Saint Michelle was born into a poor but loving family, who lived near the southern coast of France. When she was nine years old, a clerk from the royal court came to her family’s home collecting taxes for the king. Since taxes were unreasonably high at the time, Michelle’s father did not have enough to pay. The clerk thus decreed that unless Michelle’s father could pay by the end of the week, he would have him thrown into debtor’s prison. That night, the little girl prayed fervently, invoking the aid of the Blessed Mother.
The next morning, as always, Michelle and her family went to Mass at Saint Genevieve’s Church, which was just down the road from where they lived. Upon entering the church, Michele noticed a round receptacle fashioned from polished granite, about the size of a large wash basin, which served as an offertory font. Here, parishioners could give as much as they could spare to help those who were less fortunate. Michelle could see that it veritably overflowing with all types of copper and silver coins. For the remainder of the day, Michelle couldn’t stop thinking about the pool of wealth in the offertory, and so, that night, after her mother and father lay fast asleep, little Michelle crept out of the house, in nothing but her nightshift, and wandered down the road to Saint Genevieve’s. Knowing that the church was never looked, Michelle quietly slipped through the front door to find no one else inside.
Approaching the offertory her heart grew heavy as her eyes grew wide. “This money is meant for the poor,” she thought to herself. “Well, who could be poorer than we?” Her guilt temporarily assuaged, Michele knelt down upon the hard tile floor and leaned over the broad beveled rim of the font. Reaching with both hands, she plunged into the reservoir of coins, leaning further and further forward so that her arms were nearly submerged and her bottom was fully upended. Having grabbed as many coins as she could possibly hold, Michelle attempted to withdraw her arms from the font when she suddenly realized that they were stuck fast. Panicking, she began to pull with all her might, but the harder she pulled, the more entrapped she became. Just then, a sudden gust of wind blew through the church, lifting Michelle’s nightshift up over her bottom.
That same moment, she heard a soothing voice, “Oh, my naughty child. What am I going to do with you?” Michelle immediately recognized the voice as being that of the Blessed Mother, who was indeed standing behind her, bearing a birch rod.
“Holy Mary, please help me!” cried the frightened girl, bursting into tears.
“I shall,” replied the Blessed Mother, but you know what needs to happen, first.”
“Yes, Blessed Mother. I have sinned!” With that, Michelle’s cries rang throughout the empty church as the Blessed Mother put the rod to her bare bottom, again and again. Overcome with sorrow, the little penitent began to fill the font with her tears. When the Blessed Mother had finally finished administering Michelle’s punishment, she spoke to her tenderly.
“My sweet Michelle. Trust that your father will have what he needs.”
“Thank you, Blessed Mother!” Michelle exclaimed as she wept for joy, “but, how will I get free?”
“Open your hands, my child.“ Mary replied. Michelle did as she was told, letting go of the coins that she had held so tightly, at which point, her arms were released from the font. Having bid farewell to the Blessed Mother, she noticed that the birch rod now lay at her feet. Michelle picked it up reverently, and hurried home before her parents awoke, a sore but happy girl.
Later than morning, her father discovered a small bag of silver coins upon his workbench, which seemed to miraculously appear from out of nowhere. In honor of the Blessed Mother’s intervention, Michelle vowed to pay a perpetual penance. Each and every night thereafter, she dutifully presented her parents with the birch rod, beseeching them to punish her for attempting to rob the church, and to this very day, whenever a storm looms off the coast, the fishwives warn that Saint Michelle is due for another whipping. They say that lightning flashes each time the birch rod stings her bottom, thunder crashes in sympathy with the heaving of her sobs; and rain comes down in torrents from the falling of her tears.
For more on spanking, check out Lee Todd Lacks’ play Nothing Between Sisters — acts ONE and TWO
See the rest of the Trixie and June chapbook — Stocking Feet, Rue Saint Michelle and A Mother’s Blessing, Saint Michelle and the Offeratory.
Lee Todd Lacks seeks to blur the distinctions between rants, chants, anecdotes, and anthems. His experience of living with significant vision and hearing deficits often informs his writing and artwork, which have appeared in The Monarch Review, Crack The Spine, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Bop Dead City, Liquid Imagination, The Quarterday Review, Tincture Journal, Gold Dust Magazine, Yellow Mama, elsewhere. His poem, “Durgin-Park,” won the Bop Dead City Beginnings Contest in July of 2015. In December of 2016, Fermata Publishing recently released Lee Todd’s first chapbook of poetry and short fiction, entitled Underneath.