“Hail, Mary, full of grace, punch the devil in the face!”

Once upon a time, there was a man named Theophilus who made a bargain with the devil. Thank God that Our Lady was able to help him!

Do you want to know the full story? Listen here!

The Prayer of Theophilus
O miserable wretch that I am, what have I done and what have I wrought?...  Where shall I, unhappy sinner, go, who have denied my Christ and his holy mother (Christum meum et sanctam eius genitricem) and have made myself a servant of the devil (seruum diaboli) through a chirograph of wicked warrant (per nefande cautionis chirographum)?  Who, do you think, will be able to pull it away from the hand of the devil, the destroyer, and help me?  Why was it necessary for me to become acquainted with that wicked Hebrew who should be burned?  (For this same Hebrew had been condemned a little while before by law and judge.) Why indeed? For thus are they honored, who forsaking God and the Lord, run to the devil....  Woe to me, wretch, how have I lost the light and gone into the darkness?... What help shall I pray for, who am cheated of aid by the devil?  I, who am guilty of this thing, I am the author of my soul's perdition, I the betrayer of my salvation....  What shall I reply on the day of judgment, when all shall be naked and laid open? What shall I say in that hour, when the just will crowned while I will be condemned?  With what assurance shall I stand before that royal and terrible tribunal?...  Who will pity me?  Who will aid me?  Who will protect me?  Who will be my patron?  Verily no one: there no one helps but all render an account for themselves.  Woe to my wretched soul!...  Woe to me, miserable one, who, having stumbled and fallen into the abyss, am unable to rise!... Although I know that I have denied the son of God, born of the holy and immaculate always virgin mother Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ, and herself, through that Hebrew whom I came evilly to know, nevertheless I shall go to that same mother of the Lord, holy, glorious, and bright, and her alone I shall entreat with all my heart and soul, and I shall pray and fast in her venerable temple without ceasing, until I obtain mercy through her on the day of judgment....  But how shall I begin my confession? Trusting in what sort of heart or what state of conscience shall I attempt to move my impious tongue and soiled lips?  For what sins shall I first seek remission?  And if in rashness I should presume to do this, fire descending from heaven will burn me up, because the world even now will not bear the evils that I, most wretched, have done.  Alas, miserable soul, rise up from the darkness that has taken hold of you, and falling down before her, call upon the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, because truly she has the power to impose healing penance (sanamenta) for such sin.  
—Trans. in Philip Mason Palmer and Robert Pattison More, Sources of the Faust Tradition from Simon Magus to Lessing (New York: Oxford University Press, 1936) 

I spoke on September 7, 2019, at St. John Cantius in Chicago. Thanks to everyone who came to hear about Our Lady on the eve of the feast of her Nativity!

For the text of the story as I retell it in the video, see Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), out in paperback in November!

Images of the story of Theophilus from London, British Library, MS Add. 49999 (The De Brailes Hours).

For further reflections on Our Lady, see The Lady and the Logos. For a complete list of my videos, podcasts, and radio appearances, see Bear On Air.


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