An Escort For The Blessed Sacrament

January 18, 2018

About seventy-five years ago, the grand master of the Teutonic Order, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, lived in the castle of Ebenqweir near the beautiful Gmunden Lake. He had in his service a young shepherdess named Josephine. She made her home in a small room in the barn where she kept her flock.

It happened that one morning Josephine was absent from her usual routine of chores, and the other shepherds, seeking her, found her in bed feeling very ill.

The next day, a great reception took place at the castle. The Archduke hosted a dinner to which the castle chaplain, a Redemptorist father, had been invited. In the course of the conversation, the sick young shepherdess was mentioned.

“Well! I shall take the Blessed Sacrament to her tomorrow,” said the chaplain.

“No, no,” interjected the prince. “It would be necessary to pass through the whole barn to reach her room. The barn is not the proper place for the Blessed Sacrament. It is better to bring her here to the castle.”

“Your Highness, I had thought of asking you this favor, but the doctor is adamant against it. He is certain she will die if we move her.”

The prince reflected for a moment before replying. “Well then, if Our Lord is to cross the barn He shall not go alone; I shall accompany Him. We shall give Him an escort such as will compensate for the poverty of the place.”

The officials among whom these words were spoken exchanged surprised glances ─ not all of them professed the same degree of simple and humble faith as their master. At last, summoning up his courage, the court marshal ventured a few remarks regarding etiquette and convenience.

“My dear marshal,” rejoined the archduke, “if the Master of Heaven and earth does not find it beneath His dignity to cross a barn to visit a little shepherdess, I certainly will not be dishonored for keeping Him company. As to my court officials, be well assured they will lose nothing of their dignity in following my example.”

Turning again to the chaplain, he asked, “At what time, Father, do you intend to take the Blessed Sacrament to her?”

“At seven o’clock, Your Highness.”

“Fine. I shall be at the chapel at that hour. And you, Gentlemen, be at the door at five minutes to seven to escort the Blessed Sacrament. Let everyone be present…and in gala dress. Everyone shall carry a lighted candle.”

His voice had been brisk and chivalrous, yet the undertone was resolute, like his tone when addressing his troops. It was an order, which it was their duty to obey. As the court officials retired, the archduke settled the last details of the morning ceremony with his marshal. He issued orders for the barn to be decorated with the most beautiful plants from the greenhouse.

Next morning at the appointed hour, the chaplain left the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. The archduke followed. His love of utter simplicity notwithstanding, this morning he regaled in the full uniform of his grand-mastership of the Teutonic Order and decorated with medals. Every one of his officials followed him in great gala dress, each carrying a lighted candle.

The procession wended its way through the palace gardens. As the ringing of the bells announced the passing of the Blessed Sacrament, workers paused from their labors to gaze in awe at the impressive cortege.

In the sick room, an altar was prepared. As the priest opened the ciborium, raised the Host and recited the Domine non sum dignus, the archduke knelt on the straw, and all his officials did likewise. Yesterday’s hesitation was gone; the example set by the prince had inflamed the coldest hearts.

Before leaving, the archduke offered words of consolation to the sick girl. Soon afterwards, the procession returned to the chapel.

The peasants witnessing the passage of this magnificent procession were moved to tears, and all commented among themselves, “may God preserve our good Archduke Maximilian and may he remain with us for many years!”

From Der Heiligen Sakraments Verkünder

Taken from Tradition, Family and Property Magazine, Septemeber-October, 1994.

Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 610


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