An original CK101 story & audiobook
The Story of Gemma
and the King
The Story of Gemma and the King tells about a day in the life of a little "princess" named Gemma. Gemma has just about everything a girl could dream of such as a sparkling blue swimming pool, a huge collection of dolls, books and toys galore but yet she whines, "I'm so bored!" What Gemma doesn't know is she is about to have the most astonishing adventure of her life! Find out what happens by listening and reading Gemma's story below!
Click the little black arrow below in the green box and listen to the audiobook of Gemma's story. The words are underneath the audiobook for you to read along as you listen.
Catholic Kids 101 Audiobook:
A Visit With Jesus Series: "The Story of Gemma and the King." Written by Jean Prather. Read by the author, with Adrianne and Thom Price.
“Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10
Gemma sat on the edge of her bed with her arms crossed and a great big frown on her face.
“It’s just so boring around here, Rosie!” she wailed.
If you took a look around Gemma’s bedroom, I think you would be very surprised!
The first thing that would catch your eye would be the enormous bookcase holding hundreds of books in all shapes and sizes. If you looked carefully among the shelves you would also spy a miniature flower garden in a beautiful glass container, a colorful globe of the world and a rectangle shaped aquarium full of exotic fish.
Next you would notice the lighted drawing table, a wooden artist easel and a pink desk with boxes of craft kits piled high to one side. Inside the pink desk drawers you would find paintbrushes, watercolor trays, crayons, color pencils, calligraphy pens, jars of ink, scented markers and packages of paper in every color and texture imaginable.
If you took a peek in one of the closets you would see rows of tiny suitcases that held pretty little dolls with all kinds of custom made doll clothes from every country around the world.
Over in the corner of the room you would discover a piano keyboard, a guitar and a group of percussion instruments including a xylophone, a set of cymbals, a triangle, several maracas, a tambourine, and a set of castanets.
The morning sunshine poured in through the big picture window across from Gemma’s bed that looked out over the sparkling blue swimming pool in her backyard.
“Rosie! Did you hear me? I said I’m bored!” repeated Gemma.
Rosie stopped humming, stood up straight, poked her head into Gemma’s bedroom from the attached bathroom and wiped the sweat from her brow.
“My goodness, child! I think I’m starting to lose my hearing. I thought I heard you say that you were bored!”
“I did say that I’m bored because I am!” shouted Gemma.
She reached into the pile of stuffed animals on her bed and pulled out a polka-dot kitten.
“But it wouldn’t be boring around here if I had a real kitten. My friend Lydia just got a kitten. It’s so soft and cute. All my friends at school have kittens. I just have to get a kitten too!”
“Honey, you know very well that your daddy is allergic to cats,” reminded Rosie. “His nose gets all stuffed up and his eyes start to water and before you know it he’s sneezing up a storm. You wouldn’t want to do that to your daddy, would you?”
Gemma didn’t say anything. The scowl on her face spoke volumes.
Rosie put down the wet towels and dirty clothes she was holding that Gemma had left all over the bathroom floor. She walked over to the bed and sat down.
“Now you listen to Rosie. I’ve been cleaning your beautiful house every week since way before you were ever born so I know what a fine daddy you have. Your daddy gives you all these nice things because he loves you. Now you want to show your love back to your daddy by doing what is best for him, don’t you?”
“But I want a kitten,” pouted Gemma.
“I know you do, Honey. Let me ask you a question. Do you remember the song I taught you when you were just a tiny little thing? Your beautiful mama, God rest her soul, told me you would sing it for her often. You know the song I’m talking about, don’t you?”
Gemma rolled her eyes and nodded.
“Sing it with me, Honey,” encouraged Rosie.
"Like an athlete training for the victory; To win the crown for all eternity; The Saints before us found the key; With Christ’s three words: Come follow Me.
My only desire to be a Saint! I’ll only aspire to be a Saint! Never too tired to be a Saint! Just reach one step higher and be a Saint!
Now the Saints of the past are in Heaven up high; They’re my heavenly family yet they’re really close by; Cheering me on as the victory draws nigh; To see Jesus, my Hero, on the day that I die!
My only desire to be a Saint! I’ll only aspire to be a Saint! Never too tired to be a Saint! Just reach one step higher and be a Saint!
Dear Brothers and Sisters won’t you pray for me? Your stories have inspired and helped me see: By the grace of God I’ll be home free; To sing His praise with you for all eternity!
My only desire to be a Saint! I’ll only aspire to be a Saint! Never too tired to be a Saint!
Just reach one step higher and be a Saint!"
“Yes, indeed!” exclaimed Rosie. “Someday we are gonna be Saints in Heaven with our King Jesus! We’ll be wearing beautiful crowns all full of sparkly jewels! Do you know what those jewels stand for?”
Gemma shook her head.
“Those jewels show what is right and good in the way we have acted,” explained Rosie. “It can be hard work getting those jewels. Sometimes we have to say ‘no’ to what we want and choose to do what is best for the other person.”
“Now, Gemma, it wouldn’t be good for your daddy to have a kitten in the house. He’d be miserable, sneezing and sniffling all the time. So you have to choose to do what is best for your daddy.”
Gemma stuck out her bottom lip and started to cry.
“But Rosie, it’s not fair! It’s just not fair!”
Suddenly Gemma brightened a bit through her tears and said, “I know what I can do! I’ll keep the kitten right here in my bedroom. I’ll hide it when Daddy is home. That’s what I’ll do! He’ll never even have to see it.”
Rosie shook her head. “Honey, now you listen very carefully. Rosie wants to tell you a secret.”
Gemma was interested. She liked secrets!
“My mama told me this secret many years ago when I was right around your age. It was Christmas. Yes, indeed. I remember that particular Christmas just like it was yesterday. My mama was a talented seamstress. She sewed lovely dresses for all the wealthy ladies around town.”
“So what’s the secret?” asked Gemma.
“I’m getting to that, Honey. Now for that particular Christmas she made me the sweetest little rag doll wearing the prettiest little red dress. And you know what else?”
“She made me a beautiful matching red dress, just like the little rag doll’s dress!”
“Oh, that’s no big deal,” replied Gemma. “I have lots of dresses in my closet that match my doll dresses.”
“Well, that was something mighty special that I had never seen before. My mama was always thinking of creative ways to show me how much she loved me. But you see Gemma, I didn’t appreciate those fine gifts that my mama made for me. I had it in my head that the only kind of doll that was worth anything was a store-bought doll. My friends told me they were all getting store-bought dolls for Christmas so I wanted a store-bought doll too. Nothing else would satisfy me.”
“Rosie, are you telling me that you never had a real doll when you were my age? You only had rag dolls?”
“Yes, Honey. But it doesn’t matter a bit if you have one little rag doll or one hundred store-bought dolls because the secret I’m about to tell you is always the same. It always works no matter what your situation.”
Gemma waited for Rosie to continue but she just sat there with a smile on her face, thinking about the secret.
Finally Gemma couldn’t stand it and blurted out, “Well, what is it Rosie? Just tell me the secret!”
Rosie looked at Gemma with great love and said, “Honey, the secret that my mama told me that Christmas is the same secret that I’m going to tell you right now. I’ve been living it ever since and it is the secret to a happy life.”
“Well?” asked Gemma impatiently.
Rosie leaned close to Gemma and whispered, “The secret is this: you must always strive to have a thankful heart. Think about what you have, not about what you don’t have. If you thank Jesus for everything, no matter what, then nothing ugly can get in. If your heart is a thankful heart then things like selfishness, envy, feeling sorry for yourself, complaining and boredom just can’t get in.”
Rosie smiled a big beautiful smile and exclaimed, “Yes, indeed! A thankful heart! That’s the secret!”
Gemma didn’t say anything. Instead she slowly rolled off the bed, stood up straight, and put her hands on her hips. She looked Rosie square in the face and announced, “Well, I’m thankful that Daddy buys me all my nice things but it’s still not fair that Lydia gets a kitten and I don’t!”
With that final word, Gemma turned her back to Rosie and walked out of the bedroom.
It was the most wonderful aroma in the whole wide world! Gemma knew exactly what that was. As she entered the sunny kitchen her eyes immediately caught sight of what her nose had already told her was there. It was Mr. White’s famous award-winning, five-layer, chocolate fudge butterscotch brownie cake!
She ran to a cupboard, climbed up the stepping stool and reached for a large white plate. She opened one of the drawers and pulled out a fork and a butter knife. She then made her way over to Mr. White’s cake. It was still warm!
Gemma was just about to cut into the cake when she suddenly remembered the kitchen rule: Always ask Mr. White first before helping yourself to any food that he has just prepared. Gemma took a quick glance around the kitchen.
“Well, he’s not here to ask,” she thought to herself.
It took several messy tries but she finally managed to get three huge chunks of cake on her plate. Then she sat on a stool at the kitchen counter and wolfed down her dessert breakfast with great gusto.
“Wow! This is absolutely the best thing I’ve ever tasted!” said Gemma out loud to herself. “I’ll have to tell Mr. White to make this for Daddy and me every week!”
“Gemma, is that you?” called Mr. White from the next room.
“Yes, it’s me,” answered Gemma as she took another big bite of cake.
“I can’t understand it,” continued Mr. White. “I bought a box of expensive chocolate truffles and put it here in the pantry for tonight’s special dinner party. I taped a note on the box that said: DO NOT TOUCH! I’m just not seeing it.”
Gemma stopped eating.
“Do you know what happened to that box of chocolate truffles, Gemma?“
Gemma swallowed her mouthful of cake and answered, “I didn’t know Daddy was having a special dinner party tonight!”
“Yes. Dr. Gonzalez and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, and Dr. Lee and his daughter, Jade, are coming. Your father said he’d be home early from his rounds at the hospital to help me pick out the wine. He also told me that he was hoping you would recite your poem at the dinner party tonight. How are you and Celeste coming with that?”
“We’re doing good,” answered Gemma, taking another bite of cake.
“Are you sure you don’t know what happened to that box of chocolate truffles, Gemma?”
“Uh, uh, no,” stammered Gemma. “Um. No, I don’t.”
“Well, I give up!” exclaimed a defeated Mr. White.
Gemma looked down at her almost empty plate when it suddenly dawned on her that the five-layer chocolate fudge butterscotch brownie cake was for tonight’s special dinner party!
Gemma looked over at the cake she had cut into just minutes ago.
It didn’t look so good.
She picked up her plate and sprinted over to the sink to get rid of the evidence.
Just then Mr. White entered the kitchen.
“Well, Gemma, I guess I’ll just have to serve strawberries with the cake instead of the chocolate truffles.”
Mr. White suddenly caught sight of the chocolate butterscotch mess that was once his perfect, award-winning cake. Then he looked over at Gemma who was sheepishly standing at the kitchen sink rinsing her plate.
Gemma looked up at Mr. White just in time to see the chef’s face turn tomato red.
Mr. White stood perfectly still and Gemma knew exactly what he was doing. He was silently praying one Our Father. Mr. White once told Gemma that whenever he feels really angry he stops whatever he’s doing and prays one Our Father, very slowly, before speaking. He said it’s how he has learned to control his tongue by not yelling when he “sees red.”
Finally, in a firm and controlled voice, Mr. White said, “Gemma, you know the kitchen rule. You are to ask me first before helping yourself to any food that I have just prepared. That dessert was for tonight’s special dinner party. You have completely ruined it. I couldn’t cut a decent piece of cake from that mess if I tried. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go shopping to buy more ingredients and bake another one. Why didn’t you find me and ask me first before eating it?”
“I don’t know,” muttered Gemma.
Mr. White shook his head. Then he took a good look at Gemma. He noticed her face was heavily peppered with chocolate crumbs. He let out a big sigh then walked over to Gemma and took her by the hand. He led her over to the counter then motioned for her to sit down on a stool. He handed her a napkin. She wiped the crumbs off her face. Then he sat on the stool next to her.
Gemma knew she was in trouble. Mr. White would probably tell Daddy how she had disobeyed the kitchen rule and ruined the dessert for tonight’s special dinner party. Actually, Mr. White was trying to figure out what to say to Gemma to get through to her so this wouldn’t ever happen again. Suddenly, to his surprise, beautiful memories of Gemma’s mother began to flood his mind.
“Gemma, did I ever tell you how I very first met your mother?”
Gemma shook her head.
“I didn’t think so. Well, a few years after graduating from chef school I was hired by your grandmother to prepare their family dinners. That was when I first met your mother. She was just thirteen years old. She would waltz into the kitchen to watch me work. Before I knew it, she was baking cookies and mashing up potatoes right along beside me.”
Mr. White smiled.
“Your mother and I had a lot of fun together in the kitchen. When I have more time I’ll tell you some stories. Like when the recipe called for two dashes of Tabasco Sauce but your mother thought it was two tablespoons. That was a very memorable dinner!”
“Ouch! My mouth feels like it’s burning just thinking about it!” exclaimed Gemma.
Mr. White chuckled.
“Gemma,” he continued, “this is what I want to tell you. Over the years your mother and I had many wonderful conversations. We became good friends and she would often open up her heart to me. She told me she would pray every morning and ask Jesus to help her to think, say, and do just what He would think, say, and do in every situation of her life. Her good example and friendship helped me to become a better person. Your mother was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.”
“I know that she loved you very much, Gemma.”
“Now before your mother died, she asked me if I would always try to be a part of your family. It would be her desire that I teach you some ‘kitchen wisdom’ as she would call it. So today is our first lesson. Okay?”
“Okay,” answered Gemma.
“It is my hope that you grow up to be a beautiful lady both inside and out,” began Mr. White. “As we go through life, Gemma, we have to work on getting rid of bad habits and faults. We call those vices. We replace the bad habits with good habits. Those are called virtues. The more virtuous we are, the more holy we become.”
Mr. White thoughtfully stroked his beard.
“It’s like in the Bible when St. Paul talks about runners in a stadium. They have to discipline themselves in every way in order to win the prize. It’s the same way with us when we are working on getting rid of a bad habit. It takes some discipline! The more we work on it the more progress we will make. We have to ask Jesus everyday to help us. If we fail along the way, then we have to try again. We don’t ever give up! That’s how we work on getting rid of a vice and replacing it with a virtue. Do you understand, Gemma?”
Gemma paused and thought.
“I think I do, Mr. White. I think Rosie told me about this when we were singing a song she taught me about being a Saint. She said it’s like when an athlete trains to win a race. They have to get up early every morning and run when they want to keep sleeping. They have to exercise when they feel like being lazy. They do hard things in order to get faster and stronger so they can win the prize.”
“That’s right, Gemma. Now have you ever heard of the word ‘gluttony’?”
Gemma shook her head.
“People who have the bad habit or vice of gluttony will often eat or drink way too much. They eat or drink so much that they make themselves sick. Sometimes you’ll hear it called ‘piggishness’.”
“I don’t like the sound of that, Mr. White! It sounds like you are calling someone a pig!”
“No, of course not. I would never do that. It would be wrong to call someone a pig,” said Mr. White. “We should never call anyone names. What I’m saying is that we should try to eat and drink the right amounts of what our bodies need to be healthy. We should never eat or drink so much that we make ourselves sick. No matter how much we like a particular food or beverage we must try not to eat or drink too much of it.”
“But I really like the taste of sweets, especially your chocolate butterscotch brownie cake, Mr. White,” admitted Gemma.
“I do too, Gemma, but sweets have a proper place. For instance, my cake is extremely rich. It should be enjoyed in small portions as a dessert for special events such as dinner parties, birthday celebrations or holidays like Christmas and Easter. It is definitely not something you should eat in large portions for breakfast!”
Mr. White’s voice softened.
“Gemma, you know I would have helped you make a healthy breakfast. We could have toasted up a slice of delicious whole wheat bread, prepared a cup of juicy blueberries and scrambled a couple of fresh eggs straight from the chicken coop!”
“We don’t have a chicken coop, Mr. White,” replied Gemma with a giggle.
Mr. White winked and then continued, “Now those are the kinds of foods we eat for breakfast to feel good on the inside and be strong and healthy on the out…”
“I think Celeste will be here soon to help me with this week’s homework,” interrupted Gemma suddenly turning white as a sheet. “I better go and wait for her at the table with the big umbrella.”
Gemma immediately jumped off her stool and ran through the double doors that led out to the backyard. She sat down on the very first chair she saw and bent over with a pitiful moan. She didn’t want to tell Mr. White the real reason she suddenly had to leave: a terrible five-layer, chocolate-fudge-butterscotch-brownie-cake stomachache!
“Gemma, we’re making great progress!” exclaimed Celeste.
Celeste held up the paper with the list of the week’s homework assignments.
“So far we’ve gone over your spelling words, made the geography map, finished the religion class assignment, picked out your science experiment and now it’s time for, drum roll, please…literature! I’ve been looking forward to our Saturday tutoring session all week just so I could hear you recite your poem for me!”
“Guess what, Celeste? Daddy wants me to recite the poem for the people coming to our house tonight for a special dinner party,” explained Gemma.
“That’s great!” exclaimed Celeste.
“But I’ve been thinking. I can say it really well for you when we practice it together but I feel kind of nervous when I think about having to say the poem in front of other people.”
“Just remember what we talked about,” encouraged Celeste. “You don’t have to look into the faces of the people right in front of you. Just look over their heads. That will help you to not be distracted. Try to really think about what you are saying. I know you will do great!”
Gemma pushed her chair back and stood up. She put her arms to her sides and tried to stand up as straight as she could. Celeste had explained last week that good posture would help her breathe better so her words would project. Gemma took a deep breath and began the poem.
“Which Loved Best?
by Joy Allison
‘I love you, Mother,’ said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
And left her the water and wood to bring.
‘I love you, Mother’, said rosy Nell;
‘I love you better than tongue can tell’;
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
‘I love you, Mother,’ said little Fan;
‘Today I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!’
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.
Then stepping softly, she fetched the broom,
And swept the floor and tidied the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as child could be.
‘I love you, Mother,’ again they said,
Three little children going to bed;
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?”
“Excellent!” cheered Celeste.
Gemma smiled and sat down.
“Do you know what day next week you recite your poem at school?” asked Celeste.
“First thing on Monday morning. I’m the third person, right after Frankie West.”
“I didn’t realize it was so soon. Then tonight will be like a dress rehearsal when you recite it at the dinner party. I know you will do just fine,” assured Celeste as she patted Gemma’s shoulder and then looked down at the list to find the next homework assignment.
“Celeste, can I ask you a question?”
“Is your mother still alive?”
Celeste looked up.
“Yes she is, Gemma. She lives in Canada. I go to college here in California but my home is in Canada.”
“Do you ever miss her?”
“Well, when I was a freshman, that was my first year in college, I missed her a lot,” admitted Celeste. “I was really home-sick but after a while it was better. I talk with her often on the phone and she flew here once to visit me.”
There was a long moment of silence and then Gemma asked, “Celeste, did you know that my mother died?”
“Yes, I did know that, Gemma.”
There was another moment of silence and then Celeste asked, “Do you miss her?”
“Yes. Sometimes I miss her a lot. I was four years old when she died.”
Celeste thought for a moment and then reached over to her backpack. She unzipped the front pocket and pulled out a book. It was her Bible. She opened it up and took out a card.
“Gemma, I don’t know what it’s like to have your mother die but I have a friend who understands. When she was four years old her mother died too.”
Celeste handed Gemma the card.
“Her name is Therese. Have you heard of her?”
Gemma studied the card and then shook her head.
“Her name is Therese Martin. She’s from the country of France. She had four older sisters and her father was a watchmaker. My friend Therese loved Jesus a lot! When she was just fifteen she was allowed to be a nun and live in a convent.”
“I’ve seen pictures of nuns before at school,” said Gemma.
“Therese is in Heaven now so we call her Saint Therese.”
Gemma was surprised!
“If she is in Heaven then how can she be your friend?”
“The Saints in Heaven are our friends,” explained Celeste. “From Heaven they know us and love us very much. They are always praying for us!”
Celeste smiled at Gemma.
“It’s just like how you are my friend and I love you. I’m going to pray for you on Monday. I’m asking Jesus to help you so everything will go great when you recite your poem at school. It’s the same with the Saints but it’s even better because they are super close to Jesus. He loves it when they ask Him for special favors for us. He really does. He loves it when we pray for each other.”
Gemma tried to give Celeste back the card but Celeste held up her hand and said, “You keep it, Gemma. I think Therese wants to be your friend too.”
Celeste took a sip of water and then asked, “Now, shall we get back to work? We’re almost done. One page of math problems and then we can go swimming!”
“Oh, I just hate math,” said Gemma with a groan.
“I know math isn’t your favorite subject, Gemma, but someday you’ll be really glad that you are able to add and subtract any number that comes your way. I’m not saying you have to become a rocket scientist but it’s really important to study hard and learn the basics. If a lesson or problem comes up that you can’t figure out, I’ll help you. You just have to ask me.”
Celeste continued, “I’m going to do a quick errand for Mr. White right now. I need to run to the grocery store and pick up a tin of cocoa and a package of butterscotch chips for him. It shouldn’t take me any longer then twenty-five minutes. I’ll check your math answers when I get back and then, like I said, we can go swimming!”
Celeste pulled out the teacher’s answer key from her pile of books. She flipped through the pages until she found the right assignment.
“Okay, Gemma, get out your math workbook and find lesson 24. I looked at this before I came today and it looks pretty easy. You should be able to get all these done in twenty-five minutes.”
Celeste jumped up, grabbed her backpack and headed towards the gate.
“I’ll be right back!” she called to Gemma as she disappeared.
Gemma found lesson 24 in her math workbook.
“Celeste is right,” thought Gemma. “These don’t look so bad.”
Gemma took out a sharp pencil from her pouch and started working her way through the problems. She was doing really well until she came to the very last one. It was this: 1,004 – 328 = ___.
Gemma threw down her pencil.
“I just hate it when there are two zeros in a row in subtraction!” she said to herself.
She looked up and noticed that Celeste had left the teacher’s answer key on top of her pile of books. It was open to lesson 24.
“No, if I look at the answer that would be cheating,” she thought.
She picked up her pencil and went to work. However, the more she worked on the problem the more frustrated she became.
She stopped working and looked over again at the teacher’s answer key.
“Well, it’s not like this is an actual test,” she began to reason with herself.
The longer she stared at the answer key the more she decided it would be okay to look. Finally, she stood up and looked at the page. She found the answer to the last problem and then quickly wrote: 676.
“I hate math,” she muttered to herself as she put her workbook near Celeste’s pile.
Gemma suddenly became aware of how sweaty and hot she was. She grabbed her water bottle and took a long drink. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and then looked towards the swimming pool. The blue water shimmered in the sunlight. The floating pool toys were moving peacefully over the surface of the water. It looked cool and inviting.
“It must be close to twenty-five minutes by now,” said Gemma to herself. “I think I’ll stick my feet in the water to cool down while I wait for Celeste.”
Gemma was about to run toward the pool when suddenly a distant memory of her mother’s voice came to her mind. Gemma was four years old and her mother was telling her: “Now always remember, my sweet Gemma, never run by the swimming pool!” Then, as fast as the thought came, it was gone.
Gemma took another glance at the pool and started to run. If she hadn’t been running she probably would have noticed that a bottle of suntan oil had tipped over from yesterday’s windy weather. The cap was off and almost the entire bottle of oil had oozed out. It was now in a shiny puddle on the hot cement pavement.
Gemma’s feet hit the oil and flew out from underneath her.
She fell flat on her back and her head hit the cement pavement with a terrible: "Thud!"
Gemma saw stars!
Then everything went... BLACK.
“It is His palace of glory that He is keeping for us and we shall see Him then, not as a Child or under the form of Bread, but as He is, radiant in His infinite beauty.”
“What a beautiful voice,” Gemma thought to herself as the sound of it washed over her. It made her feel happy and peaceful. She wondered who was speaking.
Gemma slowly became aware of her body. She realized that she was lying on her back on the ground. She opened her eyes and was astonished to see the radiant face of a smiling girl looking back at her. She was so beautiful!
“Bonjour, Gemma!” greeted the girl.
She took Gemma by the hand and helped her to her feet.
Gemma stared at the girl.
“I know who you are! You’re the girl on the card that Celeste gave me! Therese Martin, right?”
Therese gave Gemma a big smile and simply said, “Oui!”
“That means ‘yes’ in French. Celeste told me you were from France.“
It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. A gentle breeze was blowing and birds were singing sweetly in the lush green trees. The grass felt soft and warm on Gemma’s feet.
“There is something I would like to show you, Gemma,” said Therese.
She took Gemma by the hand and they began to walk. They walked over a bridge and down a hill where dainty little violets were growing.
“You smell really good, Therese,” said Gemma. “Just like roses. I’m going to tell Daddy to buy me some perfume like yours.”
Therese just smiled.
“We are almost there,” said Therese.
“Where?” Gemma asked.
Before Therese could answer they came up over the hill and there, before them, was the most beautiful thing that Gemma had ever seen in her life! It was a giant castle made of diamond!
“How can that be?” wondered Gemma. “A diamond as big as a castle!”
It was beauty beyond anything she could have ever imagined. It sparkled in a thousand different beautiful ways. Gemma stood speechless.
Finally she found her voice and asked, “Therese, who lives there?”
“The King!” she answered.
“Can we go there?” asked Gemma.
Therese smiled, took Gemma by the hand again and led the way towards the castle.
As they got closer Gemma noticed there was something moving in the water that surrounded the castle.
“Alligators!” cried Gemma.
Therese squeezed Gemma’s hand.
“Don’t be afraid,” she assured her. “The alligators and poisonous creatures in the moat will only hurt you if you go near them.”
Just then the giant drawbridge began to descend. When it was completely lowered Therese and Gemma walked safely over the moat to the entrance of the castle.
Gemma held her breath as they entered the palace of the King.
It was as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside!
“It’s enormous!” exclaimed Gemma. “Look at all the rooms! There must be hundreds of them!”
“Here is the special room I want to show you, Gemma.”
As they entered, Gemma was simply astonished to see a countless number of beautiful, shiny, sparkling, golden crowns! There were crowns for men and crowns for women. There were giant-sized crowns, tiny-child sized crowns and every sized crown in between. The golden crowns sparkled with jewels of every size, shape and color! From what Gemma could see there were no two crowns that were exactly alike. Each one was a unique work of art. It was breathtaking!
“How beautiful!” cried Gemma.“If I gathered all the jewels and gold from a million jewelry stores it wouldn’t come close to the number of jewels and crowns that are in this room! Oh! How I wish I could have one of these beautiful crowns for my very own!”
Therese took Gemma by the hand and led her to one of the shelves. She pointed to a gorgeous, bright, gold crown encrusted with shimmering, deep blue sapphires.
“It’s so beautiful!” cried Gemma. “I love sapphires!”
She took the crown off the shelf and was about to put it on her head when Therese said, “Gemma, this crown belongs to Celeste.”
“Celeste? I didn’t know she was rich! She told me she was a poor college student.”
Gemma looked at the crown longingly and then carefully put it back on the shelf.
They continued to walk down the long aisle. They soon stopped and Therese pointed to another crown. It was a deep golden color and at the top each of the points were inlaid with large milk-colored opals. It was stunning!
“Wow!” exclaimed Gemma. “This crown is amazing! It must belong to a really rich man!”
“This crown belongs to Mr. White,” replied Therese.
“Mr. White? You mean my Mr. White? The one who works for Daddy and me as a chef?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Gemma didn’t know what to say.
They continued walking. Therese soon stopped and pointed to another crown that was in the shape of a tiara. It looked like it had been made for a royal princess! Sparkling, rich red rubies covered the entire crown and at the very top the jewels were carefully arranged in the shape of a beautiful flower. Gemma could hardly contain herself.
“Therese! I must have this crown! I have never seen anything so perfect in all my life! Please, tell me this beautiful crown belongs to me!” begged Gemma.
“This crown belongs to Rosie.”
Gemma started to cry.
“Rosie? I don’t understand! How can this be Rosie’s crown? She’s the lady who cleans my house and washes my clothes. How can this possibly be her crown?”
Therese was quiet. She gently took Gemma by the hand and they began to walk again.
“Where are we going now?” asked Gemma.
“There is one more crown I must show you.”
When they finally arrived at their destination, Therese pointed to the crown. How different this crown looked compared to the others! The gold was dull and dingy. The sides were uneven and the points on the top were crooked. There were small, cloudy jewels sprinkled around the front and along the sides but this crown didn’t glisten and sparkle brightly like the others. It was a very sad sight to see.
“How awful! Why are you are showing me this ugly crown?” demanded Gemma.
Therese took both of Gemma’s hands in hers and looked at her face-to-face.
“Because, my dear friend, Gemma,” answered Therese, “this is your crown.”
“My crown!” cried Gemma letting go of Therese’s hands. “What do you mean this crown is my crown? How can Celeste, Mr. White and Rosie have beautiful crowns and my crown look like this? I don’t understand!”
“The crown shows how much a person has loved,” explained Therese. “The more beautiful the crown, the more that person has followed the King in the way of love. The King makes our crown from what we give Him. We decide how it will look.”
Gemma looked again at her crown. Then she looked back at Therese. Suddenly, in that moment, it was as if every prayer that had ever been prayed for Gemma, every lesson she had ever been taught and every good example ever shown to her came crashing down! It could be compared to being in a dark room and then suddenly someone turns on the light!
“Therese! I think I do understand!” cried Gemma in astonishment.
She looked at her crown again and suddenly big tears came to her eyes. She began to cry.
“It’s true. I did awful things and I know it,” admitted Gemma. “There were lots of times I didn’t follow the King in the way of love... I wish I could start all over again!”
“But you can, my little friend! There is a way,” assured Therese.
“There is?” asked Gemma as a glimmer of hope touched her broken heart.
“You simply need to go to the King and talk with Him!”
Gemma’s heart sank.
“But doesn’t the King know how bad I’ve been? He would take one look at me and know that I’m the one with the ugly crown!”
“There is nothing to fear, Gemma. If you abandon yourself to the King and place all your trust in Him, hoping everything from His mercy, then the King shall reward you as much as the greatest of His Saints!”
Therese took both of Gemma’s hands in hers and said, “Go to Him. Talk with Him. Love Him with all your heart! Confidence, my little friend! Confidence!”
As Gemma stood looking at Therese’s beautiful, smiling, radiant face, she suddenly felt a surge of courage go through her!
“I want to see the King!” cried Gemma. “Therese, will you tell me where I can find Him?”
“Of course!” exclaimed Therese. “He has been waiting for you! Look for Him in the room that is in the center of the castle. Just follow the light and you will find Him!”
Gemma threw her arms around Therese and gave her a big hug.
“Thank you!” cried Gemma.
“I love you, Gemma! ‘Mon amie’ forever!”
“Yes, Therese! Friends forever!”
As Gemma walked out of the crown room, she suddenly stopped, looked back at Therese just one last time, gave her a big smile, and then ran out of the crown room, disappearing into the castle.
“Remember, my little friend, confidence!” called Therese. “Just follow the light and you will find Him!”
Gemma continued to run. Faster and faster she went! Room after room she flew through! Around and around the castle she sped! The longer she ran the brighter the light became and the more confident she felt! Soon she would see the King!
Gemma knew she had finally found the room she had been searching for because the light was absolutely pouring through the crystal door! It was so bright! It was so beautiful!
Gemma cried out, “I’m here to see the King!”
At the sound of her voice the door opened.
Gemma entered the room and when she looked up, there, right in front of her, stood the King!
He was awe-inspiring in His majesty, His splendor and His exalted glory! He was resplendent and dazzling and stunning in His royal beauty! His grandeur, His nobility and His great excellence were beyond description. He radiated goodness, and graciousness, and righteousness, and holiness, and sovereignty! He was brilliant! He was magnificent! He was absolutely wonderful!
As Gemma stood in awe, she realized the source of light that was illuminating the entire castle was coming from five brilliant diamonds that were on the body of the King! One shone from His left foot, one from His right foot, one from each of His hands and the other diamond radiated from His side lighting up His entire body and from there the entire castle!
Gemma started to tremble. The sight of his glory was too much for her!
She looked up and when her eyes met His eyes all of her fear suddenly vanished. She felt like she had been dipped in an ocean of love from the top of her head to the tips of her toes!
“Jesus!” cried Gemma.
She ran to Him and He bent down and held her close. Gemma looked into His loving eyes and began to cry.
“There is something I have to tell you, Jesus,” began Gemma.
Jesus gently touched Gemma’s cheek and wiped away her tears.
“Tell me, little one,” encouraged Jesus. “Tell me everything. Don’t be afraid.”
Gemma told Him everything.
She told Jesus that she had cheated on her math homework instead of being patient and waiting to ask Celeste for help.
Then she told Him that she was the one who had eaten the entire box of Mr. White’s chocolate truffles, even though she had read the note, and then lied to Mr. White when he asked her about it. She had also been disobedient by not obeying the kitchen rule and ruining Mr. White’s dessert.
She told Jesus that she was very disrespectful in the way she had talked to Rosie. She was also lazy by not picking up the dirty clothes and wet towels she had left on the bathroom floor making more work for her. Daddy told her to look for ways to help Rosie but Gemma ignored his words.
Then she told Him that she was envious of her friend, Lydia, because she had a new kitten. She admitted that she didn’t like it when her friends had things she didn’t have and that she never even tried to have a thankful heart. She also was selfish in trying to think of a way to get a kitten for herself even though she knew it would make Daddy miserable because of his allergies.
Gemma told Jesus about all the times she could think of when she had not followed Him in the way of love.
When Gemma got to the very end she cried, “Jesus, I’m so sorry! I want to make a beautiful crown for you because I love you! I want to do what is right and good. Please help me.”
Then she hugged Him as tight as she could and said, “I love you, Jesus! I want to be a Saint!”
Jesus looked into Gemma’s eyes and smiled. His smile simply melted her heart!
“My beautiful Gem, your sins are forgiven,” said Jesus. “I love you more then you will ever know. Talk with me everyday in the interior castle of your heart where I am always waiting. Come visit me often in the tabernacles of my Church where I also wait for you. Tell me everything. I will always help you. “
“Thank you, Jesus!” cried Gemma.
“I have one more special gift before you wake up.”
Jesus looked over Gemma’s shoulder and smiled.
Gemma turned around to see what Jesus was looking at. Her eyes filled with tears.
“Mama? Is that you?”
Gemma ran to her mother and her mother held her tight.
“Mama, I miss you!” she cried.
“I’m always with you, my sweet Gemma. I’m praying for you always. Someday we’ll be together forever. I love you!”
“I love you too, Mama!”
Gemma felt so good! Her heart felt whole and happy. As she stood there in the arms of her mother Gemma thought she heard her name being called. It sounded like it was coming from very far away.
There it was again.
“Gemma, can you hear me?”
The voices were closer now.
“Gemma! Honey! Wake up! Please, Honey, wake up!”
Gemma slowly opened her eyes. Everything looked fuzzy. Her eyes began to adjust. She realized she was flat on her back on the cement pavement next to her swimming pool. Rosie, Mr. White and Celeste were all kneeling around her looking anxiously into her face.
Gemma looked up at them and gave them a big smile.
“Thank you, Jesus!” cried Rosie. “Our girl is back!”
Gemma was back but she wasn’t the same girl as before because never again did she leave her dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor for Rosie to clean up. Never again did she lie to Mr. White or take things without asking first. Never again did she cheat on her homework when she studied with Celeste because everyday Gemma talks with Jesus, the King, in the interior castle of her heart. Everyday she whispers His favorite prayer: “I love you, Jesus! Help me to be a Saint!”
…and the King is always ready to help Gemma: “His Beautiful Gem!”
"That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:15
PS: “Portrait of Sanctity”
Anicka “Annie” Zelikova
Annie was a beautiful young lady who was born in 1924 in Moravia, the eastern province of what is now the Czech Republic. She was full of life and brought great joy to her family and friends right up to her death from an illness in 1941. Even when she was too sick and weak to do anything else, she practiced the “apostleship of smiling.” Annie explained, “I must smile to my last breath. All I can give God now are my heartbeats and my smile. Nothing is left to me except for love and trust.”
She had a great desire to become a Carmelite nun but her illness prevented it. In fact, Annie was so ill that she was given special permission to make her profession sooner than usual as a Carmelite Third Order Secular – lay people who live according to the ideals and spirit of the order. Seven months after making her profession she passed from this world into the arms of Jesus, smiling to the very end. Her final statement was: “I trust,” and the last audible word she could speak was: “Carmel.” She was buried with the Rule for the Third Order over her heart.