When Jesus was a little boy, he often played in the woods with his friend and cousin John. The two small boys had the greatest fun together, making gardens with twigs, rocks, and fir cones, helping the ladybirds to fly as they left their nests, watching the insects hovering over the flowers, and feeding the rabbits and squirrels with nuts and apples. All the creatures in the wood knew Jesus and John. They were not frightened of the two boys but loved to feed from their hands and even to bring their young ones to be petted and admired by them.

Now when the devil saw how happy Jesus and John were together, how they never quarreled, and always shared their treasures, he sent one of his imps to tease them, and when he arrived in the woods, he trampled on the fairy garden  John had made. Then he threw stones at the rabbits and squirrels and clapped his hands loudly to frighten the birds away. Jesus and John were near to tears— whatever they said, the small devil just laughed at them. He began to shout and boast how great and wonderful his lord, the devil was.

“He is the greatest lord in all the world,” said the imp.

John was indignant and replied: “You don’t know what you are saying. Our Lord, the great God in Heaven, is the greatest Lord. He not only creates new things like plants, but he is kind and good and loving and takes care of everyone.”

“That’s no use,” said the imp, “my lord can kill and destroy everything. He is far stronger than your lord.”

At last, Jesus said: “Let us each make something with the help of our Lord. We will soon see then who is the greatest.”

“Alright,” shouted the imp, “I’ll be first. Look what I’m doing.” He ran his gnarly  fingers up and down the stems of some plants and said: “You’ll soon see what I’m making. Let’s meet here again tomorrow, and then we will see what my lord can create!”

The next day when Jesus and John came to the wood, they found the small devil already waiting for them. “Come and see,” he shouted in glee, “your Lord can’t do what my lord has done – look!” He pointed to the stalks of the plants which he had rubbed the day before. At first, Jesus and John could not see anything. Then they noticed that many tiny greenish insects covered the stems and the underside of the leaves of the plants which the small devil had touched. “You wait, ’til you see them tomorrow,” scoffed the imp.

The next day the insects were much larger and had spread onto many plants. Wherever they had settled, the plants looked sickly and drooped and seemed ready to die. The little devil was in great spirits and kept boasting about his lord and how the life was being sucked out of the plants by the greenfly which he had created. “Your lord created the plants,” he said, “but my lord can make something which kills them, and so he is greater.”

But now John began to pick up tiny morsels of black earth and shaped them into worm-like creatures. The next day they found that John’s black worm-like creatures were busy eating up the devil’s greenfly; some plants already looked more healthy. “Our Lord is the greatest,” said John. “He can create something to heal what the devil tried to destroy.” The imp was impressed and remained quiet for a time. Then he asked if he might join in the games that John and Jesus played. The two boys were delighted, and all three played together happily.

One day Jesus touched the back of the largest of John’s worms. It split open, and out came a tiny red beetle. It was so beautiful with its bright red color that the little devil could not help touching it gently with his gnarly  fingers. Wherever he touched it, small black spots appeared.

But because he had touched it with wonder and not in malice, the black spots made it appear even more beautiful. Jesus clapped his hands with delight: “You are the most beautiful creature I know, “He exclaimed. “I shall name you after what is dearest to me in the whole world—my Mother, Our Lady’s Bird you shall be called.”

And from that day the black worm-like larvae eat up the greenfly on the plants, and when they are ready they split their hairy jackets and out come the brilliant red beetles with black spots that we call Ladybirds.