A Good, Strong Heart

Sacred Heart of Jesus (1767) by Pompeo Batoni

Once upon a time there lived in a castle a Princess named Nahla.

She was a very careful girl. She walked slowly on the tips of her toes and whispered every word she spoke. 

Before she could even crawl, her mother, the Queen, told her that she must never run or skip or shout or do anything to test her fragile heart. But the Queen was an evil woman who only wanted a girl who made no trouble.

“If you do, your heart will shatter into a thousand pieces,” she told Nahla and even made her cross her heart and hope to die if she ever broke this promise.

One day, tip-toeing through the castle, Nahla heard a faint whisper. She followed the whisper all the way to the chapel. There she found an old priest hunched over a pew. He was speaking to the cross on the wall.

Her rapid heart reminded her that she ought not to spy. To keep it from bursting, she turned to leave. As she did, she saw the man cross his heart. But he did it differently than her mother taught her, starting at his head and ending at his heart.

Curious, she asked, “What did you promise?”

“To love God and love my neighbor,” he replied with a smile.

“Does that keep your heart good and strong?”

“It is the only thing I know that does.”

Gladdened by this news, she gave the priest a curtsy and stole back to her room. She did not know it, but as she pondered his words, her steps fell from toe to heel.

The next day, Nahla crossed herself just as the priest did. But instead of promising to not excite her heart, she promised to love God and love her neighbor. 

On her way to breakfast, she spotted a maid carrying a large platter of food. It was so large that the maid could not see the footstool on the ground in front of her. 

Nahla called out to the maid to keep her from tripping. But the maid did not hear because, for fear of her heart, Nahla spoke in a whisper. 

Suddenly, Nahla remembered her promise to love God and her neighbor. Hiking up her dress, she ran with all her might. Just in time, she kicked the stool out of the way. 

The maid, safe and sound, thanked the Princess. But Nahla’s mind was on her beating heart. Afraid that it shattered, she put her palm to her chest. It felt good and strong in her hand.

From that day on, she ran everywhere she went, helping those who needed help and thanking God for her good, strong heart.


For Zoë, a girl with a good, strong heart.

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