My husband and I used to have an I Believe in Love apostolate. Before you gag at the sentimental sound of it, let me explain.
There's this magnificent book called I Believe in Love. I don't know much about the author except that he was a French priest who gave a retreat (perhaps many retreats) on the teachings of St. Therese, and this retreat was transcribed into a book, translated into English, and has been kept in print for more than forty years, most recently by Sophia Institute Press. And kept in print with good reason, for it is the best book on St. Therese that I know, and with very few exceptions an immediate hit with everyone who has the great good fortune to read it. Our apostolate, then, was simply to give out copies of I Believe in Love to as many people as we thought didn't have one already. Later this became a game I played with a dear friend who, unbeknownst to us, had been doing the same for some time herself. We joined forces, and it was exciting to see hearts opening up before Jesus' infinite love like so many flowers in the warm rays of the spring's welcome sun.
Then I found Marcel, and my first instinct was to start a Conversations apostolate.
Just as our I Believe in Love missionary work had included more than believing in love ourselves (in fact, it's sometimes easier to hand out books than to believe in Love - at least for a blonde soul like mine), so too my Conversations apostolate would include more than just talking. I thought I could give out copies of Conversations like we'd done for so many years with I Believe in Love.
Jesus, on the other hand, didn't think so, and His adorable will made itself known before I'd given away a single book.
Some years ago I came across a wonderful aid to identifying God's will. I found it in a 12-step book, and it's an acronym that sounds like a government agency though as far as I know, it isn't one. It's "ODAT", usually shorthand for One Day at a Time, but in this case it stood for Opportunity, Desire, Ability, and Time. The writer explained that if you want to know whether a particular project is God's will for you, start by asking whether you have all four of these, because the absence of any one will indicate that the work you have in mind is likely NOT God's will for you. I've found this a brilliant approach to discernment because it's so simple. And here was the perfect example of its clear application.
Upon consideration I realized that while I have the opportunity, and the desire, and the time to foist Marcel's Conversations on every person I love, alas, I do not have the ability. You see, when we first started giving out copies of I Believe in Love about 25 years ago, the book was small, the price was low, and we got a discount on our bulk orders from a bookseller friend. In more recent years, amazon.com's "I'm your best friend, call me Mr. Discount" policy and, when we went directly to the publisher, Sophia Institute Press' super cheap shipping made our apostolate do-able. Not necessarily in bulk, but hey, we'd already given out the book to most people we knew.
When it came to Conversations, however, Jesus had the perfect way to keep me from flooding the market. He merely made sure that He (and His mother and His dear Therese) had lots of conversations with Marcel, whom He repeatedly urged to write them down, and then, in spite of Marcel's extreme littleness (or rather, as He often explains, because of it), Jesus made sure that nothing was lost. The consequence is a very substantial book.
Which pleases me to no end. Even if I had a better memory, there's no way I could keep in mind all the spectacularly beautiful, tenderly solicitous, infinitely loving things that Jesus tells us through Marcel. There are just so many! And this satisfies a need I've felt for a long, long time. The one problem my closest conspirators and I had with I Believe in Love was that we needed more words. Once we'd read it once or twice, convincing and encouraging as it was, we only wanted more. I can't make this complaint about Conversations. Granted, it's ruined me for other spiritual reading because I'll never be done with it, but this is a small price to pay for my ideal book. Like the Bible, it's the book I'll never finish, though I've read it from cover to cover. That's just how it works. Who can fully comprehend the Word of God and God's words?
I'm happy, then -- ecstatic, really -- over the nice heft of Marcel's Conversations. But speaking of prices to pay, the size of the book and its subsequent cost do a number on my ability to buy massive quantities in order to bequeath them to unsuspecting victims. The monthly book budget just won't allow such largess.
Ah, Jesus, how clever You are! You have prevented my efforts at making supply exceed demand. You have thwarted my desire to introduce the whole world, by force if necessary, to our little brother. You have opted, once again, for the little way . . . and the way, too, of desire. Your plan is so much better than mine! Here in this corner of the Internet we can invite others to know our Marcel. We can introduce them to him and, more importantly, to Your love for us expressed through Your conversations with him. And then, when You've taken Your very sweet time (and after all, You do have all time at your disposal) just as You did with me, You can lure each heart into the depths of Yours and into the heart of Your Apostle of Love. What treasures await! And You wait too. Oh how good You are to wait! But You are full of consideration and have decided it is better for You to wait than for my family to subsist on Kraft macaroni and cheese. We can buy groceries and let You be in charge of Marcel's book sales, one book at a time.
And now, to the point.
I didn't quite mean this post to be about such paltry things as the rising cost of good literature, the insufficiency of my book budget (which is actually quite sufficient for my needs now that I've got Marcel's complete works), nor to distress you with the news that unless I win the lottery (and since I don't buy lottery tickets, my winning is even less likely than you might think) I will probably not be buying you a copy of Conversations any time soon. Rather, I wanted to address the question up top (the title of this post) about whether you believe in Love. And I don't mean "you" as if I've got a list and I'm checking it twice, or as if I can read souls and know that yours isn't full of as much faith as it ought to be . . . No, dear reader, this is not that kind of blog. Charismatic gifts aside, I'm not a mean person, and you are definitely safe here.
Actually I'm asking the question in a kind of "This is what Jesus has got me wondering about myself, and the wondering is moving me from fear to adoration" sort of way. Yesterday morning, I picked up Marcel's book to help me pray, and Jesus said the most remarkable things. (He's always doing that, and you'd think it would get old or I'd stop being surprised, but love is like that: always new, always startling, and always more wonderful than before.) Since I've now admitted that I'm not buying everyone books, I figure the least I can do is share some of what I've found in mine. My hope is that you'll be inspired to save your shekels and get a copy of your own when you have the opportunity, desire, ability, and time. (I'll put links to I Believe in Love and Conversations at the end of this post, just in case.)
The passage that moved my heart yesterday morning and was confirmed by a hummingbird shortly thereafter is at (400) in Conversations. And yes, I said a hummingbird!
I went outside with Marcel and Jesus (the two of them were in the book in my hands at the very least), and sitting on a chair in the southern California sunshine, I heard a whirring behind my head. It sounded suspiciously like a hummingbird. Looking down, I saw a shadow vibrating on the cobblestones in front of me. I turned my head, and yes, there was a hummingbird! He hovered for a few moments, and then he did what very few hummingbirds do (at least when I'm watching) -- he flitted up and perched, resting on a branch of the oak tree that hung over us. I took it as a hint, a sign, a tiny message from one who is even more fun to watch than a sparrow (two of which used to be sold for a penny, all of which are watched over and loved by God, and none of which are loved anywhere near as much as He loves us). If a hummingbird can rest in the presence of the conversations of Marcel and Jesus, how much more then should I? I'm certainly not as constitutionally averse to it.
So here's what made the hummingbird and me pause. Okay, at least it made me pause. As for the hummingbird, think what you will, but it's darn rare to see one just sit back and relax. My guess is that he was awed by the nearness of Jesus' infinite love just as I was. Sadly, he couldn't read, but happily I could, and here is what I had just read:
"Marcel, I love you dearly; My love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it, Marcel?
Nothing is more hurtful to Me than to see a great number of souls that I love in preference to all the others, who behave towards Me with such indifference that they do not even wish to believe in the preferential love that I have for them."
And so I started thinking about this preferential love of Jesus, and how He seemed to love me that way, just as He loved Marcel.
You might wonder if you, too, are loved with a preferential love. I can tell you right now that you are. I know that you are, for Jesus has brought you here where you can read His words to Marcel -- words which are meant for us as well. He loves you dearly; His love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it?
He wants you to believe in His love for you, this indescribable love that made Him take on a body like ours so that He could have a human tongue with which to tell us of this love which is beyond description. Just before the passage I've quoted, Jesus says, "Marcel, are there any words which better encapsulate love and tenderness than the words of the Gospel?" I think of His invitation, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and you will find rest for your souls. Learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart." And those unsurpassed expressions from the night before He died, when He pleaded, "Let not your hearts be troubled," and again, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," because "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you."
Jesus frequently reassures Marcel, "I am not scolding you." Here, then, we should note that He is not scolding us either. His words are never meant to be a source of scrupulosity, but only a source of comfort. When He tells Marcel that what hurts Him most is to see a great number of souls "who do not even wish to believe in the preferential love" that He has for them, He is not talking about us. How do I know? Because we want more than anything to believe in His love! The question now is -- as He asked Marcel, so He asks us -- do we believe it? Do we believe in His tremendous love?
It's such a relief to know that He never gives up on us, never stops pursuing us, never stops telling us (in the old words and old books, and in new ones too) of His indescribable love. Even as He laments that it is not enough, this or that expression of His love, still He persists. Even as He knows that we do not understand, so too He knows that we want to believe.
Let's not give up on our end either. Let's never stop listening to His voice speaking to us in the old books and the new. If you need a place to start hearing His words of love, I suggest first the Gospel of John, chapters 14 through 17. Second, if you haven't yet read I Believe in Love, you can click on the title here (I Believe in Love) and order it directly from the publisher or, if you prefer, click on amazon.com.
Will you be surprised if my third suggestion is to read Marcel's Conversations? I suggest it with such enthusiasm that I won't even mind if you skip over the first two suggestions and get my favorite book asap by clicking on this title, Conversations. Then you can read John 14 (and what follows) while you wait for Marcel's book of Jesus' words to arrive.
Meanwhile, don't forget that our Savior and the Spouse of your soul loves you dearly. You are pleasing to Him, and He wants nothing more than to stop you worrying and start you living like a little child who knows he is loved.
Come to think of it, I want exactly that too, so I'll say a prayer now asking Marcel to intercede for us all and obtain for us the Truth he now sees face to Face, the Truth that will make it easy for us to answer that opening question "Do you believe in Love?" with a resounding and jubilant "Yes!"
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