It's Marcel’s feast day, his birthday-into-heaven day, and we have so many things to talk about! But before anything else, before a single other word, I have to thank, from the very bottom of my heart, two little darling Miss Marcels of Michigan (it's a big state, so I don't think I've blown your anonymity, and note that adding in MI makes you 2 MMMs!). I have to thank them with a million hugs (if only virtual for now) because if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of roses is worth about a thousandth of a real rose, and guess what I found on my porch after a Feast Day run to Baskin Robbins?
Yes! ROSES! Nine roses - one for each day of this novena! - three red for love, three yellow for friendship, and three white for . . . the white gowns we'll be sporting when we meet in Heaven? Our hearts resting safely, white as snow, in Our Lady's most pure and Immaculate Heart? Haha, good possibilities, but I have the fuller answer at my fingertips - an answer (through Google) from a place I know we can trust because they're also letting me know "Roses are on SALE!" Yes, they're definitely our friends, and listen to what they (rose experts, no doubt) have to say about what the colors of roses signify:
Red roses: Love, beauty, courage, respect, congratulations, job well done, I love you, and passion!
Yes, I'll go for all of those - thank you my two dear MMMs! Thank you for your love, for your courage, for your respect, for your congratulations, for your job well done (getting roses from MI to CA on Marcel's very day?!?!?! WOW!), and I love you too! And oh heavens yes, we are passionate about Marcel and the Little Way here, so thank you for sharing the joy! But wait....we still have yellow and white to go!
Yellow roses: Joy, gladness, friendship, and delight.
If that doesn't describe our life in Marcel-Jesus and Jesus-Marcel, I don't know what does! Maybe white?
White roses: Purity, innocence, silence, reverence, humility, youthfulness, heaven.
Cowabunga, we've struck the mother-lode! Sounds like the Little Way to me! And if only you could see how beautiful these roses are. Sadly (but it's okay, we'll fix this soon), I had to leave them as soon as I found them (after putting them in a place of honor inside - and oh, when I get back home I'll make a fun Marcel-Jesus-Mary-Therese altar so I have the perfect spot for them!), but I left with good reason - I had to share this beauty with everyone here. You do realize, I hope, that this is an answer to our prayers?
And so, before I explode with happiness and delight, I must quickly say that although I have nothing but a gajillion words of love to give in return, I would like to offer the following post in special recognition of love, kindness, and ROSES (both earthly and heavenly) received, especially today, from: the 2 MMMs (thank you, dear extras!!!!!!! You know that I can't say "you made my day" because Marcel and Jesus had already done that, but you took Their day for me and skyrocketed it up into the sun, moon, and stars with love, beauty, gladness, delight, heavenly joy, and all the rest!!), and to Miss Marcel East, who sent me Marcel Day greetings before any one else (just because she is in the East and stays up way way way too late is no reason to dismiss her first greeting!), and the little lover of Marcel who emailed to share her joy in the day and her love for Marcel and me too . . .
But not to leave anyone out, let me now wish you all, dear and gentle readers, many happy returns of this day – May our little brother Marcel lead us by the hand through a remarkably happy life-in-exile until he pulls us up into Heaven beside him, where we will finally be free! Free of worries and cares, free of work and duties, free of sadness and suffering, free of guilt and tiredness. What shall we do There when we’re free? Let’s hop right onto Mary’s lap beside Marcel, Therese, and little Jesus, and give them all kisses! (I love my Murillo “Our Lady of the Rosary” because she has such a copious lap!)
And what about our brother Marcel? He is There now. Which brings us to an interesting question, namely:
What do you think he's doing There?
He chatted a lot with Jesus and Mary (and Therese) while he was here, making plans for what he’d do There. And I have a hunch I know which of his prospective activities he's occupied with today. Do you want to hear? It's my favorite of his ideas and among the funniest plans I’ve ever heard, for anything really. Best of all, I discovered this on the last page of his writings. It wasn’t the last thing Marcel wrote, but it happened to end up (I’m sure this was the Holy Spirit who got great delight from this plan and didn’t want us to miss it) at the end of Volume 4 of Marcel’s Complete Works. Even that our brother has an opera omnia is awesome (and fun) – did you know there are still Doctors of the Church whose works have remained almost entirely inaccessible to us? Remind me to tell you about St. Lawrence of Brindisi sometime – I think he’s the one – but meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .
Marcel and his Complete Works. I sometimes wonder how he’s not better known yet, but then I remember that (a) he's much more known in France and Vietnam than in our dear U.S. of A., and that’s a sign that God does have a special predilection for those two beloved countries, and also (b) though our brother may not yet be universally known, he’s known and loved by the right people (ourselves among them, thanks be to God) – people who have gotten his cause up and running, people who have translated his books, people who have given his books to us. Okay, that would be Fr. Boucher (m's novice master, spiritual director, bearded Jesus), Les Amis de Van, and Jack Keogan. Thanks so much, guys!
Because where would we be without Marcel? For those of us who’ve known and loved him for a minute or more, it’s hard (and painful!) to imagine our lives without him. I think I can speak for us all in the words of his young friend Hien, the first little brother whom Marcel instructed in the Little Way (very soon after St. Therese began instructing Marcel himself), and truly say for each of us, “Van, I think that if I had never met anyone in my life like you to understand me, I would have probably died of sadness” (Autobiography, 639).
Actually factually, I don’t think many people die of sadness, and my heart might be too hard to break in this way, but I can say that to think now about not having this grace of knowing Van is to think a thought that’s liable to send me spiraling into serious depression and despondency. Perish the thought! And what an unnecessary thought and depression because, my dearest friends (and how can you who are here loving Marcel with me not be among my dearest friends?), the truth is that we have been given Van as our little brother, spiritual guide, translator of St. Therese, goofy playmate, kindred spirit, and best friend! Hooray!
Hooray for Marcel! Hooray for Jesus! Hooray for our Heavenly Father’s infinite love in giving us so much joy and laughter!
Oh, but I’m forgetting. I wanted to tell you about Marcel’s hilarious plan of action; not quite his mission in Heaven, but his threat to Jesus. Again, it wasn't the last thing he wrote, but it does come as the last thing in what he wrote, that is, it’s placed last in the four volumes of his writings as we have them today.
Here's the context: At the end of Volume 4 (Other Writings) of his Complete Works is a series of letters Marcel wrote to the Child Jesus on the 25th of each month. This was a lovely Redemptorist tradition for the novices, both in their first novitiate (for Marcel this was August 1945 – August 1946, during which time he also wrote Conversations; he was 17 - 18 years old) and then in their second novitiate, the six month period before their perpetual vows (for Marcel this was March to September, 1952 when he was 24).
If you were to open Other Writings and flip to the end (like I did), just before the back matter (Chronological Notes, List of Van’s poems, Contents), you’d find as the last bit of Marcel’s own words a letter to Jesus dated 25 August 1952. Again, not the last thing Marcel ever wrote, but I love that it’s last in the order of what we’ve been given, because it’s vintage Marcel! Here's how it starts:
To my beloved friend, Jesus-Marcel
Dear Jesus, this is perhaps the last time I will take my pen and ink to express my intimate feelings to You. My burning desire is that, after this letter, I will no longer have to express to You on this earth my feelings in written form.
However, I am in no hurry to leave immediately for paradise; all I can do is express my wish to You and leave it to Your will. However, if You are not there for the rendez-vous, it will be very humiliating for You.
There are a number of things which I would wish to do on earth, but it is impossible for me to accomplish them. My sole hope is that, once in heaven, I will see all my wishes accomplished.
+ + +
You may be thinking that our boy’s plans are nothing out of the ordinary, at least as far as Saints’ plans go. Well, except for the wonderfully Marcellian part about the rendez-vous and Marcel's concern that Jesus not be humiliated by missing it! But leaving that aside, the wish to do many more things on earth, the acknowledgment that he can't accomplish these, the sole hope that once in heaven all his wishes (no doubt for conversions of individuals and nations, peace, more love of Jesus from everyone, etc.) will be accomplished - this is typical Saints' fare. Which is why we must jump down to the last paragraph of the letter, the last paragraph of Marcel's writings. I promise, you won’t find anything typical – or maybe I should simply say that I’ve never run across anything quite like this in other Saints’ writings. Although he begins even this last paragraph with nothing unusual (for a Saint), saying "I will be a happy saint, but I will surely die of sadness" - happy for Jesus, sad to not be with Him more perfectly - finally we get to the real plan. Here is what Marcel concludes:
“I will be a happy saint, but I will surely die of sadness . . . Nevertheless, Jesus, I am not annoyed with You; do not be sad because of me. Sooner or later I will be in heaven where I will sing as I wish. I will then be very skillful at composing verses, and I will entertain myself in publishing poems with really strange titles, to tease you, Jesus-Marcel. Moreover, having Therese as editor, this will be so much more exciting. I am giving you a kiss and I sign myself: Marcel-Jesus.”
What a nutter! I hope the build-up wasn't too much; I hope you aren't disappointed; but golly I love that our Marcel is having fun in Heaven! It's all just right! And it's especially right because, as I discovered today in preparing to write this post (don't worry - it was a one-off - I don't usually "prepare!" but today is special, or rather, special-er even than usual) . . . did you know that Marcel LOVES poetry? Well of course he does - how could he not, being such a lover? But the cool part is how he came to love poetry, which is what he told me about today and wants me to tell you - and in poetry, no less! Poetry that he wrote, which is included in his Other Writings, and from which I'll copy out (time allowing) two poems from 1951. The first is called "Mermaid Soul meets Jesus above the Rainbow Clouds."
Okay, just joshin! But isn't that the kind of strange title we'd expect from him? It wasn't my idea! Um, well, yes, that particular strange title was sort of my idea (with a curtsy, a wink, and a hug to A in CO!), but I mean the strange titles are what he was going to be composing in heaven! I just wanted to free him up on his big day . . . but really and truly, this first poem is called;
The Time when Poetry is Born
Dedicated with love to my holy religious sister Therese of the Child Jesus
It is thanks to you my sister that I got to know "poetry."
Naturally, at that age I knew nothing of it.
The beauty of the fields with a thousand colors,
The gentle breeze on the tufts of rice
Gave rise in me to no emotions.
The filao tree on the side of the mountain,
The spring which gurgles at my feet,
The sound of music left me unmoved;
I understood nothing then of poetry.
Then spring came with the flowers
Of pervasive perfume which prompted nostalgia.
However, my hand had no wish to gather them,
Being happy to gaze on them in silence.
And that persisted until the day
When on the hill I made the acquaintance
Of this flower completely imbued with the delights of love.
Strongly attracted by such beauty . . .
I gave myself to this flower;
Intoxicated by its perfume, in the singing wind,
I remain attached to it, to be never separated.
And since then, poetry has been born in my heart.
14-2-1951 J.M.T. Marcel
You see our brother is a true poet, for this was written to Therese on Valentine's Day!
And there is more - he, like Jesus his truest Love, is full of suprises - for Marcel writes as a kind of postscript to Fr. Boucher, "My Father, you see that this poem contains nothing but a description of nature: fields, spring, mountains, etc., but that all these things have a spiritual meaning. I think you will find here nothing difficult to understand."
I guess we should have known that things would get deep somewhere along the line! And after all, Therese learned poetry from her holy father St. John of the Cross (by reading his works), and she was the one who taught poetry to Marcel, so he's a kind of grandson of St. John of the Cross, the greatest mystical poet ever (besides, and in league with, the Holy Spirit). I just love Marcel's "I think you will find here nothing difficult to understand," after telling us that his natural images all have a spiritual meaning. Hmm. I'll get back to you if I later find these images suddenly transparent!
And now time is indeed running short, and so I'm going to renege on that second poem and once again put off my explanation of Celine's painting of Therese (which we posted at the start of this novena). How about I'll wait till later in the week to tell of the painting, and whether we'll recite more poetry in the next days we'll let God decide. For today, I want to leave you with a word from Marcel to Mary - again from Other Writings, a kind of Feast Day treasure box - a word (or several) which will show us how Marcel and Therese want us to pray.
This expression of joy and gratitude Marcel wrote to Our Lady on September 2, 1954, just two weeks before he left South Vietnam for North Vietnam in order that someone would love Jesus there among the Communists. At the same time, he was understandably concerned about the well being of his family; it was imperative for their safety and well-being that they leave the North (where they lived) to reach the South. Here is what he writes:
Oh! My Mother Mary!
This morning I am filled with joy . . . I have received a telegram from my cousin telling me that my parents had been able to be evacuated to Saigon on 9 August.
Dear Mother, how happy I am! My father and my mother have been able to escape from the communist net at the price of much suffering and difficulty. I was assured in advance that it would happen; I had placed everything in God's hands with confidence, with the certitude of being heard. Truly there was never any doubt in my confidence. If, until now, I had not ceased to worry, it is probable that I would have been deprived of the joy and peace that one tastes in Love.
O Mary, your child, Marcel, feels truly happy! And he owes this happiness to your maternal heart. Yes there is nothing I wish for in secret and in calmness that is not fully granted. It is the obvious sign that, in spite of my worthlessness, Jesus, my heart's friend, spoils me to this extent.
Dear Mother, thank you with all my heart, and with you I offer to Jesus an infinite thank you.
Dear Mother, enfold me always in the spirit of abandon.
Now, I am asking my sister Saint Therese to see that my parents find a means of earning a living, so that they may not have too much to suffer in their old age.
* * *
Do you hear what I hear? First, joyful gratitude. Then more joy, more gratitude. Then, listen for it . . . another request! Let's imitate our little brother! Let's thank God for so many blessings. Let's ask our heavenly Mother to procure for us a spirit of abandonment, as well as the calmness that Marcel speaks of. And then let's ask for everything we can think of! All that this poor world of ours needs! We are told by the Holy Spirit in Sacred Scripture (St. Paul would be the little secretary writing this down for us) that Jesus became poor that we might become rich. (I think St. Peter pointed this out too!) Our Jesus did become so poor - now let us ask Him, risen and ascended into Heaven and seated at our loving Father's right hand, to make us rich - not with money (except enough to take care of our needs without worry, and enough more to share with others), but with love, with peace, with joy, with the Holy Spirit's gifts! And we can pray too for so many others - the whole silly world!
Today let's add into our novena our parents and grandparents and theirs too; our brothers and sisters and their families; our children (and grandchildren, if they're in the picture); our godchildren and confirmation children; and any special souls who've become part of our families . . .
And now, in a spirit of simplicity, let's end our Marcel's Day post with that favorite and universal prayer from the Song of Songs and Therese . . .
Draw me, we shall run!
I hope your day was glorious and joyful - and may tomorrow be even better and brighter! You'll be one day closer to Heaven, and for the nonce, we've got Marcel and Jesus to keep us company even in exile. They'll never leave us, as Marcel explained to his first little Miss Marcel, his sister Anne-Marie Te. She'd said, "Marcel, my only desire would be to never be separated from you." To which he responded, "Little sister, that is one thing which never presents any difficulty if you remain always closely united to Jesus. Jesus, He is Marcel and Marcel, he is also Jesus. And it is the same for you with Jesus, since love makes us all one in the unique love of Jesus" (Notebook 3, Other Writings).
May Jesus keep you close in His Heart, and I'll meet you there!
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