As I write, it is the Vigil of the Coronation of Our Lady. Here she is, pictured above pouring roses into dear Juan Diego's tilma (his Indian cape or cloak). She surely looks more like a mom than a queen, doesn't she? That was St. Therese's insight, and one that Marcel shared. I must admit I share their enthusiasm too!
The truth is that I've been wanting to share a great quote from St. Therese - the very words in which she explains how she feels about Mary. When I went to find it, she (Therese) gave me the run around, and I had fun tracing her admirers' trails. The first book I looked in had the quote I wanted, but sent me to another book for the reference (that is, the source in Therese). The second book sent me to a book I don't have - Novissima Verba - but don't worry, I have something better. Novissima Verba was Mother Agnes' selection of some of Therese's last conversations. It was published in English in the 1920's not long after Therese was canonized. Mother Agnes (Therese's sometimes Mother Superior and always big sister) was definitely more mother than queen, and she wanted to nourish those who loved Therese, but she also wanted to guard the confidences that might embarrass others who were still living.
It was only in the 1970's, then, that ALL of Therese's last words - months and months of every last word! - were published in their complete form, first in French, and not too long after, in English (thank you, my dear Carmelite brother, Father John Clarke, for your translations of Therese!) under the title St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations.
Well what do you think? The second book, the one that referred me to the source, told me that I should look at the dates August 20 and August 23 (1897) to find the words I was looking for in our sister's Last Conversations. I was excited to realize that meant that the very words I was looking for were uttered by Therese right around today! Except there was a mistake, and I didn't find the words on August 20 or 23. Which leads me to bad news and good news.
The bad news first - to get it over with - is that Therese didn't say these words near today.
The good news? She said the words I was looking for, the words that have been rattling around my mind so I could share them with you for this Feast of Our Lady's Coronation - today! Today as I write it is the anniversary of these last words being uttered by our sister (and Marcel's sister) little Therese! And so, I think it's safe to say that she and Marcel really, really, really want us to hear them! Which is why this is going to be a short but sweet post: so that I can give you dear Therese's (and Marcel's) thoughts on Our Lady, on the very day that Therese expressed them and her sister Mother Agnes wrote them down . . .
From Therese's Last Conversations, August 21, 1897:
How I would have loved to be a priest in order to preach about the Blessed Virgin! One sermon would be sufficient to say everything I think about this subject.
I'd first make people understand how little is known by us about her life.
We shouldn't say unlikely things or things we don't know anything about! For example, that when she was very little, at the age of three, the Blessed Virgin went up to the Temple to offer herself to God, burning with sentiments of love and extraordinary fervor. While perhaps she went there very simply out of obedience to her parents.
Again, why say, with reference to the aged Simeon's prophetic words, that the Blessed Virgin had the Passion of Jesus constantly before her mind from that moment onward? "And a sword will pierce through your soul also," the old man said. It wasn't for the present, you see, little Mother; it was a general prediction for the future.
For a sermon on the Blessed Virgin to please me and do me any good. I must see her real life, not her imagined life. I'm sure that her real life was very simple. They show her to us as unapproachable, but they should present her as imitable, bringing out her virtues, saying that she lived by faith just like ourselves, giving proofs of this from the Gospel, where we read: "And they did not understand the words which He spoke to them." And that other no less mysterious statement: "His father and mother marveled at what was said about Him." This admiration presupposes a certain surprise, don't you think so, little Mother?
We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of heaven and earth, but she is more Mother than Queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all the saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children's glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she'll increase the splendor of the elect very much.
It's good to speak about her prerogatives, but we should not stop at this, and if, in a sermon, we are obliged from beginning to end to exclaim and say: Ah! Ah!, we would grow tired! Who knows whether some soul would not reach the point of feeling a certain estrangement from a creature so superior and would not say: If things are such, it's better to go and shine as well as one is able in some little corner!
What the Blessed Virgin has more than we have is the privilege of not being able to sin, she was exempt from the stain of original sin; but on the other hand, she wasn't as fortunate as we are, since she didn't have a Blessed Virgin to love. And this is one more sweetness for us and one less sweetness for her!
Finally, in my poem: Porquoi je t'aime, O Marie (Why I love you, O Mary), I have said everything I would preach about her.
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And now, if this were going to be a long post, I'd copy out Therese's poem, but I promised to be short and sweet . . .
And if this were going to be a longer post (even longer than the long one that included the poem), I would copy out a passage or three (or a dozen) in which Our dear Lady, Our Blessed Virgin who is more Mother than Queen, tells Marcel a thing or two that exactly reflects the truths Therese suspected about her - that her faith and her simplicity, her nearness and dearness, her maternal love and her approachability far surpass her prerogatives (great as these latter are). But then we'd be even less short, if far more sweet!
Instead I'm going to promise (in hope and trust in God's mercy and future fun) to post again soon with some of these delights. But for now, I'm going to leave you with a link.
I heard recently the most wonderful news. That thanks to our previous post (just below this one, and on the Vigil of Our Lady's Assumption), our own beloved Jack Keogan, translator of Marcel into English, learned for the first time about our own beloved St. Juan Diego. I forget that we in America - especially those of us living nearer to Mexico - are spoiled with a familiarity and proximity to Our Lady of Guadalupe that is not so enjoyed by those farther afield.
And so, my link is to an article I wrote a few years ago called With St. Juan Diego to the Merciful Mother. There it is! By some crazy internet magic, you can click on that title and VOILA! You'll be there at the article, falling in love even more with Our Lady, who is so much more Mother than Queen! I am sure she will be happy to reassure us there (as here) with her wonderful words of compassion and love, and I'm sure too that she'll be happy to pray with us (just before we click on that link and leave this page):
Draw me; we will run!
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