"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mark 10: 14)
The little Peter of our story is not an imaginary person. Not so many years ago you could have seen him running along the beach at St. Malo in the northwestern part of France where he lived, swimming and fishing and doing all the things boys like to do when they are about six or seven. On sunny afternoons when the brilliant-winged butterflies and dragon-flies drifted about the meadows, Peter loved to chase after them, caring not at all that he often ruined his clothes among the thorn-bushes and rocks. Later, he would take his fishing-net and run down to the beach. There at ebb-tide, when rocks and cliffs lay unconcealed, Peter went fishing, like his great namesake, the Apostle. Barefoot he jumped into the water in search of crawfish, who scurried away at his approach, looking for shelter in the seaweed of the dark pools. Laughing, Peter went after them, and soon one struggling little victim after another was tossed into the basket strapped to his back.
But, of course, life is not all made up of summer holidays, and when it was time for school, Peter took his books under his arm and went off to do a little struggling himself with the mysteries of reading and writing, often asking his much-loved Guardian Angel to help him.
First Holy Communion
When Peter was seven years old, a mission was held in the parish church shortly after the feast of the Purification. Because the missionary wanted many prayers said in order to obtain the conversion of sinners, it was decided to give some of the children who were ready their first Holy Communion. So it was that Peter received Our Lord for the first time. Every morning from that time he went to the altar-rail and Jesus came to him, filling his heart with a joy Peter could not find words to tell even his mother. In his own little way, then, Peter also preached a kind of mission. Of course, he did not wear a surplice or stole like the priest, but his daily going to the altar spoke louder than the most beautiful sermon. His small friends, seeing his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, chose Peter as the secretary of their First Communion League. As secretary he wrote many letters to the missionary, letters which tell the story of his life better than we could. Believing that his letters will help many souls to be more fervent and devoted in their love for Jesus, we give them here.
Letters to the Missionary
Dear Father: April, 1912
This is Peter writing to tell you that he has remembered you every day since the mission. After you had gone the older children told me that they went with you to the station. Oh, I would have liked to go, too, but since I am only seven years old, no one told me you were going, and, winter or summer, Mother puts me to bed at eight o'clock!
Monday was the last day of vacation, and now my teacher tells me that he is better pleased with me. He says I have learned to work harder. I have to, because I am going to Holy Communion every morning. But even so, I do not always know my lessons and still make mistakes in spelling. But I am going to try to do better and be more careful so that you will see I am improving and trying to be a good member of the League.
Dear Father, Our Lord will bless me if I love Him very much, won't He? I love Jesus with all my heart and tell Him so every day. Since you left, there was one day I did not receive Holy Communion, but, please forgive me, as it was not my fault. I went to church early enough, but they were having a funeral Mass, and no one paid any attention to me.
My older brother Jack is now in the first section of the League, too. I got him to join and I am very glad of it, for I know the Child Jesus is happy when many children go to Holy Communion every day. I am not quite so bad at home as I used to be. But sometimes Daddy is angry with me because I often get up from table without permission and because I quarrel with Odette, my little sister. They were going to spank me, but they didn't do it and I hope they won't!
Your little secretary, Peter D'Airelle
Dear Father, April, 1912
I am very glad to write and tell you that I always love our dear Lord and His holy Mother Mary. But I don't know if they love me, too, for I still have many faults. Mother wants me to tell you that I am not always obedient when they tell me to let Odette alone and not to quarrel with her. Once we even beat each other a little when we were fighting, but I will never do this again, I promise, dear Father. Also, I am as lazy as a dormouse and I often make a long face when I have to study my grammar. I sometimes contradict the teacher and am always stubborn when they try to make me eat soup or fish. These are all my faults, but I will keep trying to do better as fast as I can. Then the Child Jesus will be pleased when He sees me coming to Communion every morning.
I have learned the morning offering by heart. I say it as soon as I wake up so that the whole day may be spent for the Sacred Heart and for the poor souls. At Mass I say the beads: the first decade for the Apostleship of Prayer, the second for the Pope, the third for my father; the fourth for my mother, and the fifth for Jack, Odette and myself. After each mystery I say the little prayer mother taught me: "Little Child Jesus, make me good and obedient and guard and bless my father, mother, Jack, Odette and all of us." --- Peter
P.S. Every day more children ask to join our League. I have all their names in my book. Ten go to Holy Communion daily; eight, twice a week; and thirty, every Sunday.
The Small Missionary
Dear Father: May, 1912
Grandmother was vexed with me because I go to Holy Communion daily and she does not do so, although she is much older than I. She said to me: "You are not good enough." I answered her as you taught us: "Granny dear, I don't go to Holy Communion because I am already good, but I go to be able to be better and I promise you to make real efforts to be good." Now she lets me alone.
In the morning I get up all by myself. Jack helps me put on my shoes. Then we go to Mass. We don't make any noise on the way downstairs so that Daddy doesn't wake up. I always ask Daddy to go to Holy Communion at Easter, but he never will and he never says any prayers. But each morning I ask Our Lord to convert him. When I am all by myself I often cry because I don't want to go to heaven without Daddy. Because you told us once that everyone who does not receive Our Lord at Easter time commits a mortal sin and is a scandal to others. I told this to Daddy, but he ordered me to hold my tongue. Dear Father, please pray for him.
With much love, -- Peter
Dear Father: June, 1912
Today at dinner, Daddy said: "Jesus Christ is not God; he is only a man as we are." I cried then and said: "Oh, no, no! He is God! The missionary said so." Jack said it, too. Then Odette jumped up from her chair, crying: "He is God! He is God! The missionary said so!" Dear Father, please pray very much for my Daddy and tell me some books that he may read in order to believe again. You told us often not only to preach by good example to our parents but also to pray for them and make sacrifices for them. So every night I say the rosary and after each decade I add: "Dear Child Jesus, please convert Daddy and make him believe in You again." When I get some candy or cookies I save half for the poor people and ask them to pray for him too. --- Your little Peter.
Dear Father: July, 1912
Good news! Mamma now goes to Holy Communion every day, with me. She used to go only on Sundays, so I asked her: "Mamma, why don't you go every day to convert Daddy?" She hugged me, but did not answer. The next day she started to go daily with Jack and me. This makes me so happy-- surely Daddy will be converted now! -- Peter
Dear Father: August, 1912
Vacation time is here. It seemed to long in coming! We went to the seashore. We caught crawfish. I caught three hundred, and Jack four hundred. Odette broiled them and we had a picnic on the rocks. Going home, we met a little rag-picker. He was no taller than Daddy's boots, and he was dragging a big sack of paper which was certainly heavier than he. It was cold, then, and raining, but the poor little boy was barefoot. As he went from one box to another looking for papers, three big bullies threw themselves on him and tried to empty his sack. The poor little fellow began to cry and ran away. They ran after him, throwing stones at him. But now I threw myself on the biggest of the three and showed him all Daddy has taught me about boxing. When he had enough, he ran away with his friends. Then I asked the little boy: "What's your name?" -- "Andy." "Where do you live?" -- "Near the bridge." "Where are your shoes?" -- "I have none." "Come with me, Mother will give you a pair." -- "I have no mother." "My mother will give you some." I brought him home and Mamma gave him my old pair of shoes. Then I asked: "Have you any marbles?" -- "No." "Then I'll give you some of mine." I filled his pockets with marbles. Then he was happy and ran off, hungrily eating a piece of bread and butter.
Oh, I was so glad! You told us once that all we do for the poor, we really do to the Child Jesus. So I jumped for joy and called Mamma and shouted: "Hurrah! I gave half my marbles and a piece of bread and my old shoes to the Child Jesus! Daddy will be converted!"
But now I will tell you a secret. One month after the mission when I went up to Holy Communion I remembered your sermon about sin and the little martyr who wanted to die rather than commit a mortal sin. Then I asked the Child Jesus to let me die also rather than commit a mortal sin. It seemed to me that Jesus liked my prayer and now every night after the Rosary for Daddy, I say: "My Jesus, please let me die rather than commit a mortal sin." Is this all right? -- Peter
Happy Near Jesus
Dear Father: October, 1912
School has begun again. Today in my Geography lesson I memorized the tributaries of the Garonne River.
Now for a few secrets. Father, I like to be alone in church with Jesus and speak to him. Sometimes He answers me; sometimes He doesn't. I always ask Him to convert Daddy. When I have to go, I say: "Little Child Jesus, I would like to stay longer with You, but I have to study my lessons. I will not forget You, though. I will do my homework for You, as Father said that we are praying when we are working for You."
During recess at school I try to slip into chapel to say hello to Jesus, and when we go for a walk I keep on the lookout for a church to do the same. At night I turn toward the church and say to Him: "Good night, Jesus! How beautiful it must be in heaven when we are always with You... but where will my Daddy be?" Please pray for him. --- Your Peter
Sacrifices for Conversion
Dear Father: November, 1912
I am so sorry that Our Lord has not yet converted Daddy. I ask Him for it every morning at Mass, at Communion, when I say the Rosary, everywhere. But yesterday I thought that three things are necessary to convert souls: prayers, preaching and suffering. I have prayed a lot and even preached, but I haven't suffered for Daddy yet. So I asked Jesus to let me suffer and make up for Daddy's faults and blasphemies so that he may be converted. He is always telling Mamma that Jesus Christ is not God, that the priests invented religion and many other awful things. He read the books you sent him but he says they don't prove anything and that he will never go to confession and there isn't any hell. It makes us all feel so sad and Mamma cries very often. -- Peter
Dear Father: December, 1912
Last Sunday after Holy Communion I seemed to hear Jesus calling to me and saying: "Little Peter, would you like to die to convert your father?" I said quickly: "Oh, yes"... "But you will have to suffer very much." "All right, if You help me, I'll be glad to do it." Now I am ready to die. But perhaps I was wrong in accepting without your permission, Father? Daddy has to go to another garrison, so we shall be leaving here before the month is over. -- Peter
"To Give Jesus Joy"
Dear Father: February, 1913
We left our old garrison and are now at the new one, and I am awfully sorry. For this place is not like the other one. There is no Communion League here and none of the children go to Holy Communion daily. Even the most pious ones go only once a month. After we had been here only a week, the priest called Mamma and me into the sacristy one morning after Mass. I was a little frightened. He looked at me for a moment and then said to Mamma: "Madam, people here are very much surprised at the way you act. They do not object to your going to Holy Communion every morning, but that you make your child do so, too, is beyond them. Do you really think your son understands what he is doing?" Mamma answered: "I think he does, Father. Besides, it was not I who made him go, but he is the one who has led me to receive Communion each day." "How old is your child?" "He is eight years old, Father." "And why do you want to receive Holy Communion every day, Peter?" "To please Jesus and the Holy Father." "So?" "And also to convert Daddy." For a long time the priest said nothing at all, then he smiled: "Well, Peter, continue to receive Our Lord daily. When the Holy Father urges children to do so, it would be very wrong for me to prevent you." We went home very happy! -- Peter
P.S. We got an invitation from the General's wife. Tomorrow we are going to her place to tea. So Mamma is getting me a little soldier's uniform.
Little Peter (conclusion)
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