Tomorrow is Marcel's birthday, March 15th. But in Marcel's world, children are the ones who rule (little Jesus being King), and you know how children look forward to their birthdays. I know some adults who look forward to their birthdays too (not to name names, but Miss Marcel is one such!), and speaking for myself, I just can't wait another day! Perhaps Marcel feels the same, so I thought I'd start his celebration just a smidge early. If, by the time you read this post, it is past March 15th, we can extend his birthday too. Anticipate, extend -- these are good customs when it comes to birthdays! I like to think of it as the birthday novena, the birthday triduum and/or the birthday octave, depending on how much celebration you can pull off. Since Marcel is in Heaven where the party never ends, I'm thinking all three will be fine with him!
But wait! Do the Vietnamese celebrate birthdays? Being curious and having access to Google (a winning combination), I have just discovered that they do - and according to quora.com, we're just in time to celebrate with Marcel because:
"Traditionally Vietnamese host parties on the date of birth for the elderly in the family, we call it 'mung tho' (to celebrate their longevity)."
This March 15th (2018) is Marcel's 90th birthday. I'd call that longevity! Although it's hard for me to picture Marcel as an old man . . . I even looked in St. Thomas' Summa Theologiae this morning to confirm what I'd heard - and sure enough, St. Thomas would put Marcel's age now at 33. This is from the Third Part of the Summa, Question 46 (On the Passion of Christ), article 9 (Whether Christ suffered at a suitable time). Good Lenten reading, though I must admit I had to blow the dust off the book. My husband has been reading Volume I of the Summa at breakfast (this is the kind of thing Catholic philosophers do), but I'm a girl in a hurry so I skipped ahead . . .and found that here, St. Thomas replies thus to the 4th objection (I know, you're thinking this is the boring part of the blog - but no, it's actually pretty amazing - see what you think) -
"Christ willed to suffer while yet young, for three reasons. First of all, to commend the more His love by giving up His life for us when He was in His most perfect state of life. Secondly, because it was not becoming for Him to show any decay of nature nor to be subject to disease, as stated above (III:14:4). Thirdly, that by dying and rising at an early age Christ might exhibit beforehand in His own person the future condition of those who rise again. Hence it is written (Ephesians 4:13): "Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."
I'm sure I've heard and read that last quote, from Ephesians, many times, but I never realized there was a way of taking it literally! What would we do without the Doctors of the Church to open the full meaning of God's Word to us?
Considering Marcel left this exile ("died" as we commonly say, but we know he was just passing through to Real Life) at age 31, he got pretty close to being a perfect man of 33. And now, according to the Common Doctor, he's there at perfect manhood forever, so let's all raise a glass in honor of his union (at last!) with his True Love, the Perfect Man, the Spouse of our Souls, Jesus.
Hip, hip hooray! Happy birthday Marcel!
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
So, a man walks into a bar . . .
I know, I know, it doesn't seem like the kind of story these girls are busy with in Renoir's painting, but bear with me. We'll get back to the girls soon enough.
As I was saying, a man walks into a bar. It's early afternoon, no other customers cluttering up the joint. The bartender's polishing the counter but pauses to ask the man what he'll have.
"Scotch on the rocks, please."
The phone rings at the other end of the bar, and the bartender excuses himself to answer it.
"Nice haircut," the man hears.
He looks about him, startled. No one's come in; the bartender's on the phone. Weird.
"And I like your tie."
He swirls around to see who's crept up on him. Not a soul is there. Bizarre.
"Is the jacket new? Because it's really an excellent fit - looks like it was made for you."
The man doesn't even bother looking around, just rubs his eyes and then looks desperately toward the bartender, who's approaching with his drink.
"Did you say something?" he asks hopefully. He takes the glass and swallows half the contents in a gulp (he leaves the ice).
The bartender shakes his head. "Not me."
"Well that's the darndest thing. I come in and order my drink. You walk away and I hear someone tell me I have a nice haircut. Then he likes my tie, and just before you come back, I hear my jacket's tailor made, fits like a glove or some such, but you can see for yourself there's no one in the place. I think I need another drink."
"Relax," says the bartender. He points to the bowl on the bar in front of the man. "It's the peanuts. They're complimentary."
+ + +
Okay, I'm laughing (I get a kick out of those peanuts every time!) and Marcel and Jesus are laughing too, but I'm not sure if it's just because they think the joke is funny (they've heard it before) or because they think it's funny that I'm telling it here. No matter, as long as I've got them laughing, we can relax (it's the peanuts, they're complimentary! Okay, I'm laughing again!)
I haven't counted lately, but I'd say there are at least 1,000 books in my house. Four of them, right next to my bed, are Marcel's books, but of them all, the one I reach for first thing in the morning and replace beside me last thing at night is Conversations. Kind of like the peanuts joke, it doesn't get old, always makes me smile, and often even gets me laughing out loud.
So this morning I was reading Conversations, and I came across Jesus saying, "Marcel, I love you dearly, I am very pleased with you. These little stories please me, they even make me forget my sadness and they will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind." (396)
Guess what little story Marcel was telling Jesus?
No, it wasn't the peanut story!
But, oddly enough, what Marcel was telling Jesus didn't look anything at all like a story to me.
See what you think. Here's what came just before Jesus' words about Marcel's little stories pleasing Him:
Marcel: Alas! Little Jesus, all You know how to do is to speak. [Jesus had just given an explanation in answer to a question Marcel asked.] In such heat, to oblige me to close my door and write, who would be able to put up with that? To allow me to do the work carefully that You ask, You should pay attention so that air comes into my room to refresh me a little; without that Your work will be delayed. You can take it or leave it.
I feel a little like the man in the bar. Did Marcel really just tell Jesus that He could take it or leave it? Unless it's the translation (just kidding, Jack!), I don't see any alternative but to start laughing. Which, I might add, I am doing again.
Marcel, I love you!!!
Who else would talk to Jesus this way? And get the response Our Lord and Savior gives you?
For here is what comes next:
Jesus: Marcel, what good is that going to do? The fanlight being open, the air can get into your room. And when it is a little too warm you will be able to offer me this sacrifice, without fear of any harm to yourself; and by this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire...
Marcel, do not complain. Try to smile a little. Do not be afraid of perspiring; nevertheless, I see you look tired. That is sufficient, rest yourself. [And here comes what I quoted at the outset.] Marcel, I love you dearly, I am very pleased with you. These little stories please me, they even make me forget my sadness and they will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind.
Have I told you that my husband is a philosopher? He (and this goes for me too, though I am not a philosopher exactly) loves St. Thomas Aquinas and counts himself one of St. Thomas' disciples. St. Thomas is amazing because he commented on many books of Sacred Scripture, many books of Aristotle, and also managed to write huge tomes like the Summa Theologiae. Add to this the many, many commentaries on St. Thomas' writings (my husband's favorites are by Sylvester Maurus, for the record), and a disciple of St. Thomas is kept quite busy merely hoping to get through a fraction of the Angelic Doctor's recorded wisdom.
I bring all this up because while I don't think Marcel will be named a Doctor of the Church any time soon (for one thing, he needs to be beatified and canonized first!), I can think of no greater "philosophical" work for my life than spending the rest of my days writing commentaries on Marcel's Conversations. Take the section I've just quoted. I need to comment on what kind of little story Marcel was telling - this is imperative, because Jesus says "These little stories . . . will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind." But before I even get to that, I must comment first on this other word of Jesus (from those quoted above):
"And when it is a little too warm you will be able to offer me this sacrifice, without fear of any harm to yourself; and by this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire . . . "
Speaking of the weather, I don't know about you, but here's my take on it. Occasionally, it's just perfect. Heavenly. You know, like it will be in Heaven. The rest of the time, the weather falls into two categories. It's either too hot, or too cold. When it's too cold, I complain (at least to myself) and can't wait for the weather to change. Which it will do sooner or later -- most often into weather that's too hot! And I live in one of the most perfect places (weather wise) on the face of the earth!
But here is the great news! There is nothing niggly or small, mean or thrifty about Jesus!
If someone suggested to you that we could offer up the discomfort caused by the weather, after you rolled your eyes (why is it so unhelpful to hear "Offer it up"?), wouldn't you figure it was actually a pretty good idea because by doing so you could help Jesus save a soul? (Or maybe you'd think you could help save a soul if someone offering up a chemo treatment helped too.)
I think that's about our usual estimate -- offer up my paper cut and I've helped Jesus save 1/15th of a soul.
That's our estimate.
According to Jesus, as He says to Marcel (and remember: what He says to Marcel, He says to us),
"By this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire . . . "
This is truly a conversation for our time!
We live in the "super size it" era. That's not a problem for Jesus!
Let's go, He says. Let's do it! I know how little you are. Don't worry, I'm God. Give me your frustration with the weather and I will save a great number of souls!
Actually He said "you will save a great number of souls." Isn't that just like Him? I love that. As Marcel's big sister said, He cannot be outdone in generosity.
But let's get back to Marcel's little story. Did you see a little story in there? At first I didn't, and then I realized that Marcel's complaint about the heat - that's his little story. That's the kind of story Jesus is happy to hear from us. He's told us before through Marcel, but like Marcel we may have forgotten. The deal is, He's interested in everything that concerns us. For many of us (most of us?) what concerns us from minute to minute is often nothing more nor less than the current annoyance that threatens to unhinge us. Why not tell Jesus about it instead of just mumbling to ourselves? He actually wants to hear it!
Which brings me to the darling Renoir girls at the top of this post.
One of them is looking at the picture in the book, waiting for the other to keep reading (or turn the page). The other is looking out, kind of dazed. I think she's wondering how in the world I'm going to tie her into my story.
Well, little girl, it's like this. You have such beautiful hair. And so does the girl sitting beside you. I used to have beautiful hair too, though I don't any more . . .
And thank heavens I don't just now. The lack of it (not hair - it's not that bad, I definitely still have hair, but the lack of beautiful hair) is what gave me the key to unlock Marcel's little story here.
You see, on Ash Wednesday I was kind of naughty. Not like eating a steak naughty, but like going to get a haircut at a nice hair salon naughty. I knew it was a day of penance, but I figured why not cheer everyone up and get a haircut? The young woman who cut my hair seemed to think it was a good idea, and she spent quite some time asking me just what I wanted and attempting to understand the amount of time I would be spending on my hair "styling it" after she cut it. I tried to use plain and simple words. "None" is the word I remember using to describe the time I want to spend and will spend "fixing" my hair. I mean I will definitely wash it when need be, and brush it into a pony tail before I face the day. I will even brush it into a new pony tail in the middle of the day, just to do my best to look as pretty as I can.
There was no language barrier, and yet perhaps she thought I was joking. Anyhow, we agreed that she shouldn't cut it too short for a pony tail. And then she went to work. She cut and cut, and then she dried my hair and cut it some more. She asked if I minded. Not at all. We were both having a good time using our talents - she was very talented at cutting and styling hair, I discovered, and I am very good at sitting in a chair while someone cuts and styles my hair. It didn't occur to me that the very cute me which was the result of her efforts might require her daily ministrations to keep up the level of cuteness.
My husband (who is kind enough to always think I look beautiful) was surprised, but in a good way. He, too, thought the new look was quite cute. Reminiscent, he thought, of Marlo Thomas in "That Girl." It wasn't very penitential of me, but we were all smiling, and Jesus had said in the Gospel that we're not supposed to look like we're fasting.
Can you guess the sequel?
However long one puts off washing her hair after it's been styled with such loving care by a professional, the time does come eventually.
And then, another surprise!
Jesus can fix everything, and what was not penitential at the outset, did, with just one quarter sized dollop of shampoo, become more fitting to the season when the time came.
This morning, after reading Marcel, as I was yet again attempting to figure out a way to
a. be presentable in public
b. not spend the morning "styling" my hair,
I realized that I had a little story to tell Jesus! We both thought it was very funny. Unlike Marcel, if I am too hot, I can usually turn on the a/c instead of perspiring. But also unlike Marcel, there is this little matter of my hair flipping the wrong direction, refusing to sit quietly in a pony tail, and generally threatening to take up all my time. (Oh, and I don't think I mentioned that despite the hairdresser's best efforts to determine my personal needs and desires, the result of her work was a haircut that was exactly like hers! If I took the requisite time to style it, you could tell it was just like hers; as it is, you'll have to take my word for it.)
Suffice it to say that I am offering up this sacrifice without fear of any harm to myself, and by this little sacrifice I can save a great number of souls from eternal fire -- that's what Jesus said to Marcel and me this morning, and He never lies!
So, the moral of this post is three-fold, in honor of the Trinity.
1. Don't get your hair cut on Ash Wednesday and expect it not to be, ultimately, penitential.
2. Do tell Jesus every little story that you can. (Annoyances, pet peeves, and bad weather fit the bill, so it's unlikely you'll run out of material.)
3. Rest assured that Jesus loves you dearly. He is very pleased with you, and your little stories please Him too, making Him forget His sadness. Can you think of anything more wonderful?
Jesus put Marcel to all that work, writing in the heat, just to get the message to us. Now that we've sorted it out, they're both hoping to hear from our little souls "a number of other little stories of the same kind." What better work for Lent than to make our Jesus forget His sadness? If all else fails, tell Him the peanut joke. That one really cracks Him up!
So you are here - you have found Marcel! Congratulations! If you scroll down, you will find more Marcel . . . and I have been loathe to write a new post because I love so much what Jesus says to Marcel in the next post down:
"All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future -- know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls. You see by this that I communicate with all of them. And if, like you, they are sincere in their relationship with Me, then I am speaking also to them. It is not necessary that you understand this." (58)
And I especially love Jesus' admonition (to us too, since He just reminded us that all His words to Marcel are words to us too!),
"Do not worry any more, ever."
He really means it, and I hate to change the subject, because we need to hear it over and over again. Well, don't worry (really!) even about this seeming change of subject - I'll be sure to get back to Jesus' sweet and gentle commands to us (through Marcel) at the end of this post.
First, though, I must carry out my mission . . . I know, that sounds fancy. I don't know if I knew I had a mission until I just wrote that! Wow, the Holy Spirit is right here, supplying the words, and He's surprising even me! But in simple language (since we are simple souls here at Miss Marcel's Musings), my mission is to give you more Marcel. Thus I can't stop with what I have already written, but must forge ahead with More Marcel. And lest we all think this is too heavy a burden for such a little one as myself, I have two solutions.
First, did you know that the ant can carry 5000 times its weight?
Really! I got this quote from Nature World News (and they wouldn't lie!) -
"The ability of worker ants to carry many times their own body weight is well documented, but new research on heavy-lifting ants reveals that the neck joint of a common American field ant can withstand pressures up to 5,000 times greater than its own body weight."
I'm not going to tell you my weight (I don't know it actually!), but I will say that I'm so glad we are embarked on the very little way of Marcel. As Miss Marcel, I often feel smaller than an ant, and I am American, and when it comes to writing about Marcel, I'm fine with heavy-lifting. So don't worry, it's my pleasure to keep more Marcel coming your way here.
But wait, there's more!
In the last 24 hours I've come across a second solution to the fulfillment of my mission and the fulfillment of the growing need we all have for more Marcel. And it's such a great solution that it doesn't just bring you more Marcel....it brings Much More Marcel right to you, almost instantly. (It would be actually instantly if I got to the point, but what's a great punch line without a build up?)
It turns out that although at first glance Marcel seems unknown, in fact there are others besides Miss Marcel who are smitten with him, befriended by him, and quite faithful friends of his in their own right . . .After all, those four published volumes I keep talking about did not appear solely through the work of Marcel's bearded Jesus (Fr. Boucher, pictured above). No, there were other friends involved. Some are in France, and at least one is in England. And now, thanks to my wildly expanding techno-expertise (and the help of a friend of mine and Marcel's who lives in my corner of Marcel's world), I have links to these far-flung friends (far from California where I live, but very, very close to Marcel) over to the right, in the sidebar under my Author blurb, and just under their own More Marcel heading. Can you guess which link leads you to England, and which to France?
No, don't go meet these new friends just yet!
Let me introduce them here, and then you can jump the pond and visit England, and cross the Channel and stop over in France. Marcel is waiting for you in both places, and I promise to keep my intro as brief as I can so you can (almost instantly) go meet his very dear and trés bon friends, those who have known him and loved him and sung about him for much longer than this common American field ant! Ready for the intros?
The Marcel Van Association is the work of Jack Keogan, translator of Marcel's works into English.
Les Amis de Van is the website of the group by the same name whose mission is (hold onto your chapeau, this is amazing!) to promote Marcel and advance his Cause for Beatification. They also sponsor Vietnamese seminarians, publish the life and writings of Marcel in various languages, and in short, they are his trés chers amis. Why haven't I told you about them earlier? You will be shocked by the answer.
Can we keep this just between us?
(Okay, shhhh. I'll tell you my little secret . . . but in parentheses so it goes no further. Believe it or not, Miss Marcel doesn't know French! And since the Amis de Van website is in French, well, it seemed like a closed book to those of us who have English as a first language and are working on English as our second language too! Why it didn't occur to me to use Google's handy "translate this page" feature I cannot tell you! Ants don't always think of these things - at least not the heavy-lifting ones.)
And on a more logical note, it wouldn't have made sense to give you more Marcel, let alone Much More Marcel, before I'd given you some Marcel.
There, now that the intro and explanations are over, you are almost free to click over and find much, much more Marcel in England and France. What's left? Two things . . .
1. I promised you another word from Jesus to us through Marcel, and I have one! Today I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Jesus at adoration. During my time before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, I asked Him to bless the devoted Amis of Marcel, and here is the word He gave me for you . . . Remember, every word He speaks to Marcel is for all of us as well! And today He says:
"Enough, Marcel, my little brother. Do not be sad, do you understand? From now on, no more worrying, all right? . . . " (507)
So that's it - no more worrying! No more sadness! He is God and He is taking care of everything!
2. Speaking of Les Amis de Van and their website, I had great news this week from a dear friend in Texas. Having met Marcel here, she wanted to get a hold of all his works. I did say Texas, right? They do things big there! And so she went directly to the boutique at Les Amis de Van and bought the 4 volumes for about $25 each, and using their one flat rate for shipping ($10), the books came quickly -- much more quickly than she expected, and I'm sure much, much more quickly than my first copy of Conversations came when I ordered it from a large American online .com bookseller for between $30 and $40! So here is the link to the store at Les Amis de Van, where you will find wonderful things at great prices - in short, much more Marcel that you can hold in your hands and take with you to your holy hour. All you have to do to get there is click HERE.
Oops, and one more very last thing . . . Marcel visited my alma mater, Thomas Aquinas College, this week. I'm so pleased he found another place to make yet more friends! If you want to see what his presence there looks like, you can click HERE.
And now, I will say Bon voyage! À bientôt!
My friend Maura has a beautiful piece on Catholic Exchange called "When Your Heart is Troubled and Afraid." (If you click on the title of her article, you'll be there!) Guess what she said? Among other wonderful things, she quoted Our Lady's words to Marcel when Mary advised him to offer his worries as so many sacrifices to little Jesus - and then be at peace. Yay, Maura! Yay, Marcel! Yay, Blessed Mother! Could there be any more perfect advice?
Thanks to Maura's mention of Marcel, I received an invitation from the editor at Catholic Exchange. I've written for CE before, and he wondered if sometime I might like to write something about our dear little brother for them. Would I? O happy day! I love writing for CE, and I had a piece in the works, so I didn't waste a moment but polished it up, finished it off, and sent it in. When it appears, you can click HERE and see what I said.
Meanwhile, wouldn't you know that soon after I sent that piece in, I realized there was SO MUCH I hadn't said. It surely is a valley of tears! I was sad thinking of what I'd left out, but then I cheered right up when I remembered I had another place to write about Marcel, a place where I could remedy my omissions to my heart's content. That would be here at Miss Marcel's Musings. And so, for the record, here's what I forgot to say . . .
First and foremost, I forgot to say what Jesus told Marcel on November 4, 1945. Like Marcel, I forget a lot, and so I am constantly struck anew by the amazing things Jesus says to him. This particular sentence, though, is one I want to tattoo on my forearm. Well okay, I don't actually want to tattoo anything on myself, but if I did, this would be high on the list because it's spectacular and worth re-reading every couple of hours. For Jesus, He who cannot deceive nor be deceived, told Marcel that day:
"All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future -- know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls. You see by this that I communicate with all of them. And if, like you, they are sincere in their relationship with Me, then I am speaking also to them. It is not necessary that you understand this." (58)
What blessings! What treasures! Every word that Jesus speaks to Marcel in Conversations is meant for us too! And that would include some words I need to hear so often that it's a good thing I have two forearms - thus leaving me another one on which to tattoo something else I forgot to say in the CE article, namely what Jesus said to Marcel (and hence to us) on April 13, 1946. I think these may be my absolute favorite words of all time, and to know Jesus meant them for us as well as for Marcel has me wanting to sing them from the rooftops. Or better yet, broadcast them during the Super Bowl! Or best of all, simply share them online where, God willing, they may remain until the Last Day when, suddenly, like everything else, the Internet appears for the small potatoes it really is. But enough of my blathering. Are you ready for my favorite words? They come on (437) in Conversations when Jesus tells Marcel and us:
"Do not worry any more, ever."
That's it. That's the whole shebang.
Not that this is news, exactly. After all, Jesus said the same thing, more or less, the night before He died, as Maura points out in her article. He tells us not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid. He says it twice, and you can read it for yourself in John 14. What I've learned from Conversations as well as from the Gospels is that Jesus does not hesitate to repeat Himself. Thank Heavens! Like Marcel, we forget what He's said. Or even when we remember (or hear it again), we can think it's too good to be true. And although I have no trouble taking what Jesus said in the Gospel as meant for me too, maybe you're thinking that when He said at the Last Supper, "Let not your hearts be troubled," and again a little later, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," perhaps He was just speaking to the Apostles.
Nice try! You know how it works. The Gospels (in fact the whole Old and New Testaments) are God's love letters to us. There's no chance that He didn't mean what He says there for us!
But we are not only forgetful, we are also very, very poor. Our intellects are darkened by the Fall (not to mention winter!) and we have all been wounded not only by original sin, but by the sins of men (including our own sins). We are just a mess! There seems to be sooooooo much to worry about. And some of us have done a good job convincing ourselves that if we don't worry, we'll be in trouble. Isn't worrying how we get things done? If I'm not preoccupied with getting that bill paid, or whatever is next on my "to do" list, won't it be left undone?
You'd think we didn't have guardian angels to remind us of our daily tasks, and of Jesus' words . . . but we do, so let's give ourselves a rest and believe what Our Savior came to tell us, first 2000 years ago, and more recently through our little brother Marcel.
"Do not worry any more, ever."
But not only that . . .
One of the many things I cherish about Conversations is that Jesus insisted Marcel write down what he said as well as what He said, so that we'd all know how He loves our little stories, our digressions, diversions, distractions, and whatever we want to tell Him. We're like the 6-year-old who, when the teacher has finished explaining her lesson and asks if anyone has a question, wildly waves a hand in order to say, "Teacher we have a hamster but this morning it wasn't in the cage and my brother said it escaped and . . . " So, too, Marcel with his comments and interruptions.
Here, after Jesus tells him (and us) "Do not worry any more, ever," I must report that Marcel stays quite focused, but again, I'm so grateful for his part in the conversation. I can relate especially to his first sentence . . .and then I love hearing what Jesus says in reply.
Marcel: I do not understand why, I wish not to be troubled yet I always am. Yesterday, Jesus with the ginger beard [a Redemptorist in their house] repeated to me what he had said the other day: 'When one has Mary for a true Mother, it is not appropriate to worry.' And after having heard these words my anxiety dissolved. Little Jesus, at such times, are you pleased with me?
Jesus: I am always pleased with you, because whatever concerns you in no way offends Me. However I have one fear; it is that if you worry excessively, you will end up being angry, even with Me, which would be very dangerous. That is why I tell you that it is not appropriate to trouble yourself. Besides, everybody repeats the same thing to you: your Mother Mary, your sister Therese and, if St. Alphonsus spoke to you, he would only tell you not to worry, since it is a useless thing to do and often even harmful. That is enough little brother, go and rest; the time is up. (438)
I hope everybody repeats the same thing to you too. But in case no one has lately, let me add my voice to Mother Mary's, St. Therese's, and St. Alphonsus' (who, surely if they spoke to you, would say the same thing!) -- Do not worry any more, ever!
If you need one more reason not to worry, I have the best one of all. Remember how Jesus told Marcel that every word He spoke to him was not just to Marcel, but to all souls? That means that He is telling you now, "I am always pleased with you, because whatever concerns you in no way offends Me."
I'd say that's a good reason not to worry any more, ever! But of course, you may not understand how this can be true, that Jesus is always pleased with you. I know it's hard to get, and so I add Jesus' words: "It is not necessary that you understand this." Not yet, anyhow.
In the meantime, why not ask Marcel to help? He's where he understands everything now, and never forgets any of it. I'm sure he'd be glad to teach you what Jesus was at such pains to convey through him to us.
These are the things I forgot to say in my CE article, but then again, there's only so much room in one article . . . and to be completely honest, I wish I could have quoted the whole of Conversations. Yes, I know, much, much too long for one article. More like a book, and it's been written, and I did recommend it, so I think I must take Jesus' words to heart: That is enough, little sister, go and rest, the time is up.
As I write, it is Ash Wednesday. And it is also Valentine's Day. If you're reading this and it is no longer Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday, you will still want to read on. Because unless you're reading this in 2030 (and I do like to think that my musings here are like instant deathless prose), we aren't out of the woods yet.
Ash Wednesday on Valentine's Day. Or, if you prefer, Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday. I don't remember that happening before, and although my memory is bad, just like Marcel's used to be, I think I would have remembered this. Unlike Marcel back in the day, I have Google to help me out (he had Jesus - a much better source, but hey, we do what we can), so I looked it up. Sure enough, the last time these two special days coincided was 20 years before I was born, so I'm not forgetting anything that happened in my lifetime at least. (I did think this crazy coincidence of dates would be too much to forget).
The year that last saw Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday was 1945, which is pretty amazing for three reasons.
First, it was in 1945 that Marcel started writing down his conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Thérèse.
Second, though that last conjunction of Heart Day and Ash Day was 73 years ago (correct me if I'm wrong - my math, like my memory, can be squishy), the previous two instances of the conjunction were in 1934 and 1923. In other words, the last three instances were each just 11 years apart.
Here I'd thought the aftermath of the first World War, the Great Depression, and World War II were a lot to live through, but people living through those years had the Ash-Heart Day thrice too! Poor darlings! And for some people I am lucky enough to know, this 2018 occurrence will be the third time in their life. (I know, it is absurd that the year is 2018. I feel like I'm living in the future, in sci-fi territory, though I always pictured we'd be in those polyester pantsuits the space-filled-future was supposed to feature so prominently). But wait, there is more . . .
The third reason it is amazing that 73 years have passed since the last Ash-Heart Day is that the next one will be in 2024, and the next again in 2029. In other words, Ash-Heart Days are starting to come fast and furious, our next being in 6 years, and the following only 5 years after that.
I think this calls for a policy. I mean if you don't have to worry about something for 73 years, you might just let it slide and call it a day. But if you know the situation will arise again practically tomorrow, and then yet again in what starts to feel like another blink of the eye, well, it's time to know where you stand.
Yes, you see, you can't get out of it. We have entered one of those divisive moments in history, a truly "there are two kinds of people in the world" sort of moment. Brace yourself, The question is coming. What do you think? Is the glass half empty? Or is it half full?
I know at first glance this glass is looking like we're not just half empty, we're down to the dregs. Darned if you do and darned if you don't, which is NOT a good way to start out Lent (with all those darns). But I'm feeling inspired, so let's try a double take.
I should warn you that I tend to look on the bright side of things, which can be annoying to innocent bystanders and once earned me the nickname (just for a moment, but how I have cherished it) of Polly-Suzanna. So, not surprisingly, I'm seeing this Ash-Heart Day as a win-win situation. I'd rather you did too, so that whichever camp you fall into, you'll be able to thank God for His Providential timing. Here's how it goes:
If you dread Ash Wednesday every year (or even just hate it once you're in - like the priest who told us in his homily that he never ate breakfast: didn't want it, wasn't hungry in the morning - except on Ash Wednesday when he always woke up absolutely ravenous), having it be Valentine's Day too could be a glass is half full kind of moment. I mean who's to say you can't have your one full meal at a five star restaurant with your best beloved?
On the other hand, if you usually dread Valentine's Day, whether because you're single, or because you're part of a pair, the other half of which has expectations (let's not dwell on this, girls. They're good men, just not as romantic as we are perhaps), well then what a perfect out! It's Ash Wednesday! Heaven forbid you should celebrate: you're wearing sackcloth and ashes, and those are never optimal attire in public places, as Jesus pointed out in today's Gospel.
But now that we've made everyone happy . . . okay, maybe not the other half of the anti-Valentine's Day contingent, and possibly not those who love both days and don't know how to split the difference . . .
Well we do need a policy, that's one thing we can agree on. (If you're a Meyers-Briggs "P", I know you don't think we need a policy, but Miss Marcel happens to be a "J".) As I said at the outset, we're not out of the woods yet, even at midnight when we're all biting into a steak sandwich (or is that just me?).
Enter Marcel. At last!
And Jesus! The reason for the season, as they say.
And with them, as always, St. Thérèse, the second Solomon, the one who has an answer for everything and it's even got an easy-to-remember name, if not an acronym.
What was it again?
Ah, yes, the Little Way - the way that turns everything upside down, that rolls the dice and comes out with 7's and 11's every time, the way that more effectively than any other takes lemons (us) and turns them into lemonade (saints), sans bitterness but with plenty of sweet.
If you've stuck with me till now, here comes the pay-off. I've got a plan for surviving these ubiquitous Ash-Heart Days, a plan inspired by Marcel and company, and it's nothing more nor less than a third alternative that makes all things new. Bears the signature of Jesus, you might say, He who is forever making all things new.
So here it is.
I don't think this Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday is a glass half full.
Nor is it a glass half empty.
It is nothing if not a glass overflowing.
You've heard of this glass. It's talked of in one of St. Thérèse's favorite psalms, the one we almost know by heart, despite ourselves and our poor memories. No, not Psalm 103; that's her other favorite. I mean the 23rd Psalm. You know, the Lord is my shepherd, and there is nothing I shall want. The thing is that after the still waters, and then the valley of death (don't worry, He's right there and we're fine), He sets a table for us, even in the sight of our enemies, and guess what? After He anoints our head with oil, then our cup overflows!
Okay, so today we were anointed with ashes. I won't say that's oil, but hopefully we've been baptized and even (we are so lucky!) confirmed - that was definitely an anointing with oil. And now, on this day which I'm betting the devil was looking forward to, a day on which he planned to watch our frustration, instead he had to watch the beauty of Ash Wednesday coming together with the beauty of Valentine's Day. Our cup overflows with not only the glory of these 40 days (or at least the beginning of them) but with the sweet elixir of the Lover and the Beloved.
You may not see the work of Marcel in this yet, and it's not your fault. I'm blathering on and on when what I really want to do is simply copy out some Marcel for you. This is from Conversations, and it helps me to remember that Lent is not a depressing season, but a chance to spend more time with our true Love, Jesus. How is that not wonderful? Actually I know how it can seem not wonderful - for those of us who are little, it seems scary! Penance? Yikes! But before we panic, let's read what Marcel, prince of the little ones, wrote to reassure us.
The year was 1946, just one past the last Ash-Heart Day. Marcel was in Lent and it had been full of ups and downs, but at (352), on April 3rd, he writes:
"Little Jesus, here we are now well into Lent and, lo and behold, you are sending me delights. It seems to me that acting so you are behaving against the spirit of the Church. Is that not the case little Jesus?"
And Jesus responds:
"Come, come, Marcel, you are speaking as if you do not know how to reflect. If you were to speak that way to someone who was about to do you a favor, the person would not be able to stop himself from scolding you. But I, far from scolding you, I still love to hear you speak in this way, since you do not intend to reproach me and, furthermore, it gives me an opportunity to make you understand something about grace. Marcel, listen carefully. In order to give grace to men, I do not need to wait for a particular season or to pay attention to the temperature because, in that case, there would be times when men would be deprived of the grace necessary for the life of their souls."
Ah, Jesus! You are so gentle, so dear, so kind and reassuring!
Truly the cup of Marcel's conversations overflows with Your goodness, and I wanted to pour more into this post than I have, but alas, even on a day of fasting, sooner or later one eats. Or at least we do at my house, and I am being called to the kitchen to fill my own family's cups to, if not overflowing, at least the brim.
I will stop here, then, and mention only, in conclusion, that Jesus is waiting to fill your cup. He is the Divine Host, He is the one who changes water into wine (a fitting hope for those who abstain from alcohol in Lent!), He is our tremendous Lover, the Spouse of our souls. May this Lent - starting on Valentine's Day - be your best ever by giving you Jesus in an intimacy you haven't yet tasted. He can do all things, even with such fragile vessels as we are. Let Him fill you - and thus, mysteriously, you will satiate His thirst.
Oh, and if you feel like you've heard from Marcel and Jesus, but wonder what Thérèse had to do with it, look up top at the photo. Those are for you, from her! Who says they don't celebrate Valentine's Day in Heaven? Or maybe she thought Ash Wednesday was the ideal time to shower you with roses. Either way, she hasn't forgotten her promises, and she hasn't forgotten you. Happy Ash-Heart Day!
My husband and I used to have an I Believe in Love apostolate. Before you gag at the sentimental sound of it, let me explain.
There's this magnificent book called I Believe in Love. I don't know much about the author except that he was a French priest who gave a retreat (perhaps many retreats) on the teachings of St. Therese, and this retreat was transcribed into a book, translated into English, and has been kept in print for more than forty years, most recently by Sophia Institute Press. And kept in print with good reason, for it is the best book on St. Therese that I know, and with very few exceptions an immediate hit with everyone who has the great good fortune to read it. Our apostolate, then, was simply to give out copies of I Believe in Love to as many people as we thought didn't have one already. Later this became a game I played with a dear friend who, unbeknownst to us, had been doing the same for some time herself. We joined forces, and it was exciting to see hearts opening up before Jesus' infinite love like so many flowers in the warm rays of the spring's welcome sun.
Then I found Marcel, and my first instinct was to start a Conversations apostolate.
Just as our I Believe in Love missionary work had included more than believing in love ourselves (in fact, it's sometimes easier to hand out books than to believe in Love - at least for a blonde soul like mine), so too my Conversations apostolate would include more than just talking. I thought I could give out copies of Conversations like we'd done for so many years with I Believe in Love.
Jesus, on the other hand, didn't think so, and His adorable will made itself known before I'd given away a single book.
Some years ago I came across a wonderful aid to identifying God's will. I found it in a 12-step book, and it's an acronym that sounds like a government agency though as far as I know, it isn't one. It's "ODAT", usually shorthand for One Day at a Time, but in this case it stood for Opportunity, Desire, Ability, and Time. The writer explained that if you want to know whether a particular project is God's will for you, start by asking whether you have all four of these, because the absence of any one will indicate that the work you have in mind is likely NOT God's will for you. I've found this a brilliant approach to discernment because it's so simple. And here was the perfect example of its clear application.
Upon consideration I realized that while I have the opportunity, and the desire, and the time to foist Marcel's Conversations on every person I love, alas, I do not have the ability. You see, when we first started giving out copies of I Believe in Love about 25 years ago, the book was small, the price was low, and we got a discount on our bulk orders from a bookseller friend. In more recent years, amazon.com's "I'm your best friend, call me Mr. Discount" policy and, when we went directly to the publisher, Sophia Institute Press' super cheap shipping made our apostolate do-able. Not necessarily in bulk, but hey, we'd already given out the book to most people we knew.
When it came to Conversations, however, Jesus had the perfect way to keep me from flooding the market. He merely made sure that He (and His mother and His dear Therese) had lots of conversations with Marcel, whom He repeatedly urged to write them down, and then, in spite of Marcel's extreme littleness (or rather, as He often explains, because of it), Jesus made sure that nothing was lost. The consequence is a very substantial book.
Which pleases me to no end. Even if I had a better memory, there's no way I could keep in mind all the spectacularly beautiful, tenderly solicitous, infinitely loving things that Jesus tells us through Marcel. There are just so many! And this satisfies a need I've felt for a long, long time. The one problem my closest conspirators and I had with I Believe in Love was that we needed more words. Once we'd read it once or twice, convincing and encouraging as it was, we only wanted more. I can't make this complaint about Conversations. Granted, it's ruined me for other spiritual reading because I'll never be done with it, but this is a small price to pay for my ideal book. Like the Bible, it's the book I'll never finish, though I've read it from cover to cover. That's just how it works. Who can fully comprehend the Word of God and God's words?
I'm happy, then -- ecstatic, really -- over the nice heft of Marcel's Conversations. But speaking of prices to pay, the size of the book and its subsequent cost do a number on my ability to buy massive quantities in order to bequeath them to unsuspecting victims. The monthly book budget just won't allow such largess.
Ah, Jesus, how clever You are! You have prevented my efforts at making supply exceed demand. You have thwarted my desire to introduce the whole world, by force if necessary, to our little brother. You have opted, once again, for the little way . . . and the way, too, of desire. Your plan is so much better than mine! Here in this corner of the Internet we can invite others to know our Marcel. We can introduce them to him and, more importantly, to Your love for us expressed through Your conversations with him. And then, when You've taken Your very sweet time (and after all, You do have all time at your disposal) just as You did with me, You can lure each heart into the depths of Yours and into the heart of Your Apostle of Love. What treasures await! And You wait too. Oh how good You are to wait! But You are full of consideration and have decided it is better for You to wait than for my family to subsist on Kraft macaroni and cheese. We can buy groceries and let You be in charge of Marcel's book sales, one book at a time.
And now, to the point.
I didn't quite mean this post to be about such paltry things as the rising cost of good literature, the insufficiency of my book budget (which is actually quite sufficient for my needs now that I've got Marcel's complete works), nor to distress you with the news that unless I win the lottery (and since I don't buy lottery tickets, my winning is even less likely than you might think) I will probably not be buying you a copy of Conversations any time soon. Rather, I wanted to address the question up top (the title of this post) about whether you believe in Love. And I don't mean "you" as if I've got a list and I'm checking it twice, or as if I can read souls and know that yours isn't full of as much faith as it ought to be . . . No, dear reader, this is not that kind of blog. Charismatic gifts aside, I'm not a mean person, and you are definitely safe here.
Actually I'm asking the question in a kind of "This is what Jesus has got me wondering about myself, and the wondering is moving me from fear to adoration" sort of way. Yesterday morning, I picked up Marcel's book to help me pray, and Jesus said the most remarkable things. (He's always doing that, and you'd think it would get old or I'd stop being surprised, but love is like that: always new, always startling, and always more wonderful than before.) Since I've now admitted that I'm not buying everyone books, I figure the least I can do is share some of what I've found in mine. My hope is that you'll be inspired to save your shekels and get a copy of your own when you have the opportunity, desire, ability, and time. (I'll put links to I Believe in Love and Conversations at the end of this post, just in case.)
The passage that moved my heart yesterday morning and was confirmed by a hummingbird shortly thereafter is at (400) in Conversations. And yes, I said a hummingbird!
I went outside with Marcel and Jesus (the two of them were in the book in my hands at the very least), and sitting on a chair in the southern California sunshine, I heard a whirring behind my head. It sounded suspiciously like a hummingbird. Looking down, I saw a shadow vibrating on the cobblestones in front of me. I turned my head, and yes, there was a hummingbird! He hovered for a few moments, and then he did what very few hummingbirds do (at least when I'm watching) -- he flitted up and perched, resting on a branch of the oak tree that hung over us. I took it as a hint, a sign, a tiny message from one who is even more fun to watch than a sparrow (two of which used to be sold for a penny, all of which are watched over and loved by God, and none of which are loved anywhere near as much as He loves us). If a hummingbird can rest in the presence of the conversations of Marcel and Jesus, how much more then should I? I'm certainly not as constitutionally averse to it.
So here's what made the hummingbird and me pause. Okay, at least it made me pause. As for the hummingbird, think what you will, but it's darn rare to see one just sit back and relax. My guess is that he was awed by the nearness of Jesus' infinite love just as I was. Sadly, he couldn't read, but happily I could, and here is what I had just read:
"Marcel, I love you dearly; My love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it, Marcel?
Nothing is more hurtful to Me than to see a great number of souls that I love in preference to all the others, who behave towards Me with such indifference that they do not even wish to believe in the preferential love that I have for them."
And so I started thinking about this preferential love of Jesus, and how He seemed to love me that way, just as He loved Marcel.
You might wonder if you, too, are loved with a preferential love. I can tell you right now that you are. I know that you are, for Jesus has brought you here where you can read His words to Marcel -- words which are meant for us as well. He loves you dearly; His love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it?
He wants you to believe in His love for you, this indescribable love that made Him take on a body like ours so that He could have a human tongue with which to tell us of this love which is beyond description. Just before the passage I've quoted, Jesus says, "Marcel, are there any words which better encapsulate love and tenderness than the words of the Gospel?" I think of His invitation, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and you will find rest for your souls. Learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart." And those unsurpassed expressions from the night before He died, when He pleaded, "Let not your hearts be troubled," and again, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," because "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you."
Jesus frequently reassures Marcel, "I am not scolding you." Here, then, we should note that He is not scolding us either. His words are never meant to be a source of scrupulosity, but only a source of comfort. When He tells Marcel that what hurts Him most is to see a great number of souls "who do not even wish to believe in the preferential love" that He has for them, He is not talking about us. How do I know? Because we want more than anything to believe in His love! The question now is -- as He asked Marcel, so He asks us -- do we believe it? Do we believe in His tremendous love?
It's such a relief to know that He never gives up on us, never stops pursuing us, never stops telling us (in the old words and old books, and in new ones too) of His indescribable love. Even as He laments that it is not enough, this or that expression of His love, still He persists. Even as He knows that we do not understand, so too He knows that we want to believe.
Let's not give up on our end either. Let's never stop listening to His voice speaking to us in the old books and the new. If you need a place to start hearing His words of love, I suggest first the Gospel of John, chapters 14 through 17. Second, if you haven't yet read I Believe in Love, you can click on the title here (I Believe in Love) and order it directly from the publisher or, if you prefer, click on amazon.com.
Will you be surprised if my third suggestion is to read Marcel's Conversations? I suggest it with such enthusiasm that I won't even mind if you skip over the first two suggestions and get my favorite book asap by clicking on this title, Conversations. Then you can read John 14 (and what follows) while you wait for Marcel's book of Jesus' words to arrive.
Meanwhile, don't forget that our Savior and the Spouse of your soul loves you dearly. You are pleasing to Him, and He wants nothing more than to stop you worrying and start you living like a little child who knows he is loved.
Come to think of it, I want exactly that too, so I'll say a prayer now asking Marcel to intercede for us all and obtain for us the Truth he now sees face to Face, the Truth that will make it easy for us to answer that opening question "Do you believe in Love?" with a resounding and jubilant "Yes!"
Recently I've been taking consolation from something Jesus told Marcel about the most beautiful thing. This saying of Jesus is in the very first entry of Conversations, among the early pages headed "Before 7 October 1945," and the passage I've been pondering lately is at (14), that is, on the fourteenth page Marcel wrote for Fr. Boucher. It shows us concretely what we already know generally, that Jesus is full of truth and grace from the beginning. Still, I'm not going to tell you yet what it is that Jesus said was the most beautiful thing, because it's got me thinking, and I'd like to share my thoughts first, to lead up to His. That's just one outrageous aspect of a blog--if you're silly enough (and apparently I am), you can preface Jesus' Truth with your own musings.
Since Jesus is telling us through Marcel about what is the most beautiful thing, I've been thinking about beautiful things. It's kind of fun to imagine what might be the most beautiful thing. What if you had three guesses?
If I had three guesses as to what the most beautiful thing might be, I've decided that first I'd guess Jesus, second Mary, and third friendship, and in particular, friendship with the Saints.
That Jesus is most beautiful might seem too obvious to comment upon, but here is a delightful commentary from Marcel which surpasses anything I could have imagined. When Marcel was serving Mass for Fr. Boucher on Christmas night, 1945, he saw Jesus. Here is what he wrote:
"His hair was blond and curly, His eyes were dark and of average size, His lips were fresh and bright red and His face was quite round but not entirely so. Finally, He was barefooted. Seeing Him like this I found Him very handsome but it is impossible for me to describe Him perfectly; all that I can say is that He was of a beauty which surpasses all imagination. However, if at that moment I had been an artist possessing all the colours I could wish for, I would have painted His portrait immediately. But, as I am very clumsy, all I could do was feast my eyes on Him . . .I stayed there quite dumbfounded, while Jesus sat with me in the cradle, looking at me and laughing . . ."
Ah, beautiful little Jesus!
And must not His Mother, from whom He takes His beauty, be then the next most beautiful thing? Some might argue that since He came from her, she must be more beautiful, but I think we have to make allowance for the beauty of His Divinity transcending even the beauty of our spotless Mother.
I love the story of Lucia, the seer of Fatima, who was pressed by a sculptor to admit that his image of Our Lady of Fatima, perfected with directions from Lucia herself, was most beautiful. Poor Lucia! Having seen the real Lady, clothed with the sun, she could only respond, "It's not as ugly as all the others!"
But then when I consider what else is beautiful and what I might guess third as to the most beautiful thing, I'm inclined to say friendship with the Saints. I'm just bowled over by the joy and consolation that flows from this understanding that we are not alone. Not only has God given us each our own guardian angel (and if we could see them, I bet they would be on the top of our list of most beautiful things!), but He gives us too, in increasing numbers as our lives in exile go on and on, the friendship of His favorites. He gives us everything, and so He gives us His best friends as our own as well.
It's no accident that when musing upon Marcel and his writings, my thoughts turn to friendship with the Saints. His friendship with Thérèse is the stuff that dreams are made of, and she in turn has such a profound understanding of love and friendship, especially friendship with the Saints. By "saints" we can mean those around us striving for sanctity, but in particular the depth of friendship increases when one of the parties has gone to cash in on the Heavenly reward. I love reading in Proverbs 3 that:
"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality . . . In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks among stubble."
We are the stubble, and the souls of the just are so happy to dart about as sparks among us! To the foolish it looks like our friendships are over, but that is far from the reality. Here is what Thérèse wrote on the subject to another of her spiritual brothers (this one her contemporary), Maurice Belliere:
"I have to tell you, little brother, that we don't understand Heaven in the same way. You think that, once I share in the justice and holiness of God, I won't be able to excuse your faults as I did when I was on earth. Are you then forgetting that I shall also share in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe that the Blessed in Heaven have great compassion for our miseries. They remember that when they were weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults themselves and went through the same struggles, and their fraternal tenderness becomes still greater than it ever was on earth. It's on account of this that they never stop watching over us and praying for us."
If you have not yet experienced this compassion of the Saints, and, more specifically, of a particular Saint for you, I urge you to delve into this beautiful world. If you don't know where to start, start with Marcel. Having been himself very weak, he can certainly relate to your weakness and have pity on it. And further, having been himself the beneficiary of one of the sweetest friendships ever between Heaven and earth, he certainly knows the importance and beauty of such friendship. If you ask him, I'm sure he'll be glad to be your friend. And as he's still relatively unknown, you'll be getting in on the ground floor, so to speak!
I could say more, but I must not abuse my privilege of writing about Marcel, and this I would do if I either taxed your attention or (worse yet) Jesus'! He's infinitely patient, but it's not polite of me to bank on that, making Him wait to tell us what He, Truth, knows to be the actual most beautiful thing.
So here goes. Here is what Jesus told Marcel sometime before October 7, 1945, and according to His words, what He'd told another friend of His, the Visitation nun Sister Benigna Consolata sometime in the early 1900's (she lived in Como, Italy from 1885-1916, and was another of Jesus' little secretaries). Are you ready? [The ellipses (or little dots like these . . . ) are in Marcel's text here at (14); I'm not leaving anything out, though I'll add bold for the Most Beautiful Thing.] Here goes then. Jesus tells us:
"What I said previously to Sister Benigna Consolata . . . My little flower, My spouse, little apostle of My love, I recall it now for you . . . Nothing is more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves . . . Accept, therefore, to do My will. My child, I am taking you in My arms, I am lifting you to My lips and I am giving you a kiss. Seeing your soul burning with love for Me, I am beside Myself and My sole desire is to see many souls love Me as you do . . . My spouse, there is nothing so beautiful as to do the will of the one one loves. There are still many things that you must write and that I will tell you later . . . Little apostle of My love, the words that I am dictating to you here, do you find them beautiful? . . . As for Me, I find them very beautiful as they are coming from a heart overflowing with love."
I admit it. I find Jesus' words beautiful.
So now that we know what Truth has to say is most beautiful, what does become of my list? (What Miss Marcel Muses, we could call it, or WMMM for short!)
Maybe Jesus is being modest. I don't think He can deny that HE is most beautiful :)
And if you asked Him straight out, I very much doubt He could deny His Mother's beauty either!
As to friendship with the Saints . . . well this is exciting. I think in my musings I've made a connection or had an insight.
But first a confession. When I initially read that nothing is more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves, I was a more struck by a low-grade anxiety than by its beauty. You see, I have (and I guess others might have to) a fear that the will of the One I love is going to include suffering. This is something Marcel shared with me, and it brings me tremendous comfort to read about Jesus' teasing, laughing, ever patient responses to Marcel's fear. He (Jesus) says, "I haven't even mentioned the word!" or in another place, "All I have to do is mention the word (suffering) and you are a basket case!" I'm paraphrasing, but not by much!
What I forget, and perhaps Marcel often forgot too, is that the One whom we love is Love! There is nothing scary in Love! On the contrary, as St. John tells us in his first letter in the New Testament (and he should know--He was Jesus' beloved disciple and leaned on His sacred breast at the Last Supper when Jesus poured out His love, Himself, in the fullest gift He, God, could come up with: Himself as food for us in the Eucharist)--"Perfect love casts out fear."
Marcel has helped me see, in his friendship with St. Thérèse and with Mother Mary, and especially in his friendship with Jesus, that these words that Truth speaks are true: There is nothing more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves. That is a kind of act of friendship, that doing. It is an act of devotion, of expression of love for the One who loves us into being and keeps us here until such time as He will take our being to Heaven to live happily forever with Him. We do not have to be afraid, or even a tiny bit anxious. The most beautiful thing is to do His will because His will is from Love, for love, in love--there is only Love!
I've been clinging to Jesus' revelation lately because I had hoped to write more frequently on this blog. But the will of the One I love has recently included laundry and grocery shopping, preparing meals (and eating them - much more fun!), and many other ordinary actions of daily life that aren't writing. Bummer! And yet . . . I have been able to read Marcel (if not write about him), and in Marcel's Conversations I find Jesus encouraging me with His trademark, "Be not afraid!" and "I love you, little one" over and over again (and delightfully, in many other words, phrases, sentences, and thoughts of His heart). As long as I am trying to do the will of the One I love, I can let go any calendar of blog post entries that I'd been semi-consciously hoping to fulfill. It is all for the love of Jesus, so what does it matter if I have to set aside my schedule for His? I have the unshakable feeling that His schedule is by far the more beautiful one!
I end this post, then, with the hope of writing another soon, but along with that hope is a conviction that whatever Jesus has me doing next will be most beautiful. Meanwhile, may I recommend to you something with which you can fill your time until we meet here again? You know a picture is worth a thousand words. I wonder if that means that a moving picture is worth a million? There's a terrific video about Marcel Van, and thanks to modern technology and the generosity of many of Marcel's friends, you can watch it for free (with English subtitles even) on your computer. My favorite part is the part about friendship with the Saints . . . well actually that comes up several times, but my very, very favorite is when the movie includes part of an interview with Marcel's "bearded Jesus," his novice master, spiritual director, confidante, and eventual translator, Fr. Boucher. The emotion with which Fr. B speaks of Marcel is overwhelmingly beautiful. Praised be God, who gives us friendship with the Saints!
The movie is called Hidden Apostle of Love, and you can get to it by clicking on these very words: Hidden Apostle of Love.
If you get a chance to watch that, and then you find you want more Marcel, you can explore the website (full of treasures) where you find the video. If you are further inspired to want yet more friendship with Marcel, I continue to highly recommend (even when I'm not writing!) his Conversations. And now I'm signing off to go and have a good friendly chat with him myself, to let him know he may be hearing from you soon!
Sometimes it seem like you can find anything on the Internet.
That's not actually true though. I discovered recently that there is nothing (at least nothing I could find) on the Internet about long haired poodles except scary pictures about the pelt the groomer will have to shave off if you try this (a long haired poodle) at home . . . Which reminds me, speaking of things you should not attempt with dogs: you should also not try putting on roller skates before you take your dog for a walk (especially if you have a big dog, your driveway is sloped, and the leash is "retractable" which also means extendable before the dog takes you for quite the ride of your life) . . . which reminds me, at last, of what I'm supposed to be talking about here, namely Dummies books.
Did you know that (supposedly, according to Google) you can find free Dummies book cover generators and templates on the Internet? Well fortunately for us all, I'm such a dummy myself that I couldn't figure out how to make them work, so instead of an insulting and ugly book cover as the image at the top of this post, we get a laughing picture of Marcel - or a picture of Marcel laughing - and I can't yet figure out if he's laughing with us or at us, but I guess that depends on if we're laughing! I'm laughing now, as I think about my new book series. We have "for dummies" and "idiots guide to" -- but let's face it, those are both insulting, and as I heard someone funny say on the radio, they're also rather confusing for those of us who qualify. Hours of indecision can follow when a dummy or idiot (or simply an indecisive person like myself) discovers a bookstore that carries both series. How to choose whether one is a dummy or an idiot, and thus know even where to begin finding the books you need?
I think I should start a less insulting series called "___ for Blondes." Or do you think that might carry its own pejorative connotations? I've already told you my soul is blonde, so I'm certainly not excluding myself, and being from California I find it not only a more flattering series title, but one that is sure to make me millions . . .
Anyhow. On to Marcel.
I realized a few months ago that one of the things I love about Marcel and Conversations is that what we have here is The Little Way for Dummies! I even thought that could be my next book, until I realized I'd have to join the bright yellow or bright orange colored covers franchise. I really do like beautiful book covers, and I hate lots of bullet points inside and little icons and sidebars and fingers with strings tied to them. (Although we just watched It's a Wonderful Life last night, and Uncle Billy's fingers tied with strings were charming!)
Nonetheless, whether or not a book comes out with the name, the reality remains: Marcel being very little, he manages to translate St. Thérèse's Little Way of Spiritual Childhood into a language spoken by those of us who are, while I don't want to say dummies or idiots, at least very, very little like he is. He makes the Little Way more accessible. He brings it down to our level.
What makes me smile is that the Little Way was already supposed to be doing that - bringing sanctity down to the level of the littlest ones. But something happens over the years - accretions, our sister Thérèse's fame and her miracles, lots of books written to explain what is supposed to be simple. Don't get me wrong: I love some of those books and all of her fame and miracles; I wouldn't trade them for a million dollars, but still the whole kit and caboodle does tend to obscure the original message, at least for someone as prone to distraction by shiny things as I am.
I was delighted today to find in my bucket of endless treasures (Conversations) Jesus' confirmation of the quote I used to lead into "Who is Marcel Van?" There I quoted his vice-postulator saying Marcel was the one who was weaker and littler than Thérèse . . . and sure enough, there's evidence in the text (as we used to say in college). On p. 225 in my edition (506), Jesus says it plain as day (the day was, to be precise, April 22, 1946).
He says, "Little brother, it is necessary for you to know that you are very weak, that no soul is as weak as yours; and I admit that your weaknesses never cause Me the slightest sadness. It is only your scruples that make Me feel such pain as to clasp you in my arms, to spoil you and give you my kisses." And then (who can stop, once he's begun quoting Jesus to Marcel?), Jesus adds, "Enough, Marcel, my little brother. Do not be sad, do you understand? From now on, no more worrying, all right?"
So there we have it. Marcel is the tiniest of the little ones, the weakest of the weak. When you read the Conversations you'll see it clearly. Jesus tells him all sorts of wonderful truths, and Marcel either changes the subject (because he's distracted by his uncomfortable sandals, or a stomach ache, or something someone said to him earlier, or any number of the exact same things that distract us constantly) or he admits to Jesus that he's already completely forgotten the important things Jesus told him. To which Jesus responds with His trademark patience and kindness (hallmarks of Love, that is Himself), and that characteristic gentleness of Heart which He begs us to imitate when we come to Him, rest in Him, and learn from Him.
Jesus also responds with humor, and reassurance in case Marcel (or we) think He is being harsh when He is only teasing, and in case Marcel (or we) think He's scolding, when He's only pointing something out, and in case Marcel (or we) worry and fret, as we so often do, and worst of all despair that our weaknesses are causing Him pain or frustration with us.
What could be more perfect than Jesus' infinitely sensible and adorable explanation of why Marcel (and all little souls) should not worry about their constant forgetfulness of His truths?
To those for whom the Little Way, even in its simplicity, is somehow still too much to remember, Jesus says, "What did your sister Thérèse 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 then you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours?" (387)
What is it, again, that we've forgotten when we've forgotten what little Thérèse taught us?
I think her Little Way can be summed up in five words:
Failure is the new success.
Or again: Weakness is the new strength.
Or how about: Losing is the new winning.
These are all straight from the Gospel . . . and yet I, for one, have a really hard time remembering them. Especially when I've just failed or lost or said or done something (or failed to say or do something) so that I'm left wearing my weakness on my sleeve or on my face. I'm supposed to remember that these failures, losses, weaknesses are all to the good.
Jesus teaches it this way on page 296 (652) of Conversations: "Yes, it is just as you say, little brother; it is only in these moments of fatigue that I am able to make you see your weakness and to teach you that, truly, you haven't got a scintilla of virtue . . . Little brother, see how weak you are. That it is enough for you to abandon yourself to Me and to put all confidence in Me alone."
To which Marcel replies, "Now, I am not angry any more because I no longer am tired." (Talk about a familiar pairing!)
And Jesus responds, "Nevertheless, little brother, your weakness has not disappeared for all that; it will remain in you until the time when you receive from Me the first kiss of your life . . . Little brother, always remember that you are a truly poor and destitute soul. Do not worry about your weaknesses, as your sister Thérèse has told you, and as I, Myself, have told you many times. It is in knowing your nothingness that your confidence in Me will be truly firm."
Ah, Jesus! Ah, Marcel! Ah, forgotten message of little Thérèse!
For no matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times I tell myself, "Don't forget! Remember this, at least!" (and I just can't bring myself to tattoo it on my forearm - I'd probably forget to look there anyhow) -- well, despite all these admonitions and reminders, like Uncle Billy I still forget!
This is why the Conversations and Marcel himself are the Little Way for Dummies. Because we find repeated in them over and over the same message of love, the same truth that will set us free, that Word of littleness that came to us first in the manger on Christmas in the darkness of night.
"It is in knowing your nothingness that your confidence in Me will be truly firm."
"It is enough for you to abandon yourself to Me and to put all confidence in Me alone."
I open at random and read Jesus repeating again His message to Marcel and to us: "I have a means which can allow you to understand: this means consists in loving Me and in abandoning yourself to Me in total confidence." (429)
To which I add: Don't worry if your confidence feels less than total. This will put you somewhere nearer Marcel on the scale of littleness, rather than next to Thérèse. (Although this is, recall, a scale of littleness, so you won't be far from either of our sister and brother team -- it's a little scale!) What can you lose from being weaker and littler, by any measure? Remember: weakness is the new strength. As for little, that's what puts you in the game. I'm tempted to quote Thérèse on staying very little and becoming littler all the time, but Marcel is the commentator and I'd only have to quote him again then too (or Jesus' words to him).
So let's keep it simple - not with bullet points or bright yellow covers or stick figure faces with crew cuts, but with a final quote from the ultimate authority. There will be time for more later. For now I've found a good ending in these words of Our Lord. He's speaking to Marcel (p. 48) but much more importantly, He's speaking to you:
"My child, the smaller your love is for Me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy."
That's the Little Way for us, and who could ask for more?
"St. Therese wrote at the end of her Manuscript B, 'If by chance God found a soul smaller than mine and still more simple, I really believe that He would fill it with graces still greater.' I believe that this soul is truly Van." --Pére Olivier de Roulhac, O.S.B., vice-postulator for Marcel Van's cause
Marcel Van is the beloved little (spiritual) brother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. When I have mentioned him to people, sometimes they say, “Oh, yes, one of St. Thérèse’s adopted missionary priest brothers to whom she wrote while in the convent.” No, I have to explain, that would be Maurice Belliere you’re thinking of. He was also a beloved little spiritual brother of St. Thérèse, but he was her contemporary and also French, whereas Marcel Van, like us, was born many years after she died, and in another country. And yet Marcel lived on quite intimate spiritual terms with Thérèse. That he lived in a different time and place than she did was no obstacle to God’s plan for their sibling affection, conversation, and friendship, and because of Thérèse’s love for him and his love for her, this “other” little brother of hers has much to teach us.
Joachim Van (later known as Marcel Van) was born in Vietnam in 1928, thirty years and six months after his big sister, St. Thérèse, died in France. He was born into a family that had already welcomed a boy and girl, and would later include another girl and boy, so that finally Van was one of five children. His early memories, about which we can read in the Autobiography he wrote at the request of his spiritual director, were very happy. His family had enough, and more importantly they were full of virtue and striving for holiness.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Van’s childhood became a series of great sufferings. His older brother went blind, the family experienced financial setbacks, and his father became embroiled in gambling and alcoholism. Perhaps most painful of all, Van’s very early devotion and discernment of a call to the priesthood led him to convince his mother to take him, when he was only seven years old, to another town and leave him there in the care of a priest in the hopes that this would be a kind of minor-minor seminary and the beginning of fulfilling his dream of becoming a priest.
The separation from his family would have been hard enough if the priest had been the good man he’d appeared, but as time went on, Van’s benefactor had no qualms about putting him to work as a household servant, and it was years before Van could escape this and other equally humiliating and heart-wrenching situations where his aspiration to the priesthood kept him away from his family and no closer to the kind of training a priest needs.
These vicissitudes were, however, all serving a purpose in God’s loving designs. Finally, at age fourteen, Van attained a place in a much more authentic minor seminary, one named for the young woman who was to become so much to him, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Here he lived a regular life of prayer, study, work, and play, under the auspices of French Dominican missionaries to Vietnam, and among other boys his age who were also discerning their vocations.
It was in October of 1942 that Van first met Thérèse, and when I say met, I mean, you know, really met her, like you might meet the person who will become your best friend, or your spouse, or your spiritual director—though usually when we have these first meetings, we don’t know as quickly as Van did just how significant the meeting is.
It happened like this . . .
One evening Van was in the chapel with all the other boys, but rather than simply praying or daydreaming, he was struggling with a deeply troubling thought. He was feeling a tremendous desire to become a saint, but he was fighting this feeling with all his strength because it seemed wrong to him, presumptuous, to dare aspire to sainthood.
When I reflect on Van’s moral dilemma, I am newly appreciative of Vatican II’s emphasis on the universal call to holiness, as well as grateful again for St. Thérèse’s Little Way. We are so used to thinking, “Of course we’re supposed to become saints!” that we don’t realize what a blessing this knowledge is. Van was suffering interior torment because he thought his desire to become a saint was one huge temptation! He decided, wisely, to turn the whole problem over to the Blessed Mother. He told her to take care of it, and then he left the chapel for study hall.
Once there, since he’d already done his homework, he had the privilege of choosing a saint’s book to read. He went to the shelf and browsed the titles. No luck—he’d read them all before, at least all the good ones. Sure there were some he hadn’t read, but they didn’t have pictures! Nonetheless, he figured he’d better choose one, so he told the Blessed Mother, “You choose for me and I’ll read what you pick,” and then shuffling the books and closing his eyes, he chose at random.
Bad news—it was Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. No pictures inside, and furthermore, he could predict what it would contain. “I know it already,” he told himself. “Same old story. You were born amidst miracles and prodigies, lived an austere life full of penance and many more miracles, then died in old age, having been perfect from start to finish.” He laughed to himself, but then realized he was not keeping his part of the bargain. He’d told the Blessed Mother he’d read the book she had him choose. So with an uninspired imagination, he opened the book and began reading.
He was caught! It took no time at all for him to realize this was unlike any other saint book he’d read, and quite unlike what he’d predicted. Deeply involved in Thérèse’s words from the first page, Van found himself full of joy and his earlier dilemma (about becoming a saint) resolved. Here was a book that spoke to his fervent young soul. Here was a saint who wrote about just the kinds of things he felt. The book became his constant companion.
This conjunction of boy and book was, however, merely a faint foreshadowing of the joy and friendship that was to come.
Not long after his discovery of Story of a Soul, Marcel was with his two best friends one desultory afternoon during vacation. They were all staying over at the presbytery during the break, but some of the staff were gone, and this meant the task of mending their clothes was left in their own boyish hands. Marcel thought up a plan to get out of this hated task which took so much time from their play. “Why don’t we ask one of the young women who works over the break if she’ll be our big spiritual sister? We can promise her rosaries, and in return she can do our mending and laundry!” It sounded like an ideal plan, and Marcel dictated a letter which they then threw—with all their dirty and torn clothes—into the designated girl’s work area. Not so subtle, but definitely worthy of fourteen year old boys!
Soon after, a note came back, attached to a rock that sailed through the window. “I see right through your ploy,” the young woman wrote, “but I find your childishness somewhat charming and I will be your big sister and darn your pants—except not Van’s! He’s too old and can do his own work.”
Van’s friends thought this was hilarious and teased him to no end, but Van ignored them and continued with his reading (he’d finished the book and begun again) Story of a Soul. He was enjoying it tremendously, and especially loved Thérèse’s scenes from childhood. Though Van’s own childhood had not been easy, neither had Thérèse’s, with the death of her mother when Thérèse was only four. Still, they both had wonderful early memories of loving times with their devout parents, and Van was fascinated by all that Thérèse related.
At this moment, he was reading again about how, after their mother’s death, Thérèse’s sister Celine turned to their eldest sister Marie and said, “Now, you will be my mother.” Thérèse would have liked to say the same to Marie, but thought of their next oldest sister, Pauline. Wouldn’t she feel left out if no one chose her? “Pauline, you will be my mother,” Thérèse said.
Van just loved this—and suddenly it occurred to him. Why should he ask this young woman to be his big sister just because the other boys did? Wouldn’t Thérèse feel left out? He would ask St. Thérèse to be his big sister. Not that she’d darn his pants, but certainly she would be the best big spiritual sister anyone could ever have.
He went to the chapel and knelt down to say his prayer. He asked Thérèse to be his big sister and accept him as her little brother. And then . . . he was filled with such a rush of joy that he couldn’t remain in the chapel! He darted out and ran all the way to the bottom of the mountain where he and his buddies loved to play. He was alone there now, and he could give full vent to his feelings. He sang every holy song and religious hymn he knew—in Vietnamese, in Thai, in French and Chinese! He cavorted and gamboled around the mountain base and among the rocks, singing at the top of his lungs to give some relief to this tremendous joy which flooded his soul. She had said yes! He knew St. Thérèse had said yes and would take him as her little brother—not that he had heard anything, but oh, the joy! It far surpassed any consolation he had ever felt, and he knew it meant yes.
Exhausted and unable to sing another note, he happily collapsed, sitting on a rock, his arms behind him, his legs outstretched in complete openness. Every once in a while he’d manage another phrase from a song. The joy did not abate, but he began to think over the situation. Why was he so happy?
And then he heard a voice. A woman’s voice, or a girl’s really.
“Van, Van, my dear little brother!” he heard.
The tone and the words were so intimate that he was at a loss who could be speaking. It couldn’t be anyone he knew; it couldn’t be the young woman who’d rejected him as her brother. But who then?
Again he heard the gentle voice:
“Van! My dear little brother!” There was only one possibility . . . Could it be?
“Yes, Van, it is really your sister Saint Thérèse . . . I have come here to reply to your words which have echoed in my heart. Little brother! You will be personally and from now on my little brother, just as you have chosen me, personally to be your big sister. From now onwards our two souls will be separated no longer by any obstacle as they formerly were.”
This was their first meeting, but not their last. Van tells us that his big sister spoke to him for a couple of hours, explaining many things about God’s Fatherhood and love for him, about her love for him, about the life of love God had planned for him.
Three years later when Van had entered the Redemptorist Order to become a brother (St. Thérèse had eventually gently broken it to him that God desired him to be a religious brother, not a priest), his novice master and spiritual director, the French Canadian Redemptorist Father Anthony Boucher, asked him to write his life story.
Van, now Marcel Van, wrote four entirely separate drafts, each several hundred pages long. In the final draft, now published as his Autobiography, Marcel takes several pages to recount Thérèse’s first conversation with him. He then says that each time he’s written an account of it (at least three other times in his previous drafts), it comes out differently. There was so much she said to him that he could never in one attempt remember it all. But, he says, this gives you the gist of it. Honest to Pete, the gist is not enough for me! I hope someday to have every account he wrote so that I can have as many words as possible and as many bits and pieces, fragments or paragraphs of this awesome conversation!
She told him of God’s love for him, as well as her own love for him, and most importantly she encouraged Van to speak to God with utter simplicity. This came naturally to Van, for he was charmingly simple and remained so, but he had been taught that it was proper to speak to God in long, fancy prayers, and so he tended to repress his spontaneous and natural effusiveness. Once Thérèse explained that God loves to hear our little stories, our heartfelt feelings, our thoughts and experiences and ramblings, Van was free to reach a new level of intimacy with God, his Heavenly Father, and with Jesus, his true Love.
After that first meeting with his big sister Thérèse, Van was blessed with many more heavenly conversations. And not only with Thérèse, but with Jesus and Mary as well. It was, as I mentioned, about three years later that Van was admitted to the Redemptorists as a novice. There in the novitiate, Jesus asked Van to be His little secretary and write down all that Jesus said to him. When he told his novice master, Fr. Boucher, about these conversations, the wise priest first approved, and then instructed him to cease writing down the conversations. Van instantly obeyed. After two weeks, Fr. Boucher lifted the restriction and Van continued writing Jesus’, Mary’s, and Thérèse’s words to him (as well as his own to them, as Jesus had instructed him to do) for about a year and a half. He confided the pages to Fr. Boucher, who carefully recopied them and who later, leaving the original in Vietnam, smuggled out the copies to Canada with a fellow Redemptorist priest.
Marcel Van went through the novitiate and made his temporary vows on September 8, 1946 (when he was 18; St. Therese had made her vows on this date in 1890 when she was 17), and later his final vows in 1952 (at age 24). He had been born near Hanoi and lived until 1950 in the north of Vietnam, but obedience brought him to Redemptorist houses in Saigon and the south of Vietnam from 1950 to 1952. In 1954, at his request, his superiors allowed him to return to the Hanoi Monastery on what turned out to be the last plane from the South to the North. The communists had taken over North Vietnam and Marcel wanted to go there so that someone would love God amid the communists.
It was only a matter of months before he was arrested on a lame charge and put into a prison camp, condemned to 15 years of re-education. At one point he left the camp to try to procure the Eucharist for fellow prisoners and was caught and put into the dungeon for long months. After three years in the camps, having served God and his fellow prisoners with great love and affection, Marcel Van died on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old.
Fr. Boucher, by God’s providence, lived to be much older. When he returned to Canada in 1964, he spent the next 20 years translating Marcel’s writings from Vietnamese into French. Fr. Boucher had such a mastery of both languages that his translations are considered perfect. In all, he collected, copied, translated, and preserved for us four volumes of Marcel’s writings: his Autobiography, Conversations, Correspondence, and Other Writings.
Father Boucher knew Marcel better than anyone on this earth, having been his spiritual director from the time of Van’s entrance into the Redemptorists until Van’s death in 1959. Fr. Boucher himself died in July of 1991, aged 84, after having successfully introduced Marcel’s Cause of Beatification. Here is what the holy French Canadian Redemptorist missionary had to say about his spiritual son, the beloved little brother of St. Thérèse:
“In my capacity as master of novices and spiritual counselor, I testify that I have lived, day by day, and at the side of Brother Marcel, all the events and little facts related on the small pages that he gave to me regularly each week. On reading these texts, I sensed that this very small brother whom Jesus, Mary and Thérèse were leading by the hand would have a role to play in the Church and in the world. I also felt myself constrained not to allow anything to be lost from the treasure which was unfolding before my eyes, by his hands and his heart. I humbly recognized that Brother Marcel taught me more on the spiritual life than I was able to teach him.
“First of all, I have been profoundly moved by the unbelievable familiarity and tenderness of which Brother Marcel has been the object on the part of his heavenly interlocutors. On the other hand, his exemplary life, his limpidity of soul, his perfect obedience to his director and his generosity in face of sacrifice favorably impressed me regarding his truthfulness and the authenticity of his communications; this, obviously, with all the reserve necessary, nor wishing in anything to anticipate the final judgment which belongs by right to the authority of the Church.”
Here's Marcel smiling down on us. Rather disingenuous of him since, in fact, he's laughing right now. He thinks it's funny that I'm trying to make such a big deal out of him; that I've quoted his "bearded Jesus" to impress you and make you love him . . .
If I could make the whole world love Marcel Van, I would. And it's quite a mystery to me how he remains so unknown (which is the only way he could remain unloved!) especially when he is truly a second St. Thérèse, his spiritual sister who prophesied before her death, "The whole world will love me!" There's a strange logic at work here . . .
If the whole world loves her, and he is a second her, then how can the whole world not love him? Ah, mysteries. They make life interesting and give us something to write about!
Well, it's my joy to write this now as the year of Our Lord 2017 is drawing to a close. Given the fascinating combination of longevity and ephemerality that characterizes a blog post (and the internet in genera)l, I hope this answer to "Who is Marcel Van?" will last until Jesus comes on the last day, that wonderful day when all that is hidden -- including our dear Marcel and his extraordinary message of littleness and Love -- will be made plain. Meanwhile, you are now one of the cognoscenti, clearly loved immensely by God, for He has introduced you to one of His very best friends, St. Thérèse's little brother Marcel Van.
In my next post, I'll fill you in on Marcel's life (on earth) story, but first I couldn't resist sharing the conversation he had with Jesus on this day in 1945. It's just so funny, so sweet, so absolutely Marcel!
First there's a moving colloquy with Our Lord, in which Jesus says something amazing and profound. Then there is Marcel's response: something amazing and incredibly silly. Well, I can't say I wasn't charmed and somewhat convinced, but Jesus' reaction gave me a hint that Marcel might be a little off in his picture of the life of the Holy Innocents in heaven. See what you think . . .
Marcel: My dear little Jesus, Monday will be the feast day of your Holy Name. On this subject, I must ask you a question. This name of Jesus, of whom is this name, little Jesus?
Jesus: Marcel, I do not find your question at all difficult; I am happy to answer it immediately. Pay great attention. Write clearly, I am going to dictate each word separately: "The name Jesus is the name of the Spouse of Souls." Is that quite clear Marcel? I wish to choose all souls to be my spouses; that is why I call myself the Spouse of Souls.
Marcel: Little Jesus, today is the feast of the Holy Innocents. I wonder if, in heaven, these little saints are mischievous like children. They must, without doubt, spend all day playing with You. When I go to heaven it is absolutely essential that I ask You to admit me to their ranks. Indeed they have much time for leisure pursuits doing nothing but playing every day without ever working. Moreover they don't have to be afraid that anyone may come to bother them since no one knows their name and their age. So, since I am very lazy, liking only to play, if it happens that someone asks me to intercede for him with You, little Jesus, I will not busy myself and their attempts will fail. If, on the contrary, I am in the ranks of the Holy Innocents I will have all the time to play with You, to be always at Your side and also to tease You freely. Then on Thursdays and Sundays we will have time to go together to see the heavenly countryside, pay a visit to the Blessed Virgin, etc. I will then have everything I could wish for like You little Jesus. It will be very pleasant.
Jesus: Marcel, what it is that you just said that gives me an insane desire to laugh? It is really discouraging; you speak without understanding anything of what you are saying. So, listen carefully to me: in the same way that the Holy Innocents had to suffer death for me, you also will have to die for my love. Because of this, you will be admitted to their ranks . . .
Now lest you think Jesus is being harsh with Marcel, let me mention that He frequently reassures Marcel after He has to correct him, "I am not scolding you." And sure enough, only a few moments later in this conversation, Jesus adds, "My dear little brother, I am covering you unceasingly with kisses and I keep my lips forever pressed against your cheek."
If this is what earthly life can be like, I tend to think like Marcel that heaven must be one terrific party, with special events on Thursdays and Sundays. Though I know Marcel does stand corrected in at least one detail of his heavenly tableau: far from ignoring those who ask his intercession, he's known, rather, to be quite the doting brother, quick to hear and quick to respond. Try him yourself and you'll discover how very quickly and effectively he moves Jesus, who loves him and us so much, to act on your behalf!
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