A Balloon Trip

When the balloon began to rise into the air, Albert was frightened at first. He was beginning what would be an unforgettable journey!

“Boo hoo! Being a rather noisy lad, Albert’s voice usually echoed throughout the house, whether he was laughing or crying. Although only six years old, it was already clear that he was a bright and precocious little boy.

But what was the cause of his tears this morning?

Simply the fact that he was awoken from a deep sleep and had to overcome his laziness in order to obey his parents, get ready, and go to Sunday Mass with his family.

After lunch, he went out to play with his neighbourhood friends. One of them had a new toy car; the devil planted a wicked idea into Albert’s heart, urging him to secretly carry the toy off and enjoy it by himself. But that was wrong! He did not give in to that bad suggestion, although the temptation continued to be very strong. This inner struggle took over the fun of the afternoon, leaving him feeling worn out.

At dinner, with everyone at the table – except for Albert’s mother, who was putting the finishing touches on the meal – a conversation about school arose. His sisters mentioned the difficulty they had with certain subjects, and Albert brought up some of his own dislikes. But not wanting to appear to be a dull student, it came to his mind to put all the blame on the teacher, saying that she was short tempered and never showed pictures or gave the students interesting activities or projects… Realizing, however, that it would be wrong to tell such lies, he fell quiet and listened to the others. For the rest of the meal he remained pensive – so much so that his mother became worried and declared he must be tired, and his father put him to bed early.

Under the covers, Albert thought and thought. Deep down, he wanted to understand why he could never give in to his inclinations, but always needed to make an effort to obey his parents or practise God’s Commandments, which he knew quite well, despite his young age. He turned the problem over and over in his head until he finally fell asleep.

The next day, his father woke him up:

“Wake up son, I have a surprise!”

“Good morning, Daddy.”

“Albert, there is no school or work today. Let’s go out.”

After a good breakfast, they were headed towards an unknown destination… Only when they arrived did the child discover the mysterious activity: it was a large park with hot air balloons!

“I always wanted to fly!” Albert exclaimed.

He got into one that was ready to take off.

“Daddy, aren’t you coming with me?”

“No. You can go by yourself; it’s safe.”

“But I don’t know what to do!”

“Don’t worry! Pray, and everything will be fine. There is no danger.”

The cord holding down the balloon was cut and Albert was on his own: “Who will I ask for help?”

The basket was already lifting from the ground. The cord was cut and Albert found himself rising into the air! “Whee, I’m flying! But which saint am I going to ask to help me?” He ran quickly through every saint he knew, until he remembered the little statue of St. Albert the Great, his patron, which stood on his dresser at the foot of his bed. “Oh, he is the one!” the boy decided. “St. Albert, I need your help! St. Albert, please guide this balloon and don’t let it fall!” And the balloon rose higher and higher…

“This will be an unforgettable journey!” a voice said.

Turning towards the voice, Albert saw an old man wearing beautiful vestments, a bishop’s mitre and holding a crosier. His companion continued:

“You called me, didn’t you? I am your patron Saint! I am going to take you higher than you ever imagined.”

The balloon left the earth far behind and soared up beyond the clouds. They arrived at a beautiful place, a new world full of life and colour, wonder and delight.

Where are we?” asked the boy.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven,” the Saint replied.

Suddenly, he saw St. Albert at his side! The holy Bishop would take him higher than he imagined…

Soon they came upon a group of saints. They were all radiant, but there were parts of their bodies that shone with an especially bright light: in some it was the eyes, in others an arm, a leg or the head, sometimes the tongue or the ears, and so on. Their presence brought a special peace and joy.

“How beautiful they are!” Albert exclaimed.

“Yes! This is the choir of those who bore sicknesses during their lives. They joined their pains to the Passion of Christ, patiently offering their illnesses and singing to the Lord a continuous hymn of thanksgiving,” explained the Bishop.

“Ah, that is why we had to climb high to reach them!”

St. Albert smiled and turned up the burner, and the balloon rose even higher. The two now came to a second group of saints. They had greater glory than the first, and their hearts were like the sun.

“Who are these?” asked the lad.

These saints carried out works of charity. They took in, sheltered, cared for and served the poor, the pilgrims and the sick. Out of love for the Redeemer, they turned no one away; in fact, they saw Christ in each needy person they helped, and this is where they drew the strength for their work.”

“Oh! When I am grown up, I hope I can be like them, to make God happy.”

“But there is more, Albert.”


The celestial companion increased the flame again and they rose to another level in Paradise. Albert could now smell a sweet and gentle fragrance and felt a magnificent feeling of well-being. They approached another group. The boy asked:

“What virtues did these saints practise on earth?”

“You, my young namesake, are looking at the hermits of the desert. They renounced all pleasures, even the most lawful, to dedicate themselves to a life of penance.”

Albert noticed their serious appearance, but at the same time full of lightness, which gave them a remarkable dignity. And the Saint added:

“They overcame all the suggestions of the world, the flesh and the devil; what is more, they lived in prayer, in uninterrupted contact with the supernatural.”

Looking up to his kind friend, the child exclaimed in admiration:

“What a hard path they chose!”

The prelate smiled, as if to say that there was still more. This time the balloon soared high, very high. They were now in the presence of Jesus and Mary, seated on two thrones. Around them, there were many saints, overjoyed to be in such blessed company.

“Albert, can you see how pleased our King and Queen are with these servants?”

“Yes! I want us both to be close to Them, like these souls. What did they do to receive such a great reward?”

These are the saints who, in order to always do God’s will, renounced their own. They obeyed the Commandments, their parents and superiors. They submitted their desires to the yoke of obedience, symbolized by the shining gold chains they wear around their necks. Their reward in Heaven is to remain closest to Jesus and Mary.”

“But, St. Albert, didn’t those other saints also did the will of Our Lord?

“Yes, but in a different way; they followed the voice of the Lord that spoke to their hearts. These ones obeyed others, recognizing the voice of Jesus speaking in them. The first way has great merit; but these saints gained even greater glory by sacrificing their own inclinations.

With these words, the heavenly Bishop began to cool the air in the balloon. The boy understood that it was time to return. Shortly before landing, St. Albert said:

“You can be like any of the first three choirs. The best of all would be to join the battalion of the obedient. Go back to your everyday life and practise what you learned today; I will help you always. Today, I brought you to Heaven in a balloon; now I want to lead you there by virtue!” 



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