Doesn't St. Therese look happy? I know, her grin isn't ear to ear like Marcel's tends to be (over on the right there), but photography being what it was at the time, she had to hold her pose for quite a while, and her sister Celine (the photographer in the family and the Carmel, although she didn't take this pic) tells us that Therese's expression would harden and lose its naturalness as the process dragged on. All things considered, then, and though her sisters didn't love it, I think this particular photo quite wonderful in capturing a kind of Mona Lisa smile. Therese is 16, she's been in the convent 9 months, and she'd received her habit only a few days before. Even the tiresome stillness necessary for a successful photograph can't bring her down: she's just too grateful for God's many blessings!
Therese is definitely a glass-is-half-full kind of gal, and she has great advice for the rest of us, whatever temperament we naturally sport. She made gratitude a policy, and through experience learned that this was not only conducive to joy, but also inducive to God (and I think I just made up a word, but you'll see why we need it) to give us more gifts. Our big little sister explains how it works perfectly in one of my favorite passages from all literature (right up there with Bertie Stanhope's conversation with the Bishop in Barchester Towers and the opening pages of Shopaholic and Sister, though I don't recommend the latter novel with the same sweeping gesture as the former). As Therese wrote to her dear Celine:
"What most draws down graces from our dear Lord is gratitude, for if we thank Him for a gift, He is touched and hastens to give us ten more, and if we thank Him again with the same sincerity, what an incalculable multiplication of graces! I have experienced this, try it and you will see. My gratitude for all He has given me is boundless, and I prove this to Him in a thousand ways."
Try it and you will see! I love Therese's enthusiasm - Celine is down in the dumps and insisting that even if the sun comes up tomorrow, it'll still be a lousy day, but Therese will have none of it! And lest Celine, in true sisterly fashion, is about to accuse Therese of having all the luck, her younger sister has pre-empted her. "Do you think I've got more blessings? I'm sure you have some too, and start with however little you might, I've got a plan for exponential growth in your talent portfolio." I can just see little Therese under a shade tree, playing with her talents like mud pies, smacking and molding them, multiplying them with delight as she separates and stacks them, smiling all the while in the sight of her Heavenly Father.
It's that time of year - a good day for mud pies if you can find some shade; sunny where I live, but then it's almost always sunny where I live. No, though, more than mud pies I'm thinking of apple pies and cherry pies, strawberry-rhubarb pies (your favorite nine pies, even) and the many firework inducing holidays that come in the first half of July.
The other day I was lucky enough to be included in a Canada Day celebration. Today I'll be part of my own country's 4th of July. And in another ten days, there will be a big fete in France, and more importantly in my world, a lovely wedding on the anniversary of a long-ago lovely wedding. I won't get to attend any of these July 14 celebrations, but I'll be praying for France and for Liam and Rose and for Liam's grandparents. As Therese pointed out, prayer in gratitude, especially, is so very powerful, and if you join me, I'm sure we can bring many more graces down on my country and yours, as well as our sister's country - so dear to Jesus that He was forever recommending it to Marcel's prayers. With all these intentions knocking on our hearts, let's break protocol and get our praying in now, before we get distracted and forget what we're about. Ready?
Draw me, we shall run!
Thank You, Jesus, for the many blessings You've showered upon our countries and all the countries of the world. Send Your Spirit of Love to help us be more grateful for all You've given us and more generous in sharing Your gifts. Thank You for the many weddings that will bring together each two lives into one; bless them with children, love, peace and joy beyond reckoning. Bless our countries too. Whatever our histories and our futures, may we live in the Light of Your Love in this world and in the Glory of Your Face for all eternity in Heaven. Amen!
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And now that we've taken care of business, while we're on the subject of nations and celebrations, wouldn't you know my angel has found for us something more to celebrate? Not the passage in Marcel's Conversations that I'd hoped to offer (about Jesus' favorite "political" party being the prayer party, but there, that was easily enough said), but some words from our Blessed Mother in reply to a good question from Marcel.
After telling us that our role is to love Jesus in joy (how perfect for a day with fireworks!), and after the heartfelt admonition, "Each time I speak to you, I can only suggest the same thing: prayer," Our Lady gives Marcel and us a wonderful variety of ways to pray, including our favorite, the simple glance of love: "When you turn your glance in my direction, remember what I am saying to you now, that will be a very easy manner of praying that you will be able to use many times a day" (261).
Marcel then asks: "Dear Mother, which country will be specially the apostle of the expansion of your reign in the world?"
Our Lady replies: "I do not choose my apostles exclusively in one particular country. I choose them in all the countries and there are some in every country. The army of my apostles is divided into two groups which accomplish the same mission and pursue the same end . . . One of these groups takes it upon itself specially to pray and the other to announce to the world the coming of my reign. Thus, little by little my apostles will become more numerous each day and, thanks to their always-increasing number, they will succeed little by little in establishing my reign. I am pleased to tell you this: I will choose the apostles who will work for the spread of my reign exclusively from the kingdom of the love of Jesus, since, at that time, the world will become the special kingdom of Jesus" (263).
Well that's good news for sure, and just in time really. I'm going to enjoy my hot dog, potato salad, and watermelon much more tonight, knowing that the world will become the special kingdom of Jesus! I have so many countries I love, so many countries that have given me gifts beyond counting, not to mention my very existence, that I couldn't possibly limit my gratitude and celebration to just one. Knowing that the whole world is destined for Jesus (we'd suspected as much, but it's nice to have it confirmed by Mary), I'm happily including every country I can think of in my gratitude list for today.
To give you a preview: My father was born in Lebanon; my mom's mom came from Poland. My father stayed with uncles and brothers in Venezuela (please God, restore peace and sufficient food, water, shelter, and clothing to dear Venezuela), then he lived in Canada with another brother's family, which led to his meeting my mom (across the border) and her German/English father and Polish mother in the U.S.
Living in southern California in a predominately Hispanic town, I have tremendous love and gratitude for Mexico and all her dear people. My husband is Irish, German, and Italian (Sicilian, no less), and how can we fail to mention that our sister Therese is from France, and our brother Marcel from Vietnam? Finally (though not really finally, but for now) our gratitude list would be incomplete without our good Jack K., loyal citizen of the British Empire (God save the Queen!), without whom we wouldn't have Conversations-in-English - a loss we daren't consider lest we cast a pall over the day! Sorry, again, Jack, about that inexcusable waste of tea in Boston - I'm going to have a cuppa today in gratitude for England and all she's given us, not least of all you!
Therese tells us that we can expect even more (yes, more, believe it or not) gifts from God as His response to our response. The initiative is always with the First Mover, but how wondrous the ways He allows us to get in the game. What will He give us next? Our Lady has hinted at it - something about her reign after Jesus'. For those of us in countries less blessed with royalty, the language may sound foreign, but perhaps in deference to Marcel's insistence on Mary's maternity far outshining her queenship, our kind and solicitous Mother explains herself next in terms more familiar. She says:
"If I was happy to accept only Jesus as my child, nobody would have been able to reproach me. However, through pity for you, mankind, I have not disdained to accept you also for my children and it is with all the love of Jesus that I myself have loved you . . ." (265).
And it gets even better! Just as Mary was the one through whom little Jesus came to us, so now she has no other role than to bring us back to Him. What a relief, that we don't need to try to get to Heaven without a mom to nurture us on the way. She explains the whole plan to Marcel (thank you, Marcel, for writing all this down!) as follows:
"In order to show His mercy towards the human race more clearly and wanting me to cooperate in a more obvious manner in the work of the Redemption of men, God has bequeathed me to you as Mother so that you understand that His love for humanity is truly without limits. Therefore I have agreed to be the Mother of the world so as to make known to men the love which God has for them, in such a way that the love I carry for Jesus unites with the love I have for men, my children . . . And if Jesus wishes to establish my reign in the world, following the reign of His love, it is equally so that the world clearly sees His great mercy towards men" (266).
Once when I was a girl, I spent an evening with my Lebanese Grandpa (Gido), and my dad and his siblings at Uncle Mike's house in Windsor, Ontario, watching Miss Universe. It was a blast! We all rooted for different countries - Miss U.S.A., Miss Canada, Miss Venezuela, Miss Lebanon, and I think a few more who were just too beautiful to leave out. I don't remember which lovely lady won the title (and I don't remember what year it was, so even our friend Google can't solve this memory lapse), but thanks to Marcel's Conversations, we have a more lasting answer to our need for a heroine we can all admire. In the midst of the foregoing passages that I've followed Marcel, Fr. Boucher, and our man Jack in transcribing, I left out a sentence that brings together all our countries in a winning solution. Our Lady says to Marcel:
"My child, give me the name Mother of the Universe."
There's no question she's the fairest, her platform is the most far-reaching (nothing less than bringing the entire world to Jesus), and she's in no danger of losing her modesty and humility, knowing as she does that her beauty is entirely from God, only the slightest glimmer of His perfection. What a satisfying ending to a blog post; what a heart-warming beginning to our gratitude!
Thank You, Jesus, for our countries: for their histories - especially when they remembered to invoke Your protection and appreciate Your blessings - and for their futures, upon which we call down Your mercy and providence. Thank You most of all for giving us Your sweet Mother to be our own, the Mother of each of us and the Mother of the Universe. May she hold the whole world in her loving embrace, keeping us close to You and those imps who never wander far from You, Marcel and Therese. Shower us with Your heavenly roses, as well as with fireworks, and may our gratitude increase along with Your gifts, and Your gifts along with our gratitude!
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