When my oldest daughter was four, she insisted that the old farmhouse we lived in was a Diamond Castle. I don’t know how she could ignore the ongoing battle we had with termites, the drafts around every doorway, the little “extras” that only a centennial farmhouse could deliver. She didn’t seem to think that the bowed floors or the peeling plaster were a problem with it being considered a Diamond Castle. She must not have had a lot of electronic demands, so the lack of enough outlets must not have been a hurdle.
I could only conclude that Diamond Castles must have creaks and bends and bugs galore. And that’s completely different from what I would have expected. I always thought a Castle would have turrets and spotless floors. When I heard the phrase, I pictured sparkling windows and I smelled baking pies.
To our four-year-old, there weren’t the same limitations. If she could imagine it, it could happen.
That must be what Jesus had in mind when He told His disciples to be like little children. There they were, wondering how He would conquer Rome, and He was trying to explain to them that the Kingdom wasn’t what they had in mind.
They saw a rundown farmhouse, in need of more repairs than they could afford. He knew it was a Diamond Castle.
I don’t blame the disciples for being a little doubtful. I can’t fault them their skepticism. In fact, I relate with them.
So often, in my humble role as a mother, my children will bring me treasures. They’ll hold them up, proof of the impossible, and I’ll shrug, scoff, or laugh. I don’t mean to be cruel; I’m just an adult.
This natural cynicism often crops up when I first read a story of the adventures of long ago, especially one that involves knights. Don’t get me wrong — I love them dearly. I want to hear all about their exploits and how they managed to best the foe. I want to see them win the princess’s hand and hear all about “happily ever after.”
After all, I’m the mom of two princesses, and they come by it naturally enough.
It was near 1134 when three knights, all lords of Eppes, left for the Crusades to defend Christ’s tomb in the Holy Land. They were captured in an ambush and taken as prisoners to Cairo, Egypt.
They couldn’t have been the first knights the sultan had captured, and maybe he had made a game of getting the crusaders to renounce their Lord for their freedom. I imagine the sultan luring them with all sorts of treats, from food to comfort to romance. He might have sent his wisest philosophers and scribes to battle reason with the knights, when all else failed.
As the king, he wouldn’t want to be stumped by foreign prisoners. By now, everyone knows about this little game…and the fact that he’s losing it.
And so, unable to think of anything else to try, the sultan sends his daughter to persuade the three Eppes lords.
By this time, I wonder if the knights accepted that they would probably never see their homeland again. I wonder what sort of prayers they were praying, and I have no doubt that they were invoking Mary, among many other saints, for strength and courage.
In walks the lovely Princess Ismerie. What could she have been thinking? Were they in the dungeon or in some beautiful sitting room? Was she looking forward to convincing the knights, or was she an unwilling instrument to her father’s plans?
Religion must have come up in their conversation, at some point, because the knights have a chance to tell her that Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the Son of God.
Was there a pause? Had he blurted it out accidentally? Were they worried that she would get angry, get up, order them killed?
Whatever the moment was like, we know that the princess asked to see Jesus and Mary.
After all, there’s nothing like a good picture to convince you.
The knights were in a bind. How could they possibly deliver an image to Princess Ismerie?
They did what anyone in their position would do — they pleaded with the angels and saints in heaven. We’re told that they prayed all through the night. At some point, an angel came, carrying a small statue of Mary holding Jesus.
image: Our Lady of Liesse/Wikimedia Commons