I woke up in the nicest possible way this morning. It was too early, but instead of an alarm going off, there was Jesus whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Before you decide I'm in need of a seasoned spiritual director to help me discern from whence this voice came (that's one of the bummers about really hearing voices - you have to figure out FOR SURE whose they are!), let me assure you that I hear His voice as Therese did back in the day (her days on earth) not like Marcel did.
Oh what a terrible beginning! Just when we're getting close to Marcel meeting Therese and finding out they are practically the same person, here I come separating them. Forgive me Marcel (Therese is laughing - I'm not going to ask her forgiveness; she thinks this is hilarious - me getting myself into a pickle before we've even properly begun this post).
First let's deal with Therese. Okay sista, a proper beginning. An introduction. Readers, meet Therese (the short one) and her older sister, the intrepid Celine (the taller one). There, are you satisfied you imp? (She's nodding, which encourages me to explain about the voice I heard - so I can explain what I mean when I say she's nodding. Apparitions on top of locutions - this is quite an 8th day!)
Second let's deal with Marcel. My explanations about how I'm merely imaginative, not holy nor persecuted by evil minions, will have to wait.
Did you ever read A Severe Mercy? It's well worth your time (no, not giving you a link - you don't have permission to go find it before we finish our 8th Day. My own distractions are bad enough; if we start letting yours in, we'll never make it through in one piece or one peace). It's written by a friend of C.S. Lewis, a man named Sheldon Vanauken, and it's a memoir about Sheldon's love for his wife, and their conversions (thanks to C.S. Lewis). What's stuck with me all these years (I read it maybe 30 years ago. And yes, I guess I must be about a hundred now if I can say "I read that 30 years ago," but time does fly) is the explanation Sheldon gives about the kind of union true love desires.
Do you mind if I digress just the teensiest bit? Speaking of true love reminds most people of The Princess Bride (which you should watch after we finish here) and "Twue Wuv," but for me it brings to my blonde soul a much more enlightened and edifying association. A quote I read in Parade magazine about 10 years ago (give or take 5) in an interview with Brad Pitt. He said, "If you're lucky, true love comes to you maybe three or four times in your life."
You just have to admire that man's insight. Most people would have limited it to one - if you're very lucky, true love comes to you maybe once in your life. But Brad has either much more luck than the rest of us, or he's wearing rose colored contacts under those cool shades. Let's include him, and all his true loves, in our novena, just in case they aren't using the same definition of true love that we're lucky enough to have been given. And in all honesty, I don't remember if it was "three or four times" that he opined love (true love) would come to the lucky . . . but that was the gist and it was certainly more than once. If I get a chance, I'll try to unearth that quote so we can confirm and know what to look for! Because we certainly are among the lucky ones, here with Marcel and Therese while the rest of the world wanders around in a daze, still looking for soul mates. We've found ours, and that leads me back to where we were before this slighty more than teensy (we'll call it tiny) digression.
Which is back with Marcel, apologizing to him. Marcel, I know you cherish your oneness with Therese. But while Sheldon was so over the top admirable in his pursuit and dream of complete oneness - I think I remember his example was liking the same foods, wanting your steak cooked the same way: a unity that encompassed every detail of your preferences - I know that you, dear brother, understand it isn't every detail that must be identical for spirits to be kindred, but something deeper and more essential.
With you and Therese, then, it's okay that Jesus spoke to you in different ways. The important thing is that He, who never changes, gave you both the same message. As He explains to you in the conversations you had with Him, you are littler than your sister, weaker, poorer. She was very little, very weak, very poor in spirit, but you, Marcel, were a quark to her grain of sand. Both extremely small, but one (you!) immeasurably smaller than the other. And so, as Jesus told you, He had to come down even closer to you and speak to you with even more immediacy, like a mother would lean down and pick up her crying infant and nestle him to her cheek and breast to soothe him, whereas with a crying 5-year-old she might hold him beside her knee, her arm around him, asking what was wrong.
Not to annoy Therese by calling her something so big as a 5-year-old! She was careful to be specific when answering Mother Agnes' (her sister Pauline's) question about what she meant by spiritual childhood. In her explanation she included, "That's why I've been concerned to always remain a very little child before God - because as children start growing, they're expected to start working!" As she told us on Day 6, those who love cannot remain inactive, so it's not exactly that she was afraid of work. (And then here is another reason we love you more, Marcel: you were afraid of work and told Jesus you only wanted to play. I'm with you on this one, I'd rather play!) Rather, she didn't want to work in order to earn Heaven. That was going to be Jesus' job, to give the little ones heaven by a new way, a way which consisted of Him taking them in His arms and lifting them up there with Him (like the elevator Therese had seen in a hotel in Paris, a wonder that made the laborious work of climbing stairs - say to a third floor room, and carrying luggage - so unnecessary).
But again: there is little, and then there is minuscule. You, Marcel, are minuscule and thus Jesus spoke to you in a different way than he spoke to Therese. You needed Fr. Boucher (oh how he's been waiting to be invited into the novena - why of course you're invited, Father!). You needed him to help you discern; to ask you to write, then to stop writing, then convinced by your obedience as much as by the words Jesus was giving you, to pick up your pen and write some more, everything in fact, to your and Jesus' Hearts' content.
Perhaps we are not as little as you are, Marcel, and thus Jesus finds He can speak to us in more ordinary ways.
Your sister Therese was adamant that God made her life imitable (able to be imitated) in every important way, so that little souls (not as minuscule as you, but little nonetheless) could have a model to imitate - we read yesterday in your Autobiography how you yourself felt the need for a saint you could imitate. And certainly in those days you had no idea Jesus would later speak to you in the ways He did, but still even before you heard His voice (or your sister's) you couldn't have survived a day if, as Mother Teresa told us in her Varanasi letter, Jesus didn't constantly tell you that He loved you.
This more ordinary way of hearing Jesus, the way we too can hear Him, the way I heard Him this morning when He whispered His sweet nothings in my ear to wake me - like so many things experienced by little souls, this too is explained beautifully by Therese in her autobiography, the book we've left you eyeing suspiciously, Story of a Soul. Like you, Marcel, she wrote out of obedience and charity, only in her case it was her sisters who put her up to it, rather than a spiritual director.
One of those sisters, the one responsible for most of the book, is Marie of the Sacred Heart, Therese's oldest sister and godmother. "Manuscript B" is the part of Story of a Soul that Therese wrote when Marie asked for a souvenir of her retreat in which Therese would explain the secrets that Jesus was revealing to her little soul. In it she writes:
"Without showing Himself, without making His voice heard, Jesus instructs me in secret. It is not by means of books, because I do not understand what I read, but sometimes a word like this one that I pulled out at the end of the prayer time (after remaining in silence and dryness) comes to comfort me: 'Here is the teacher that I am giving you; He will teach you everything that you must do. I want to make you read in the book of life, in which is contained the science of Love'"
Ah, Therese! Ah, Marcel! How mysterious are the ways in which God speaks to us. Let's see. You, Therese, had St. John of the Cross, and Holy Scripture (some of it, the best parts, that Celine brought with her into the convent in a special hand-written notebook she shared with you, as well as the New Testament), the Imitation of Christ (which is WAY too big for me - try as I might I have never been able to hear much there from Jesus to my soul), Fr. Arminjon's book that you and Celine had loved together (which Sophia Press now sells, but no links for little souls!) and which Mr. Marcel East loves so (but alas, again I have not found my nourishment there, for Jesus had another book in mind for me) . . . and then Marcel, our brother, you had Therese's Story of a Soul (and we'll soon find out what happened with you and that book) . . . but we, the blessed beyond the Blessed, we have YOUR BOOKS, Marcel, YOUR Conversations in which to hear Jesus' voice speak to us. We get the best of both worlds - He speaks to us in a word we read, like He did to Therese, and He speaks to us in every word that He spoke to you, as He tells us (and I have quoted in my musings before) with great Authority.
I take it back then. Something hadn't sounded right about our being not as little as you, but now we're back where we belong. Is there such a thing as half a quark? That would be us, which is why Jesus gives us everything, in you, in Therese, in daily Communion (when we can avail ourselves of this free gift) and so much more.
So now, gentle reader, you can relax in the full realization that Jesus' whispering in my ear might simply have been my sleep-reading of Conversations. In fact, no, though; He whispered as I woke, and fortunately I have not the charism of sleep-reading (wouldn't that be like the Midas touch? I feel like it would cost more than it was worth - I do so love my sleep). But I think it was like Therese says in another place (which I don't dare find for you now lest we never get back to the story of Marcel's soul): that she never heard Jesus audibly, but she heard Him in her heart (like we do). This is getting circular - I hear Him as Therese did who heard Him as I do! Maybe I will have to find you that other explanation (Doctors of the Church are clearer than their typists), but what's much more interesting than how Jesus spoke to me (through my imagination which needs not much encouragement to rule the house) is what He said to me. And that I will tell you without delay.
Jesus was whispering that He is so happy I've been telling you to be confident! And the crazy thing is that since He is God, He can whisper this to me in so many ways, and He is doing just that, longing as He is to tell you to trust Him, to place all confidence in Him, to put no limits on your requests of Him.
It was so sweet to have these thoughts as I woke, thoughts about how He is so pleased with us for turning to Him in our novena, and pleased with me for telling you to be confident and to rest assured that He is hearing your prayers. He always has heard them, but didn't you say them often with some fear? Well of course you did - I mean we all do because as a friend reminded me in an email recently, Perfect Love casts out fear, but we don't have perfect love yet. I was delighted to remind her back that it is not our own perfect love that will cast out fear from our hearts, but Jesus' perfect Love! And one way He does this - casts out our fear - is by sending us saints who will show us the way to life without fear. And among these saints, the one canonized in order to have more authority in telling us, "No fear!" is St. Therese - who is even a Doctor of the Church because Jesus wants us to trust her telling us to trust Him! And then, as if that weren't enough, He sends us Marcel and tells us, "All that I say to him, I say to you," and over and over again repeats to our brother and to us, "No more worrying, any more, ever!"
We fail. We worry. BUT - here is the message He sent, along with His own Holy Spirit and a burst of joy this morning, a message that I He delivered again while I was looking for another particular quote I wanted to share with you. Certainly St. Anthony is not the only one who helps us find things. Jesus will help us find things, but most especially He'll help us find what He is trying to give us, whether or not that's what we're looking for. Because instead of that elusive quote I was hunting, I was captured by this one, from a story one of her novices told about Therese, and which appeared in the early copies of Story of a Soul (which included extras like her counsels to these same novices). Here is the quote Jesus liked best and wanted us to find:
"If I'm leading you into error with my little way of love," Therese used to say to her novices, "don't be afraid that I'm leaving you to follow it for a long time. I would appear to you soon to tell you to take another road. But, if I don't come back, believe in the truth of my words:
We can never have too much trust in the Good Lord, who is so powerful and so merciful!
We obtain everything from Him according to the measure with which we hope for it!"
Isn't she marvelous? But the good news is that she did come back - not to say her way was mistaken, but to say that her way was sure and true! You know she's come back with her shower of roses, but did you know there are volumes and volumes (all in French, too bad for me!) in the Lisieux Carmel, full of testimonies sent to Therese's sisters in the years immediately following her death (or rather, her entrance into Life)? These volumes are called, fittingly, "Shower of Roses" and some of them were printed in English not long after Therese's Story of a Soul made its first rounds; printed at the back of a a fat green book called Souer Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus edited by one Rev. Thomas N. Taylor. How I love this book! Keep your eyes open and find it the old fashioned way . . . it turns up with surprising frequency - or not so surprising frequency when you consider that a jillion copies were sold in any number of editions (that later came to be called Saint Therese of Lisieux, after she was canonized).
Thanks to Fr. Taylor, then, I've read many times the story (in the Shower of Roses section at the back of the green book) about how there was a poor Carmel in Gallipoli, Italy - I mean destitute - and after reading Story of a Soul (which had been sent around as Therese's circular obituary letter to Carmelite convents all over the world), the mother superior led the sisters in a novena to Sister Therese. Though she was but recently deceased, these nuns were no dummies and saw that she was obviously a Saint, even though not much had yet been started in the way of pursuing her canonization. Fr. Taylor, besides publishing the green book, was the first one to suggest such a thing (a process and eventual canonization) to Therese's sisters. Who at first thought he was crazy. She was very good, certainly, but canonized? They were as far from expecting this as, later, was Marcel. She wasn't like the Saints they were used to honoring. But God has the last word about what kind of Saints he wants to add to the list of the Blessed.
But to return to our nuns in Gallipoli. They were praying a novena to Therese who was not yet even Blessed nor venerable (nor did she even have a cause). That sounds familiar . . . Oh, because it's what we're doing here! A novena to Marcel and Therese - do you think they would obtain what we asked for us?
Well, listen to what happened to this innocently unprepared mother superior when she prayed to little Therese (little Marcel wasn't born yet, so we can't blame her for not including him) for financial relief.
Therese showed up in the mother's bedroom and had Mama Superior follow her to the cash box, which had been bare like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, when what to her wondering eyes should appear but MONEY in the box!? Mother thought she was dreaming and in her dream when the little Carmelite whom she'd first mistaken for Teresa of Avila (which made the dreamy nun laugh and say, No I am little Therese) started to walk away, Mother said, "But you might lose your way," because it was dark except for the light streaming from little Therese. The shining angel-of-a-nun smiled back at her and said, "No - my way is sure."
In the morning, waking up in her own bed, Mother was understandably addled. Her sisters pressed her and she told them of her dream. The other nuns led her to the cash box and sure enough - MONEY! Later the Bishop got involved: he was much impressed by the words, "My way is sure," and as he suspected, these words meant a great deal to the novices in Lisieux. More miracles occurred (more money) until with their 15 minutes of fame, the these poor Carmelites came to the attention of those who could help support them with alms from earth. For her part, Therese had been true to her word, and left no one in doubt: her way is sure.
Which means we, too, can absolutely trust her words, and she is telling us that God is absolutely trustworthy.
So what shall you ask of Him? If you've been here for a few days already, you may have a tidy list going. Now's the time to get the spiritual equivalent of a huge roll of butcher paper and ask your angel to help you list your every intention - everyone's every intention! - and then let's take a hint from Marcel's sister (and ours) and trust that God will answer them all.
You don't feel very trusting?
I will trust with you.
I'll also add to my long list, "Little Therese, you have no need of your confidence any more. You can see God! You know how good He is. So give us your trust, your confidence, your daring, your audacity, your spirit of adorable curly-headed childlike abandonment into the loving arms of our Good Heavenly Father."
That's taken care of.
Which is good, because there's something else I needed to mention.
Are you worried that you haven't specified all your intentions? Instead of needing a huge length of spiritual butcher paper, is your list fitting on a mini-post-it note so far?
Hey, you're not going to believe this, but you're not alone.
It's so hard to remember what we're supposed to be praying for (what we were asked to pray for, who we promised to pray for, what those pesky long term intentions are that have been with us so long they're now part of us at the cellular level, but what were they again?). So Therese gave us a brilliant solution to free us from worrying even about this, about our inability to pray properly.
St. Paul took pains to assure us that the Holy Spirit will pray within us "as we ought," and Therese, eager child ready to help out the Holy Spirit, has shared her prayer with us (in Story of a Soul, and in our Day 6, I think it was), so let's say it again with her now. Our repetition may help us remember it for future use too. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Jesus, Draw me; we shall run!
I don't know about you, but I'm finding Therese's simplicity more and more attractive each day. Kind of like Marcel - that is, I'm finding his simplicity more attractive every day for sure, but I'm also finding her ever more attractive just as he did. You don't need to take my word for it, though; it's time to rejoin Marcel and let him tell his own story.
When we last saw our hero, he was having a bad night. He'd been hit upside the head with not just one, but two dilemmas: first his problem of desiring to be a saint, which desire felt like a temptation caused by pride, so in this very desire he feared he was offending God. And second, he'd asked the Blessed Virgin for help and a sign, and she'd given him this boring book to read. We left him standing in the study hall, Story of a Soul in hand and a look of disdain on his young face. Remember, he was only 14, but he is our hero, so I for one have high hopes this will turn out well. (Plus I've read the story before, and these pages are seared into my soul like an anointing from the Holy Spirit.) Marcel has just decided that he'd better read what Our Lady has given him. We join him now as he procrastinates . . .
+ + +
I did not stop looking at the book, but I did not commit myself to open it and read it. I remember clearly that in the Lang-son seminary my friend Cau, who was in charge of the library, had passed a similar book to me; unfortunately I had only leafed through it from beginning to end, but seeing that it was not illustrated I had returned it to the library and asked for another one. This was the first time since then that it had again fallen into my hands, and once more I did not feel any sympathy for it. But I had promised to read it . . . I must do so. So, taking hold of it, I went to sit down with book in hand and I began reading. Shortly afterwards I moved my chair to a corner near the fireplace so as not to disturb my friends, and again I read a little. Oh, what an interesting book! I turned the pages quickly to the last chapter to see how it ended. At that moment I no longer despised the book. I went back to the first pages and began reading once again. On finishing the preface, I felt my soul immediately relieved and overflowing with happiness. I comforted myself in this way: "So, to become a saint is not only to walk by the path of 'saints of bygone days.' There are many paths leading to holiness." I continued to read the first chapter.
I had not read more than two pages when my eyes began to mist over little by little, then two streams of tears flowed down my cheeks, flooding the pages of the book. It was impossible to continue reading. My tears were the witness of my repentance for my attitude of a short while ago, and at the same time a source of indescribable joy. Yes, only the tears springing from my heart under the impulse of a strong emotion were capable of expressing the intensity of my happiness. I had the sensation that my heart had melted into burning tears which were flooding my face. I do not understand how in the grip of such a great joy it was, nevertheless, impossible for me to hold back my tears. What moved me completely was this reasoning of St. Therese: "If God only humbled himself towards the most beautiful flowers, symbols of the holy doctors, his love would not be an absolute love, since the characteristic of love is to humble oneself to the extreme limit." Then, taking the sun as an example, she writes, "As the sun shines at the same time on the cedar and the little flower, in the same way the divine Star especially lights up all souls, big or small."
Oh what reasoning, so deep in its simplicity! In reading these words I was able to understand, a little, the immensity of God's heart, which goes beyond all created limits; that is to say, it is infinite. So, without need for any further reasoning, I found in these words the key which opened for me a way which was direct and pleasing, leading right to the summit of perfection. I understood that God is love and that Love adapts itself to all forms of love. Consequently, I can become holy by means of all my little actions: a smile, a word, a look, provided that all are motivated by love. What happiness! Therese is a saint who corresponds totally to the idea I had in my mind of holiness. From now onwards, sanctity will no longer frighten me. I have found a way which, less than a century previously, had been followed by a soul: and this soul has reached the ultimate goal, just like many other saints who led lives of sorrow, and sown with thorns. [And yet this way is not sad or thorny.] It is the way of love of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.
+ + +
There is so much more Marcel wants to tell us. He has met Therese in her book - soon (in just six more pages of his book) he will meet her in a more personal and profound encounter. I wish I could copy these pages out for you here, but we have to keep moving, to get our posts published, our little prayers said, and soon it will be time for Day 9!
Do you know that yesterday I got a concerned email from a loving Marcel-ite and friend who worried, "Suzie, I have not seen Day 7! Is everything okay?" Truth be told, I posted it past the deadline for those in later time zones. As it was, I barely made it before midnight in my own time zone (oh come on, my angel says, we had an hour and change to spare!). So I'm determined to post Day 8 well before anyone can worry about me - because it's true: something dire would have to happen to stop me writing about Marcel for you!
Are we satisfied with our little prayer from Day 8? I think we might add one of my other favorite prayers, because this is my chance to get you to say it with me!
On a related note, do any of you have the same problem I do? Trying to get my family to say a novena with me is like pulling teeth! Not that I try hard, but like pulling teeth, one would rather not try at all. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I think my husband and sons don't trust me; I must have foisted too many long-prayered novenas on them. I can't remember doing this, but who knows? One who loves cannot remain inactive :) If this is, indeed, a problem you face too, you could try my solution as well: Just start a blog and then make your readers pray along with you!
But before you start your blog, join me in this prayer which I think is quite short (not as short as our earlier prayer, but pithy in its own way) and one of my very favorites. It, too, can be found again later by clicking on "Prayers" above the typewriter up at the top here.
This favorite is an official novena prayer to St. Therese, so it's a perfect way to approach the end of our very little novena. We'll trust our angels to list our intentions, those we remember and those we've forgotten, our own, each other's, and those of the people who (poor things) haven't made it over to Miss Marcel's Musings yet. I've said this prayer so many times I accidentally memorized it, which is nice because whenever I come across a rose, I say it quickly to make it clear to heaven that I'm taking every rose as a sign, now that Therese wants me to believe as she did in God's love. I'll ask your angel to help you learn it by heart too - but don't hurt yourself trying! As Marcel has just learned, littleness is nothing to fret over or despise . . . .
Novena Prayer to St. Therese
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
please ask God to grant the favors
I now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help me to always believe as you did,
in God’s great love for me,
so that I may imitate your “Little Way” each day.
* * *
Don't forget to come back tomorrow, when we'll finish our novena and I'll announce the intentions I started with, so that you can enjoy hearing about how beautifully my prayers have been answered. Well no, they haven't been completely answered yet, but I'm full of confidence (Therese's confidence) that they will be when we meet again tomorrow . . . I'll try to post early (God willing) so you can read it on our final day, June 23, no matter your time zone. Meanwhile, have a good rest. Tomorrow will be more fun than people in exile should be allowed to have, and you'll want to be ready!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below.