The girl sporting the floral wreath above is Marie of the Trinity, a novice under the direction of St. Therese (who is standing behind her) in the Lisieux Carmel. One of my favorite books is about the two of them: Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity by Father Pierre Descouvemont, and one of my favorite moments in the book is when Father D tells us that from the time she was a child, Marie had wanted to sometime in her life be friends with a Saint. Not just the way we are friends with the Saints because we, on earth, love and depend on those who are in Heaven and vice versa. No, Marie was a child after Therese's own heart, and she had a much bolder aspiration. She wanted to actually live with a Saint, and not only that, but for the Saint (uncanonized as yet because still alive) to be her very good friend, and then later for that very good friend, when gone on to Heaven, to be so recognized by the Church as a Saint.
I may have forgotten to mention it here lately, but as Therese so clearly illustrates (and as Jesus so clearly tells Marcel), we are to be demanding, importunate, entitled, unquestioningly confident, and ridiculously bold with God - in other words, as Jesus says in the Gospel, just like little children.
Not to change the subject, but my husband and I were in a Tesla showroom yesterday (let's just say it's his 30th wedding anniversary too, and if we can peruse bookstores, why not showrooms?). Well to my great delight, the Tesla people have actually named one of their fanciest model's features "Ludicrous Mode" - that's their version of Star Wars' Lightspeed and it takes you from 0 - 60 in a record 2.4 seconds. (Who knew? I was the blonde who asked "Where's the engine?") Well the point is, Marie of the Trinity prayed in ludicrous mode, and we should too, because as Therese teaches, "God is so mighty and so merciful; we obtain from Him as much as we hope for." Look at the results of Marie's prayer - she was one of Therese's best friends for the few years they knew each other on earth. God does not hesitate to give us the very coolest gifts. Never mind a Tesla (sorry, honey, out of our price range), but the very best gifts, like real friendship with real saints . . .
I was thinking of this friendship between Marie and Therese because last night I had my prayer answered. Not the one about being friends with a saint (I'll tell you about that one later), but the prayer about watching the Marcel Movies. (If you click on "Marcel," you'll go to the one I started watching last night; if you click on "Movies," you'll be whisked to the other of the two, which I hope to watch today.)
Near our home there's a wonderful movie theater that has Dollar Night every Tuesday. Too often there is not a single movie (of the 7 or so playing there) that is worth a dollar. We found this out the first time we said, "Let's just watch anything - it must be worth a dollar each!" Well no, actually, it wasn't, but it was free to walk out, so we didn't lose too much. Recently, however, we went to see "Paul, Apostle of Christ," and then the next week, "I Can Only Imagine," both of which were excellent films about faith, hope, love, and our adorable Jesus who loves and saves us. (I would mention that both of them have very intense scenes of suffering, so please look them up online by clicking their titles here, and read about them before you decide to see them yourself, and "I Can Only Imagine" is not suitable for children.)
I mention the theater and the satisfying movies I've seen lately because I find it such a pleasure to watch a good movie - a pleasure and a rare treat. Even with religious movies, it's the rare one that delivers what I'm hoping for, and here God has been showering down good movies upon my head as if they were the heavenly roses I've been boldly requesting. I'll take what I can get and keep praying in ludicrous mode! But since you likely don't have a dollar theater near you, and even if you did, you would often run up against the usual slate of movies unworthy of your gorgeous soul, please do consider spending the price of two normal-movie-theater tickets (and a small popcorn) on one of Marcel's Movies. Because WOW - you are in for a treat!
Here's the deal - on the first one, "Turning Suffering Into Joy," besides the movie itself, one of the special features is an 11 minute clip of an interview with Fr. Antonio Boucher, Marcel's "Bearded Jesus." (You can see his picture on the right at the top of this post.) The interview was done 15 days before Fr. Boucher went to join Marcel in heaven, and it is awesome. I only watched a few minutes of it last night before I had to pause the DVD so I could write down a quote . . . And now - hold onto your hat - the second movie, "The Beatification Process of Marcel Van," includes the full 55 minutes of that interview!
If you can't wait to hear Fr. Boucher on Marcel, you don't actually have to . . . Thanks to Marcel's good friend Jack Keogan, there's yet a third Marcel Movie, and this one available for free online (at Jack's site: marcelvanassociation.com). It's called "Hidden Apostle of Love," and it too has an excerpt of that poignant and powerful interview with Bearded Jesus, Marcel's novice master, spiritual director, and best-earthly-friend and spiritual father.
What got me thinking about Marie and Therese was the unavoidable fact that Fr. Boucher is, in the interview, a very old man reflecting on someone (namely Marcel Van) who was his very good friend on earth, but whom he knows to be now in heaven. Not long before he died, having spent the 20 previous years translating Marcel's writings from Vietnamese into French, Fr. Boucher succeeded in convincing the Church to open Marcel's Cause. Not surprisingly, then, his story reminded me of Marie of the Trinity's. What would life be like if you were close friends with a future Saint? Taking Fr. Boucher's and Marie's lives as examples, we can see that after your Saint friend left you for Jesus-in-Heaven, you'd spend the rest of your own life pondering their messages, writing down what you remembered (if writing is your thing), and praising God for this insanely wonderful gift He'd given you. Oh, and furthering the Cause if there was one, or perhaps working to start a Cause if there wasn't. Or, because a Cause is really, like most everything in the life of a Saint, begun on God's initiative, maybe you'd just go on living your life, but always with the precious memories and inspiration of this friendship which, now that your friend has run the race and reached your common Goal, lights your way to get there too.
But on the other hand, maybe you'd forget about the friend entirely. Until the promoters of the Cause contacted you to give your witness before the official tribunal. Wouldn't that be awkward? What would you say? How about, "I don't know what you're talking about. Who?"
That is, in fact, what one of Marcel's dearest friends, Brother Andrew as he was called in their novitiate days together, said when he was contacted. Wonderfully enough it all made sense eventually, as Brother Andrew (or rather Fr. Joseph as he is now) explains in the foreword at the outset of Marcel's Volume 4, "Other Writings."
It turns out that Brother Andrew and Marcel were such best buds that Brother Andrew prayed, "Jesus, I'm afraid I may love Marcel more than I love You. If that is a danger, please separate us and make me forget Marcel entirely." Doesn't it sound like Brother Andrew was a saint-in-the-making too? This is like praying for humility or suffering, and I urge you: PLEASE DON'T. For myself, I'm more likely to pray, "Jesus, please give me friends who are so good and holy that I'm in danger of loving them more than You!" I am confident He'll make sure He's still my Truest Love, but oh how consoling it is to have another Jesus on this earth to be a friend in exile, just like Marcel had Fr. Boucher (and Fr. Boucher had Marcel).
But alas, Brother Andrew prayed his prayer, and God who is so mighty and so merciful answered it to the letter. So that many decades later, the people in France who contacted Father Joseph (the former Brother Andrew) had to send him the magnificent correspondence between himself and Marcel Van (from many decades before) and even Marcel's other writings too, before Fr. Joseph remembered that yes, he had in fact been a very close friend, a best friend, of Marcel Van's, now that you mention it!
And now I'm going to mention briefly a third way one might react to having been friends with a Saint. If you were me, for instance, and you had the privilege of knowing a Saint in his last years, and being his very good friend, exchanging scads of letters and having miracles happen due to prayers the Saint said for you (while both of you were still on earth), well as I say if you were me in this situation, you'd occasionally remember that you had a best friend ever who was now a Saint, and most of the time you'd just go on forgetting.
Which is why, last night when I realized that I always forget which day is Marcel's feast, his death-in-exile and birth-in-Heaven day, and when I remembered that it is July 15th (I think - if I'm getting it right this time!), and then I remembered too that July 15th was the day (in 2006) that my dear Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E. (Italian missionary extraordinaire and lover of St. Therese from the time he served as an altar boy at the Papal Masses for her beatification and canonization in the early 1920s) with whom I had the privilege to be friends from his 93rd to his 98th year (thank God for longevity!) left this earthly exile for Heaven . . . well, I was floored.
In these two and a half years since I've met and become close friends with Marcel, I've often thought that Fr. Maestrini was orchestrating the whole thing from heaven, right there with St. Therese, making sure Marcel and I became BFFs. Thank you, Father, and forgive me for being (when I'm not remembering) so very forgetful. But then, that's the beauty of Jesus' words to us in Conversations. He's forever telling us through Marcel that forgetting is no problem - it only allows Him to remind us again of the many things we've forgotten!
Thank You, Jesus, for friendship with the Saints: those on earth and those in Heaven. Help us to remember our friends, those who have gone before us to You and those from whom we are separated in this life. Most of all, help us to become Saints so that our memories of each other, even if never called upon as testimony in Causes (!!!), will fortify us, cheer us, move us to tears of joy and awe, and finally bring us to You in Heaven, where we'll live together with each other forever, never to be separated again!
+ + +
P.S. Well no, I didn't get it right this time, and the Phil Collins song "I Missed Again" is running through my head . . . I just now looked up Marcel's death-in-exile, birth-in-heaven day and Nope, it's not July 15th as I stated above, nor is it June 10th (the date I thought it was a couple of days ago), but are you ready? It was, is, and ever shall be July 10th (1959). Not that I'll remember, but you might, and do feel free to hit the Contact Me button in the sidebar to let me know next time I flub it here.
Marcel's got nothin' on me - I'm as forgetful as he ever was, and then some! But I have the advantage of his Conversations to remind me that Jesus doesn't mind a single bit. And as a bonus, this little addendum gives me the chance to say Happy Pentecost! Whatever day it is when you read this post, may the Holy Spirit fill your life with friendship and the Saints. As to Fr. Maestrini, his birth into heaven actually was July 15, 2016, and I'm adding a link HERE to introduce you to him and let you know I got that right at least!
P.P.S. I said it was two and a half years since I met Marcel. Actually, no, it's only been one and a half. Time flies when you're having fun, but the flip side is: How could there possibly have been a time I didn't know Marcel? Either way you look at it, reality and truth triumph here in my corner of the Internet, so let it be known that it's been merely a year and a half of Miss Marcel musing (pre- and post-blog). Ad multos annos!!!
The problem with having a blog is that when the truth gobsmacks you (i.e. hits you upside the head, to use a more scientific expression), you feel obliged to share it. Having a blog, you'd be selfish not to share it, and yet a blog is so silly that you know you can never do justice to the truth you're struggling to simultaneously hold onto and give away.
Which reminds me: a devoted reader recently brought to my bird-brained attention that I tend to occasionally split my infinitives. In defense of this particular folly, let me explain that I find myself using such a defamed construction because it best expresses my blondest thoughts and feelings, but even if that were not the case (and perhaps blonde is no longer a politically acceptable defense), I have in my corner no less a raconteur than the great James Thurber, and no less a stylist than the magnificent E.B. White. In my defense I could go on with their defenses at length, and in fact I did just that in the first draft of this post. (Yes, believe it or not I do revise these before I publish!) In the interests of economy, however, I have decided to save that amusing digression for a later date. If we're not economical with our use of the internet, all kinds of dire things may happen. Far be it from me to remind you that the meat is still in the freezer, but speaking generally, you know what I mean. I'll content myself with merely announcing here, for the whole wide online world to see, that according to White (and Strunk) in The Elements of Style: "Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does." An example? "I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow." Not that I can't bring myself to really like the fellow, but Strunk didn't know Marcel, so he's at a disadvantage.
I do sense, however, that even contenting myself with White and sparing you Thurber's hilarious take on the subject (if you must have it, you can find it HERE), I am ambling away from the important and life-changing Truth that compelled me to begin splitting infinitives today. This is not an entirely accidental digression - every part of me, be it grammatical or ungrammatical, humorous or serious, hesitates to dissipate the perfume of grace surrounding the ultimate Mystery I want to relay.
I am always turning to Marcel to solve my problems, always quoting from Conversations because no less an authority than Truth Himself is found there conversing with our little brother. Today, though, I want to begin with St. Therese, the one who first spoke to Marcel and first taught him the truth about God's infinitely tender love for us.
In a letter to Celine, our spiritual sister writes: "You wish to become a Saint, and you ask me if this is not attempting too much. Céline, I will not tell you to aim at the seraphic holiness of the most privileged souls, but rather to be 'perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.' You see that your dream – that our dreams and our desires – are not fancies, since Jesus Himself has laid their realization upon us as a commandment."
Okay, that isn't what I was about to quote, but it's so great that I couldn't resist!
More to the point at hand (and what I was looking for when I found the words just quoted) is the letter Therese wrote to her sister when Celine was about to enter the convent. And here she speaks not only of the perfume we must feel free to dissipate, but also of our tendency to be fools - which is what I feel I am in desiring with all my heart to convey the beauty and richness of two sentences Our Lord speaks to us in the Gospel readings, taken from the Last Supper, that prepare us for Pentecost. These two sentences are what compelled me to begin a new post so soon after my last, and in fact they were on my mind - though they never made it from there through my fingers to the keypad - when I last wrote.
First, then, with Marcel's permission, let me quote his - our - little Therese:
"What happiness . . . to pass for fools in the eyes of the world! We judge others by ourselves, and, as the world will not hearken to reason, it calls us unreasonable too.
"We may console ourselves, we are not the first. Folly was the only crime with which Herod could reproach Our Lord . . . and, after all, Herod was right. Yes, indeed, it was folly to come and seek the poor hearts of mortal men to make them thrones for Him, the King of Glory, Who sitteth above the Cherubim! Was He not supremely happy in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit of Love? Why, then, come down on earth to seek sinners and make of them His closest friends? Nay, our folly could never exceed His, and our deeds are quite within the bounds of reason. The world may leave us alone. I repeat, it is the world that is insane, because it heeds not what Jesus has done and suffered to save it from eternal damnation.
"We are neither idlers nor spendthrifts. Our Divine Master has taken our defense upon Himself. Remember the scene in the house of Lazarus: Martha was serving, while Mary had no thought of food but only of how she could please her Beloved. And 'she broke her alabaster box, and poured out upon her Savior’s Head the precious spikenard, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.'
"The Apostles murmured against Magdalene. This still happens, for so do men murmur against us. Even some fervent Catholics who think our ways are exaggerated, and that – with Martha – we ought to wait upon Jesus, instead of pouring out on Him the odorous ointment of our lives. Yet what does it matter if these ointment-jars – our lives – be broken, since Our Lord is consoled; and the world in spite of itself is forced to inhale the perfumes they give forth? It has much need of these perfumes to purify the unwholesome air it breathes."
As Marcel was before me (and no doubt Celine before Marcel), I am comforted and emboldened by our sister's words. But I also have Marcel to embolden me, and so I can do Therese one better.
She writes: "Folly was the only crime with which Herod could reproach Our Lord . . . and, after all, Herod was right. Yes, indeed, it was folly to come and seek the poor hearts of mortal men to make them thrones for Him, the King of Glory, Who sitteth above the Cherubim!" and then she asks: "Was He not supremely happy in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit of Love? Why, then, come down on earth to seek sinners and make of them His closest friends?"
I can answer that, Therese. You may be a Doctor of the Church, but I have an advantage over you: just as you learned everything at the feet of the Master and with the help of St. John of the Cross, so I learn everything there too, but with your help and Marcel's! Ah, the little grasshopper has become a teacher in his own right, and his audacity inspires my own. I dare, then, to answer your question and tell you precisely why He came down to earth to seek sinners and make of them (us!) His closest friends.
To put it simply: He couldn't help Himself.
As you say, dear Therese, "Our folly could never exceed His, and our deeds are quite within the bounds of reason." But come to think of it, His deeds were quite reasonable too . . . St. Thomas tells us: “The lover is not content with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to investigate from the inside all particular things that belong to the beloved, so as to penetrate to his inmost being.” Or again, in the words of our holy father St. John of the Cross, “This is the property of love: to seek out all the good things of the Beloved.”
How then could Jesus NOT come down to live among us?
I grant you His taste in friends is surprising, but there is no accounting for taste, as one of my dearest friends used to love to repeat. And we have His own words, His guarantee, that He is here among us still for precisely that reason: For Love, for His and the Father's Love for us, unaccountable and mysterious as such perfect Love may be.
I sometimes wonder why I take so long to get to the point. I'm sure others sometimes wonder this too, but today I have a defense of even this folly: I ramble and digress because when the point is as magnificent as Jesus' points always are, there is no possible commentary I could make after putting bare Truth on the bare page. I want to give the world His words to transform us all, but I know my presentation will always lack the simplicity and depth of His, no matter how few or many words I use.
As St. John of the Cross says, “The Father spoke one word from all eternity and He spoke it in silence and it is only in silence that we hear it.”
Yes, but it warms my heart to know that the Son, who is this single Word spoken by the Father, Himself used many, many words to convey to us what He had come to reveal, and none more moving and revealing (at least to me) than those He spoke on the night before He died.
Among those words He spoke at the Last Supper are Jesus' words for today, the few words that unleashed so many of mine, the Truth that hit me upside the head and compelled me to split infinitives and then defend myself. Believe me, I did originally consider putting these words alone on the page and calling them a post, because I'm well aware how little I can add once His words are out there. But where would be the sport in that? Where the Marcellian littleness? When did Jesus' words ever inspire silence in my namesake? I will only spare you the litany of my complaints (a la Marcel and the oozing sandals, the hot room, the too tight soutane, and so on and so forth) because such complaints are better whispered to Jesus who is, according to Marcel, to blame. As to the folly of my blathering, my best defense is that it precedes Jesus' eternal wisdom, rather than follows it, and that's the best I can do.
And so I will end now with Jesus' words, the ones I wanted to start with. Oh, and speaking of starting, don't even get me started on ending with a preposition! But enough of me, here is our Jesus, telling us plain as plain why He had to come live with us and why He will remain with us through all days until He scoops us into His arms and Heaven forever.
First, speaking to us directly, He says:
"As the Father loves Me, so I love you. Remain in My love." (John 15)
And then, speaking to the Father:
"And I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that You sent Me, and that You loved them even as You loved Me. Father, they are Your gift to Me. I wish that where I am they also may be with Me . . . I made known to them Your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them." (John 17)
Truth Himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true. I pray that His words may penetrate your heart and, by His Power, transform your life. May you know, at least for a moment and hopefully for a lifetime, that you are loved and beloved, and may this perfect love with which God loves you cast out all fear, now and forever!
Each day we must build up our stock of joy,
in the form which constitutes the highest and purest joy,
in the form of wonder.
--Father Maurice Zundel
I have told you this so that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.
Today is officially the first day of my husband's and my 30th wedding anniversary. I have the vague impression that other people confine their anniversaries (of their births, their weddings, even Mother's Day) to merely one day, but fortunately I now have this blog wherein I can set the rest of the world straight.
Remember how Heaven will be eternal bliss as we gaze on the Face of of God, our Love, forever? And remember how our life of grace on earth is a foretaste of Heaven? (I know sometimes it doesn't taste like Heaven, but go with me on this one; St. Thomas tells us so, and he's not the only one.)
Well, my policy is becoming clearer to me: We must practice extending our celebrations by increasing the time we allow ourselves for wonder and joy. We wouldn't want Heaven to be a complete change of activity from what we do now, but we're all in such a rush and such a tizzy down here (myself very much included), that anniversaries of every kind may be our last chance to slow down and revel in the miracle of His plan.
Have I told you yet about my husband's famous line about our anniversary? It was 10 years ago, and if you do the math, you'll find that was on or around our 20th wedding anniversary. It was the beginning of summer (this week back then, in fact, so we're now actually celebrating the 10th anniversary of this priceless moment of husbandly courage and candor), and naturally I was beginning to plan how to milk our anniversary (which on the calendar comes in August) for all it was worth. So I said to my husband, the moment his school year ended, "Honey, this is the summer of our 20th anniversary! What shall we do to celebrate it?"
Let me defend him before I cast him into the abyss of Too Much Truth. It is likely that having been married to me for 20 years, he knew me well enough at that point to know my expectations for our special day (which I was considering our special summer) might be just a tad high. Not like, "Let's splurge and go out to dinner at a place where they give you two forks" high, but more like "Shall we take a world tour, or simply go to Europe and see every Saintly place the Continent has to offer?" high.
And so, because the best defense is a good offence, Tony looked at me, his beloved bride, and blurted out, "I'd rather go to the dentist than have our 20th anniversary."
Translate: "At least when you go to the dentist, you know there will be an end to the event." Or perhaps a more literal translation would be, "I love you darling, and I'd marry you all over again, but I'm already exhausted and I'm not ready to spend my whole summer celebrating when I know this is going to turn out badly. At least the dentist gives me a new toothbrush."
The upshot was that I laughed very hard, we started on a level playing field, and wonderfully enough, we came up with a list of fun activities for the whole summer - mostly local; none overseas - and had the best 20th anniversary time ever. And true to form, five years later when our 25th anniversary rolled around, my absent minded professor actually did (inadvertently) schedule a dentist appointment for our special day!
You can see my conundrum. It's our 30th, and the only obvious solution for a man with this attitude is a root canal. And yet that wouldn't be sporting: I'm all for togetherness, but I never said I'd rather go to the dentist than anything at all, let alone substitute it for our anniversary.
Luckily, I'm beginning to see that God's got this, like absolutely everything else. And so my wonder begins as this day dawns, May 15th and the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, whose wife was a Saint too. Do you think it was for not whacking him over the head with a farm implement when he said he'd rather have a tooth pulled than celebrate their 20th?
In fact we didn't actually get married on this day, but it was the day we quickly decided upon when my husband proposed and I, after a momentary lapse during which my life flashed before my eyes and I consequently and uncharacteristically paused before speaking, and he said (the man is hilarious), "You can tell me tomorrow if you want," thus startling me out of my brief reverie so that I yelled (or sweetly responded, eyes downcast under dew-tipped lashes; I forget which): "Yes!" -- to marrying him, not to waiting until the next day.
As I recall, we then looked at each other in awe and wonder. Really.
I said, "Are you sure?" and he laughed and assured me he was sure.
We continued to gaze at each other in awe, and one of us (me?) said, "We can raise lots of children up to heaven!" and the other (that would be him) heartily agreed, both of us lost in the wonder of God's plan for our future. And then we wondered aloud together how soon we could possibly get married and came up with the first Saturday after school was over (then it was grad school, but school it always is for us) which happened in that year to be the Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer.
Which brings me at last to the subject of this post: Joy in God's plan. Which plan, I might add, is so often not ours. At least not our Plan A - you know, the plan we have so that God can replace it with Plan B.
Grammatically, "joy in God's plan" could mean at least two things: The plan of joy God has for us, or, on the other hand, the joy we take in the plan of God. Luckily for those of us bears with little brains, they amount to the same thing, for as Jesus told us two thousand years ago (and yesterday) through the Apostles at the Last Supper, His desire is that His own joy fill us so that our joy may be complete. And just to confirm that His intentions haven't changed, He tells us again today through Marcel something similar in their Conversations:
"Be joyful little brother, never give in to sadness" (404),
"You must always be joyful" (549),
and speaking of what St. Therese has told Marcel,
"She does not cease to remind you that, even in difficulties, you must never be sad but always joyful. I myself have just told you the same thing, assuring you that I continue to smile on you and to give you kisses . . . So, Marcel, be joyful and say again to me: 'Little Jesus, I love you. O little Jesus, come with me.' I love you very much, Marcel, I am very happy with you and when I see you joyful, I am happier still" (241).
Our dear Mother Mary, too, repeatedly tells us through Marcel in their Conversations:
"Your only occupation should be to love in joy. You can cry when you are sad and laugh when you are joyful, but your heart must love little Jesus always in joy" (284).
I guess the tears come first in frustration, which Our dear Lord shed too, twice at least we know from the Gospels. As one of my favorite sermons from my favorite Book of Sermons (which you can see by clicking HERE) has it: "Christ, Our Lord, was a prey to incidentals. He was a victim of incessant annoyances which left Him no peace. He could never carry out without interruptions what He planned to do."
Isn't that our life exactly?
And so, in God's eternal design, my husband and I didn't get married on this day thirty years ago, but a few months down the road. And the sequel has been just as funny: our "lots of children" we've been raising to heaven have been two unimaginably wonderful sons, not a dozen. And finally, as if to remind us that He's still full of surprises and His plan is still better than ours, the first jaunt of our summer this year, which was to begin yesterday and would have landed us today in a tropical paradise for the beginning of our anniversary festivities, was at the very last minute postponed. Not to mention the tropical paradise is seeing massive rain, with thunderstorms projected into the indeterminate future!
Again, the sequel is just as delightful. Because God's plan trumped ours, I ended up in church yesterday afternoon, rather than on a plane. Right there I was able to practice turning my tears into joy, although I admit it wasn't hard to rejoice at finding myself on solid ground in God's large house rather than in a cramped metal tube flying far above the earth but well below Heaven . . .
Furthermore, it was a particularly wonderful visit to church because it included an unexpected (but irresistible) confession with a holy and gentle priest (my confession, not his), and Mass with a Gospel reading that strung together a series of sparkling words straight from Our Lord's Heart, each brighter and more beautiful than the one before.
Soon I was so overwhelmed by God's love that I had to amuse myself with Marcel's trick of distracting himself so as not to get into trouble. I was in such awe at Jesus' words, the relics He's left us, that I was afraid I might swoon if I didn't change the subject. Okay, it did occur to me that all this holiness and intensity of devotion might be the effect of half a Coke I'd drunk an hour before, but after consulting with friends (one of whom was wondering if the cup of coffee she'd had earlier was responsible for her similar reaction to the Gospel) we decided no, what we were experiencing was really the thrill of Jesus' words of love. And it occurred to me that our usual distraction is just His infinite mercy keeping us from dying of love too soon, which would happen if we had any awareness of the depths and heights of His love for us. But when, despite our best efforts to spend Mass thinking of what we'll eat for lunch or dinner, the wonder of His infinite Love threatens to bowl us over, we can turn to Marcel for advice on how to stay upright. He knows a thing or two about staying focused, it turns out, and comically, it's not much different than where we started. Here is what he wrote to Brother Andrew in 22 May 1949:
"I am giving you this advice when you go into town: you must be very attentive, I mean do not be immersed in deep meditation, as happened to me several times to my misfortune. So, from now on, when I go to town on my bicycle, beforehand, when I go to the oratory to ask Jesus' blessing, I have to force myself to adopt a nonchalant air so as to avoid that the intimacy with which Jesus gives me His blessing does not make me feel its effect as far as the town. In acting this way, with an air of not having any intimacy with Jesus, my intention is to avoid being distracted, as happened more than once, as when I was already in town and I believed I was still sitting peacefully on my bench in the oratory . . . ! Because of that it happened to me once, and even many times that I had funny adventures on the road. I will tell you of one to help you to be on your guard.
"One afternoon, when I had gone to town, I do not know on what business, I was returning to the house and I could not have been happier! My mind was probably in the clouds - perhaps also because I was chatting too intimately with Jesus - and I pedaled without knowing too well where I was at. Suddenly, I saw vaguely in front of me some people who were walking four abreast in the middle of the road. You know well the width of this road which stretches from the coconut market to Hang Bot. However, they marched in ranks of four although there were only four of them. I had hardly noticed them, me being behind them, for they were going in the same direction as me. I was afraid. I wanted to ring the bell, but alas, there was not one. I hurried to apply the brakes, once again a problem! You know the state of the bicycles at the Thai-Ha community. I was really frightened, it was impossible for me to get out of it: If I turn to the right I fall on the track of the electric trams, if I turn to the left I hit the fourth person. I therefore cried out "Xe!" ["Motor!"], resigning myself to land on the tram lines; I had, unfortunately, not the time to do so, as my bicycle turned suddenly on the person who was marching near it. I fell to the ground. I do not know if I felt any pain, all I do know is that the lady I had struck did not stop whistling between her teeth to express her annoyance. I got up quickly, both bothered and a little unhappy, but I was able to contain myself immediately. It was not possible for me, a religious, to argue with a young woman in the street. Really that would have been-
"I remained calm, therefore, although I would have had reason to reproach them. I hurriedly apologized to the young lady asking her if she had been hurt. She replied by muttering in her teeth, reproaching me for this and that. Her three friends joined her to complain . . . I did have a little consolation: the three young ladies, in spite of everything, in speaking to me favored me with the title of sir. [In Vietnam this term was used for men over 40. Marcel was 21!] It was not too bad, after this adventure, to be called sir. I allowed them to get things off their chests and then remounted my bicycle. But the young ladies continued: has sir learnt to ride a bicycle? So is sir blind?
"As for me, back down to earth, I questioned myself to determine the cause of this amusing adventure. I remember very well that my eyes were wide open. I would never dare close my eyes as the little girl of Lisieux once did. But, nevertheless I hit someone whilst riding the bicycle on the road. Although I reflected a lot all the way back to the house, I could not find any explanation. It is only later that I remembered this: in passing in front of the church in Hang-Bot, inadvertently I took off my hat to salute Jesus in a very intimate manner, so that, throughout the journey, my mind was wandering all over the place . . . ! I did not stop reproaching Jesus, and after that I paid great attention. But alas! My Brother, there remains the rest of the journey to finish. Sometimes, even if I pay attention, it happens that my mind wanders here and there." (Correspondence)
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Oh dearest little brother, Marcel! You are so wonderful that you fill me with joy! Even when you are advising me how not to die of love (not any old death of love, but dying by getting into an accident while multi-tasking by driving and chatting with Jesus, for instance), you leave me in doubt as to whether your mind "wandering all over the place" was like mine, occupied with trivia, or like our sister's, absorbed often in God. And even when you are absorbed in God, what could be more imitable and delightful than your conversations with Him, wherein He reveals to you His burning love, and you reveal to Him your oh so understandable, if seemingly trivial, concerns.
Jesus: Little Marcel, do you love me?
Marcel: Yes, I love you.
Jesus: But how do you love me?
Marcel: I love you so much that it is impossible for me to express it.
Jesus: In that case, you must never worry. When I say something to you, you must listen straight away.
Marcel: But, little Jesus, why does Brother Mark behave so harshly towards me? Do not forget that I can place the fault at your feet since it is you who live in Brother Mark; it is you who allow him to make me suffer. . . (Conversations, 351)
You can see why my joy and wonder return again and again to Marcel. Who but our nutty little brother could get away with blaming Jesus for everything?! What a wonderful example for us to follow! But remember to save such intimate blaming for a time when you are not driving, or you may find yourself blaming Him face to Face!
As to yesterday's Gospel and my need to distract myself from Jesus' words there, well I knew I'd be driving home afterward, so that can be my excuse for not wanting to die of love just then. Not to mention that we haven't finished raising son #2, nor the disappointment my husband would feel if I were not here to badger him into a series of remarkable anniversary adventures.
I'm sure you too have many reasons to stay on this earth a while longer: people who need you, who love you, for whom this earth would be too far from Heaven if you went away too soon. Careful, then, with the words that follow. I've been waiting for years to share them with you, and I will end with them today, on the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer (and by implication, his adorable saintly wife, Maria). They are words all straight from Jesus - the first set spoken to us through St. Gertrude the Great, and the rest at the Last Supper and in yesterday's Gospel.
"My daughter, seek those words of mine which most exude love. Write them down, and then, keeping them preciously like relics, take care to reread them often . . . Be assured, then, that the most precious relics of mine on earth are my words of love, the words which have come from my most sweet Heart." (words of Our Lord to St. Gertrude)
Is it any surprise that my most precious possession is my copy of Marcel's Conversations with Jesus?
"Jesus said to His disciples, 'As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is My commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father. It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. This I command you: love one another.'" (Jn 15:9-17)
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God's plans for my yesterday prevailed in spades, and as per His custom, brought me great joy. When I went online to rearrange my plans to fit His, I found that Marcel had snuck back onto Catholic Exchange, HERE. I was enraptured, once again, by Jesus' words. As if that wasn't enough, my French connection informed me that if I went HERE and HERE, I would find the two best gifts (anniversary, Mother's Day, St. Isidore the Farmer Day gifts - any excuse will do) ever - a pair of DVDs on Marcel! They are now available in the U.S. for $20 each with free shipping, and one of them includes the nearly hour long recording of Fr. Antonio Boucher, Marcel's novice master, spiritual director, and "Bearded Jesus," speaking of his dear little Marcel. This was taped only 15 days before Fr. Boucher went to meet Marcel and Jesus in Heaven! I couldn't have concluded this post without telling you of this bounty and sharing it with you through the wonders of the clickable internet. I hope I have refilled your stock of joy for today, and I hope that wherever you go next, you will take the intimacy of Jesus' love with you. But remember: drive safely!
"As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. . . I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father . . . I have much more to tell you now, but you cannot bear it. But when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all truth . . .It is expedient for you that I depart, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you . . . These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you, but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you."
These words all come from Jesus' Last Supper with His best friends, and you can find them in the Gospel recorded by one of those best friends, John, who that night rested his head on Jesus' chest and heard the beating of His Sacred Heart, as well as His many words and promises of Love.
Last night I had the privilege of attending another sort of last supper among best friends. My husband teaches at Thomas Aquinas College, a small school of less than 400 students. As we did when we were graduating from the same place 31 years ago, the students gathered with their teachers and chaplains for the Presidents' Dinner in St. Joseph Commons.
(Afterward we all went bowling - last night and 31 years ago. Let me just say that although it seems like bad sportsmanship to refuse "double or nothing" after you've won a hard fought game, I'd refuse it if I were you. The likely outcome if you take it and then bowl like me is that you'll end up with nothing, though much laughter will lead you there. Suffice it to say that after my terrible beginning and before my similarly unhappy ending, I did play an impressive game in the middle.)
My favorite part of the evening, hands down, is the toasts the students and faculty make. It's a last chance to give public witness to the friendships that Heaven has given here: the Heavenly friendships which are, in my opinion, the greatest treasures (outside the Sacraments) on this earth; the friendships which, in many cases, will continue with this intensity only when we are re-united in Heaven forever.
This was the 11th such farewell dinner that my husband and I have attended since we returned to our alma mater exactly 20 years after our own President's Dinner. In the interim, we were blessed to be part of the Christendom College community where my husband taught for 14 years. There, too, this time of year is a season of warm and poignant good-byes as students (and faculty) bid farewell to friends made during four years spent living together in the hard-fought pursuit of virtue and Truth.
The news in the world and the Church can be so depressing. My advice is to ignore it as much as possible. Christ alone gives true peace; as He said, "Not as the world gives do I give." My husband and I have seen the reputations of our two dear colleges rise and fall and rise again, depending on the perspective (often skewed, sometimes hilarious, frequently biased) of the portion of the world momentarily interested in our aforesaid common pursuit of virtue and Truth.
What do I know from long experience living in the heart of these communities?
Only God is perfect. And every perfect gift comes from Him. A college, however faithful to the Magisterium (and these colleges are as faithful as the day is long - and the day is very, very long), is an imperfect institution because it is made up of imperfect men and women. But among our imperfection, the perfect gifts He gives are so beautiful to behold . . . And among these perfect gifts, friendship is among the greatest. Friendship with Him, ripening into Easter vigils full of blooming young lilies whose lives are newly baptized and pledged unto death. Friendship with each other, which will sustain the separate pursuits of virtue and Truth which once were sought together. Friendship which comes from Heaven and will be fulfilled in Heaven.
My best friends of college days were, as with the students who toasted each other last night, almost beyond counting - which is funny when you consider how relatively small Thomas Aquinas College is. But if I was forced to count, if I had to toast in the limited time available, I'd want to remember three friends in particular. One is my husband, who sleeps while I write. The other two (Jackie and Jon, since they were not nameless, but have names I invoke regularly) are even nearer to me as I write - as near as Heaven, which I'm confident they now call Home.
The toasts last night ended with a final benediction from our oldest chaplain, Fr. Cornelius Buckley of the Society of Jesus. He does great honor to his forebears, St. Ignatius and Francis Xavier, for he is as merry as he is holy, and as much a friend (and fan of friendship) as they were back in the day. He thanked God for this time, this dinner among friends, a dinner which he noted was "the last time we'd all be together like this until the Heavenly Banquet."
The evening had, as always, brought tears to my eyes: tears of gratitude that God has let me live in such places, among such saintly people, amidst such Heavenly friendship. With Father's final blessing, I felt a fuller measure of gratitude, love, and joy. While it's true that good-byes are hard, they are always only temporary. Not only do we have the joy of spending time, however long or fleeting, with friends in this life, but we have the hope and promise of spending eternity with them. That means Forever! Toasts unlimited, joy galore, seeing God face to Face and each other in all our future glory. Can you imagine how magnificent that will be? How good God is!
Reading Marcel is such a pleasure because he is so very human (read: poor, weak, little, imperfect), and yet while experiencing the depths of our human condition, he was brought by Jesus to the heights as well. And if I had to choose two words to explain how Jesus brought our brother Marcel to the heights, those two words would be Heavenly friendships.
When you begin to know of Marcel, even the least little bit, the first thing that jumps out at you is his friendship with St. Therese. He asked her to be his big sister and she responded with a resounding "Yes!" and lots more to say besides. They became the best of friends, and it wasn't long before Jesus, too, began speaking to Marcel, speaking as a friend speaks to a friend. Mary's role is that of a Mother, and she is Mother par excellence to Marcel, but as a mother I like to think that this mothering relationship doesn't exclude friendship. Rather, like marriage it is a special form of friendship. So there we have it: Marcel's heavenly friendships are with none other than Jesus, Mary, and Therese. You can see why I cherish his Conversations: they are the record of these intimate friendships with God, His Mother, and His dear little Therese, "the greatest saint of modern times."
But like a ginsu knife commercial - Wait! There's more!
Recently I've been realizing that Marcel's Heavenly friendships also include two more types. I won't leave you in suspense: the first is with us! But before he got to Heaven in order to initiate friendships with us like St. Therese had with him, he had heavenly friendships on earth with people wayfaring just like he was. And the words he and his friends exchanged are worth noting because they teach us so much about our own experience - that past, and that to come.
When Van was just a boy, shortly after he'd chosen Therese to be his big sister and she'd come to instruct him, he himself became the teacher of his little friend Hien. After Van told Hien much of what Therese had taught (while keeping the extent of his friendship with Therese a secret), Hien responded:
"Van, you are truly very fortunate! Frankly, until now I had never heard it said that there are such intimate relations between earth and heaven. O Van, I wish to have no other spiritual sister than your spiritual sister! . . . Also, Van, from today I am choosing you as my spiritual brother so that you may be my guide on the way of perfection, since I am still very imperfect." (Autobiography 637)
Marcel writes, "From that moment Hien and I, like two flowers from the same stem, lived closely together, helping one another in our ascent towards God . . . I noticed shortly afterwards that the divine grace acting in his soul enabled him to make rapid progress. It could be said that we had both arrived at a level of the spiritual life which could be described as reckless since we allowed ourselves to be guided by this doctrine of Therese: one responds to love by love and a perfect confidence" (638).
Let me interject that Marcel took great joy in the resemblance between his life and that of Therese - and here is a great example of similarity. His account of his friendship with Hien reminds me so much of Therese's account, in Story of a Soul, of her friendship with Celine when they too were young and falling in love with Jesus.
But what captures my heart even more than Marcel's commentary on this friendship is the remark Hien made to him one day: "Van, I think that if I had never met anyone in my life like you to understand me, I would have probably died of sadness" (639).
I have good news. Just as it took Therese to come down and understand Van to keep him from dying of sadness in this exile, and just as Van was immediately (after meeting Therese) willing to share her love (Jesus' love) with Hien, so we too are next in line to receive Heavenly friendships, and in particular the friendship of our dear brother Marcel Van. Listen to what he says after quoting Hien's tribute to him:
"Hien has been my first little brother, the first flower of the season. It is St. Therese who has enabled me to find him, pick him, and offer him to God."
There would be no point in Marcel speaking of Hien as his "first little brother" unless he planned on having more of the same! And there would be no point in my having written about the beautiful friendships I'm privileged to witness and partake in, unless I had such friendships to offer you, dear reader! You don't even need to have (yet) the confidence that Therese and Marcel prescribe. That confidence will come as you more and more see God's goodness, but meanwhile I will have confidence for you. I am completely confident that Marcel, with Therese's help, will become an intimate Heavenly friend to you, happy to teach you his big sister's secrets - the secrets of Jesus' passionate Love for you - and happy to accompany you through this exile until you reach your true Home and all your Heavenly friends at the Father's House.
This year I'm especially moved by the graduations at my two beloved colleges coinciding quite perfectly with Jesus' Ascension. And when I'm tempted to be sad about Jesus seeming to leave us (will you judge me harshly if I tell you I've been saying the glorious mysteries since Easter and making the first two mysteries the Resurrection, while leaving out the Ascension?), I remind myself that He didn't leave without the promise which will keep us from dying of sadness. In Matthew's Gospel, Our Lord's last words (and this at His Ascension) are "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."
We have Him here with us in the Blessed Sacrament, and we can meet each other there, in Him, Heavenly friends old and new, those in Heaven now, and those still on earth.
There will be many reunions for friends who must part soon: marriages, ordinations, first vows, baptisms, alumni days, and, dare I say it, funerals. I do not regret my two college friends' departure for better climes, though I sometimes recriminate them for leaving me here while they go to eternal bliss. No matter - I have Jesus as they do, even if I'm more easily distracted from Him. And they will not forget to remind Him about me, even if He could forget me for an instant!
I hope you too are blessed with a multitude of Heavenly friends, and that you are not too often parted from them during our earthly pilgrimage. As to the end of the pilgrimage - may you not be too surprised by the Love of God in Himself and His friends (and yours) when you get there!
Finally, speaking of pilgrimages, my second son Dominic is on one now - after a day in Fatima with friends kind enough to take him with them to Portugal, they are on their way today, on Ascension Thursday, along the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela, scheduled to arrive there on Pentecost. I can only say: never underestimate the power of Heavenly friendships, and please in your charity offer an Ave for their safe and holy travels, as I offer an Ave in thanks for yours! God is really all that good, and then some.
I've been trying to write this post since May 1st, St. Joseph's day. Well, maybe "trying" is too strong a word. How about "desiring"?
I'm hoping today is the day . . . and I've decided to say that whenever I get this up (and whenever you see it, which I realize might not be the instant I post it), let's call it St. Joseph's day! After all, we can honor dear and good St. Joseph any and every day - and St. Andre Bessette, the wonderful Holy Cross doorkeeper in Montreal, builder of St. Joseph's Oratory and the one who fired me with love for St. Joseph this past May 1st in the wee hours, encourages us to do just that: to celebrate, turn to, and rely upon our dear friend and father St. Joseph every single moment. So here goes!
I've been saying a novena to little St. Therese. I started with 3 big intentions, but before I knew it (as usual) the novena list had expanded. Why waste all those potential miracles? The novena was set to end just in time for April 29th, which I discovered, after I'd begun my 9 days, was the 95th anniversary of our sister's beatification. That was a lovely surprise indeed, but just to be fair I gave Therese until May 1st, St. Joseph's day, since I kept piling on the requests.
Oh my heavens! When St. Joseph's day came, I read some inspiring stuff about St. Andre's love and dependence on him, and I realized I should make this a double whammy novena. So I'm continuing it through the octave of St. Joseph's feast, and I've added in one extra very special request - that St. Therese and St. Joseph grant great blessings to all who read Miss Marcel's Musings and/or this post! Miracles unlimited, just waiting for the recipient to stand under Therese's (and Marcel's) shower of roses! Here, step forward just a smidge - perfect! You are poised to have heavenly rose petals raining down upon your sweet head!
I spoke to a friend last night, my East Coast Miss Marcel. She figures into one of the original 3 novena requests, and she had great news. About the time the novena originally ended, the request I'd made for her was granted. Well, granted a little. Now I'm busy telling Therese and Marcel and Joseph that we are grateful for the sign - but no more joking around! They have access to God's infinite Love and unending compassion, so I'd like to see some really BIG roses, if they can just stop horsing around for a minute. This is what I get for giving Therese an inch (and a few extra days) - she can't help teasing! No wonder she and Marcel get along so well!
But while we wait for the serious outpouring of graces, I may as well entertain you by telling you what I read from Brother Andre that got me so fired up. It was in an ebook (which I found on amazon) called "Go to St. Joseph: Do whatever he tells you," by Brian Kiczek. There are lots of wonderful things in this book, but here is what Brother Andre said that I loved the most, and that reminded me of Marcel and Jesus:
"When praying, one speaks to God as one speaks to a friend,"
"When you say to God, Our Father, He has His ear right next to your lips. There is so little distance between heaven and earth that God always hears us. Nothing but a thin veil separates us from God."
"When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don't have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend Saint Joseph . . . Tell him, 'If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well pray for this on my behalf.'"
Have you heard that saying, "The proof is in the pudding"? Well St. Andre's pudding was full of miracles. He was a thaumaturgist, a very cool thing to be because it means a miracle worker. Of course it's God who does all the miracles really, but this is a word that applies to those for whom He very regularly does those miracles at their request.
St. Andre's job for a zillion or so years (he lived to be quite old, as you can imagine) was to be the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal. He didn't have much education, his health wasn't good, and this was the humble task his superiors assigned him. Forever.
Perfect! A doorkeeper doesn't just open the door randomly - he opens it for the people who want to come in. And if he's a really lovable and loving doorkeeper, soon people want to come in to talk to him while he's holding the door open! This is what happened, and the crowds got bigger and the people more interested in seeing him as the news spread that all you had to do was ask him to pray for you and WHAM! Miracles unlimited!
The author of this ebook quotes Cardinal Turcotte saying of St. Andre, "He was convinced that God could use him to accomplish wonderful things." And then Brain K. goes on to say, "We should be just as convinced that God can use us to accomplish wonderful things, especially if we 'Go to Joseph.'" Because St. Andre had a particular BFF, and that very bestest friend was St. Joseph. Like any good thaumaturgist, Andre knew he had no power - his weakness was his strength, attracting the love of God and the love of God's foster father, and clearly, after all, you only had to depend on THEM to get the job done! For his part, he quipped, "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained for forty years." I love it!
But back to our proverb. It turns out (thank you, Google) that the original of "The proof is in the pudding" is actually "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." This means we have to taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good. St. Andre's pudding (which is really St. Joseph's pudding, because Andre turned to St. Joseph with all requests brought to him) is full of miracles - and so is Therese's pudding. In order to prove it, though, we've got to try it ourselves.
As usual, there's so much more I want to say. About the Saints and their nearness to us and to Jesus; about how He uses them (and how they love to be used!) to show His own more-than-nearness to us. Oh, if only I could tell you what I've learned from Marcel!
I will content myself with telling you this:
When I first read Story of a Soul when I was about 20, I was struck by the tender intimacy St. Therese had with Jesus. This love that I'd hoped to have with Him - I saw in this book that such love was possible because here it was in action!
Thirty years later when I first read Conversations, Marcel showed me that Therese's close relationship with Jesus was not only imitable but even surpassable! She and he and Jesus all give the same condition. We need only be weaker than Therese. I can do that! Okay, then we need to surrender to Jesus - that seems more of a challenge, but what do we have to lose?
In the end (and at the beginning and in the middle, for that matter) whether we are weak or strong, we are called to this same intimacy - Jesus is longing for us to be as close to Him as St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother were to Him when the three of them lived together in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth. Marcel had that kind of closeness to Him - you see it in Conversations on every page, and I can never get enough of the encouragement that gives us.
Are you ready? This is the umpteenth intention I'm adding to my novena, and I'm sure Therese and Marcel and St. Joseph will obtain if for me, because it is God's greatest desire (and He is God, so He gets what He wants) - May you be drawn into Jesus' embrace so intimately that the two of you never let each other go!
And now while you're there, so close to Jesus' Sacred Heart, whisper to Him everything you need. He's so mighty and so merciful, you will obtain from Him as much as you hope for!
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If you, like me, can't get enough of Marcel, you will be delighted (like I am!) to know that he appeared at Our Sunday Visitor this week in a wonderful article by Jim Graves HERE. May our Heavenly Father rain down roses on Jim's head too!
I know these three look kind of bummed, but I'm thinking they'd had a hard day when this photo was taken. No matter, these are the Fatima children - from left, Jacinta, Lucia, and Francesco. They are all in Heaven now, and guess who is making them laugh? Yes! Marcel! You can just imagine what a good time they're all having now that Marcel has joined their ranks . . .
Meanwhile, we are left in exile, serving our time, doing a pretty pathetic job of imitating their sacrifices for love of Jesus, reparation to Mary's Immaculate Heart, for the conversion of sinners and for the Holy Father. But oh my goodness, let's not be glum about that too! I have a quick solution for you, and it will help you (yes, you!) start saving the world right this moment . . .
The most wonderful light shone on the darkness of my ignorance this morning, and I think you will agree that my new insight is lovely enough to make the angels sing, with the Angel of Fatima leading their choir.
Remember how I told you in the last post about Marcel's prayer for the unbaptized babies? If you don't remember, welcome to Marcel's universe: Good job for being just like him (and me) - namely, forgetful! If you haven't read that post yet, no worries, you can check it out soon, because this post you're reading now is going to be short and sweet, and take care of our difficulty in remembering that previously posted prayer.
This is where the Fatima children come in.
Are you ready?
Don't be worried if you're not a huge Fatima fan - that will come in time, IF the Holy Spirit wants it to. I just read a great line from a friend of mine who writes (and prays and loves), and who wrote today at Catholic Exchange (click HERE for the whole fabulous article) that, "There are times and seasons in life for different devotions, and God will call me to do the ones that will bring me closest to Him in each moment."
Isn't that straight from the Holy Spirit? So no more worrying, even about Fatima, ever!
Meanwhile, I bring up Fatima because it totally pertains to the question at hand. Oops, did I forget to tell you the question? Okay, here it is:
How are we, little Marcel-ites, to remember that gorgeous (but long) prayer that he wrote out for the unbaptized babies? We want to help Jesus save the world, but by golly that prayer was kind of long.
And the answer is . . .
No, not the daily double, but rather: we only have to remember the prayer that the angel taught the Fatima children. And it is so easy!
Repeat after me three times (and help save the world) -
Oh my God,
I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee.
And I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
Oh my God,
I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee.
And I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
Oh my God,
I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee.
And I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
There, we did it!
We just encapsulated Marcel's longer prayer into this one which is so much shorter - and straight from Heaven by way of an angel, no less!
Now I could talk about how deep this prayer is, how much consolation it gave the Fatima children (and I bet Jesus too), how much I've grown to love it, and so on, but instead I'm going to offer you a link to an article I wrote on Fatima a while back, in case you want to hear my thoughts on learning to love it and Our Lady there, which for me started with falling head over heels in love with Jacinta, the really frowny one in the photos -darling Jacinta who loved to dance, who loved the Holy Father once she found out what the words even meant and who he was, and who was personally thanked by St. John Paul II when he beatified her in 2000...But there, I said I wasn't going to talk about all that here, since I've already talked about it HERE. Click if you want to be transported to Fatima, but for those who stay to read the rest of this post:
There's not much more to say, actually. Now you've learned that God is leaving nothing to chance (least of all us and the salvation of souls), and so He, our dear True Father, has given us the niftiest little prayer to say anytime, anywhere, to put our wills into the unformed wills of the unbaptized babies. And even more delightfully, we can say it for anyone else who needs it too!
With that, I think I've solved the problem of saving the world. It never really was much of a problem anyhow, seeing that God sent His only Son who did all the heavy lifting. It is truly awesome, though, that He lets us help, and I think I'm going to do it again just to see if I've got it down pat.
Oh my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee,
and I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
Yup, we're all set. I don't know if anyone else has compared heaven-sent prayers to fun toys, but I can't help closing by saying "Have fun with your new toy!" We spend so much time acquiring material things that it's a nice change to acquire something spiritual. Leave it to an angel to give us something worth saying to God!
I feel a little luckier than Marcel today. He never said anything (that I know of) about Fatima, so he had to keep reciting that very long prayer for the babies, whereas we can say our shorter one. Oh, but three times, the angel advised. Still, I like that because it helps me remember the prayer, and maybe once in those three times I also remember to pay attention to what I'm saying! I don't mean to raise the bar unnecessarily high, though. With Marcel, I'm learning from Jesus that it's all about His love doing everything in us. More than anything, Our Lord seems to be sorry we're always so tired. So with Him, I urge you, go and take a nap... You've already done your part to save the world today, so you have every right to get some rest!
Jesus has many names for his darling Marcel, just as we would expect from one who is in love and constantly addressing His beloved.
In the very first entry of Conversations, Jesus begins: "Marcel! Humble child of my love . . . " He later calls Marcel "My child," "My spouse," "My little flower." And again, "My little friend," "Little apostle of my love," and "Little friend of my love."
It seems there is no end to Jesus' endearments: "Little brother," "My dear little one," and even "My wren," and "mother of souls."
I'm not absolutely positive about which title is Marcel's favorite, but I have an idea. While my favorite of Marcel's names is "the second Therese," I think his own most cherished name is "apostle of children." He took this commission very seriously, as we'll see in the conversation that is the centerpiece of today's post. But first, a word on how I came upon this conversation. . .
When my husband and I were in graduate school, we had to study for a comprehensive exam in philosophy. Our classmates turned to us when the subject of St. Thomas came up. "You went to Thomas Aquinas College," they said. True enough. "So you can lead the review on him. After all, you've read everything he's written."
That anecdote serves to remind me that not everything in grad school was painful. Some of it was super funny! No, we had to tell them, we haven't actually read everything he wrote. Just a smidgen in fact . . . They never really accepted our ignorance, which was fine with me: it's lovely to be considered an expert in something, especially something as wonderful as St. Thomas' writings.
I can see how a similar mistake could be made now about my acquaintance with Marcel. Setting myself up as Miss Marcel is like announcing to the world that I'm a Marcel expert. But no, actually, the reality is I'm simply a Marcel lover, and possibly not even the greatest of these. Not that I don't love Marcel a lot, as he would say, but I'm delighted to know some others who love him so much as to perhaps love him even more than I do. I don't mind a bit - what a marvelous competition to lose, as long as one's in the running.
And so, it's thanks to another Miss Marcel that I found myself reading the following pages (those I'm going to transcribe below) in Conversations at my Friday holy hour. The other Miss Marcel had flipped to the pages in Conversations at her Wednesday holy hour - the same day, unbeknownst to her at the time, that I was beginning to think about babies who die without baptism. I was, as I mention in the next post down, thinking of these little ones because of a remarkable blog post called "Remembering Miscarried Children" that appeared over at Bacon from Acorns that day.
Next thing the East Coast-Wednesday-holy-hour-Miss Marcel knew, her West Coast counterpart (that would be me) sent her a blog post all about Jesus' plan for the little ones, according to Marcel. The Holy Spirit was afoot! This was just what she'd been reading about already . . . so she emailed back and mentioned the passage from her holy hour. "Is this where you got it?" she asked.
Well no, amazingly! But how wondrous that she'd stumbled upon the very passage that had inspired my passage. Mine (you can find it in the next post down) was from Appendix 2 of Conversations, from a letter Marcel wrote to Fr. Antonio Boucher, his spiritual director, in 1950; hers was from (699) in Conversations proper, and was Marcel's original recounting of the event for Fr. Boucher, written in 1946.
As you'll see, Jesus' revelation here is inspired by His tender compassion and loving desire to help Marcel, His dear little friend who is very sad. Jesus has told him that he is to be the apostle of children, but how can Marcel be an effective apostle for them when so many die without baptism and he has no power to save them?
Our reading is from 24 July 1946, and Fr. Boucher, editing Conversations, has added under the date: On the subject of children who die without baptism of water.
Marcel: Some days ago, looking at the little Alphonsian calendar fixed on the letter board, I read a quotation from Saint Alphonsus affirming that children who die without baptism do not have to endure any torments. . . On this subject, I remember that one time - probably during community prayer - while thinking about children who die without having been baptized, I asked myself if, later, they would be able to go to heaven. I spoke to myself thus: if they cannot go to heaven, will they then be deprived of the vision of their true Father for all eternity? In my mind I kept asking myself these questions, and I was very sad.
I thought: to be the special apostle of children and not to be able to do anything to save these souls is something that is very painful for me, all the more so because at this very moment a great number of children are dying without having received baptism. Where can one find priests in sufficient numbers to go and baptize, in time, these children who are on the point of death . . . ? I then raised my eyes towards Jesus in the tabernacle and this glance led Him to reply to me clearly, which has been a very great comfort for me.
To his director: My Father, kindly allow me to tell you that, for some time, although little Jesus does not speak to me often, now and then, when there are important things that I do not understand, He will speak to me still to help me understand. It is precisely for this reason that I said to you one day that little Jesus was no longer sleeping. Allow me to continue my account.
Then little Jesus asked me this question: 'Little brother, so, you are sad again? But why this sadness? If our true Father in heaven, in His goodness, wishes that the voices of these children unite with the voices of the angels to praise Him in heaven, where is the problem?'
Jesus: Remember this well. Naturally, little children, not yet having intelligence, do not have will either. Intelligence serves to understand if something is good or bad, and the will, to act in conformity with what the intelligence understands. These two faculties are the most necessary. Now children do not yet possess these faculties. Therefore, another will must take its place in the heart of these little children; and if this will acts in a manner in conformity with what is good, it is just as if these little children were acting themselves.
However, in order that this will may produce its effect, it is necessary that it acts in a way conforming to what is good, conforming to the truth itself. If, on the contrary, it acts in a manner opposed to what is good, opposed to the truth, this will does not produce its effect.
Now, all you have to do is to place your will in the hearts of little children and, then, they also will belong immediately to the Church. And if they die before the use of reason, they will go to heaven with Me, because they have your will, which acts in them. And since you have the will to believe all the Church teaches, and also the will to love Me . . . It follows that these children also have the same will as you, so that their souls belong to Me completely and they belong to the Church. Although these children know nothing, there is in them, however, the will of another who does know, so that, while knowing nothing, it so happens that they do know.
Little brother, do you understand that? Offer your will to Me, and I, I will place it in the souls of little children who are living on this earth . . . From now, you can be sure that all the little children belong to Me already.
Little brother, this manner of willing that I have just revealed to you is something new. Until now, little children were saved, thanks to this process, without men realizing it. So, little brother, chase away sadness and be joyful. As you are the apostle of children, it was necessary that you know these things.
Children saved in this way are baptized in love itself. It is given to them to confess the faith in love, and they make this act of love by means of will.
Marcel: So there actually are no children in limbo?
Jesus: That is not what I intended to say. After my death, I went down to this prison of ancestors, so the true light has already entered in.
Marcel: If it were as you say, people could stay at home and put their will in the heart of their children without the need to have them baptized. What's your answer to that, little Jesus?
Jesus: To act in such a way would not be to truly will. For there to be true efficacious will, it is necessary, when baptism by water is possible, that it is actually conferred on the children. If one were content to wish it, while remaining at home, how could one call that will?
Marcel: That is all I remember and, since I learned these things, I do not stop putting my will in the hearts of little children. I consider this teaching of little Jesus very true. . . My Father, there are still many other arguments that I understand but I cannot write down. As for the argument given earlier, I do not know if you understand it. As for me, on re-reading it after having written it, it is as if I was not able to understand it. . . What comforts me the most, is that from now on, I truly know that each day I will have totally pure flowers to offer to my Father in heaven.
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Father Boucher adds: When this revelation was made to him, Brother Marcel used a formula containing the acts to make in place of children. But he then forgot the exact wording of this formula, only retaining the principal idea . . . On 11 August 1946, after communion, he remembered the formula and he copied it as follows:
The formula I recited the first time was:
"Little Jesus, I offer You the children who have not yet been baptized. I wish to believe and to love You in their place according to the intention of the Church, my Mother. Graciously recognize them as true children of the Church. And should they die before the use of reason, lead them to heaven with You, so that in union with the saints they may love You eternally, according to the promise You made to me." (703)
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As for me, at first I felt like Marcel when he re-read what he'd written: I'm not sure I understand it! But lately I've been learning this lesson from my little brother: It is not necessary to understand Love, nor to feel Love, nor to remember Love. Naturally I'd prefer all those things - and sometimes I'm overjoyed to experience them. But ultimately, what we can try to do is to believe in Love - to trust in Love - to hope in Love. And best of all, we can do our little best to love Love!
And when we realize we've again failed to understand, failed to remember, and our hard hearts have failed to feel Love, we needn't worry even a titch. Jesus takes care of everything - and we're in good company with our dullness, our weakness, our forgetfulness. Marcel our brother has trod this road before us, and surely he, along with Jesus, will not forget us, the baptized, even as they remember the unbaptized little ones.
And my own favorite name? Why Miss Marcel, of course!
Like a shepherd He will gather the lambs in His arms and carry them close to His heart, alleluia.
Recently a dear friend posted on his blog, Bacon from Acorns, a lovely and loving reflection called "Remembering Miscarried Children." Speaking of the five beloved children he and his beautiful wife have lost to miscarriage, John writes, "I know not for sure precisely where they are. I trust that God, their Heavenly Father, holds them in his hands, in some special way."
I feel myself in a privileged position. Not only am I blessed with the public revelation of the Church, but I have, in addition, what very few have been given: namely, the extra insights and example of adorable intimacy with Jesus found in the four volumes of the writings of Servant of God Marcel Van.
Consequently, when I read of John and and his wife's love for their departed children, I want to share something from Marcel which I didn't intend to share until much later. Like maybe years after I'd convinced everyone of the impeccable Truth I find in Marcel's writings. To be frank, I don't know if the world is ready to hear the following conversation between Jesus and Marcel, but knowing as I do now that my friends may need to hear these words today, it seems right and just to let the world worry about its own troubles, while we take consolation in the remarkable vistas Jesus opens to us through Marcel.
In the following passage, Marcel and Jesus speak of "children not yet baptized" - I am confident their words embrace children both born and unborn, and it is marvelous to hear with what love Jesus regards them and the plans He has for them. Not only that, but (my favorite part in all Marcel's writings - except I've said that before of other passages and I'm sure to say it again) what could be more delightful than Marcel chiding Jesus for (seemingly) "scorning St. Thomas"? Ah, Marcel, you are cheeky and real. Thank you for your deference to the Angelic Doctor, and for your eternal ability to make me laugh!
Without further introduction, then, from Appendix 2 of Marcel Van's Conversations, I give you "Excerpts from a letter to Father Boucher," written in Saigon, 21 March 1950. (This letter can be found in full in Correspondence, but here at the end of Conversations is where I found it first.)
During prayer this evening, while meditating once again on the goodness of Jesus towards children, I remembered the words that Jesus spoke to me concerning children not yet baptized . . . But I was very worried, asking myself if that was really the case or quite simply a figment of my imagination. So, Jesus came to me immediately to free me from this concern, saying clearly to me:
'That is not a figment of your imagination but a true doctrine which, as I wish it, must be recognized as true by the Church. Yes, I want the Church, as a good and kind mother, to open her arms to welcome these little ones and admit them to the number of its children, like many others who have had the happiness of receiving baptism. If, because of circumstances, they were not able to receive baptism like the others, they have, however, the right to receive it.
'Further, it is original sin that prevents them from enjoying sanctifying grace. Now, by virtue of my merits, original sin has been largely atoned for. On the other hand, I have given the Church the power to retain and remit sin. So why would the Church not have sufficient power to remit the original sin of these children, even if, because of circumstances, they cannot receive baptism like other children?
'If the Church wishes it, these children are purified immediately, since the Church alone on earth possesses this power. Consequently, in this domain, no spiritual power can oppose her authority, even if non-religious parents did not wish their children to enjoy the grace of Redemption, since in this case, the parents' will would be unjust in regard to an innocent child who does not yet have the use of reason. That is why the Church can freely exercise its authority and nothing can oppose it.
'Little brother, remain in peace. What I have communicated to you is not something that should trouble you, but really a point of doctrine which I wish to make known to my venerable Spouse, the Church.'
Marcel: So, why have the holy Doctors, like Saint Thomas, held a contrary opinion?
Jesus: An opinion and a revelation are two different things.
Marcel: So, do you intend to scorn Saint Thomas for having held an erroneous opinion?
Jesus: Not at all, little brother. I am not saying that it was an erroneous opinion, but clearly a truth which was not yet known. That is why I wish to reveal it so that the Church may publicly recognize it. Do not be troubled. I am the Truth. Continue to follow me, without fear of ever being lost.
Marcel: Yes, but is there no extraordinary sign to make these things known, then . . .
Jesus: Remember, little brother, what I said to my apostles: 'Let the little children come to Me, since the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.' Did these words, said on that day, concern only those children who were then present, or all the others to come? The extraordinary sign, which surpasses all imagination, is the infinite goodness of God in three Persons.
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Marcel concludes by asking Fr. Boucher, "My Father, what do you think of that? What Jesus repeated to me in this way, I am hurrying to communicate to you, and I beg you to give me a response so that I know what to hold on to . . . "
I love that Marcel's attentiveness to Jesus is subordinated to his obedience to the Church (here represented by Fr. Boucher, his spiritual director). We can do no better than follow Marcel's example. The Church has not yet officially spoken on this matter, but we have the endorsements of three Cardinals and an Archbishop in their introductions to Marcel Van's collected works, not to mention that one of these Cardinals and the first postulator of Marcel's Cause, Cardinal Francis-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, is himself now a Venerable.
We cannot give to private revelations, even those heartily approved by the Church, the assent of faith properly so called, which is the assent due to the public Revelation of the Church. We give, instead, "an assent of human faith, in keeping with the requirements of prudence, which puts them before us as probable and credible to piety." (Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, future Pope Benedict XIV, from his classic treatise which became normative for beatifications and canonizations.)
And again, as Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) stated, "Private revelation is a help to faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation" (Theological Commentary on the third part of the Secret of Fatima).
Reading and re-reading Jesus' words to Marcel (taken in conjunction with Marcel's words to Jesus), I find prudence satisfied, piety increased, faith helped, and my heart and mind led back to the definitive public Revelation. What is more central and essential, after all, to the definitive public Revelation than "the infinite goodness of God in three Persons"?
And not for the first time, I find myself echoing Jesus' sentiments: "I give praise to You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, You have revealed them to the little ones" (Matthew 11: 25-26).
Although - or perhaps because - my pregnancies have been only two, leading twice to sons who are (28 and and 15 years later) still with me in exile, my heart goes out to those who have been given children only to have them quickly "taken away." I have heard many friends repeat Job's words, "Blessed be the name of the Lord," but for all who have lost children, whether you repeat these words yet or not, may God bless you. And in particular, may Jesus, our Good Shepherd who gathers the lambs with care, console you through His words to Marcel.
A week ago we were still reveling in the Octave of Easter; reveling in its culmination, even, in Divine Mercy Sunday. This morning I had a brilliant inspiration that in order to keep our Easter enthusiasm stoked, we can celebrate today as Sunday in the Octave of Divine Mercy. It's always a perplexity how to "keep" Easter with the same intensity as we "keep" Lent . . . granted the latter is (for me), at least in the last couple of the six weeks, with an intensity of irritation and fed-upped-ness at the seeming unending character of those 40 days, but talk about unending! Jesus will not be outdone in generosity, and the Easter season really seems to go on forever. Okay, actually it does, with each Sunday of the year a little Easter and Heaven the fulfillment, but the Easter season proper at 7 weeks easily surpasses Lent.
Speaking of Jesus' generosity, I have to tell you the latest good news, the word from St. John Chrysostom that came to me earlier this week. I have the inestimable blessing of continued contact (thank You, Jesus, for email!) with the priest who married me and my husband, and then too the priceless gift of friendships with other priests as well. So just two days ago, a new priest friend recommended St. Basil's treatise on the Holy Spirit in which St. Basil says the Holy Spirit speaks to us in 3 ways. First, through the Fathers of the Church (of whom St. Basil is one!); second, through our thoughts; and third, through the events of each day. Wow! Years ago I heard the marvelous and too little known truth that the early Fathers of the Church are inspired by the Holy Spirit to a degree surpassed only by the Holy Scriptures . . . and the combination of these endorsements of the Fathers serves to heighten my joy at the Word of God that came to me (as I say, earlier this week) from St. John Chrysostom, sent to me by the dear priest who married us. Are you ready? This is such good news!
In a Paschal Homily, St. John Chrysostom tells us - well, he tells us a lot, and I'm only sharing part of what he says, but even this is quite a bit for little ones, so do your best to read it through, and I'll bold the punch line:
If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Ah, most merciful Jesus! How compassionate, how condescending, how kind and sweet You are! Here You speak to us in words reminiscent of those You spoke to us through Marcel: "Let no one bewail his poverty . . ." You are forever gentle of heart, and so You have a gentle word for those of us whose Lenten fasting was less than intense - You always encourage us again and again to come without delay to Your Feast!
I find this an important reminder because, as I said, keeping Easter, continuing to feast, can be a bigger challenge than keeping Lent. Let no reader imagine I've scaled great heights of sanctity in Lent, nor descended to great depths, unless we so identify the new depths of weakness and powerlessness I've discovered within myself. Nonetheless, when it comes to feasting, we're equally pathetic. By the end of Easter Sunday, the children (that would be all of us) are surfeited with treats, and there's still the Octave remaining, not to mention the rest of the Season, in which we are called to use our little feasting to aid our attempts to join in the Great Feast the Church offers.
As Jesus said to Marcel (and I quoted in a previous post - but His truth bears repetition) -
“Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats. Whatever I do to spoil you, I consider it all as being nothing.” (492)
Ah yes! That's the challenge of Easter: to buttress our strength to receive all His treats!
Hence my inspiration to add to our liturgical feasts in addition to our chocolate fests.
The Church has already added Divine Mercy Sunday.
Privately, I'm adding the Sunday in the Octave of Divine Mercy. For this year, anyhow.
(I'll likely have forgotten by tomorrow, let alone next year; I have a shorter memory than the Church.)
On this new feast I've invented, I'm delighted to report that Jesus' words to Marcel (and us) on this date in 1946 (and 2018) brightly illumine our image of His Mercy. And why not take advantage of all that hard work our little brother did in writing down Jesus' words for us? Returning again and again to Conversations, we will continually find new words and explanations to light our Little Way. And then, instead of Easter glory beginning with a burst of Resurrection Joy on Easter but fading like a beautiful firework that ends too soon, we can find ourselves, as the Season progresses toward Ascension and Pentecost, in the midst of a kind of spiritual firework finale, each sparkling vision more exciting than the one before and surprising a continuous stream of Oohs and Aahs from us.
Take today, for instance. After a charming colloquy between Jesus and Marcel on precisely how Marcel is feeling (his little physical pains, his tiredness, the fish he ate that was full of bones), we come across this dazzling exchange:
Marcel: . . . Little Jesus, I love You a lot. I read in your Gospel a passage where You say: 'If you have faith the size of a grain of mustard, you will say to this mountain: move from here to there and it will move itself . . .' Little Jesus, on that score, I certainly have faith as big as a fist; since without being able to move mountains, I have, however, the power to move even my Father in heaven. My faith is, without doubt, very great to be able to work such a marvel. Is it not, little Jesus?
Jesus: Little brother, what you say is quite correct, but one must understand that the words that I have addressed to men do not apply to material things but solely to spiritual ones. In this text I intend to say that if anyone really has confidence in Love, he will obtain from it all he wishes . . . (445)
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I know it's not Christmas, but do you hear what I hear? (Sorry, I couldn't resist! Awesome spiritual truths, like everything else, seem to bring out the laughter in me as well as in my brother.)
Jesus is treating us to a Divine Commentary on Matthew 17:20, that great saying of His that faith the size of a mustard seed allows us to tell mountains where to park themselves.
I once read a fun novel by Bruce Marshall - Father Malachi's Miracle - about a priest who takes Jesus' words here literally and actually moves a mountain to assist his tending of the flock, but I don't think it was based on a true story . . . And now, just to be sure we're relying on fact and not only glorious fiction, we have Jesus Himself explaining exactly what we can expect. Though He tells us, "The words I have addressed to men do not apply to material things but solely to spiritual ones," we needn't be disappointed or fear that His payoff will fail to satisfy.
Thank you, Marcel, for being alert at your post! What would we do without the next words Jesus told you?
Or better yet, what will we do now that you've written them for us, Fr. Boucher has translated them into French, our good Jack K. has given them to us in English, and the Holy Spirit has dropped them into our laps on this Octave of Mercy? For Jesus continues:
"In this text I intend to say that if anyone really has confidence in Love, he will obtain from it all he wishes."
Holy Moley! This is big news! And yet it has a familiar ring to it. Yes, I know I just quoted it a few lines up (my memory is weak, but so far not that bad), but Jesus' words here are reminding me, rather, of something St. Therese loved to repeat. She often said, “We can never have too much confidence in the good God; He is so mighty and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for.”
Okay, then. we've got our Divine Mercy Mandate. It starts, simply enough, with the words Jesus wanted printed below His feet in the Divine Mercy Image: Jesus, I trust in You. And now, as we mine Marcel, we find Our Lord, who is all Mercy, all Love, instructing us that we will obtain all we desire from Love, from Him, if only we offer Him our confidence.
My biggest problem is I forget He is Love, and so I'm grateful that He's being very specific here. He doesn't say, "If anyone really has confidence in Me, He will obtain from Me all He wishes." Of course that is what He means, but He says, so gently, like a father bending down to his child's level, that if we have confidence in Love, then Love will give us all we wish. Oh, I have confidence in Love! Love is patient; love is kind; love is all those other great things St. Paul enumerates in 1 Corinthians 13.
But I could go on forever without saying anything nearly as spectacular as what Jesus says, and He is, after all, the Truth. So then, once more - 3 times will give each Person of the Trinity a chance to tell us how very much we are loved - here is our Divine Mercy Mandate:
If anyone really has confidence in Love, He will obtain from it all he wishes.
And now that we know, triply, that our confidence will obtain all things, let's go for it. Take it as a dare from Marcel and Therese, who said "It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love." Mercy's arms are outstretched to us - let's cast ourselves into them and sigh that we are Home. Then, embraced by Love, we'll whisper our petitions one by one. I'll start.
Jesus, bless the person reading this blog right now - and extend Your blessing, Your Love, to all those in our reader's heart and mind.
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There! I have full confidence that Truth speaks truly and Love will never fail us, so you're good to go.
It's your turn now, and He's ready to give you every good thing, so feel free to ask lots. And speaking of lots, let's not forget to add with Marcel and with a big smile:
Jesus, I love you a lot!
When I was a little girl, I was sure that Christmas was the greatest Holy Day. I was shocked (and more than a little appalled) when a teacher at my Catholic school explained to me that Easter was the biggest Holy Day. I urgently pleaded my case. “But there would be no Easter,” I said, “without Christmas. Jesus had to be born first.” Alas, my argument did not move her, and rather than believe she was adamantly persisting in her error, I decided she must be right – thankfully, I have never been a good heretic, or maybe, I should say, never a willing one – though I didn’t see the reasons for Easter’s preeminence at the time.
I mention this now because the full truth has dawned on me this past Easter weekend of the Octave. But before I explain, let me be the first in eons to congratulate World Culture for its magnificent celebration of the great and high Holy Days.
Okay, so the Easter Bunny still evades sensible interpretation, but Santa Claus (and his many international aliases) is so close to St. Nicholas and the Christmas spirit, and I am so enamored of gifts (Jesus and the Holy Spirit being the greatest of these, but wrapped ones being a lovely fill-in too, in my book), and the delightful custom of sharing family photos and the stories of the year in Christmas letters and Mass cards for those far from us but dear to our hearts, not to mention sparkly lights in darkness (on trees! In the house!) and midnight vigils, seasonal music both secular and sacred, and finally mountains of chocolate and candy for children and all who are children at heart – the real keeping of the Feasts of Christmas and Easter after the little fast of Advent and the big fast of Lent, even if it was "only" giving up sweets – all of these remarkable and joyful traditions let even the most Godless among us (and none of us can really be Godless or we would cease to exist; He thankfully does not stop believing in us, and thus keeps instant annihilation at bay) know that Christmas and Easter really matter.
Let the Bah Humbugs decry the corporate backing, commercialism, and consumer greed that go along with stores lit up like Christmas trees (and with Christmas trees!) from the day the Halloween (I mean All Hallow’s Eve) “season” ends, and the similar appearance of gaudy, enormous Easter baskets and bunnies the moment the St. Valentine’s Day season comes to a close at midnight February 14th… Nonetheless, I am not willing to censure the commercialization of the Holy Days if it keeps them before us, especially before the wide-eyed children, as Days of Eternal Magic.
There is truth in Eternal Magic and it is nearer than we might think (especially those of us who find ourselves in the mayhem and fracas of last minute Christmas shopping or the late night Holy Saturday search for the right size plastic eggs to fill with candy and hide in the yard) to Eternal Mysteries.
A brief word to our sponsor: thank you, corporate America for the contribution of keeping Christmas and Easter on the calendar in a big way. (I don’t know who, besides Al Gore, is responsible for the Internet, but let’s just say corporate America, while not sponsoring me personally, seems to be behind this one too, so why not thank It?)
But now, back to our regularly scheduled program, which today is on The Ranking of Days. Because it all came together for me this weekend when I had an Epiphany on Divine Mercy Sunday about my Birthday. (Ah, the third competitor for top dog enters the fray!)
As I found myself telling a friend recently (and with great excitement), “This year, my birthday falls on April 7th!”
I quickly realized I was not effectively expressing my perennial joy at the annual Magic and Mystery of my birthday being not just any old day but also a Movable Feast. Coming as it does every year on April 7 (see, I am not as blonde as I sound), depending on the date of Easter, my birthday often falls within the Easter Octave. It has sometimes been on Easter itself (thus partially accounting for, in those years, on that Day, the extraordinary Delight of the Universe), sometimes in Easter week, and sometimes on Divine Mercy Sunday. Okay, it has also been known to fall in Holy Week, and Henri Daniel-Rops, for one, even speculates it was perhaps the first Good Friday, but how wonderful is that? God is so mighty and so merciful – Jesus died of Love for us, and maybe even on my birthday back in about 33, but, in my personal recorded history (which as far as birthdays are concerned goes at least back to 1971, the year of the great Donkey Pinata Disaster – one of Jesus’ and my favorite little stories, but a story for another time), He has spared me the dilemma of a birthday on Good Friday.
I know none of the readers here could ask, “Why a dilemma?” Clearly Good Friday is Good Friday and the one day of the year that obliterates a birthday entirely. Or so I’m guessing. Watch, April 7 will fall on Good Friday next year! And I will manage to find a way of celebrating nonetheless, but for now and up until such a conjunction may occur, I’m happy to have more Easter-y birthdays . . .
Such as the one this past weekend, now extending into its own birthday octave. I know if we were in better communication (instant personal contact of a science fiction variety – maybe mental telepathy, for instance), you would now be wishing me many Happy Returns of the Day. Thank you! Feel free to send your guardian angel to give me a holy kiss and to give Jesus and Marcel kisses for me in honor of my happy day. Because it was So Happy. Ridiculously, absurdly, surreally, Happiest Day of My Life happy. Since such Joy is made to be shared, let me tell you why it was over-the-moon joyful. It did have, in some measure, to do with our Marcel, so I find it pertinent here. Plus it's just as much fun to re-live as it was at the time . . .
For the purposes of the rest of your life (which I hate to mention, but which you may be neglecting at this moment in order to read Miss Marcel’s Musings, and for that I both give you a dispensation and congratulate you – as we are still in the Octave of April 7 and thus I am still Birthday Queen) – as I say, in the interest of letting you get back to some other activity before another year passes, I will not report my birthday to you in real time or with all its 53 gifts. Because yes, after midnight (when I happily did not turn into a pumpkin) on my birthday, when I finished recording all the gifts heaven and earth showered upon me, I reached the number of my years! Not that I was recording every specific gift, but they came into categories which added up to 53 . . . Don’t panic; I am not going to regale you with the infinitude in its particulars. I’ll only tell you of the best gift, which comprises 5 gifts but was recorded as one. The one, in fact, from our little brother Marcel and his entourage!
Let me start by saying it has been a dramatic 10 days in my Marcellian universe. Recently my French contact informed me that Les Amis de Van Editions of Marcel’s works would be available very soon on amazon.com. He was right! They became available through amazon! Thus I was able to reply to a reader who’d clicked the “Contact Me” button in the sidebar to the right and asked where, besides France, she could procure Marcel’s books, that: Voila! She could now purchase these very authentically French editions – but in English – on amazon! That easily! For only $25 each and free shipping!
That was on Spy Wednesday, Holy Week.
Imagine my awe when I realized my French connection had sent me links not just for Marcel's Collected Works (which by God's mercy I have in my house and carry about with me frequently) but also for two books outside Marcel’s own oeuvre: namely, Father Boucher’s Short History of Van and a new book, hot off the press and just translated to boot, Nguyen Van Thuan and Marcel Van - Two Lives, One Mission, about Marcel and Cardinal Van Thuan, his first postulator and now Venerable himself! The first book written by Van’s own “bearded Jesus,” and the second written by Cardinal van Thuan’s sister (the sister of a Saint!) and Marcel’s current postulator, the wonderful Benedictine Abbot Dom Roulhac. Wowza!!!
Imagine my second wave of awe when I discovered that Jesus would not allow me to turn Holy Week into Easter quite yet. The books, when I pursued them on Holy Thursday or Good Friday (I forget now which day, but it was eternally predestined for sure) suddenly showed up on amazon as “Currently Unavailable.”
To quote my favorite comic strip, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!”
Don’t worry. When it comes to books, I am nothing if not persistent. After alerting my Frenchman – and yes, it was Holy Thursday, I remember now because I wrote to him, “I am sorry to tell you this at the beginning of the Holy Triduum . . . maybe it will fix itself by Easter Sunday” – I hoped, whether by internet gnomes or Real Live Amis de Van angels, the situation would right itself so that I could order these two treasures for my birthday.
Day in and day out, it became my 2018 Easter Octave ritual to check if the books had become currently available, and while I did not obsessively check their amazon status every four minutes (I don’t have the internet at home, so that would have been a challenge even for me, even for such an important quest), I did check once every day or two.
Meanwhile I contacted the lovely woman who had contacted me, and asked, hopefully, “Did you (please tell me you did!) order the Marcel books off amazon the instant I told you they were there?” Her Easter-y reply was a resounding, “Yes! On Wednesday and they arrived Monday! But when I went to order more, they were gone!” The gist of her reply was that God was very, very good – she had asked instantly and received nearly instantly, thank Heaven, since that window was quickly shut.
I persisted in my hope that the books would soon be available again, and further hoped that I would see them the instant they became available, order them immediately, and receive them in time for them to be my birthday gift from Marcel.
A word is in order here about Marcel and his status in Heaven.
He is St. Therese’s little brother and indeed “A second Therese.”
She said to her sisters that they’d “Find her in the mailbox” and that she wanted to spend her Heaven doing good on earth – that she’d work, until the last trumpet sounded, to help us know God’s love and to love Him in return as much as she did.
So, given that Marcel is the second Therese (so named by Jesus), I'm convinced that Marcel is also working for this goal of showing us God's love and getting us to love Him in return, and not only does he absolutely thrill to meet us in the mailbox, but I think his job in Heaven is as the mail deliverer!
Because last year at this time (or to be precise, a week ago at this time), I said to my husband, “I don’t know what you can get me for my birthday. Nothing, really, because the only thing I want cannot be had for love or money.”
I was so wrong! First off, I love gifts, so there were plenty of things he could get me! But more specifically I was wrong because while it was true that the only thing I really wanted – Marcel’s Correspondence – could not be had by me at that time for money, it could (everything can, if you don’t bar miracles) be had for Love.
I had discovered (or been discovered by) Van some months prior and had procured his Conversations and Autobiography (the first a gift from Therese the day I finished a manuscript on her; the second my husband's 2016 Christmas present to me) – but there was a third volume, that of his letters, in English and in print, at least apparently. I could see a picture of it on the internet, but couldn’t find it anywhere to buy. Finally I found it in the Les Amis de Van boutique (online), but I was shy of ordering from a French website. Especially since I couldn't figure out the price or payment method (not their fault, but I am techno-challenged).
I am also, as I said, persistent.
I did, then, hurl what felt like a couple of very random boomerang emails out into the cyber universe, hoping SOMEONE out there would help me find this book of Marcel’s letters. He even nudged me twice in the Conversations, mentioning his letters in such a way that I knew he wanted to give them to me. If only I could find them!
April 1, 2017: it is a week before my birthday (last year) and I check my email inbox.
It us my lucky day!
How did I know it was my lucky day?
A certain Jack Keogan told me so in no uncertain terms. His email said, "It is your lucky day!" because he would be happy to send me a copy of the Correspondence! For free! Out of the goodness of his heart!
Because he accidentally ordered two?
Who is this Jack K., and how did he come to have two copies of Marcel’s Correspondence in English???
Jack is a man of the “Where there is no love, put love, and there you will find love” (St. John of the Cross) school of thought. He is the man who, when he called Les Amis in 2002 and found that no, they didn’t have a copy of Marcel Van’s Autobiography in English because it had not yet been translated, spontaneously offered to translate it for them . . . This may have happened to you at one time. Possibly on the spur of the moment you proposed to someone (or accepted a proposal), and then found yourself involved in a project of Love for the rest of your life!
Have you ever seen a youngest sibling finally in charge of someone or some thing? It is adorable and comical to see the baby finally able to boss around another, be it only a stuffed animal.
Marcel is that little one, that beloved baby of the family, and my goodness it is hilarious to see how he no sooner wins our hearts than he’s got us doing his bidding! Before you know what’s hit you, you’re spending more than a decade translating his complete works, or tossing aside your resolution to never have a blog so that you can have a Marcel Blog and more fun than you thought possible in this land of exile!
And so, last year, Marcel came through (through Jack, in fact) and for my birthday I received my heart’s one desire.
Imagine – or, rather, share with me! – my ineffable joy when just two days before my birthday, on Easter Thursday I saw Marcel’s books available on amazon again! To heighten the wonder and firmly establish this as a Miracle of Exquisite Solicitude (I guess they all must be such, but I felt this one in the fullness of His Tenderness), the books were now available on “Prime” – and there it was written for all to see in bold internet ink: “Have it by Saturday, April 7!”
It was but a moment’s work to sign up for a month of Prime membership and order the books. A set of the Amis editions of Marcel’s writings and, most importantly, Fr. Boucher’s book and the new book on Marcel and Cardinal van Thuan.
Now (welcome to my emotional rollercoaster), imagine my dismay when, at the “checkout” page, I saw that the books would arrive in my mailbox on Tuesday, April 10th with free shipping. Or, alternately, I could pay $59.95 extra to have them on Saturday, April 7.
I turned to my friends, the Google elves. They quickly provided the customer service phone number for amazon, and I soon found myself explaining my deep sadness to Bryan Q, customer service representative with a wonderful Indian accent. And the kindest man, after my husband and my friend Jack K., whom I’ve ever met. Because he said, becoming the Quintessence of Kindness, “I understand. And since you thought they would arrive on Saturday, and since it is your birthday, I can waive the fee this one time, and you will have these books on your birthday, at no extra charge.”
I know that amazon.com is not my best friend. For my semi-autobiographical account of my love-hate relationship with them – and if you like to laugh – read my novel The Paradise Project. Click the title to see it available, like Marcel’s books are, on amazon; we are doing what we can to redeem the internet. But first, let’s finish this little story of the the happiest-day-of-my-life-birthday.
April 7, 2018: It was supposed to rain in my neck of the woods (usually great news, though not my favorite birthday weather), but turned out to be sunny and eventually clear, just the best in weather that the universe has to offer us here on Earth. I got to Mass and Confession. I had even been particularly irritable during the Easter octave up to this point, so had some good sins to confess – what a relief! Am I the only one with such a bad memory? I know I sin – that is not in question – but how embarrassing to never remember the particulars! On the other hand, I thank You, Jesus, for sparing me intimate self knowledge of that kind, and giving me knowledge of Your Love instead!
Aside from the sacraments (or, rather, including them), the day was one joyful surprise after another. I wish I could tell you every single delightful surprise, but I promised you I wouldn’t keep you here for 24 whole hours . . . So let’s jump to the moment when the Fed Ex man handed over a package from amazon.com. Haha, Marcel – you didn’t find me in the mailbox! You found me standing on the sidewalk outside my house! But the joke was on me, because you made it the 2nd Annual Make-a-Wish birthday dream with your gifts of yourself and, by definition, Jesus!
All of which leads me to this conclusion:
Deferring in all things to Holy Mother Church, I readily admit that Easter is the Highest Holy Day. But since Jesus defers in all things to us (have I mentioned that you will love His Conversations with Marcel? There you will find His explanation of how He and the Father do our will more than we do theirs – but for now, instead of an argument from Divine Reason and Authority, I will give you a teensy tinsy argument from induction, which means from my one example) – as I say, since Jesus defers in all things to us, my birthday, my happiest day of the year, falls with bliss-inducing frequency in the Easter Octave where it becomes a Solemnity and Highest Holy Day (as well as my favorite day of the year) thus solving the “Which is better? Christmas or Easter?” dilemma.
Not only that, but the best gifts in the world turn out to be not of this world, but from Heaven, whose residents slyly use their earthly minions to deliver the goods. So thank you Jack Keogan, thank you Bryan Q, thank you C. in France, thank you Les Amis de Van, and most of all thank you Marcel-Jesus, Jesus-Marcel, and Therese who boldly said "I choose all!" with full confidence you would receive it. Truly, we obtain from Him as much as we hope for! And if you, dear reader, fear that you do not hope enough, please do not worry. My birthday gift to you is an abundance of hope – which I happily hope for you: the hope itself, and all the Gifts of Heaven and earth for which we hope! – so your job is simply to be prepared to receive.
As Truth Himself so truly said to Marcel on Easter Sunday, 1946:
“Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats. Whatever I do to spoil you, I consider it all as being nothing. Little brother, do you understand?” (492)
I love making mischief with Marcel, and my best advice is to tell Him that you don’t understand, but you will believe it when you see it! Ha! That should produce results!! Kind of like a Divine Dare! Of course, if you do understand, you can simply tell Him so with a big smile. And whether you understand yet or not, do tell Him you love Him a lot. He loves to hear you say it!
And finally, if you have the funds now, I offer at the bottom of this post the links to Les Amis’ Marcel books on Amazon. The four volumes of Marcel’s own writings are just $25 each, and with or without a Prime membership, shipping is free and I’m confident you'll get them quickly. Marcel just can’t wait to meet you in your mailbox! Fr. Boucher’s book and the book on Cardinal van Thuan and Marcel are both less than $25, and similarly have free shipping. And if these books are beyond your budget, do save your pennies (even pick them up off the street!) and soon Marcel, who was poor too, will help you amass the funds needed. When I first found Conversations online (having providentially found his Autobiography in our library here at Thomas Aquinas College), I couldn’t afford it, but eventually saved enough money to order and receive it at just the right moment. Along these lines, here is what Therese told Marcel in their first conversation (which he recounts it in the Autobiography):
“You grumbled again, saying: ‘I wish I’d known you a bit sooner! And then, from how many illusory fears my life would have been liberated, how much more would I have tasted the charms of love!’ But no, little brother; the dispositions of providence are realized, necessarily, at a very precise moment which is not brought forward, even for a second, nor does it allow an instant’s delay . . . This is a mystery, and we can only believe in the mercy of God our Father who, in His wisdom, rules in the slightest detail the lives of each of us. You don’t have to complain any more, since Therese has always been your Therese and you, Van, have always been equally the little brother of Therese, since the moment when we existed, both of us, in the thought of God.” (Autobiography, 592)
Therese never hesitated to paraphrase God’s word to make His point. Let me paraphrase her, then, in order for you to know the truth: You don’t have to complain any more, since Marcel has always been your Marcel, and you, dear reader, have always been equally the little sister or brother of Marcel, since the moment when you existed, with Marcel, in the thought of God!
If you are able to hop over to amazon and take advantage of Marcel’s charming new availability, congratulations! I recommend starting with Conversations, but let the Holy Spirit move you as He will (or choose all, if you are able). And if you must work to procure the funds to procure Marcel’s books, know that you do not have to work to procure his love. He loves you already, and I will keep writing about him here so that your friendship with our little brother can continue to grow.
Oh, and in case I don’t get a chance to tell you when your high holy feast rolls around:
Many happy returns of the day!!!
And without further ado, here are some gifts for you from Marcel and his French friends:
Marcel’s Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Thérèse
Marcel’s Other Writings
Fr. Boucher’s Short History of Van
Nguyen Van Thuan and Marcel Van - Two Lives, One Mission
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below.