fire. He began by thanking Gude for what she was doing for him, and at the same time begged her to continue this work of charity, and even to do more if she could: “Ah, he said to her, if it were given to me, my dear wife, to let you know the torments I am enduring in purgatory, how much your zeal for him whom you still love would increase! By the depths of divine mercy, help me, Gude, help me! I am devoured in these flames.”
One thinks well, it did not need so much to revive the zeal of the pious woman; she redoubled her fervor, her prayers, her suffrages of all kinds, by herself and by others. For forty days without interruption, she did nothing but shed tears in order to extinguish the fire that was consuming her husband, multiplying prayers in order to make his chains fall off, pouring immense generous donations into the hands of the poor in order to redeem the faults for which he was suffering. In addition, she had a great number of masses said, and presented the church with a rich ornament, intended to enhance the pomp of the sacred ceremonies.
At the end of these forty days, one Saturday again, the king appeared to her, not only freed from his burning bonds, but surrounded by a celestial radiance, dressed in a coat of dazzling whiteness, in which Gude recognized the precious object that she had given for the church and that God had miraculously applied to the salvation of Sancho and to his triumph. “Here I am, he said to her happily; I am free; thanks to you, pious queen, I no longer have to suffer. Blessed are you forever! Persevere in your holy exercises. Meditate on the sorrows of the other life, and still more on the glory of paradise, where I shall await you and be your protector.” Gude stretched out her arms towards him, but she could not touch him; only she seized the ornament, which remained in her possession and which she gave again to the church of St. Stephen. It had indeed disappeared from the church, although it had been carefully locked up, and it was admired how the Lord had returned it to the charitable donor. This interesting object was kept for a long time in the monastery; the abbot and the monks confirmed its authenticity and asserted with oath the truth of this story.