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Jacques and His Charge

 

In Paris at the time of the terrible French Revolution, around 1790, there were evil men who hated God, His Church, the King and everything that was good and orderly. These men persecuted good people. The king, the queen, many nobles, and many priests and nuns lost their lives in those dark days.

Still, there were also many stories of faith and courage and miracles. One of these is the story of Jacques and his sister. Jacques was a ten-year-old boy who lived with his parents and little sister in a modest but comfortable house in one of the suburbs of Paris.

 

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The Priest

One day, Jacques’ parents said to him: “Jacques, we are going to have a good priest stay with us for a while. We will make him a bed in the attic of our house, but no one must hear that he is there. Do you understand, son? If the Sans-culottes (the revolutionary police) hear that we are hiding him, they will have him killed and throw us all into prison.”

“But, why? Why do we have to hide him if he’s a good priest?” asked Jacques.

“Because the new government does not like priests who obey the Pope, Jacques. They want only those who have given up their obedience to the Pope and obey this government that overthrew our King. But the priests who obey the Pope in Rome are the only true priests in the eyes of God, so we must help them.”

So it was that Father Pierre came to live with Jacques’ family. He was a wise and patient priest, and he taught Jacques many beautiful things about his Faith and told him and his sister, Anne, many a good story.

One day Father Pierre invited Jacques upstairs to his room and showed him a small chalice and a cross.

“Do you know what I use these for?” asked Father Pierre, who continued without waiting for the answer: “To say Holy Mass. Would you like to learn how to serve Holy Mass, Jacques?”

“Oh yes, Father!” answered wide-eyed Jacques, who remembered watching the altar boys when they could still go to Mass at their parish church. Now, all the churches had been closed.

So, Father Pierre taught Jacques how to serve Mass while little Anne watched in awed silence. For several months, Jacques assisted Father Pierre at Mass. Every day, up in the attic, where Father slept, a small table was transformed into an altar. There, with the small family gathered around, Father consecrated the white hosts and offered the family the Body and Blood of their God. The family considered it a tremendous privilege to have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass everyday in their home, especially in those times of persecution when it was almost impossible to attend a true Mass.

 

Jacque’s Charge

Jacques being woken up by Father Pierre One night, however, as Jacques was awakened by someone shaking him gently yet urgently:

“Jacques, Jacques, it is Father Pierre, wake up!”

“Whaaat is it…Father? What happened?” stammered the lad as he fought off sleep and rubbed his quivering eyelids.

“The Sans-culottes are here, Jacques. They have come for me…”

“Father! What are we going to do?”

“There is little to be done, my boy. There is no time. But take this.”

As he spoke, Father Pierre pressed a small metal box into the frightened boy’s hand.

“These are consecrated Hosts, Jacques. You and your sister are small. Take her and get away. You won’t be noticed. Go to your uncle’s, taking this pyx with you. Guard it with your life. Keep it with you until you find a true Catholic priest who has not sworn to the new constitution. Then, and only then, hand these sacred Hosts over.

Goodbye, Jacques, God keep you!”

That done, the priest was gone, and Jacques was left there clasping the golden pyx, his head whirling as rough voices shouted downstairs. Hearing the terrible cacophony of curses and insults below, Jacques understood what was happening. Someone had let onto the Sans-culottes that his parents were hiding a priest in their house. Yes! The revolutionaries had now invaded their house and would take Father Pierre and Jacques’ good parents away!

Jacques looked down at the small golden box he held. Here was the same Body and Blood that Father Pierre had so often held in his hands for his parents, his sister, and him to adore.

The terrible shouts and other noises continued. Jacques’ first impulse was to join his parents and get arrested with them. But he could not forget the pyx clasped in his fingers.

“I must save Him. Father Pierre entrusted Him to me. He is my responsibility now.”

In a flash, Jacques had awakened his little sister and thrown a warm wrap over her, and both had made their way down a back staircase, out to the backyard, and over the fence. One pained look back at their house and they were gone.

 

Goodbye, Father Pierre – “He” is safe

After that terrible night, Jacques and his sister lived with their uncle and aunt. They heard no more of their parents or Father Pierre.

No one but Jacques and his sister knew of his secret. In their room, in a small cupboard, Jacques kept his precious Charge wrapped in a clean linen handkerchief. Early each morning, the two went out looking for a church in the hopes of coming across a good and true Catholic priest to whom they might hand over their awesome responsibility. But, how were they to recognize a true priest? All of them were in hideouts these days; when they ventured out, they always wore some sort of disguise.

Each night, before going to sleep, the two knelt and prayed that God would send them or lead them to a priest to whom they could give the consecrated Hosts. And so the months wore on.

One day rumors began to circulate that a certain priest who had been harbored by a young couple was going to be executed.

“It must be Father Pierre!” thought Jacques. “Anne,” he whispered to his little sister that night, “Anne, we must meet Father Pierre somehow before he is executed. I must see him and show him that the hosts are still safe. He must know that before he goes to God.”

“I can’t do it, Jacques,” answered little Anne, “I will be too frightened, and afraid of losing you in the huge, shouting crowds that gather for these executions. You go; it will be easier for you to go through the crowd without me. I’ll stay here praying for you all the time.”

JFather Pierre being escorted to his execution during the French Revolutionacques was a shrewd boy. By asking here and there, he soon knew the exact day of the execution. Early that morning he made his way to a street through which he knew Father Pierre must pass on the way to the scaffold.

Standing at the edge of the sidewalk, Jacques waited. Soon, there were people all around him: curious people who had heard of the priest and wanted a glimpse of a condemned man; hateful people who sided with the evil men of the Revolution and wanted to insult the holy man as he passed; good people whom the good priest had helped and served and who wanted to stand by him to the end.

And then there was the boy who wanted to console the priest with the knowledge that the Body and Blood of Our Lord was still safely in his care. Without realizing it, however, Jacques was doing much more than that for Father Pierre: He was providing the Presence and the blessing of Our Lord to the martyr on his last walk.

Jacques must have stood several hours on that sidewalk when, at long last, he noticed a commotion at the far end of the street. Father Pierre was coming.

Jacques vainly sought the familiar stocky figure of the priest; he was shocked when he finally recognized him in the thin, grayed, and much-aged man now approaching between two Sans-culottes. Yes! It was he. The features, though pale and drawn, were certainly Father Pierre’s. Above all, there was no mistaking the eyes that suddenly were upon Jacques.

The boy lost no time. Gently, so that no one noticed the gesture, he pulled the pyx from within his shirt; just enough for Father to catch a glimmer of it. Then, there it was, the familiar smile in the tired eyes and a slight nod of the head. Father had seen and understood. And Jacques, despite the terrible weight on his heart, was immensely happy.

As the priest passed, Jacques made his way through the crowd and back home where he told Anne all that had happened. They both knelt and prayed that God would help Father Pierre in his last battle.

 

Finally, in the best of hands

As the days and weeks wore on, Jacques and Anne continued praying every night to find a true priest to whom they could hand over their precious Charge. But they never heard of one, much less saw one. Nevertheless, they persisted.

Jacques and his sister kneeling before Christ. Jacques is holding up the pyx. One day they entered an abandoned church and knelt on the broken marble floor to pray, as so many times before, in the faint hope of finding a priest.

After a time, they noticed someone ascending the steps of the altar. He was dressed in white and his bearing reminded them of Father Pierre’s.

Rooted in their place, the children watched and listened. The priest began praying. Jacques immediately recognized the prayers of the Mass, having served so many.

Keeping still and silent, the two children watched and prayed as the Mass progressed, seemingly unnoticed by the white-robed man. But behold! As the time of Communion approached, the priest slowly turned in their direction and began to walk toward them.

When he stood directly in front of Jacques and his sister, they looked up into his face. Luminous, calm, kingly eyes looked down on them, assuring them that this was not only a true priest but that, in some way, they had come home. They felt a great peace and total trust in this man’s presence.

Jacques suddenly knew that he had come to the end of his search. Not a word was spoken, but he understood. Reaching into his shirt, he brought out the golden pyx and held it out to the priest. As the man in white reached for the small box, both children noticed a deep wound in the palm of his hand.

Then, as he solemnly opened the pyx, the children heard the words: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world...” Then, both received Holy Communion from the wounded hand.

When Jacques and Anne lifted their heads from their thanksgiving, the church was completely quiet and there was no sign of the man in white. Looking at each other, they knew their Charge was in the best of hands.

 


By P. Sanders
Illustrations by - A.F. Phillips

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for January 21, 2020

All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easy-going...

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January 21

 

All the strength of Satan’s reign
is due to
the easy-going weakness of Catholics.


Pope St. Pius X


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Agnes

Even pagans were moved to tears at the sight of the radiant...

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St. Agnes

Agnes was born around 291 in a Christian, patrician family of Rome, and suffered martyrdom in the terrible persecution of Diocletian.

As a young maiden, she pledged herself to Christ and defended her virginity to the death.

Exceptionally beautiful, she turned down numerous suitors, but when she refused Procop, the Prefect’s own son, things became very complicated. Procop tried to win Agnes with gifts and promises but she answered: “I’m already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!”

Angered, Procop  took  the maiden before his father, and accused her of being a Christian. The Prefect tried to turn her from her Faith first by cajolements, and then by placing her in chains, but she only rejoiced.

The pagan official, set on overcoming Agnes by any means, next had her taken to a house of prostitution but she was visibly protected by an angel.

Finally, Agnes was condemned to death, but she was happy as a bride about to meet her bridegroom. Even pagan bystanders were moved to tears at the sight of the radiant maiden going to her death, and begged her to relent, to which she retorted: “If I were to try to please you, I would offend my Spouse. He chose me first and He shall have me!” Then praying, she offered her neck for the death stroke.

St. Agnes is one of seven women besides the Blessed Virgin to be mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. She is the patron of chastity, young girls, engaged couples, rape victims and virgins. She is depicted holding a lamb as her name in Latin means “lamb”, “agnus”. But the name “Agnes” is actually taken from the Greek “hagne” meaning chaste, pure, sacred.

Agnes’ relics repose beneath the high altar of the Church of Sant’Agnese Fuori le mura, built upon the place she was originally buried. This church was built in her honor by the daughter of the Emperor Constantine, and is one of the oldest in Rome.  St. Agnes’ skull is in the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone at Piazza Navona.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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