|"Come down, Little One. Here I am"|
Now St. Gerard was once a little boy just like one of you, only he was an Italian boy. He was born in a pretty little town in Italy called Muro. His father kept a tailor's shop and used to make clothes for the men who lived there. He was a good man and loved God, and wished his children to grow up good Catholics. God had given him three children, two girls and one little boy, Gerard, the youngest. The very day he was born his father carried him to the Cathedral and had him baptized so that he might at once become a child of God. His mother, who loved her son very much, took great care of him, and as soon as he could speak taught him to say the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. His mother noticed that whenever she talked to his sisters of God and His Holy Mother, Gerard would leave his play and come and sit quietly at her side. When they said their prayers Gerard would join his little hands and his lips moved as if he were trying to say the words.
One day, when Gerard was three or four years old, he heard his mother explaining to his sisters how Jesus dwelt in the tabernacle in church, and how often He was left alone hour after hour, and yet never wearied of waiting for us there. This was enough for Gerard. Quetly he slipped out of the room, out of the front door, and trotted down the street to the church. The door was open, so in he went, right up the middle, up to the top of the altar steps. There he knelt, talking to Jesus, his little hands clasped, his eyes fixed on the tabernacle door. Two hours passed and still he knelt on. People coming in and out wondered to see that tiny child kneeling there, but no one disturbed him.
Meanwhile father and mother and friends were all looking for Gerard. Gerard was lost! Where could he be? His mother at last went into the church to ask the help of Our Lady who once lost her dear Son for three days. Imagine her surprise when, on going into the church, she saw her lost baby rapt in prayer on the altar steps.
With a cry of joy she hastened to him, lifted him in her arms and carried him home.
"Where have you been, Gerard, all this time?" she asked.
"Only in church, mama," he said. "I did not want Little Jesus to be lonely."
After this Gerard would slip away from home day after day, but he could always be found just in front of the altar, talking to Jesus. Never was he so happy as when he was talking to Our Blessed Lord in church.
One day he came home with a tiny loaf which he gave to his mother. When she asked him where he had got it he told her that the lovely lady in the church had given it to him. This happened several times. His sister Bridget, curious to see who took such notice of her little brother, one day followed him at a distance. Imagine her surprise to see Gerard stop in front of the beautiful statue of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus, and looking up, say: "Come down, Little One. Here I am." Before Gerard had time to say any more a wonderful thing happened. The Holy Child was standing beside him and when his sister looked again at the statue Our Lady's arms were empty. Jesus kissed and talked to little Gerard, then, giving him a little white loaf, He once more returned to His Blessed Mother's arms.
Quickly Bridget ran home to tell her mother the wonderful miracle she had seen, and the good mother thanked God for having given her a son who was so pleasing to God as to be allowed to play with the Infant Jesus.
As Gerard gew a little older he began to have a great desire to receive his dear Jesus in Holy Communion. He had seen his eldest sister make her First Holy Communion when she was twelve years old, for in those days it was not the custom for very little children to receive Our Lord. they had to wait until they were twelve or thirteen years old, and Gerard was not seven. Many a time he asked his mother to let him go, but she only smiled and told him to wait a little longer.
But one day during Holy Mass, as Gerard watched the people going up to the communion rails, he felt he could not wait another moment. Jesus seemed to be calling him. Joining his hands reverently he walked up to the rails and knelt between two ladies. The priest came down from the altar with Our Lord in his hands. He went to the end of the rails and began giving Holy Communion to each one there. Nearer and nearer he came to where Gerard was kneeling; only two more, only one, and he stands in front of Gerard, whose heart beat so violently he could hardly breathe. But the priest looked at the little one, then thinking it some baby who had crept up with its mother, passed him by, gave Holy Communion to the other lady and then returned to the altar. Gerard, opening his eyes, saw Our Lord had passed him by. With one big sob he rose, left the church, and hastened home. Once in his own little room he threw himself on the ground and sobbed as if his little heart would break.
His mother heard all about what had happened from a neighbor who had been there, and when much later Gerard came down, his eyes swollen with crying, she asked not questions but, kissing him tenderly, tried to amuse him and make him think of something else.
At half-past six that night, after his mother had left him safely tucked up in bed and gone downstairs, Gerard began once more to cry quietly to himself. Then a wonderful thing happened. He could see the sky from where he lay, and he seemed to see right up into heaven, the home of Little Jesus. Presently, as he lay gazing up and praying for the great grace for which he longed, he saw the heavens open, and the beautiful archangel St. Michael come flying down towards him, carrying in his hands the Sacred Host. In an instant Gerard was on his knees. St. Michael flew right to Gerard, and placed on the tongue of the happy child his dear Jesus.