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Here is how a man of the world himself tells of his return to God, thanks to the prayers and good examples of his son:
I was brought up as badly as possible, in the religious respect, not only in ignorance of the truth, but in the taste, in the respect, in the superstition of error, and I left my classes well equipped with arguments against Our Lord and against the Catholic Church. I then lived as a pure child of Paris and as a true citizen of the Montmartre district, occupied with my business, devoting to amusements and politics all the time I did not give to fortune. I got married. God allowed me to meet a good and honest creature, where I was only looking for… money. Raised like me, my wife was much better. She had a religious sense. It developed when she became a mother, and after the birth of her first child, she entered completely into the right path. When I think of all this, my heart is stirred with a feeling of gratitude to God, which it seems to me I would always speak about and which I cannot express. Then I didn’t think about it. If my wife had been like me, I don’t think I would have even thought of having my children baptized. The children grew up. The first ones made their first communion without my taking notice. I let their mother govern this little world, full of confidence in her, and modified without my knowing it by the contact of her virtues, which I felt and did not see. The last one came: this poor little one was in a wild mood, without much means; if I did not love him less than the others, I was however disposed to be more severe towards him. My mother used to say to me: “Be patient, he will change at the time of the first communion.” This change at a fixed time seemed very unlikely to me. However, the child began to attend catechism, and I saw him indeed improve very noticeably and very quickly. I paid attention. I saw this spirit developing, this little heart fighting, this character softening, becoming docile, respectful, affectionate. I admired this work that reason does not do in men, and the child that I had loved the least became the dearest to me.
At the same time, I was making serious reflections on such a marvel. I began to listen to the catechism lesson. As I listened to it, I remembered my philosophy and morality lessons: I compared this teaching with the morality whose practice I had observed in the world, alas! without always having been able to preserve myself from it. The problem of good and evil, on which I had avoided to cast my eyes because of my inability to solve it, offered itself to me in a terrible light which crushed me. I felt that the objections would be shameful and guilty. My wife watched and said nothing, but I saw her diligence in prayer. My nights were sleepless. I compared these two innocences to my life, these two loves to mine, I said to myself: My wife and my child love in me something that I have loved neither in them nor in myself; it is my soul.
We entered the week of the first communion. It was no longer affection alone that the child inspired in me, it was a feeling that I could not explain to myself, which seemed strange, almost humiliating, and which sometimes translated into a kind of irritation; I had respect for him, he dominated me, I did not dare to express in his presence certain ideas that the state of struggle in which I was against myself sometimes produced in my mind. I would not have wanted them to make an impression on him.
There were only five or six days left before the long-awaited blessed day of my child. One morning, returning from mass, my son came to find me in my study, where I was alone. “Dad, he said, on the day of my first communion, I will not go to the altar without asking your forgiveness for all the faults I have made and all the sorrows I have caused you, and you will give me your blessing. Think well of all the wrongs I have done, to reproach me for them and forgive me. – My child, I answered, a father forgives everything, even a child who is not wise; but I have the joy of being able to tell you that at this moment I have nothing to forgive you. I am happy with you. Continue to work well, to love God, to be faithful to your duties; your mother and I will be very happy. – Oh, Dad, the good Lord, who loves you so much, will support me so that I will be your consolation, as I ask… Pray Him well for me, Dad. – Yes, my dear child.”
He looked at me with wet eyes, and threw himself on my neck. I was very touched myself.
“Daddy,” he ventured… – What, my dear child? – Daddy, I have something to ask you.”
I could see that he wanted to ask me something, and what he wanted to ask me, I suspected! and, must I confess? I was afraid of it; I had the cowardice to want to take advantage of his hesitation.
“Go,” I said to him, “I have business at the moment; this evening or tomorrow you will tell me what you desire, and if your mother thinks it good, I will give it to you.”
The poor little boy, confused, lacked courage, and, after kissing me again, withdrew all disconcerted into a small room where he slept, between my study and his mother’s room. I was angry at myself for the grief I had given him, and especially for the move I had obeyed. I followed this dear child on tiptoe, in order to console him by some caresses, if I saw him too distressed. The door was ajar. I looked in without making a sound. He was kneeling before a small image of the Blessed Virgin; he was praying with all his heart. Ah, I assure you that I knew that day what effect the apparition of an angel can have on us.
I went and sat down at my desk, with my head in my hands and ready to cry. I sat there for a few moments. When I looked up, my little boy was standing in front of me with a face full of fear, resolution and love. “Daddy,” he said, “what I have to ask of you cannot be postponed, and my mother will find it good: that on the day of my first communion you come to the Holy Table with her and with me. Don’t refuse me, Papa. Do it for the good Lord, who loves you so much.”
Ah, I did not try to argue any more against this great God who deigned to constrain me in this way. I held my child to my heart with tears.
“Yes, yes, I said, yes, my child, I will do it. When you want, this very day, you will take me by the hand, you will bring me to your confessor, and you will say to him: ‘Here is my father.’”
Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and of the Mother of God. Amen.
O Jesus! We are going to walk with You on the road to Calvary which was so painful for You. Make us understand the greatness of Your sufferings, touch our hearts with tender compassion at the sight of Your torments, in order to increase in us the regret of our faults and the love we wish to have for You.
Deign to apply to all of us the infinite merits of Your Passion, and in memory of Your sorrows, show mercy to the souls in Purgatory, especially to those who are most abandoned.
O Divine Mary, who first taught us to make the Way of the Cross, obtain for us the grace to follow Jesus with the sentiments Your Heart was filled with as You accompanied Him on the road to Calvary. Grant that we may weep with You, and that we may love Your divine Son as You do. We ask this in the name of His adorable Heart. Amen.
My Jesus, forgiveness and mercy!
By the merits of Thy holy Wounds and the sorrows of Thy Mother.