We both have work to do today."
This is what I imagine Jesus saying to me as I begin this post.
It is Good Friday. Shouldn't there be silence?
Today there is silence in Heaven, but on earth we still have work to do. Today Jesus pours out His love on us, and we must receive it. For us who are very little, this is a kind of work. And for myself, having been given Marcel and Jesus' words to him, there is much that I must tell you about this tremendous Love, today more than ever.
If you are reading this on Good Friday, know that you are welcome here and we will speak only of Love, so it is a good place to be.
If you are reading this and Good Friday has passed, no matter. I am hoping my words will be of eternal value. This is not a delusion of grandeur, but rather an echo of Truth. I'm thinking that just as an echo carries the mirrored sound of its original but in a continuously lesser reverberation as the echo re-echoes, so the words I write today, by echoing the Infinite and Eternal Truth, will have a chance to last, if not forever, certainly a very long time.
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My usual method here is to pull gold nuggets and sparkling diamonds from the book of Marcel's Conversations and hold them out to you in the light. Today will be no different, but there is an added bonus. I haven't been forthcoming with gems from his Autobiography, primarily because I'm so enamored with the Conversations. Today, though, I'll start with a quote from Marcel's life story. Don't worry, I haven't changed my tune -- I'm only using this quote to highlight my love for Conversations! Still, on this day when Jesus holds nothing back, it's good to gather treasure from every hidden spot in which He's left it . . .
Marcel tells us in his Autobiography (578), "The book, The Story of a Soul, had become my dearest friend. It followed me everywhere and I did not cease reading or re-reading it without ever getting weary of it. There was nothing in this volume which did not conform to my thoughts, and what enthused me still more in the course of my reading was to see clearly that the spiritual life of Therese was identical to mine. Her thoughts, even her 'yes' and her 'no' were in harmony with my own thoughts and the little events of my life."
I think Marcel must be having trouble keeping the silence of Heaven today. First, he is (like me) a chatter box. But second, he is prone to laughter, and although Jesus told him decades ago that he would be a second Therese, I'm sure he never expected that someone (namely, me) would carry his Conversations everywhere, exactly as he'd carried Story of a Soul and for the exact same reasons. Yesterday, for example, after I asked my older son (who is visiting) to please hold my book (Conversations, naturally) while I drove (safety winning out over affection), my younger son explained to him, "She doesn't go anywhere without it. It's her constant companion."
I can't help it. Reading and re-reading Conversations, I never get weary of it. There is nothing in this book which does not conform to my thoughts, and best of all I love to see that Marcel's spiritual life is identical to mine. Forgetfulness, distraction, lack of understanding, complaints -- we could be twins!
You might wonder about the little detail of Marcel taking down Jesus' words verbatim. I'll admit that at first glance this looks like something that separates me from my soul-mate. No question: for Marcel, Jesus' words are more of an audible reality. But on closer examination, we find that in these very words of Our Lord to Marcel, He promises, "All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future -- know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls. You see by this that I communicate with all of them." (59)
Naturally, then, this week I am more prone than ever to keep Marcel and Jesus' Conversations very close. You see, every year I struggle to understand what Jesus desires of us during Holy Week. Certainly the Church gives us her most beautiful liturgies to help us. But the revelation of His love is so great, and we remain so small. It is a happy time because normally, as Marcel reminds Him (and us), "It must be very painful for You who are Love not to be able to show Your love" (22). And yet it is so very, very sad to think (even for a moment, which is about all I usually manage) of how much Jesus suffered for us in order to show us His love. What are we to do?
Thankfully, through Marcel, Jesus lets us know how to think about His love and His suffering. Even before Holy Week of 1946 (in which He spoke to Marcel every single day!), Jesus is His usual compassionate and considerate Self in reassuring us that we must not worry about anything, including His suffering. Here's a passage from Conversations that is almost more surprising than Jesus trying to get Marcel to prick his finger with a pin (to make him laugh when Marcel was sad - what a sweetheart Jesus is!). I've loved this passage a long time, but I've held out on copying it here, not sure the world was ready for it. Enough! Jesus pours out His love for us today, and He wants us to understand Him, so imitating Marcel, I will simply transcribe what Our Lord has said:
"Little Marcel, my life has been one of suffering; but I have never been sad at having to suffer. So, my life must be called a painful life but not an unhappy life. If I had been sad about my suffering, how could I now exhort you to be joyful when you encounter suffering? Marcel, you must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a thing said. Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me? . . . Never have I been sad; on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations. If, at that time, I had been sad because of my suffering, I would be even more so in the sacrament of the Eucharist . . . No, little Marcel, it is not like that. The more I sacrificed myself for souls, the more I wished to sacrifice myself, more and more. And, in fact, that is something that Love alone is capable of understanding. You, little Marcel, you are not able to understand it." (369)
Oh Love, help us to understand!
You seem to be telling us that You are not sad today. And yet how are we not to be sad? You have suffered so much for us and, even You admit, experienced so much pain on our behalf. Today is our day to stand at the foot of the cross and console, as best we can, our dear Blessed Mother. What are we to do?
Ah, Marcel! I will start by thanking you for all that writing you did! For in your Conversations, we find the answer to every one of our questions. To this most immediate and pressing question of how to live today, the answer (thanks to you, little brother) comes from Our Blessed Mother herself. On Passion Sunday, 1946, she explained:
"My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . . Little Jesus is your true friend; if you love Him, try to protect Him by your sighs of love. Thanks to the little sacrifices that you impose on yourself, little Jesus loves to stand close to you, since these little sacrifices are for Him like so many caresses . . . However, my child, continue to tell me quite simply your little problems; by that you please me, and I, I can only love you more." (383)
Thank you for loving us!
We'll try to accept cheerfully the little things that annoy and inconvenience us today, but you know we'll do it badly! And then we'll come and tell you quite simply how we failed, knowing you'll love us even more.
He will be amused at our simplicity, since He loves children so much.
"Here, Jesus," we'll say, tossing our flowers up to Him. "We love You, Jesus!"
Our flowers, though wilted and torn, will distract Him from the stones that sinners throw.
And if our guardian angels help the flowers reach Him up high on the cross, they (our angels) can block the stones too.
I think this is a good plan. I'm not going to take it personally that yesterday the guardian angel medal fell off my key ring, and last week my guardian angel bracelet broke off my wrist. Marcel has shown me the humor of Heaven, so I'm taking these as winks. My powerful angel has been busy carrying my wilted flowers to Jesus and thus wasn't attending to the key ring or my wrist. Thank you, guardian angel! Help me today, too, when the silence scares me. Help me to hear again the words of Jesus to us through Marcel . . .
St. John the Beloved Disciple, the one who today stands at the foot of the cross beside Mary (and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - as if Jesus didn't want us to forget this precious name of Mary!), tells us in his first letter that Perfect Love casts out fear.
When Perfect Love is hiding, I find copious laughter also does the trick. It's hard to be afraid when laughing, and nothing provokes laughter like Jesus and Marcel's conversations. If I sound like a broken record, you've got the wrong metaphor. I'm more a bear of little brain, and though laughter comes easily to this bear, I repeat that nothing provokes it more effectively than these conversations between Jesus and Marcel! As my younger son just said (in another context, but it fits here perfectly), "Jesus will love us for our laughter." So see if you don't agree that there's something quite delightful in Jesus' response to Marcel's Holy Thursday question: "Little Jesus, do you want to allow me to fast tomorrow? I really wish to do so, but as my will is already lost in yours, I must again ask your opinion."
[Disclaimer: For those of the proper age to fast, the following is not intended as a dispensation from the Church's Good Friday prescriptions, nor should Jesus' advice to Marcel be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. And if you think I mean this seriously, the answer is yes, but I am also laughing!]
Here is Jesus' reply:
"My will is that you do not fast, first of all because you have not reached the age for fasting and then because you are too weak. In fact on normal days when you eat as you wish, when the time for dinner approaches, I see that you sometimes shake all over. However, my spirit still remains with you; do not ask bearded Jesus permission to fast; but if he asks you to do so, you should. To obey him is the best thing." (475)
And now for the part that makes me smile, at the very least.
First, Jesus' advice about what we can offer Him.
Second, His apology for Marcel's suffering -- He is so gentle and tenderly solicitous!
And finally, the punch line.
"Little brother, are you tired? Rest yourself. I love you dearly. Offer to me your sadness, your disgust, your sickness and your hunger. I truly ask your forgiveness for having again today deprived you of your collation and allowed you to endure hunger. In spite of that you are not yet dead and you still have the strength to laugh with me. Be patient. Come on, smile a little so I can see . . . Good, rest yourself, you are tired. If not, trouble! Mary will scold you." (475)
Oh Jesus! You are laughing at us! Even as you apologize for making us fast today, you tease us that we're not yet dead from it! Well if You can smile about such a truly pathetic imitation of fasting as we are proposing to offer you today, I will gladly smile with You!
But You are not satisfied with a smile. Even on this most solemn of days, You seem to prefer laughter, at least from those of us to whom You've given the gift of spiritual childhood, those of us to whom You've given Marcel.
For when I turn to Good Friday in Conversations, when I seek to discover what You discussed with Marcel that may guide our thoughts on this day, I find Marcel being just as down to earth as ever, just as hilarious in his simplicity and candor with You. And when I'm face to face with this little brother You've given us as an example of how to speak with You, my fear vanishes, my sadness flees, and I know that I can tell You everything. The Church will give us perfect words today, words we can speak to You with solemnity, but You, knowing how hard it is for children to sit still for long, You give us Marcel and laughter. Thank You, Jesus!
And now, enough of my commentary. Here is Marcel's entry for Good Friday. Read as much or as little as you have time for, but if you've gotten this far, I give you, along with a big smile and a sustaining hug, Marcel's socks.
19 April 1946
Marcel: Little Jesus, I absolutely do not wish to wear socks; I think I have no reason to wear them, since I am only a little cold and I am not at all ill. However, You force me to wear socks all day.
Jesus: Why do you complain so? I did not tell you to wear socks because you were ill, but simply to wear them. Consequently, wear them, and wear them through obedience. Is that not a good thing? Wear them, therefore, until I tell you to take them off. If you wear them it will be beneficial for you and beneficial also for others . . . Little brother, are you unhappy today?
Marcel: A short while ago I was suffering a lot, but now the pain has diminished and is quite bearable. I offer this suffering to You, Jesus.
Now, little Jesus, I am going to confession. Help me to make it well. In order to spend a joyful Easter, I must have a pure heart . . .
Little Jesus, allow me to take off my socks. My feet are now warm; I am no longer afraid of being sick. So, to wear socks makes me stand out too much; none of my brothers wears them. Nevertheless, You still oblige me to wear them. It's very painful. I have a strong desire to take them off, but I fear that You may not be pleased.
Jesus: What have you to moan about? You have only one thing to do, to wear your socks until I tell you to take them off. You say that that makes you conspicuous? However, this morning, all your brethren fasted; you alone did not. Doesn't that make you conspicuous? Why not reproach me for that? Alas, little brother, how difficult you are to please. It is necessary for you to wear socks, I wish it to be so . . . Little brother, do you have a good appetite today? Come one, tell me.
Marcel: I have had no appetite at all for the past few days and now, I feel sick once again. However the suffering is slight and bearable . . . Little Jesus, it is warm now, allow me to take off my socks. It is very sunny; I no longer feel the cold.
Jesus: If you take them off now, that will be very harmful for you. Come, be patient for a little while and offer this sacrifice to me. When it is necessary to take them off, I will tell you. Stop thinking about them. Accept this little mortification with the intention of comforting me on this day of my crucifixion. On the other hand, today you must pray for priests; it is necessary for you to remember these priests who have strayed far from Love and who walk barefooted in the sludge of sin . . .
My dear little brother, today stay near the cross, kiss my feet and do not cease repeating: 'O Jesus, I love you for the priests who do not love you. Make your Love penetrate freely to the innermost hearts of priests. Make it so that fervent priests may be full of zeal for your Love.'
Little brother, always remember this: the voice in the world that rejected my Love came first from the priests; that is why it is now necessary that the voices of priests rise up to protect my Love in the world. If not, the world will be unhappy . . .
Marcel: Then what can I do so that priests become good as You wish?
Jesus: Little brother, I have just told you: stay at the foot of the cross, and there your voice will be powerful enough to call priests to my Love.
Marcel: Little Jesus, tell me why You love priests so much? Each time You speak of them, I see that You show them the greatest respect.
Jesus: It is because priests are my other selves. Their dignity is greater than that of being my Mother. The dignity of our Mother Mary does not equal that of priests. However, Mary is more powerful since she is my Mother and, as a consequence, priests, being my other selves, are also the children of Mary. In heaven, a priest's soul will be the object of the veneration of all the saints, including our Mother Mary.
Little brother, you are already very tired. Is that not so? I dare not speak to you any longer for fear of tiring you too much, then Mary would not be pleased. Enough. Go and rest. You will write another time. As you did not sleep well last night, take your siesta a little earlier. You will write this evening. I am giving you a kiss . . .
Marcel: Little Jesus, at midday I slept very well. On awakening at the end of the siesta, I sat on my bed for a moment, then, seeing that all was silent, I thought it was not yet time for rising and I slept another five minutes. When I got up I was quite afraid but bearded Jesus knew nothing of it.
Jesus: My little one! After that do not complain of doing anything differently than the others! There you are, you have acted differently than your brethren in sleeping five minutes too long. You should be ashamed, Marcel.
Marcel: I did not gain anything from it since I got up feeling very tired and I still do.
Jesus: Little brother, so you have forgotten that today you are at the foot of the cross? It is by accepting this tiredness that you will be able to comfort me.
Marcel: Oh! I had completely forgotten to wear the cuissard today. [The cuissard was a small wire chain worn around the thigh, which was uncomfortable rather than painful.] I only thought about it at noon. Little Jesus, is that serious? Whereas I should have worn this little chain longer, today I have not worn it at all. It seems that I am quite negligent towards You, little Jesus; graciously forgive me . . .
Jesus: It is for this reason that I have made you wear socks. It would be a good thing for you and at the same time a mortification conforming to my will; and yet you continue to ask to take them off. Marcel, your little sacrifices are very pleasing to me. You still will have to suffer a lot, but don't worry. Remember today is the anniversary of the day when I gave you to my Mother Mary so that you might be her true child; it is also the day when I gave Mary to you to be your true Mother. Finding myself in the presence of my Mother, I suffered with joy. At that moment, when all the creatures of the world seemed to have abandoned me, only my Mother remained to comfort me. Even God the Father seemed to wish no longer to look at me; but my Mother Mary did not cease to look at me until the time when I escaped from suffering. Oh! Little brother, Mary is your real Mother as well as mine. When she sees you suffer, she is closer to you to console you, for all time until you, too, will have escaped all suffering. Mary, you are the true Mother of Marcel, the real Mother of all souls; never be far from your children . . .
Marcel, Mary is your true Mother, and you are really her child. Always think of her; she understands you better than you understand yourself. She knows your sufferings, she is always close to you, carrying you unceasingly in her arms and covering you with kisses . . .
Little brother, no matter how great your sufferings, always remind yourself that I, also, have suffered, but that Mary has comforted me. It will be the same for you. Mary will never abandon you in your suffering. Besides, when you suffer, it is she who suffers even more, since she is your Mother.
Little brother, time is up. Go and eat your fill without concerning yourself about the fast . . . First of all, a little smile . . .
Marcel: I am really sorry for not being able to write down all Your words.
Jesus: No matter, that's already enough for you. Do not worry; you will have to write much more. That's enough. Go, otherwise . . .
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Apparently Marcel was unable to write down everything Jesus said. May you hear His loving voice telling you all the rest of His words today . . . and if you hear nothing, don't worry. We have His words to Marcel for us, and He says "That's enough."
Here in southern California, the weather is not being Good Friday-ish, though it is smiling and laughing like Marcel and Jesus do. I'm watering my four rose bushes, and it's with great joy that I announce 30 buds ready to bloom! You, dear reader, are among the lucky ones. My roses are always from St. Therese, and I'm asking her that one of these roses be especially for you, as a sign of the heavenly graces she and Marcel are procuring for you at this very moment.
Remember how special you are - you're in on the ground floor of Marcel Mania! I'll be praying for you during this Sacred Triduum that our little brother Marcel and our sister Therese, Mother Mary and our dear Jesus smile upon you now and forever. Whether or not you wear socks for Jesus today, His love for you is limitless, and I pray you may know this is true.
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