By Sister Mary Joanne, O.C.D.
Young Peter can box with the best, fish as well as his namesake and plays long and hard like any other little boy. But Peter also loves his family and Jesus very much.
Peter D’Airelle (7), his brother Jack, (9), and sister, Odette, (5) lived with their parents on a military compound where his father is an army captain. They lived in France in the early 1900s when the country was reeling from lack of faith. Pope Pius X had just opened the door for small children to receive First Holy Communion; the children who were baptized knew the difference between consecrated and unconsecrated hosts and showed a real desire to receive the Eucharist were invited to receive Jesus in Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Peter was among the first under thirteen to receive. But all was not well and happy at home. His father had lost his faith and claimed that priests made up religion and that it was all a lot of nonsense.
Peter’s concern for his father’s lost faith became consuming. He wrote letters to the priest asking questions, requesting advice and help to restore his father’s faith. Peter prayed rosaries, got up early to attend daily Mass, and offered sacrifices. Finally, Peter offered his illness, tuberculosis, for his father’s conversion. Captain D’Airelle witnessed Peter’s joy as Jesus came to him and heard Peter tell him that his suffering was being offered for him. Peter trusted he would see his father’s conversion from heaven.
So, on Holy Thursday, 1913 after receiving Viaticum, Peter left to meet Jesus. Within minutes, the Captain ran out to find a priest, having received the gift of seeing his own soul before God. Easter Sunday began a new life for Captain D’Airelle as Peter was laid to rest.