I've been so good about giving you fair warning when Marcel's Book Club is coming up . . . but I've been so bad about posting anything until the last minute of the two previous months. And so . . .
Surprise! Here we are in Chapter 3!
You have several choices at this point. Think of it as a choose your own adventure post - and here are your choices:
I. If you have already read Chapter 3 of Story of a Soul (recently!), feel free to simply proceed ahead with reading this post!
2. If you haven't yet read Chapter 3 for our March MBC, you can either:
a. with heroic restraint set the computer aside and wait to read this post until you read Chapter 3 first;
b. read on now as an inspiration to do your own reading of Chapter 3 later (but still in March if you want to continue with our Paradise Project of reading a chapter of Story of a Soul per month).
Seeing as I haven't got much past the beginning pages of each chapter so far -- what a treasure trove!! -- I'm confident your reading of the following reflections, either before or after you've read Chapter 3 yourself, will merely add to (or prepare you for) any thinking you do and inspirations the Holy Spirit drops like dew into your soul during your own tete a tete with Therese. Or rather, your own tete a tete a tete, since where Therese is, Marcel is sure to be found as well!
Chapter 3, then . . .
I want to start by asking, "Can I be honest?" but there's always a strange implication that accompanies such a question, as if I haven't been honest so far. I guess what I really mean is, "Can I be honest and say this is definitely NOT my favorite chapter?"
There. By being more precise, I've taken care of the answer as well as the question and now the truth is out. This is definitely not my favorite chapter.
I do love the part about the doll who sticks her arms up Therese's nose!
(oops! If you haven't read it yet, I should have said Spoiler alert! But she tells it much better than I do!)
And I love, too, how Therese and her cousin Marie play the blind leading the blind until they knock over a tradesman's wares and suddenly can see well enough to skedaddle!
But despite these entertaining moments (and more!), the title to the chapter - "The Distressing Years" - got me ready for trouble, and looking for trouble, it was trouble I found. Whichever way I look at it, I'm just not a big fan of suffering. And yet, I have to admit that good came out of every one of Therese's sufferings. . .
Her loneliness at boarding school highlights the intimacy she shared with Celine and Celine's goodness to her, as well as her love for her family and their nourishing home life.
Then there was the deep sadness, trauma really, at losing her second mama, Pauline. About this, Pauline later said that if she had known how it hurt Therese, she would have handled her departure and Therese's knowledge of it very differently. And yet Therese sees in the very way it did happen the seed of her own vocation to Carmel, or perhaps the watering of that seed. When Pauline explained her call to Carmel and what that life entailed, Therese understood and desired the same - not for Pauline's sake, but because God used Pauline to show Therese the garden in which He would plant her as well. How beautiful, too, that from this very early date Pauline took Therese's vocation seriously and, rather than brushing her off or considering her "cute," arranged for her to have a heart to heart with the Mother Superior.
Therese's mysterious illness (and it was interesting to read about it again from her perspective; she knew much about what it was and was not) though in itself heart-rending, leads to the grace of the Virgin's smile, and Therese's realization of Our Lady's love for her. I find it wonderful, too, that this miraculous grace came through a particular statue held dear by the family. Later this statue came with Celine to the Carmel and eventually watched over Therese during her last illness.
You see how hard I'm trying to not mind the suffering! But since Therese's autobiography left me a little sad this month (I can't help it - I'd rather read about the joyful years than the distressing ones!), I've opened our brother Marcel's Autobiography in the hopes of a little more cheer. He hasn't said much to me about Therese's Chapter 3, though it is his book club, and I conclude it's because he has something of hers to give us that didn't appear in her own memoir, but his!
This week has been rich in Saints for me - starting with St. Joseph's Feast, then in my reading about St. Andre Bessette as his faithful apostle, and finally with Padre Pio taking center stage. Fitting, then, are these words that Marcel records Therese having said to him when he was waiting, seemingly forever, to gain entrance to the Redemptorists. She's recommending that he invoke (pester, really, on a daily basis) St. Gerard, who was a lay-brother in the Redemptorists as Van hopes to be too, and she says at (786):
"Do not be afraid. If you ask you will certainly obtain. Normally saints are very easily moved; consequently, they never refuse the graces which are asked of them, above all, when it is a question of a saint who will soon be your big brother, your patron and whose little brother you will be. . . Don't believe that among the saints in heaven there is only your Therese who knows how to ask for favours. How many saints, powerful over God's heart, regret that my little Van has not had recourse to their intercession?"
When, soon after this advice, St. Gerard's feast arrived without the hoped for miracle (of the Father Rector admitting Van into the Order), Marcel says, "I was lacking any enthusiasm." That's our boy! I have to admit, terrible as it sounds, that I'm more inspired by an ounce of resistance in a future saint than by a pound of devotion! Marcel writes, "I had hoped that that very day would see Saint Gerard's miracle, but . . . absolutely nothing happened! What a disappointment!"
It's at times like this that we all need a Saint who doesn't give up on us, even when counseling us to invoke other saints! Therese is that good counselor and after St. Gerard's apparent failure, she explained cheerfully to our little brother:
"What, are you annoyed with me? This morning I had intended to let you have the good news, but, being busy wishing my brother Saint Gerard a happy feast day it was impossible for me to do so. It seems that you want to lose heart already. Come now, why are you so easily discouraged? There's still the octave of the feast. Anyway, your brother Gerard being very busy this morning he could not effect immediately the miracle for you. But now he can. Therefore, during Benediction don't forget to remind him of the favour you have already asked for, all right? Tell him what you desire and if you don't forget, that will be sufficient."
I think Therese and Marcel (and St. Gerard too) must want us to remain enthusiastic about calling upon them, and St. Joseph as well. Was there anything you asked of St. Joseph on his feast (or forgot to ask him) that hasn't yet been granted? Let me say, in the words of our sister, "There's still the octave of the feast!"
Marcel did, by the way, follow Therese's advice (he didn't forget this time!) and he did get what he asked for - quickly!
As to our requests - let's multiply them and tell Therese that she promised the saints are not indifferent to us, so if they are busy or otherwise distracted (I hear the Beatific Vision is rather absorbingly wonderful), it's up to her and Marcel to remind them that We Need Them. Now!
There. That wasn't so distressing after all. We just needed to perk up Chapter 3 with a little salty Therese from her later years goading Marcel into various escapades with the Saints. I love that he adopts them only reluctantly - who can blame him with Therese such a terrific sister to him already? But it behooves us, too, to follow her advice, so let's invoke the whole crowd!
Dear Therese, Marcel, St. Gerard, Pauline and Marie, Celine and Leonie, St. Louis (Therese's dear king and papa), St. Joseph (little Jesus' dear papa!) and St. Andre, St. Padre Pio and all you holy angels and Saints: pray for us, that we may have every grace and joyful surprise we need to smile and even laugh so that we can delight the Heart of Jesus!
And dear Jesus, we will never tire of placing our simple request before You:
Draw us, we will run!!!
I hope you enjoy Chapter 3 - don't let my grumbling deter you if you haven't read it yet! But most of all, I hope you find yourself nearer each day to many saints, old and new, so that you KNOW with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit how very dear you are to our brothers and sisters in Heaven!
If you guessed that today is the 2nd day in the Octave of good St. Joseph, you are right!!! If, instead or in addition, you guessed that today is the day that if you hear the voice of the Lord, you should harden not your heart, you're right again, mustard seed!! And if you guessed, or are thinking you ought to guess, that today is something to do with St. Padre Pio (else why would he be grinning so broadly in the handsome photo above?), well you're really on to the truth!
First off, Padre Pio is not just grinning - he's breaking into laughter and it's because he can't believe how mathematically challenged I am. I just looked up "octave" in the dictionary to figure out if this was the 2nd day of St. Joseph's. (It is. Phew!) But earlier today was when I really got Il Padre started (that means "The Father" and is what his dear friends used to call him, and I suppose still do, so I've decided to adopt the expression to show him just where I fit in, even if he loves laughing at me).
It actually started yesterday, I think. . .
I picked up a book I've had around here for a few years, a book written about Brother Andre Bessette just after he left exile in 1937 - now he's St. Andre Bessette! - that great Canadian apostle of St. Joseph responsible for St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. Since one good book deserves another, I looked on my kindle to see what else was available on St. Andre, and came up with something I hadn't seen before: a book featuring "3 of God's doorkeepers" as it advertised itself: Blessed Solanus Casey, St. Andre, and St. Padre Pio. I was so concerned that Padre Pio wasn't a doorkeeper at all, that it didn't occur to me until today that I love Padre Pio, and I might be interested in this book since I do love all three of those the author is (rightly or wrongly) calling doorkeepers. (I'm sure the author is aware of what doors Padre Pio did and didn't open and is calling him a doorkeeper in a metaphorical sense.)
Today, though, I found myself reading something else on Padre Pio - from an old book on those who had the stigmata, in the back of which were interviews with two priests who knew Padre Pio very well in the last years of his life. One of them was Fr. Alessio Parente. That name was familiar. . . I looked in my library and found not only one of my favorite books - which turned out to be by Fr. Parente - "Send me your Guardian Angel" - but also another book which had, to my utter surprise, an inscription from Fr. Parente handwritten inside! I popped back onto my kindle and searched the names of the two priests (Fr. Parente and Fr. Joseph Martin), but alas, no books by them were available digitally.
Nonetheless, as I said, one good book leads to another, so I searched "Padre Pio" and next thing I knew, I'd hit gold. I came upon a Padre Pio book I hadn't seen before - and no wonder as it was only published (digitally, in English) a month ago. It's called "Padre Pio and I" and is the spiritual memoir of one of the Saint's spiritual sons.
Since Padre Pio has invited everyone to become his spiritual children, I wasn't entirely convinced of the originality of this book or its importance - until I read in the free sample that this particular spiritual son was called by name by Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo the first time the man (then a 16 year old boy) visited there. Before he had any acquaintance with Il Padre. Before, that is, Padre Pio (had he been anyone else!) could have been in a position to call out across a crowd: "Adolfo, come here!" (In Italian, actually, but this was nicely translated.) Being Padre Pio, naturally (or rather supernaturally), not having met or seen or heard of this boy previously was no impediment to our hero (and the Holy Spirit so active within him).
Further, it turns out that Adolfo and his bride (she came into the picture a few years later but happily was mentioned, too, in the opening pages) were the last couple to be married by Padre Pio at his friary. Wow! This was no ordinary set of reminiscences! This was the real thing!
The beauty of my discovering the book turned out to be twofold.
First, and this was what set Padre Pio off in gales of laughter, the beginning of the book gives an excellent chronology of Pio - I love these timelines because I'm always looking for "special days." Why settle for anything less than a special anniversary every day? So I was keeping my eye out for anything March-ish as I read through the chronology, and then I hit upon it - tomorrow, it said, was the anniversary of the opening of "The official inquiry into the cause of Padre Pio's canonization" (1983). I was thrilled, though of course it would have been even more fun (and special) if it had been today, the very day Padre Pio dropped this new and wonderful book into my lap. . . which, actually, it was. Today, I mean. Not just that today was today (how could it be otherwise!?) but rather that the date in the chronology actually matched today's date! Because the date in the timeline was "March 20, 1983," and I wonder if you heard Heaven (in the persons of Marcel and Padre Pio) roaring with laughter as I realized that, yes, amazing and nearly miraculous as it seems, March 20th is the day after March 19th - and since yesterday was St. Joseph's Day, March 19th, then today must be March 20th!
But that was just the first reason my discovering the book was so timely and lovely. The second is even better!!
The second reason was this: just before I started looking at the book, I'd had one of Oprah's "Aha!" moments (not that she has the trademark on them, but I think she made them famous. We can simply call it a spiritual awakening). I'd suddenly realized why it is that I love the Saints that I love!
In reading about St. Andre, I'd come upon the author's reflections on the beautiful relationship St. Andre had with St. Joseph, and the interesting remark that too many biographers of saints forget the importance of personality. Yes, that made sense to me. God has given each of us particular and distinctive personalities, and we are alike or differ, too, according to our temperaments. Just as in our natural friendships we're often attracted to those like us (not to mention those who like us!) - as well as, interestingly, being attracted at times to those quite different from us (perhaps we admire qualities in them that we lack or that complement ours), so too in our supernatural relationships there are attractions, whether due to similarities or differences, that have to do with personalities and temperaments.
What struck me like a migration of butterflies (I was going to say "like a ton of bricks," but not at all, really, and we've been seeing lots of gorgeous butterflies around here lately, which is much more like it) was The Quality that stands out in my favorite Saints and attracts me to them like a moth to a flame. It's The Quality that shines out (to me at least) in all of them! Are you ready?
I like my Saints to be affectionate, and their affection - whether to their contemporaries, to little Jesus and the Blessed Mother, to St. Joseph and their own favorite Saints, to their guardian angels, to their fans and clients, or, very best of all, to me! - is what wins my heart and gives them pride of place there-in.
To take an example, think of St. Anthony of Padua. He's definitely one of my very faves, and yet here's the funny part. You know how I love books? I never seem to find a book on him that satisfies me. There was the book on him that I read when a child, that made me want him for my confirmation saint (and thankfully my best friend's mom explained that since my middle name was Antoinette, the girl form of Anthony, he already was my patron and I could choose another) - I loved that book, as well as the book about St. Anthony that I read, and my husband Tony (Anthony) read at my request when we were expecting Son #1. It sealed the deal on our putting "Anthony" in this son's name as well as in the name of our #2 Son later - and we would've put Anthony into any other sons' or daughters' names also (boy or girl derivative, respectively), had God blessed us with more children. But why? Because what an affectionate Saint!
While I can't seem to find a book that moves me with his own words (though he is a Doctor of the Church), who can resist a Saint whom little Jesus found so irresistible? The charming scene of the child Jesus embracing St. Anthony - the affectionate greetings of each to the other - they didn't even need words: they had hugs and kisses!
St. Anthony continues to be affectionate to all the frends of little Jesus. If you lived in our neighborhood, you'd often hear our home ring out with the refrain "Anto!" and the response "Padua!" as we are searching for this, that, or the other thing, and again when we (always) find the lost object. It's as if St. Anthony wants me to know that there are others (like our dear friend St. Thomas Aquinas, who did become my confirmation saint and brought me to the college named for him that changed my life) whose words will help us when we need them. But who is there to help when we lose everything?
Interestingly, he didn't respond promptly when #2 Son recently lost his glasses. Yesterday, though, we found out why he was delaying. We'd promised a Rosary in his honor when we found the glasses. St. Joseph's Day came and my son and I said a Rosary which I quietly designated in St. Joseph's honor. I wasn't thinking about the glasses, but apparently St. Anthony wanted to confirm St. Andre's experience that St. Joseph is really your go-to man for all occasions. Suddenly, the glasses turned up! Affection - from both St. Anthony and St. Joseph. And if St. Anthony had the privilege of sometimes embracing and being embraced by little Jesus, how much more often (30 years or so worth) St. Joseph had that joy and honor!
Or what about St. Therese? Besides the super fun passages in her letters where she says things like, "Give so-and-so a huge kiss for me - one that really makes a lot of noise!", there is her promise to spend her Heaven doing good on earth by showering roses upon us. I was truly delighted, recently, to discover in many who promoted Therese's cause (from Fr. Thomas Taylor, the Scottish priest who first suggested a cause, to Pope Pius XI who both beatified and canonized little Therese) the argument that Therese ought to be canonized because she was such a great intercessor and had so much interest in helping us here below - so much affection, we might say. How awesome and how delicate! Not that she was so high above us, so perfect, that we needed to spend our lives admiring her virtues, but simply that she wanted to help us and was successful in this, so the Church should make it official that even more might call upon her and receive her aid. I may have mentioned it before, but the Vatican (I think it was Pope Benedict XV) made an exception in Therese's case and allowed medals of her to be struck before she was even venerable because so many soldiers in World War I were begging for this, and so many had already received her help on the battlefields.
So, too, with Marcel - he's such a love because he's so very loving. And talk about affection! Not only is he affectionate, but he draws affection out of Jesus (and Mary and Therese) like there's no tomorrow! Here is what I read in Conversations this morning that I'd not noticed before (because, let's face it, while there are many good books, there is only one best book!). See if it isn't the most adorable thing you've ever read too!
Jesus is speaking, and this is noteworthy because the date is April 3rd, 1946. Poor Marcel has been without Jesus' voice for some very long months! Finally, on April 2nd, we read Marcel saying, "Little Jesus, the thought has come to me that you are not very just . . . Without reason, you left me alone for nearly three months . . . but you do not cease to repeat that you love me a lot, etc." (350; and the "etc." is Marcel's.) Then Jesus speaks to Marcel for a paragraph's worth of words, explaining Himself.
I have a sneaking suspicion these words of Jesus that Marcel writes down for us on April 2nd are not the very first words Jesus said to break His long silence. Even the way Marcel says, "But you do not cease to repeat that you love me a lot, etc." implies that Jesus had been speaking to him for some time already - I'm thinking maybe He broke His Divine silence the day before, on April 1st. Like Jesus' first appearance to Our Blessed Mother on Easter, some reunions are kept from us, at least for now. Their beauty would no doubt soften even our hard hearts so much that we might find ourselves too eager for that very reunion ourselves!
No, Marcel contents himself (no doubt with Jesus' permission) in only giving us a paragraph of his and a paragraph of His for April 2nd, but on April 3rd they are more merciful to us. At the end of that day's entry, which covers a nice long few pages, here is the passage that set my heart aflame and invited me to kiss the page:
Jesus: Little Marcel, be happy to write the following, so that children also can understand the love which their Father in heaven has for them. Marcel, even write the words which seem to have no importance and I will place my lips on them as I do on your forehead . . . Yes, little bird, sing out loud, so that other little birds know that the nest where you now rest is a very sweet nest (359).
Can you see what it is that so thrilled me? Here it is, the sentence that jumped out at me:
Marcel, even write the words which seem to have no importance and I will place my lips on them as I do on your forehead!
Talk about affection! Kisses, kisses, and more kisses! But not just kisses that Jesus and Marcel share. Jesus has kissed the very words Marcel doesn't understand (fortunately, that's very many words!) but has written for us anyhow. Thank you, Marcel, you little pencil you! Thank You, dear Jesus, author of all affection! Most affectionate among men, most affectionate Creator and Spouse of our souls, we thank You with all our hearts!
And what's more, some of us now have the best reason ever for kissing a book! It seems to me - it occurred to me this morning and even hours later it still sounds like a brilliant idea - that if Jesus kissed these words that Marcel wrote for us so that we can understand the love which our Father in heaven has for us (oh and how this book of Conversations so clearly and sweetly conveys that love!), He has given us too the motive to lower our own lips and kiss these divine pages, to kiss these very words He has blessed with His kiss. He was not being metaphorical! He promised to kiss these words just as He kissed Marcel, His beloved little child: "to place My lips on them [the words Marcel wrote for us] as I do on your forehead." What condescension, I want to say, but that doesn't quite capture the case, not after He's given us so many pages of the adorable intimacy of friendship that He happily shares with Marcel (and us). What affection! That's the only proper word for it!
That passage was the start of my day and my "aha" moment, and it linked me to Padre Pio because in the interview with Padre Pio's friends (which I began reading not too long after I'd been kissing my copy of Conversations), there was mention of birds too, just like there was in Marcel's book.
Jesus had said to Marcel: Yes, little bird, sing out loud, so that other little birds know that the nest where you now rest is a very sweet nest.
I agreed! What a sweet nest! And then I read a story about Padre Pio, comparing him to St. Francis. Fr. Alessio told it, I think, and it went like this:
There were some birds which sang a great deal and made a lot of noise near where Padre Pio was talking with some visitors. In the middle of the conversation, they began making the same noises, and he told them, "Stop it this minute!" and they did. This happened on other occasions as well.
Well here is when I actually got Padre Pio laughing hard. I read this anecdote and thought our dear Padre had been a bit harsh. Were the visitors mocking the birds? Were they scaring the birds? Why did Padre Pio tell them to be quiet, and tell them so harshly?
I was happy to have come upon the anecdote because it reminded me of Marcel and made me think Marcel was enjoying it over my shoulder, but whatever Marcel made of it, I didn't get it until the third time I read it.
Oh! It was the birds that Padre Pio asked to be silent, not the visitors, and he asked the birds to be quiet so that he and the guests could converse without interruption! OH!
I can't really say Padre Pio was laughing at me. I think at least now he must be laughing with me, because I'm laughing too!
But our laughter isn't quite the end of it. Here is what I found in the book "Padre Pio and I" right after my realization that affection is the gold standard for my friendship with the Saints.
First, from the couple who became the instruments of God in bringing Adolfo's book into the English language (they did not translate it themselves, but found a translator, and a wonderful one like our own Jack Keogan!) -
"We later asked him [Adolfo] why he asked us to publish the book in America."
They had met Adolfo seemingly randomly on a train from San Giovanni Rotondo - their first visit there - to Rome, and had found a man on the train who knew both English and Italian and so could help them hear Adolfo's stories, for indeed, he was a spiritual son of one of their favorite saints, the very Saint whom they'd just visited! Within two or three hours of beginning to talk to each other on that train, Adolfo was suggesting to the married couple that they might help him get his newly published book into English to reach a wider audience with Padre Pio's message of God's love. Here is what Adolfo responded when they later asked him why he'd so quickly turned to them with his suggestion, trusting them with his book:
"He said sometimes his heart beats fast as a sign from Padre Pio and he also said 'Padre Pio speaks to me.'"
That's what I'm talkin bout! How can you not love a Saint that is so very close?
A bit later, though still in the introductory pages, the actual translator of the book mentions, "Although I specialize in translating books on spirituality and the saints, my experience with this one has been different. Any time you translate a book, you have to try to get to know the author - to get inside his head and understand how he thinks. And during this process, I had several occasions to meet with Adolfo Affatato to learn how he reasons and how he lives his life. And doing so has enriched my life tremendously."
This reminds me of our good Jack Keogan's relationship with little Marcel and even little Jesus. Yes, Conversations is surely a book one doesn't even have to translate in order to find oneself "in the head" or rather in the hearts of those who wrote it - Jesus, Mary, Therese, and our dear Marcel!
But there is more . . . the translator tells us that five million people come to San Giovanni Rotondo each year, and they come for the same reasons now as they did when Padre Pio was living there. "People have heeded Padre Pio's words when he said, 'After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death.'"
How can you not love a Saint who makes himself so very present? Who promises his aid? Who says:
"You know, I get it. You live in an age of celebrities, and even back in the day, way, way back, human nature was the same. When there is an extraordinary person, you want to feel you are special to that person. You want to see that person, to meet him (or her), and beyond your wildest dreams (yet not quite beyond them, for you do dream of this) is that deep desire to be special to this person who is so special.
"Do not be afraid! Jesus makes all things possible and new, and you don't need to worry if you never met me, Padre Pio, when I walked this earth. I'm more accessible to you now than ever before, as are all the Saints, your brothers and sisters.
"Do you remember what little Therese wrote to her spiritual brother the seminarian Maurice Belliere? If you are like your little brother Marcel, you've forgotten already, but I am like Jesus and I will never tire of repeating the truth to you, no matter how often you forget!
"Maurice was worried Therese would not love him so much when she got to Heaven, once she saw him with all his flaws. But she laughed at him and told him that they surely didn't understand the Blessed in the same way, and then - this is why Jesus made the Church proclaim her a Doctor! - then she told him how it really is: The Blessed in Heaven have even more compassion on us once they have reached the goal! They know what it's like to suffer and be weak on earth, and it makes them all the more merciful and interested in helping us when they know that we (or rather you, who are still on earth) continue to share this suffering and weakness that they (we) once experienced!"
+ + +
The affection of the Saints! Is there anything more marvelous? Well, yes, the affection of God - which is in fact what we see reflected in their endearing affection!
Here is what Padre Pio told Adolfo in particular. He said this to Adolfo when they both walked the earth that Adolfo still (as I write) walks as a man in his late 70's or early 80's:
"Give the love that I have put into your heart to those to whom you draw near, because in this is the meaning of life."
I can only hear these words coming from Padre Pio as an echo of Jesus' own words to us all, and this is the affection that melts my heart.
This is why, too, where others mistakenly see Padre Pio as harsh, I know him as the most darling softie the world has ever seen. I've said it before but I'll repeat it now: one of the main reasons Padre Pio would occasionally look or act gruff was that he was trying hard not to break down sobbing at all the misery he saw in people's hearts - their sorrows, which instantly became his sorrows, and which (like Jesus Himself) he could not completely alleviate this side of Heaven!
Finally, here is what I found in Adolfo's Padre Pio book:
"Just before his death, Padre Pio said, 'I belong to everyone. Now everyone can say: 'Padre Pio is mine.'"
It doesn't hurt that he also promised to take on everyone (everyone who asked him) as his spiritual children (and all their loved ones automatically, along with them), and then said that he would not enter Heaven - he would stand outside the gate near St. Peter! - until all of his spiritual children had entered first! What absolute love! Do you mind if I say it again? What a glorious excess of affection!!
This blog is not, contrary to what may appear, about to morph into Padre Pio's Ponderings (or even Padre Pio's Progeny's Ponderings) - but rather Marcel has so much fun teasing Padre Pio in Heaven, so much fun spending time with one who, like himself, laughed with little Jesus while stuck in exile on this earth, that he wanted another "guest post" or rather post in honor of a beloved guest, today. It's no small thing to have one's cause for canonization opened, and Marcel needed to use me as his little pencil to celebrate Padre Pio's anniversary today. Once they could get me to realize it was today! Once they could stop laughing long enough to show me my mistake!
I've been mentioning a lot of books here lately, so I think it merits a mention, a little reminder, that really I only suggest the purchase of one book by you if you don't already own a copy (or two) - that would be Conversations! It's the cat's meow, still only $25 and free shipping for a real live physical actual pages to turn (and pictures inside too) copy. Think of it as a Lenten alms for yourself, or if you already have two copies (one for downstairs, one for upstairs), buy one as an alms for a friend! I've put a link into the title that came before the cat's meow, and I invite you to open the book when you have it in hand, and kiss those words that Jesus kissed!
And now, so as to leave room on the internet for another post, another day, let's close with our prayer (which, incidentally, comes not only from little Therese but originally from the Song of Songs in the Bible which begins - not incidentally! - with a kiss!) -
Draw me, we will run!!!
This beautiful painting by Murillo is called "The Two Trinities," and you can see why Marcel is a fan. Right in the center is our very own little Jesus, linking together Heaven and earth, the Holy Trinity and the Holiest Family ever!
I want to join our little brother in wishing you a very merry and truly happy St. Joseph day! We've been thinking a lot about the silent partner in the Holy Family, and there is both so much to say and so little. Or rather, St. Joseph is so silent that it's hard to know quite what to say . . . Following his silence, the Church was for such a long time fairly silent about him, and Marcel was congratulating me just today on living so far "into the future" that we who live now get the privilege of TWO St. Joseph Days, a Solemnity (today) and a Feast (of St. Joseph the worker, Mary 1st), plus his name not only in the Canon ("first Eucharistic prayer") of the Mass, but in ALL the Eucharistic prayers of the Mass (thanks to Papa Ben whose initiative this was and Papa Francis who carried it out), and in short, we take it for granted that St. Joseph is one of the greatest Saints we have. Yes, absolutely!!
In my reading for today, here's what else I uncovered: despite so many paintings that make St. Joseph out to be an old man, that would actually have been as shocking in his day as in ours - an enormous inequality of age with Our Lady when they married. Nope, I have it on good authority (argued out carefully by my new Dominican friend in the book I mentioned yesterday, Joseph the Silent) that St. Joseph was a few years older than Mary, but not very much older. It was customary for Jewish men to marry around age 18 in those days. If you want an image of this younger, strong (thus capable of guarding and protecting God's most precious treasures) St. Joseph, I can do no better than refer you to the Joseph in Franco Z's Jesus of Nazareth movie. There you will find the image closest (as far as I've ever been able to find, anyhow) to the real St. Joseph . . .
Also I was heartened and joyful to read that, as would only be right and just, Mary had so much respect and love for St. Joseph! Of course! How could it be otherwise? They were the perfect married couple, the perfect parents, and she was the perfect wife. How could this have been so if she did not esteem her spouse, enjoy his company, and have full confidence in his goodness and prudence that she might trust him in the raising of Jesus? Also customary in their day and culture would have been for little Jesus to spend most of His time with His mother, Mary until He was a certain age and ready to then spend most of His time with His father, Joseph, from whom He learned both the Hebrew Scriptures and carpentry. I think that age when He began to spend most of His days with St. Joseph would have been about 6 or 7. What a good, gentle, wise, prudent, loving, and trustworthy father St. Joseph must have been for Our Heavenly Father to entrust the Word made flesh to him!
Finally, when we think of St. Joseph and his place in God's plan, it is wonderful to reflect on his humility and confidence in God. He knew he wasn't worthy to be Mary's virginal spouse, let alone Jesus' virginal father - and yet God had chosen him, and so he trusted our Heavenly Father completely to supply for all he lacked.
I must say on behalf of Marcel and myself that when thinking about St. Joseph this last 48 hours or so, I found a reflection of him in the life of Marcel. I think perhaps the reason St. Joseph remained silent in Marcel's Conversations was because Marcel already had a St. Joseph figure in his life at that time and indeed until he went to meet St. Joseph in Heaven -- namely, his bearded Jesus, Fr. Antonio Boucher! Gentle, kind, prudent, holy, and on the quieter side, just like good St. Joseph! When we think of how little known Marcel is in the big world-celebrity (even saint-celebrity) scheme of things, we must smile to see how much less, even, Fr. Boucher is known. Yes, he's in the background for now. He had a mission, like St. Joseph did, to raise a little Redeemer, and like St. Joseph, Fr. Boucher carried out God's vocation for him perfectly to the end. Then he had to leave the cause (in this case, the literal cause) in other hands. Bravo, Fr. Boucher! Bravo, St. Joseph! We sing both your praises today, and the praises too of all the quiet, heroic men, in history and in our lives, who fulfill God's plan for them as priestly fathers and married fathers.
Good and gentle St. Joseph, help all fathers. Help our priests to be great priests who take care of little Jesus with the same reverence and adoration with which you cared for Him, and may they help us, their spiritual children, as they bring us Jesus and His mercy in the Sacraments. Help our husbands and fathers of families to be filled with the prudence God poured into your receptive soul, and obtain for them the graces they need to be gentle and good, yet strong against the harshness of the world in order to protect those entrusted to their care. Finally, St. Joseph, as you protected Our Lady, protect all women - in whatever state of life we find ourselves. Find good spouses for those called to marriage, obtain from Our Lady the graces for wives and mothers to be wonderful like she was and is, and for those called to the religious life, guide them ever closer in intimacy with little Jesus, an intimacy like yours!
I hope your St. Joseph day is the best ever! May we rejoice in the glories of this magnificent guardian of the Church, taking him as a father for ourselves and learning from him how to live in constant proximity to our darling Jesus! I'm sure he will be happy to pray with us to the Blessed Trinity:
Draw me, we will run!!!
And don't forget to feast on this feast!! There's a reason St. Joseph's solemnity comes in Lent - he's slipping us a treat as he must have often done with little Jesus! Mary is smiling - she knows all about their antics and ours. And Marcel? He's over the moon with joy that his Fr. Boucher and St. Joseph are mentioned together. Yes, he says, at last! Thank you, Fr. Boucher, and thank you, Marcel! Kiss little Jesus for us, and Blessed Mary our Mother, and St. Joseph (our good father) too!
Are you ready for St. Joseph's Day? It's tomorrow, and Marcel has been playing all sorts of tricks to keep me from posting until now. I was perplexed until I realized just what he was about . . .
First off, he wanted us to bypass his birthday (March 15, this past Friday), so he sent me on a wonderful visit to a young friend, D.C. aged 9, at City of Hope hospital. We had a marvelous day (D.C., Marcel, Therese, and myself) playing cards - I learned Kings in the Corner and taught Crazy 8's, my own favorite - watching the very first 3 episodes of Andy Griffith, playing 'Shut the Box', and even entertaining a married couple who has a music ministry and played "Lean on Me" at my request. And yes, I sure did sing along! What a day!
Next Marcel conspired to invite to our home on Saturday a handful of delightful college students and a dear couple we love, and next thing I knew we were eating Indian food and watching our favorite Bollywood movie. Fun!!!
Finally it was St. Patrick's day yesterday, but the double feast of Sunday and St. Pat meant that for once I used a Sunday as the Lord meant it - a day of worship (Mass - ah, Jesus!) and then rest, rest, and more rest!
So that now, finally, I'm able to pop over to Miss Marcel's Musings and muse . . . except that with Marcel's plan, he's likely to kick me off before I've finished so I'm not wasting any time.
And just what is his plan?
Marcel wants to make up for lost time. Since he never (to my knowledge) found himself deep in conversation with St. Joseph (at least not in Conversations!), he wants to be sure and acknowledge here, at his 21st century party place where I keep reserved for him his 21st century soapbox, the great and very silent St. Joseph, spouse of Mary and foster father of little Jesus!
Marcel's tribute to St. Joseph will be, as far as I know (as far as he's letting on), posted tomorrow, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, and Marcel was so excited that he woke me at 4:30 this morning. This annoyed me slightly - until I realized it was because he wanted me to read a book I'd had my eye on a month ago: Joseph the Silent, by a wonderful French Dominican, Fr. Michel Gasnier, O.P.
This book, which has been my constant companion since about 5 a.m. this morn, was originally published in 1960 but re-issued in 2002. Yay! It was $7.95 on my kindle, and since I keep failing to make it to the dollar store for batteries to get my book light up and running, I was quite grateful that what I needed to read was easy enough to procure on my light up kindle. Thank You, Jesus! Thank you, Marcel!
So what's left? Marcel also reminded me that on the day before a HUGE feast (a solemnity, no less), my husband and I are invited to fast and abstain - this is in our provincial (i.e. local) statutes attached to the Constitutions we follow as Discalced Carmelite Seculars (a.k.a. third order Carmelites). St. Joseph is a special guardian of the Carmelite order, as well as guardian of the universal Church, but somehow we'd always missed this fast and abstinence day, and somehow (thanks again, Marcel!) I remembered this year, and in time, even.
If you would like to join us in preparing in this traditional way for the big feast, feel free to actually follow one of your Lenten resolutions today, in honor of our dear and gentle St. Joseph. Ha! Am I implying that I'm not the only one to have failed at all 3 of my Lenten resolutions before we'd even gotten a week in? Well, misery loves company, and hilarity loves company even more! I'm laughing more than anything else. What could be better for humility? And isn't humility terrific? Ah, glorious poverty!
Which reminds me of one of the hundred things I've learned about St. Joseph this morning and which I'd like to share with you (though I don't dare share the other 99 because my computer is likely to run out of juice, or me out of time, before I post, which would mean another opportunity lost to sing the praises of everyone from Marcel to St. Joseph to little Jesus Himself).
So, here's the one (from the 100) that I can share now:
You know how Jesus is called, in the gospels, "Son of David"? This is because he is known as the son of Joseph who is also known as a Son of David. As Jesus' genealogy in both Luke and Matthew's gospels show, He is a direct descendant of David through Joseph, that is, with Joseph as His father. Although Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph and Mary lived always in perpetual virginity, nonetheless, according to the law, Jesus was Joseph's son. Mary was also of David's line, but her genealogy had no legal status, as it was through the father that the line was traced. Well . . . here is the thing I learned that just stuns me:
Somehow I had the idea that there were tons of direct descendants of King David and it was really no big deal. You know, "of the house of David" sounded to me kind of like "of the house of Adam." Not quite that big a pool, but maybe more like "of the house of Judah." Which again, sounded like 1/12th of the Jewish people, so not that rare an honor.
Reading Fr. Gasnier's Biblical, historical, Thomistic and patristic reflections and explanations, I finally understood that for Joseph to be a Son of David meant that he was the direct descendant of 12 kings of Israel and was himself a sort of prince, at the least. It would have been somewhat shocking to everyone that he was a poor carpenter. Actually, the fact of his being a manual laborer would have been held in esteem and not looked down upon, for the Jewish people held work with one's hands as tremendously dignified and worthy of the rich as well as the poor. But St. Joseph's poverty - that was unexpected, as he was a Son of David. It wasn't totally unheard of or entirely conspicuous, but in the census line at Bethlehem - where I'd always thought everyone was a Son of David, but come to think of it, there were many others from Bethlehem besides David and his descendants! - those who heard Joseph register, those behind him in line, for instance, would have been a little surprised that this evidently poor man was one of David's descendants.
Ah, glorious poverty! Fr. G points out that this holy poverty made St. Joseph, the just man, a living exemplar, in anticipation, of the Beatitudes and in possession of full beatitude. We could expect nothing less from the one who lived as virginal spouse of Mary and virginal father of little Jesus, the Word Incarnate, our Savior and true Spouse!
So . . . happy belated birthday, Marcel! Happy belated feast, St. Patrick! Please bless Ireland again! And most of all, thank you dear St. Cyril of Jerusalem for so willingly sacrificing your feast that we may anticipate (with a tiny fast) the glory of St. Joseph tomorrow!
Incidentally, I also discovered that this past Saturday, March 16, was the anniversary of the first Holy Communion of St. Peter Julian Eymard, apostle of the Eucharist. Magnificent! And, too, the anniversary (for which their is a special proper Mass, even) of St. Philip Neri's bringing a dead young man back to life so that he could be forgiven his sins in confession to St. Phil, and prepared for a second, much happier death a half an hour later! Happy anniversary, St. Peter J. Eymard, St. Philip, and Paolo Massimo!
And now, in order to proceed as quickly as possible to the joys of tomorrow, let's say our prayer inviting the whole world into the embrace of the Holy Family, and then perhaps before we know it, March 19th will be upon us.
Draw us, we will run!!
I certainly hope to post tomorrow a lovely picture of St. Joseph and the Holy Fam along with Marcel's reflections (as whispered to me, his little pencil), but we'll see what that imp Marcel has planned. I can only guess we're going to get to celebrate together, but if I'm delayed, don't wait for me: Feast away, beginning after Evening Prayer tonight, or its equivalent in your world. A Solemnity begins on the Vigil, though the Vigil begins a little later than I usually am ready to start. I'm sure Marcel will help you figure it out. The important thing is: Praise God, our Heavenly Father, for His stand-in, good and gentle St. Joseph!
Well actually, as he tells the story, Therese is the funny one . . . Here's how it goes:
From Conversations (430), 12 April 1946:
Marcel: Mother, today little Jesus speaks to me no more. I feel very sad. Yesterday, dear Mother, I had an insane wish to laugh. Do you know why? At supper time, during grace before the meal, I saw coming, I do not know from where, my sister Therese who tapped me on the shoulder, looked me full in the face with a comical expression, then, laughing, said to me: 'Little brother, so you are anxious? Come then, let me see this sadness which always troubles you so.' Then, grabbing my sighs in one of her hands, she threw them to the ground and said, smiling: 'These careworn sighs are of no use to little Jesus.' And that is all. I so wanted to laugh that it was impossible for me to say my grace.
My sister Therese concentrates a lot on cheering me up. Although she acts quite naturally, it is, nevertheless, very amusing; like the time when she covered one eye just to make me laugh. I am sure that, in the past, she was more mischievous than me and that is the reason why she succeeds in making me happy.
+ + +
Oh adorable little brother! I, too, am sure that Therese was very mischievous. But more mischievous than you? That I'm not so sure of! I do know that you both are darling, and now that you've joined our sister in Heaven, it must be that you, too, concentrate a lot on cheering us up. Because when I opened your book today (in my holy hour, no less), I had no idea what you would say. You started with your sadness, so you can guess I had no idea that laughter was coming next! Ah, but Therese throwing your careworn sighs to the ground - I love it! Please throw our careworn sighs to the ground too! And if you can, procure from us some fresh sighs - sighs of love! - so that little Jesus will have at least some use for the very little ways we know how to pray. We have so little, but with your help we can give Him a glance, a sigh, perhaps a smile even, but only if you concentrate on cheering us up a lot!
We love you, dear Jesus, and we beg You to cast Your sighs of love, Your glances, Your smiles upon us too. We await Your love! We even have five words to tell you so:
Draw me, we will run!
And if you, dear reader, came here looking for Marcel's Book Club, it's in the post below this one! I just couldn't resist sharing our brother's laughter and our sister's mischief with you today. May they, those two imps (not chimps! imps! though they are more fun than a barrel of monkeys!) bring a smile to your face today, and laughter to your heart!
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