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  • Fr. Scott Haynes

St. Thomas and Mary's Belt

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

Among the oldest relics of Christendom that still survive today are the True Cross of Christ, the Spear of Longinus, and the Belt of the Virgin Mary. According to pious tradition, Saint Thomas the Apostle was completing his long journey from India to the Holy Land at the time of Mary's Assumption. [1] The Eleven Apostles gazed in awe as the Virgin Mary was assumed into Heaven surrounded by choirs of angels. But St. Thomas was absent once again. Poor St. Thomas, who missed the appearance of the Risen Lord to His Apostles, also arrived too late for Mary's Assumption.


Knowing the skeptical nature of "Doubting Thomas," Our Lady, in her maternal kindness, appeared personally to him when he arrived, and she dropped down from the skies the belt she was wearing. This would be physical proof of Mary's presence and sure evidence for the other Apostles. We find this account from Blessed Jacobus (1260 A.D.):

“The girdle with which her [Mary's] body was girt came to him [St. Thomas] from the air, which he received, and thereby he understood that she was assumpt [assumed] into heaven.” [2]

The Prato Cathedral in Tuscany came into possession of the Virgin’s Belt (Sacra Cintola) in the 14th century, where it is venerated in the Cappella del Sacro Cingolo, the Chapel of the Sacred Cincture. The Sacro Cingolo of Mary in Prato's Cathedral is made from goat’s hair dyed green and embroidered with gold thread. It is 87 centimeters long. It is exhibited five times annually on May 1 (Month of Mary), August 15 (Assumption), September 8 (Nativity of Our Lady), as well as on Easter and Christmas. Many illustrious pilgrims have visited Prato’s shrine, among them Saint Francis of Assisi, Maria de’ Medici, and several popes, including the late Pope John Paul II in 1986.

The reliquary containing the Sacra Cintola (Holy Belt) of Our Lady

is displayed in the Cathedral of Prato upon this beautiful 18th century Altar.


Our Lady's Belt, preserved in the Cathedral of Prato in Tuscany, has worked wonders over the centuries. Many infertile women have received blessing with this relic and obtained the gift of children. Other women in danger of miscarriages have been spared and given safe delivery. This association comes from the fact that such belts (girdles) have traditionally been the attire of married women with children. We see this in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, depicted with the black belt of an Aztec pregnant woman.


The Sacro Cingolo of Mary in Prato's Cathedral

Notes:

[1] When, at the end of Mary's earthly life, she fell asleep in the Lord (Dormition), God took her up into Heaven body and soul (Assumption), as the Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed: “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966. Just as the holy men Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) were taken up into Heaven, the early Fathers of the Church taught that the Virgin Mother was assumed into heaven. She did not do it under her own power. Rather, it happened by the power of God. Mary's Assumption is a sign of hope for all Christian people, who look forward to the Day of the Resurrection, as the Church teaches: "The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 966.

[2] Golden Legend of Blessed Jacobus (1260 A.D.):



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