The story goes that when Mary and Joseph were waiting in the stable for the baby Jesus to be born, they realized that they had run out of food. “Mary will be hungry after the baby is born,” thought Joseph. “But where will I find food at this hour? All the inns are full.” The cows in the stable were concerned for the Holy Family, but all they had to offer the Virgin Mother was straw. “And I do not think that humans eat straw,” said the head cow.
In a chink in the stable wall lived a family of rats. All the other animals despised them as vermin, and so did the humans of Bethlehem. But the head rat, observing the plight of the Holy Family, said to her family, “We must help these folk, for the One Who is coming into the world this night brings the love of God to all creatures, even the most lowly.” So she had the other rats burrow down to their underground storehouse, where they had grain hidden; and as quietly as possible they brought the grain up into the stable, where they piled it not far from the pallet of straw upon which Mary was lying.
When Joseph saw the rats, he brandished his staff and began to chase them away. But the Virgin said, “No, husband; stay your hand; for surely these beasts would not act in this way were the Holy One’s hand not upon them.” And so Joseph relented, and the rats continued to pile grain before the Holy Couple, until there was enough for a meal.
Joseph took the grain, and put it into a pot with water, and boiled it for porridge; and doing so, blessed the rats for their lovingkindness. “For there are none so lowly,” he declared, “that the Spirit of God does not dwell within their hearts.”