My name is Andre.
I’m 10 years old. One of my favorite things to do is to read books. I like to read stories that writers make up in their imagination. Those kind of stories are called “fiction” stories. Have you ever written a story that was fiction? Fiction stories can be really fun and exciting to write and to read. But I would have to say that my favorite kind of stories to read are about real people and the things that actually happened in their lives. Those kind of stories are called “non-fiction” stories. So the next time you go to the library and see a sign that says “non-fiction” on a bookcase, you will know that all the books on those shelves are about real people (also called “biography” books) and about things that really happened (also called “history” books).
The story I picked for my “Catholic kids 101” page is a non-fiction story. It’s about a man who really lived. He was from France where my Great Grandpa and Grandma were born. This is his amazing story! But before I get to the story, I want you to look again at my picture:
What do you notice? Yes, I’m wearing nice clothes. That’s because I just got home from Sunday Mass. What else? I’m holding up my right thumb. That is what I want you to remember because "a right thumb" is part of this true story.
I first heard this story during Catholic Vacation Bible School at my Church when I was in second grade. The theme of that day was "Never Take Your Eyes Off Jesus!" Isn’t that a great theme? I remember we had to memorize two quotes from the Bible that were written on a big black board. I'll put them here so you can memorize them too!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will direct your path.”
“Be not afraid.”
This is the story I heard that day at Catholic Vacation Bible School during lesson time. I see in my C.V.B.S. lesson book it is based on a story that was first told by the Daughters of Charity Sisters. The name of the story is:
"NEVER TAKE YOUR EYES OFF JESUS!"
Little Isaac sat listening to every word that his mother was reading.
"And after the great miracle of the loaves and fishes, the people saw the Apostles leave. The people could not find Jesus, so they slowly went away, deciding to look for Him the next day. It was evening and the Apostles got into their boat and started to row. Jesus was not with them because He had gone up to the mountain to pray. While He was praying, a great storm arose upon the lake. The Apostles were trying to row their boat against the strong waves. When the storm was at the highest point, a little after midnight, Jesus went to His Apostles. He was coming towards them by walking on the water! The Apostles saw a strange figure coming towards them. They cried out with fear because they thought it was a ghost! Jesus said to them, “Take courage, it is I. Be not afraid!” Then the Apostles knew it was Jesus.
Peter cried out to Jesus, “Lord, if it be You, let me come to You on the water!” Jesus said to Peter, “Come!” Then Peter jumped out of the boat and he, too, began to walk on the water towards Jesus! But when he saw the high waves and felt the strong wind, he became frightened. He took his eyes off Jesus and he began to sink! As he began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out and caught hold of him and lifted him up saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt My word?” When Jesus came on board the boat with Peter, at once the storm ended and the water was calm. The Apostles were amazed at the power of Jesus! They fell down and worshiped Him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God!
"Christ Walks on Water" Ivan Aivazovsky 1849
Mrs. Jogues stopped and looked at Isaac. His eyes were sparkling and his cheeks were bright pink. He jumped up and cried out, “Mother! I want to tell the whole world about Jesus! Isn't it wonderful? I wish I were like St. Peter and could walk on the water towards Jesus. But Mother, I would never take my eyes off Jesus! Never, never! I promise, I will never take my eyes off Jesus!”
Mrs. Jogues smiled at her son. She knew the day was coming soon when Isaac would be ten years old and leave home to go away to school. She would miss him very much. Isaac would study at a school run by Catholic priests. Many of these priests were also missionaries. Isaac met many missionary priests who sailed over the great oceans to faraway lands to tell people about Jesus.
When Isaac grew up, he understood God was calling him to be a missionary priest. After years of much prayer and study, Isaac was finally ordained. Now people called him Father Jogues.
One sunny day, Mrs. Jogues went to check her mail and here is the letter she received:
Remember when you would read me stories about Jesus and we would talk about the people of the world who never heard about Him? I am very happy to tell you that I am going to a place far away from France. I am going to sail on a big ship to the land called America. I am going to bring Jesus to the Native American Indians. They have never heard of Jesus and I get to tell them about Him! Isn’t this wonderful news? I know that you will keep praying for me, Mother. Please pray that I will never take my eyes off of Jesus!
Love your son,
For seven years Father Jogues lived with the Indians in America. He learned their language. He ate the food they ate. He lived in the same kind of house. He loved the Indians he met very much.
He would travel through the deep woods. He loved the great rushing rivers and the silver lakes. He loved the beautiful trees and flowers. All this made him think of God. He wondered, “If the earth is this beautiful what must Heaven be like?” When the winter snow came he would pray, “O Lord, I pray you make my soul and the souls of these dear Indians as pure and as beautiful as this snow!”
The Indians called him “Black Robe” because the cassock he wore looked like a black robe. Father Jogues worked and suffered very much to bring Jesus to the Indians. Their food was different from what he was used to eating and at first it made him sick. He also had to get used to sleeping in a new kind of house. But Jesus would always help him. When things got really hard he would pray, “As long as I never take my eyes off of You, dear Jesus, I know that I can do it.”
Father went from one place to another. He met many Indians. He told them about Jesus and how much Jesus loved them. The Indians could see how much Father Jogues loved Jesus.
Father Jogues spent much time in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (that is Jesus in the little white Host.) Father would pray, “Please let me lay down my life for love of You, dear Jesus." He prayed this prayer often. Then one day Jesus spoke to Father's heart. This is what Jesus said:
"Isaac, you shall have what you asked for. Be not afraid. I will help you be courageous!"
Not long after this Father Jogues and his friends were traveling with some friendly Indians. Along the way they met some other Indians. However, this particular tribe was not friendly at all. As a matter of fact they were very cruel. They shot arrows and guns at the group. While this was happening Father Jogues managed to hide in some reeds. However, the cruel Indians were able to capture the rest of Father's group. When Father saw this he decided to leave his hiding place and join his friends because he wanted to help them and encourage them to stay strong for Jesus.
What happened next was terrible! The cruel Indians stood in two lines. Each one held a big club. They made the group walk between them. Then the cruel Indians beat them with the clubs. After that they put them on an elevated platform and made fun of them. They did very awful things to Father Jogues. They hurt his fingers. Then they cut off his right thumb! The pain was terrible!
Father was very sad because since his fingers were damaged and he didn't have his right thumb, he could not offer Holy Mass anymore. Under the rules for offering Mass at the time Father Jogues lived, a priest could only hold Jesus in the Host by using his thumb and his first finger.
Father Jogues and the members of the group that remained alive became prisoners of the cruel Indians. Father was their prisoner for almost a year. They did not give him enough to eat. They did not give him warm clothes. They made him work very hard. He suffered very much.
During this time one of the members of the group, named Rene, was talking with an Indian child. Rene taught the little boy how to make the Sign of the Cross. The grandfather of the little boy saw Rene showing his grandson how to make the Sign of the Cross. He became very angry when he saw this. The Grandfather later ordered another cruel Indian to find Rene and kill him for doing this!
Soon after Rene had taught the little boy how to make the Sign of the Cross, Father Jogues and Rene were walking in the woods. They were gathering wood and praying the Rosary together. Suddenly, the cruel Indian found them. The Indian hit Renee in the head with a tomahawk. Rene cried out, “Jesus!” Then he fell to the ground and died.
Father Jogues was sad after Rene died. He knew Rene was a martyr. He was glad when he thought about how Rene's soul went straight to Heaven and that he was now safe and happy with Jesus. However, Father missed his friend very much. After that Father would walk alone in the woods as he gathered fire wood. He would stop and cut the name of “Jesus” into the trees as he prayed.
The day finally came when Father Jogues had the opportunity to escape from the cruel Indians! A kind man helped him escape. The man hid Father in his barn. After that Father was able to get on a boat that took him down the river to the city of New York. When he arrived in New York, other kind people were able to get Father on a great big boat that sailed across the ocean back to France.
Father's friends in Europe were so happy to see him! Father was happy to see them too. Then a very wonderful thing happened. The Pope at that time was Pope Urban VIII. He had heard all about Father Jogues. The Pope considered him "a living martyr." The Pope said that even though Father's fingers were badly hurt (remember, his right thumb was cut off), he would grant Father Jogues special permission to offer Holy Mass. Father was so happy when he heard the news!
As his days went by in France, Father could not stop thinking about the Indians in America. There were so many who had not heard about Jesus! They didn't know that Jesus died on the Cross for them. They didn't know how much Jesus loved them. There were so many who were not yet baptized. Father Jogues thought about the Indians everyday. He prayed and prayed. He wondered, "Should I seek permission to go back to America?" He prayed to do only what Jesus wanted.
Guess what happened? Father went back to America! He kept praying, “Jesus, don’t let me take my eyes off of You!”
Now where do you think Father ended up in America? You may be very surprised. He ended up going back to where the cruel Indians lived!
Father thought about how Jesus said we must love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. Father Jogues not only loved the Indians that hurt him and prayed for them but he did a courageous thing: he went back to be with them! Jesus gave him special graces to do this. Father understood that Jesus was answering his prayer. Jesus was letting him lay down his life for love of Him. Father knew if he never took his eyes off of Jesus, he could do it. So he went back to the Indians. He went back to those who had been cruel to him. He went back to bring them Jesus.
The Indians were very surprised when they saw Father Jogues! Some of them were a little more open to listen to Father. But others were not. Their hearts were hard like stone.
One day some Indians asked Father to come to their house for dinner. As Father made his way to the house he prayed, “Dear Jesus, let me never take my eyes off of You!” When Father got to the house, one of them met him holding a tomahawk. He hit Father in the head with it. Father cried out, “Jesus! Jesus!” Then he fell down dead, his soul going straight to Heaven, safe with Jesus forever!
Not very far away from the city of Albany, New York is the place where Father was martyred in 1646. Today there stands a beautiful "National Shrine of the North American Martyrs" in that very place. Thousands of people visit this holy site every year. For the love of Jesus, Father Isaac Jogues laid down his life. He was officially canonized a Saint in 1930. Because of the heroic witness of Father Isaac Jogues and his Companions, their sacrifices continue to draw people to Jesus our Savior!
National Shrine of the North American Martyrs
Isn’t this an amazing story? This story makes me think of a lot of things. But the main thing I want to tell all the kids who are reading my CK101 Page is that we need to always pray for our priests! We need to pray that Jesus will give them lots and lots of courage just like He gave Father Jogues!
When I make a visit with Jesus at my Church, I kneel in front of the tabernacle. First I thank Jesus for letting me visit Him and then I tell Him that I love Him. After that I hold up my right thumb to Him. I don't say anything. I just hold up my right thumb. Jesus understands what I mean when I do that. He knows I'm remembering how brave Fr. Jogues was. He knows it’s my way of praying for priests. He knows I'm asking Him to help priests have courage and to be holy and love Him just like Father Jogues did. And I know that Jesus will answer my prayer because He really wants this too.
So the next time you make a visit with Jesus, or anytime you are praying, ask Jesus to help priests. Just hold up your right thumb.
Your "CK 101" friend,