It was the height of summer in Orleans, France, 1939.
School was out, and a small group of restless, rowdy boys ran through the streets, trying to find ways to entertain themselves as only boys know how: by getting themselves into trouble. Today's entertainment was a dare. A dare to go into the nearby Catholic Church and confess a fictitious list
of incredible sins to the parish priest in the confessional. At first, no one was brave enough to take on such a dare. Being Catholic, they feared to risk the wrath of the pastor. But then one of boys, a Jew by the name of Aaron Lustiger who didn't fear the Catholic priest, decided to take the dare. He marched into the gothic church, went straight to the dark confessional, and lambasted the priest with a list of sins that would make your hair stand on end. But the priest was no dummy. He caught on to what the boy was doing and assigned him a rather unusual penance for his made up sins. He told the boy to go back out into the empty church, walk up to the large crucifix hanging on the wall, and say to it three times, "Jesus, you died upon the cross for me, and I don't give a damn."
Now, being a Jew, Aaron had no problem with this penance and gladly took up the challenge. He walked up the imposing stone crucifix, looked upon the face of the dead man hanging there, and shouted, "Jesus, you died upon the cross for me, and I don't give a damn!" He laughed at how
easy it was to fulfill the dare and said again, a little softer, "Jesus, you died upon the cross for me, and I don't give a damn!" But as he spoke the words a third time, something happened. He said, "Jesus, you died upon the cross for me, and I--" He faltered. He fell to his knees and looked up at
the man who had died for him upon the cross. Really looked at him. And he saw the nails that pierced the dead man's hands and feet; the wound that bared his vulnerable side; the thorns that scarred his noble brow. He saw a brave man; a good man; an innocent man who bled innocent blood. He
saw God in that man. A loving God. A true God who would do anything--absolutely anything to bring his lost children home. And Aaron wept at the sight of such perfect, unadulterated love.
A year later, Aaron was baptized into the Catholic Church and took the name Jean-Marie Lustiger. As an adult, he entered the seminary and was eventually ordained a priest; and in 1983 after thirty years of faithfully serving God's people, he was made the Cardinal Archbishop of Notre Dame
Cathedral in Paris.