So it turned out I couldn't resist moving past the brain comic . . . especially because here is little Therese, looking beautiful, staring off to one side, with a misleading expression that seems to say she has no big plans . . .
Nothing could be further from the truth! Her feast is coming up in a little more than a week . . . which means it's novena time! As this happens to be my favorite novena ever - that is, favorite novena prayer (which I will post here today for your ease of use) and favorite nine days of anticipation, I couldn't resist featuring Marcel's big sister (and ours) right here, front and center.
You see, our sister Therese loves LOVES loves to shower roses down upon us - upon those who ask and await them, and those who are unsuspecting (innocent bystanders minding their own business but we're praying for them!). And oh how I love roses! Heavenly ones, earthly ones, pictures of them, memories of them, and so on and so forth, as one of my best-roses-from-Therese-ever used to say in his Italian accent! (That was Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E. whom St. Therese sent me when I asked her for a rose from him on March 3, 2001. She's such a goof. She just kind of gave me him, as well as a letter from him. What love!)
Anyhow, we're at St. Padre Pio's day (or will be tomorrow, which may be when you see this!) and in his octave is Therese's novena and then her feast, on October 1st. So be assured that you are well prayed for by both of them, and by me. (I'm going to do the novena, and your intentions are covered! Join in if it's fun - no pressure, just roses no matter what you pray or don't pray these next 9 or 10 days!)
Here is the prayer I'll be saying which has all the elements I love (roses, heaven, now, confidence, God's great love for us, etc!) . . .
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
please ask God to grant the favors
I now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help me to always believe as you did,
in God’s great love for me,
so that I may imitate your “Little Way” each day.
and then, too, our dear tiny prayer (which would make a great novena all on its lonesome - which is not very lonesome since it draws the whole world with us to Jesus!) -
Draw me, we will run!
Get ready for roses!!!!!
With all the beautiful images, Saint quotes, pictures of flowers and sunsets and every lovely thing available to the girl with The Internet, there's almost no excuse for posting a photo of the brain, as I have just done. Well, okay, maybe not a photo exactly, but a comic likeness is bad enough.
On the other hand, how marvelous that the Baconian revolution (you know, the rejection of Metaphysics, the progress of scientific technology, and so on and so forth) has brought us to this pass. Or is it an impasse? (From the French! You can tell by that random silent "e" on the end that doesn't even make us say "im-pace.")
Because honestly, what is more fun than having a friend (and fellow Marcel-lover) zip an email to me that contains the suggestion which I've turned into the title of this post? This sounds like a rhetorical question, but I have an answer that may surprise you.
The only thing more fun than that (I can tell you thanks to the experience of the last few minutes) is putting "brain replacement comic" into Google, pressing enter, shifting over to the results in Google images, and realizing that modern life is not only utterly ridiculous, but has provided me once again, through web comics, with a much simpler solution than replacing the thoughts in my brain one by one. I can offer myself to science as a donor body for Marcel's brain!
Oh, except as soon as I articulate my new "brainstorm" here (ha!), a host of problems arises.
We'll simply stick with replacing everything in the brain, bit by bit, with Marcelisms.
(That was a sigh of love. Jesus is so good! He uses everything - old and new - in our brains, our hearts, our bodies, our souls - as fodder for Love.)
Back to the drawing board, which means doing our brain replacement the old fashioned way, flipping open Conversations to give you, here and now, today, at least one replacing thought for some old worn out one . . .
How about this (she says, preparing to randomly flip open The Best Book Ever After The Bible) . . .
Ah, perfect, a favorite (it helps that every page is full of favorites!) - from 26 April 1946, which was Easter Friday (Conversations, 529):
Marcel: Little Jesus, what's happening? Today, bearded Jesus has not yet received any news from either of us. Yesterday, the doctor examined me. He said I had nothing wrong with my heart, but I was very weak.
Jesus: Very good. From now on when you feel any pain in your heart, you will be able to lay the blame on me, do you understand? Since yesterday, Marcel, have you been very sad? And for what reason? .... What a pity! Marcel, you are truly very weak. Simply hearing the word suffering is almost enough to make you lose control. [Amen!] Little brother, before sending you any suffering, I want, first of all, to let you know how weak you are. You must realize that if you have not got the strength even to hear the word suffering uttered, still less do you have the strength to put up with suffering . . . Little brother, although this is so, you must accept suffering; but you cannot understand how much Love suffers even more than you, having to make you suffer. Oh Marcel! Although you are truly very weak, the sight of your weakness makes you more lovable in my eyes than any gestures of love that you show me would be able to. My intention is to teach you that you haven't got the strength to endure suffering, even for the time it takes to wink your eye. However, little brother, your strength is love; and this strength can even make you capable of accepting all my sufferings, with those of Mary and of all your brothers and sisters the saints, and to bear them with joy. Yes, it is really so, and you can see by that that there is no longer anything difficult for you. (Laughing.) You are really the happiest of men, Marcel, what more could you want? And it is so because you are the weakest of all . . .
+ + +
I think Jesus has pulled a fast one on us here, but scratch my head and consider though I might (I'm not saying I will do either of those things, having long since learned they will not help, I'm just saying even if I did), there is no way I will understand crazy Jesus any more than my brother Marcel did!
Now, of course, Marcel understands a lot more. I don't mean "Now of course," but Now . . . of course . . . because he's in Heaven, and as Jesus promised (all Jesus' promises come true - isn't that awesome??), he and Jesus can talk easily all the time. Well, there is the danger that Marcel is playing hide and seek, teasing Therese, and so has not learned all he might during his eternal time already spent in the Beatific Vision (not saying I know how that works, just stating the facts, Ma'am). . . But I don't think I'll worry. Our little brother's still got forever to learn the rest, and soon (in God's time, but most likely way in the future in our time) we'll be there with him. Won't that be a blast?
On another but related note (because we're talking Saints and Heaven and that easily leads to the liturgical calendar), this Sunday is Padre Pio's feast day. It will be hidden behind the Sunday, but there it will be nonetheless, the anniversary of the day good Saint Pio got to shoot to Heaven like the star he is.
I was thinking of writing, in Pio's sweet honor, a post called "Who's Afraid of Padre Pio?" - a rhetorical question if ever there was one, since everyone seems to be - afraid of him, that is. (Don't expect this brilliant post to appear any time soon. Naturally the brain comic, being sillier, won the day for Most Likely to Be Posted; instead I'll just slip in a couple paragraphs here to tell you how silly you are to be afraid of kind Pio.)
If you don't already know, I must tell you that Padre Pio is one of the most tender-hearted and compassionate of the Saints, and only got gruff and goatish when women tried to cut pieces of his habit off for relics (I sure would have!), or when people lied in the confessional (now really - how silly is that? It's one thing to be confused or stupid in the confessional, we all can be confused and stupid, and no need to worry, it's how we're made, but lying? How silly!) These were hardened sinners, though, and Padre Pio was great at melting their hearts by giving them What For. Then they'd often return, meek as lambs, and in the place of the Good Shepherd, Padre Pio could become friends with them, giving in to his true desire to be a father and friend to whomever wanted his solicitude and paternal care.
I'm going to ask him to help us all - everyone in the entire world! - to love the sacrament of confession, to not be scared of it, to know Jesus who is All Gentle is waiting to receive us with tender mercy and immeasurable Joy!
I have to confess (since we're speaking of confession) that I once lied in the confessional. Well almost. I made my confession and after "I'm sorry for these and all my sins," our pastor asked how old I was (I was "behind the screen" so he only could hear my young sounding voice). I told him a round number, then tried to correct it to the right number, got it wrong, and tried again. You know what? Just like Jesus, who enjoys laughing with us and finds us adorable, the pastor wasn't concerned about my mix-up. He just wanted a ballpark number so he could figure out what to say to this seeming 14 year old girl who was confessing once again that she'd been unkind to her husband and children!
But enough of confessions. I think we'll call it a day so we can celebrate St. Matthew's Feast before it's over. Plus, we've got so much straw in our brains to replace with the true gold of Marcelisms, that we don't want to overdo it right at the start. Do feel free to scroll down or page back (I just found out there is a "previous" and sometimes a "next" at the bottom of the ten posts a page our Miss Marcel's Musings offers. Fancy that!) to replace as much of everything in your brain with Marcelisms as you can possibly manage (with your angel's help). But don't hurt yourself!
And let's not forget our best replacement so far, our little prayer to dear Jesus, our Savior and our Spouse:
Draw me, we will run!
or as we like to say in our best imitation of French:
Ahn-train mwa! Noo koo-roe(n) ah tah sweet!
p.s. Novena to St. Therese - ask for roses! tons and tons! - begins tomorrow or the next day, depending on whether you like to end the day before The Feast or on The Day of The Feast. You could repeat our little prayer (in any language you choose!) each day for a very little novena, or scroll down and page back to read a post-a-day for a very silly novena. Whatever kind of novena you say, or even if you don't say one at all (some of us still working on our 54 day Divine Mercy Chaplet novena to end on JPII day, October 22nd), know that I'll be praying for all your intentions, so prepare yourself to be drenched with roses!
Did you know that Marcel was the last of St. Therese's siblings to die? It's true - though he only survived her 4 sisters by a few months. The last of them to die was Celine, to whom we owe the gorgeous image of the Holy Face above (painted by her in prayer, following a copy of the Holy Face from the Shroud of Turin, which had just recently been photographed for the first time not long after Therese's death, and a copy of the negative image given to Celine).
Celine died on February 25, 1959, just two months shy of her 90th birthday. Marcel died July 10, 1959, just five months later (when he was 31). I don't know that Marcel knew that Celine was still alive until that late date, but he does speak in Conversations of Pauline (their second eldest sister) remaining on earth even at the time of his profession in 1946. He says to our Blessed Mother at (734), in regard to the graces he'll request on his profession day (which was only two days away):
"Incidentally, Mother, I will also ask for a grace for Pauline, the sister of my sister Therese. The other day I heard bearded Jesus say that Pauline is still alive. Yes, I will ask a special grace of little Jesus' choosing for her. I learned also that one of our Fathers had met her, that he had chatted with her, that she is now eighty-four years old, which makes her more than five times my age. She told this Father that she had a great desire to go to heaven quickly to join her little sister, but that her wish had not yet been granted.
"Mother, between your Pauline and your little Marcel, let us see which of the two will go to heaven first. Your Marcel is still young and very quick at running; he will certainly arrive close to you before your Pauline who is already elderly and without doubt walks very slowly. Yes, allow me to go up first, and then I will tell my sister Therese and little Jesus to bring your Pauline to paradise very quickly. Yes, Mother, that would be good. So, tell little Jesus to take me to heaven with you before Pauline, so that she can read what my sister Therese has taught me and see if it is correct. Mary, my Mother, I will certainly go to heaven before your Pauline. Tell little Jesus to take me to heaven first, and then I will help him to bring your Pauline. It is probable that, having suffered a great deal, she is now tired and can only walk with difficulty. Perhaps, also, little Jesus and my sister Therese are not capable of carrying her by themselves and they will have to wait until I am there to help them. Mother, tell little Jesus again to take me to heaven . . . .
"Oh! Pauline, Pauline, my sister, be patient a little while longer. When I rest on the heart of our divine Spouse, I will unite myself to little Jesus and to your little sister Therese of the Child Jesus, in order to lead you to our eternal Spouse."
* * *
Well, how do you like that?
Not only did Pauline zip ahead of him into little Jesus' arms (she died July 28, 1952), but so did Celine!
Ah, but then they, with their sisters Marie (who had gone to Jesus on January 19, 1940, a month before she'd have turned 80) and Leonie (who had been a Visitation Sister for 41 years and was born into eternal life on June 16, 1941, aged 78), did not forget little Marcel!
In all fairness to our little brother, in his conversation with Mary, he did interject (after the business of his offer to help feeble, aged Pauline into heaven) "Ah! I forgot, the soul cannot get old, Mother." But he continues, "Whatever, it is absolutely necessary that little Jesus sees that your Marcel is in heaven first; then we will make your Pauline come up . . ."
Alas, His ways are not our ways,, and were not Marcel's in this matter of who gets to live in bliss forever first. As I mentioned, Marcel was the last of Therese's siblings to leave earth for Paradise, but how it delights me that Celine did not leave him in exile long. I almost hear Jesus explaining to Marcel, the minute they met Face to face: "But little brother, your sisters had been importuning me for so very, very long . . . it would have been unkind for me to make them wait longer so that you could enter first. Think of John and Peter at my Resurrection. It is only right and just that the younger, though he speeds to the site first, waits outside for the elder to enter."
I'm thinking of all this today because while to other people it is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, for us here at Miss Marcel's Musings it's also the anniversary of Celine's entrance into Carmel. Finally! She gave Therese quite a scare, considering, as she did, joining their spiritual director Fr. Pichon as a missionary in Canada. Poor Canada! I'm sorry you didn't win Celine for your soil, but the whole Church needed her in Lisieux where she could soak in Therese's teaching for three more years after her entrance into Carmel (until Therese flew the coop for heavenly shores). And then we needed her even more to spend her remaining 62 years toiling beside Mother Agnes (Pauline) on our little sister's behalf and sharing everything Therese with the rest of us!
Ah but in the light of this dark night - not even the light of eternity, but simply the light of the passing centuries - how time flies! It's already 124 years since, on this day in 1894, Celine entered Carmel at last.
Congratulations, Celine! Happy entrance day! Will you give Marcel a kiss for us? And your sisters, too, but with an especially big smacker to that littlest one who has charmed us so completely! Ah, but most especially, oh sweet echo of Therese's soul, caress our Mother Mary's cheek for us, and then tickle little Jesus in our names!
We don't dare pray that He take us sooner rather than later (or later rather than sooner). We've learned our lesson. If Marcel couldn't convince Him to hasten the hour of their union, how much less likely is it that we shall rush or delay Him?
Whatever, as Marcel would say. We're here for You, little Jesus, until such time as You whisk us There with You.
And meanwhile, we repeat our little prayer (which in our littleness is sometimes all we can manage, along with our little - and big! - frequent sighs and occasional glances of love . . .)
Draw me, sweet Jesus! And we shall all run together to You!
or in the phonetic accents of our sweet Martin sisters:
Ahn-train mwa! Noo koo-roe(n) ah tah sweet!
There now; we've made all heaven laugh. Isn't that a good day's work?
+ + +
P.S. I wrote this post in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament at my Friday holy hour. There at church, I witnessed a miracle (and don't even try, because you'll never guess)!
As I entered church and walked forward up the aisle, the carpet - all the way up to Jesus on the altar - was sparkling, as well it should. There was glitter everywhere! Not like on a craft table when the 5-year-olds are done, but like the angels had gotten into the place - subtle, but sparkling, sparkling, all the way to Him!
I just want to say for the record: I didn't do it! Oh, but I highly approve! And I pray that Our sweet Jesus and His angels, including the Martin sisters and our dear Marcel, send just such sparkling delight into your day too!
[Disclaimer: the lack of accent marks in all French words that follow is not to be blamed on anyone but Miss Marcel. She's lazy, that's all there is to it, or she'd figure out how to insert them . . .]
I must confess my own attempts to learn French look a lot like Sally's. Not that I'm as motivated by controversy as she is; I'm more a fan of conversation - or Conversations, to speak exactement. Still, "forget it" sums up nicely (precisement, that is) my reaction to the hard work, the rolling up of sleeves, the mental elbow grease (did you even know your brain had elbows?) that might be involved in learning French the Grown-Up Way.
And yet, and yet . . . as many times as I throw in the towel when it comes to learning French (any way), Jesus, Therese, and Marcel (not to mention la Sainte Vierge, ma mere Cherie), come upon me sans towel and hand it back. I'm like Therese's child at the foot of the stairs, only I get tired and decide I'll try napping full length on the floor rather than continuously lifting my tired little foot. Don't worry; no one leaves me on the floor for very long, and the poodle keeps me from being lonely!
Do you know Therese's image of the child at the bottom of the stairs? She compares us to the little one who keeps raising a foot to climb up because Mama is somewhere on the second floor . . . but we're so little, our sweet foot can't even reach that first step! Nonetheless, we cry out continuously, "Mama! Mama! Mama!" as we raise our foot again and again, all the while getting nowhere. Soon enough we're scooped up, taken into Mama's arms and carried to the second floor; or perhaps cuddled and snuggled right where we are.
This is Infinite Tenderness at work, or, in other words, the Limitless Delicacy and Compassion of God, who loves us beyond telling.
When I say "beyond telling," I mean that literally, and yet whether it's Isaiah, John the Evangelist, St. Augustine, John of the Cross, or Therese, Marcel, and Miss Marcel - which of us can actually help using whatever language is at hand (poetic, theological, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, or Valley Girl) to sing His praises?
St. Therese wrote to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (in a passage from what's now known as "Manuscript B" in Story of a Soul), "I am going to stammer some words even though I feel it is quite impossible for the human tongue to express things that the human heart can hardly understand."
A couple of pages later she says, "I feel how powerless I am to express in human language the secrets of heaven, and after writing page upon page I find that I have not yet begun. There are so many horizons, so many nuances of infinite variety that only the palette of the Celestial Painter will be able to furnish me after the night of this life with the colors capable of depicting the marvels He reveals to the eye of my soul."
I have a suspicion that once she got to Heaven, hugged Jesus a while, and then said, "Okay, let's get to work!", once He set her up with the palette and colors she'd been longing for, Therese found she was still unable to express to us on earth ALL she wanted to say. How could she do what even Jesus cannot? Listen to the Celestial Painter Himself lamenting to Marcel:
"The words I am addressing to you here are far from expressing all the love that I bear for souls. I do not know what human language to employ to translate the full intimacy of this love. The intimate words that I address as well to other souls, I borrow from the language that people ordinarily use to express their feelings. If I used the intimate language that is more suitable for me to use when speaking to you, you would understand nothing. Indeed, my child, humanly speaking, my words are the expression of the deepest love; but I, I regard them as being only a simple glance of my love. My child, I do not know what words to use to succeed in making you understand more." (Conversations, 39)
This might be all well and good if we could bring ourselves to say, "Oh, wow, Jesus loves us so much - even more than He can express!" and leave it at that, but a problem immediately arises:
When you love someone, you want to know everything.
In the words of our brother St. Thomas Aquinas, "The lover is not content with a superficial knowledge of the beloved, but strives to know from the inside all particular things that belong to the beloved, so as to penetrate to his inmost being."
Or again, as our brother St. John of the Cross put it: "This is the property of love: to seek out all the good things of the Beloved."
How do we get to know Jesus, then? If all human language falls short of expressing His love for us, how can we seek out every nook and cranny of His Personality, His virtues, His sweet Self?
Our Love gives us a clue when He tells Marcel that He uses many apostles to carry His message, so that there will be one for every type of person. When I discovered Marcel, I discovered the apostle meant for me (and many other little souls), the one Jesus called the "second Therese" because (among other resemblances to his sister) Marcel is so little that he's a perfect object of and vehicle for God's merciful love.
My approach to knowing Jesus better, then, is to keep reading and re-reading His conversations with Marcel, mining the treasure hidden in Marcel's pages, and when the mood strikes me, branching out into other rich veins - namely, Marcel's Autobiography, his Correspondence, his Other Writings. There's plenty here to last me a lifetime, though I see the same lesson borne out once again - it's more than I can digest, yet still never enough!
Which may be the reason I continue to nurture my desire to wake up one morning suddenly knowing French. It hasn't happened yet, but I do have fun messing about with our sister's native language, knowing it brings me a step closer to even more Marcel (the several drafts of his Autobiography that are not "definitive" and thus not in English, though I think Father Boucher translated them into French; I've had a glimpse of them in one of the two Marcel DVDs you can find on amazon.com).
But it's not just me. I feel like Jesus, too, is enticing me with the beauty and romance of the French language. Take our signature prayer, for instance. Some time ago I wrote a post on how Therese, in the last pages of Story of a Soul, calls on Jesus in the words of the Song of Songs. "Draw me, we shall run!" in order to pray for all those she loves, for everyone, really, with the simplicity of a child and without worrying about naming every name or cataloging every need.
When Marcel gave me a French Bible a few weeks back, I was inspired to find that sentence in the Song of Songs. So now we can say it in French, like Therese did ( for our part, quietly, lest a Frenchman hear us and faint dead away, since we haven't yet learned how to pronounce it properly).
Oh, but I've been holding out on you . . . I have good news!
The other night we spent a wonderful evening (with delicious food too) at the home of dear friends who'd invited us and two other couples to celebrate Our Lady's Birthday.
Lo and behold, one half of one of the other couples KNOWS FRENCH!
Thus it occurred to me in the middle of the dinner party to ask him how to say our signature prayer (in French), and he's such a kind man that he not only told me how to say it (which knowledge lasted - in me - about the length of time it took for his correctly pronounced French words to travel into my right ear, cross my not too large brain, and tumble out my left ear), but since he was patient as well as kind, he then helped me to write it down phonetically.
I'll save our prayer and its French pronunciation for the end of our post, because what came next was funny, and I wouldn't want you to miss it.
My French Canadian American friend (for such were his qualifications) asked me, "So why do you want to say this in French?"
I told him about Marcel, but then when I remembered (and told him) mid-way through the explanation that Marcel spoke Vietnamese, we were both perplexed. I held back, feeling it wouldn't sound uber intelligent (that's German; I'm practically multi-lingual, really, but French is harder to pronounce and doesn't have a taxi service named after it) to blurt out, "I want to pray in the language of my brother Marcel." It especially wouldn't have sounded smart since we'd just established that Marcel spoke Vietnamese! Believe it or not (and it's not too hard to believe), by this point I couldn't remember why I wanted to be able to pray in French.
I needn't have been concerned to sound ultra sophisticated.
A little later, my friend began speaking Vietnamese (not that I know Vietnamese, but it sounded Asian), which prompted his wife to interrupt.
"Why are you speaking Chinese?" she asked.
"I'm not. I'm speaking Vietnamese," he said to her with a straight face and a bit of a patronizing air, indicating she was quite dopey to confuse the two languages.
At this point, gullible though I am, I was pretty sure he was faking it. But his wife, her face even straighter than his, replied:
"Oh. I knew you knew Chinese, but I didn't know you know Vietnamese."
We asked how he might possibly know Chinese. He told us his knowledge of Chinese had first surfaced when he spent time with a relative's Chinese husband.
"The man claimed to know Chinese," he said, "so I spoke Chinese to him, but he couldn't understand a word I said." He shook his head as if he still couldn't believe the guy's hubris. "But you know, I don't think he knew Chinese, because I couldn't understand a word he said either!"
You can see why my explanation of why I needed to learn French was easily forgotten. Although I did very much appreciate that my polyglot friend (that means friend shaped like a polygon and knowing lots of languages) consoled me for my inability to learn French without studying and encouraged me to continue to hope for infused knowledge.
"I can see," he said, "that your good will is not lacking."
Though the food was fabulous and the friendship delightful, I think that compliment about my good will was the high point of my evening. Hope springs eternal, and in the face of such human gentleness and understanding, what can we not hope for from God?
Only much later did I remember why I want to learn French. Home again, I saw my French Bible. Yes, that was it. Marcel gave me the French Bible a few weeks ago, I found Therese's wonderful prayer in the Song of Songs, and since she'd prayed it in French, I thought we might too, etc., etc.
There's another reason I want to learn French, though, a reason which occurred to me in conjunction with one more complaint Therese made about her inability to express the fullness of her experience of God's love. She wrote to her cousin Marie Guerin:
"Sometimes I seek another word to express 'Love,' but in this land of exile the word which begins and ends (as St. Augustine says) is quite incapable of rendering the vibrations of the soul; we must then adhere to this simple and only word: "TO LOVE."
The really nutty thing is that I think Therese may have changed her mind on that one, because with the help of Marcel's French Bible and the French dictionary she gave me, I've discovered a whole range of meanings of love which translate into a deeper insight into our Beloved.
You see, when I was looking at the beginning of the Song of Songs in French, I came across "Car ta tendresse vaut mieux que la vin." That means, it turns out, "Because your love is better than wine." And if you know people who love wine as much as some of my people do, you'll realize what high praise that is!
What struck me especially, though, was the word "tendresse."
One reason for my undiminished hope to "learn" French without putting any discipline into its acquisition is the wondrous gift of cognates. These are words in French that look and maybe sound like (and translate into) very similar English words.
Did I mention I've been listening to French Canadian radio lately? I don't know if it's helping me learn French, but I enjoy it. I feel closer to Therese, and it's tons of fun when the commentators laugh at some joke that could've been a depressing observation, for all I knew, until they giggled at each other's cleverness. All right, then, I say, and join in the laughter.
If you've been listening to the same French Canadian station, I need to point out that "Chicago" is not what I mean by a cognate. Did you hear that one? The other day our new French speaking Canadian friends were rattling on with their nasal intonations and their rolled r's, when suddenly I heard in the midst of the stream of French-sounding (but otherwise unintelligible) French, "Chicago." In the next sentence, the commentator repeated it: "Chicago," pronounced just like I'd pronounce it. I realized right then that I knew more French than I've been giving myself credit for, but let me reiterate that "Chicago" is not what we mean by a cognate.
A cognate is more like "infinie" - which is simply "infinite" in English.
You can see, then, that when I read in the Song of Songs, "tendresse," I had this little cognate moment. Doesn't it look a lot like "tenderness"?
Ah, but tenderness is a word that Therese used when she spoke and prayed in English! Well no, actually, I should say it's a word she used when Fr. John Clarke so generously translated her French into my English. But immediately I wondered: When Therese said "tenderness" in English (a la Fr. John Clarke), was it actually "tendresse" in French?
I needed to check our sister's "Acte d'offrande a l'amour misericordieux," so I looked in the back of my Histoire d'une Ame (which my amazing mom brought me back from amazing France when she'd been to amazing Lisieux some 17 years ago - I remember the year because she asked St. Therese to give me a baby, and my baby will be 16 in a couple of weeks. He was due on Therese's feast, as though she wanted to make sure we knew he was her gift, though his after-the-fact birthday turned out to be Padre Pio's day, a week later).
And so, opening yet another relatively (to me) unreadable French book (only unreadable so far; I repeat that I aspire to be like the Spanish nun who miraculously knew French when she, with good will, opened this same book), I found that sure enough, the case was just as I'd cognated.
In the "Act proper" the last few paragraphs at the end of the prayer, Therese requests (when she's speaking English), "Consume me unceasingly, allowing the flood tides of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul . . ."
Can you guess the French for "infinite tenderness"?
Sure as shootin, it's "tendresse infinie"!
Therese is asking for His love (which is better than wine, that same "tendresse") to sweep her off her feet! To stop being pent up within Him because no one will receive it ("He came unto His own, and His own received Him not," as we hear especially at Christmas), and to whoosh like a torrent into her heart. She will satiate His thirst, she and her legion of little souls also ready to accept His infinite love, and He will satiate - dare I say it in the first person plural? - our thirst for Him. He is so good!
But what does our translating dictionary say about this sweet phrase?
"Infinie" - "Infinite, boundless, endless . . . "
And our dear "tendresse"? This is the key that unlocks the door to new vistas and further horizons.
"Tendresse" - "Tenderness, fondness, love, sensibility, kindness, affection, delicacy . . . (and in the plural - and how can what is infinite not be in the plural?) . . . caresses, endearments."
Doesn't that sound like everything Jesus despaired of saying?
Really, He only needed to say it in French!
But since Marcel didn't know French very much better than I do, Jesus in His infinite tenderness, fondness, love, sensibility, kindness, affection, and delicacy spoke in Vietnamese to our little brother.
Ah Love! You are so solicitous!
Still, I can't help but wonder if You aren't waiting for me to grow up and learn French so You can speak to me in this language of tendresse . . . .
But then I remember that it's all a whim of Yours, and thanks to Jack, my best access to you - through Marcel - doesn't require my knowing any French at all. Tendresse infinie is there in every word You say to us through Marcel. In English. On every single page.
Take today for instance. I was kinda worried (having forgotten for a moment that Your tenderness, love, delicacy, and so on and so forth, are infinite) that maybe this desire for infused French was pushing the envelope of Your kindness. Mightn't You begin to lose patience with me? (I am SO grateful for St. Paul's list of the virtues of love. Your patience? That would have to be infinite too!)
What to do? As in any crisis, I now know to turn to Marcel.
(I have not yet resorted to putting his number - say a combo of numbers from Convos - on my son's emergency contact info blanks in forms we fill out for his activities, but we're almost there.)
So this morning when I opened Your infinitely tender Conversations, Marcel was asking You to tell him what "Victim of Love" means. What a perfect passage to begin a day on which I'd be writing about our sister's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love (which she invites us to pray with her), in which she asks You to pour out Your infinite tenderness into our hearts (i.e. let us be Your victims of Love).
You told Marcel:
"They are victims who, through love, offer themselves to Love. These victims leave to Love complete liberty to accomplish His desires in them but of themselves, they do nothing to expend themselves; it is Love, that is to say the Holy Spirit, who acts spontaneously in them . . ."
I'm so relieved you sent a kind French Canadian to assure me that my good will is not lacking! That, in combination with today's passage, amounts to a hall pass (or permission to write about You here rather than pretend to study French like a grown-up elsewhere), and I'll take it!
But speaking of the kindness of French Canadians, it's time (if not far past time) to get down to the phonetic pronunciation of our prayer.
The main trick, as I understand it, is to pretend you're saying it all like you'd say "croissant" if you were French. Nasally. The whole thing through your nose, if you can manage it. A bit of a roll on the "r," and then we've got to watch out for the closing consonants. If followed by an "e" you say the last consonant. No "e," then no last closing sound. And an "n" on the end is going to have quite a nasally quality, and followed by an "s" be not quite fully sounded, But don't worry about anything - we'll spell it all out now.
First, just as written:
Draw me, we shall run!
See, that wasn't hard, was it? Did you get the nasal effect?
Oh drat. That was easy because it was English.
All right then. Courage, children. Here's the French version:
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
And now, with a little help from our polygon of many languages:
(and don't forget to roll the "r"s)
Ahn-train - mwah!
New koo-roe(n) ah tah sweet!
Oh my goodness! We did it! I think that earned us a chocolate lava cake, or some peanuts at least!
But best of all, we made Therese and Marcel laugh! Can you hear them?
Not that it was terribly awful or anything. They think we're awesome; they just like to laugh, that's all.
And if you want a good guffaw, you should hear their American accents! They've run off again, those imps, before we can laugh at them too, but no matter. They'll be back soon, and meanwhile, in English once more just to be sure Jesus understands us:
Draw me, we will run!
We love you, Jesus . . . A LOT!
Today we're a day early instead of a day late! I'm not so sure about that extra dollar, but who needs money when we have such a rich feast to celebrate?
That's right - it's the Vigil of Our Lady's birthday! But guess what else we get to celebrate tomorrow? It will be the 128th anniversary of St. Therese's Carmelite profession (when she said her vows and became one with Jesus! Kind of like her wedding day!) and not only that . . . September 8th is also the day Marcel made his Redemptorist profession! He was so super duper excited that his vows were the same day as his big little sister's! He knew that meant something special - and I think he's going to be so surprised that we remembered to celebrate with them both and Mary!
He had a surprise for me just now, too, and it's so much fun - you'll never ever guess! Well, I couldn't for the life of me remember when Marcel's profession was (now that he told me, I'm laughing that I couldn't figure it out. I know the year(s) in which he wrote Conversations, and I know his profession was toward the end of the book - can you figure it out?) If you really want to break your head with me, we can do a math problem. It goes like this:
If Marcel's profession (day of becoming one with Jesus!) was 72 years ago tomorrow, what year would it have been? (been in? wow, this is a hard problem. I don't even know how to write down the problem grammatically, and since I had to do a math problem to get the answer which is now the question - like Jeopardy? - we could be in big trouble here!)
Well no, I don't really want you to break your head, silly! Because none other than our best bud Jack Keogan has the answer for us (without any math! Thanks, Jack!) at his wonderful Marcel website. How do I know? (I mean that he has the answer . . . well, yes, and how I know that is actually the same way I know the answer to our problem/question!) It's not as complicated as I'm making it out to be. But I do have a knack for making the simple complex. Here's what happened:
I googled "St. Therese chronology" (that last is a big word meaning timeline or something of the sort) and that led me to "Important Dates in the Life of St. Therese" (thank you, Society of the Little Flower!) which got me the info that her profession, which I knew was on September 8 (tomorrow!!) was in 1890.
Since what's good for the goose is good for the gander, I figured I'd just try asking the google elves if they knew Marcel Van's profession date. I sure didn't expect them to know it, but they know Jack, and Jack knows, because there on his website is the most delightful photo (which I'll post below this post) of Fr. Antonio Boucher - yes, bearded Jesus himself! - and our brother Marcel on the very day we're celebrating tomorrow!!! And the caption (which is how I knew all this) says:
"Father Boucher with Brother Marcel on the occasion of his first profession at Hanoi, September 8, 1946"
And in case you want to celebrate with Jack (for free! thus no need for that extra dollar that would go with the extra day if only we'd been more frugal at the grocer's before this little online fest), you can go see his website and say a prayer for this man to whom we owe so much. Need I say why, again? Of course I must! We are little Miss and Master Marcels - no memories here! Well, Jack translated Marcel into English for us! That's why we owe him a Rosary at least, but I'm sure he'll settle for an Ave . . . . Let's see, if 50 of us say an Ave, that's practically a whole set of Rosary mysteries! Hey, I know! Let's make up a pretend Rosary for Jack, Therese, Marcel, and Mary (and little Jesus of course)!
1st Mystery - Mary's birth!
2nd Mystery - the Annunciation (Jesus becomes Incarnate!!!!!! for us!!!!!)
3rd Mystery - Therese's Carmelite profession (leading to the Little Way!)
4th Mystery - Marcel's Redemptorist profession (he & Jesus are one!!!)
5th Mystery - Jack Keogan translates Marcel into English for us!
Yup, I left out a big mystery, I know. "We find Marcel"!!!!!!
How did we get so lucky?
God is just that good, so grab your favorite yummy treat (or your 2nd favorite if that's near at hand; and if you have your choice, I happen to know that Therese is partial to eclairs) and join the party! It's not merely a birthday, after all - not even such an incredibly special birthday as Mary's!
(And you're not going to believe this, but yes, I did find some banana Moon Pies for as cheap as they could possibly be - I'm guessing they'll expire soon, so I'd better eat them quick....Marcel is laughing so hard I'm afraid he's going to get a stomach ache - kind of like the one I'm bound to get if I eat these Moon Pies!)
Oops, I almost forgot to get you a portal to Jack's Marcel Van Association website. There, did you sit it flickering in the very name? It's HERE too. Click away, and give Marcel a kiss for me, and don't forget the Ave for Jack and his family - wow, I can't even think where we'd be without him and his crazy, spontaneous, "Hey, I'll translate Marcel's Autobiography," about 16 years ago . . . . little did he know how many lives he'd change! So cheers to Jack, cheers to Marcel and Therese, cheers to Mary, and most of all, cheers to little Jesus Who loves us so much that He keeps giving us the Best Gifts in the Whole Wide World! (No, not the Moon Pies! His dear spouses, Therese and Marcel, and His Mother for ours: Mary!)
In case an Ave feels beyond your powers (or memory!), here's our prayer (bilingually!) and then Marcel and Fr. Boucher below the prayer so you can kiss them here too before you go see them at Jack's place. Happy Birthday, Mary! Happy One-with-Jesus-Day, Therese and Marcel! We love you!!!
Draw me (sweep me off my feet, Jesus!); we shall run!
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
Well, no, not Mother Teresa. And no, not JPII . . . I mean yeah, those two are both extremely wise, but neither of them's the wise guy I'm talkin' 'bout . . Still I couldn't resist posting the pic because it's St. Mother Teresa's Feast Day today! I think it should be National Smile-at-Someone Day, don't you? Mother Teresa was a big proponent of smiling; it's amazing how you can brighten someone's day (or someone can brighten yours) with random acts of smiling. So live dangerously - smile! - and see what kind of joy happens around you . . .
Meanwhile (while you're figuring out who to unnerve, I mean cheer up, by your unexpected smile), do you mind if we hearken back a few days?
It used to be Monday, September 3rd, the feast of St. Gregory the Great, and that was the day the wise guys walked into my musings, almost like they were walking into a bar. (Can't you hear it? "These two wise guys walk into a bar . . ."). I've been trying to ignore them ever since, but you know how wise guys are. They just can't resist one more crack, even when you ask them to keep it down over there.
You see, I'm supposed to be working on a big project with St. Therese's letters, and in fact I am working on it, I promise, just not right this second. I need to finish the project before Saturday - before Friday night, even - and God willing (and the Holy Spirit assisting), I will, but oh my goodness how other things do distract one. You know, eating, sleeping, watching old episodes of Maverick (with James Garner). Not to mention occasional conversations with the husband and the son and various other important people in my life.
Well, I thought the best way to carve out a little extra time for the LTP (Letters of Therese Project) would be to stop musing, but that was like an open invitation to Marcel to jump on the bed (I like to work in my bedroom where there's also a comfy couch and lots of lights). Truth be told, he's always more of a comfort (like the couch) than a distraction . . . and when I've been wondering (frequently) how I could manage to finish by my deadline, our little brother is there to remind me that of course I can't. But God can!
Here's my plan, then.
I'd like you to say a little prayer for me (for the LTP), and I'll say a little prayer for you (for whatever's on your plate - even if it's only the little prayer for me!) . . . Ready? Set . . . Go!
+ + +
I said an "Angel of God" prayer for you. That way my angel and yours can confab, give each other angelic hugs and greetings, and both assist you with whatever you need (each angel is so powerful; I'm sure two will definitely take care of everything!)....and now, let's talk about the wise guys, and then, I'll get back to work. (If you ever wonder if writing a blog is work, I couldn't tell you. This is not a blog so much as a party, and I do enjoy parties, especially if there are cupcakes and really comfortable chairs . . . comfort seems to be a theme around here lately, and as to the cupcakes - it is a big feast, and man can't live on smiles alone. Or at least woman can't!)
Monday I got to go to Mass, and that meant I read my Magnificat about St. Gregory the Great. The priest said in his sermon that Gregory was a Benedictine, and my missal quoted good Greg as saying, "Study, I beg you, and each day meditate on the words of your Creator." That went beautifully because there I was, a captive audience so to speak, and the Psalm (119) at Mass really gave me pause.
"How I love Your law, O Lord!
It is my mediation all the day."
My husband and I are third order Carmelites, and the Carmelite Rule, called The Rule of St. Albert (shared by both Discalced and O.Carms, and by friars, nuns, and laity) instructs us to do just that: to meditate on God's law day and night. Next the Psalm said:
"Your command has made me wiser than my enemies,
for it is forever with me."
Isn't that cool? But here's the part that really got my goat:
"I have more understanding than all my teachers
when your decrees are my meditation."
Straight off I thought of little Therese. She's a Doctor of the Church, just like St. Gregory the Great! Isn't that wild? She had little formal education, lived a rather restricted life-in-exile (she makes up for it now, crisscrossing the globe constantly with her roses), and died at 24. But she's just as much a Doctor of the Church as any of the others . . .
One of my favorite lines from Therese (like with Marcel, there are something like 3, 742 quotes from her that rank among my favorites) came when she was with her sister Celine. They were both also religious sisters (nuns) in the Lisieux Carmel, and standing in front of the convent library one day, St. Therese said:
"Oh, I would have been sorry to have read all those books!"
Celine asked, "Why? This would have been quite an acquisition. I would understand your regretting to read them, but not to have already read them."
To which Therese responded, "If I had read them, I would have broken my head, and I would have wasted precious time that I could have employed very simply in loving God."
Now given that my greatest love after my husband and Marcel is books, you may be surprised that I think this quotation is wonderful. But keep in mind that Therese also said the way we become Saints is by doing God's will and being whatever He's made us to be. He's made me to be a book lover, and I love this vocation! But I also delight in Therese being so simple that she had her small library of favorites (unlike my huge library of favorites): the Gospels before all the rest, then St. John of the Cross, The Imitation of Christ (which does nothing for me), and a very few others. She had no desire for other books - to read or to have read. As for me, I love new books - I mean "new to me" books (preferably old ones, but I'm not a snob).
Yet Therese is making progress in simplifying my tastes. I can now list my favorites, thusly:
1. The Bible
3. The Divine Office
But you know if I was honest I'd stand before many libraries and praise God for keeping me from all kinds of vices (or even just sad introspection) with the joy of having read (or merely read the spines of) many, and have many more left to read . . . Ah! lovely self-forgetfulness, and even more than that the wondrous awareness of His love, that comes with good reading (fiction and non-fiction alike).
But perhaps I digress . . . so let's get back to Therese and our Psalm because here's where it gets interesting. (Frankly I've been interested so far and hope you have too, but here's where it gets SUPER interesting!)
That Psalm said, "I have more understanding than all my teachers when Your decrees are my meditation."
Surely however many books Therese did or didn't read, she was pretty occupied from early childhood with meditating on God's decrees. And so I was musing during Mass on Monday about how truly she did receive more understanding than all her teachers - I mean more understanding even than many of the greatest teachers in the Church, like Thomas a Kempis!
I have a quote on my fridge (lots of them - quotes, not fridges - but this one pertains) from Wisdom 3:9. There the Holy Spirit tells us:
"They that trust in Him shall understand the truth."
St. Therese sure trusted in Him! That's one of her hallmarks: her enormous trust, her bold daring, her unassailable confidence. And she's the living proof of the truth of that verse because having trusted, she understood so much truth, or to put it more simply, she so understood Jesus who is the Truth.
Naturally (and impishly, not being Miss Marcel for nothing), I started wondering during Monday's Mass if little Therese had more understanding than St. Gregory the Great. I thought that would be funny, and I guessed she just might . . .
And then, as He's so wont to do, dear Jesus answered my wonder with a resounding YES! For here is what Magnificat shared with me for the meditation after Mass, from St. Greg himself:
"Listen to what Solomon in his wisdom says: 'Do vigorously everything your hand can do, because there will be no work or plan or wisdom or knowledge in the lower world, to which you are hurrying.' Since we do not know the time of our coming death and we cannot work after death, it remains for us to seize the time granted us before death."
I don't know if you're thinking what I'm thinking, but don't worry, I'll tell you what I'm thinking!
First off, I think I'd better restrain myself from arguing with Solomon or arguing that Therese is wiser than Solomon. (Of course she is, but we're not about arguing here - we're all for peace, love, and sweet understanding!)
Solomon is making a point about "the lower world." He might be referring to the place where everyone went after death before Jesus came on Holy Saturday to lead His flock to a better (and higher) place. He might be referring to what we'd still call "the lower world," the place we call H, E, double toothpicks. (This is a family party, so we'll avoid anything approaching bad words :). But whichever way we interpret "the lower world," it's safe to say he's not talking about Heaven.
Good St. Greg, though (or Great St. Greg, to give him the fullness of his proper title), does seem to be talking about Heaven when he says:
"Since we do not know the time of our coming death and we cannot work after death, it remains for us to seize the time granted us before death."
If you're like me and Marcel and cringe at the word "work" just slightly less (okay lots less, but a cringe is a cringe nonetheless) than when you hear the word "suffering" (sorry! I shouldn't have said it!) - well I have good news for you!!!
I am pleased to announce a great reason to smile on National-Smile-whether-they've-earned-it-or-not Day: St. Therese has something very liberating to teach us about work, here and hereafter.
I'm going to number her teachings, since they come to us through more favorite quotes. All of them, like the previous quote from her, are taken from her Last Conversations.
And no, do't go buy a copy of LC. If you feel that buying compulsion overtake you, by all means buy another copy of Conversations. That will make you smile, and Marcel, and Therese, and me too! If you don't have a copy yet, it's about time. If you already have one, well unless it or you can bilocate, it will be helpful to have another copy for the upstairs/downstairs/bathroom/bedroom/dining room/car . . .fill in the place where your first copy usually isn't.
I'll give you everything you need from LC (the book you're not worrying about buying because I'll give you the best right here :), and we'll start now with Therese's little doctrine of work:
1. Our first quote was spoken by Therese to Mother Agnes (her sister Pauline). Therese is in her last months and Mother Agnes is wisely writing down every word that Therese says, so on August 11, 1897, Mother Agnes writes down the following (and I must interject here that Mother Agnes/Pauline is awesome!! where would we be without her? largely without Therese, and that would be like "the lower world" so let's not even think about it). Therese says:
"I've always found, Mother, that you put too much ardour into your work."
I will only stop to comment that this is a holy maxim that could lead us to heaven (a la St. Alphonsus' advice on his feast a month ago or so). Therese is often quoted (misquoted? mis-empasized, might be a better way to put it) to the effect that we'll become saints by doing small things perfectly.
Nope, I don't think so. Doing small things with great love - that's a motto St. Mother Teresa followed her namesake in living and promoting - and insofar as doing something with great love is to do it like God would, then sure, that's a happy save and we can say that then we'd be doing small things perfectly (i.e. with love). But if we're thinking that putting our whole heart, mind, and soul into earthly labor (or spiritual labors while on earth) to get it JUST RIGHT (i.e. our usual definition of perfect) - like perfectionism with a holy twist - I say nope, that's not the point!
Love is our point!
Childlike trust that while we do our job (nursing? not the sick, but drinking the spiritual milk of Holy Mother Church, like when we read Marcel's Conversations. Sleeping? yes, that is our job too, like a baby!), God will make sure everything else gets done (um, like the LTP.....yes, Jesus, I trust in You!)
2. Lest you think I'm making this up (if only! This could be a good get-rich-quick scheme. I could patent it or trademark it: "The Little Way" with a copyright sign after it!), here is what our little Doctor said when Mother Agnes asked her to explain what she meant by "remaining a little child before God." (This is from August 6, 1897, Feast of the Transfiguration.)
"It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted about nothing, and not to be set on gaining our living. Even among the poor, they give the child what is necessary, but as soon as he grows up, his father no longer wants to feed him and says: 'Work now, you can take care of yourself.'
"It was so as not to hear this that I never wanted to grow up, feeling that I was incapable of making my living, the eternal life of heaven. I've always remained little, therefore, having no other occupation but to gather flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice, and of offering them to God in order to please Him.
"To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in the hands of His little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God's treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one's faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much."
3. Pauline (Mother Agnes) isn't the only one of Therese's sisters to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude and love. Here is something Celine (Sr. Genevieve) copied for us during Therese's last July in exile:
"Another time, I said to her: Since you want to go to Saigon, perhaps when you are in heaven, I shall go in your place to complete your work, and the two of us will do a perfect work."
[Yes, Therese was already interested in Vietnam long before Marcel was born there in 1928. She had hoped to go (had her health permitted) to a Carmel in Saigon or Hanoi! And note how Celine is talking about doing a "perfect work." Let's see what Therese has to say to that!]
Therese replied: "Ah! if you ever go over there, don't think it's to complete something. There is no need of this. Everything is good, everything is perfect, accomplished, it is love alone that counts. If you go there, this will be a whim of Jesus, nothing else. Don't think this would be a useful work, it would be a whim of Jesus."
Do you know what I'm thinking now? I'm thinking it's time to eat lots of ice cream and chocolate lava cakes (as well as those elusive cupcakes I'm craving today) because I want to get really huge, with enormous arms so that I can tattoo that whole entire last paragraph on my forearm! Doesn't that sound like a great idea? Except shoot, tattoos are so permanent. How about magic marker? I think so. Just need to add a little bulk to that forearm! Enough said. This last paragraph is so utterly adorable and WISE that it leaves me as close to speechless as anything could in this land of exile!
4. Getting closer to our final and most wonderful demonstration that St. Therese, the littlest Doctor, learned more than her teachers (St. Greg most likely being one of them, since she learned much from her father, St. Louis Martin, reading Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Year to the family, and my guess is that St. Gregory was in Dom Gueranger's great work with the other big Doctors), here is another word from Therese to Celine (written down by Mother Agnes on September 2, 1897 - three days ago, as it were, though 121 years ago, and a month before Therese died) -
Sister Genevieve said to her: "When I think they are still awaiting you at the Carmel of Saigon!"
Knowing she was dying, Therese replied simply:
"I shall go; I shall go very soon; if you only knew how quickly I will make my journey!"
5. Ah, yes, Therese had plans for her "rest" when she attained the shore of everlasting Life. And here is where we see that, without the least shadow of a doubt, His decrees having been her meditation during her short life on earth, she learned far more than all her teachers . . . While St. Gregory reasonably exhorts us to seize this day to work because certainly we cannot work after death, Therese was enlightened to see it differently. On July 17, 1897, at 2:00 in the morning, she coughed up blood and then told her Mother Agnes:
"I feel that I'm about to enter into my rest. But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. This isn't impossible, since from the bosom of the beatific vision, the angels watch over us."
You see that it must have been my angel who inspired me to suggest I send him to you to greet your angel and help you say a prayer for my Letters of Therese Project. Surely I've spent more time musing here than I intended, and yet, and yet . . . How marvelous are God's works! How sorry a state we'd be in if we spent our time working on Saints' Projects without spending our time with the Saints, admiring God's work in them!
I hope you know that I think St. Gregory the Great is awesome.
I just happen to think St. Therese is awesomer.
And when we come to the question of our brother Marcel, well, you know what I think, I think.
I think with great joy and even more admiration at the mysterious ways of the good God that Marcel is the awesomest!
And now, lest I never return to my work on those letters (which I'll have to remember to approach with less ardour and more confidence!), I'll cease and desist musing here with you. For the moment! As you can tell, I find your company irresistible, dear reader. Thank you for sitting with me at the feet of our novice mistress and sister Therese. Don't forget to say a little prayer for me and the work to which I'm returning, and if you want, you can roll it into our signature prayer:
Draw me (sweep me off my feet, Jesus!); we shall run!
Or in the language of Therese, though without much idea of quite how to say it; any French speakers out there, feel free to Contact Me and I'll share your pronunciation at our next party. Meanwhile, happily saying this badly and with great love, all together now:
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
I'll be the first to admit I'm codependent (i.e. I want to help everyone and fix everything - whether I'm asked or not, whether it's my job or not, whether the person or thing wants fixing, and whether or not the fixing will be to my detriment - I mean not that I'd consciously make a holy sacrifice for it, but that I'd forget to take care of myself in important ways, like eating or sleeping, and/or that I'd happily at first, though regretfully after the fact, abandon my actual duties and obligations to Save the World).
But I don't think it's me and my codependence behind the title of this post. As much as I gladly imitate the ostrich with its head in the sand (although I'd prefer my head in a really soft pillow), it has come to my attention - or rather ours, here at Miss Marcel's Musings - that I am now not alone in wanting to fix things.
I take my head out of my pillow for just a moment, answer the door or the phone, visit a friend, go to Sunday Mass (or Monday Mass), and WHAM! (Not the 80's group, but more like the old Batman and Robin T.V. show). Everything is not turning up roses outside my pillow, and then yes, I suppose it is my codependence kicking in: When I see that everyone else is now concerned to save the world, I can't help but throw in my two cents, wanting, now, not just to save the world, but wanting too to save everyone else from too much worry. (And we all know - or can read previous posts here to find out - how much worry is too much worry. Any, according to God!)
Which brings us to HOW TO FIX EVERYTHING.
Luckily, I have the answer. And I'm not kidding!
You won't be surprised to hear that the answer comes from Jesus, Divine Physician, Good Shepherd, and actual Savior of the World.
You might be surprised to hear that the answer from Jesus does not come to us through Marcel.
Gosh, even as I write that, I'm surprised. And I want to qualify it, which I'll do by saying that I'm not saying the answer I'm going to give you is the only answer. In fact I can think of one more equally good Way To Fix Everything right off the top of my head. No, I don't mean the answer to that perennial question: How to keep one's roots blonde too; I just mean that another Way To Fix Everything comes to mind immediately, so the one I'm going to offer clearly isn't the Only Way to Fix Everything, but just A Great and Easy Way To Fix Everything., thus leaving room for more such Ways to come to us from Jesus through Marcel.
But since we know from Therese that for simple souls there must be no complicated ways, for now I'm going to go with the first and easiest Way To Fix Everything that Jesus has revealed to me in these last few days.
Though He didn't reveal this to me through Marcel, Jesus did use another little secretary of His love to open the gate to this Way To Fix Everything, and that other little apostle is St. Faustina. (And if it seems repetitive for me to keep saying "The Way To Fix Everytyhing," well I only want to make sure that I don't forget what I'm supposed to be writing about. Because this is BIG!)
St. Thomas Aquinas asks toward the beginning of the Summa Theologiae "Whether God is Simple" and (to cut to the chase, life being short and our need to fix everything becoming more urgent by the moment), he answers Yes.
Without worrying about what that even means, then (please don't tell my husband I'm using my education in this way! nah, just kidding, he already knows . . .), we can conclude, with little Therese, that for Jesus' simple soul there ought not to be complicated ways either. And, not surprisingly, there are not!
When He wants us to learn from Him, Jesus asks us to imitate His gentleness and humility of heart. And when He wants us to help Him Save the World (also known as Fixing Everything), He gives an equally simple Way. Here it is, as He told it to St. Faustina on January 28, 1938 (and if you have her Diary, you can read along at 1541).
"My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet."
Jesus is speaking of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and you can say it on your rosary. You start with one Our Father and one Hail Mary, followed by the Apostle's Creed (you'll have to be creative to make these fit perfectly on the first beads of the Rosary, but I'll leave that to your imagination so you feel like you're really part of the solution). Then on the first decade, you start with:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.
Then you've got the 10 beads of the decade. On each one you repeat:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.
When you finish the first decade and start the next, you repeat the "Eternal Father" prayer, then for the decade itself you say on each bead, "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
At the end of the five decades, you say the Trisagion.
You thought you knew the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and now I'm throwing you a curve ball, huh? Well no, you most likely do already know even the Trisagion, but you didn't know it was called by this very cool name. I know that I didn't know it was called this until about 2 years ago (almost exactly 2 years ago) when I was messing about one day with books (ah, books!) and started looking into St. Anthony Mary Claret's Autobiography and found that he was told by God to say the Trisagion in order to help save the world.
Naturally, my first thought was: What in heaven's name is the Trisagion? And my second thought (really they were so closely thought as almost to be one) was: And why aren't we saying it everyday like God told St. Anthony Mary Claret we must???
Good news. Even if you and I have been sometimes remiss in saying the Trisagion daily, I can assure you that large numbers of people have taken God's recommendation to heart. You might wonder where you've been and how you've missed this trend. Is everyone else reading The Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret, while you've been reading Clan of the Cave Bear? (That's a little joke. No need for you to even get it; just substitute whatever you've been reading lately for that second title.)
Well no, to my knowledge (and I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what the reading public is reading), not many have been reading St. AMC's Autobiography, though as you are beginning to suspect, it's a page turner (that's not a joke but quite true) and quite wonderful, as the Autobiography of a Saint usually is.
But no, the reason people have been saying the Trisagion prayer daily all over the world is because for simple souls there must be no complicated ways. Jesus, then, as a simple soul, does not simply keep multiplying prayers for us (which would not be simple even if we say He might "simply" keep doing that). Nope, He apparently keeps recommending the Trisagion.
Here's something I found online (and that's another story, but I do enjoy googling my holy questions). I didn't come up with the entry from the Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret that I wanted to share with you, but instead I found (straight off, like the angels had sent it) a pamphlet called The Angelic Trisagion which starts with this passage:
"The exquisitely beautiful Trisagion Prayers, intoned by the nine choirs of Holy Angels – Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels and Angels – give “endless praise” to the Holy Trinity in Heaven. This devotion to the Blessed Trinity is the official prayer of the Order of the Blessed Trinity, otherwise known as the Trinitarians. The devotion has been recited by them and their affiliates for centuries in praise of the Trinity. Throughout man's history these prayers were transmitted by the Persons of the Holy Trinity to various saintly people such as Isaias, John the Apostle and Evangelist and St. Anthony Mary Claret.
"When these prayers were given to St. Anthony Claret who lived from 1807 to 1870, he was informed by the Holy Ghost, Third Person of the Holy Trinity, that many chastisements due to mankind . . . would be considerably mitigated for those persons who would pray the Trisagion Prayers . . .
"In a letter to Mother Maria Antonia de San Pedro, Saint Anthony Claret writes, 'God, Our Lord, has made known to me in a very clear way the necessity that we have to pray and to promote the devotion of the Trisagion, and of the Most Holy Rosary and devotion of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, frequently visiting Him and receiving Him in Most Holy Communion.' In particular, the Trisagion is as Saint Anthony Claret says, 'an impenetrable shield against all the evils that God has sent on earth as a chastisement for our sins.'"
To my delight, the author then brings in the very passage I wanted to share with you from St. AMC's Autobiography, the passage I read 2 years ago and which first clued me in to the Trisagion. (Leave it to google and the angels, should be my motto, oh me of little faith!)
St. Anthony says:
"Our Lord enlightened me in regard to the three evils menacing Spain [which is where he lived and was a Bishop], which are . . . "
Well, let's just stop right there and fill in the blanks.
First, you can replace "Spain" with the country in which you live. Then, you can fill in whatever you think are the three evils menacing your country - or even the three evils menacing you personally. I know it would be good gossip to hear what Jesus told AMC were the three evils menacing Spain in his day, but that's not really to the point, now, is it?
What I've been noticing (though I try hard not to) is that there seem to be evils menacing the Church and the world in our own day, evils which are making all holy people profoundly uncomfortable, to say the least. So let's just go ahead and fill in the blanks by ourselves, making it more up-to-date and applicable to our moment in history, and see what Jesus suggests we do about it . . . Continuing with His advice to St. Anthony Mary Claret then:
"In order to counteract these evils, Our Savior made me understand that three devotions had to be intensified, namely, the Trisagion of the Holy Trinity, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to the Holy Rosary. The Trisagion is to be said daily. The Blessed Sacrament should be honored by hearing Mass, receiving Communion frequently, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and making spiritual communions. The three parts of the Rosary should be said every day, or at least one part, while meditating on the mysteries for each decade, and applying the prayers to the needs of the times.” -Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Chapter 18 of Part III
Now before you run off and complicate your life to no end, figuring out just where you're going to stuff in those three parts of the Rosary (not to mention the 4th part St. JPII gave us), and when you're going to abandon your post (as a wife and mother, a kid with schoolwork to do, a day laborer or teacher or neurosurgeon or whatever it is you find your work to be) in order to run in and out of Church 12 times a day to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament . . . let's just pause and use our noggins.
It would be marvelous if it turns out that you've been sitting somewhere (at home, in a car or bus, on the sidewalk or curb, at the beach, on a pillar) just wishing Jesus would instruct you on what to do with all your free time. You don't really want to spend your days reading Wikipedia entries on "Sanford and Son" and finding out whatever happened to your favorite celebrities of yore, but dang if you can find anything productive to keep you busy . . . .If that's your story, feel free (without scruples but with joy and relief that finally someone's suggested something worthy of your time, attention, and above all your heart) to say the whole Rosary, go to daily Mass and Communion, visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently, and say the Trisagion prayers (don't worry, I haven't forgotten that we haven't yet specified what these are. We're getting there, I promise).
I'm guessing, though (and it's an educated guess because I know A LOT of people, and I'm a fond observer of human nature and have a good listening ear) that everyone including you is, let's say, a little busy already.
And that being the situation in which we find ourselves (as well as menaced by evil), wouldn't it be nice if - for simplicity and efficiency's sake - there were just one thing we could do to remedy these evils, fix everything, and help Jesus save the world?
Let's repeat those words Our Lord said to St. Faustina, because I think the answer is right here:
"My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet."
That's straightforward and simple enough, and here's what I LOVE about the chaplet.
It takes just a few minutes to say, and for those of us who are fairly unfocused and slow to meditate, the great thing about the chaplet is that one just says the same few valuable and effective words over and over, and if in repetition (50 times repeating "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world") one manages to actually think about these adorable words just once, well I at least feel quite excited to have managed some prayer in my prayers.
I find even more than with the Rosary (though I pray Saints John Paul II and Padre Pio help us love that prayer most of all), there is no room for scrupples here, just littleness and the knowledge that Jesus wouldn't say He'll grant everything we ask of Him by saying the chaplet unless He meant it.
So, having told you just how to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet up until that ending bit, it's time to connect the dots. (No, this isn't another activity. I'm hoping to magically tie together the words of Our Lord to St. Faustina and St. Anthony Mary Claret.)
The Trisagion that Jesus asked St. Anthony Mary Claret to say daily to counteract the evils of the age (and thus, in my loose translation, to save the world and FIX EVERYTHING) is the very prayer He instructed us, through Faustina, to say at the end of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and it goes like this:
Holy God! Holy Mighty One! Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.
With the happy addition, in the Chaplet version, of a tiny extra prayer to make sure His grace and Mercy cover absolutely everyone (and everything). The tiny extra prayer goes like this:
"and on the whole world."
The final prayer of the Chaplet is, then:
Holy God! Holy Mighty One! Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.
Now. I have a confession to make. I'm tempted to worry that I use a few too many words in these blogs. If only I used fewer words, I think, then I could get to the point faster, and more people (who are in a hurry) could profit from the important headlines that top our posts - you know, by actually reading the punchline that goes with it in the post proper. So, for instance, if I were to top today's post with "How to Fix Everything" and someone were to scroll down hoping to find out how, exactly, to fix everything, they could find out without having to commit to reading lots and lots and lots of words before they get to the ones they're looking for.
You, dear reader, are here with me. If you weren't, you wouldn't be reading these words right now (down here, as opposed to the opening words, which you read quite some time ago). Thank you for your perseverance! And I know, because you may be one of the happy readers who have clicked on that "contact me" button to let me know, that you don't mind all the words I've given you between those at the top and these here toward the bottom. ("Toward" in a general, non-committed sense, believe me!)
You might even be thanking God for these many words and saying to yourself, "Gee, I hope she doesn't try to stifle herself. Someone might get hurt, and I'd miss all those words." That's what I'm hoping you're saying, and that's what we'll go with because while I might not hurt myself if I used fewer words (though hating pain and suffering as I do, I'm not sure I want to risk finding out), still, using fewer words certainly would take away lots of the fun I'm having with you every time I write a post.
So....tossing that temptation over my left shoulder where all good temptations should be disposed of, let's now move on to The Punchline.
(This is a rhetorical question. It's one thing for me to take forever to get all the words down and you to take forever to read them, but if we wait for you to guess what, we could be here even longer than forever! Because I think you'll never guess!!!)
Okay, I'm going to give you one guess.
I'm going to close my eyes for a moment to let you think and then you say what you guess. I'll wait while you close your eyes and think and guess..............................................
Okay. Back again?
I hate to say it (actually I'm enjoying this tremendously!), but you guessed wrong! So now I'm going to give you a clue.
Have you ever said (or heard of) a 54 day Rosary Novena?
No, silly, I'm not suggesting we say one.
That might not be your idea of easy, and I did say that we'd take the easy little way to Fix Everything. I did say, too, that this easy Way to Fix Everything wasn't the only way, and Sister Lucia (you know, of Fatima) herself said that with the Rosary we can obtain everything, so that's definitely one more excellent approach.
But for us, for now, we're little ones, and we're taking the little way.
(This being, after all, Miss Marcel's Musings, not St. Simon Stylites' Suggestions, which comes to mind as an alternative since we were recently talking about people sitting on pillars, but no, that's not our preferred posture here.)
So. Think of the Divine Mercy Chaplet as shorter than the Rosary and requiring less meditation. Then think 54 day Novena (technically that's 6 novenas: 3 in petition, 3 in thanksgiving, and whoosh you've got 54 days. Believe me, you don't have to do the math unless you want to; this is a blog which requires no special SAT score to read).
Divine Mercy Chaplet.
54 Day Novena.
You guessed it!
A 54 day Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena!
And don't even tell me that Joe Shmoe over at the Holy Rollers blog thought of it first. Because, I ask you, did he realize or suggest or bring to your undivided attention (there. I got you there. When was the last time your attention was undivided? So I doubt it. But let me finish) that (drum roll please) -
If we start a 54 day Divine Mercy Novena today, on August 30th, we will finish on the Feast of Pope St. JOHN PAUL the Great!?!?!?!?!???????
All those question marks were really unnecessary, except that the statement above, entirely true as far as my counting skills and mathematical computations have calculated (which means you'd better check and Contact Me if I got this wrong), was the end of a question from the previous paragraph.
But otherwise, only exclamation marks fit the end of that sentence!
So what do you think? Are you ready to save the world with me and Jesus? Ready to Fix Absolutely Everything?!?!?
I say let's do it. Let's start the first annual 54 days (to the Divine Mercy Champion's feast) Divine Mercy Novena. We may want to come up with a shorter and catchier name, but for now, are you in?
Here's the best part.
Or rather the best 3 parts, in honor of the Trinity (whom the angels honor by saying the Trisagion in Heaven as Isaiah and John in Revelation assure us):
1. While you're saying the chaplet, you can feel free to think of and throw in (as intentions) every single thing that's wrong in your world (according to your limited intelligence, and I'm not judging here, just saying sometimes it's easier to call it a petition than to thank God for it, so throw it all in) and throw in too what's wrong in the outside world . . . not as an exercise in scrupulosity or a precursor to mental breakdown, but rather as a way of saying implicitly, "Jesus, I trust in YOU," knowing He's going to fix it all because He said He would. Ah, how comforting that is!
2. Let's ask our guardian angels to pray this novena with us.
Please? (That's to the angels, not to you :).
That way if we forget, our angel can say the chaplet for us.
Talk about the little way of novenas. I hardly count a novena as successful if I remember all the days. We have to let God do the saving without our deserving it, so missing days helps, though I try not to do it on purpose. Believe me, it will happen without our trying!
But as I said, this way our angels can fill in the gaps.
3. Finally, the very best part.
Do you know what is the most successful way I've found to get to sleep (or get the chaplet said)? Try saying it when you desperately need a nap around 3 pm (and for once you have permission to try this at home, but NOT while operating heavy machinery; better to be in a reclining position, though not while driving) or at night when going to bed (start when in bed for best results) or when you wake at 3 a.m. If you don't get to sleep (or back to sleep), you'll get your chaplet said, so it's a win-win, but likely you'll drowse off into dreamland and your angel can finish the chaplet (per #2). He absolutely loves saying that Trisagion at the end, and I'm confident he'll say the prayers leading up to it too.
That's it, then, and I'm excited to have finished writing so I can post this and do my little part to save the world (i.e. Fix Everything) by spreading the good news of just how easy it is.
Incidentally (or essentially, depending on how the shoe fits), you don't need to keep up with the news that comes from secular or even Catholic outlets. Just say your chaplet knowing that Jesus will use your loving prayer (whether said attentively, foggy-brained, fuzzily, or with the help of the angels) to save the world and Fix Everything. He's omniscient and He'll know what needs fixing, who (and what) needs saving, and so on and so forth. Your job is to have fun with the chaplet, that's all you need to do, with nothing left to worry about ever!
Ah, but before we end this post, I had a request. Kind of like a song request, except that I don't know the tune, just the words, and I don't even know how to say the words correctly, which is why I need your help. (If "you" are the one who wrote in with the request, pretend you aren't reading this. I am not turning the tables and requesting you to find the answer, cutie.)
I'm going to write out our signature prayer (in French and English) but the thing is that some of us have no idea how to pronounce the French. I did put our French prayer into Google translate (or rather into the Google box and with the additional word "translate") and I did get a translation and audio file for how to say it . . . but I didn't get around to reproducing those sounds as phonetic spellings (like telling you that you'd pronounce Smarcel as S-mark-ul - which is another story for another day) . . . So any one of you kind-hearted souls who worry that saying the chaplet for 54 days is too easy, please don't hesitate to assist a fellow Marcel lover (Miss Marcel East, to name names) who wants to know how to pray in French and not be laughed at by our sister Therese and our brother Marrcel. (Good luck with that, MME! But it's worth a try!)
Meanwhile, in our worst imitation of a native French speaker (unless you are a native French speaker reading this, and then you can pray it beautifully and correctly), let's say together our other (and even simpler) Fix Everything prayer:
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
and with likely more convincing accents:
Draw me (sweep me off my feet, Jesus!)! We shall run!
Finally, for a dose of courage, scroll back up to the top of this post and take a good look at those two brave men. They are your brothers, your fathers, the ones who have your back. And they're both saying the same thing to you right now and forever - Be not afraid! I love that, and didn't want you to miss it. No worries, now! You can tell just by looking at their faces that everything is going to be fine, just fine. So no more fears! And if you just can't help it, remember Our Lady's good counsel: "Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice." But enough of my words; scroll up and let those guys fill you with their undaunted and all knowing courage!
P.S. If you are reading this sometime in the future, I have one suggestion and one question.
Suggestion: you can join in this 54 day Divine Mercy novena at any time! Or start your own now and go 54 days into the even further future.
Question: is everyone wearing one piece polyester pantsuits?
Just when I think Marcel won't have anything new to offer me, I go ahead and open Conversations just in case, and wouldn't you know he bowls me over with another winning page.
Or to be more precise, Jesus bowls us both over (Marcel and me), or Mary does, or Therese. And it's not that I really doubt the power of this book to inspire me, again and again, but gee, what a mystery that it is so consistently and predictably heart warming, not to mention life changing!
Take today, for instance. Since I'm not so good at living in the present moment, today is a good day to take as a test case. I can show you what I mean and live in the moment at the same time!
I opened to (596) to find Our Blessed Mother speaking to us through Marcel, and oh how I love her suggestion here. This is an idea whose time has come, and if it had a patent, we'd make millions. But the good news is we don't need a patent to make millions with it - millions of roses! And oh how much better are roses than dollars (or pounds, or yen, or lire or francs, or I suppose I should be saying Euro, though how very boring that sounds compared to shekels or pesos . . . ) And sure, in some of those cases a million wouldn't get you all you wanted. Make it a hundred million then! Roses, as I say, not other forms of currency, but if you need me to write a post on "why roses are better than filthy lucre," I will shake my head at you. Silly! Can't you see even in the very names which is to be preferred, which is more valuable, which is the treasure and which the dross?
Ah, roses. The signature flower of our little sister Therese, though she claims she is a little white flower. Have you ever stooped down to see something on the ground and noticed there's a flower, maybe two or three, a teeny tiny forgotten or unseen (until you saw it) creation as perfect as the brightest star? I love the little white and purple daisies I've discovered this way when I least expected them. I also love the large white and purple daisies that are fairly common in our area (yet rare pleasures, nonetheless), but the tiny ones have something very special about them . . .
Those are gifts from God to us, but the roses I'm making millions of (and you can too!) by taking Our Lady's advice, these are roses we can offer back to Him, roses of our own creation, and more exquisite - and at the same time more common - than anything you could imagine or find in a florist's shop.
Let me quote the passage that has so inspired all this creativity. I feel like I've discovered a way to make manufactured gems or some other such strange and sparkly 21st century miracle. In fact, I'm only using an ordinary household item to make my roses, kind of like the modern version of spinning flax into gold thread. (Knowing very little beyond a muddled up concatenation of vague bits from fairy tales floating in the far reaches of my blonde soul, I'm not sure if anyone ever did spin flax into gold, but it sounds good, doesn't it?)
Here is what Our Blessed Mother, always so compassionate and merciful, advises this morning. She doesn't mention the roses, but the truth is I knew there were roses coming today, so I chose the photo above this post and waited. Then as I said at the outset, and as is my custom when I know not how to pray (daily), I opened Conversations and immediately found everything I needed, which happened today to be roses: Roses we can give Jesus in thanks for all of the roses He gives to us.
Our Lady doesn't mention the roses, she mentions sacrifices, but before you cringe (I cringe at the mention of sacrifices, so in the interest of empathy I'm assuming you do too), listen closely and hear what the sacrifices are. They're nothing more nor less than those common household items I mentioned earlier, and you'll be glad to declutter them by offering them as roses to Jesus. But let's hear Mary's explanation. She says it simply and sweetly:
"My child, did you just mention sacrifice? . . . Listen, I am going to tell you a new method of sacrificing yourself. Each time that you are troubled, even if only for the span of a breath, say this: 'Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice.' Then, remain in peace. Thanks to this sacrifice, you will be consumed in the fire of Love, which will act freely in you. Thanks to this sacrifice how many sinful souls will be able to avoid an occasion of sin that would expose them to falling into despair? . . .
"Always remember this method, all right? Little Jesus loves this kind of sacrifice a lot; He even prefers it to the joy of being able to pull you from the hands of the devil, since it is the devil who gives birth in you to these anxieties with the intention of misleading you. Consequently, if you offer your anxieties to little Jesus, naturally, the devil will be ashamed to see that the net that he holds out to you to drag you along has fallen into little Jesus' hands. Then, little Jesus will make use of it to draw you to His heart, and then He will make use of it to draw many other souls . . . What a blessing for you! What a benefit for little Jesus! Oh, my child, it is impossible to express the extent of this great benefit. And yet, to obtain this result, you only have to say: 'Little Jesus, I offer You this sacrifice.'"
+ + +
And now we know where the thorns on roses come from. The devil, of course! You see, there is the net he holds out to us to drag us along, and he's filled the net with thorns. But wait! as soon as we offer our anxieties (the thorns) to Jesus as a sacrifice, He turns them into roses (which the angels instantly de-thorn) and draws the whole kit and caboodle - net, roses, and us! - into His arms and close to His Heart. The devil is foiled and we are safe once again. Not that we were ever truly in danger, but it was feeling prickly inside our souls, and now we are quieted and everything is turning up roses, just like it should in a Bollywood movie or Real Life (which my husband maintains is so much like a Bollywood movie, what with the beauty and the bright colors and everyone breaking into song and dance as needed).
If you were skeptical about the roses being countless, try to count them now! When I have tried to apply Our Blessed Mother's good counsel here, I have been shocked by how my ongoing mental radio seems stuck on the worry station. No sooner have I dispatched one worry by offering it to little Jesus as a sacrifice, than another takes its place. It's as if the whole radio is supplying nothing but worry stations! Switch the channel from worrying-over-the-kids radio and you get worrying-over-tomorrow, commercial free! Try twisting the knob and next you get worrying-over-what-you-will-wear and then worrying-over-what-you-will-eat, as if Jesus' sermon on the mount merely provided good suggestions for anxiety radio playlists!
Well leave it to Our Lady to help us find the way out. She brought Jesus to us in the first place, and she'll bring us to Him as well, all wrapped in nets and riddled with thorns as we may be. Yes, it's a "come as you are" (and B.Y.O.R. - bring your own roses) party. Thankfully the thorns morph into roses as soon as we remember to say the sweet prayer Mary just taught us: "Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice."
Uh-oh. Did I say "as soon as we remember"?
Shockingly, Our Lady said it first, as if she had forgotten how feeble our little white or purple daisy memories are.
"Always remember this method, all right?"
Those were her exact words.
Well to be honest, I've been waiting for a challenge like this.
Some run marathons.
Others get up the moment the alarm clock sounds.
As for me, I've been thinking for years it would be marvelous to remember something. Maybe this is it. You know, like St. Alphonsus said. Don't worry if you don't know what St. Alphonsus said. I forget myself, but I can look it up . . .
A slight technical difficulty has arisen.
In looking up what Marcel's dear holy father said (I know it was along the lines of: "One holy maxim frequently pondered is enough to make a Saint), not only could I not find it in my 45 second window (beyond that my attention will fade to the extent that I'll start answering emails or reading old posts, and this one will languish instead of flourish), but to make matters worse, I discovered that I'd already written (somewhere in the hinterlands of Miss Marcel's Musings) on this very passage that's so captivated me today.
Well, we don't have time to waste in pondering the eternal mystery of my forgetfulness. We barely have enough time to celebrate.
Why that Jesus reminded us, just as He promised!
Because I do remember, fortunately for my piece of mind (which is very small, and my peace of mind, which is thankfully bigger) that Jesus told Marcel (and therefore us) not to worry about forgetting because it is just the excuse He needs to come remind us. "All the better!" were His exact words, I think. (Well, translated from Vietnamese into French into English. But don't they have that ring of Divine truth?)
Oddly but wonderfully enough, Jesus likes reminding us!
That's reason enough to celebrate, even if the place weren't about to be flooded with roses. Our forgetting gives Him the perfect opportunity to come save us again, and that is, after all, what He's so perfect at doing (among an infinite variety of other things). It's His very mission, you might say.
Following our policy of full disclosure, however, I must add that Jesus isn't the only one who will celebrate with us when we remember to say this prayer, and He isn't the only one who will enjoy the roses filling the room with their fragrance and beauty. As our Mother explained, so many souls are saved through these little sacrifices of our worries offered to Jesus. These souls will be celebrating too! And besides knowing we've delighted Jesus with the spectacular show of our thorns miraculously turning into roses mid-air, and besides delighting with Him in the souls we're helping Him save (and delighting with them in Him), there is the further and exceedingly delightful relief of abandoning our worries, letting them go, and feeling that we're exactly where we are supposed to be, and Jesus will take care of everything.
Lest you think we're putting Jesus out (despite my attempt to reassure you that He loves us and far from minding our littleness, as St. Therese teaches so authoritatively He loves us in our littleness), here is something to further encourage you in our new practice.
(I'll whisper this so you're not embarrassed if you forgot already. Our new practice is saying, "Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice.")
I don't know if you caught this, but Our Lady said the funniest thing when explaining what we are to do. She remarked that Jesus is happier this way (with our offering Him our worries as sacrifices) than He would be simply defeating the devil without our being part of the equation.
He loves to have us near Him, He loves to have us working alongside Him. He knows that we labor in faith, and that our faith is sometimes blind, and we often can't see that He is near. But this makes the victory all the greater when we repeat this trick and give the devil the slip by making gold roses out of the stuff of our worries. (Cobwebs, I believe they are made of, according to Our Lady in other conversations with Marcel.)
Part of me is wondering if you're getting tired of my repeating my favorite passages to you. They're always new to me, and I'm glad to help Jesus remind you, or tell you for the first time if you've just arrived, fashionably late, to our party - I'm like the hostess who can't wait to introduce you to our guest of honor, our brother Marcel, just back from 'Nam and worthy of a hero's welcome.
Since Marcel wouldn't be anything more than another unknown soldier to us if it weren't for his best friends, instructors, and confidantes - Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese - and his translators, Fr. Antonio Boucher and Mr. Jack Keogan, you'll meet them all too in these virtual halls of my interior castle. I'm so lucky to live here, it's the least I can do to welcome you with my whole heart. And if you notice me repeating myself, I'm not entirely batty, I'm merely pointing out, each time we pass them, the highlights of the tour.
But then, what am I thinking? I've forgotten already! I'm not supposed to worry about repeating myself (or anything else), but now that I've found I've written myself into a corner, I'm going to click my heels three times and say, "Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice."
There. Feeling better and smiling bigger already!
We've only our signature prayer to say before I let you loose to go make roses yourself. First, though, I've got to tell you the most wonderful surprise Marcel and Therese sprung on me yesterday.
It started the day before yesterday, actually, when Marcel gave me a really beautiful small French Bible. I had to pay the Friends of the Library $2 for it, but you know Marcel's specialty is giving, not paying, so I did it when he wasn't looking. Kind of like slyly leaving something extra for the tip like we used to do when my husband's adorable little grandma took us out to lunch, but she was using decades old standards of what might be a fitting compensation. Wow. Do you think Marcel's ever been compared to a little grandma before? He must be laughing!
Well, Therese had already given me a Concise French Dictionary at a similar library book sale a few months ago. And lest she think she's a better giver than Marcel because her gift was totally free (on their "discarded but please take" table), let's remind her that a Concise French Dictionary, however helpful (and this one is ironically and amusingly very large and largely helpful) cannot compare to the Word of God in any language . . .
So. That brings us to yesterday when I opened my French Bible to the Cantique des Cantiques (you gotta love French; they make it as easy as they can for the rest of us to guess their meaning) to read our signature prayer in French! (For those just joining us, our prayer is taken from the last pages of Therese's Story of a Soul, but she took it from the Song of Songs, or rather, Le Cantique des Cantiques.)
It goes like this (in French! isn't this exciting?):
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
(There is supposed to be an accent mark over the "a" before "ta suite.")
In English, we've been praying:
Draw me; we will run!
So if we compare the two, you can get an idea of which word is which. At least you can't be much worse at this than I am, but the main surprise is coming in the very first word, so you won't have to learn a lot of French to fall in love with Jesus all over again . . .
You see, I found out that my very fat Concise French Dictionary is really for translators. The authors (yes, dictionaries have authors, which is astounding and a natural wonder in itself) say in their introduction that their purpose is to provide the closest possible English-word-translation for each French word. You can see, then, why Therese chose this particular dictionary for me, out of all the French dictionaries ever printed. Thanks, sis!
Naturally, then, the first word we need to look up is the first word, "Entraine," and since the first phrase is "Entraine-moi" and we all know from Miss Piggy that "moi" is "me," well I just ran with it and guessed that "entraine" was going to be "Draw," and "Entraine-moi" would be "Draw me!" I love that the Holy Spirit wanted two exclamation points in the French version. And you'll soon see why.
In my Concise Oxford French Dictionary, the good Abel and Marguerite Chevalley have provided this entry in the "E" section:
entrainer: 1. to draw or drag along; 2. to carry away, to sweep away, to sweep (a person) off his feet . . .
Oh my sweet Jesus! You sly dog! You hound of heaven! You aren't asking us to pray that You might politely draw us. If necessary you're willing to drag us to Yourself, but as Our Lady says that's what the devil is planning to do with his net, I don't think that's quite the right translation. Most likely of all, the prayer you've been wanting to teach us is the one wherein we happily request (insist even, with an exclamation point) that You sweep each one of us off our feet! Then, we will all run to You - not just those of us You've already swept off our tired feet, but those we'll sweep along with us in our enthusiastic ecstasy of love for You!
We'll be irresistible. No more dragging our feet (the more I consider that earlier possible translation, the less likely it seems). We will, with the wings of the Holy Spirit, fly to You! Though You have swept us off our feet, we will courrons, that is (according to the Chevalleys and I do trust this solid pair) we will run, race, hurry, hasten, speed, as if running a race; we will search, make progress, strive, and prevail!
I haven't quite figured out "a ta suite" (with the accent mark over that opening "a"). I'm thinking it might be an idiom or special construction, and I await enlightenment.
As to the rest of my French studies, I can't tell you what happened next because your heart is not nearly as hard as mine, and if I were to tell you the revelation of love that came next (don't worry, no angel piercing my heart with an arrow yet, just the illuminating light of a French dictionary), you would no doubt die of love. And then where would we be? I love to write these posts, but it takes two to tango and two to make a happy blog. You're needed here, so no dying of love just yet. As for me, with the further revelation (in the "t" section of the dictionary; that's all I'm saying; my lips are now sealed) I was in awe, and very, very touched. That's good for a hard heart, isn't it?
And so, until another day, (I seem to remember from the card accompanying a vase of 18 pink roses given to me by a sweet friend for my 18th birthday, that here I might say "a bientot" with one of those nifty little hats on one of the vowels), let's pray together with Therese and Marcel:
Entraine-moi! nous courrons a ta suite!
And now, they're laughing heartily at our terrible accents, but that's just the best way to start a party: with really happy laughter! So no worries, and when you find yourself worrying despite everyone's advice not to, then try our new party trick and say as often as you need to (and with laughter):
"Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice!"
And then smile and open a window, because the room is filling with Saints and sinners-turning-into-Saints as well as roses, and we wouldn't want the sweet fragrance of all these gorgeous flowers to overwhelm us!
"Let not your heart be troubled . . . Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You have heard Me say, 'I go away and I am coming to you.'" (Jn 14)
I'm having a little debate with myself. It is 3 a.m., an excellent time for a debate, except that usually no one else is awake, so one must have these debates interiorly, quietly, alone.
For me these debates, or conversations if you will, start with a discussion about whether or not we (the royal "we") will go back to sleep. I always think this is a good idea, but often some part of me (the other component of the "we") disagrees. I try not to allow argument over the point, and the other part of me agrees. "Let's just get up!" she says. And so, here we are.
Actually it was about 2:40 a.m. when we woke tonight (or this morning, I guess I should say). After the initial little tete a tete about whether we were sleeping or waking - and you know how that ended - we had a conversation about upcoming events, our to-do list, and what we should read. After a short tussle with a kindle, Marcel won. Praise God!
Which leads me to my current debate, the one that started just before I began writing, and just after I realized that Jesus in Conversations was saying the same thing He'd said in St. John's Gospel. Or was He?
Before I give you the impression that this interior debate is a pitched battle, let me say that my question is both friendly and happy. I'm sure that in Conversations Jesus is saying at least the same thing as He said in St. John's Gospel, but I'm wondering if He's returning to us through Marcel in order simply to expand what He said, or to add more to it.
In particular, I'm thinking of the conversation He had with the apostles at the Last Supper, and the conversation He had with Marcel on April 7, 1946, Passion Sunday that year, the Sunday before Palm Sunday in the liturgical calendar of the time. And as I pose the question whether Jesus is merely repeating Himself to Marcel (with slight embellishments) or taking the opportunity to cover more ground, I love that my question follows hard on the heels of the statement (just made in the last paragraph), "I'm sure that in Conversations Jesus is saying at least the same thing as He said in St. John's Gospel." What a gift, for Jesus to repeat Himself to us through the priceless treasure of His words to Marcel
I ran across the most interesting conjunction a couple of days ago. I have a little google elf (or several - they all look alike so it's hard to tell whether he is one or they are many) who spends a good portion of his time scouring the internet for references to me or my books and reports back to my inbox with "Google alerts." On Friday I got one such alert that referred me to a Catholic column at the website of an esteemed Catholic newspaper, which column recommended blog posts around the internet that the author deemed worthy of the readers' attention.
Interestingly, it wasn't Miss Marcel's Musings that brought my name into that column, but rather my August 9th article on Edith Stein at Catholic Exchange. What a lovely thing to have that noted and recommended. Thank You, Jesus! (No, He didn't write the column, but He and the Father must've sent the Holy Spirit to alert the author who recommended my article. The google elves are clever, but not that clever.)
What was of even more interest to me, however, since I'd already read my article, was another recommended article, a recent column by Peter Kwasniewski (fellow alum of Thomas Aquinas College, philosopher, author, and teacher whom I've never met, but have heard of repeatedly for he always seems to be up to very good things) about Angelico Press' new multi-volume edition of Anne Catherine Emmerich's revelations, and in particular the volume on the Blessed Sacrament.
While his quotations from this book were awe inspiring (and prompted me to go to Mass on Friday not only to receive Jesus in Communion, but also so I could offer the Mass to the Heavenly Father), what especially fascinated me were Peter's comments on private revelation. Apparently there had been heated comments in response to a previous post of his, comments which began, perhaps, as cautions against erroneous and false purported revelations, but which progressed to disrespectful dismissal of seemingly all private revelations. Peter, God bless him, began the piece that I read with a defense of the Church's rich tradition of mysticism and private revelation (and mentioned, in passing, that in Jesus' appearances to St. Gertrude the Great, He'd put many rings on her fingers, a fact previously unknown to me but one which brought me great pleasure, since I love jewelry and its symbolic meaning, and lately, especially, rings).
Naturally I was quite grateful to Peter K. for his passionate and thoughtful (if brief) defense of private revelation, because I find myself rather smitten with a certain private revelation (or revelations, depending on whether you count them in a group or singly) to our little brother, the Servant of God Marcel Van.
And it got me thinking about how one knows the authenticity (or inauthenticity) of a private revelation. Which question is not worrying me at 3 a.m. because I have two really good answers right off the top of my oddly brunette head (though I'm about to sound smart, so I guess that's more appropriate than that my blonde soul should shine through).
The first and most reliable way to know the authenticity or inauthenticity of a private revelation is to listen to the voice of Christ speaking through His Church.
Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave a wonderful explanation of private revelation (what it is, how it works, what it should do, what it does not do, etc.) in the beginning of his Theological Commentary on the third secret of Fatima, which commentary I have in a truly marvelous book called The Last Secret of Fatima (the very book which led me to fall in love with, one after another, Lucia, Jacinta, Francisco, and Our Lady of Fatima herself), but you can find the commentary HERE. (Click HERE to be magically transported to the Vatican website. Scroll half way down the webpage to get to the theological commentary - though it's all interesting. Talk about excitement and adventure!)
The second way to know whether a private revelation is the real thing or a bunch of hooey is to call upon your sixth sense, your sensus fidei, perk up your little lamb ears, and see if you recognize the Good Shepherd's voice.
In the case of our little brother Marcel's Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese, you'll be happy (and I hope unsurprised) to hear that Marcel and his Heavenly visitors pass both tests with flying colors.
I have often recalled the wise counsel, regarding discernment of vocations, that one needs not only an interior conviction of having heard Christ's call, but an exterior confirmation that comes more directly from the Church. So if, for instance, one felt called to enter a particular religious order, the acceptance by a community would be necessary in addition to one's own desire to join. Similarly, I remember when in October of 1987 I felt the strong interior conviction that I was supposed to marry the handsome and tall Tony Andres, I also felt strongly that I needed some exterior confirmation - namely his matching conviction that he was supposed to marry me!
So, too, in this question of the authenticity of private revelation, I'd say that our own discernment and recognition of Christ's (or Mary's, or a Saint's) voice is important, but certainly trumped - sealed and ratified or discounted and rectified - by the Church's recognition of her Divine Bridegroom's voice (or, contrarily, her identification of an impostor).
When it comes to Marcel's Conversations, I don't know which I love more: Marcel's title of Servant of God and his letter of introduction to us by a Prince of the Church, Cardinal Schonborn, or the familiar and beloved voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, ringing out from page after page.
Actually, I know which I love more: I love, love, love Jesus' voice most of all . . . but I cannot separate His voice from the voice of His Bride, the Church, and so I love (and need) too her commendations of Marcel and his writings.
Resting safe and secure in these commendations, I feel like a bride myself, the bride in the Song of Songs:
"I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil. I heard my lover knocking: 'Open to me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one!"
Well, okay, I don't usually feel like the perfect one, but I do hear Jesus knocking. Sometimes I think that's what wakes me up around 2:40 a.m., and thankfully I have an easier time finding Him than the bride in the Song who has to rise, put on her robe, undo the lock, open the door only to discover He's already gone, then seek Him without finding Him, call Him without hearing a response, go out into the city, and wrassle with the watchmen! Phew! She has a very rough time of it.
God knows I am a little soul, and He is merciful.
For me, finding Jesus is as simple as opening the door (or cover) to Marcel's Conversations, and there is my Beloved, every time, right there waiting for me.
Take this morning, for instance.
I woke, couldn't return to sleep, began to be troubled, heard that familiar knocking, and opened Conversations, from the pages of which Jesus began to speak to me silently but so truly at (385), saying to me (and to you, I have no doubt) these words He said first to Marcel:
How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed; and you still have this defect. Come, little brother, since you do not wish to cause Me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you? I tell you that I am happy with all that you do; why do you not believe what I say? All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to Me already. All that is My property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . . Little brother, remain tranquil. I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother. Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard, has he not said these very true words to you: "Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Little brother, if after that you will trouble yourself, it is certain that Mary will be very hurt. Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me. But since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness? Marcel, there is in you only this tendency to worry, which makes Me fear for the future. So, remain peaceful. All that you do belongs to Me. You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you.
Little Marcel, are you at peace now? . . . Very good. From now on, never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand? It is sufficient for you to love Me. We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . . you and I are both but one together. Do not worry, Mary is very happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, Marcel, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in Me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
What did your sister Therese teach you? You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours? . . . Little Marcel, love Me a lot.
The sighs of love that souls cause to rise towards Me are capable of stopping the enormous stones which are thrown at My Love; these sighs divert the arrows of sinners which target My heart . . . Oh! Marcel, the weak sighs of men prevent Me from dying, suffocated on this earth. From where does such power come? From the love within them. What happiness for Me to be able to frolic in the midst of these sighs! I feel very much at ease and completely at peace, no longer fearing being seen by My enemies or being pierced by their arrows . . .
Alas, little Marcel, they are still very rare on this earth, the places where I can rest. Today, little Marcel, pray for the expansion of the reign of My Love throughout the world; it is necessary that you bring to it your full attention. The summer holidays are coming. I want to have many well-ventilated villas to go and rest in them. So, Marcel look for a large number of villas for Me. And we, both of us, will be able to enjoy then; you have nothing to lose there . . .
However, Marcel, our main villa is the very heart of Mary where we will find all consolations; nevertheless, many other houses are necessary for us, so we may get more rest.
+ + +
How bold Jesus is to talk about rest when He has awakened me and kept me awake (though I'm beginning to feel sleepy again) until what's now 4:45 a.m.! Ah, but I would not prefer sleep to this colloquy with Him and you, dear reader. How good He is, how ineffably sweet, refusing to let us worry, insistent on repeating again and again the message He gave us at the Last Supper . . . Did you hear His familiar voice speaking so personally to you?
When He tells us through Marcel that we must not be troubled or afraid, the words resound in my heart with a familiar ring.
"Do not let your heart be troubled . . . Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid," He says to us through His words to the apostles in the 14th chapter of John's incomparable gospel. And then, directly after these words, "You have heard Me say, 'I go away, and I am coming to you.'"
Yes, Jesus! You have come back to us! You have returned to us when You visited Marcel and gave him those many words to write down on page after page so that his bearded Jesus, Fr. Boucher, could collect them, copy them, treasure them, guard them, send them ahead of himself from Vietnam to Canada for safekeeping, follow them, and slowly, carefully, painstakingly translate them into perfect French, and begin to disseminate them . . . so that Jack Keogan could, unaccountably but by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit of Love, offer to translate these pages upon pages from French into English before he had even set eyes upon them!
Oh Love, You stop at nothing to reassure us, in the middle of the night as in the noon of midday, through the writing of Your little apostle Marcel as through the writing of Your beloved apostle John. Your words are the same:
"Do not let your heart be troubled,"
"From now on, never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand?"
And when we forget and are re-troubled only 15 seconds (on a good day) after You last told us we must not trouble ourselves, You pretend to despair, gently teasing us, cheering us as You remind us, as often as we need to hear it, that there is nothing to fear:
"You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew."
Indeed, Jesus, what happiness can be compared to ours? You are so kind to us. You are truly our Good Shepherd, and oh, how we love to hear Your gentle voice! Thank You for speaking to us in the Gospels. Thank You for repeating Yourself endlessly to us in Your words to Marcel. Oh Jesus, let our sighs comfort You. We are capable of so little, but we are good at sighing! Thank You for making it so easy for us to love and console You. Let us be Your little villas. Let us rest with You and Marcel in the main villa of Mary's Immaculate Heart where we will find, with You, all consolations, but then, so that you can get more rest, let us be other villas for You and Marcel.
And now, allowing bygones to be bygones and forgetting the questions and debates of the wee hours, I think I'll go back to sleep, God willing. It is enough for me to know, just for a moment, just for an hour, that Jesus doesn't want me to worry. Nor you, either!
Despite my lamentable lack of confidence in most areas, I am fully confident that I will forget, quite soon, that He doesn't want me to worry (and I suspect you may resemble me and Marcel in this regard) . . . No matter. It is even so much the better, since what we have forgotten, Jesus is always here to remind us of and thus we can continually learn the lesson anew. Let us love Him a lot, and let's join Marcel in praying for the expansion of His reign of Love throughout the world. For simple souls, there must be no complicated ways, so as His little spouses, we can simply pray together:
Draw me; we will run!
As I write, it is the Vigil of the Coronation of Our Lady. Here she is, pictured above pouring roses into dear Juan Diego's tilma (his Indian cape or cloak). She surely looks more like a mom than a queen, doesn't she? That was St. Therese's insight, and one that Marcel shared. I must admit I share their enthusiasm too!
The truth is that I've been wanting to share a great quote from St. Therese - the very words in which she explains how she feels about Mary. When I went to find it, she (Therese) gave me the run around, and I had fun tracing her admirers' trails. The first book I looked in had the quote I wanted, but sent me to another book for the reference (that is, the source in Therese). The second book sent me to a book I don't have - Novissima Verba - but don't worry, I have something better. Novissima Verba was Mother Agnes' selection of some of Therese's last conversations. It was published in English in the 1920's not long after Therese was canonized. Mother Agnes (Therese's sometimes Mother Superior and always big sister) was definitely more mother than queen, and she wanted to nourish those who loved Therese, but she also wanted to guard the confidences that might embarrass others who were still living.
It was only in the 1970's, then, that ALL of Therese's last words - months and months of every last word! - were published in their complete form, first in French, and not too long after, in English (thank you, my dear Carmelite brother, Father John Clarke, for your translations of Therese!) under the title St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations.
Well what do you think? The second book, the one that referred me to the source, told me that I should look at the dates August 20 and August 23 (1897) to find the words I was looking for in our sister's Last Conversations. I was excited to realize that meant that the very words I was looking for were uttered by Therese right around today! Except there was a mistake, and I didn't find the words on August 20 or 23. Which leads me to bad news and good news.
The bad news first - to get it over with - is that Therese didn't say these words near today.
The good news? She said the words I was looking for, the words that have been rattling around my mind so I could share them with you for this Feast of Our Lady's Coronation - today! Today as I write it is the anniversary of these last words being uttered by our sister (and Marcel's sister) little Therese! And so, I think it's safe to say that she and Marcel really, really, really want us to hear them! Which is why this is going to be a short but sweet post: so that I can give you dear Therese's (and Marcel's) thoughts on Our Lady, on the very day that Therese expressed them and her sister Mother Agnes wrote them down . . .
From Therese's Last Conversations, August 21, 1897:
How I would have loved to be a priest in order to preach about the Blessed Virgin! One sermon would be sufficient to say everything I think about this subject.
I'd first make people understand how little is known by us about her life.
We shouldn't say unlikely things or things we don't know anything about! For example, that when she was very little, at the age of three, the Blessed Virgin went up to the Temple to offer herself to God, burning with sentiments of love and extraordinary fervor. While perhaps she went there very simply out of obedience to her parents.
Again, why say, with reference to the aged Simeon's prophetic words, that the Blessed Virgin had the Passion of Jesus constantly before her mind from that moment onward? "And a sword will pierce through your soul also," the old man said. It wasn't for the present, you see, little Mother; it was a general prediction for the future.
For a sermon on the Blessed Virgin to please me and do me any good. I must see her real life, not her imagined life. I'm sure that her real life was very simple. They show her to us as unapproachable, but they should present her as imitable, bringing out her virtues, saying that she lived by faith just like ourselves, giving proofs of this from the Gospel, where we read: "And they did not understand the words which He spoke to them." And that other no less mysterious statement: "His father and mother marveled at what was said about Him." This admiration presupposes a certain surprise, don't you think so, little Mother?
We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of heaven and earth, but she is more Mother than Queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all the saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children's glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she'll increase the splendor of the elect very much.
It's good to speak about her prerogatives, but we should not stop at this, and if, in a sermon, we are obliged from beginning to end to exclaim and say: Ah! Ah!, we would grow tired! Who knows whether some soul would not reach the point of feeling a certain estrangement from a creature so superior and would not say: If things are such, it's better to go and shine as well as one is able in some little corner!
What the Blessed Virgin has more than we have is the privilege of not being able to sin, she was exempt from the stain of original sin; but on the other hand, she wasn't as fortunate as we are, since she didn't have a Blessed Virgin to love. And this is one more sweetness for us and one less sweetness for her!
Finally, in my poem: Porquoi je t'aime, O Marie (Why I love you, O Mary), I have said everything I would preach about her.
+ + +
And now, if this were going to be a long post, I'd copy out Therese's poem, but I promised to be short and sweet . . .
And if this were going to be a longer post (even longer than the long one that included the poem), I would copy out a passage or three (or a dozen) in which Our dear Lady, Our Blessed Virgin who is more Mother than Queen, tells Marcel a thing or two that exactly reflects the truths Therese suspected about her - that her faith and her simplicity, her nearness and dearness, her maternal love and her approachability far surpass her prerogatives (great as these latter are). But then we'd be even less short, if far more sweet!
Instead I'm going to promise (in hope and trust in God's mercy and future fun) to post again soon with some of these delights. But for now, I'm going to leave you with a link.
I heard recently the most wonderful news. That thanks to our previous post (just below this one, and on the Vigil of Our Lady's Assumption), our own beloved Jack Keogan, translator of Marcel into English, learned for the first time about our own beloved St. Juan Diego. I forget that we in America - especially those of us living nearer to Mexico - are spoiled with a familiarity and proximity to Our Lady of Guadalupe that is not so enjoyed by those farther afield.
And so, my link is to an article I wrote a few years ago called With St. Juan Diego to the Merciful Mother. There it is! By some crazy internet magic, you can click on that title and VOILA! You'll be there at the article, falling in love even more with Our Lady, who is so much more Mother than Queen! I am sure she will be happy to reassure us there (as here) with her wonderful words of compassion and love, and I'm sure too that she'll be happy to pray with us (just before we click on that link and leave this page):
Draw me; we will run!
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