Peter returned home with his two sons, but a dark shadow now hung over the family: How could Leopold possibly have gone to such extremes? It all started with envy…


A round the year 1790, in a castle built on a mountaintop of France, there lived a noble widower and his three sons.

Louis, the eldest, looked a great deal like his deceased mother, and was a serious and responsible lad. Leopold, the second son, excelled in many fields, but he was rather proud, and liked to differ in opinion with his father. Most of all, he could not bear to be outdone by anyone in anything. Gabriel was the youngest; a happy child, he basked in his father’s affection and already showed signs of a superior intelligence. He felt no need to prove his worth, but enjoyed admiring others.

Despite the three brothers’ very different characters, respect and discipline reigned in that household. It was a true school of love, of which their father, Peter, was the head master. In their mother’s absence, he strove to create a true home for his sons.

The years passed, and the Revolution broke out. At the same time, Leopold began to change for the worse. His father observed how He sought questionable company, became extremely argumentative, and insisted on leaving the castle without explaining where he was going or when he would return. Gravely concerned, Peter would try to follow Leopold at a distance or would send Louis to discover his whereabouts.

One day, Peter followed his wayward son into the forest near the castle and saw him meeting with three Jacobin youths. Managing to hear their words, Peter was appalled to discover their topic of conversation: a detailed plot to kill his youngest son! Overwhelmed with grief, he staggered back to the castle and told Louis all he had witnessed. Together they thought of a plan to save Gabriel’s life and Leopold’s soul.

Awakening the next day, the wicked son found a note under his pillow. It read:

“Even my friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me (Ps 41: 10). May the Sacred Heart of Jesus forbid that this passage ever apply to us. By His grace, may you let yourself be loved, and never doubt my enduring love for you.” Leopold read the message, crumpled the paper and tossed it out the window. As the days passed, Peter’s heart was increasingly pained to see his son grow hardened in evil.

With the passing of time, Leopold began to change for the worse

When the day set for the evil deed arrived, all awoke in a nervous state – all except Gabriel, quite unaware of any danger. At three o’clock in the afternoon, Leopold invited Gabriel to go with him by boat to a nearby wooded park, and his younger brother happily accepted.

As the two rowed away, father and first-born hurried to the same destination by land. Meanwhile, in the boat, as Leopold steered ashore, he asked his brother if he would like to play a game of hide-and-seek, which Gabriel thought was an excellent idea. While he counted: “One, two, three…” Leopold went to “hide”. Little did the boy imagine the trap his own brother had set for him!

“…fifty! Ready or not, Leopold – here I come!” Gabriel looked about and soon spotted someone hiding a stone’s throw away: “I already found you, Leopold!” he called. When there was no reply, he called his brother’s name again, making his way through the shrubbery separating them. Suddenly the crouched figure arose and spun around: it was a Jacobin pointing a rifle at him! The boy screamed and ducked into a thicket, petrified with terror.

His heart pounding, Gabriel could only wonder, “Where’s Papa? He always said he would never abandon me in need. Where is he now that I need him the most?” With a thousand heartfelt pleas to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he flattened himself to the ground, awaiting the approach of the enemy.

Just when Gabriel imagined that his position had surely been discovered, he heard a deafening shot. A few moments of stillness followed, and then he heard footsteps very close… Rather unexplainably, the boy was not afraid, but felt great relief flooding his soul. He raised his head, to come face to face with his beloved father! Rushing into his arms he asked:

“How did you know I was here, Papa?”

“My dear son, don’t you remember my promise? My heart told me where you would be.”

What had really happened?

Peter and Louis had reached the indicated site very quickly, and were watching as Gabriel counted aloud and Leopold signalled to the Jacobin. Louis silently stalked the enemy, while Peter, well concealed, crept towards Gabriel.

Coming up behind the Jacobin just in time, Louis managed to strike him from behind with a heavy stick, so that he lost his aim and fired off-target. Then, seeing themselves discovered, Leopold and his accomplice fled, panic-stricken.

Peter returned to the castle with his two sons. In the days following the terrible incident, a dark shadow hung over the family. They wondered how Leopold could possibly have allowed envy to drive him to such extremes. And they prayed continuously for his conversion.

“My son, don’t you remember my promise to never abandon you?”

And their prayer was answered! Some days later, Leopold came to his senses and was filled with remorse for his murderous attempt and the envy that had driven him to it. He returned to his father’s house and said, amid sobs:

“Father, I have sinned against God and against my brother. I no longer deserved to be called ‘son’; treat me as a servant. But I beg you to accept my plea for forgiveness!”

With emotion, Peter said:

“My son, nothing could give me more joy than to be welcomed back into your heart. Never trade your father’s love for evil! Everything that happened is long forgiven; all I ask in return is that you let yourself be loved!” Louis and Gabriel also assured him of their esteem and complete pardon, overjoyed to see their brother so changed.

After this reconciliation, harmony reigned more than ever before in that household. The blessing of the Sacred Heart had alighted over each of them, for they all now truly let themselves be loved.


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