December's been a busy month, between Asian Games 2006, my house moving and the Philippines trip, I find it increasingly difficult to write; for time to reflect becomes ever shorter. Today I found a beautiful parable about us and our Lady, hence a Marian plug in the middle of novena to the Immaculate Conception:
The Three Ducats
He was a man like you or me, neither better nor worse, a poor wretch of a sinner. What had he done? I have no idea. A crime more grievous than the others, a sin more serious than the others, committed, no doubt, on a day when God had left him to himself for too long. And he was being led to the gibbet in the good city of Toulouse, with the executioner on one side and the Consuls on the other, in the midst of a crowd of naughty, inquisitive boys, who had no doubt come running to see what awaited them on the morrow.
Now King René was making his entrance into Toulouse that day, with the fair Aude, whom he had just married in a nearby land. As she passed by the gibbet, the Queen saw the condemned man already perched on the steps, his head in the noose. A cry escaped from her and she hid her head in her hands.
The King halted all of his train, made a signal to the executioner to stay his hand and, turning to the Consuls, said, “My Lords , the Queen asks whether, as a token of the warmth of your welcome, you would be pleased to grant mercy on this man.”
But the Consuls replied, “Sire, this man has committed a crime for which there is no pardon, and however much we may wish to please our Lady the Queen, the law requires that he should be hanged.”
“Is there then a crime so great in the world that it cannot be pardoned?” the fair Aude asked, shyly.
“Certainly not,” replied one of the King’s Councelors, pointing out that according to the custom of the land of Toulouse, any condemned person could redeem himself for the sum of a thousand ducats.
“This is true,”replied the Consuls. “But where would you expect this rascal to find a thousand ducats ?”
The King opened his money bag and took out eight hundred ducats. But the Queen, who in vain rummaged in her purse, could only find fifty ducats.
“My Lords,” she said, “are not eight hundred and fifty ducats enough for this poor man?”
“The law demands a thousand,” replied the councillors, unyieldingly.
Then all the lords that made up the retinue of the King and Queen collected what they had with them to offer it in their turn, and the sum was counted.
“Nine hundred and ninety-seven ducats,” the Consuls announced. “Three ducats more are needed.”
“Is this man to be hung for the sake of three ducats!” exclaimed the Queen, indignantly.
“It is not we who demand it”, replied the Consuls, “but no-one can change the law.”
And they signalled to the executioner.
“Wait,” cried the Queen. “Search the pockets of this reprobate. Perhaps he has three ducats on him.”
The executioner obeyed, searched the condemned man... and in the pocket of the poor wretch they discovered ... three gold pieces!
Good people! The man whom you saw in this tale, in grave danger of being hung, is you, it is I, it is man’s sinful nature! On the day of the last Judgement, nothing shall save us, neither the mercy of God, nor the intercession of Our Lady, nor the merits of the Saints, unless we have about us ....three ducats of goodwill!
——Excerpt from “Contes de la Vierge” written in the 12th century by Gauter de Coincy
For more moments with Mary, click here.