Philip badly wanted to please his Friend. But it was snowing, and his mother would not let him play outdoors… What could he do?
It was a terrible storm with enormous, violent waves. The main mast of the ship swayed from side to side and little Johnny, even though aided by Philip and Matthew, could scarcely hold fast to the cords of the sails.
It looked as if that the ship would surely sink, but just when all seemed to be lost, a kindly voice called from inside the house:
“Matthew! Lunch is ready. Call your friends!”
“My mother is calling us… And I guess we really do need to eat something to get our strength back,” said Matthew.
“Right when we were about to get shipwrecked!” said Johnny in a disappointed tone, rising to his feet.
“But, Johnny, don’t you think we need some lunch after such a tough struggle? It’s been hours since we’ve had a bite to eat and…”
“And you’re hungry, as always, Philip.”
“I have an idea!” interrupted Matthew “Let’s do something different after lunch! Let’s go play in the grounds of Our Lady Help of Christians Cathedral. The lawns are excellent there, and they have perfect trees for climbing and bushes for hiding.”
Johnny was thrilled with the idea:
“Good idea, Matthew! You ask your mother for permission, and we’ll ask ours.”
After lunch, the three boys headed off to the cathedral grounds armed with ropes, balls and a bag of fudge sent along by Philip’s mother, Mrs. Brinks.
Arriving there, they started a game of hide and seek. While Philip counted to twenty, the other two ran and hid. Matthew straightaway concealed himself amid some cedars, and Johnny ran further on and hid behind a large oak. From there, he happened to spot a light-coloured figure that looked like a statue of Our Lady. It stood some distance away, but he decided to risk taking a better look. Coming before the statue he recognized that it was Mary Help of Christians, for She was shown holding the Child Jesus, with His little arms opened wide.
However, Johnny was surprised to find the statue quite dirty and poorly kept, perhaps because it was such a long way off from the cathedral. Using a leafy branch he found on the ground, he began to clean it, carefully removing spider webs, insects and dirt.
“Johnny! I found you!”
Philip was about to dash back to the base, but when he saw that his friend did not even seem to hear him, he asked what he was doing.
“Look, Philip: this old statue is all dirty and abandoned! I’m trying to clean it up.”
“But what is this statue doing here in the middle of…”
“Johnny, Philip! Where are you? Is the game already over?”
It was Matthew, sounding a bit worried.
“Matthew! Come down here! We found a really nice statue of Our Lady, but it’s all dirty.”
“Whew! What a relief… I thought you had both left without me.” He bounded down a small slope and joined his friends in front of the statue. “Wow! You’re right, She really is beautiful! and Baby Jesus…”
“He seems so sad,” said little Johnny. “Is it because no one plays with Him? I know! Let’s invite Him to join in our games.”
“But He can’t leave Mary’s arms…”
“We just have to ask her permission, Philip! Let’s say a Hail Mary and see what happens. Hail Mary…”
At that moment, the figure of the Divine Infant came to life with a little jolt! He turned to the three boys, who were altogether astounded, and spoke these words:
“Thank you so much for inviting Me to play with you! It has been a long time since anyone came to visit us.”
“But… But… Is this a dream? The Baby Jesus is talking and wanting to play with us? I never thought Our Lady would take our request so seriously!”
“Yes, Philip,” replied the Divine Infant, smiling, “whatever you ask my Mother, She will grant you. Just have faith.”
“He knows my name… ” whispered Philip in Matthew’s ear.
“Can you tell us why You looked so sad?” asked Johnny.
“My great sorrow is to pass days and days alone, having no one with whom I might play or speak, being forgotten by those who care for the cathedral, and left to become soiled and covered with spider webs. And my great desire is to embrace all who come to pray here before my Mother!”
“Is that why your arms are so wide open?”
“So we can give You a hug?” asked little Johnny eagerly.
“And then would You like to play ball with us?” added Philip, overjoyed.
“Of course, my friends: I am happy when I find hearts that are innocent like mine! I would like you to come every day to say a Hail Mary to my Mother, and I myself will be waiting to give you a hug. I long to show people the torrents of goodness that flow from this small and humble Heart.”
The boys would never forget that extraordinary day when they played and spent time with God! And they did not fail to grant their divine Friend’s request. Each day without fail, they headed to the cathedral lawns to visit the miraculous statue, and cleaned it once a week.
However, winter came and everything was covered with snow. One particularly windy day, Philip’s mother was afraid that he might catch a cold and did not allow him to “play” at the cathedral. Dismayed, the boy did not know what to do…
That night, at bedtime, Philip knelt before a little statue of Our Lady in his room and said his Hail Mary. In bed, as he drifted off to sleep, he tried to explain to his Friend what had happened and why he had not gone to visit Him.
Then, the door opened ever so quietly and a tiny Child entered. He climbed onto Philip’s bed and said:
“You could not visit Me, so I came to visit you!”
And, reclining His head on Philip’s heart, He added:
“The heart of an obedient child gives Me rest, and my joy is to be in the company of those who love Me!” ◊