My name is Leo.
I’m really happy to have this great opportunity to tell you some things about Jesus and His Church. But first I thought I’d tell you a few things about myself and my family.
I’m 10 years old and I’m in 5th grade. Dad and Mom named me after Saint Leo the Great. He was a Pope who lived in the 5th century. You probably know that we live in the 21st century. A century equals 100 years so he lived a really long time ago.
Pope Saint Leo the Great was, well, really great! He saved Rome from being destroyed by a group of men called the Huns. Pope Leo left the city to go talk with the man who was the leader of the Huns. His name was Attila. After Pope Leo and Attila had their meeting, the Huns turned around and left. We don’t know what Pope Leo said to Attila to make him leave. Legend has it that Saints Peter and Paul appeared to Attila and threatened to strike him dead if he didn’t listen to the Pope! However it happened, it worked. Rome was spared!
The Meeting of Pope Leo the Great and Attila
Leo was really smart. Of course he was holy too! He is only one of two Popes in all of Church history who is a “Doctor of the Church.” A Doctor of the Church is a Saint who has helped us understand really important things about Jesus and His Church through their research, studies or writings. There are 36 Doctors of the Church.
I live in the state of Nebraska. If you look on the map of the United States, you’ll see Nebraska located in the center of America in red. Do you see South Dakota above us and Iowa next to us? Nebraska and the states near us, like South Dakota and Iowa, make up an area of the country called “the Heartland.” Can you guess why we have that name? Hint: think of where your heart is.
When I say, “Nebraska” what is it that a lot of people think of? Well, I’ll tell you. They think of corn! The farmers in the state of Nebraska grow a lot of corn. Nebraska is called “The Cornhusker State.” The University of Nebraska sports teams are called “The Cornhuskers.”
Can you guess what product my dad’s company makes? If you guessed popcorn, you’re right! Nebraska produces more popcorn than any other state in America. We harvest 300 million pounds of popcorn every year!
I know a lot about popcorn. I’ll tell you some of the things I’ve learned. First, the oldest popcorn kernels ever found were discovered in a bat cave. I know what some of you are thinking…
No, not that kind of bat cave! They were found in a cave where real bats live in Mexico.
In America, popcorn was a common food among Native American Indians. The Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower were introduced to popcorn for the first time when an Indian brought a batch to the first Thanksgiving. He carried it in his deerskin bag. The colonists really liked it! Some of colonists started to add milk and sugar to their popcorn and ate it like a breakfast cereal.
"The First Thanksgiving" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1621
In the 1800’s popcorn became one of the most popular snack foods in America. The first popcorn popping machine was made in Chicago by a man named Charles Cretors. The machine had a gasoline burner and wheels on it so it could be pushed up and down the streets.
People would buy fresh popped popcorn from these street vendors. Then it really became popular around the time movies started to be made. The street vendors would push their popcorn carts near the crowds waiting to get into the movie theaters and that is how eating popcorn at the movies became a tradition.
When television was invented, people stayed home in the evening to watch tv and didn’t go out to movie theaters as often. Americans weren’t eating quite as much popcorn because of television. But then companies, like my grandpa’s and now my dad’s, started to make all kinds of popcorn such as Microwave Popcorn, Popped Popcorn, Cheese Popcorn, Kettle Corn and Carmel Corn and soon popcorn became one of America's very favorite snack foods once again!
I have 3 younger brothers. My brother, Gregory, is one year younger than me and he is in 4th grade. My two youngest brothers, James and John, are identical twins and they are in 2nd grade. We all keep really busy learning things in our home school. Mom is our teacher and she’s great! She went to the University of Nebraska. When she was a freshman, she met Dad. Mom and some of her friends were driving back to the campus and they got a flat tire. Dad stopped and helped them. That’s how my parents met. Three years later Mom graduated with a degree in education and right after that she and Dad got married. She was the 4th grade teacher at the public school by our house for 9 years. Then when my twin brothers were born, Mom and Dad decided that Mom would stay home and we would have a home school. They turned our basement into a giant classroom.
Starting two years ago, Mom takes me and my brothers every weekday morning to our parish. We get to start our day with Mass and my brothers and I get to be altar servers!
I want to tell you that I’m really thankful for our pastor, Father Smith. Mom always reminds me and my brothers that we have to have thankful hearts so I always try to remember to thank Jesus for our priests. Do you realize that without priests, we wouldn’t have Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!
Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist at every Catholic Mass when the priest says the words of consecration. Mom says there are people in the world who really wish they could go to Mass but because of situations like wars or just not having any priests near them, they can’t. She tells me and my brothers that any Mass we are able to attend to worship God and receive Jesus into our hearts is a great gift!
Our pastor, Father Smith, is a really great priest. I know that he really loves Jesus and he is helping me and my brothers love Jesus too.
Every morning at 8am Father Smith says Mass in a language called Latin. Have you ever been to a Latin Mass before? The very first Latin Mass I ever went to was when I was in 3rd grade. I didn’t understand what the priest was saying but I still really loved it. Do you know why? If you said because Jesus is truly present on the altar, you’re right!
To learn how to be an altar server, my brothers and I would meet every week with Father Smith to learn how to pronounce Latin. My twin brothers were only in kindergarten at the time but they wanted to learn too so Father let them come. We also worked on it with Mom at home. Then my brother, Gregory, and I started to help with some of the duties at the weekday morning Masses. Father had us work with a couple of the older boys. At first we just mainly watched. Pretty soon they were having us do more and more duties and, before we knew it, Gregory and I were ready to serve a low Mass all by ourselves!
Even though my brother and I know the Latin responses pretty well, there are always these laminated plastic cards that we put right in front of us while we kneel before the altar. Father calls these “cheat sheets.” The cheat sheets help a lot!
My brother and I always “fight” over who is going to light the candles. On the days he lights the candles, I ring the bells. And on the days I light the candles, he gets to ring the bells.
When we serve Mass on Sundays with the older boys, my brothers and I are really happy when we get picked to carry the censor and the boat. It’s kind of tricky to light the charcoal. You have to do it just right.
Do you see how he's putting more incense in the thurible?
All that smoke from the incense represents our prayers rising up to Heaven!
Mom asked me recently what it’s like when I’m up there serving Mass. I told her that at first it surprised me how I wasn’t even aware of the people in the pews. It seems like I’m kind of alone with Father Smith and the other servers. I told her the more I learn about the Mass, the more I really appreciate it. I told Mom that even on the days that I’m not an altar server, it’s just so great to be at Mass and receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist!
For this next part of my CK101 Page, I want to tell you a story that I originally read for one of my Thursday library visits. Let me explain. Every Thursday after Mass, Mom takes me and my brothers out for breakfast. (The other weekday mornings we usually go home to eat breakfast and then start school but Thursdays are special.) After we eat breakfast, we go to the library. We spend our time there picking out a library book to read. After we read it, we do a book report. Sometimes it takes us a couple Thursdays to read the book and think about how to write the report.
I first read the story I want to tell you about a year ago. It was written by The Daughters of Charity and the title was: "In the Tower of London - The Story of Blessed Edmund Campion." Mom and I did some research at the library on Saint Edmund Campion and updated the story. We took what the Sisters had written and added some things. Here's the "book report" Mom and I worked on together for my CK101 Page. We call it: "The Pope's Champion! - The Story of Saint Edmund Campion."
This true story begins with a queen. Her name was Queen Elizabeth and she ruled the country of England about 500 years ago. Back then, Kings and Queens were very powerful. They ruled their people and the people were to be obedient to what their King or Queen said.
Now Queen Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII. King Henry was born and raised Catholic. However, it was King Henry who left the Catholic Church by protesting the Pope when the Pope didn’t do what he wanted. (He wanted the Pope to say it was okay for him not to be married to his wife anymore.) So King Henry VIII started his own church called the Church of England. He made himself the head of this church. This caused much confusion and suffering! One of the saddest things of all was that many people would not be receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist anymore because of what King Henry did. It was very sad indeed!
When his daughter, Elizabeth, first became the Queen of England, she was not Catholic but she was tolerant of Catholics who practiced their faith. However, over time this changed when circumstances unfolded that led to her to decide that no subjects in her kingdom could practice their Catholic faith at all.
During her reign, the government passed an act that made it high treason to question the Queen’s title as the head of the Church of England. In other words, it made Catholics who practiced their faith guilty of high treason!
Queen Elizabeth became so opposed to Catholics practicing their faith that she would have priests in England arrested and thrown into prison simply because they were priests. And if she told them they couldn’t offer Mass anymore and they refused to obey, she would often have them tortured and even killed! You probably know the name given to a person who is killed because of their witness for Jesus. That person is called a "martyr." The word "martyr" means "witness." There were many heroic English martyrs during the time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Yes, many of the English Catholics - lay people, priests and religious - were very brave. They did not obey Queen Elizabeth and her command that said they couldn’t practice their Catholic faith anymore.
Not only were many of the English priests very brave, they were also very clever! They wouldn’t wear anything that would identify them as Catholic priests. They did this because they didn’t want those who served Queen Elizabeth to recognize them. They didn’t want to be arrested because they wanted to keep serving the Catholics in England by administering the Sacraments to them. They would often disguise themselves. Then the English priests would secretly go to where Catholics lived. They would offer Mass privately in their homes. They would hear Confessions and anoint the sick. Then couples could get married and babies would be baptized! They did all this in secret so the Queen would never find out.
One of these brave English priests was named Father Edmund Campion. Queen Elizabeth especially wanted Father Campion captured because he was helping so many English Catholics stay loyal and true to Jesus and His Church! So she sent her soldiers to find Father Campion and arrest him. But Father’s disguises were so clever that none of the Queen’s soldiers were able to recognize him.
One time Father Campion secretly went to a lovely large home that was surrounded by a beautiful park. A man named Richard of Blainscow lived in this wonderful house with his family. Richard and his wife had twelve sons. They were all good and loyal Catholics.
When Father Edmund arrived at their home, the family was overjoyed! They begged Father Campion for his priestly blessing. Then they gave him delicious food to eat. They led him to a comfortable place to rest while they prepared the chapel they had built in their home for Mass.
The faithful Catholics in the area began to secretly come when the word was sent to them that a priest had arrived!
Father Campion heard their Confessions and absolved them from their sins. Some of them were so happy that they actually cried for joy!
Then Father Campion offered Mass. During his homily he told them about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He told them how a good shepherd never abandons his sheep and that Jesus would never abandon them! He reminded them about the trials and tribulations the Apostles and the early Church suffered and how they endured everything for the love of Jesus. He said that Jesus taught us how we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Father explained that on our own this seems too hard to do, but with Jesus helping us, all things are possible! Finally, he said he wanted them to stay very close to Our Blessed Mother and pray their Rosary often.
The people listened very carefully to every word that Father told them. Then it was soon time to receive Jesus in Holy Communion! The people were so happy! A few young boys and girls made their First Holy Communion. It was a wonderful day for these brave Catholics in England!
After Mass, the people begged Father Campion to stay with them for as long as it was possible and he agreed.
Each day that Father Campion was with them, Richard of Blainscow, his wife and twelve sons, along with their Catholic neighbors, came to the chapel for Mass. Father also gave them important talks.
The very youngest of Richard of Blainscow’s twelve sons was named John. He was nine years old and was Father Campion’s altar server. On this particular day, Father Campion talked about how Catholics are soldiers for Christ. John sat on the edge of his seat and listened carefully to what Father was saying. He barely moved a muscle. He didn’t want to miss a single word!
“A soldier is loyal and true,” explained Father Campion. “Each day of your life you must decide to be loyal and true to Jesus and the Church He founded. It will be hard at times. But one of the greatest gifts that God could ever give you is to let you do something difficult for Him.”
When John heard these words, he decided right then and there, no matter how difficult it would be, that he would ask Jesus if he could be a priest someday! John prayed in his heart, “I want to be loyal and true and brave for You, dear Jesus! I want to be a priest just like Father Campion!”
Father continued, “Someday, very soon, the Queen’s soldiers could come to your door and tell you to your face that it is against the law to be a Catholic. They will try and force you to abandon Jesus and the Church He founded. They will threaten to take away your property. They will make your life very difficult if you do not do what they say. We must all pray, each day, for the grace to never, no matter what, abandon our dear Savior and His Church!”
Father Campion paused and looked around the room at all the faces looking intently at his. His voice became softer as he continued.
“I believe, with the grace that God will give, that if you are mocked and thrown into prison where it is cold and dark, you would be true to Him. If they did not give you enough food to eat or if they put chains on you like a criminal, you would be true to Him. Even if they beat you and threatened to kill you, I know you would be true to Him.”
The people could see tears welling up in Father Campion’s eyes. He paused once again and then continued.
“I know you would think about how the Roman soldiers mocked Our Lord. You would think about how they put nails in His hands and feet and pierced His Sacred Heart with a lance. You would remember how much Jesus loves you and suffered for you. You would think of all these things and I know you would be brave and true to Him to the very end.”
"Preach the word! Be prepared in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction."
Father Campion went out to the beautiful garden to take a walk before going back to the Chapel to hear more Confessions. John stayed in the chapel. He wanted to sit and think about everything that Father had just said. Suddenly, he heard the sound of many horses coming up the road to his house. John sprang to his feet and ran to look out the window. It was just as he feared! They were the Queen’s soldiers!
John ran as fast as he could to the garden. He had to find Father Campion to warn him! When John reached the garden, he realized that he was too late! Many of the soldiers were already in the garden!
John looked over to his left and there was Father Campion! For a moment, John felt completely frozen in fear. Then a spontaneous prayer sprang from his heart, “Dear Jesus! Please help Father Campion!”
Right then, a servant girl who worked for John’s family named Martha, just happened to be in the garden near Father Campion. John saw Martha walk over to Father Campion and say something to him.
John loved Martha very much. She was so good and kind. So you can imagine how surprised John was when he heard Martha yelling at Father Campion!
“How dare you speak to me that way?!” she roared. Then, with all her might, Martha pushed Father Campion and he fell into the garden pond!
“And that’s what you get for being so rude!” cried Martha. Then she turned and walked away in a huff, leaving Father Campion alone in the pond.
John couldn’t believe it! Why would Father Campion say something rude to Martha? And why would Martha be so mean as to actually push Father into the dirty pond?
When Father Campion stood up, he was covered in mud from head to foot. The Queen’s soldiers never imagined that he was the famous Father Campion they were looking for! They assumed he was one of the servants. Some of them even laughed!
John smiled. He realized now exactly what had happened. Martha loved Father Campion too. She only pretended that Father was rude to her so she could push him into the pond! She was hoping the soldiers wouldn’t think he was the priest they were looking for. And her plan worked!
Finally the soldiers in the garden said amongst themselves, “He is not here. Let’s see if the others have found him hiding in the house.”
The soldiers in the house had made holes in the walls to see if Father was hiding in the secret hiding places that were often made in Catholic homes for priests. They pulled up the floors. They searched everywhere but they didn’t find Father Campion. Finally, after making a terrible mess, all the Queen’s soldier’s left.
John’s prayer had been answered. Father Campion was safe. He had been saved by a quick thinking servant girl!
Soon after the visit from the Queen’s soldiers, Father Campion said to John’s father, Richard, “It is time for me to move on. There are other places where faithful Catholics are waiting for me. I must go and help them now. I thank you and your family for your kindness to me. I will remember all of you in my prayers, especially when I offer Mass. Please pray for me. Pray that I will be faithful to Christ to the very end.”
Everyone was so grateful for the time Father Campion had spent with them! They begged Father for his priestly blessing which he gladly gave. There was just one more person Father spoke with before he departed.
“John,” said Father Campion, “there is a good chance that the next time we see each other, it will be in Heaven.”
“Until then, I will remember you when I offer Mass. I will ask Jesus to help you always be a brave and loyal soldier for Him.”
Father paused and smiled.
“Jesus heard your prayer. I believe that He will be calling you to be a priest.”
John suddenly felt his heart beating very fast.
“Will you promise to pray a Hail Mary for me everyday?”
“I’ll pray a whole Rosary for you, Father!” exclaimed John.
“Thank you,” said Father with a smile.
Then Father Campion’s face became very serious. John knew that Father was about to tell him something very important.
“Listen carefully, son,” began Father. “I believe the time is coming when you will hear that I have been captured by the Queen’s soldiers and killed. If this happens, I do not want you to be sad. I want you to know that this is my greatest desire. To lay down my life for the love of Jesus is my greatest desire. Do you understand?”
John nodded his head and whispered, “Yes, Father, I understand.”
Then Father Campion reached into his leather bag and pulled out a book.
“I want you to have this, John. It is a very special book. It will help you learn all about the Mass. I want you to study very hard. Not only do you need to be a brave and loyal soldier for Christ, you need to be a smart one too.”
John saw tears in Father Campion’s eyes as he handed him the precious book.
How absolutely wonderful it was! It had a beautiful leather cover. John slowly opened it and began to look at some of the pictures inside.
“Oh! Father! Thank you!” exclaimed John.”Thank you! How can I ever thank you enough?”
But there was no answer.
Father Campion was gone.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
It was the month of May when John and his family said goodbye to Father Campion. The days of summer and then autumn came and went and there was still no word about Father. Finally, on a cold and rainly winter day, a friend of Father Campion’s came to visit Richard of Blainscow and his family. He told them many things. Here are some of the important things he said:
The Queen’s soldiers finally captured Father Campion. They put him in a prison in a place called: The Tower of London. They said to him many times:
“If you will promise to stop offering Mass we will let you go immediately. Will you promise?”
And each time Father Campion would answer:
“No, I will not promise.”
Then they said:
“If you promise to stop hearing Confessions and preaching, we will set you free and never bother you again. Will you do as we say?”
And again Father Campion answered:
“I will not do as you say.”
Then Queen Elizabeth herself sent for Father Campion!
The Queen said:
“You must stop all this foolishness. Simply stop doing these things I tell you not to do and I will let you go free. It’s as simple as that. Otherwise, you will die.”
Father Campion said to Queen:
“I cannot do as you ask.”
Queen Elizabeth became angry and said:
“Then you will die!”
Jesus was going to let Father lay down his life for Him.
“O God, I thank You.”
While Father was in the Tower of London, he thought of Richard of Blainscow and his family. He told one of his friends to get this message to Richard and his family:
“When I am in Heaven, I will still pray for you!”
Then the day came when Father Edmund Campion was to lay down his life for Jesus Christ and His Church. The Queen’s soldiers tied him on the back of a cart and drove him through the streets of London. Jesus was making him strong! Father looked fearlessly at the gallows, the sharp knives and black bubbling pitch beneath a nearby tree. He prayed, just like Jesus did, that God would forgive his enemies. Then he let the Queen’s soldiers carry out her cruel orders. The Holy Angels were there to lead his soul straight to Heaven!
John remembered what Father Campion had told him. He tried not to be sad. He knew that Father was safe in Heaven with Jesus and that he was still praying for him and his family.
After hearing all the news, John went to the chapel in his house. He sat down. He closed his eyes. He tried to remember all the moments of all the wonderful days that Father Campion had spent with them. Then he opened his eyes and opened the beautiful leather book that Father Campion had given him and began to read. He read that precious book for a very long time that day. Here is one of the pages he studied:
Would you like to know what happened to John when he grew up? When John was a young man, his uncle came from the country of France and took John back with him to study. After many trials and hardships, John was ordained a Catholic priest! He offered Mass everyday and heard many Confessions. He preached to thousands of people about Jesus. Eventually, he was able to go back to England where he worked among the poor.
Father John never forgot a thing that Father Campion had taught him. Everyday this courageous and wise priest prayed a simple prayer. It is a prayer that Saint Edmund Campion had inspired him to pray. It’s the prayer that every single CK101 kid can pray each day too! It goes like this: "Saint Edmund Campion, pray for us! Help me to be a loyal and smart soldier for Jesus just like you.”
Thanks a lot for reading my CK101 Page. God bless you!
From your CK101 friend,