I met Anna almost one year ago, and I would not have met her in the normal course of our lives, for Anna lived in France. One year ago yesterday, however, she departed this life for Real Life in Heaven, and since she and Marcel were already good friends (her grandfather had introduced them, I think), once she reached his place on Mary's lap, he had to introduce her to me right away. After all, with tubby and adorable little Jesus taking up so much room, those of us who plan to squish in there beside little Jesus, Therese, and Marcel (and now Anna too), will want to be good friends. How else could we be comfortable in such close quarters?
Even before July 20 became Anna's day, it was a big day for me as a Carmelite. Did you know that every religious order gets its own proper liturgical calendar to tack onto the great universal liturgical calendar of the Church? That way every order can celebrate their special days - the feasts of their founders, their saints, their Doctors, and so on. If everyone tried to celebrate everyone else's special days, the calendar would be too jam packed with parties for any of us to ever get anything done. I'm fine with that, actually, but alas, Jesus is such a task-Master! (Marcel is laughing now, knowing that I know that Jesus is the most gentle task-Master ever!) So anyhow, July 20th - for Carmelites - is a huge, huge day! It's the feast of St. Elijah. Yes, the Old Testament Elijah, because in him we find our roots and our exemplar. Look, here he is, photographed in a kind of time-lapse icon, first looking left, then looking right. He's at the mouth of the cave, waiting for God to show up . . .
Do you remember? After lots of noise and ruckus, God eventually came to Elijah in a gentle breeze. And that's just what happened to me yesterday (and continuing into today). I had asked Anna (since she feels nearer to me in some ways than Elijah - I mean that's how it feels to me!) for roses on their day, and soon it was a deluge - but of rose petals drifting softly down. And then, lest I had misunderstood that these were really from Anna's rose garden in Heaven (which she's been tending assiduously, I can tell, because my what a lot of roses fell from it yesterday!), she sent me two unexpected roses in my own garden today. They'd begun blooming yesterday, but I hadn't noticed, and when I saw and cut them this morning and put them near a picture of Anna (which is also near a picture of her grandfather, whom we both love, and near a statue of Our Lady, whom we both really, really love), her roses opened up even more. They're Fragrant Cloud roses, just like the ones in the picture up at the top of this post, except way more beautiful, and come to think of it, they're named perfectly for Our Lady (who rose for Elijah like a little white cloud). Thank you, Anna!
I wanted to write to tell you about the roses (the spiritual ones) that Anna sent yesterday, but having begun to count them, I'm afraid a strict recording of them would take us well into next week! So let me see if, with the Holy Spirit whom they say can do all things (but this may be a challenge even for God!), I can be orderly if not brief. I'll use numbers in a desperate attempt to help the Holy Spirit help me name the roses.
1. I woke early and had the chance to package up a copy of Marcel's Conversations with a long letter and his picture and a Therese prayer card in order to send them to a boy named Ethan who's suffering from cancer. I know Anna was behind this - she's a sweetheart and wanted to cheer up Ethan. Will you join us in praying for him? . . . Dear Mother Mary, Health of the Sick and Comforter of the Afflicted, Cause of our Joy and Our Lady of Joyful Surprises - please cheer Ethan and his family, bring them peace, and bring them all joy. Give Ethan renewed health - please surprise his doctors with Ethan's quick healing and miraculous complete recovery so that he may not only get to know Marcel and many other saints from his place on earth, but live a long life here, singing God's praises and making known His wonders. We ask this through little Jesus and the intercession of Marcel.
2. After my packaging, I got to go to Mass and say my special Divine Office prayers for the feast of St. Elijah. What a thrill when I found a homily of Pope St. Gregory on Ezekiel in which St. Greg contributes to our Theology of the Glance. Here is what he says (and thank you, Anna, for this rose!):
In Divine contemplation the spirit is often abstracted to such a degree that it is already granted the joy of partaking a little, in image as it were, of the eternal freedom which 'eye has not seen nor ear heard,' but then, hampered by the weight of its own mortality, it falls back into the depths and is held captive in penalty for its sins. It has glimpsed the delights of true freedom and longs to escape from its captivity but, since it cannot, it keeps its gaze fixed upon the imprisoning doors. This is why, when the Jews had been freed from slavery to Egypt, each of them stood adoring in the doorway of his tent when God spoke and the pillar of cloud was visible.
Wherever we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand. That is why Elijah said, 'The Lord lives, in whose sight I stand.' He did indeed stand before God, for his heart was intent on God. . . This is why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of his cave and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him; for as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole man is no longer within the cave, for his soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality, he stands at the cave's mouth.
But if a man stands at the mouth of the cave and hears the word of God with the heart's ear, he must veil his face. . .
+ + +
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (Miss Marcel here again, not Pope St. Gregory.)
It's just like a game of peek-a-boo! At least that's what it's like (our prayer) when Marcel leads us in conversation as he does in Conversations. We are those little children on Mary's lap, and doesn't she always wear the most beautiful veils? Even now I'm looking up at my Murillo Virgin of the Rosary (a copy, but rather fetching), and I've often wondered at how he (Murillo) so perfectly captured Our Lady's veil. Little Jesus has a couple of His dear fingers tucked under its edge, and I wonder if He taught Marcel to play peek-boo under this veil, or if He let Marcel teach Him (as if He didn't know!)
Anyhow, Anna and Elijah are with Pope St. Greg where they can see God face-to-Face now, no need to hide behind veils, or stand at the mouth of the cave. They are standing instead at the edge of Heaven, alongside Therese with her many buckets of roses . . . which leads us to:
3. Blessed Titus Brandsma's Carmelite Mysticism, Historical Sketches, which thanks to Anna, was my companion book yesterday. I've had it for years; it's thin, and from (published in) Darien, Illinois, of all places. Do you remember Darien? That's where I was a year ago on Our Lady's big feast, at the Museum of the National Shrine of St. Therese, in Darien, IL. Where the gift shop was closed, but apparently I had what I needed from Darien. So yesterday Anna made sure I actually read some of Titus' words - which I hadn't done for years and years, though I love this little book - and what do you think I found? So many roses! And even an explanation of roses!
There's so much jam-packed into this slim volume that you'd think Titus wrote it from his place on Mary's lap. And yet, knowing I can't transcribe it all here, and wanting to help the Holy Spirit fulfill my prayer to Him, let me just share three things from it. The first is about roses. The second pertains to Mary as the little cloud (as Jessica Powers presented her to us on July 16 and as my roses are now, I realize, named). And the third is best of all because it brings us to Marcel . . .
So first, from Titus (who was, by the way, a Dutch Carmelite martyr at Dachau in 1942, and his feast is this coming Friday, July 27) in a chapter on our sister:
"St. Therese of Lisieux has said that after death she would strew roses on earth. And of what else is a rose the symbol, if not of love of God, for Whom she wanted to be a rose, a rose shedding its petals on the road of God through the world? Carmel is the mountain of shrubbery and flowers. With full hands the children of Carmel strew those flowers over the earth. Such a picture of St. Therese is widely spread. The Saint scatters widely the flowers which she receives from the hand of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces."
Doesn't that remind you of our picture on Our Lady's feast? Oops - the feast that we are even now celebrating the Octave of (!), though I'd forgotten our Octave, what with so much else going on. We are just covered in roses here at Miss Marcel's Musings, and it's hard to remember what day it is (though we'll get to that soon), let alone what day came about 5 (days) ago . . .Thank goodness Our Lady is a mom, happy to celebrate with us even when we've forgotten what it is we're celebrating!
But back to Titus and his second beautiful passage:
"We read in the Carmelite Missal in the Preface for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel the significance of the little cloud which Elijah from Mount Carmel beheld appearing out of the sea: 'Who through the small cloud arising out of the sea didst foretell the Immaculate Virgin Mary to the Blessed Elijah the Prophet, and didst will that devotion be shown to her by the sons of the prophets.' Elijah beheld her and with him we all look up to her. She has her hands filled with flowers and she brings her Divine Son the source of all beauty and grace. On those who pray, the first drops of the redeeming rain descend, roses of divine grace. . . In our own times, St. Therese, the 'Little Flower,' is elected to make that rain more abundant than ever. May she give us from the hand of the Mother of Carmel, from the Holy Mountain, the roses we need for the garden of our soul."
She's certainly doing that - giving us the roses we need - and how lovely that she lets others help her in their distribution! Thank you again, Anna! Because now we get to the most wonderful rose of all - our dear Marcel. This is the third passage from Titus, and it would be mighty prophetic if he were to mention Marcel - for Titus wrote these sketches as a development of a lecture he gave in 1935 at Catholic U - yes, our Catholic U. in Washington, D.C.! Well, in 1935 Marcel was, like Titus, still running his earthly course. But our passage is actually a quote from St. Therese, and though she (even more so) wouldn't have known of Marcel during her lifetime (he wasn't born yet), she did speak prophetically. Titus quotes her telling about her life in the convent of Lisieux and how she'd yearned to go to a new foundation (a new convent) in -- Washington, D.C.? No, much better than that. In Hanoi!!!
She wrote (and Titus quotes), "Here I am loved, and this affection is very sweet to me. But that is just why I dream of a convent in which I should be unknown, in which I should have to bear the exile of the heart as well. I should like to go to Hanoi, to suffer much for the good Lord. I should like to go there to be lonely, to have no single consolation, no single joy on earth."
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. Talk about being careful what you pray for! Therese's prayer was answered (to some extent) by Marcel at the end of his life, imprisoned in North Vietnam. Only somewhat answered, though, because where can a Saint go and not be loved? Marcel, the second Therese even if no one knew it but his dear bearded Jesus, was loved in the camps where he was imprisoned, where he was such a consolation to others and where he assuaged their loneliness and their fears.
Wow! But enough wondering over that rose - there are more to be displayed and to shed their sweet fragrance here today. Anna was busy on her first "feast"!
4. I asked her specifically for a rose to come regarding my manuscript on Therese. The rose came just as ordered, right into my inbox for me to find soon after I made the request. What this rose means is a mystery - no decision has been made as to whether the book will be published yet, but what a joy to have Anna reassure me that God has not forgotten, nor Therese, nor Marcel. They'll take care of everything, so no worries.
5. And speaking of seemingly unanswered (let's call them NYA - "not yet answered") prayer intentions, Anna gave me a rose from Conversations which we then decided we should share as a sign of God's love and promise that He will answer all our prayers - just maybe not all today.
At (445) Jesus says, "The flame of Love which envelops you completely, in the same way, envelops everything which is of you."
What spectacular and glorious news! This flame of Love is Jesus, and He is not only embracing us in His Heart, but all those we embrace in our hearts. Which means we might as well say our best-of-all prayers now, while we're on the subject: Draw me, we will run!
6. But there's more! The next rose to fall from Conversations was from (31), where Jesus says something that consoles me almost as much as a chocolate sundae.
Ha! I got ya, didn't I? But really, just joking because it consoles me more than a chocolate sundae!
Jesus says, "My little apostle, never allow yourself to be afraid by the effort that you must impose on yourself to write. Even if the words I am saying to you were useful only to a single soul, that would already be sufficient."
Oh my goodness, that is such truly wonderful news. Because aren't you, dear reader, reading this right now? And if any of this is useful to you (and I'm sure it is - heavenly roses are never wasted on little souls, who have just the right degree of awe and wonder and, well, littleness, to appreciate them), then I'm going to keep reminding myself never to fret or stress over any effort it takes me to write these posts. Not that it's hard work, but can you imagine how tiring this inventory of roses could get if you weren't here? Ah, but you are here, and for that I thank Jesus, and I thank Anna for showing me Jesus' words to invigorate me when my enthusiasm flags. (Which is where the chocolate sundae might help too, now that we've mentioned it!) And this brings me (not the sundae, but Jesus' words that "Even if the words I am saying to you were useful only to a single soul, that would already be sufficient") to the 7th of Anna's roses.
7. Okay, I'm cheating. This is not a rose, but a bunch, a full blown bouquet, and it's exquisite. Turns out Anna was having so much fun showering down roses that she didn't stop (no sleep necessary in Heaven, though for those of us who love sleep, I'm hoping it's still possible on occasion). So as I was setting up this post (importing pictures and spaces of writing whatever God wanted you to hear through me), I found and collected one rose after another that she was still strewing and showering (having definitely gotten the hang of it!) - and these roses are nothing other than the beautiful little flowers that sprung up in the footsteps of Therese and Marcel. Time and space and language barriers (especially language barriers) were obliterated as I looked for a photo of Marcel to put in this post. You won't find that picture - Marcel was just using it as a carrot to lead me forward to find the little flowers he and Anna were admiring along the Little Way.
First was Fr. Boucher. We know him already, but we don't know his friend Daniel-Angel, who wrote this, which I found in a google-translated bulletin of Les Amis de Van from 1996. Who knew such treasures were lurking in the world wide web!?!? I quote from the Bulletin quoting Daniel-Angel:
In the preface to Marie-Michel's book [which I think must be about Marcel], "Love Knows Me",
Daniel-Angel wrote on February 2, 1990, in the Presentation of the Lord :
Montreal, June 26, 1984.
En route to Mirabel Airport,
I have half an hour extra. I take this opportunity
to make a jump into a convent where a father had begged me to pass.
With emotion, he tells me about a young Vietnamese for whom he was the
Novice Master and the confidant. For 20 years, he had been watching
the opportunity to make him known and loved. Twenty minutes later, I
repaired for the airport, 700 typed pages in hand, or
rather the hand in that of a new friend, and what a friend! Treasury without
price that customs did not even suspect.
If they were interested in spiritual goods, they would have imposed an
exorbitant tax. On the plane - night time from Saturday to Sunday - praying
and watching for the signs of Dawn, I begin to devour these pages:
the dynamite of love (if the crew knew!) able to revolutionize an existence!...
Returned to my hermitage, I was tortured: how to make known
this child of God, this child of Fire? How to let it penetrate
in thousands of hearts?
How to allow this little Vietnamese to travel the whole earth,
to knock on the door of houses without number, to visit those
poor of goods and love, to wipe away their tears,
turning them into diamonds, to wake our West from its comatose state,
to shake us from our lethargy? So many poor
wait for a confidant, a friend like him! To walk in his
familiarity! That young people would find there the desire to love and
simply the taste of living. And - who knows? - perhaps to find even the strength to
give their life in turn...
Very concretely, how to put in the hands outstretched
from a thirsty crowd, as in the Gospels, these pages where pass, turn by
turn, each of the Beatitudes? Who will be able to realize this gigantic
job to write, select, classify these innumerable pages?
Van had to push me to a child in Carmel ... I got
so I turned to my beloved brother Marie-Michel with whom I
founded - this year 1984 - "Youth-Light," the school of
life, courage and love. Already overwhelmed by his ministry of
training and evangelism with so many young people to whom he listens and
for whom he writes, he accepted ... without suspecting, fortunately, the
fabulous amount of work that would require.
Marie-Michel, let me bless you for this great job! The name
of Van and Therese, on behalf of so many thousands of young people, especially, who
will be upset ... Thank you for not letting go and being gone
until the end. Faithfully, courageously. With joy! ...
Can you begin to enjoy with me the bouquet Anna dropped into my lap? I have not even begun to appreciate its delicate but robust fragrance (haha, like a fine wine, but I don't care for wine - just roses!). In this bouquet are all of those men and women who, like Daniel-Angel (the angel who transported Fr. Boucher's translated pages of Marcel to a confrere in France, I believe, one Pere Marie-Michel whom God had led along a thorny but familiar path in the 60s to a conversion in Fatima in the 70s so that he might eventually lead young people and found (I think) religious orders, one of whom my google translate is calling "Priestly Fraternity, Brothers of Marcel Van," or something of the sort. Don't ask me! I'm just the messenger and not only is my memory fragile, but my computer refuses to open up the page on which I've got the googly-eyed translation, saying with a sad face (my computer), "Not enough memory to open this page." Oh well!)
I've now impressed myself, even, with my ability to enjoy a parenthetical remark so much that I say both too much and too little ... but we have no time for regrets, we who run with the little flowers! So, as I was saying, and this time will say sans parentheses:
In this bouquet are all those men and women who, like Daniel-Angel yearned to do and actually succeeded in doing with the help of Marie-Michel, brought Marcel to the world, and in particular, to us. We might add, in the words of Daniel-Angel, "without suspecting, fortunately, the fabulous amount of work that would require."
Which is why, as I said, Fr. Boucher is one of these roses. And our newly discovered Daniel-Angel and Pere Marie-Michel. And the men and women of Les Amis de Van. And our own dear friend, Jack Keogan.
My plan is to cozy up to them, and you're so welcome to join me. Let's hide ourselves in this bouquet, hoping that "without suspecting the fabulous amount of work it will require," we'll be part of the veritable army of little flowers spreading Marcel and Therese's message, or really, to be quite simple, Jesus' message. And if you think that an "army of little flowers" brings to mind a hilarious image, I'm with you! Almost as good as something else google translated for me, from Marie-Michel's blog, in a few words about the Rosary - calling it "the weapon of the sweet!"
8. A moment ago (in the middle of that last paragraph) I was trying to be quite simple. This is good because it reminds me of our last rose of today. Do you remember when I asked you, some time ago, to remind me to tell you the story (someday) of St. Lawrence of Brindisi? If you've forgotten, welcome to my Marcel club of forgetful lovers! If you never saw it, well you've got some back reading to catch up on, now don't you? (As Jesus would say, This is not a criticism! But you know, why not fill your days with Marcel? Our archives are getting happily cozy and full, like Mary's lap!)
Well today is that someday, because it is St. Lawrence of Brindisi's feast! And here is what I wanted to tell you and why I brought it up in the first place (whenever that was, in the oh so distant recent past):
When we thank God for the time and work (but such happy work, I can assure you) that Fr. Boucher and Jack Keogan (and Les Amis de Van, and so many more) have given to bring us Marcel Van's writings - in whatever language we speak: Vietnamese, French, or English - part of our thanksgiving can include the realization that St. Therese and Marcel have been eager to share Jesus with us - so eager, so willing, so passionately concerned to do so! I'm sure it is most of all because of their love and persistence that we have Marcel's works to read and savor today - so many words of love from Jesus through him to us!
How do I know this? Why do I bring in Heaven? Isn't it enough to thank the earthly minions?
Well no. Because there are - or is, if L of B is our only example, but he's a good example - Doctors of the Church whose writings are still closed books to us, at least if we don't know our Latin super well, and even then, it sometimes can (did, in L of B's case) take centuries - even for the Latin to be available for our reading pleasure.
Here's the story, morning glory, and I tell it with no stress but great joy:
On the night that St. Therese was made a Doctor of the Church - October 19, 1997 - my husband and I hosted a party. We fell for the adorable, naive invitation of a dear priest friend who said, "I'm going to say a Mass in her honor tonight. How about we order pizza - I'll pay - and have the few students who attend the Mass over to your house afterward?" (We were at Christendom at the time.)
Sounded like a good plan, but I knew Therese and her charm, so I planned for more than a few.
Among our other preparations, we got out our wedding guest book, and let people sign it for this special celebration. And the total number?
There were 70 people who came!
And at the festivities, in the kitchen, I said to a beloved friend, big brother, lover of the Sacred Heart, and president of Christendom College, Tim O'Donnell, "So if St. Therese is a Doctor of the Church now, and that means the Church proposes her as our teacher, and she's the 33rd such Doctor so named and proposed to us - what about those among the other 32 whom I've never known anything about, let alone their teachings? Like what about Lawrence of Brindisi?"
Being of sound-ish mind and happy (but dull) memory, I don't remember what Tim said in response. I think he told me that Lawrence was a Franciscan and had written well on Our Lady . . .
Many years later, I got a copy (which I then gave away to someone who had to have it, but don't worry I got another copy) of a really magnificent book called The 33 Doctors of the Church. Incidentally, there are a handful more Doctors by now, but for those of us who can't finish learning what Therese (and her assistant Marcel) has to teach us, we leave those aside like so many extra steaks (suddenly we're at a fancy dinner and can't finish the Therese-steak, let alone start on the John-of-Avila-steak).
So who is St. Lawrence of Brindisi, and why did I want you to remind me to tell you about him someday (which is today)?
Since Jesus is our exemplar, let me start with a big smile (and nearly finish) by saying, as He once said to Marcel of St. John Eudes, but we'll change the names to protect the innocent:
"St. Lawrence of Brindisi is St. Lawrence of Brindisi!"
But to say just a little more . . . He was a super holy man who lived after the terrible rift in the Church caused by Luther in the 1500s. Father Lawrence was a Capuchin (a Franciscan) and a brilliant orator. He had a photographic memory and knew the whole Bible, and all the Biblical languages, and his sermons, which make up the bulk of his writings, contain 52,000 quotes from the Bible. Nonetheless, one of his favorite expressions was, "Ah, Simplicity!" and in true Franciscan fashion, he seemed to consider Simplicity a kind of sister whom he trusted and cherished.
Lawrence did so many cool things that I don't have time to tell you all of them, but suffice it to say that he was beloved, and yet had enemies - for he was a true follower of Christ, gentle yet strong, clear and loving and ready to lead those who surrounded him (or were under him, for he was a superior at times, or against him, for he fought bravely against error) closer to Our Lord and Our Lady.
And among the many cool things he did, one of the coolest in my book (since I'm a writer and a lover of the Church) was to write an apologetic work setting forth the truths of the Catholic Faith against the contradictions to it proposed by Luther and a particular follower of Luther's named Polycarp Laiser, a Lutheran theologian and preacher. Laiser had revised Luther's bible, and in July of 1607, this man (highly respected by his followers) preached two sermons from a window in the castle of the Catholic emperor of Prague.
St. Lawrence wasted no time in answering him. The day after Laiser's second sermon, Lawrence wrote a response in which he used Acts 13:10 as his opener, and he sent along with it copies of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, and Syro-Chaldaic, challenging Laiser to read them. Laiser didn't respond in turn, but left for home (Dresden) where he published his two Prague sermons in a pamphlet which he then circulated widely - and too, cheeky fellow, he sent an autographed copy of the pamphlet to St. Lawrence!
Lawrence responded in a sermon of his own, which became a pamphlet. Which pamphlet grew and grew (because Lawrence wanted to respond well to the arguments and errors against the Church) until it became a huge apologetic work called "The Image of Lutheranism" (Laiser's pamphlet was called "The Image of Martin Luther"). Lawrence's response ended up 1500 pages long! Now there's a man I can admire!
But here's the kicker (and I can appreciate this too) - Lawrence's handwriting was so hard to read, containing as it did his own personal shorthand and a speedily written style which I'm guessing limited legibility, that his Complete Works were not published until . . . 300+ years after he wrote them! Nothing was published in his lifetime (and that was mostly okay because again,the majority of his writings are sermons, so they were heard and achieved their effect in their day), but that means not even his apologetic work was published at the time it was so needed.
Finally, after many failed attempts to crack the code and get Lawrence's works transcribed and available, in 1926 a commission of Italian Capuchin priest scholars went at it again and voila! From 1928 to 1964, his Opera Omnia gradually saw the light of day, in 10 quarto volumes, no less.
And lest we think that battle was finally won, might I add they were published in their original languages, namely Latin and a smidge (or a volume or two) in German? So for those of us who would LOVE to read his 96 sermons on Mary (St. Lawrence is considered a premier Marian theologian and his theology was rivaled only by his love for Our Lady), we'd better polish up our Latin - not to mention search high and low for those quarto volumes . . .
The moral of the story is not about the need for more careful handwriting, nor for the great technological advance of self-publishing (would that we could write something 1/1000th of the value of St. Lawrence of Brinidi's sermons!), but rather . . . How lucky we are, how blessed, how utterly rose-covered to have Marcel's writings available to us these so few years (relatively speaking) after he wrote them!
Thank you, Fr. Boucher! Thank you, Jack Keogan! Thank You, dear Jesus! And thank you, little Therese, Doctor of the Church, for so freely sharing your wisdom with us through Marcel our sweet brother!
Thank you, too, Anna, for showering on us all these heavenly roses, and may St. Lawrence of Brindisi give you a huge hug for your heavy lifting (do heavenly roses weigh anything?).
One last thank you - to the artist who gave us such a lovely image of St. Lawrence with little Jesus. These good painters never seem to capture Jesus' beauty, but we won't mind that. Let's close our eyes and kiss the real little Jesus. He's waiting with open arms for us to tell Him, "Little Jesus, I love you a lot!" So how about it? Let's say it together, with all our hearts - "Little Jesus, we love you a lot!"
And now, for that chocolate sundae. . .
I wasn't planning on posting today, but do you ever have the feeling that we make Plan A is only so God can have something to replace with Plan B? Because how could I resist sharing with you the delightful passage that God surprised me with this morning? I couldn't!
The passage is from a book I got who-knows-when, who-knows-where, or perhaps I should say with reverent gratitude: Who-knows-when and Who-knows-where. I'd taken this pair of books (because actually it's a two volume little pair, like Therese and Marcel) off the shelf the other day in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and though I didn't end up using them for our novena posts the feast, you know how it can take books a while to find their way back home to the shelf. This morning, then, I opened one of this pair before returning it to its proper spot - well, that would have been a vain effort since either the books on that shelf multiplied in the last couple of days, or I had already crammed (I mean gently placed) other books where these had left a space. Sigh. So many books, and then so many more books! Thank You, Jesus!
Thank You, Jesus and Mary too, because opening this book before returning it to its erstwhile-but-now-non-existent space, I found what You sent to keep it off the shelf a little longer. Phew! And I couldn't believe what You sent!
My passage du jour is from an essay on a beautiful, holy priest I dare say you've never heard of (I sure hadn't, or if I had, I forgot), by name of Fr. Bartholomew Maria Xiberta, O.Carm (the O. Carm stands for Ancient Order of Carmelites, the branch of the Carmelite family that is not the reformed-by-Teresa-of-Avila Discalced Carmelites, though the O. Carms have had, through the centuries, reforms of their own). The essay on Fr. Bart X is written by another beautiful, holy priest who was his student, and this one I had heard of, namely Fr. Redemptus M. Valabek, O. Carm.
Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, I've just learned that Fr. Valabek went to meet Jesus and Mary (and so many more) on August 5, 2003. His teacher, Fr. Bart had gone earlier, on July 26, 1967, and it turns out that Fr. Redemptus' admiration for his teacher was well placed. Fr. Bart is a Servant of God, just like our Marcel!
Can you imagine the fun they are having in Heaven? All of the blessed, certainly, but these guys especially. Fr. Redemptus was very humble about my not using anything from his books for the Feast-post, but Fr. Xiberta (Fr. Bart, we must affectionately call him, because though he tries to be serious, he is now being tickled by Marcel - oh what an imp! I mean Marcel, not Fr. Bart), well he has no patience for fools. He's from Barcelona, and they are very affectionate but very direct there. Don't you think? (I'm kind of guessing, kind of going on instinct here.)
So anyhow, Fr. Bart is like, "What? Redemptus, don't be so everlastingly patient with the girl. She had your books in hand and you get NO billing on the Feast? This is crazy! Loco! Why she could even quote from me - I'm in the book too, and I said some true things! But to let her put us back on the shelf unread, this we cannot do. That way lies ignorance, which I cannot countenance. She might then never know how much we are doing for her and her readers from Heaven. We must tell them!"
Aha! It was clearly Fr. Bart who re-filled the bookshelf when I wasn't looking! But I'm ever so grateful, because I had no idea he was in the "Servant of God" category (with a cause in process), no idea he was such a good buddy of Marcel's, no idea that he had such amazing things to say about Heaven. I mean not just the ones I'm making up here, but the ones he actually said (or wrote) during his lifetime. Because that's what caught me and what prompted me to post today - this passage from Fr. Redemptus' article on Fr. BMX (doesn't that make him sound like a fancy stereo speaker? He is! He is a great speaker! Just listen!) - which I was immediately in love with (what he says, and now the man himself) because it sounds just like what we were saying the other day! It sounds like Marcel! It sounds like Our Lady! But you be the judge - here it is:
"The Feast of July 16 is not just any kind of feast; it is much more. It is the finest day of the year, the day closest to that one without sunset in heaven. It is the day when we experience what we will be doing in heaven: being close to Mary under her white mantle, contemplating the infinite beauty of God, of which the Blessed Mother's beauty is a reflection. To enjoy her, talking to her on a one-to-one basis and . . . listening."
Heaven indeed! It's impossible from the information I have at hand to figure out when Fr. Xiberta wrote this, but I'm guessing it was after 1959 - because don't you think Marcel whispered it to him from his place on Mary's lap??
Lest you have a scruple (oh gee. I wasn't going to mention this, but now that I've brought up scruples I can't help myself. Today I was in a neighboring town to mine and saw a hairdresser's establishment called "Scrupples." I am so hoping that is the name of the proprietor, Daisy Scrupple, and not just bad spelling. I must admit, either way I love it!) - but lest you have a scrupple about Fr. Xiberta naming July 16, our dear recent feast/solemnity, as "the finest day of the year," - and don't deny it because I know that you, dear reader, being well catechized are thinking, "Hey! What about Easter? Who is this bozo?!" - well you are not the first to want to question him. Fr. Redemptus admits (with a smile, I'm sure) earlier in his essay (of which this passage quoted from his teacher is the final paragraph), "As students we teasingly asked him was it right to celebrate July 16 with more solemnity than Easter itself. 'Listen,' he replied, 'you have to make distinctions . . . ' but he would never retreat from his statement that July 16 should be the unsurpassed Carmelite celebration."
Now don't have scupples that you're not a Carmelite!
Do you love Marcel? That makes you Carmelite in spirit!
And if you wear a scapular (cloth or medal, we make no distinctions here - garments of love sometimes come in wool, sometimes in cotton, sometimes in gold, and that's true of Our Lady's garment of love for us, the brown scapular, of which the Carmelites in Rome are the proprietors, if that's the word I'm looking for, and they've said as much in the official documentation so don't even get me started on this scrupple), well you're affiliated to the Carmelites right there!
I'm just tickled pink (and hoping Fr. Bart has escaped our Marcel's teasing, as well as he escaped his students') that we've gotten more confirmation on what Heaven will be like. Yowza, I can't wait! But don't worry, I will (wait) - because it's awfully fun to be here with you, yakking in anticipation! I also love that the longer we are in exile, the more of our brothers and sisters we meet - whether it's each other or those of us already (lucky dogs!) in heaven. As to those in purgatory, man oh man we keep emptying it daily, but then it fills again, just like my bookshelf! I guess that's good - it's the ante-room of Heaven, which we want to be packed beyond packed, and it gives us motivation to offer up those little frustrations that Jesus and Mary keep telling Marcel (and us) will save oodles of souls.
Oh, how good it is to be Catholic, to be in Marcel's camp (his tent, even), and to have Our Lady waiting for us! Let's give her a glance of love then, sure that it will bring her gaze to us if by chance she's been distracted (all those good souls crowding onto her lap, even though Jesus takes up so much room, and there in the midst of it, Marcel wanting to tickle everyone - it's got to be chaos for our dear Mother!), and let's not forget to call to Jesus (who's eating grapes, no less), sure to include the souls in purgatory in our "we" who will run . . . Ready? Deep breath, and -
Draw me, we will run!
There. That's awesome.
And as an afterthought-that-could've come first, I can't close without mentioning that today is not only part of Our Lady's octave, it's also the glorious feast of St. Camillus, particularly beloved because he's my dear sister's patron saint, so let's give him a shout too!
Camillus, hey up there, we're down here thinking of you! You had a pretty wild ride before your conversion, and if I remember rightly, a few slips even then. We're so glad Heaven won the battle, and thank you for all your love and care for the sick and the poor. Please bless all our sick and poor, and those of the whole world today, as well as our siblings and aunts and uncles and on and on, whether they're named for you or not. We're blowing you kisses, Cam - please give some to our own Father Cam, and to Marcel and Jesus for us, and Our dear Mother of Mount Carmel! Oh, and give Fr. Bart a hand, will you? He needs help - I think Marcel has started a water balloon fight, and Fr. Bart's getting soaked!
On a final note, did you find that piece of chocolate cake yesterday? I mean you, dear reader, not St. Camillus! I surprised myself by finding mine, and it was so delish! Now it's your turn - enjoy, and don't even think of counting calories. Feast day (and octave) cake is for fun and for free, so go at it and don't forget to pair it with a tall glass of cold milk - or a glass of red wine, a cup of tea, whatever floats your boat! Not to knock Heaven, but how consoling that even exile can be pretty good when we have Our Lady and the saints to celebrate!
Technically this isn't another party, but a continuation of the same . . .
I've been hearing from readers that yesterday's post in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was a big hit - the combination of poetry and a passage from Marcel's Conversations really touched hearts, so I hate to pre-empt that post with this one . . . but I can't help it - Marcel won't let this new day pass without my introducing you to some more of our friends, and so we're keeping up the celebration with another feast today. P-p-p-p-please, then (as Elmer Fudd would say), do scroll down to enjoy Our Lady's festivities from yesterday, and then let's prolong the party as the Octave unfolds.
You can see what I couldn't overlook by taking a gander at the photos that top my words here. Sorry to be so bossy - scroll down, no, scroll up! - but we're happy here at Miss Marcel's Musings, ecstatic really, at the joys and glories spilling over from God's goodness.
In the top photo we have a terrific view of the Martyrs of Compiegne, 16 Carmelites guillotined on this day in 1794. The cameraman (those guys are everywhere!) caught a lovely cross-section of heaven and earth: above, welcomed by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and little Jesus, are those sisters already in glory; below, those about to join them. The Mother Superior, Teresa of St. Augustine (I told you we weren't finished with the Carmelite Teresas - not by a long shot!) is the one standing furthest to the right; she was executed last, after seeing her little flock safely beheaded before her.
Do you know what was amazing about these nuns? About a dozen things, at least, but we'll start with the following shorter list:
1. They publicly renewed their vows immediately before their martyrdom, singing after their renewal the Veni Creator Spiritus, as was usual to the occasion (the occasion of their renewal, not the occasion of their martyrdom: that was unusual!).
2. They then sang the Salve Regina together as they singly mounted the scaffold, one voice after another cut short while the others continued singing.
3. Prior to their arrest in June, 1794, they'd offered themselves to God as a sacrifice to end the reign of terror. Sure enough, just days after their execution, the blood bath ended.
As if all that weren't enough, they've been celebrated "in story and song" many times since, and not just by any troubadours, but by several luminaries of the 20th century: the great German convert Gertrude von le Fort (in Song at the Scaffold), Georges Bernanos of Diary of a Country Priest fame, and Francois Poulenc, who wrote an opera about them: Dialogues of the Carmelites. More recent is a book called To Quell the Terror by William Bush, but hands down most thrilling is Dr. Warren Carroll's ode to their joy, The Guillotine and the Cross.
I don't want to say his book is the finest account of their history - it well might be, but I hate to compare poetry, prose, opera, and historical narrative and make a judgment on which one ranks highest. What I find most thrilling about Dr. Carroll's account is that it prepared him and Heaven for his own entry there!
For what do you think? If you scroll up again (yes, I know, your little fingers are getting tired, but if you want to see an even more fabulous photo than the one capturing the martyrs, look at the one just below it - and you won't have to scroll quite so far), you will see three of the greatest men of the late 20th century.
The giant in the middle is Dr. Ronald McArthur, founding president of Thomas Aquinas College (and dear friend). The giant to the left (but on the shorter side) is Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., the friar who wanted to be a missionary, but was destined instead to revive and renew (rebuild, like his holy father St. Francis) Franciscan University of Steubenville. But finally, the giant on the right is the one we're looking for. He's the convert, Catholic historian, and founding president of Christendom College, Dr. Warren Carroll, who wrote (in one of his many fabulous books) about the Martyrs of Compiegne, and then by the eternal designs of our all-loving God, died on this day, their feast, in 2011.
You can see, then, why we had to set Our Lady and her loving glance aside for a moment then. Except luckily for us, she is never far away, and her glance is about to draw us back under her mantle (if, heaven forbid, we've wandered from it in our musings here). Remember that song the martyrs sang on the way to their death? Modern scholars have been wondering, so says Wikipedia, whether it was the Salve Regina or the Laudate Dominium, that is, Psalm 116 which Carmelites sing at the foundation of a new monastery. Let's leave the scholars to debate; I'm going with the Salve because that's the song Carmelites sing at the end of a Marian event, and it also happens to be the song we'd sing at Christendom College (when we were privileged to be part of Dr. Carroll's "family" there for 14 years) at the end of big celebrations. I'm sure they sing it still! And do you know what we ask for in that song? Let's pray it in English to see, and since we're praying anyhow, let's ask for the glory of Christendom and the end of all reigns of terror threatening her well-being and peace:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
There it is again - Our Lady's glance! Yes, dear Mother Mary, look upon us who still stumble along in this Valley of Tears. Thank you for Therese and Marcel to lead the way, for martyrs and great men to inspire us, and for all those who continue to lead the institutions these great men left behind - bless us all with your gaze which encompasses Heaven and earth. Be a Mother to us and keep us close, snuggling on your lap next to little Jesus whom we long to see and kiss.
And what about Therese and Marcel? Surely they are rejoicing in this day too, for it was in some measure due to the long span of history which passed between the Compiegne Martyrs' death and their beatification that there was such a short blink of history between Therese's martyrdom of Love and her canonization. "Come again?" I hear you ask. Let's try that again, in longhand.
In 1896, a certain Monseigneur de Teil gave a talk in the parlour of the Lisieux Carmel and Thérèse was among the assembled nuns who heard him. Father de Teil was then postulator for the cause of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne, who had offered themselves for France and were guillotined 102 years before this little visit. These nuns had not yet been beatified, even, so when Father finished his talk, he said to Therese and her religious sisters, “Listen! If any of you ever plan on being canonized, please, have mercy on your poor postulator and work a lot of miracles!” Several years later Father de Teil found himself the vice-postulator of Thérèse’s cause and said, “She is a very obedient child!” because she did provide for him, as he’d ordered her when she was alive, plenty of miracles!
Marcel is the second Therese, so I'm sure he's working plenty of miracles too. Ask him for some! Call on our little brother and you will see how quickly he flies to your aid. If, however, he seems slow today, I'm sure it's only because he's busy soaking up the joy of the reunion between the 16 martyrs of Compiegne and their biographer and friend, Warren Carroll, on this their feast. "Trust exists! The Incarnation happened," Marcel is singing with the heavenly court.
I suggest we all have a big fat slice of chocolate cake in honor of our sisters and brothers in Heaven. Our Lady is with us, enfolding us in her mantle and her gaze. Let's try not to get crumbs on her lap!
Oh, almost forgot - one more prayer and then it's party time:
Draw me, we will run!
I was going to title this post "Last Call," because I've timed our novena to finish on the feast . . . which means you're welcome to toss in more intentions before our final prayer, and frankly, even after. I've got a feeling Our Lady would like us to keep asking her for things - look at all those roses she's holding out to Therese, and this is an old statue (no little brother standing next to our big sister), so imagine how many more she's actually got awaiting delivery from heaven!
A couple of the roses are here already, in the form of rhymes to delight us even as we pray. After I typed out Flos Carmeli the other day, what did I find in my email but an even better version (who doesn't want their prayers to sound like poetry?), and then I saw that same version given as the opening hymn in our Carmelite Proper last night for the vigil of this great Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Let's pray it together, then, this rhyming Flos Carmeli, asking Our Lady to hear and answer all our petitions, including those we've forgotten and those we haven't thought of yet, but which will no doubt crowd into our hearts as soon as we've finished.
Flower of Carmel
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Child-bearing, yet maiden,
None equals thee.
Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favors bestow,
Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might,
Under thy mantle,
Hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
You give to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
Dearest Mary, our Mother and our sister, obtain for us from little Jesus all the petitions of our hearts. We are so grateful for your maternal protection, for your loving mantle flung warmly over us, for your motherly intercession and tender compassion. Hear our prayers - all the prayers commended to us, all those we've taken on ourselves, and those we haven't properly formed or have forgotten - and be a true mother to us, staying near even as you assist us in every necessity.
You know, Mama, that I was trying to remember important prayers at Mass today, and here is my list.
Please grant us:
1. a deep and abiding gratitude, tinged and flecked and shot through with gladness, rising from a well of joy within us
2. a love of and refuge in your gifts of the Rosary and the Scapular
3. an intimacy with you closer than our wildest dreams and richer than that experienced by the greatest saints . . .
And Mama, don't forget to look with love upon the whole world!
And now, because it's a feast, we need more poetry! To start us off, something by Jessica Powers, who was really the Carmelite nun, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (1905 - 1988). No wonder she wrote such a fabulous poem to Our Lady in 1946! While the epitaph refers to a quote from Solomon, I think in the poem proper Jessica has on her mind "the little cloud like a man's hand" that Elijah had to send his servant - 7 times! - up to the top of Mt. Carmel to see (1 Kings 18).
The Cloud of Carmel
"The Lord promised that He would dwell in a cloud." --(2 Chronicles 6:1)
Symbol of star or lily of the snows,
rainbow or root or vine or fruit-filled tree:
these image the immaculate to me
less than a little cloud, a little light cloud rising
from Orient waters cleft by prophecy.
And as the Virgin in a most surprising
maternity bore God and our doomed race,
I who bear God in the mysteries of grace
beseech her: Cloud, encompass God and me.
Nothing defiled can touch the cloud of Mary.
God as a child willed to be safe in her,
and the Divine Indweller sets His throne
deep in a cloud in me, His sanctuary.
I pray, O wrap me, Cloud . . . light Cloud of Carmel
within whose purity my vows were sown
to lift their secrecies to God alone.
Say to my soul, the timorous and small
house of a Presence that it cannot see
and frightened acre of a Deity,
say in the fullness of your clemency:
I have enclosed you all.
You are in whiteness of a lighted lamb wool;
you are in softness of a summer wind lull.
O hut of God, deepen your faith anew.
Enfolded in this motherhood of mine,
all that is beautiful and all divine
is safe in you.
+ + +
I would like to end this post here, for what could we say to surpass such lovely and perfectly expressed sentiments? I suppose we could add Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry to Our Lady (do you know it?). I love "The May Magnificat," but especially, "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe," which Jessica's poem brought to my mind. But neither of these poems are what comes next. There's a certain Vietnamese boy, short of stature but jumping up and down with excitement, relentless in his desire to get a few words in today in honor of Our Lady.
Okay, Marcel, it's your turn!
What would you like to say?
Oh no, now I've embarrassed our little brother. He had a poem for Our Lady all lined up, but he's blushing because now that he's in heaven, he knows well Fr. Hopkins' poems, and it's as though I want to offer you a fresco Marcel painted in lieu of one by Fra Angelico.
Now Marcel. No one expects you to be another GMH, just as we didn't compare Celine's painting to one of Murillo's - although honestly, little brother, the heart knows nothing but what it loves, and I just might love Celine's Therese more than Murillo's Our Ladys, just as I might love your poem even more than I love Gerard's! So don't be bashful. You love Our Lady and it's right that we sing your song in her honor on her feast. Hide behind her veil until we're finished if you must, but I bet you'll get joy in singing it with us - how delightful that you have more to contribute to our "Theology of the Glance!" Hide then or sing, as you wish, but here we go, discovering Our Lady's glance as you so gratefully experienced it and gracefully express it. (And little brother, I'm especially grateful myself that this gaze is from the Mother of Perpetual Help, since I don't know her as well as you do. Thank you for adding to our repertoire of Our Ladies!)
The gaze of the Mother of Perpetual Succour
(by JMT Marcel C.Ss.R., 8 December 1948)
Oh Mother, why so much tenderness in your gaze?
When you lean forward and fix your gaze on me,
I see in your face a great goodness,
Your gaze is for me a tender caress.
O Mother, how engaging is your gaze
I believe I read there your ardent love,
Your deep compassion for my soul,
And for my life so full of suffering.
You look at me, you look at me unceasing,
As much in days of joy as of sadness,
And your gaze invites me to throw myself into your arms,
To be cuddled and cured of my wounds.
Your gaze is my comfort in my pain,
It is the joy and the peace of my heart.
If I take a false step and fall into sin,
Your gaze is a warning for my soul.
On the days when I am joyful, you also look at me with love,
So as to add still more to my joy, and in your goodness,
You do not forget to gaze at me in the trials of life,
So as to encourage me to remain patient.
Above all at times when I am exhausted,
You never neglect to look at me.
In unrest as in danger,
Your gaze is my comfort and support.
Oh! Mary I love you greatly!
A glance at your face is enough to reassure me;
A glance at your face is enough to melt my sadness;
A glance at your face is enough to regain my peace.
O dear Mother, what tenderness in your gaze!
Look at me until I arrive in paradise,
Until the moment when as if swallowed in the pupils of your eyes,
I will contemplate with you the God of infinite tenderness.
+ + +
Oh Marcel! Never be ashamed of your littleness! It is precisely that which makes you so near and dear to us, which inspires us to imitate you, rather than merely admire you as one who has attained heights not intended for us. Do you know, little brother, that after reading your poem I want to write one of my own? I want to ask all readers who come here, "Please, never be shy of expressing your love in poetry and songs. Let's imitate Marcel!"
You see, little brother, you give us courage to write little verses too, rhyming or un-rhyming as we are able, however we are inspired to sing our own hymns of love for Our Lady and for you. But now that you have so generously shared your poem with us, I know what you are urging me to type in conclusion. I have been thinking of it too, even before you began to whisper - the passage from our Mother about gazing at her, the power of our simplest glance upon her image. If you, brother, help me find the pages, I promise I will transcribe them here as you did so many years ago in Hanoi. Come Holy Spirit! Help, St. Anthony! Guardian angels, assist us to honor Our Lady of the Angels please . . .
* * *
Have you believed me that Our Lady is ready to shower her roses of love upon you? Let me share with you a miracle of unexpected proportions, so that you will believe in Love. I too, like Marcel, should be embarrassed, but not at my poetry, rather at my lack of faith. Why am I so surprised with each new and lovelier rose that falls into my lap? Ah, but confidence is different than expectation. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself!
For just this moment, after my prayers here in public with you (to Marcel, the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony and the angels), I took up Conversations, stuffed a (small) square of dark chocolate into my mouth for sustenance and courage, put on reading glasses, sat down in a comfy chair, and said another prayer. St. Anthony does not tire of these seemingly tiresome and certainly endless pleas to help us find things. So before opening my book, knowing this could take forever (two rules in life: never enter a used book store looking for one particular book, and never expect to re-find a specific conversation in Conversations on demand), I asked him again: Please, St. Anthony.
If I had a heart, I would be in tears.
For I opened the book.
Simply. Like that. To one page (or I suppose to facing pages, but I was only able to read one at a time, and I started on the left hand page).
Immediately my eyes fell on this passage, the very one I'd been sure I wouldn't find.
Oh me of little faith!
So here, from Conversations (426), thanks to Marcel and his big brother (and ours) St. Anthony, is Our Lady's contribution to our word-fest in her honor:
Mary: My dear little one. You have just been looking at me. It is not surprising therefore that I hasten to ask you this question. It is something really astounding. My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze.
So, what do you want and what is it that little Jesus has said to you? Are you very troubled? That is very unfortunate, my child. I am very sorry for you. Today, the recreation day, when you should be relaxing, all you do is worry yourself. It is very painful. But, my child, why trouble yourself in this way? I was once in the same situation as you. Although aware of the wonders that God was working in me, I had, nevertheless, to believe, since I had no conception of the graces that the divine Father was granting to me. If, at that time, I had not had the need to call on the virtue of faith, I would no longer have been a humble creature like you, my children. If, therefore, I still had need to believe, with much greater reason have you, my child . . .
My dear child, remain in peace, all right? Little Jesus has not scolded you; neither have I. Our sole intention, both of us, is to get rid of your troubles. Do not worry, I love you dearly. See, I have more pity for you than for little Jesus. In that case, it is He who should be sad; but you, what reason have you to be sad? Come, my child, I am kissing you, I am giving you twice as many as I am giving little Jesus, nevertheless, little Jesus is happy with that.
If little Jesus was like you, you would end up hitting each other seriously, both of you. But little Jesus loves you even more than I love you myself, since my love for you is the sign of the love that He has for you. So, in seeing me give you more kisses than I give to Him, He is not offended.
My dear little one, I am kissing you a lot and I love you dearly. That's enough. The time is almost up. My child I am placing you on my breast with little Jesus; and there, both of you, you will love each other. . .
+ + +
Draw me, we will run!
+ + +
And with that, our novena is complete. May Our Lady, so much more Mother than Queen, cover you with kisses - four times as many as she gives little Jesus, and twice as many as she gives Marcel! Our brother won't mind - he's safe at Home in her arms forever, and knows we need more pity than he, since we're still troubled here in exile. Let's do our part, though, and try not to be troubled - let's try to have faith. And when the worries pop up despite our feeble attempts to banish them, let's say, "Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice," and be at peace. Then when our peace is short-lived, let that serve as the reminder we need to look again at Our Lady so that we, like Marcel, may draw to ourselves her compassionate gaze, and with only a simple glance! What a deal, what a bargain, what a steal! Which sounds like poetry, almost, and reminds me, we have homework . . .
There could never be enough verses in honor of a Mother so tender and so true. If you feel inclined, then, the time has come to make up yours for her - I can hear Marcel urging you on, and Therese offering to teach you how to write poetry, just as she taught our little brother. Pen or pencil and paper, typewriter, computer, tablet or phone - the tools are practically endless, and they only await your creative touch. Good luck!
And don't forget to keep on the lookout for roses. We've got the octave of the Feast starting up just as our novena ends. I may not be as daily about my posting, but surely our sister and brother will continue to help Our Lady distribute her heavenly favors. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and may all your dreams, hopes, wishes, and prayers come true!
We're in Day 8 of our novena (the tail end!), and the time has come to tell you about the lovely picture of St. Therese that tops our post. Earlier in the week we had the black and white version - no, it wasn't Ted Turner who colorized this one, but Therese's own sister Celine. It's an original oil painting (or rather, the original is!) and one year ago today, I saw it up close and personal. It was the fulfillment of a decades long dream.
The picture hangs in the entryway to the Museum of the National Shrine of St. Therese in Darien, Illinois, and we were there on Sunday, July 16, 2017! If I told you all there was to tell about this Museum Shrine, we'd be here well into Day 9, so I'm going to limit myself, but I can tell you I'm so grateful we finally made it there.
The National Shrine of St. Therese was the work of a great lover of St. Therese, Father Albert Dolan, who traveled from the U.S. to France more than once to spend time with Therese's sisters Pauline, Marie, and Celine in the Lisieux Carmel, and Leonie at the Visitation of Caen. He obtained many relics to bring back for the National Shrine, which he raised money to build in Chicago. He gave missions there on St. Therese, during which he'd tell thousands of the faithful about his visits with the Martin sisters and about the Little Way. Fr. Dolan's talks were collected and published in a series of small paperbacks that I've enjoyed finding and reading over the years, and which were eventually published more recently by Loreto Press in one fat volume, The Intimate Life of St. Therese.
Another result of Fr. Dolan's enthusiasm was the Society of the Little Flower, which still continues the work of spreading devotion to St. Therese and the Little Way. They publish a wonderful prayer card with my favorite novena prayer to Therese on the back. And on the front? The oil painting of Therese, painted by Celine and procured by Fr. Dolan for the National Shrine! Considering that I've known and loved this prayer card (it's actually a little folder, containing another prayer and a short bio of Therese on the inside) for years and years, and given away likely more than a thousand of them, you can imagine how stunning it was for me to finally come face to face with Therese is Celine's original portrait, one year ago today.
Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, St. Therese! Thank you, Celine! Thank you, Fr. Dolan! Thank you, Society of the Little Flower! And finally, thank you, dear husband!
The funniest part of the visit (and what would Miss Marcel's Musings be without the funny parts? Let's not even go there!) was that it was on a Sunday afternoon. Praise God the museum was open; we had the place practically to ourselves and enjoyed every inch of it except . . . can you guess?
Except the gift store! This was a fine pinprick for me to offer up, but I was actually (after the initial disappointment) grateful it was closed, because this inspired some hilarious conversations between Therese and myself. She kept suggesting I take flowers from various parts of the place (I told her No, that didn't seem right). This was the girl (Therese, not me) who'd taken dirt from the floor of the Coliseum, in an area behind a barricade where she was't even supposed to be! So you can see I had to keep a rein on her in her museum (she was much worse there - you know, it's her museum so I'm lucky I got out of there without her having thrust a golden rose in my hand!), but I did please her by taking several donation envelopes - they were the closest thing to holy cards I could find, and they even had a sepia copy of her famous Celine portrait on them!
I have one of them near at hand now, marking a favorite page in Conversations. I wrote on it part of one of our own conversations (Therese and mine) that day one year ago when she gave me the tour, showing me so many special relics that I was near tears and in awe for the duration. She's not one for tears, though, so she kept me stifling giggles as well. Not that I was hysterical (that blend of tears and laughter is always interesting), but she was! Hysterically funny, I mean. Here's what I wrote on my envelope that day:
Suzie: Oh Therese, nothing? [It was stunning to finally get there and find the gift store closed, and nothing even in the way of free postcards lying around . . .]
Therese: I told you to take a flower.
Suzie: Wow, imagine France! . . . I couldn't take home France! [I was thinking about our visit to Darien, Illinois as my substitute for visiting Lisieux, and just as I knew it was best that the gift store at the museum was closed - because how could I choose, or resist buying half the place? - so I realized going to France would present similar but larger problems.]
Therese: That's why I gave you Marcel.
+ + +
Yes! She really said that! That's why she gave us Marcel!
(I mean that's what I heard in my imagination, and we have a deal that I get to imagine what I want, as long as its true. This leaves her free to speak to other people in more audible manners, and leaves me free to understand her without having to worry whether "my voices are true" a la St. Jean d'Arc.)
And what exactly did she mean? What Therese wanted to tell you before we reach the final post of our novena was just what she told me one year ago today. I'll let her speak for herself:
Therese: That's why I gave you Marcel. Because to be near you, to go home with you, to live with you, to be an integral part of your minute to minute life, I couldn't just give you a holy card, a prayer folder, a statue of me, as many trinkets as you could buy in my museum gift store or in all of France! To be totally present in your life and your days, to live with you and teach you the Little Way and pull you back onto it when you fall off, I had to give you not something, but someONE - our little brother Marcel!
What a great sister! Thanks, Therese! Thanks for giving us Marcel! And thanks, while we're in the gratitude portion of our novena, for sharing your other little brother with me . . .
I love anniversaries, and so I can't let this day pass without telling you that it's not only special because one year ago this day found me with Therese in the Midwest, but also on this day (July 15) in 2006, another little brother of Therese, Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E., met her face to face - only not in Celine's portrait, but beside Celine in Heaven! Which was only just and right - that Celine and Therese were together when Father Nicola met them - because in the last years of his life he'd come to love Celine almost as much as he loved Therese. He told me that when he'd visited the Carmel of Lisieux as a young man, he'd spent half an hour visiting with one of the Carmelite sisters (she was behind the grill, and unidentified) - and he always suspected it was none other than Celine herself!
Today I realized that Celine died almost the same time as Marcel (she on February 25, 1959; Marcel on July 10, 1959) - and looking up the date of her entrance into Real Life just now (in Fr. Piat's book Celine), I find she, too, has something to tell you before we let her go prepare for Our Lady's big feast.
She wants me to tell at least the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of her part in my meeting Fr. Maestrini. It is remarkable, and I suppose I'll have to write a book about it someday, but for now, for Celine:
On February 10 or 11, 2001, I saw John Wu's Beyond East and West on a shelf at the Christendom College library. I left it there, untouched, until later that night or the next day, I read in Celine's Memoir of my Sister, St. Therese a footnote mentioning this same John C.H. Wu. This brought me back to the library where I checked out Beyond East and West, wherein I read about Fr. Maestrini. John Wu wrote, "This priest was so gentle and friendly that I liked him from the beginning . . . one of the holiest priests I have ever known."
The name was familiar and I discovered that although he met John Wu in China in the late 1940s, now Fr. Maestrini lived near my in-laws in South Florida . . . it was a cinch from there for Celine and Therese to introduce us, and we became fast friends. Father was 93 at the time we met; he had been in his early forties when he encouraged John Wu to write his autobiography, which John dated, at the end of the Explanations and Acknowledgments which concluded the book, "February 11, 1951." Exactly 50 years before I found it.
Wouldn't you know Celine insists on having the last word? Before Our Lady of Mount Carmel comes onto the scene, Our Lady of Lourdes reigns supreme, and as I was looking, just now, for the date of Celine's zipping to heaven, I came across February 11th yet again! From Fr. Piat's Celine:
"In the perspective of their (Pauline/Mother Agnes' and Celine/Sister Genevieve's) approaching death, Sister Genevieve drew up, on February 2, 1950, a text that was intended to be a definitive clarification and that bore, under her signature, the following written footnote: 'Mother Agnes of Jesus has read, approved, and adopted this document on February 11, 1950.' The better part of this text reads as follows:
"Therese is the Saint of Love, but of a love that finds its most characteristic expression in spiritual childhood. She is the impassioned Saint of Jesus, but of a Jesus whose indescribable condescension she has opened to all little souls. She is the ingenious creator of the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, which is within reach of the weakest souls who aspire only to 'give pleasure' to God . . . All the saints are more or less heralds of Divine Love and of zeal for souls, while she alone is the herald of the 'Little Way of Spiritual Childhood.' That is her stroke of inspiration. That is her Omen Novum, her message, which I sum up here: joyful humility, passionate trust in Merciful Love, total abandonment to the divine will, a delicate art of giving pleasure to God in the least things of life, deep and experiential understanding of the Fatherhood of God, as I have testified during the Process in these words: 'Her love for God the Father amounted to filial tenderness.' Such is the secret of Therese's teaching . . . Faced with eternity, we who have lived in communion with Therese's thought insist on solemnly repeating: Therese's grace, her sanctity, and her mission is spiritual childhood."
Well no wonder Therese had to give us Marcel!
Celine and Pauline, John Wu and Fr. Maestrini, Fr. Dolan and just about everyone else are gone!
They had long and productive lives; we can't expect them to live on earth forever, but then we can't make it alone either.
Leave it to little Therese to find the solution - or rather, leave it to Jesus. He's given us a second St. Therese, a second icon of spiritual childhood, a little brother (in addition to our sister) who will never leave us.
Don't get me wrong - I have hard evidence that Celine and Fr. Dolan, John Wu and especially Fr. Maestrini have not gone too far to stay in close touch, but let's be honest (the saints are now beyond having their feelings hurt; they rejoice in each other's glory), who is small enough to give us all we need but Marcel? Like Mike T.V. after he got shrunk, Marcel's practically little enough to fit into our purses! Okay, that's a bad image to end on ("Let me out! Let me out!"), but I do enjoy a good laugh as well as the next guy!
Marcel, we love you! We've let you rest today - no doubt you've been swapping stories with Fr. Maestrini and John Wu, and making plans for the conversion of all Asia, but tomorrow we'll need you to help us celebrate Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
For now, it's time. A good night's rest prescribed for Miss Marcel and all her readers. One last, short prayer before sleep closes in:
Draw me, we will run!
And goodnight! We'll be together again tomorrow, but meantime, sleep with the angels . . .
P.S. I almost forgot! You can get your own copy of Celine's painting of Therese on the little prayer folder with my favorite novena HERE. Then shhhhh, no more interruptions, just a good night's sleep!
First things first - this is not a photo of Mary and baby Jesus, but merely a painting by Sandro Botticelli. He was a good painter, I'll give him that, but he got Our Lady and Jesus wrong - notice they're too thin, and Jesus isn't nearly beautiful enough, and yet we have to give him credit (or the Holy Spirit, really) for placing a large book - obviously Conversations! - under Jesus' and Mary's hands. Nice job, Sandro!
I've begun with a picture of Our Lady and little Jesus because I'm afraid I've almost forgotten, and forgotten to remind you, that this is a novena of gratitude and petitions to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At my house our purpose is made plain because today, in honor of the privilege of being Carmelites, my husband and I get to fast and abstain. Now don't laugh! It's our version of fast and abstinence, and we're trying even if neither of us will get a gold medal (you might think I've got repressed Olympic dreams or something, the way these gold medals keep cropping up, but I think I'm good as is, just love the imagery) - the idea is that the day before a Solemnity or huge feast, we fast. I don't mean it's our idea. My idea is to live like those happy people in the second half of Wall-E, the ones in the traveling recliners - not too much personal effort, all creature comforts within arms' reach, good movies playing for our entertainment. (And if you notice I bring these up more often than gold medals, you're starting to get me.)
Our Lady, though, while not a whit concerned about calories (take it from me; I'm confident I've got this one right), is nonetheless smiling over my description of my Best Life because she does want to preserve for us the power of locomotion. (Kind of awkward to fall off one's recliner and not be able to rise onto it again without help!) So she's given us a little fast before our feast - when a Sunday precedes the feast, as it does this year, we anticipate the fast because we can't fast on Easter, and every Sunday is a little Easter. How lovely the Church's ideas are!
My thought, then, is that we have just time for another mini-novena within our full size novena. (We could call my previous triple novena super-sized!) We began, this time, with a tiny novena in honor of Marcel's birthday-into-heaven, and we can end with another little novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Humor me, please, because it allows me to trot out this incredibly beautiful prayer/poem called Flos Carmeli, "Flower of Carmel," in honor of Our Lady The only reason you haven't seen it here yet is that it hadn't occurred to me until this morning to use it in our novena. I get tired with long prayers, so I bet Our Lady threw her veil between my eyes and this prayer, but now that I've thought of it, I can't keep it from you, so let's say it together now:
O beautiful flower of Carmel,
most fruitful vine,
Splendor of Heaven, holy and singular,
who brought forth the Son of God,
Still ever remaining a Pure Virgin,
assist me in this necessity,
O Star of the Sea, help and protect us.
Show us that your are our Mother.
O Mary conceived without sin,
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!
(And then here is an add-on that's delightful too:)
Mother and Ornament of Carmel, pray for us!
Virgin, flower of Carmel, pray for us!
Patroness of all who wear the scapular, pray for us!
Hope of all who die wearing the scapular, pray for us!
St. Joseph, friend and foster father of the Sacred Heart, pray for us!
St. Joseph, chaste spouse of Mary, pray for us!
St. Joseph, our patron, pray for us!
Sweet Heart of Mary, be our salvation,
Make us worth of the promises of Christ!
O God, You have blessed the Order of Carmel
with the special title of the Most Blessed Mary, ever Virgin and Mother.
Grant, in Your mercy, that under her guidance we may attain to everlasting love and joy.
This we ask through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
* * *
There, now. Don't you feel like we've said enough prayers to cover 9 days?
Laugh at me if you will (I'd much rather that than your shaking your head over me), but I'm a Carmelite, and one thing that means for me is that I prefer mental prayer to vocal prayer.
No, not because I'm a mental case, but because mental prayer means, in the colloquial translation of St. Teresa of Avila's definition, that prayer which is nothing other than a good long chit-chat with Him whom we know loves us.
In other words, since having discovered (or been given, like winning the lottery) Conversations, I like to pray by spending time with Marcel and Jesus (and Mary and Therese), by listening in on their gab fests, land chiming in occasionally as I read.
And in God's mercy, I'm not about to run out of material (to help my mental prayer) any time soon. Those four did spend a lot of time together talking, and then our Marcel was such a trooper, writing down endless pages. Once I caught on that these pages were out there, I was desperate to get my hands on Marcel's Complete Works, but then when I did eventually acquire all four volumes, Conversations mesmerized me (and continues to charm me) daily, so the others mostly sit on my bedside table, waiting patiently for their turn.
Last night, when I was overtired and wondering what I could possibly write about today, Our Lady gently whispered, "Don't worry, tomorrow you'll feel differently. Just rest now."
Isn't that just like a mom? My own earthly mom used to tell me that kind of thing when I was a girl, and my goodness, she was always right! I've tried to tell that to my own children, and any others I have the chance to mother, and I dare say I'm always right too - it's a law of nature! Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the cycle of nights and days. What a gift to sleep between days, and even sometimes in them.
Which would lead us to Charles Peguy and his poem on sleep, except that I owe it to Our Lady to first use the material she so generously supplied after my good night's sleep - especially because she got me to open Marcel's Other Writings, and there I found a terrific conversation between her and Marcel, one that I'd not seen before.
Simplicity, then, which means Marcel, though so many other things I want to share with you tug at my attention and beg me to go first. Nope, sorry, you'll have to wait in line, you thousand glories of God's amazing world - Marcel is our man, and he goes first.
Which is just and right, as this is Miss Marcel's Musings, and too, he never disappoints, even if giving him our full attention demands a kind of limit on every other wonderful person, place, and thing we'd like to explore. We'll get to those later, if God wills, so don't worry (anymore, ever), but for now - Marcel and Mary.
This dialogue between them comes from September 3, 1952. Marcel was 24 years old and in the middle of a retreat - this is from his 6th day, just a day shy of our 7th today (in our novena). Marcel has written out a poem about how he wants to die so he can see Jesus, and Mary responds:
Mary: O my child, you will finally meet the object of your dreams. Your Divine Friend is coming. Yes, He is on His way. However, His faltering steps are compatible with His little feet, which advance rather slowly. So, remain at peace, since your Jesus is walking towards You. Do not hurry Him too much for fear that Your Beloved may have an unfortunate stumble.
Marcel: Mother, would it not be quicker if you carried Him in your arms?
Mary: That's true, but little Jesus does not wish to spare Himself the fatigue of one or two steps, through love for you.
Marcel: So! This being the case, dear Mother, I must run towards Him to help Him to walk more quickly. But no, I do not know where He is coming from. So, I will send a jet aeroplane which flies at a speed of 2000 kilometers an hour, so that He comes to me without delay and it is you, dear Mother, who will pilot the plane. I will straight away collect the necessary materials for its construction, and I am counting on your sound advice, dear Mother, to bring this project to a successful conclusion. This jet aeroplane will bear the marque "2-M-J", it will fly at the speed of Love and it will have a female pilot, Mary.
[I must interject here that I am not making this up. I certainly do make up lots of things on and for this blog, and there have been accusations - I mean compliments - to the effect that perhaps I'm a few cards shy of a full deck, though the jokers aren't missing! Me? Silly? You betcha! But like a girl dreaming of flying unicorns, I do try to take elements from reality before I skate off onto thin ice with them. I did, for instance, see the man walking with the bike and the wheelchair, really and truly. I didn't have the opportunity to ask him for his side of the story, so I admit I had to put 2 and 2 together myself . . . though how you can doubt it was a miracle is beyond me. BUT . . . let it be known I am only taking my cue from Marcel the adorable. He is the original silly here, and I'm only decorating a pretty, glittery, feathery, brightly hued frame into which I then put his pictures and his writings . . . He started it! And aren't we delighted? But this interjection has gone on long enough. Let's continue the dialogue, because you'll find out that Mary does not hesitate to respond in kind to her darling boy Marcel. I've never heard her called silly - that's not what we say about a loving mom happy to enter her children's games - but she sure is wonderful, so let's get back to business.]
Mary: I will give to you now, my child, the means of constructing this aeroplane: refuse Jesus nothing, not even for the smallest sacrifice. Abandon yourself completely and put all your confidence in God alone. Thanks to this means, your aeroplane of Love will be very effective and will bring Jesus quickly close to you.
Marcel: Mother, is it a good thing to ask Jesus to take me to heaven? Is it allowed?
Mary: Certainly, my child; moreover, Jesus Himself wishes for you to repeat unceasingly this request to Him. Since, in the final analysis, for whom is your ardent wish for heaven, and what is your reason for having this wish? In making this request, you are not acting against the spirit of abandonment, provided that you are not too impatient and that you do not undertake any personal initiative to gain this end. Ask, and at the same time leave to Jesus to care of attending to everything, as you ordinarily do for a thousand other things. You must not, therefore, worry yourself; each day when impelled by an ardent desire to go quickly to heaven is a day of happiness for heaven and an opportunity for the saints to sing the Love of Jesus for His greater glory, and that pleases me a lot.
Yes, you may very well ask to go to heaven. Continue to ask, since heaven belongs to you; God has created it for you, it is quite natural to hope for it, to wish for it ardently. "There, where your treasure is, your heart is there also."
Long ago, I, your Mother, I also wished for heaven, like you. I suffered like you, at having to lead a pitiful life on earth. However, I remained strong in faith and I waited in joy for the coming of the Lord.
Marcel: But you, dear Mother, did you ask the Lord to come and take you quickly with Him?
Mary: Of course, my child! Ardent desire is a permanent supplication of the soul; although very intimate, this desire feels the need to express itself also in words, since we have not only to live with our soul, but also to bear our body with its joys and sorrows.
Marcel: Mother, until now I was a little troubled regarding this question, asking myself if my wish to go to heaven was not contrary to the spirit of abandonment and opposed to God's will. It is now clear, and from now I will continue to express this desire, whilst accepting willingly to live as long as God will wish. In this way I will practice perfect abandonment!
(Today, when I was sad and tears were flowing, there you have given me, Mother, words of comfort.)
+ + +
Oh Marcel! You are such a love! Just when we think you're sillier than silly, you turn around and ask Mary the best questions ever. How helpful to know about our Mystery Mom in the everyday life she lived, and to hear her, the Seat of Wisdom, explain better than the best Doctors of the Church:
"Ardent desire is a permanent supplication of the soul; although very intimate, this desire feels the need to express itself also in words, since we have not only to live with our soul, but also to bear our body with its joys and sorrows."
Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay!
Ah, but even if You don't delay, You drag Your darling little feet. We'll try not to complain, Love. And don't worry, little Jesus, because remember, You've given us Marcel to play with, Marcel to amuse us and he keeps us busy and distracted.
I think I must write an essay soon "In Praise of Distractions." It certainly would be a dull world without them, and we'd be far too stern and earnest, I'm sure.
There was, though, another page in Other Writings, another conversation of Marcel with Mary, from which I wanted to steal a quote. Marcel is praying to Mary (talking with her; same thing) and asks:
"Dear Mother, Help me to correct my character, alright? Help me to be a little serious."
If we all pray together now, perhaps we can forestall Our Lady's answer to our little brother's prayer. Because I, for one, want to cry out, "Heaven forbid!" Marcel a little serious? Well, maybe just a little, but not too much! Where would we be then? There are plenty of serious saints, and I'm not alone in preferring the light and bright ones. As my holy mother, St. Teresa of Avila said, (I like to think it was a prayer), "God save us from sour-faced saints!"
Amen! Not that I want to tell anyone else how to live - perhaps God is calling sour-faced saints to live on lemons (instead of lemonade), and their penance may save us all yet - but I'm grateful that there have been others before me who concentrated on cheerfulness. I know silliness and cheerfulness are different - cheerfulness is the attribute of the well adjusted personality that's over 4 years old, while silliness is that quality in the 4 and under crowd. Count me into that latter group! With St. Therese and Marcel, I want to get littler and littler, lest the grown-ups notice I'm a hearty lass and set me to work!
So. Here I am praying against Marcel's prayer - forgive me, Marcel, but we love you just as you are - and I'm thinking this could be a lesson for us: if our prayers aren't answered as swiftly as we'd like, perhaps someone out there is praying the opposite! But let's not start worrying about that - in fact, I decree today as the day we stop worrying altogether.
It's clear God doesn't want us to worry, which should be enough reason to stop, and then He keeps repeating this refrain (about not worrying) to Marcel (and to us through him) - as well as pointing out (to Marcel and us) that everyone else is saying the same thing:
No more worrying!
There are so, so, so many places in the Bible where God tells us not to worry. It would be a great project (and I did this once with the Gospels) to copy out all the many places and many ways God repeats Himself on this favorite theme of His. But we don't have to start on that now - our true Father loves us so much that He anticipated this need of ours and put the best ever argument against worrying in the gospel of today's Mass! In a nutshell, Jesus tells His apostles and us: Don't worry about those who can harm the body, but only the one who can cast you into Gehenna. But don't worry about the one who can cast you into Gehenna, because He loves you infinitely more than the sparrows, and these birds can't even fall off a tree branch without Him noticing (and caring)!
Isn't that the coolest? Isn't Jesus just the best?
He doesn't trust us to actually believe and obey Him though (He knows our frailty too well!), so He gives us His Mother (who taught Him, in His boyhood, these lessons, even though He already knew them as God - He is such a sport!) to be our Mother and teach us, perpetually, these lessons too.
How delightful it is for me to write these blog posts . . . Just now (case in point), I realized that the Our Lady so dear to Marcel as a Redemptorist - Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or Perpetual Succour, as the English would say) - is so special because she is Our Lady who perpetually helps us! And don't we, perpetually and forever, need so much help?!
I've been thinking about the many ways she gives Marcel and us instructions on not worrying, a kind of ongoing tutorial on giving up our bad habit of worrying, but what is so quintessentially maternal about Our Blessed Mother is that when she knows we're not making progress, she doesn't scold, she just changes her pedagogy, or in simpler words, she changes her tune. I'll get to that (my favorite thing in Conversations - if I'm allowed 1000 favorites, and it's my blog, so I say I am!), but let's not rush too quickly past Mary's initial attempts to get us to stop worrying.
Instead of finding some of the places in Conversations where she tells Marcel not to worry (and then too here are the places where Marcel mentions to Jesus, and then Jesus mentions to Marcel, that Fr. So-and-So pointed out that Marcel had nothing to worry about because Mary is his mother), I'm going to take the easy way out and transcribe for you here my favorite words of Mary (okay, okay, I have a lot of favorites, but now I'm going to commit myself: these next words are among the favoritest of my favorites). She spoke them to us some centuries ago when she was dressed up as Our Lady of Guadalupe and assuring St. Juan Diego he had nothing to worry about.
You see, then, this has been a theme of Mary's for a long while. Like Jesus, she is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that same is expressed perfectly in this speech she gave to Juan. I need to add (backstory, context, whatever you call it) that Juan was worried because his dear uncle was gravely ill, and then he got worse, so that Juan was in a big rush to get a priest to administer last rites. If only that kind but talkative Lady wouldn't detain him! In order to avoid her, impolite though it felt, Juan was compelled to walk by a different route, around the mountain where Mary had previously appeared to him, so that she couldn't appear to him now and slow him down.
In fact our little ploys and stratagems are no match for heaven! Besides detaining Juan just as long as she pleased, Our Lady simultaneously appeared to his uncle and cured him. That should take care of his urgent need for a priest, one imagines her mischievously thinking! And that will show my children that they can simply trust in my maternal aid for all they need and (please God) stop panicking.
Well, we still panic, we still forget that Mary's got our back, but here are the words that talk me off the ledge in cases of extreme stress. From Our Lady to us through little Juanito:
Hear and let it penetrate your heart my dear little one:
Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you.
Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance.
Am I not here who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle?
In the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else you need?
Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.
* * *
That about covers all our worries, all our crisis situations, all our moments of panic,
And if I had any sense, I'd end today's blog post right here, but I don't (have any sense), or rather I do (have some sense) and so though I find that I've painted myself into the most marvelous corner, I'm going to do what any self-respecting child would do (and aren't they all fairly self-respecting, full of dignity, if you catch them young enough?) - I'm going to walk over the wet paint to get where I need to go! Which is to the passage in Conversations that I promised you - the one where Our Lady doesn't believe we'll really believe her (even after those great words she just gave us through Juan) and stop worrying, so she's giving us another option.
Could we make a deal, though? I'll tell you Mary's other words, the new song she sings about what to do when we can't seem to stop worrying, despite her gentle reassurance, and then I'll do my best to end the post soon after, and then YOU will please come back to Our Lady of Guadalupe's words to you. I can't bear to think that the Holy Spirit and Marcel and I somehow botched this post so that we didn't end with those words - they're such perfect words! Yes, that's it. I'll make your part of the bargain easy by repeating those words before we close. That eases my conscience, and now we can go on to Mary's Plan B.
At (595) in Conversations, she offers this plan to us and I don't want the first words to scare you - it's quite marvelous and consoling, actually, although Our Lady uses the words "sacrifice yourself." I know, yuck, ouch, ick, and Really??? (Or maybe that's just my reaction.) But what's so miraculous here is that because Mary is finally just one person, all the Our Ladies are really her, and everything they say goes together, even if we might be more or less attracted to one Our Lady over another.
If you, or anyone you know, has a problem with Our Lady of Fatima (sometimes misunderstood, and I understand it because I misunderstood her in just this way) as the demanding and (I hate to say it, but let's be honest) somewhat angry Our Lady - well Marcel and I have great news for you! Our Lady of Fatima was all about sacrifice, it would seem from the news coverage, and yet - since Mary is one and the dearest, gentlest, least angry, sweetest Mother ever, she's cleared up this confusion right here for us in Conversations! We already knew from Our Lady of Guadalupe's words that we have nothing to worry about, but then maybe Fatima comes to mind (haha, especially if I bring it up!). The last word, though, lies with Marcel's Mary or "Our Lady of the Conversations" if I may so name her, and here is how she gets herself out of that unfortunate corner (and somehow without tracking paint!) on May 4, 1946:
My child, did you just mention sacrifice? So, offer your cough as a sacrifice to Jesus. Listen, I am going to tell you a new method of sacrificing yourself. Each time that you are troubled, even if only for the span of a breath, say this: "Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice." Then, remain in peace. Thanks to this sacrifice, you will be consumed in the fire of Love, which will act freely in you. Thanks to this sacrifice, how many sinful souls will be able to avoid an occasion of sin that would expose them to falling into despair? . . .
Always remember this method, all right? Little Jesus loves this kind of sacrifice a lot; He even prefers it to the joy of being able to pull you from the hands of the devil, since it is the devil who gives birth in you to these anxieties with the intention of misleading you. Consequently, if you offer your anxieties to little Jesus, naturally, the devil will be ashamed to see that the net that he holds out to you to drag you along has fallen into little Jesus' hands. Then, little Jesus will make use of it to draw you to His heart, and then He will make use of it to draw many other souls . . . What a blessing for you! What a benefit for little Jesus. Oh, my child, it is impossible to express the extent of this great benefit. And yet, to obtain this result, you only have to say: "Little Jesus, I offer You this sacrifice."
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Dear reader, it is time. You are tired; I am going to let you rest!
And as to our bargain - I've decided to renege. I love that last passage so much it may even be dearer to my heart than Our Lady of Guadalupe's words. For me, I love best Our Lady of the Book, namely Conversations and our brother Marcel. I'm not going to conclude by repeating those previous words, then, and you don't need to go back and re-read them (unless you want to! May Our Lady grant you the grace to read only for fun and for free!). And if either of us tends to worry that we are not fulfilling our part of the bargain, let's say together, "Little Jesus, we offer You this worry as a sacrifice!"
There, peace obtained, souls saved, everyone's happy! We've finally found a piece of advice we can follow easily, about eight million times a day! But let's not get too worried about that either (whether we remember to keep saying this dear prayer and offering) - instead, let's end simple as simple, in peace and joy at Jesus and Mary's gentleness and the Father's overarching love:
Draw me, we will run!
"Take with you words, and return to the Lord." (Hosea)
I'm asking the Holy Spirit to give wings to my fingers today so they can fly across the keyboard. I want Him to use me to tell you about the best miracle of all, and We just can't wait!
Yesterday we spoke of purple trees (miracles!), gardenias (more miracles!), the Saints who line up to love us from heaven (more like stars than flowers), and a Rose whose earthly bloom has been restored, thanks to God's mercy and His kind reception of the intercession of the Saints (thank You, Heavenly Father!).
Speaking of a Rose in bloom reminds me of the abundance of earthly roses (signifying heavenly ones, no doubt, but very earthly to begin with) that surround me in my house, my yard, my neighborhood, my town, my county, my state, my country - even my world, which I know is your world as well (unless you're an alien reading this - In which case: Does your planet have roses too?), and all this talk of roses reminds me to remind you to keep your eyes out for them!
We're in a novena here, and your intentions are included, and on the off chance you don't yet know what that means, I'm adding to our intentions that you find out before another day passes! God is sending His messengers out constantly to show you signs of His love, and little Therese and the second Therese, our own dear Marcel, are lining up the buckets of roses and rose petals right along the line of Saints (so many Saints already, and more to come) who want to help shower them down. It would be a shame if we kept our eyes closed (except for a solid eight to ten hours a night and possibly a few power naps during the day) and missed His glory in our midst!
Now that you're ready then, or at least you've been warned - and don't be afraid, just thank God His little Therese chose roses and not bricks! - it's time to get to the heart of the matter, the Heart of Love, the best miracle of all, the One I can finally express in a single word, because it is the Word. Or rather He is the Word (Incarnate for us), and the Word, the best miracle is:
You know by now that my joy is to multiply words, and Jesus is no exception! He is multiplied here in Jesus-Marcel and Marcel-Jesus, and we'll get to that in a moment, but first, a multiplication of Jesus words from a trio of Carmelites is in order. First, because we're in a novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, loving mother of all Carmelites and herself the one who teaches them to know no other Word than Jesus. Second, because it is too funny that every other Carmelite seems to be named Teresa - it will take Heaven to sort them all out because honestly I'm only giving you a smidgen of them in this post. And third, because it's our second Teresa's feast today, so it's only fair to let her give a speech . . .
First then, Jesus words from our holy mother (who so happily took a seat under the Holy Mother whom Jesus gave us from the cross), St. Teresa of Jesus, that is, of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites, lover of Our Lord in the 1500's, so sad that the Protestants had left the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord that she begged others to join her in being His best friends, hoping with her huge heart to make up for those who in seeking Him, left Him. Here are her words, the words from her many words (oh mother of mine, how I love to follow you in following Jesus, our Love!) which the Church has chosen for her signature passage in the Office of Readings recited by all priests and religious and third order members (of every Order) on her feast of October 15th each year.
From St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography, The Book of Her Life:
Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; He is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom He takes His delight.
Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire His sovereign Majesty to show us great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if He be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding His life we find that He is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side, who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends in the world do? Blessed is the one who truly loves Him and always keeps Him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it didn't seem that any other name fell from His lips than that of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they hadn't taken any other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Sienna. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God's hands. If His Majesty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept gladly.
As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which He bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of His love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.
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Hooray for quickly and without much effort!
Hooray for walking this path in freedom!
Hooray for little Jesus who is Himself our little Way!
But we must make haste, for there are two more Teresas waiting to speak to us!
Next up is another St. Teresa of Jesus, but this one "of the Andes," and much nearer our own time. Today is her birthday on earth, for she was born July 13, 1900 in Santiago, Chile, and named Juanita. She grew up loving to swim, play tennis and ride horses, joke around with her siblings and friends, and most of all, loving to love Jesus. Her dream of intimacy with Him brought her to enter the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites when she was 18. There she was given the name of our holy mother, Teresa of Jesus, and there she gave herself so completely to Jesus our Love that He couldn't help but take her to Himself even more quickly than He takes your average saintly Carmelite nun (there's a trend in saintly Carmelite nuns to die young) - she was only 19, dying a mere 11 months after her entrance. Wow! Talk about making haste!
Here is what Teresa of Jesus of the Andes has to tell us in the Church's choice for her Office of Readings on her feast (which is today) - you'll see that she was rightly named after the first Teresa of Jesus! Oh, and if you wonder why you haven't heard of her before (if you haven't), it's because she isn't on the universal Church calendar - those days fill up so fast! - and, too, because Jesus wanted to give me the pleasure of introducing you to her. Or rather, our little brother is tugging on my sleeve to remind me to tell the truth - so that Marcel and I would have the pleasure of introducing you to her! So without further ado, from the Carmelite Proper to the LIturgy of the Hours, St. Teresa of Jesus' words on our True Love:
Jesus alone is beautiful; He is my only joy. I call for Him, I cry after Him, I search for Him within my heart. I long for Jesus to grind me interiorly so that I may become a pure host where He can find His rest. I want to be athirst with love so that other souls may possess this love. I would die to creatures and to myself, so that He may live in me.
Is there anything good, beautiful, or true that we can think of that would not be in Jesus? Wisdom, from which nothing would be secret. Power, for which nothing would be impossible. Justice, which made Him take on flesh in order to make satisfaction for sin. Providence, which always watches over and sustains us. Mercy, which never ceases to pardon. Goodness, which forgets the offenses of His creatures. Love, which unites all the tendernesses of a mother, of a brother, of a spouse, and which, drawing Him out of the abyss of His greatness, binds Him closely to His creatures. Beauty which enraptures . . . what can you think of that would not be found in this Man-God?
Are you perhaps afraid that the abyss of the greatness of God and that of your nothingness cannot be united? There is love in Him. His passionate love made Him take flesh in order that by seeing a Man-God, we would not be afraid to draw near Him. This passionate love made Him become bread in order to assimilate our nothingness and make it disappear into His infinite being. This passionate love made Him give His life by dying on the cross.
Are you perhaps afraid to draw near Him? Look at Him, surrounded by little children. He caresses them, He presses them to His heart. Look at Him in the midst of His faithful flock, bearing the faithless lamb on His shoulders. Look at Him at the tomb of Lazarus. And listen to what He says of the Magdalene: "Much has been forgiven her, because she has loved much." What do you discover in these flashes from the Gospel except a heart that is good, gentle, tender, compassionate; in other words, the heart of God?
He is our unending wealth, our bliss, our heaven.
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One is tempted to never speak again, unless to repeat the words of the Saints! They are the ones, truly, who have fulfilled the words of Our Lord in today's gospel: "Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of Your Father who is speaking through you."
How can we doubt it when each of the Saints speaks, one after another, only the one Word spoken by the Father, the Word whose Beauty has eternally brought forth the Spirit of Love? Ah Love, is there any other word that captures our hearts? Only Jesus, who is Love!
Jesus who is Love, He is the best miracle, but as we never tire of repeating here, He, Love, delights in making all things new, and so in a sense we can say He makes Himself ever new for us, or perhaps we could say He makes our union with Him ever new in an unceasing succession of miracles, each of which seems to outshine the last in Best-ness.
Which brings us to the third Therese, by name Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux, "little Therese" (the name she asked to be called), and "The Little Flower."
Chronologically, she's the second of the three we're hearing from today (and when we bring in Marcel, for he won't be left out, she's really the second of the four), but I'm letting her speak in third place so she can act as as a bridge between all other Teresas, bar none, and Marcel.
Which is funny and deserves an explanation, because Teresa of the Andes, like Elizabeth of the Trinity and every other Carmelite who came after Therese, no matter how barely "after" (Elizabeth was born before Therese died), knew of Therese through the immediate and nearly immediately universal distribution of Therese's accidental autobiography, Story of a Soul. Yet it was Marcel alone who has been given the gift of not only learning from and following Therese through her writings, but being so united with her and her Little Way (Jesus), that he is called by both Jesus and Mary, "The second little Therese."
I can hide it no longer then - finally, the best miracle I've seen yet (it ties with another Something New that Jesus is planning to make known, but we will leave that equally adorable miracle in silence until He deigns to reveal it). As I've said already, nothing other than Jesus Himself, but this time as Jesus-Marcel, or in other words to express His other self, Marcel-Jesus.
Who? How? Why? What???!!!!!
It starts with little St. Therese the first (though third today - we are experts at making the simplest complex here at Miss Marcel's Musings) - the discoverer and promoter of The Little Way of Spiritual Childhood which is the way the Holy Spirit taught her to live in order to please Jesus and go to Heaven to be with Him forever.
This passage comes from Manuscript C of Story of a Soul, the part written last, written for Mother Marie de Gonzague and presented in recent editions as Chapter X and following (in earlier editions it's Chapter IX and following). As I pinpoint the passage I want to give you (Marcel and Therese and Jesus want to give you), I'm again tempted to speak only the words of the Saints - and this time ALL the words! But no, be still my beating heart and refrain from transcribing the entirety of Story of a Soul. Let's limit ourselves to what we have time for and what will make our point best. Come Holy Spirit!
O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the lives of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God? It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said in Isaiah: "Tell the just man ALL is well." Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother.
You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.
We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs, for, in the homes of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: "Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me." And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for. But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what I discovered in Isaiah: "As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you." Ah! never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul. The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.
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This is the Little Way. This is the way that is ever ancient as well as eternally new, and we heard about it today at Mass in the first reading from Hosea: "Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them."
We are - each one of us - such a jumble of sinner and just, wise and foolish, prudent and blank of knowledge as a newborn babe. What shall we do, then, to ensure that we make it to the end of this path, this way? Therese tells us what Isaiah told us centuries ago: Climb into the arms of the Good Shepherd! He is certain to hold on tight and will carry us where our wandering, faltering steps might take us, but the ride in His arms is so much less lonely, so much more cozy! He will not only carry us but clasp us close to His Sacred Heart. He will caress us and comfort our little souls like a mother caresses and comforts her tiny baby at her breast. Ah, what love! It was not enough for God to be our Father, He had to find a way to tell us He is a mother too, the most tender of lovers, the bestest of friends, the kindest of brothers, and on and on! Let's not waste any more time trying to walk by our own pathetic powers. He's reaching down even now to scoop us up - let's reach up to let Him!
I don't want you to think I'm making things too easy. I'm not.
That is Marcel's job!
Because here is our fourth Teresa, our second little Therese, the one to whom it's been given to convince the skeptics that the Little Way is the only way worth traveling.
Forget for a second the roses, it hit me recently like a ton of bricks! This is our best miracle, this appearance of Marcel-Jesus in our lives, up close and personally ready to teach us his version of the Little Teeny-Tiny Way.
I have known, loved, and tried to follow St. Therese and her Little Way for (let me count back, hold on, almost have it) - well since October 7, 1983 (so you can do the math if you must have a number, but it keeps increasing, the time lapse between now and then!). I have climbed on and fell off and climbed back onto the Little Way innumerable times, always glad to get my feet back on the path, always relieved to have my big little sister take my hand again and lead me on to Jesus.
Then on October 19, 2016, Conversations arrived in my mailbox, a rose in answer to a prayer to Therese (whether Marcel's or mine is hard to say, not to mention Fr. Maestrini's prayer - I'd say it was all of them that stormed heaven, and Therese had been waiting, Marcel-rose in hand).
Since then, Jesus has been teaching me the Little Way, the Way that is Himself, through His conversations with Marcel. And why did He wait so long? I'm going to do it - I'm going to do the math: It was 33 years and 12 days from the time I first met Therese and her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood (in a holy hour where I sat with Jesus and read from a book called Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese) until the day I met Marcel, and the Little Way began to hold me like a strong magnet holds an iron filing. What will we say about this 33 years (enough time to live Jesus' whole life with Him)?
Here is what we can (and can't) say. I am Miss Marcel, which I call myself because as Therese is to Marcel, so Marcel is to me. If by force of persistent asking (or simply by using the name) I can make Jesus and Mary call me the second Marcel, as they called him the second Therese, I'll be happy. (Of course I'll still likely hanker after a white Mustang convertible, another chance to hear James Taylor in concert, and a s'more or two before I depart this exile for Heaven, but those are small fries - oh, yes, and a small order of hot, fresh, salty fries, please - compared to my Real Desires.)
But if we go with it and grant me my title (and don't forget a tiara and a bouquet of roses too!), then what Therese (and Jesus and Mary) said to Marcel is said to me, too.
We already know Jesus meant His words to Marcel for us all - He said toward the outset of their Conversations, on November 4, 1945:
"All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future - know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls."
You will recognize the truth, too, of Therese's words at her first meeting with Marcel, and how they are equally meant for us (in answer, prophetically, to my question above re. "Why So Long?" before we met Marcel), as Marcel recorded in his Autobiography (592). Therese said:
Yesterday you criticized yourself for having disdained me; in reality it was nothing of the sort, since to feel love or scorn for anyone, it is necessary first of all to know them. Not yet knowing Therese, how can you say you disdained her? 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.
Who knows? If you had known me an hour sooner, perhaps you would not have found yesterday the source of grace which filled you with happiness. That 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 one of us. You don't have to complain any more, since Therese has always been your Therese and you, Van, have been equally the little brother of Therese since the moment when we existed, both of us, in the thought of God.
The ardour of your desires until now has led the good God to lead you to the truth. He experiences a great joy in seeing that you look only to follow Him and to learn the means of pleasing Him. Try to imagine if there is any happiness for a father comparable to that of seeing his small child follow him everywhere, offering him everything he can collect, and finally to have complete freedom to carry him in his arms, and to caress him whenever he wishes. Yes, try to imagine with what love this child will be loved by his father. Can he want or ask for anything that his father will not give him, often even more than he asks for? And although he is only a little guileless child, what wonderful reward has his father not already prepared for him in the future?
This infant I have just described is your soul. You have run after Jesus, seeking only to please Him. Sanctity consists precisely in that. You have practiced this holiness until this day, but without well and truly understanding its real nature. Thanks to the sincerity of your heart, this error was not intentional on your part; it only came from a lack of guidance.
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I met Marcel first in his Autobiography, but immediately craved his Conversations, confident that there I would get much more of the guidance in the Little Way that St. Therese promised Van (and us through him). You can imagine my joyful chagrin when I realized, soon after I held Conversations in my hot little hands and began reading, that of course when a soul's interlocutors are St. Therese, Jesus' Mother Mary, and Jesus Himself, the one to attend to, the one to provide the most Divine guidance, the one who will delight and charm as if there's no competition (because there isn't!) will be Jesus!
I have always loved books, as long as I can remember. From Dr. Seuss to Beverly Cleary to Louisa May Alcott, from Great Books to The Good Book (without rival) to good books to silly books sparkling with fun, books have been my companions since childhood, and I can justly call them, too, the Little Way that Jesus touches my heart and teaches me things. And in my ongoing quest for the latest book-as-best-friend, I have long desired, underneath every other desire, most of all to find a book-as-best-friend-forever.
As St. Therese told us (and she is only repeating the words of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross), "God cannot inspire unrealizable desires." Then, too, He loves nothing more than fulfilling our wildest dreams. And so He gave me, after my seemingly endless wait (but I'm not complaining! I agree that His timing is always perfect!), my ultimate best-friend-forever-book, Conversations. And if I had to distinguish, I'd say it's on account first of Jesus-Marcel whom I've met in its pages, and then on account of Marcel-Jesus, that this book is my favorite ever. But taken together (and they certainly would, neither of them, consent to be separated for a nano-second), they are the Best Miracle yet, thanks be to God who is Love.
Which brings me to the end of this post, only it wouldn't be right to end without noting another Saint waiting to join us in our prayers of thanksgiving and petition in this novena. Today is also the feast of St. Henry, and that is the name of my dad, to whom I used to run when I was a little girl and he came home from work, and who showed the greatest delight in scooping me up and hugging me close, thus preparing me to understand the love of God so poetically and truly described by Therese. Thanks, dad! May St. Henry and his wife, also blessed, continue to intercede for you and mom until the day you both meet them both in Heaven! And while they're at it, may they intercede for all parents of all readers here, and for us who are parents too, and for our children. Though they were childless in exile, that's only one more reason they'll be glad in Heaven to take us on as spiritual children and lead us safely Home to our true Father, who awaits us, His arms open.
But no, He's not waiting. I see Him leaning way, way, way down to earth to scoop us into His arms before another minute is wasted apart. May He cuddle you close, and may you snuggle close to His Heart full of every blessing and all Divine Love. And from your safe place in Love's arms, why not join me in a final prayer?
Draw me, we will run!
Before anything else today, I must introduce you to the Purple Tree, by name to her friends, Jacaranda. I've just looked up the meaning of "Jacaranda" - it's believed to come from the Tupi-Guarani language and means "Fragrant." You could knock me over with a feather! If I were to name this tree, I'd definitely name it an exotic word that means PURPLE, but it turns out (little did I know, but always so happy to learn) that the Jacaranda tree is not only purple, but also has fragrant bark.
Do you, dear reader, know how much I love you? So much that instead of doing what any normal girl would do - namely running off to go smell a Jacaranda tree - I refuse to abandon my post. Ha! Pun intended, I guess! (After you accidentally commit a pun, when you realize its double meaning and relish it, then would you say the pun is intended? I guess it will have been when you said it, and now is, after the fact. A conundrum for another day, however.) The reason I refuse to abandon my post is that, far from my heart's desires, the ole "time pressure problem," as the wondrous Fr. Dubay used to call it, has reared its familiar and menacing head. So little time! So much to write! What to do? Come Holy Spirit - we must depend on You more than ever today. May I type fast with few mistakes, and may You fill this post with the many miracles I'm longing to share . . .
So, miracle number one: Purple trees. Yes, they exist, all around my little SoCal town! If when you think of Southern California you think Hollywood and the Beach Boys, you're not totally wrong . . . but you're missing out on so much more . . . Avocados and citrus groves, bird song (though alas, not my lovely cardinals which seem to be everywhere but in California - Jesus, I offer you this immense sacrifice - empty purgatory, please, though I know it continues to re-fill on a daily basis), and then the most surprising plants and trees and flowers you could ever hope to come across. Don't get me started on the succulents. That sounds like something delicious, but is really the name of desert plants that can be surprisingly pretty, but for me, they remain desert plants. (No, Jesus, You don't have to amuse Yourself but teaching me to love them more than roses - I'm so happy with roses!) They, and cacti and other dry-and-dusty plants will flower in the most incredible ways - one of my favorites being a cactus that ends up looking like something straight out of Dr. Seuss. But then, setting the succulents and cacti aside (watch out for those needles on the cacti!) there are the flowering trees, and what astonishing flowering trees they are! I do miss the glorious dogwoods of Virginia, and the cherry blossoms of D.C. (not that I ever went to D.C., but it was nice to know there were cherry blossoms aplenty there in Spring), and perhaps most of all the redbud, although Jesus has given me a huge something-like-a-redbud just a few blocks from my house. And more than that, give me a tree sprouting red tulip things among its otherwise bare branches, another bush-tree that blooms bright yellow (so bright! so lovely!), a magnolia (which, in flower, looks like its sporting huge white roses!) and best of all, give me purple trees, and I'm not going to complain.
To be perfectly clear, the trunks of Jacarandas are not purple (which the trunk looks to be in the photo above) - but in the early to mid summer, these tall graceful trees bloom purple like it's going out of style (which I think means it's their last chance to show off). And to increase the magic and the miracle, when the flowers are ready to end their short lives, instead of turning brown (nothing sadder than a border of white azalea bushes past their prime), they stay purple and fall down to carpet (really, like a purple carpet!) the ground beneath the tree. Oh. So. Exquisite!
And do let me assure you that I chose the particular photo above to illustrate that (although not the trunk and bark and branches which are an understated but appropriate tree-brown color) these trees are seriously purple! Isn't that a miracle?
As if that weren't enough, I was hearing today about ptarmigans and picas in Alaska. That is, I heard about them in my kitchen - no, that's not quite right - I mean that in my kitchen, a young man recently returned from Alaska told me of seeing ptarmigans and picas there (in Alaska), and in addition to the silent "P" (I can never quite get over the delight of a silent P, and if you haven't yet read Leave it to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse - the P is silent, though not in P.G. but in Psmith - please do, right after you've finished watching Harvey) - that is, in addition to the silent "P" in ptarmigan, for I understand it is articulated in pica - the description of these northern animals was delightful. Miracles everywhere!
Closer to home (the Jacarandas are close, but the ptarmigans and picas are not, as far as I know), three more miracles occurred that I want to tell you about. We're in the middle of a novena, and that means miracles. I find it so encouraging to reflect on miracles because it reminds us that they are plentiful, and we should expect them! God is, after all, omnipotent (I loved learning that word in 2nd grade or so) and then omniscient too, and finally we should add that He's omnivorous. Not only that He, when He became man, ate vegetables, fish, and meat, though He did that, but more importantly that He loves us SO much He wants to eat us up! A new meaning of omnivorous, perhaps, but I just couldn't think of the word for All-loving that starts with omni!
However you say it, He is all-powerful and all-knowing, so He knows all we desire and He can provide it easily (if He was, say, 93% powerful, He could probably provide what we wanted and needed, but maybe with a little effort, but nope, that's not the reality. He is, in fact, 100% powerful, so it's all easy-peasy for Him!) . . . but the clincher is that He's All-Loving too (I don't like that "too." Let's say ESPECIALLY), and that means not only does He know what we want and need, not only does He have the power to give it to us, but most importantly: He wants to give us everything!
Take the man with the bike and the wheelchair.
Yesterday I was driving up to 5:20 Mass at Thomas Aquinas College. From my house to the chapel there is a long stretch of winding road up into the mountains. On this road I passed, walking toward me (but well away from me on the road, so don't picture the miracle as my having barely missed hitting him, although then again, let's be grateful I missed him by a long shot) a man walking while carrying a bike slung over his shoulder. And wheeling something beside him which appeared to be. . . yes, it certainly was -- a wheelchair! IT WAS A MIRACLE!
I thought, "We need more wayside shrines in America. Here is this poor man having to wheel his wheelchair instead of leaving it as a what-do-you-call-it at the wayside shrine." (Do you know what I mean? People leave their crutches and canes, wheelchairs and slings and so on at Lourdes and other places they've been healed, and similarly, why not at a wayside shrine? There's a name given for these suddenly out-moded crutches, but we won't worry about that now.)
An alternate interpretation, given by my sister-in-law when I told her of this man's miracle, was that he wasn't yet strong enough to ride the bike. Yes, that is possible. He'd just been healed, no doubt, of lifelong shriveled legs, and now he was able to carry his bike over his shoulder because he already had upper body strength (though come to think of it, was the bike a miracle too? Where did THAT come from?), but he was a little hesitant about using his legs for riding until he gets them limbered up after the years of no use.
This interpretation was supported by what I saw on my way home from Mass a while later. There was the man (now we were traveling the same direction, to town) walking still, but now wheeling both the bike and the wheelchair, one on each side of him. He was still on a stretch of lonely road, but much closer to town where, I imagine, he would be able to leave the wheelchair in thanksgiving (as a what-do-you-call-it) at either of our parishes, Our Lady of Guadalupe or St. Sebastian's. But no matter the real story of the miracle and what he intended to do with two seemingly incompatible vehicles, that was a very happy thing to behold - a man walking with a bike and a wheelchair - and with my fertile imagination, the possibilities of exactly what the miracle was behind this strange sight, well they are practically endless! God bless that man!
Which brings us up to date, namely to July 12th, today, when the miracles continued.
I feel bad not telling about the miracle of the gardenias, but this can be done briefly (and must be, because it is not precisely a miracle of today, though it's a miracle that keeps on giving like the miracle of my husband letting us get a poodle).
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I must mention, in case you are tempted to finish this post and immediately find and buy plane tickets for SoCal, anxious as you are to experience the great Jacaranda miracle, that (1) the Jacarandas in my neighborhood are about finished with their gorgeous flowers for this year and (2) the bark is, it turns out, quite disappointing, at least to this fairly sensitive nose. You see, by one of those other kinds of frequent modern day miracles, namely the miracles of technology, I had to take a break after writing about the Jacarandas and before writing about the man-with-the-bike-and-the-wheelchair, and in that break I stole the opportunity to park near a Jacaranda that lives near me and step onto someone's (who shall remain nameless because I have no idea what their name is nor who they are - I only know they have 3 Jacaranda trees in their front yard and they were home so I hope they didn't see the nutty lady who quickly hopped onto their pristine) lawn and smell a Jac and even break off a teensy piece of bark, lest I was missing something.
Because the fragrance, if it was there, was positively underwhelming. No particular fragrance at all that I could smell, so don't buy your tickets, but gaze freely with love and admiration at the fully flowering Jacaranda in the photo atop this post if you need to be fortified again by its miracle. I promise: You're missing nothing in the smell department.
But I mention all this not only to obey our truth-in-advertising laws in California (I feel like Elmer Fudd in this parentheses - I keep wanting to mention here that CA is a very litig - litig - litig- Awwwww lots of laws kind-of-state). My other purpose in being up close and personal, at least with the Jac so I could tell you the sad fact that mine, at least, ("mine" used here in a loosey goosey manner) do not provide the fragrance that supposedly gave them their name, is to get to the miracle of the gardenias.
The first question is, then: Have you ever smelled a gardenia? If not, don't waste a moment. Either smell one pronto, or if you're not in the room with one as we speak, please put it atop your bucket list (not the gardenia itself, but to smell one, silly).
Along these lines, in Persuasion, Jane Austen has Catherine M say that from HT she "learned to love a hyacinth." A noble sentiment bound to awaken appreciation in all hyacinth lovers, but appreciation fades if you've ever had a hyacinth in the house for any length of time.
When we lived in our small town in Virginia, there was a sweet custom among friends, a custom of bringing Easter flowers to one another on Holy Saturday. Hence on a few different occasions (all around the Easter season), I hosted some truly delightful hyacinths in my northern Virginia home. But similar to what I've heard lately about guests staying only 3 days so that like fish-starting-to-smell they don't overstay their welcome (so bizarre - never heard this in my life and suddenly I'm hearing it everywhere) - well if we must have a saying like that, I think we should revise it to something like, "Guests, like hyacinths, should not overstay their welcome, for both, after several days, become cloyingly sweet."
Or at least hyacinths do!
But now that we've ruled out Jacarandas (no smell that I could discern) and hyacinths (way too much smell), that leaves us with gardenias.
My mom had gardenias in her wedding bouquet.
My Nana had Calla lilies in hers, and it's one of the joys of my life that I know this, and that my husband, when he was just a guy who was dating me for some odd reason neither of us yet knew but turned out to be so we could eventually marry and live happily ever after, well, he gave me Calla lilies once in a very Ralph-like-fashion (and if you don't get the literary allusion, put "read The Paradise Project" onto your bucket list right after "smell a gardenia").
So, then, having had the joy of Calla lilies already, and gardenias being a flower I loved because my mom had some in our yard as I was growing up (in honor and memory of her wedding bouquet), I too had gardenias in my wedding bouquet. Wow, the flowers at my wedding were just the best.
Fast forward 25 years and here we are in California, living in a house with two gardenia bushes planted in front. Perfect! Except . . . they never bloomed. . . Until - our 25th anniversary summer, when they started blooming like crazy! Like there was no tomorrow and this was it, now or never, bloom it or lose the unique gift.
There were so many blooms that summer: So many white gardenias, day after day, week after week, just waiting for me to admire them, adore them, break them off and bring them inside where they could put out just the exact right amount of their spectacular smell into the air around them. (They're super easy to break off of the bush, as if they're happy to come with you wherever you choose to take them.)
I suppose you could say the difference between a hyacinth in the house and a gardenia is that the hyacinth is imitating (or being imitated by) the woman who's drenched herself in Giorgio, whereas the gardenia has found her signature scent and perfectly applied it so that when you pass by where she stands, elegant and timeless in her beauty, you get just the right amount of her heavenly fragrance lightly accompanying you, like a benediction.
But enough of the poetic imagery. Go smell a gardenia when you have the chance, and meanwhile, rejoice with me and praise God because again, this summer, the summer of our 30th anniversary, the gardenias here are blooming with all their little might!
Gardenia blossoms galore - which brings me to our next miracle:
Suzannes and Susannas in almost equally absurd numbers!
You see, the man who married the lovely bride with the gardenia bouquet (the first gardenia bouquet, and though this lovely bride's wedding dress was worn by the second gardenia bouquet bride, again, this lovely bride of the first gardenia bouquet wore it first), he had a little boy's crush on a cute little girl who sat near him in school when he was young. No, not his later bride - she was from Detroit, and he went to school in his native Lebanon, then in Venezuela, then finally in Canada, so it couldn't have been his bride - but a little girl named Suzanne. Naturally, then, many years later when God gave him a bride, and then two sons, and then the first of his two daughters, the former little boy suggested they name the first daughter "Suzanne," and his lovely bride agreeing, that is what they named me, because I was lucky enough to be that girl!
My middle name was (and still is, to my constant delight) Antoinette, after my paternal grandmother (that would be Situ in Arabic) who was called Budwea, for Padua, for St. Anthony of Padua. Believe you me that was not a lucky thing to have known as a girl with two older brother who loved to tease. Or to avoid redundancy, let me say simply "with two older brothers." Leaving that aside, however, the passing of the years having shown me the many, many blessings that go along with St. Anthony as a name-saint, and I've ended up depending much more on Anthony than on Suzanne for inspiration.
Then, too, my confirmation name is Aquinas (I seem to have a gift for acquiring Saints-with-cities), so I happily consider St. Thomas a primary name-saint. And finally, when I became a secular (third order) Discalced Carmelite, again I could choose a name and took "Therese Elizabeth of Jesus." Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity, then, have been additional name-saints, and latest of all there's Marcel (of Miss Marcel, my newest name) . . .
Where does this lead me? Add on my last name "Andres" and we get St. Andrew, whom we don't honor nearly enough, but I trust he's watching over us in addition to the others. The only problem then is that with this gallery of stars to emulate and feast days to celebrate, I've spent my whole life ignoring St. Suzanne, and/or St. Susanna as I've heard her called.
When, some years ago, I discovered that one of the Japanese martyrs is a Blessed Susanna, a laywoman married to a Blessed Peter, I began to quietly consider February 6 and the feast of Paul Miki and Companions as my name-saint day. Except later I found out that, unlike the 120 martyrs of China we so recently honored here, Paul Miki and Companions were actually companions and all martyred on the same day. Blessed Susanna and Blessed Peter were martyred on the same day too, but a different same day than Paul Miki and Co, namely on July 12th.
But it gets better, because one Susanna does not a plethora make.
I knew, vaguely, there was a St. Susanna, martyr of early Roman times, too. Or even two, too.
But last week on July 5, my dear priest-who-knows-everything emailed to wish me a happy Blessed Suzanne day for July 6th. Turns out there is a lovely and wonderful martyr of the French Revolution, Blessed Suzanne-Agatha Deloye (whose name as a Benedictine nun was Marie Rose, which happens to be the name of another very good friend of mine in heaven, little Marie Rose Guadalupe Cain, whose feast we celebrate privately on June 28). Wow!
But it gets better still, because when I went to look up Blessed Suzanne-Agatha Deloye and the feast of July 6th, I got mightily confused (granted, a frequent event, but this was with good reason) because Google gave me a Saint Susanna U Surim - a laywoman and widow martyred in Soeul, South Korea in 1846, who was canonized by St. John Paul II in 1984 after having been beatified in 1925 by Pope Pius XI - just a month and a half after this dear Pius canonized St. Therese, whom he called "his guiding star," and, if you must know the date (of this Blessed Susanna's beatification) - it was July 5th, the day I first made her acquaintance last week!
Do you mind if it gets better again?
Looking up this Saint Susanna so I could tell you about her, and also wanting to make sure I hadn't made up Blessed Susanna of Japan (both were Asian martyrs and I couldn't find my Japanese Susanna and was starting to panic that I had made her up, but no, thankfully I hadn't) --well what did I find but ANOTHER Blessed Susanna martyred in Korea! And her martyrdom occurred on July 2, 1801, so her feast was just ten days ago and only a few days before this long line of Suzannes began stalking me!
Oh holy stalkers - I don't mind! Thank you for finding me, since I was so long in finding you! And since we're counting you off by name, let me add to your roster those early Susannas I was so cavalier about for so long, but who have just today asked if they might count themselves my patronesses too. Oh yes, please and thank you to:
St. Susanna of Rome, whose basilica was built over the home where she was martyred in 295 after refusing to marrying Diocletian's son-in-law Max but managing to convert the messengers he'd sent. If I'm remembering rightly, I visited Santa Susanna's in Rome in 1983 and 1984: it was (until 2017) assigned as the American church in Rome, and is across the street from Santa Maria della Vittoria where not only is Saint Victoria incorrupt, but she gets to host in her church Bernini's sculpture (which defies description and I consider a miracle in its own right) of Saint Teresa in Ecstasy!
And please and thank you to St. Susanna of Eleutheropolis, martyred in Palestine in 362.
And just to complete the line up, please and thank you too to St. Susanna of the 2nd century, one of a group of wives of 2nd century martyred soldiers under the command of Saint Meletius. Following the death of the soldiers, the wives and children were martyred as well.
I can only say that I am overwhelmed with the love of these many patronesses who refused to be ignored any longer. I think they got wind of the blog and started chatting among themselves about how happy they'd be to intercede for us and our intentions, if only they could figure out how to get our attention. Marcel, always eager to make introductions, offered to plead their causes. Thank you, Marcel! Please give each of the Suzannes and Susannas kisses for us!
Let's see. That's the miracle of the Jacaranda, the miracle of the man with the bike and wheelchair, the miracle of the gardenias, and the miracle of the Susannas. I think I've given you even more than I had hoped, except there are two miracles remaining. At least two, but there's always tomorrow to start on more after that . . .
The first of these last two is a miracle to top all the others, a miracle sent from Heaven to show God loves us and loves our little prayers and loves, most of all, to answer them.
One of my intentions in this novena (as well as in the triple novena I said a while back, and in our novena of novenas here recently) has been for a lovely Rose in my life who has cancer.
I mean who used to have cancer! Just before this post goes to press I got an email that said her cancer is in remission! We'll keep this special Rose in our prayers still, for continued health, but please join me in thanking and praising God for this miracle and joy. I called this a novena of gratitude, and sure enough, God wants to keep us true and faithful as He is! Thank You, Jesus!
And last but not least (well always least and yet never least in our hearts) a final miracle: a word from Conversations. I find it a continuing miracle that God has given us Marcel - more on that tomorrow, I hope - so let's be grateful for him even as we let him instruct us and show us the Little Way.
From 6 April 1946. Jesus says to our brother and to us:
"Marcel, comfort me; say to me, 'Jesus, my brother, I love You a lot.' Marcel I am very pleased with you; and heaven grant that there may be a great number of souls which, like yours, allow me to come and go freely to them. Then, how happy I shall be . . . I love you; I press you against my heart and cover you with kisses . . . Marcel, time has passed, love me well. I, Jesus and you, Marcel, we make only one whole in God the Father, in Love (the Holy Spirit) and in the arms of Mary. Marcel, I kiss you unceasingly, and the more I give you, the more I wish to give you. Marcel, time is up."
Ah, we knew it was so, but Jesus Himself has confirmed it: the more He gives us, the more He wishes to give us. Let's compete, then, in piling up petitions to see which of us can most delight Jesus who so longs to give us everything! It's a competition of Love which we all shall win! And now, together let's pray with confidence:
Draw me, we shall run!
"Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid."
This morning I woke early, a joy because I take this as a sign that Jesus is waiting to chat together. There was a lot of nose blowing (on my part), which made our tryst slightly less romantic, but I am a Miss Marcel with allergies, and as they don't stop me from enjoying life, I don't really mind them. Today, then, they and Jesus woke me, we took an allergy pill (me and my allergies), and then I settled down to be with Our Love. Soon enough (maybe from the get go) I was sleepy, and as I began to drift off, I imagined Jesus saying, "Everything you do pleases me. You can choose - go back to sleep or . . .
start a District Attorney's office in Atlanta."
What a choice! Reason told me, as it was losing its grip, "Definitely choose sleep; you clearly need it and we're halfway to dreamland already." But my sense of humor had taken hold. I can only repeat: what a choice! I was so amused, I had to write it down to share with you here. It amused me awake, after surprising me so: I thought my choice would be between sleeping and writing this post. Who knew my destiny might await in the Deep South?
Nothing new under the sun, as they say, and certainly not a new D.A. office in Georgia started by moi. Technically, the "they" who say there's nothing new under the sun are the Trinity, the same Who tell us that Jesus makes all things new (we read this both in Isaiah and in Revelation). Huh. Lots of recycling going on? Or maybe we can read it better and resolve the conflict (we're not huge fans of conflict here at MMM) by lettering it "Nothing new under the Son," because He sees and knows all, which doesn't prevent Him from making everything new - even though He's known the old and new already - for us, for whom each surprise from His hands is more surprising than the last. Or, in a broader and more Winnie-the-Pooh based interpretation, perhaps every book needs its Eeyore and, for the Bible, that would be Ecclesiastes!
More to the point, however, is this paradox (nothing new and all things new) as we find it in Jesus' admonition, counsel, advice, suggestion, frequently repeated and invariable wisdom: "Let not your hearts be troubled," aka, "Be not afraid." I love how Papa John Paul was telling us this truth constantly too, as if it were new - or rather, as if we weren't remembering. So true! We weren't and we aren't - or should I speak for myself? No, I think I speak for everyone on the planet this time. We're so bad at not worrying!
Can you imagine if there was an Olympic sport of worrying? You know why there isn't? They could never decide on just 3 winners! The judges would need medals in every possible metal, and then they'd have to start forging medals from other elements. "And the hydrogen medal goes to - Miss Marcel of the U.S.A.! We present it in this handy paper bag (California resident? that will be 10 cents, please) to facilitate recovery from her hyperventilating! Congratulations, Miss Marcel!"
No, please don't worry (I add my own refrain to Jesus'), I am not prone to hyperventilating as well as allergies. It was just an example - a made-up one - but I had you going, didn't I? Because my funny story is not far from the truth: really, we are so wonderfully good at worrying that the other reason they couldn't make it an Olympic sport is that so many of us are professionals. And yet, isn't it wonderful how Jesus never gives up on us?
I love Marcel and I love his Conversations because I know they are real. After 51 and a half years of carefully studying reality (I'm of the Aristotelian-Thomistic-John Holt school of thought that recognizes man's natural desire, ability, and just-can't-seem-to-stop addiction to knowing, and I'd say it begins at least as soon as we're out of the chute) - so after 51 and a half years of this learning and knowing, when I met Marcel and Jesus in him (and in his book), I recognized the Real Thing. As I was thrilled to hear again last Sunday (thank you, Kathleen G!), "Truth Himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true." St. Thomas Aquinas said it in Latin, Gerard Manley Hopkins rendered it in English, and it gets me every time. I love that resonant "Yes!" that echoes in the heart when Truth Himself speaks truly, whether it's in the voice of Aristotle, St. Thomas, John Holt, Snoopy, or Jason Bourne. Granted my last example is a little out there (have I welcomed you to my world lately? A warm welcome, absolutely!), but given everyone's propensity to shoot on sight in Bourneland, "We're blown!" rings as consistently true in that fictitious world as "Fear not" does in the real world, where Jesus loves us infinitely (and never shoots to kill, only to wound our hearts with Love).
Which brings me to something big. I started that last paragraph by saying I could tell from the get-go that Conversations was the real thing, and my conviction has only deepened in the two years of our acquaintance. I think Lionel Trilling said something about the book knowing the man as well as the man knowing the book. And then there's that quotable quote from Hazlitt:
"Books let us into the souls of men, and lay open to us the secrets of our own."
Yes, exactly. Conversations lets us into the secrets of the souls of Marcel, Jesus, Mary, and Therese. Some souls! And simultaneously (or a fraction of a second later), it lays open to us the secrets of our own souls. Like in this matter of worrying . . .
My "something big" relates to Jesus' heartfelt and oft-repeated efforts to get us to stop worrying, stop fearing, and trust Him (and our true Father and the Holy Spirit) to take care of everything. I'm not even going to begin quoting Scripture or this would be the longest blog post in recorded blog post history. Let's just say that we could meditate on certain passages from Isaiah, St. John, St. Paul's letters, take your pick, and never exhaust their beauty and gentleness, their truth and depth, their common theme which is repeated tirelessly by Jesus in Conversations (and, too, in the exhortations of St. John Paul II, starting on the balcony minutes after he accepted the daunting task of being Peter, Christ's vicar, our Holy Father). . . "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid."
Nothing new! And yet Jesus is always doing something new, and when He suggested I open a D.A.'s office in Atlanta (okay, it's not clear whose idea that was, and it might well have been my guardian angels' idea - of a joke!), I got it. I don't mean I got the idea that I should, and I don't exclude that I got the idea I was half dreaming already, so why not choose sleep, but primarily I mean that I got the message which is this:
As Jesus does not tire of reminding us not to worry (thank God He has the patience of Job!), neither does He tire of coming up with new ways to tell us the same old, same old: namely, not to worry, nor does he tire of finding new ways to make us laugh. He's God, so He's known this a very long time, but it occurred to me only this morning that it's hard to laugh and worry at the sa me time.
I'll grant you the nervous laugh seems an exception, but we're not speaking here of sad, wimpy, pathetic excuses for laughs, but rather of seriously hilarious, L.O.L, even R.O.T.F.L. (that's "rolling on the floor laughing"), side splitting, stomach aching, hiccup inducing, I-just-can't-stop,-So-sorry, tears rolling down the face laughs.
Like when I'm lying in bed trying to decide what to do next at 6 a.m., and Jesus (having broken me in via Marcel and his silliness, which competes with mine for the gold medal) suggests the Georgia lawyer thing as if its a viable alternative. Sometimes He has me going with His outrageous morning ideas that I think sound reasonable (let's just say my husband, the brains of the operation here, has to swat these ideas down like flies every few days, though he likes a truly good idea as much or more as the next guy), but this one - starting a District Attorneys' office in Atlanta - it just cracked me up!
And when one is cracking up, there's no more room for fear!
Sure, those around the cracker may be more than a little concerned (if you haven't seen Harvey lately, you have my permission to watch it right after you finish this post; it's one of Marcel's favorite movies!), but the one cavorting with invisible friends is usually having too much fun to worry even what those around him are thinking. What a blessed relief such friendship and resulting unconcern are from our usual state of low level paranoia!
What started this train of thought early in the a.m. (don't worry: not a heavy and serious freight train of thought; more like a brightly colored Duplo train of thought, complete with giraffe in the third car) was my seeing the Divine Mercy Image shining out at me as I tried to recover from my allergic waking. Don't worry (again; our theme!), it was neither an allergy-induced nor Heaven-sent-find-me-a-good-spiritual-director vision, but merely the framed picture hanging on the wall. Due to the morning light seeping through the blinds beside Him, Jesus-in-the-picture was illuminated beautifully, and I was sitting across from Him realizing just how wonderful He is.
Can you imagine what Love motivated Him to appear repeatedly to a Polish nun (only a few years before He began chit-chatting with Marcel) in order to provide us with the whole Divine Mercy package? Chaplet, Feast Day, but simplest of all - somewhat disappointing picture of Him (poor Faustina, so distraught over the unlikeness between Jesus' painted face and Jesus' real Face!) which - MOST BRILLIANT IDEA EVER, thank You, Jesus! - has "Jesus, I trust in You!" emblazoned across it so that just as we can't help but read the cereal box in front of our bleary eyes of a morning at breakfast, or the name tag of our best friend at a party (you know the person, you begin the greeting, but THERE! there's something to read on your friend's lapel, so your eyes drop and you read it before you finish your greeting, thus implying you couldn't quite remember the name of your best friend and needed the name tag!)......so in exactly the same way we can't help, bleary eyed and empty headed as we are, but read (and consequently pray, in some manner), "Jesus, I trust in You!"
When it comes to His conversations with Marcel, Jesus didn't request a painting, nor (in His Mother's style) a medal, nor a church to be built at the site of their gab-fests. He simply asked Marcel to write down everything they said to each other. Oh merciful Jesus, thank You! These words do me more good than the most beautiful paintings, medals, and cathedrals in the world! You know I love all those signs of Your love, but somehow in these words Marcel wrote for us, You share the eternal spring of Your Holy Spirit, the Living Water that begins at last to quench our thirst. Jesus, we love You a lot! Keep us close to You and Marcel forever!
And so, along these lines, I have been thinking lately of the many suggestions Jesus and Mary offer us, in Conversations, to help us stop worrying. It makes me smile (and even laugh!) to think that after all my thinking, this post is about the littlest way of all, the way of children, the way of laughter. Thank You, Jesus, for giving us Marcel to make us laugh!
And now, how to lightly and smoothly introduce some words from the boy himself? I think we'd best resort to the age-old custom of letting the Holy Spirit choose. Let's open the book at random and see what He has for us today . . .
Can I tell you a secret? I was a little worried (yes, worried! will I never learn? Probably not, but this is good because it will force Jesus to keep trying to teach me not to worry, and that will keep Him close) - I was a little worried about whether the Holy Spirit would come through this time with the random-page-as-His-choice maneuver. Ha! Silly me! This is the Holy Spirit we're talking about. Not a problem for God, and even in the hands of an amateur, Conversations is a bit of a trick deck - every page a Face card. First time out, then, our Love picked a winner; here it is, around (457) :
Marcel: This year, little Jesus, I am not going to serve Mass at the Carmel. I remember that last year I really felt like laughing and I said to myself: if I had succeeded in becoming a Carmelite, no one would have known that I was a man. In fact, last year I said the prayers with the sisters and my voice blended so well with theirs that no one knew that it was I who was reciting the prayers. That is why, after Mass, the brothers said to each other: "There was certainly a sister outside the grill, because the voice of a sister was heard clearly on the outside reciting the prayers." No one could guess; I was the only one who knew who was saying the prayers on the other side; and this question of my brothers made me want to laugh. It is only later that they learned the truth and they found it strange that my voice was so similar to the sisters. This year, little Jesus, my voice has broken, but if I imitated the voice of the sisters, no one would be able to tell.
Jesus: Like you, little brother, my experience was the same; the more I grew, the more, also, my voice changed too. But, concerning you, little brother, if you had entered Carmel I would certainly not have loved you as much as I love you now, since you would not have had the strength to put up with the austerities of the Carmel.
Marcel: So, I am very weak then?
Jesus: One could not be more so . . .
Marcel: However my sister Saint Therese who was able to put up with it [the austerities of Carmel], never stops saying that she is weak. What, then, can be said of my own weakness?
Jesus: Little brother, I have already spoken to you on that point, but you have a very short memory. Physically, your sister Therese was stronger than you; but spiritually, in regards to Love, who is not weak? It is true that physical strength can help with enduring sufferings with a little more joy; but my Love knows how to choose crosses which are suitable for each soul, because if I sent the same trials to all souls, I would certainly not have a single one as spouse. Do you understand, little brother?
[And here, if I may interject, is one of those times when I'm wondering: what will Marcel respond? Jesus has said something very beautiful. Do you understand, little brother? I won't mind if you say "no," for then Jesus will explain more. Let's see what you will say to our Love in reply to His explanation . . .]
Marcel: Little Jesus, at one time I really would have liked to enter Carmel, but one thing frightened me . . .
[Oh, so no direct response? Or perhaps you're leading up to that. Poor Marcel, what frightened you about Carmel? The mortifications? The austerities? The silence? Forgive me for interrupting; I will let you speak and tell us . . . ]
Marcel: One thing frightened me; it was to have to wear a brown habit. I do not at all like to wear clothes of that color. I remember when I was small, my mother, one day, made me a very nice pair of brown trousers that I went and tore up immediately; I only liked to wear white clothes and my mother had to bend to my whim.
[Marcel, you little imp! The brown habit was your fear? You are as bad as we are! And what a naughty little Peter Rabbit you were! But I'm interrupting, and you have more to say. Sorry, but you're too funny!]
Marcel: When I was still a postulant, Brother John Baptist gave me a brown shirt that I did not at all like; and because I was ashamed, I waited two or three weeks before daring to wear it. Afterwards my sister said to me to make me laugh; "Dear brother, you resemble me a lot. I also had to wear a brown habit; but now it is you too who must wear one. Truly, you resemble me a lot . . . Yes, evidently we must both resemble each other." That is all she said to me and I felt like laughing. I made an effort to wear that shirt sometimes and, once used to it, I no longer wished to change it for another and I continued to wear it until my entry into the novitiate. Actually, I do not know if it still exists. My sister Therese is very skillful at joking with me. It is enough for her to say something amusing to me to make me wish for things that I did not want.
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Fr. Boucher adds here: "I have witnessed this very simple fact."
+ + +
Jesus: Little one, you are already tired. That's enough, go and rest, I am giving you a kiss. Rest yourself, otherwise you will be too tired and our Mother will not be pleased.
[Ah, Holy Spirit - You think of everything! We are in our novena to Mary, so we must have a word about our Mother, and here is Jesus introducing her, and next Marcel speaking to her. Thank You!]
Marcel: My dear Mother Mary, today little Jesus has not given me any collation; and, a short time ago, He did not cease asking my forgiveness. I forgave Him gladly, without giving Him any penance. We only laughed together and expressed our love for each other. Our mutual relations could not be more attractive and, in my opinion, even if in heaven there were only little Jesus and me, that would be enough to make you joyful. What can be said, then, of your happiness since there will also be in heaven the true Father will all the saints. Dear Mother, I love you a lot . . .
* * *
Yes, dear Mother, we love you a lot! I have only one worry left now . . . In the Murillo painting of you that I so love, up at the top of this post, I find that although your lap is as capacious and welcoming as I remember, little Jesus is so very big that He's taking up most of the space! And He's standing! So we will ask you to have Him sit, and shrink please to make room for us (He must decrease so that we, His brothers and sisters joining Him on your lap, can increase!), and then could we watch a movie? (Marcel still wants Harvey, as a day-after-his-birthday treat.) And Mama, today we add to our intentions everyone who has to wear brown: all the Carmelites and the Franciscans, and any others whose habits or clothes are brown, and then the rest of the religious orders, for perhaps they have austerities of their own, and crosses to carry, and then too, dear Mother, please take tenderly into your care all those who are sick or suffering in any way - in body, mind, heart, or soul . . . You are our true Mother and know just what we need. Take care of us, and don't forget to make us laugh! We love you Mother Mary! Kiss Jesus for us, and Marcel, and Therese, and St. Benedict on his feastday, and all the Bens in the world, especially our own Ben, and Papa Ben (and Papa Frankie too, giving him a huge hug as well since he is our earthly Papa).
And with that, we only have to ask (before the movie starts): Is there popcorn?
Or should we go with Sugar Babies and Red Vines? (Marcel loves Sour Patch Kids, a popular choice at our house, too.) Whichever you choose, don't forget to turn the lights down and the volume up. Or maybe just the lights down if, like me, you woke early to Jesus' teasing. In His words, "Little one, you are already tired. That's enough, go and rest, I am giving you a kiss. Rest yourself, otherwise you will be too tired, and our Mother will not be pleased."
There it is - Truth Himself speaks truly, and as we all know, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
Happiness to all the mamas, then, and rest to all the children, and if you fit both categories, don't choose, just laugh! And then, a final prayer before our droopy eyes close altogether (one more reason not to read these posts while driving) -
Draw me; we will run!
It's Marcel’s feast day, his birthday-into-heaven day, and we have so many things to talk about! But before anything else, before a single other word, I have to thank, from the very bottom of my heart, two little darling Miss Marcels of Michigan (it's a big state, so I don't think I've blown your anonymity, and note that adding in MI makes you 2 MMMs!). I have to thank them with a million hugs (if only virtual for now) because if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of roses is worth about a thousandth of a real rose, and guess what I found on my porch after a Feast Day run to Baskin Robbins?
Yes! ROSES! Nine roses - one for each day of this novena! - three red for love, three yellow for friendship, and three white for . . . the white gowns we'll be sporting when we meet in Heaven? Our hearts resting safely, white as snow, in Our Lady's most pure and Immaculate Heart? Haha, good possibilities, but I have the fuller answer at my fingertips - an answer (through Google) from a place I know we can trust because they're also letting me know "Roses are on SALE!" Yes, they're definitely our friends, and listen to what they (rose experts, no doubt) have to say about what the colors of roses signify:
Red roses: Love, beauty, courage, respect, congratulations, job well done, I love you, and passion!
Yes, I'll go for all of those - thank you my two dear MMMs! Thank you for your love, for your courage, for your respect, for your congratulations, for your job well done (getting roses from MI to CA on Marcel's very day?!?!?! WOW!), and I love you too! And oh heavens yes, we are passionate about Marcel and the Little Way here, so thank you for sharing the joy! But wait....we still have yellow and white to go!
Yellow roses: Joy, gladness, friendship, and delight.
If that doesn't describe our life in Marcel-Jesus and Jesus-Marcel, I don't know what does! Maybe white?
White roses: Purity, innocence, silence, reverence, humility, youthfulness, heaven.
Cowabunga, we've struck the mother-lode! Sounds like the Little Way to me! And if only you could see how beautiful these roses are. Sadly (but it's okay, we'll fix this soon), I had to leave them as soon as I found them (after putting them in a place of honor inside - and oh, when I get back home I'll make a fun Marcel-Jesus-Mary-Therese altar so I have the perfect spot for them!), but I left with good reason - I had to share this beauty with everyone here. You do realize, I hope, that this is an answer to our prayers?
And so, before I explode with happiness and delight, I must quickly say that although I have nothing but a gajillion words of love to give in return, I would like to offer the following post in special recognition of love, kindness, and ROSES (both earthly and heavenly) received, especially today, from: the 2 MMMs (thank you, dear extras!!!!!!! You know that I can't say "you made my day" because Marcel and Jesus had already done that, but you took Their day for me and skyrocketed it up into the sun, moon, and stars with love, beauty, gladness, delight, heavenly joy, and all the rest!!), and to Miss Marcel East, who sent me Marcel Day greetings before any one else (just because she is in the East and stays up way way way too late is no reason to dismiss her first greeting!), and the little lover of Marcel who emailed to share her joy in the day and her love for Marcel and me too . . .
But not to leave anyone out, let me now wish you all, dear and gentle readers, many happy returns of this day – May our little brother Marcel lead us by the hand through a remarkably happy life-in-exile until he pulls us up into Heaven beside him, where we will finally be free! Free of worries and cares, free of work and duties, free of sadness and suffering, free of guilt and tiredness. What shall we do There when we’re free? Let’s hop right onto Mary’s lap beside Marcel, Therese, and little Jesus, and give them all kisses! (I love my Murillo “Our Lady of the Rosary” because she has such a copious lap!)
And what about our brother Marcel? He is There now. Which brings us to an interesting question, namely:
What do you think he's doing There?
He chatted a lot with Jesus and Mary (and Therese) while he was here, making plans for what he’d do There. And I have a hunch I know which of his prospective activities he's occupied with today. Do you want to hear? It's my favorite of his ideas and among the funniest plans I’ve ever heard, for anything really. Best of all, I discovered this on the last page of his writings. It wasn’t the last thing Marcel wrote, but it happened to end up (I’m sure this was the Holy Spirit who got great delight from this plan and didn’t want us to miss it) at the end of Volume 4 of Marcel’s Complete Works. Even that our brother has an opera omnia is awesome (and fun) – did you know there are still Doctors of the Church whose works have remained almost entirely inaccessible to us? Remind me to tell you about St. Lawrence of Brindisi sometime – I think he’s the one – but meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .
Marcel and his Complete Works. I sometimes wonder how he’s not better known yet, but then I remember that (a) he's much more known in France and Vietnam than in our dear U.S. of A., and that’s a sign that God does have a special predilection for those two beloved countries, and also (b) though our brother may not yet be universally known, he’s known and loved by the right people (ourselves among them, thanks be to God) – people who have gotten his cause up and running, people who have translated his books, people who have given his books to us. Okay, that would be Fr. Boucher (m's novice master, spiritual director, bearded Jesus), Les Amis de Van, and Jack Keogan. Thanks so much, guys!
Because where would we be without Marcel? For those of us who’ve known and loved him for a minute or more, it’s hard (and painful!) to imagine our lives without him. I think I can speak for us all in the words of his young friend Hien, the first little brother whom Marcel instructed in the Little Way (very soon after St. Therese began instructing Marcel himself), and truly say for each of us, “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” (Autobiography, 639).
Actually factually, I don’t think many people die of sadness, and my heart might be too hard to break in this way, but I can say that to think now about not having this grace of knowing Van is to think a thought that’s liable to send me spiraling into serious depression and despondency. Perish the thought! And what an unnecessary thought and depression because, my dearest friends (and how can you who are here loving Marcel with me not be among my dearest friends?), the truth is that we have been given Van as our little brother, spiritual guide, translator of St. Therese, goofy playmate, kindred spirit, and best friend! Hooray!
Hooray for Marcel! Hooray for Jesus! Hooray for our Heavenly Father’s infinite love in giving us so much joy and laughter!
Oh, but I’m forgetting. I wanted to tell you about Marcel’s hilarious plan of action; not quite his mission in Heaven, but his threat to Jesus. Again, it wasn't the last thing he wrote, but it does come as the last thing in what he wrote, that is, it’s placed last in the four volumes of his writings as we have them today.
Here's the context: At the end of Volume 4 (Other Writings) of his Complete Works is a series of letters Marcel wrote to the Child Jesus on the 25th of each month. This was a lovely Redemptorist tradition for the novices, both in their first novitiate (for Marcel this was August 1945 – August 1946, during which time he also wrote Conversations; he was 17 - 18 years old) and then in their second novitiate, the six month period before their perpetual vows (for Marcel this was March to September, 1952 when he was 24).
If you were to open Other Writings and flip to the end (like I did), just before the back matter (Chronological Notes, List of Van’s poems, Contents), you’d find as the last bit of Marcel’s own words a letter to Jesus dated 25 August 1952. Again, not the last thing Marcel ever wrote, but I love that it’s last in the order of what we’ve been given, because it’s vintage Marcel! Here's how it starts:
To my beloved friend, Jesus-Marcel
Dear Jesus, this is perhaps the last time I will take my pen and ink to express my intimate feelings to You. My burning desire is that, after this letter, I will no longer have to express to You on this earth my feelings in written form.
However, I am in no hurry to leave immediately for paradise; all I can do is express my wish to You and leave it to Your will. However, if You are not there for the rendez-vous, it will be very humiliating for You.
There are a number of things which I would wish to do on earth, but it is impossible for me to accomplish them. My sole hope is that, once in heaven, I will see all my wishes accomplished.
+ + +
You may be thinking that our boy’s plans are nothing out of the ordinary, at least as far as Saints’ plans go. Well, except for the wonderfully Marcellian part about the rendez-vous and Marcel's concern that Jesus not be humiliated by missing it! But leaving that aside, the wish to do many more things on earth, the acknowledgment that he can't accomplish these, the sole hope that once in heaven all his wishes (no doubt for conversions of individuals and nations, peace, more love of Jesus from everyone, etc.) will be accomplished - this is typical Saints' fare. Which is why we must jump down to the last paragraph of the letter, the last paragraph of Marcel's writings. I promise, you won’t find anything typical – or maybe I should simply say that I’ve never run across anything quite like this in other Saints’ writings. Although he begins even this last paragraph with nothing unusual (for a Saint), saying "I will be a happy saint, but I will surely die of sadness" - happy for Jesus, sad to not be with Him more perfectly - finally we get to the real plan. Here is what Marcel concludes:
“I will be a happy saint, but I will surely die of sadness . . . Nevertheless, Jesus, I am not annoyed with You; do not be sad because of me. Sooner or later I will be in heaven where I will sing as I wish. I will then be very skillful at composing verses, and I will entertain myself in publishing poems with really strange titles, to tease you, Jesus-Marcel. Moreover, having Therese as editor, this will be so much more exciting. I am giving you a kiss and I sign myself: Marcel-Jesus.”
What a nutter! I hope the build-up wasn't too much; I hope you aren't disappointed; but golly I love that our Marcel is having fun in Heaven! It's all just right! And it's especially right because, as I discovered today in preparing to write this post (don't worry - it was a one-off - I don't usually "prepare!" but today is special, or rather, special-er even than usual) . . . did you know that Marcel LOVES poetry? Well of course he does - how could he not, being such a lover? But the cool part is how he came to love poetry, which is what he told me about today and wants me to tell you - and in poetry, no less! Poetry that he wrote, which is included in his Other Writings, and from which I'll copy out (time allowing) two poems from 1951. The first is called "Mermaid Soul meets Jesus above the Rainbow Clouds."
Okay, just joshin! But isn't that the kind of strange title we'd expect from him? It wasn't my idea! Um, well, yes, that particular strange title was sort of my idea (with a curtsy, a wink, and a hug to A in CO!), but I mean the strange titles are what he was going to be composing in heaven! I just wanted to free him up on his big day . . . but really and truly, this first poem is called;
The Time when Poetry is Born
Dedicated with love to my holy religious sister Therese of the Child Jesus
It is thanks to you my sister that I got to know "poetry."
Naturally, at that age I knew nothing of it.
The beauty of the fields with a thousand colors,
The gentle breeze on the tufts of rice
Gave rise in me to no emotions.
The filao tree on the side of the mountain,
The spring which gurgles at my feet,
The sound of music left me unmoved;
I understood nothing then of poetry.
Then spring came with the flowers
Of pervasive perfume which prompted nostalgia.
However, my hand had no wish to gather them,
Being happy to gaze on them in silence.
And that persisted until the day
When on the hill I made the acquaintance
Of this flower completely imbued with the delights of love.
Strongly attracted by such beauty . . .
I gave myself to this flower;
Intoxicated by its perfume, in the singing wind,
I remain attached to it, to be never separated.
And since then, poetry has been born in my heart.
14-2-1951 J.M.T. Marcel
You see our brother is a true poet, for this was written to Therese on Valentine's Day!
And there is more - he, like Jesus his truest Love, is full of suprises - for Marcel writes as a kind of postscript to Fr. Boucher, "My Father, you see that this poem contains nothing but a description of nature: fields, spring, mountains, etc., but that all these things have a spiritual meaning. I think you will find here nothing difficult to understand."
I guess we should have known that things would get deep somewhere along the line! And after all, Therese learned poetry from her holy father St. John of the Cross (by reading his works), and she was the one who taught poetry to Marcel, so he's a kind of grandson of St. John of the Cross, the greatest mystical poet ever (besides, and in league with, the Holy Spirit). I just love Marcel's "I think you will find here nothing difficult to understand," after telling us that his natural images all have a spiritual meaning. Hmm. I'll get back to you if I later find these images suddenly transparent!
And now time is indeed running short, and so I'm going to renege on that second poem and once again put off my explanation of Celine's painting of Therese (which we posted at the start of this novena). How about I'll wait till later in the week to tell of the painting, and whether we'll recite more poetry in the next days we'll let God decide. For today, I want to leave you with a word from Marcel to Mary - again from Other Writings, a kind of Feast Day treasure box - a word (or several) which will show us how Marcel and Therese want us to pray.
This expression of joy and gratitude Marcel wrote to Our Lady on September 2, 1954, just two weeks before he left South Vietnam for North Vietnam in order that someone would love Jesus there among the Communists. At the same time, he was understandably concerned about the well being of his family; it was imperative for their safety and well-being that they leave the North (where they lived) to reach the South. Here is what he writes:
Oh! My Mother Mary!
This morning I am filled with joy . . . I have received a telegram from my cousin telling me that my parents had been able to be evacuated to Saigon on 9 August.
Dear Mother, how happy I am! My father and my mother have been able to escape from the communist net at the price of much suffering and difficulty. I was assured in advance that it would happen; I had placed everything in God's hands with confidence, with the certitude of being heard. Truly there was never any doubt in my confidence. If, until now, I had not ceased to worry, it is probable that I would have been deprived of the joy and peace that one tastes in Love.
O Mary, your child, Marcel, feels truly happy! And he owes this happiness to your maternal heart. Yes there is nothing I wish for in secret and in calmness that is not fully granted. It is the obvious sign that, in spite of my worthlessness, Jesus, my heart's friend, spoils me to this extent.
Dear Mother, thank you with all my heart, and with you I offer to Jesus an infinite thank you.
Dear Mother, enfold me always in the spirit of abandon.
Now, I am asking my sister Saint Therese to see that my parents find a means of earning a living, so that they may not have too much to suffer in their old age.
* * *
Do you hear what I hear? First, joyful gratitude. Then more joy, more gratitude. Then, listen for it . . . another request! Let's imitate our little brother! Let's thank God for so many blessings. Let's ask our heavenly Mother to procure for us a spirit of abandonment, as well as the calmness that Marcel speaks of. And then let's ask for everything we can think of! All that this poor world of ours needs! We are told by the Holy Spirit in Sacred Scripture (St. Paul would be the little secretary writing this down for us) that Jesus became poor that we might become rich. (I think St. Peter pointed this out too!) Our Jesus did become so poor - now let us ask Him, risen and ascended into Heaven and seated at our loving Father's right hand, to make us rich - not with money (except enough to take care of our needs without worry, and enough more to share with others), but with love, with peace, with joy, with the Holy Spirit's gifts! And we can pray too for so many others - the whole silly world!
Today let's add into our novena our parents and grandparents and theirs too; our brothers and sisters and their families; our children (and grandchildren, if they're in the picture); our godchildren and confirmation children; and any special souls who've become part of our families . . .
And now, in a spirit of simplicity, let's end our Marcel's Day post with that favorite and universal prayer from the Song of Songs and Therese . . .
Draw me, we shall run!
I hope your day was glorious and joyful - and may tomorrow be even better and brighter! You'll be one day closer to Heaven, and for the nonce, we've got Marcel and Jesus to keep us company even in exile. They'll never leave us, as Marcel explained to his first little Miss Marcel, his sister Anne-Marie Te. She'd said, "Marcel, my only desire would be to never be separated from you." To which he responded, "Little sister, that is one thing which never presents any difficulty if you remain always closely united to Jesus. Jesus, He is Marcel and Marcel, he is also Jesus. And it is the same for you with Jesus, since love makes us all one in the unique love of Jesus" (Notebook 3, Other Writings).
May Jesus keep you close in His Heart, and I'll meet you there!
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