Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus!

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The following is a true story from the Life of Blessed Meinwerk:

The Bishop [Meinwerk] had often sought to obtain a certain mantle of outstanding beauty and wonderful craftsmanship that belonged to the Emperor [Henry II] but in vain.

Then one day, while the Emperor was busy with several things, he surreptitiously snatched it away. But the Emperor, accusing him of robbery, declared that he would have his revenge in due time. Meinwerk, however, replied that it was much more proper that the mantle should hang in the temple of the Lord than cover his mortal limbs, and asserted that he considered the Emperor’s threats worthless.

Yet the Emperor knew that the Bishop, much occupied in secular business, sometimes fell into barbarisms, both in speaking Latin and in writing it. And so with his Chaplain the Emperor deleted fa from famulis and famulabus in a certain collect for the dead in the Missal, and then asked the Bishop to celebrate a Mass for the eternal rest of the souls of his father and mother. The Bishop, therefore, hastened to celebrate this unexpected Mass, and said mulis et mulabus, as he found written; but, realizing the error, he corrected what he had said wrongly by repeating the words.

Bischof Meinwerk auf Tragaltar Helmarshausen 1110
Bl. Meinwerk, Bishop of Paderborn, from a side altar in the Cathedral of Paderborn. Note the maniple in his hand.

After Mass, the Emperor jeeringly told the Pontiff, “I asked you to celebrate Mass for my father and mother, not for my male and female mules.” But the Bishop replied, “By the mother of Our Lord, you mocked me again according to your usual habit, and not in just any way, but in the service of our God, for Whom I will be the avenger. Behold! I swear it, for what is done unto Him will not go unpunished.”

Forthwith he summoned the canons into the chapter-house of the Cathedral and ordered the Emperor’s Chaplain, who had been aware of the trick, to be punished with the most severe flogging. After this punishment, he dressed him in new clothes and sent him back to the Emperor to announce what had happened.

(Vita b. Meinwerci Ecclesiæ Paderbornensis Episcopi, LXXXII).

St. Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor, Obl. S. B., from the Sacramentary of Henry II (München BSB Clm 4456 Seite 33c)

Episcopus autem quoddam imperatoris tegmen egregium precipui decoris et mirifici operis pallium, sepenumero optinere desiderans effectu caruit, donec quadam die imperatori pluribus intento illud fortuitu rapuit. Imperator vero episcopum de rapine incusans vitio, talionem debitum suo se tempore redditurum perhibuit; ille vero pallium hoc convenientius in templo Domini pendere quam sua membra mortalia tegere affirmans, minas eius se vili pendere asseruit. Sciens asutem imperator episcopum saecularibus negotiis multipliciter occupatum tam in latinitatis locutione, quam in lectione barbarismi vitia non semel incurrere de missali in quadam collecta pro defunctis, fa de famulis et famulabus, cum capellano suo delevit et episcopum pro requie animarum patris sui et matris missam celebrare rogavit. Episcopus igitur ex improviso missa celebrare accelerans, ut scriptum reperit, mulis et mulabus dixit; set errorem recognoscens, repetitis verbis quod male dixerat correxit. Post missam insultans imperator pontifici: “Ego,” inquit, “patri meo et matri, non mulis et mulabus meis missam celebrari rogavi.” At ille: “Per matrem,” ait, “Domini, tu more solito iterum illusisti mihi; et non quoquo modo, verum in Dei nostri servitio.

Cuius ero vindex, en promittit meus index;
Namque sibi factum non pertransibit inultum.”

Illico canonicis in capitolium principalis ecclesie convocatis, capellanum imperatoris huius rei conscium durissime verberibus castigari iussit, castigatumque novis vestibus indutum ad Imperatorem nuntiaturum, que facta fuerant, remisit. 

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