Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Juan who Visited Heaven

There was once an old couple who always prayed for a child, for they
had always been childless. No matter how it looked, whether deformed
or ugly, they must have a child. So after a short time they saw that
their prayers would be answered, and in the course of nature a child
was born, but the mother died at the birth.

The new-born child ran to the church, climbed into the tower, and
began to hammer on the bells. The priest, hearing the noise, sent the
sacristan to see what was the matter. The sacristan went, and seeing
there a little child, asked what he was doing and told him to stop, for
the priest would be angry; but the ringing of the bells went on. Then
the priest went up. "Little boy," he said, "what is your name?" "Juan,"
said the child. "Why are you ringing the church bells?" "Because my
mother is dead." "When did she die?" "Only now." "If you stop ringing
the bells she shall have a fine funeral and you shall live with me
and be as my son," said the priest. "Very well, sir, if you will let
me stay in the church all I wish." To this the priest assented. The
dead woman was buried with all the pomp of music, candles, and bells,
and the boy went to live in the convent. Always after his school was
done he would be in the church. The father did everything that was
possible for him, for he knew that he was not a natural child.

After a time the padre sent for him to get his dinner, but he would
not leave the church, so the priest had a good dinner cooked and
sent it down to the church, but he told the sacristan to watch the
church and see what happened. The sacristan watched and soon saw the
statue of Jesus eating with the boy. This he told the padre, and the
child's dinner was always sent to the church after that. One day not
long after he went to the priest and said, "Master, my friend down at
the church wants me to go away with him." "Where are you going?" "My
friend wants me to go to heaven with him."

The priest consented and the little boy and the Lord Jesus went
away together. As they walked the little boy saw that two roads ran
along together, one thorny and the other smooth. Asked the boy of
his companion, "Friend, why is this road where we walk so thorny,
and that other yonder so smooth?" Said the Lord, "Hush, child, it
is not fitting to disturb the peace of this place, but I will tell
you. This is the path of the sinless and is thorny, but that smooth
way yonder is the way of the sinners and never reaches heaven."

Again they came to a great house filled with young men and women who
were all working hammering iron. Said the little boy, "Who are those
who labor with the hammer?" "Hush, child, they are the souls of those
who died unmarried."

They journeyed on, and on one side were bush pastures filled with poor
cattle while on the opposite side of the road were pastures dry and
bare where the cattle were very fat. The child inquired the meaning
of the mystery. The Lord answered him, "Hush, child! These lean cattle
in the rich pastures are the souls of sinners, while those fat cattle
on dry and sunburnt ground are the souls of sinless ones."

After a while they crossed a river, one part of which was ruby red and
the other spotless white. "Friend, what is this?" asked the boy. "Hush,
child, the red is the blood of your mother whose life was given for
yours, and the white is the milk which she desired to give to you,
her child," said the Lord.

At last they came to a great house having seven stories, and there on
a table they saw many candles, some long, some short, some burned
out. Said Juan, "Friend, what are all these candles?" "Hush,
child, those are the lives of your friends." "What are those
empty candlesticks?" "Those are your mother and your uncle, who are
dead." "Who is this long one?" "That is your father, who has long to
live." "Who is this very short one?" "That is your master, who will
die soon." "May I put in another?" "Yes, child, if you wish." So he
changed it for a long one, and with his heavenly companion he returned
to earth.

There he told his master, the padre, all that he had seen and heard and
how he had changed the candles; and he and his master lived together
a very long time. And in the fulness of time the padre died, but Juan
went to heaven one day with his Lord and never returned.

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