set·up /ˈsedˌəp/ noun INFORMAL/noun: set-up
It was a set up.
You know (if you didn't know before you started reading today's post, you know now, thanks to the handy dandy dictionary definitions above): a scheme or trick intended to incriminate or deceive someone. Though upon reflection, considering the sort of characters we're up against here at Miss Marcel's Musings (not least of all Marcel himself), we might as well admit it's also a set up in the sense of the way in which something, especially an organization, is planned or arranged.
Less than a week ago, Padre Pio was our special guest here at MMM, and with good reason. As I said in that post ("Guess What Today Is?" just two posts down from this one), "It's no small thing to have one's cause for canonization opened, and Marcel needed to use me as his little pencil to celebrate Padre Pio's anniversary today."
A few days later I was minding my own business goofing around on my kindle, looking at an adorable digital French children's book about Marcel, when what did I see but that Marcel's process of beatification was opened in the Diocese of Belley-Ars on March 26, 1997. That would be -- today! Happy anniversary, Marcel!! I see it all now! Padre Pio got us to feature him big time so that when your own day came, he could turn the tables and put you in the spotlight! (Yes, we have tables and spotlights and all sorts of props and gear - no expenses spared at this blog!)
Ah, Marcel. It is no small thing to have one's cause opened, and I think you had yours opened twice! First in Quebec, thanks to the loving work of your bearded Jesus, who had 32 years to remember you and work for you after little Jesus finally gave you that first REAL kiss in July of 1959. And then, thanks to the loving work of Les Amis de Van, your cause was transferred and reopened in Ars, the home of the great Cure whose heart has been traveling in the U.S. the past few months to help us pray for priests.
And how beautiful that your little feast, Marcel, is the day after the solemnity of the Annunciation (or Incarnation, as I like to call it so I'll remember the Mystery hidden within) just as Padre Pio's was the day after the solemnity of St. Joseph. You two darling boys probably thought you'd get to hide in the shadows of these great feasts, but we've ferreted you out, or rather you've ferreted each other out, little weasels! But one good fete deserves another, and Our Lady and her wonderful St. Joseph are no more interested in grasping God's glory than you two are. Nope, it's souls magnifying the Lord at every turn, and what a joy that you've let us share your wealth this year.
I'm thinking that it would be fun to do something sort of lasting for these two shadow feasts, now that they've come to our attention. More than sugar (can you believe I just said that? I must be getting quite spiritual this Lent to think there's something more than sugar with which to celebrate!) - and here is my idea. It started out kind of crazy, kind of Marcel, kind of Pio, and kind of JPII. But then, because of my littleness, my very Marcel-ness, it morphed into something very small.
Recently I've been wanting to pray more for priests, and I've also been thinking about the Rosary since this is Pio's, JPII's, and I daresay Marcel's favorite prayer. With Marcel, however, it's a little different because he had such a variety of Heaven sent prayers at his disposal. So at first I was thinking we could come up with some kind of Rosary crusade to pray for priests. This is beautiful and I don't want to discourage anyone from participating in such a crusade, but I must admit that I'm feeling just a smidge smaller than St. Joan of Arc or St. Louis of France or any other brave warrior Saint. And then, just to reassure me that spiritual liberty is a very important principle for little tiny souls like ours, and that rosaries are not Our Lady's only favorite prayer, here is what Our dear and Blessed Mother dropped into my lap last night and this morning.
Nothing less than my favorite from Marcel's repertoire of prayers, and the one she taught him at (596), saying:
My child, did you just mention sacrifice? So, offer your cough as a sacrifice to Jesus. Listen, I am going to tell you a new method of sacrificing yourself. Each time that you are troubled, even if only for the span of a breath, say this: 'Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice.' Then, remain in peace. Thanks to this sacrifice, you will be consumed in the fire of Love, which will act freely in you. Thanks to this sacrifice, how many sinful souls will be able to avoid an occasion of sin that would expose them to falling into despair? . . . Always remember this method, all right? Little Jesus loves this kind of sacrifice a lot . . . Little Jesus will make use of it to draw you to His Heart, and then He will make use of it to draw many other souls.
* * *
I love this so much! Jesus and Therese and Mary have so often told Marcel not to worry, that they don't want him to worry, that their sole concern is to get him to stop worrying. But here is Our Lady, the ultimate Mother, dealing with her anxiety ridden child by trying another method. A mother doesn't give up, and the Mother of Mercy, the Mother of Good Counsel, the Mother who is also Seat of Wisdom has a new approach that is about the most brilliant thing ever proposed! Why not offer up the worry as a sacrifice? If this anxiety seems to be here to stay, Jesus must have a reason for allowing it. Aha! So that we can offer it to Him, and by so doing, we can save souls, snuggle next to His Heart, and even be consumed by the fire of His love! Yowza! Better even than not worrying in the first place!
So while I was going to try and be big and organize something (a set up!) like a Rosary crusade for priests, I've decided to be weasely instead, like our little brother Marcel and our funny father Pio (these two just taught me the second kind of set up!), and organize an army of little souls all worrying day and night but remembering occasionally to offer up their worries as a sacrifice, and even a sacrifice for priests! If anyone complains in Heaven or on earth, I will appeal to (596) of Marcel's Conversations. It was Mary's idea! I don't think God ever objects to Mary's ideas, and He's the only One (-in-Three) whose opinion really matters!
Do you have a worry? Perhaps it is about the prayers you haven't been saying, or have been saying "badly" (in your opinion, though I venture to guess that Jesus loves your "bad" prayers!) . . . maybe it's about the Lenten resolutions you're falling down on (or which are falling down on you!) . . . or maybe you are worried about someone (or everyone) you love.
May I make a suggestion?
First, thank Jesus for these worries.
Thank You, little Jesus, for all my worries!
Second, repeat after me:
"Little Jesus, I offer You these worries as a sacrifice!"
Third, remain in peace!
That third part is evasive and elusive for me, but then it's kind of fun because I can start offering my worries to Jesus one by one - so many sacrifices! You'd think I was the greatest saint ever, the way I've got more sacrifices to offer Jesus than sands on the seashore or stars in the sky!
I think I'll post this now so you can enjoy the last moments of Marcel's special day, or if you're seeing this on another day (than March 26), I give you permission to celebrate the opening of Marcel's cause on your day (the day you're on now).
Who gave me the permission to give you permission? Hey, I know enough philosophy to know that an infinite regress is bad news! Always leads to trouble, so the buck stops here. I'm giving you permission because I'm Miss Marcel, and if you're worried I don't really have the authority to cause a serious rupture in your Lenten observance (haha, I'll go along with you on that one for the sake of argument, but you gotta admit it's funny! I mean the part about your Lenten observance being all that and more when it's been feast after feast according to the Church calendar) - well if you're worried, all the better! You get to offer up this worry too as a sacrifice!
One thing I noticed in Mary's advice and explanation was a beautiful and unexpected gift: just because we are little and can only do little things, doesn't mean we can't cause big results. Our Lady has just told us through Marcel that by this little prayer (which is so charming!), we can save many souls! Hooray for littleness which, like Jesus hidden in Mary's womb, changes history forever!
Or, dare I say,hooray for littleness which, like a little Vietnamese boy known, even after his death, by relatively few, has yet changed the whole history of our souls, those of us infinitely blessed enough to know him and read his Conversations with our adorable Jesus, beautiful Mary, and very little (too) Therese.
Thank You, Jesus, for Marcel!
Draw each of us, and we will run - with everyone in our hearts, with all those we've been asked to pray for, with all those we've promised to pray for, with all those who need our prayers.
And little Jesus, all these worries we can't seem to shake - we offer them to You as so many sacrifices. We give them to You freely so that You can save the whole world!
* * *
Incidentally, a Miss Marcel of my acquaintance recently mentioned that she isn't yet convinced that she'll escape purgatory, though she knows Therese counsels that sort of escape and promises it through the great and very effective Fire of Jesus' Love.
Well, dear Miss Marcels (and Mister Marcels) who may be reading this post - I have good news and bad news for you.
The bad news first - you'll never be able to spend time in purgatory whether you want to or not. It's too late - you're one of Therese's little victims of Love, and Love has too many cleansing properties to leave you in purgatory for any more than the time it takes you to shoot through it (if it's geographically between earth and Heaven as I imagine it to be) into Jesus' arms. He's waited too long already for you, and whenever He kisses YOU for the first time (really), it's all over! Heaven is your destiny.
The good news? The same as the bad news, of course. It was just bad news if you were really counting on purgatory. Once you get over it (this desire for suffering, ha ha!), you'll be happy with your future: It's Jesus alone for all little souls! Don't worry - this one doesn't depend on you, but on Him, and He won't wait a split second longer than He has to for union with His beloved children. And you, by some wonderful blessing, are His beloved child . . . Just like Marcel!!
I've been so good about giving you fair warning when Marcel's Book Club is coming up . . . but I've been so bad about posting anything until the last minute of the two previous months. And so . . .
Surprise! Here we are in Chapter 3!
You have several choices at this point. Think of it as a choose your own adventure post - and here are your choices:
I. If you have already read Chapter 3 of Story of a Soul (recently!), feel free to simply proceed ahead with reading this post!
2. If you haven't yet read Chapter 3 for our March MBC, you can either:
a. with heroic restraint set the computer aside and wait to read this post until you read Chapter 3 first;
b. read on now as an inspiration to do your own reading of Chapter 3 later (but still in March if you want to continue with our Paradise Project of reading a chapter of Story of a Soul per month).
Seeing as I haven't got much past the beginning pages of each chapter so far -- what a treasure trove!! -- I'm confident your reading of the following reflections, either before or after you've read Chapter 3 yourself, will merely add to (or prepare you for) any thinking you do and inspirations the Holy Spirit drops like dew into your soul during your own tete a tete with Therese. Or rather, your own tete a tete a tete, since where Therese is, Marcel is sure to be found as well!
Chapter 3, then . . .
I want to start by asking, "Can I be honest?" but there's always a strange implication that accompanies such a question, as if I haven't been honest so far. I guess what I really mean is, "Can I be honest and say this is definitely NOT my favorite chapter?"
There. By being more precise, I've taken care of the answer as well as the question and now the truth is out. This is definitely not my favorite chapter.
I do love the part about the doll who sticks her arms up Therese's nose!
(oops! If you haven't read it yet, I should have said Spoiler alert! But she tells it much better than I do!)
And I love, too, how Therese and her cousin Marie play the blind leading the blind until they knock over a tradesman's wares and suddenly can see well enough to skedaddle!
But despite these entertaining moments (and more!), the title to the chapter - "The Distressing Years" - got me ready for trouble, and looking for trouble, it was trouble I found. Whichever way I look at it, I'm just not a big fan of suffering. And yet, I have to admit that good came out of every one of Therese's sufferings. . .
Her loneliness at boarding school highlights the intimacy she shared with Celine and Celine's goodness to her, as well as her love for her family and their nourishing home life.
Then there was the deep sadness, trauma really, at losing her second mama, Pauline. About this, Pauline later said that if she had known how it hurt Therese, she would have handled her departure and Therese's knowledge of it very differently. And yet Therese sees in the very way it did happen the seed of her own vocation to Carmel, or perhaps the watering of that seed. When Pauline explained her call to Carmel and what that life entailed, Therese understood and desired the same - not for Pauline's sake, but because God used Pauline to show Therese the garden in which He would plant her as well. How beautiful, too, that from this very early date Pauline took Therese's vocation seriously and, rather than brushing her off or considering her "cute," arranged for her to have a heart to heart with the Mother Superior.
Therese's mysterious illness (and it was interesting to read about it again from her perspective; she knew much about what it was and was not) though in itself heart-rending, leads to the grace of the Virgin's smile, and Therese's realization of Our Lady's love for her. I find it wonderful, too, that this miraculous grace came through a particular statue held dear by the family. Later this statue came with Celine to the Carmel and eventually watched over Therese during her last illness.
You see how hard I'm trying to not mind the suffering! But since Therese's autobiography left me a little sad this month (I can't help it - I'd rather read about the joyful years than the distressing ones!), I've opened our brother Marcel's Autobiography in the hopes of a little more cheer. He hasn't said much to me about Therese's Chapter 3, though it is his book club, and I conclude it's because he has something of hers to give us that didn't appear in her own memoir, but his!
This week has been rich in Saints for me - starting with St. Joseph's Feast, then in my reading about St. Andre Bessette as his faithful apostle, and finally with Padre Pio taking center stage. Fitting, then, are these words that Marcel records Therese having said to him when he was waiting, seemingly forever, to gain entrance to the Redemptorists. She's recommending that he invoke (pester, really, on a daily basis) St. Gerard, who was a lay-brother in the Redemptorists as Van hopes to be too, and she says at (786):
"Do not be afraid. If you ask you will certainly obtain. Normally saints are very easily moved; consequently, they never refuse the graces which are asked of them, above all, when it is a question of a saint who will soon be your big brother, your patron and whose little brother you will be. . . Don't believe that among the saints in heaven there is only your Therese who knows how to ask for favours. How many saints, powerful over God's heart, regret that my little Van has not had recourse to their intercession?"
When, soon after this advice, St. Gerard's feast arrived without the hoped for miracle (of the Father Rector admitting Van into the Order), Marcel says, "I was lacking any enthusiasm." That's our boy! I have to admit, terrible as it sounds, that I'm more inspired by an ounce of resistance in a future saint than by a pound of devotion! Marcel writes, "I had hoped that that very day would see Saint Gerard's miracle, but . . . absolutely nothing happened! What a disappointment!"
It's at times like this that we all need a Saint who doesn't give up on us, even when counseling us to invoke other saints! Therese is that good counselor and after St. Gerard's apparent failure, she explained cheerfully to our little brother:
"What, are you annoyed with me? This morning I had intended to let you have the good news, but, being busy wishing my brother Saint Gerard a happy feast day it was impossible for me to do so. It seems that you want to lose heart already. Come now, why are you so easily discouraged? There's still the octave of the feast. Anyway, your brother Gerard being very busy this morning he could not effect immediately the miracle for you. But now he can. Therefore, during Benediction don't forget to remind him of the favour you have already asked for, all right? Tell him what you desire and if you don't forget, that will be sufficient."
I think Therese and Marcel (and St. Gerard too) must want us to remain enthusiastic about calling upon them, and St. Joseph as well. Was there anything you asked of St. Joseph on his feast (or forgot to ask him) that hasn't yet been granted? Let me say, in the words of our sister, "There's still the octave of the feast!"
Marcel did, by the way, follow Therese's advice (he didn't forget this time!) and he did get what he asked for - quickly!
As to our requests - let's multiply them and tell Therese that she promised the saints are not indifferent to us, so if they are busy or otherwise distracted (I hear the Beatific Vision is rather absorbingly wonderful), it's up to her and Marcel to remind them that We Need Them. Now!
There. That wasn't so distressing after all. We just needed to perk up Chapter 3 with a little salty Therese from her later years goading Marcel into various escapades with the Saints. I love that he adopts them only reluctantly - who can blame him with Therese such a terrific sister to him already? But it behooves us, too, to follow her advice, so let's invoke the whole crowd!
Dear Therese, Marcel, St. Gerard, Pauline and Marie, Celine and Leonie, St. Louis (Therese's dear king and papa), St. Joseph (little Jesus' dear papa!) and St. Andre, St. Padre Pio and all you holy angels and Saints: pray for us, that we may have every grace and joyful surprise we need to smile and even laugh so that we can delight the Heart of Jesus!
And dear Jesus, we will never tire of placing our simple request before You:
Draw us, we will run!!!
I hope you enjoy Chapter 3 - don't let my grumbling deter you if you haven't read it yet! But most of all, I hope you find yourself nearer each day to many saints, old and new, so that you KNOW with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit how very dear you are to our brothers and sisters in Heaven!
If you guessed that today is the 2nd day in the Octave of good St. Joseph, you are right!!! If, instead or in addition, you guessed that today is the day that if you hear the voice of the Lord, you should harden not your heart, you're right again, mustard seed!! And if you guessed, or are thinking you ought to guess, that today is something to do with St. Padre Pio (else why would he be grinning so broadly in the handsome photo above?), well you're really on to the truth!
First off, Padre Pio is not just grinning - he's breaking into laughter and it's because he can't believe how mathematically challenged I am. I just looked up "octave" in the dictionary to figure out if this was the 2nd day of St. Joseph's. (It is. Phew!) But earlier today was when I really got Il Padre started (that means "The Father" and is what his dear friends used to call him, and I suppose still do, so I've decided to adopt the expression to show him just where I fit in, even if he loves laughing at me).
It actually started yesterday, I think. . .
I picked up a book I've had around here for a few years, a book written about Brother Andre Bessette just after he left exile in 1937 - now he's St. Andre Bessette! - that great Canadian apostle of St. Joseph responsible for St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. Since one good book deserves another, I looked on my kindle to see what else was available on St. Andre, and came up with something I hadn't seen before: a book featuring "3 of God's doorkeepers" as it advertised itself: Blessed Solanus Casey, St. Andre, and St. Padre Pio. I was so concerned that Padre Pio wasn't a doorkeeper at all, that it didn't occur to me until today that I love Padre Pio, and I might be interested in this book since I do love all three of those the author is (rightly or wrongly) calling doorkeepers. (I'm sure the author is aware of what doors Padre Pio did and didn't open and is calling him a doorkeeper in a metaphorical sense.)
Today, though, I found myself reading something else on Padre Pio - from an old book on those who had the stigmata, in the back of which were interviews with two priests who knew Padre Pio very well in the last years of his life. One of them was Fr. Alessio Parente. That name was familiar. . . I looked in my library and found not only one of my favorite books - which turned out to be by Fr. Parente - "Send me your Guardian Angel" - but also another book which had, to my utter surprise, an inscription from Fr. Parente handwritten inside! I popped back onto my kindle and searched the names of the two priests (Fr. Parente and Fr. Joseph Martin), but alas, no books by them were available digitally.
Nonetheless, as I said, one good book leads to another, so I searched "Padre Pio" and next thing I knew, I'd hit gold. I came upon a Padre Pio book I hadn't seen before - and no wonder as it was only published (digitally, in English) a month ago. It's called "Padre Pio and I" and is the spiritual memoir of one of the Saint's spiritual sons.
Since Padre Pio has invited everyone to become his spiritual children, I wasn't entirely convinced of the originality of this book or its importance - until I read in the free sample that this particular spiritual son was called by name by Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo the first time the man (then a 16 year old boy) visited there. Before he had any acquaintance with Il Padre. Before, that is, Padre Pio (had he been anyone else!) could have been in a position to call out across a crowd: "Adolfo, come here!" (In Italian, actually, but this was nicely translated.) Being Padre Pio, naturally (or rather supernaturally), not having met or seen or heard of this boy previously was no impediment to our hero (and the Holy Spirit so active within him).
Further, it turns out that Adolfo and his bride (she came into the picture a few years later but happily was mentioned, too, in the opening pages) were the last couple to be married by Padre Pio at his friary. Wow! This was no ordinary set of reminiscences! This was the real thing!
The beauty of my discovering the book turned out to be twofold.
First, and this was what set Padre Pio off in gales of laughter, the beginning of the book gives an excellent chronology of Pio - I love these timelines because I'm always looking for "special days." Why settle for anything less than a special anniversary every day? So I was keeping my eye out for anything March-ish as I read through the chronology, and then I hit upon it - tomorrow, it said, was the anniversary of the opening of "The official inquiry into the cause of Padre Pio's canonization" (1983). I was thrilled, though of course it would have been even more fun (and special) if it had been today, the very day Padre Pio dropped this new and wonderful book into my lap. . . which, actually, it was. Today, I mean. Not just that today was today (how could it be otherwise!?) but rather that the date in the chronology actually matched today's date! Because the date in the timeline was "March 20, 1983," and I wonder if you heard Heaven (in the persons of Marcel and Padre Pio) roaring with laughter as I realized that, yes, amazing and nearly miraculous as it seems, March 20th is the day after March 19th - and since yesterday was St. Joseph's Day, March 19th, then today must be March 20th!
But that was just the first reason my discovering the book was so timely and lovely. The second is even better!!
The second reason was this: just before I started looking at the book, I'd had one of Oprah's "Aha!" moments (not that she has the trademark on them, but I think she made them famous. We can simply call it a spiritual awakening). I'd suddenly realized why it is that I love the Saints that I love!
In reading about St. Andre, I'd come upon the author's reflections on the beautiful relationship St. Andre had with St. Joseph, and the interesting remark that too many biographers of saints forget the importance of personality. Yes, that made sense to me. God has given each of us particular and distinctive personalities, and we are alike or differ, too, according to our temperaments. Just as in our natural friendships we're often attracted to those like us (not to mention those who like us!) - as well as, interestingly, being attracted at times to those quite different from us (perhaps we admire qualities in them that we lack or that complement ours), so too in our supernatural relationships there are attractions, whether due to similarities or differences, that have to do with personalities and temperaments.
What struck me like a migration of butterflies (I was going to say "like a ton of bricks," but not at all, really, and we've been seeing lots of gorgeous butterflies around here lately, which is much more like it) was The Quality that stands out in my favorite Saints and attracts me to them like a moth to a flame. It's The Quality that shines out (to me at least) in all of them! Are you ready?
I like my Saints to be affectionate, and their affection - whether to their contemporaries, to little Jesus and the Blessed Mother, to St. Joseph and their own favorite Saints, to their guardian angels, to their fans and clients, or, very best of all, to me! - is what wins my heart and gives them pride of place there-in.
To take an example, think of St. Anthony of Padua. He's definitely one of my very faves, and yet here's the funny part. You know how I love books? I never seem to find a book on him that satisfies me. There was the book on him that I read when a child, that made me want him for my confirmation saint (and thankfully my best friend's mom explained that since my middle name was Antoinette, the girl form of Anthony, he already was my patron and I could choose another) - I loved that book, as well as the book about St. Anthony that I read, and my husband Tony (Anthony) read at my request when we were expecting Son #1. It sealed the deal on our putting "Anthony" in this son's name as well as in the name of our #2 Son later - and we would've put Anthony into any other sons' or daughters' names also (boy or girl derivative, respectively), had God blessed us with more children. But why? Because what an affectionate Saint!
While I can't seem to find a book that moves me with his own words (though he is a Doctor of the Church), who can resist a Saint whom little Jesus found so irresistible? The charming scene of the child Jesus embracing St. Anthony - the affectionate greetings of each to the other - they didn't even need words: they had hugs and kisses!
St. Anthony continues to be affectionate to all the frends of little Jesus. If you lived in our neighborhood, you'd often hear our home ring out with the refrain "Anto!" and the response "Padua!" as we are searching for this, that, or the other thing, and again when we (always) find the lost object. It's as if St. Anthony wants me to know that there are others (like our dear friend St. Thomas Aquinas, who did become my confirmation saint and brought me to the college named for him that changed my life) whose words will help us when we need them. But who is there to help when we lose everything?
Interestingly, he didn't respond promptly when #2 Son recently lost his glasses. Yesterday, though, we found out why he was delaying. We'd promised a Rosary in his honor when we found the glasses. St. Joseph's Day came and my son and I said a Rosary which I quietly designated in St. Joseph's honor. I wasn't thinking about the glasses, but apparently St. Anthony wanted to confirm St. Andre's experience that St. Joseph is really your go-to man for all occasions. Suddenly, the glasses turned up! Affection - from both St. Anthony and St. Joseph. And if St. Anthony had the privilege of sometimes embracing and being embraced by little Jesus, how much more often (30 years or so worth) St. Joseph had that joy and honor!
Or what about St. Therese? Besides the super fun passages in her letters where she says things like, "Give so-and-so a huge kiss for me - one that really makes a lot of noise!", there is her promise to spend her Heaven doing good on earth by showering roses upon us. I was truly delighted, recently, to discover in many who promoted Therese's cause (from Fr. Thomas Taylor, the Scottish priest who first suggested a cause, to Pope Pius XI who both beatified and canonized little Therese) the argument that Therese ought to be canonized because she was such a great intercessor and had so much interest in helping us here below - so much affection, we might say. How awesome and how delicate! Not that she was so high above us, so perfect, that we needed to spend our lives admiring her virtues, but simply that she wanted to help us and was successful in this, so the Church should make it official that even more might call upon her and receive her aid. I may have mentioned it before, but the Vatican (I think it was Pope Benedict XV) made an exception in Therese's case and allowed medals of her to be struck before she was even venerable because so many soldiers in World War I were begging for this, and so many had already received her help on the battlefields.
So, too, with Marcel - he's such a love because he's so very loving. And talk about affection! Not only is he affectionate, but he draws affection out of Jesus (and Mary and Therese) like there's no tomorrow! Here is what I read in Conversations this morning that I'd not noticed before (because, let's face it, while there are many good books, there is only one best book!). See if it isn't the most adorable thing you've ever read too!
Jesus is speaking, and this is noteworthy because the date is April 3rd, 1946. Poor Marcel has been without Jesus' voice for some very long months! Finally, on April 2nd, we read Marcel saying, "Little Jesus, the thought has come to me that you are not very just . . . Without reason, you left me alone for nearly three months . . . but you do not cease to repeat that you love me a lot, etc." (350; and the "etc." is Marcel's.) Then Jesus speaks to Marcel for a paragraph's worth of words, explaining Himself.
I have a sneaking suspicion these words of Jesus that Marcel writes down for us on April 2nd are not the very first words Jesus said to break His long silence. Even the way Marcel says, "But you do not cease to repeat that you love me a lot, etc." implies that Jesus had been speaking to him for some time already - I'm thinking maybe He broke His Divine silence the day before, on April 1st. Like Jesus' first appearance to Our Blessed Mother on Easter, some reunions are kept from us, at least for now. Their beauty would no doubt soften even our hard hearts so much that we might find ourselves too eager for that very reunion ourselves!
No, Marcel contents himself (no doubt with Jesus' permission) in only giving us a paragraph of his and a paragraph of His for April 2nd, but on April 3rd they are more merciful to us. At the end of that day's entry, which covers a nice long few pages, here is the passage that set my heart aflame and invited me to kiss the page:
Jesus: Little Marcel, be happy to write the following, so that children also can understand the love which their Father in heaven has for them. Marcel, even write the words which seem to have no importance and I will place my lips on them as I do on your forehead . . . Yes, little bird, sing out loud, so that other little birds know that the nest where you now rest is a very sweet nest (359).
Can you see what it is that so thrilled me? Here it is, the sentence that jumped out at me:
Marcel, even write the words which seem to have no importance and I will place my lips on them as I do on your forehead!
Talk about affection! Kisses, kisses, and more kisses! But not just kisses that Jesus and Marcel share. Jesus has kissed the very words Marcel doesn't understand (fortunately, that's very many words!) but has written for us anyhow. Thank you, Marcel, you little pencil you! Thank You, dear Jesus, author of all affection! Most affectionate among men, most affectionate Creator and Spouse of our souls, we thank You with all our hearts!
And what's more, some of us now have the best reason ever for kissing a book! It seems to me - it occurred to me this morning and even hours later it still sounds like a brilliant idea - that if Jesus kissed these words that Marcel wrote for us so that we can understand the love which our Father in heaven has for us (oh and how this book of Conversations so clearly and sweetly conveys that love!), He has given us too the motive to lower our own lips and kiss these divine pages, to kiss these very words He has blessed with His kiss. He was not being metaphorical! He promised to kiss these words just as He kissed Marcel, His beloved little child: "to place My lips on them [the words Marcel wrote for us] as I do on your forehead." What condescension, I want to say, but that doesn't quite capture the case, not after He's given us so many pages of the adorable intimacy of friendship that He happily shares with Marcel (and us). What affection! That's the only proper word for it!
That passage was the start of my day and my "aha" moment, and it linked me to Padre Pio because in the interview with Padre Pio's friends (which I began reading not too long after I'd been kissing my copy of Conversations), there was mention of birds too, just like there was in Marcel's book.
Jesus had said to Marcel: Yes, little bird, sing out loud, so that other little birds know that the nest where you now rest is a very sweet nest.
I agreed! What a sweet nest! And then I read a story about Padre Pio, comparing him to St. Francis. Fr. Alessio told it, I think, and it went like this:
There were some birds which sang a great deal and made a lot of noise near where Padre Pio was talking with some visitors. In the middle of the conversation, they began making the same noises, and he told them, "Stop it this minute!" and they did. This happened on other occasions as well.
Well here is when I actually got Padre Pio laughing hard. I read this anecdote and thought our dear Padre had been a bit harsh. Were the visitors mocking the birds? Were they scaring the birds? Why did Padre Pio tell them to be quiet, and tell them so harshly?
I was happy to have come upon the anecdote because it reminded me of Marcel and made me think Marcel was enjoying it over my shoulder, but whatever Marcel made of it, I didn't get it until the third time I read it.
Oh! It was the birds that Padre Pio asked to be silent, not the visitors, and he asked the birds to be quiet so that he and the guests could converse without interruption! OH!
I can't really say Padre Pio was laughing at me. I think at least now he must be laughing with me, because I'm laughing too!
But our laughter isn't quite the end of it. Here is what I found in the book "Padre Pio and I" right after my realization that affection is the gold standard for my friendship with the Saints.
First, from the couple who became the instruments of God in bringing Adolfo's book into the English language (they did not translate it themselves, but found a translator, and a wonderful one like our own Jack Keogan!) -
"We later asked him [Adolfo] why he asked us to publish the book in America."
They had met Adolfo seemingly randomly on a train from San Giovanni Rotondo - their first visit there - to Rome, and had found a man on the train who knew both English and Italian and so could help them hear Adolfo's stories, for indeed, he was a spiritual son of one of their favorite saints, the very Saint whom they'd just visited! Within two or three hours of beginning to talk to each other on that train, Adolfo was suggesting to the married couple that they might help him get his newly published book into English to reach a wider audience with Padre Pio's message of God's love. Here is what Adolfo responded when they later asked him why he'd so quickly turned to them with his suggestion, trusting them with his book:
"He said sometimes his heart beats fast as a sign from Padre Pio and he also said 'Padre Pio speaks to me.'"
That's what I'm talkin bout! How can you not love a Saint that is so very close?
A bit later, though still in the introductory pages, the actual translator of the book mentions, "Although I specialize in translating books on spirituality and the saints, my experience with this one has been different. Any time you translate a book, you have to try to get to know the author - to get inside his head and understand how he thinks. And during this process, I had several occasions to meet with Adolfo Affatato to learn how he reasons and how he lives his life. And doing so has enriched my life tremendously."
This reminds me of our good Jack Keogan's relationship with little Marcel and even little Jesus. Yes, Conversations is surely a book one doesn't even have to translate in order to find oneself "in the head" or rather in the hearts of those who wrote it - Jesus, Mary, Therese, and our dear Marcel!
But there is more . . . the translator tells us that five million people come to San Giovanni Rotondo each year, and they come for the same reasons now as they did when Padre Pio was living there. "People have heeded Padre Pio's words when he said, 'After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death.'"
How can you not love a Saint who makes himself so very present? Who promises his aid? Who says:
"You know, I get it. You live in an age of celebrities, and even back in the day, way, way back, human nature was the same. When there is an extraordinary person, you want to feel you are special to that person. You want to see that person, to meet him (or her), and beyond your wildest dreams (yet not quite beyond them, for you do dream of this) is that deep desire to be special to this person who is so special.
"Do not be afraid! Jesus makes all things possible and new, and you don't need to worry if you never met me, Padre Pio, when I walked this earth. I'm more accessible to you now than ever before, as are all the Saints, your brothers and sisters.
"Do you remember what little Therese wrote to her spiritual brother the seminarian Maurice Belliere? If you are like your little brother Marcel, you've forgotten already, but I am like Jesus and I will never tire of repeating the truth to you, no matter how often you forget!
"Maurice was worried Therese would not love him so much when she got to Heaven, once she saw him with all his flaws. But she laughed at him and told him that they surely didn't understand the Blessed in the same way, and then - this is why Jesus made the Church proclaim her a Doctor! - then she told him how it really is: The Blessed in Heaven have even more compassion on us once they have reached the goal! They know what it's like to suffer and be weak on earth, and it makes them all the more merciful and interested in helping us when they know that we (or rather you, who are still on earth) continue to share this suffering and weakness that they (we) once experienced!"
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The affection of the Saints! Is there anything more marvelous? Well, yes, the affection of God - which is in fact what we see reflected in their endearing affection!
Here is what Padre Pio told Adolfo in particular. He said this to Adolfo when they both walked the earth that Adolfo still (as I write) walks as a man in his late 70's or early 80's:
"Give the love that I have put into your heart to those to whom you draw near, because in this is the meaning of life."
I can only hear these words coming from Padre Pio as an echo of Jesus' own words to us all, and this is the affection that melts my heart.
This is why, too, where others mistakenly see Padre Pio as harsh, I know him as the most darling softie the world has ever seen. I've said it before but I'll repeat it now: one of the main reasons Padre Pio would occasionally look or act gruff was that he was trying hard not to break down sobbing at all the misery he saw in people's hearts - their sorrows, which instantly became his sorrows, and which (like Jesus Himself) he could not completely alleviate this side of Heaven!
Finally, here is what I found in Adolfo's Padre Pio book:
"Just before his death, Padre Pio said, 'I belong to everyone. Now everyone can say: 'Padre Pio is mine.'"
It doesn't hurt that he also promised to take on everyone (everyone who asked him) as his spiritual children (and all their loved ones automatically, along with them), and then said that he would not enter Heaven - he would stand outside the gate near St. Peter! - until all of his spiritual children had entered first! What absolute love! Do you mind if I say it again? What a glorious excess of affection!!
This blog is not, contrary to what may appear, about to morph into Padre Pio's Ponderings (or even Padre Pio's Progeny's Ponderings) - but rather Marcel has so much fun teasing Padre Pio in Heaven, so much fun spending time with one who, like himself, laughed with little Jesus while stuck in exile on this earth, that he wanted another "guest post" or rather post in honor of a beloved guest, today. It's no small thing to have one's cause for canonization opened, and Marcel needed to use me as his little pencil to celebrate Padre Pio's anniversary today. Once they could get me to realize it was today! Once they could stop laughing long enough to show me my mistake!
I've been mentioning a lot of books here lately, so I think it merits a mention, a little reminder, that really I only suggest the purchase of one book by you if you don't already own a copy (or two) - that would be Conversations! It's the cat's meow, still only $25 and free shipping for a real live physical actual pages to turn (and pictures inside too) copy. Think of it as a Lenten alms for yourself, or if you already have two copies (one for downstairs, one for upstairs), buy one as an alms for a friend! I've put a link into the title that came before the cat's meow, and I invite you to open the book when you have it in hand, and kiss those words that Jesus kissed!
And now, so as to leave room on the internet for another post, another day, let's close with our prayer (which, incidentally, comes not only from little Therese but originally from the Song of Songs in the Bible which begins - not incidentally! - with a kiss!) -
Draw me, we will run!!!
This beautiful painting by Murillo is called "The Two Trinities," and you can see why Marcel is a fan. Right in the center is our very own little Jesus, linking together Heaven and earth, the Holy Trinity and the Holiest Family ever!
I want to join our little brother in wishing you a very merry and truly happy St. Joseph day! We've been thinking a lot about the silent partner in the Holy Family, and there is both so much to say and so little. Or rather, St. Joseph is so silent that it's hard to know quite what to say . . . Following his silence, the Church was for such a long time fairly silent about him, and Marcel was congratulating me just today on living so far "into the future" that we who live now get the privilege of TWO St. Joseph Days, a Solemnity (today) and a Feast (of St. Joseph the worker, Mary 1st), plus his name not only in the Canon ("first Eucharistic prayer") of the Mass, but in ALL the Eucharistic prayers of the Mass (thanks to Papa Ben whose initiative this was and Papa Francis who carried it out), and in short, we take it for granted that St. Joseph is one of the greatest Saints we have. Yes, absolutely!!
In my reading for today, here's what else I uncovered: despite so many paintings that make St. Joseph out to be an old man, that would actually have been as shocking in his day as in ours - an enormous inequality of age with Our Lady when they married. Nope, I have it on good authority (argued out carefully by my new Dominican friend in the book I mentioned yesterday, Joseph the Silent) that St. Joseph was a few years older than Mary, but not very much older. It was customary for Jewish men to marry around age 18 in those days. If you want an image of this younger, strong (thus capable of guarding and protecting God's most precious treasures) St. Joseph, I can do no better than refer you to the Joseph in Franco Z's Jesus of Nazareth movie. There you will find the image closest (as far as I've ever been able to find, anyhow) to the real St. Joseph . . .
Also I was heartened and joyful to read that, as would only be right and just, Mary had so much respect and love for St. Joseph! Of course! How could it be otherwise? They were the perfect married couple, the perfect parents, and she was the perfect wife. How could this have been so if she did not esteem her spouse, enjoy his company, and have full confidence in his goodness and prudence that she might trust him in the raising of Jesus? Also customary in their day and culture would have been for little Jesus to spend most of His time with His mother, Mary until He was a certain age and ready to then spend most of His time with His father, Joseph, from whom He learned both the Hebrew Scriptures and carpentry. I think that age when He began to spend most of His days with St. Joseph would have been about 6 or 7. What a good, gentle, wise, prudent, loving, and trustworthy father St. Joseph must have been for Our Heavenly Father to entrust the Word made flesh to him!
Finally, when we think of St. Joseph and his place in God's plan, it is wonderful to reflect on his humility and confidence in God. He knew he wasn't worthy to be Mary's virginal spouse, let alone Jesus' virginal father - and yet God had chosen him, and so he trusted our Heavenly Father completely to supply for all he lacked.
I must say on behalf of Marcel and myself that when thinking about St. Joseph this last 48 hours or so, I found a reflection of him in the life of Marcel. I think perhaps the reason St. Joseph remained silent in Marcel's Conversations was because Marcel already had a St. Joseph figure in his life at that time and indeed until he went to meet St. Joseph in Heaven -- namely, his bearded Jesus, Fr. Antonio Boucher! Gentle, kind, prudent, holy, and on the quieter side, just like good St. Joseph! When we think of how little known Marcel is in the big world-celebrity (even saint-celebrity) scheme of things, we must smile to see how much less, even, Fr. Boucher is known. Yes, he's in the background for now. He had a mission, like St. Joseph did, to raise a little Redeemer, and like St. Joseph, Fr. Boucher carried out God's vocation for him perfectly to the end. Then he had to leave the cause (in this case, the literal cause) in other hands. Bravo, Fr. Boucher! Bravo, St. Joseph! We sing both your praises today, and the praises too of all the quiet, heroic men, in history and in our lives, who fulfill God's plan for them as priestly fathers and married fathers.
Good and gentle St. Joseph, help all fathers. Help our priests to be great priests who take care of little Jesus with the same reverence and adoration with which you cared for Him, and may they help us, their spiritual children, as they bring us Jesus and His mercy in the Sacraments. Help our husbands and fathers of families to be filled with the prudence God poured into your receptive soul, and obtain for them the graces they need to be gentle and good, yet strong against the harshness of the world in order to protect those entrusted to their care. Finally, St. Joseph, as you protected Our Lady, protect all women - in whatever state of life we find ourselves. Find good spouses for those called to marriage, obtain from Our Lady the graces for wives and mothers to be wonderful like she was and is, and for those called to the religious life, guide them ever closer in intimacy with little Jesus, an intimacy like yours!
I hope your St. Joseph day is the best ever! May we rejoice in the glories of this magnificent guardian of the Church, taking him as a father for ourselves and learning from him how to live in constant proximity to our darling Jesus! I'm sure he will be happy to pray with us to the Blessed Trinity:
Draw me, we will run!!!
And don't forget to feast on this feast!! There's a reason St. Joseph's solemnity comes in Lent - he's slipping us a treat as he must have often done with little Jesus! Mary is smiling - she knows all about their antics and ours. And Marcel? He's over the moon with joy that his Fr. Boucher and St. Joseph are mentioned together. Yes, he says, at last! Thank you, Fr. Boucher, and thank you, Marcel! Kiss little Jesus for us, and Blessed Mary our Mother, and St. Joseph (our good father) too!
Are you ready for St. Joseph's Day? It's tomorrow, and Marcel has been playing all sorts of tricks to keep me from posting until now. I was perplexed until I realized just what he was about . . .
First off, he wanted us to bypass his birthday (March 15, this past Friday), so he sent me on a wonderful visit to a young friend, D.C. aged 9, at City of Hope hospital. We had a marvelous day (D.C., Marcel, Therese, and myself) playing cards - I learned Kings in the Corner and taught Crazy 8's, my own favorite - watching the very first 3 episodes of Andy Griffith, playing 'Shut the Box', and even entertaining a married couple who has a music ministry and played "Lean on Me" at my request. And yes, I sure did sing along! What a day!
Next Marcel conspired to invite to our home on Saturday a handful of delightful college students and a dear couple we love, and next thing I knew we were eating Indian food and watching our favorite Bollywood movie. Fun!!!
Finally it was St. Patrick's day yesterday, but the double feast of Sunday and St. Pat meant that for once I used a Sunday as the Lord meant it - a day of worship (Mass - ah, Jesus!) and then rest, rest, and more rest!
So that now, finally, I'm able to pop over to Miss Marcel's Musings and muse . . . except that with Marcel's plan, he's likely to kick me off before I've finished so I'm not wasting any time.
And just what is his plan?
Marcel wants to make up for lost time. Since he never (to my knowledge) found himself deep in conversation with St. Joseph (at least not in Conversations!), he wants to be sure and acknowledge here, at his 21st century party place where I keep reserved for him his 21st century soapbox, the great and very silent St. Joseph, spouse of Mary and foster father of little Jesus!
Marcel's tribute to St. Joseph will be, as far as I know (as far as he's letting on), posted tomorrow, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, and Marcel was so excited that he woke me at 4:30 this morning. This annoyed me slightly - until I realized it was because he wanted me to read a book I'd had my eye on a month ago: Joseph the Silent, by a wonderful French Dominican, Fr. Michel Gasnier, O.P.
This book, which has been my constant companion since about 5 a.m. this morn, was originally published in 1960 but re-issued in 2002. Yay! It was $7.95 on my kindle, and since I keep failing to make it to the dollar store for batteries to get my book light up and running, I was quite grateful that what I needed to read was easy enough to procure on my light up kindle. Thank You, Jesus! Thank you, Marcel!
So what's left? Marcel also reminded me that on the day before a HUGE feast (a solemnity, no less), my husband and I are invited to fast and abstain - this is in our provincial (i.e. local) statutes attached to the Constitutions we follow as Discalced Carmelite Seculars (a.k.a. third order Carmelites). St. Joseph is a special guardian of the Carmelite order, as well as guardian of the universal Church, but somehow we'd always missed this fast and abstinence day, and somehow (thanks again, Marcel!) I remembered this year, and in time, even.
If you would like to join us in preparing in this traditional way for the big feast, feel free to actually follow one of your Lenten resolutions today, in honor of our dear and gentle St. Joseph. Ha! Am I implying that I'm not the only one to have failed at all 3 of my Lenten resolutions before we'd even gotten a week in? Well, misery loves company, and hilarity loves company even more! I'm laughing more than anything else. What could be better for humility? And isn't humility terrific? Ah, glorious poverty!
Which reminds me of one of the hundred things I've learned about St. Joseph this morning and which I'd like to share with you (though I don't dare share the other 99 because my computer is likely to run out of juice, or me out of time, before I post, which would mean another opportunity lost to sing the praises of everyone from Marcel to St. Joseph to little Jesus Himself).
So, here's the one (from the 100) that I can share now:
You know how Jesus is called, in the gospels, "Son of David"? This is because he is known as the son of Joseph who is also known as a Son of David. As Jesus' genealogy in both Luke and Matthew's gospels show, He is a direct descendant of David through Joseph, that is, with Joseph as His father. Although Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph and Mary lived always in perpetual virginity, nonetheless, according to the law, Jesus was Joseph's son. Mary was also of David's line, but her genealogy had no legal status, as it was through the father that the line was traced. Well . . . here is the thing I learned that just stuns me:
Somehow I had the idea that there were tons of direct descendants of King David and it was really no big deal. You know, "of the house of David" sounded to me kind of like "of the house of Adam." Not quite that big a pool, but maybe more like "of the house of Judah." Which again, sounded like 1/12th of the Jewish people, so not that rare an honor.
Reading Fr. Gasnier's Biblical, historical, Thomistic and patristic reflections and explanations, I finally understood that for Joseph to be a Son of David meant that he was the direct descendant of 12 kings of Israel and was himself a sort of prince, at the least. It would have been somewhat shocking to everyone that he was a poor carpenter. Actually, the fact of his being a manual laborer would have been held in esteem and not looked down upon, for the Jewish people held work with one's hands as tremendously dignified and worthy of the rich as well as the poor. But St. Joseph's poverty - that was unexpected, as he was a Son of David. It wasn't totally unheard of or entirely conspicuous, but in the census line at Bethlehem - where I'd always thought everyone was a Son of David, but come to think of it, there were many others from Bethlehem besides David and his descendants! - those who heard Joseph register, those behind him in line, for instance, would have been a little surprised that this evidently poor man was one of David's descendants.
Ah, glorious poverty! Fr. G points out that this holy poverty made St. Joseph, the just man, a living exemplar, in anticipation, of the Beatitudes and in possession of full beatitude. We could expect nothing less from the one who lived as virginal spouse of Mary and virginal father of little Jesus, the Word Incarnate, our Savior and true Spouse!
So . . . happy belated birthday, Marcel! Happy belated feast, St. Patrick! Please bless Ireland again! And most of all, thank you dear St. Cyril of Jerusalem for so willingly sacrificing your feast that we may anticipate (with a tiny fast) the glory of St. Joseph tomorrow!
Incidentally, I also discovered that this past Saturday, March 16, was the anniversary of the first Holy Communion of St. Peter Julian Eymard, apostle of the Eucharist. Magnificent! And, too, the anniversary (for which their is a special proper Mass, even) of St. Philip Neri's bringing a dead young man back to life so that he could be forgiven his sins in confession to St. Phil, and prepared for a second, much happier death a half an hour later! Happy anniversary, St. Peter J. Eymard, St. Philip, and Paolo Massimo!
And now, in order to proceed as quickly as possible to the joys of tomorrow, let's say our prayer inviting the whole world into the embrace of the Holy Family, and then perhaps before we know it, March 19th will be upon us.
Draw us, we will run!!
I certainly hope to post tomorrow a lovely picture of St. Joseph and the Holy Fam along with Marcel's reflections (as whispered to me, his little pencil), but we'll see what that imp Marcel has planned. I can only guess we're going to get to celebrate together, but if I'm delayed, don't wait for me: Feast away, beginning after Evening Prayer tonight, or its equivalent in your world. A Solemnity begins on the Vigil, though the Vigil begins a little later than I usually am ready to start. I'm sure Marcel will help you figure it out. The important thing is: Praise God, our Heavenly Father, for His stand-in, good and gentle St. Joseph!
Well actually, as he tells the story, Therese is the funny one . . . Here's how it goes:
From Conversations (430), 12 April 1946:
Marcel: Mother, today little Jesus speaks to me no more. I feel very sad. Yesterday, dear Mother, I had an insane wish to laugh. Do you know why? At supper time, during grace before the meal, I saw coming, I do not know from where, my sister Therese who tapped me on the shoulder, looked me full in the face with a comical expression, then, laughing, said to me: 'Little brother, so you are anxious? Come then, let me see this sadness which always troubles you so.' Then, grabbing my sighs in one of her hands, she threw them to the ground and said, smiling: 'These careworn sighs are of no use to little Jesus.' And that is all. I so wanted to laugh that it was impossible for me to say my grace.
My sister Therese concentrates a lot on cheering me up. Although she acts quite naturally, it is, nevertheless, very amusing; like the time when she covered one eye just to make me laugh. I am sure that, in the past, she was more mischievous than me and that is the reason why she succeeds in making me happy.
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Oh adorable little brother! I, too, am sure that Therese was very mischievous. But more mischievous than you? That I'm not so sure of! I do know that you both are darling, and now that you've joined our sister in Heaven, it must be that you, too, concentrate a lot on cheering us up. Because when I opened your book today (in my holy hour, no less), I had no idea what you would say. You started with your sadness, so you can guess I had no idea that laughter was coming next! Ah, but Therese throwing your careworn sighs to the ground - I love it! Please throw our careworn sighs to the ground too! And if you can, procure from us some fresh sighs - sighs of love! - so that little Jesus will have at least some use for the very little ways we know how to pray. We have so little, but with your help we can give Him a glance, a sigh, perhaps a smile even, but only if you concentrate on cheering us up a lot!
We love you, dear Jesus, and we beg You to cast Your sighs of love, Your glances, Your smiles upon us too. We await Your love! We even have five words to tell you so:
Draw me, we will run!
And if you, dear reader, came here looking for Marcel's Book Club, it's in the post below this one! I just couldn't resist sharing our brother's laughter and our sister's mischief with you today. May they, those two imps (not chimps! imps! though they are more fun than a barrel of monkeys!) bring a smile to your face today, and laughter to your heart!
As I write, I am surrounded by holiness. Marcel is right here at my elbow, wanting to do the typing himself, but I love typing, so I'm keeping him at arm's length! Therese is also near, and she's rolling her eyes, wondering how I'm going to fit the thousand and one things I want to say into one short Book Club meeting. But we're not alone - well, of course there YOU are too, dear reader, but even then we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. . .
I have on the table next to my little computer:
a. Story of a Soul, ICS edition translated by Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D., so he's right here
b. The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, translated by John Beevers (the 1957 Image paperback, almost pocket sized, in fact not much larger than a fancy smart phone, but so much smarter, with grey crosses adorning the fun turquoise cover), so that brings John Beevers into our family circle
c. Saint Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower, "Definitive Edition, Authorized American Reproduction," published by P.J. Kenedy & Sons of New York sometime back in the day, imprimatur 1927. This is Fr. Thomas Taylor's fabulous volume which I like to call "the big green book" (though this edition is grey) because so many I've seen over the years have been big with a pine green cover. These books, no matter the color, were published starting in 1912 with the title Soeur Therese of Lisieux (after her canonization, they were titled Saint Therese of Lisieux) and contain so much good stuff! Besides our sister's memoir, they contain a selection of her prayers, poems, letters, and counsels to the novices, and my ultimate favorite section: her shower of roses.
So Father Taylor is here too, and with him Mother Agnes (Pauline, to whom these chapters we've been reading are addressed) because Fr. Taylor dedicates the book to "in the first place Saint Therese, the little white flower of Jesus, in heartfelt thanksgiving for many favours, especially her loving solicitude for the grotto at Carfin (Scotland); and secondly to her 'petite mere,' Mother Agnes of Jesus, in grateful memory of innumerable kindnesses extending over a period of twenty-five years." Wow!
Last but not least, there's one more person attending MBC tonight, and though she's trying to keep a low profile, I'm not letting her off the hook. It's Celine (Sister Genevieve in the convent), Therese's just older sister (just 3 years older, to be precise) who celebrated 60 years in Heaven a few days ago. Yep, that's right, on February 25th of this year it was 60 years since Celine entered eternal life - that was in 1959, two months shy of her 90th birthday and only 5 months before Marcel went to Heaven too!
I was hoping to write about Celine on her big day, but wouldn't you know she has much more power in Heaven than I do. She pulled some strings and kept me busy, so there was no post on her that day, not even a word. This amused me because I'd read that very morning about how she didn't like big celebrations in her honor. She had asked them not to make a fuss over her jubilee of religious profession in 1946 (50 years the spouse of Christ), but with me she didn't bother asking - she just prevented me!
Well that doesn't mean she wasn't dropping roses in my lap. On the vigil of her big day (the day of Jesus' first real kiss to her - the kiss that brought her to Heaven) she handed me a book on our Therese that hails originally from 1923 (though the edition she gave me is a reprint from 1971), a book I'd been thinking of transcribing from a digital file I have, and which I had a feeling would disappear any minute (digital files being oh so virtual and not very real in my book)!
Celine's gift to me was written by a certain Fr. Gabriel Martin, a contemporary of Therese's family (the Martins too, but no relation), who preached at the Carmel in Lisieux on the occasion of St. Therese's canonization. He founded a couple of religious orders in her honor, he was a friend of her sisters in the Carmel, and they asked him in the mid-1920's to PLEASE publish the book he'd written on Therese. He did publish it just as soon as she was beatified, and that book was the one I held in my hands Monday night! The beauty of it is that this edition (in English), was translated by the wonderful Sister Therese of the Child Jesus of the Kilmacud (County Dublin) Carmel, just like the book by Mother Agnes that I've been lucky enough to read lately.
I figure Celine knew I needed to know she loved me, even if she was keeping me from writing about her on her day! Thanks, Celine! I love you too!
Okay, then. Surrounded by the Saints, how about we get to Chapter Two of Story of a Soul?
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Chapter Two is very special to me because it contains the passage that Marcel was reading when he realized he could - and should, and would - ask St. Therese to be his big sister.
But here's the crazy thing I discovered in this reading.
The reason that inspired him to claim Therese as his sister is not in the ICS edition! Oops!
So back to the drawing board, or rather the history of St. Therese's writings. I've numbered things to try and keep them straight:
1. During the year 1895, Therese wrote her childhood memories, which form the largest section of her autobiography, at the request of her oldest sister, Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, and at the insistence of (therefore under obedience to) Mother Agnes (her second oldest sister, Pauline). Then in September of 1896, she wrote a letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart in response to Marie's request that she tell the secrets of her relationship with Jesus. Therese's response was a kind of cover letter to Marie, and then a longer letter addressed to Jesus. This double letter forms the shortest (but to me the most beautiful) section of what became her autobiography. Finally in 1897, the summer before she died, Therese was asked to write (again under obedience) the story of her life as a nun. She wrote these pages for Mother Marie de Gonzague who formally made the request, but it was Mother Agnes (not then "Mother" in the official sense, but the sisters who became Mother Superior always retained the title), who'd talked Mother Marie into asking Therese for these final recollections. Thus the whole Story of a Soul was the product of the inspirations given to Pauline (Mother Agnes) and Marie of the Sacred Heart. Praise God for His loving inspirations!
2. Although while she was writing these three different "documents," Therese had no intention that they would be seen by any one other than those who'd requested them (her two sisters and Mother Marie de G, and she didn't even think that all 3 would read all 3, if that makes sense), still as her "entrance into eternal life" approached, Therese was given a gift of prophecy, a kind of pulling back of the veil, that allowed her to anticipate the great good her writings, in the form of a single book, would do for souls after her death - because, as she said, they would show everyone the kindness of God. Then she told Mother Agnes, who was often at her side in the infirmary during her illness, "I give you carte blanche over my little writings. After I am gone, do the work quickly and quietly. The devil will want to stop this book because of the good it will do for souls, but you must not let him. You must publish this book, and in preparing the manuscript, feel free to change or add anything, just as if you were me!"
3. Mother Agnes changed, and rightly, many things, for one reason, because a huge number of the people about whom Therese wrote were still alive! There were things too personal, and possibly hurtful to some, to leave in, and there were other things Mother Agnes knew Therese would have written if she'd known the writings were meant for others, and then too there were things Therese asked, from her sickbed, Mother Agnes to add. Sure enough, Mother Agnes did her work well, quickly and quietly, and the edition the Carmel printed one year after Therese died - 2000 copies, paid for by Uncle Isidore Guerin, Therese's mother's (St. Zelie's) brother, changed the course of history! It made the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood an easy way to sanctity for millions, and is still doing so!
4. In the 1940's, Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus (he took that "of the Child Jesus" in honor of St. Therese), an important man in the Carmelite Order, asked the Carmel of Lisieux to restore, for the reading public and for the Church, the original text of Therese's manuscripts as they'd come from her pen. Exactamente! Mother Agnes, who'd been made "prioress for life" by Pius XI many decades before, asked pretty please could they wait a few more years. She was on her way out of this exile, God willing, so very tired now, having spent herself happily for Therese, but in her 80's by this time and not up to such a project. The permission to wait was granted, and before she died, Mother Agnes passed on their sainted sister's "carte blanche" to Celine/Sister Genevieve, who was to live 10 more years working for Therese (though she too was now in her 80's and suffered from the infirmities of old age). In this case the carte blanche was for restoration, and Celine's job was merely to oversee the work of a wonderful and determined Fr. Francoise, Carmelite friar assigned to the task . . . but her job, too, was to be the last living "sweet echo of Therese's soul" and keep the truth about Therese safe and sound. Over the years there had frequently been mis-interpretations of Therese's gentle doctrine, and her sisters always fought these distortions with authoritative and untiring Truth. Now it was left to Celine to keep the record straight to the end.
Things went well, the the authorized critical (exact) edition of Therese's manuscript came out, and these days you'd be hard pressed to find someone championing Mother Agnes' "original" edition. Hard pressed, but if you're looking for that someone to champion Mother Agnes' work, you've found that someone in me! I love that we have the "real" writings of Therese, but I also love that we have the writings as Therese might have wanted them (that is, as Mother Agnes transmitted them).
So last night before bed, and then again in the middle of the night when I woke (what fun could life be without those middle of the night trysts with Jesus and our brothers and sisters the saints, who apparently, though they are at rest, never sleep?!), I finally had a chance to compare some of my different volumes, some of my different translations and editions of Story of a Soul, and having just read Chapter Two, I was ready to find out wherein the old and new versions differed.
First surprise (for me) - that turquoise pocket-sized edition translated by good John Beevers for Image (Doubleday Catholic imprint) back in the 50's - turns out, as far as I can tell, to be the "original" written by St. Therese! All this time I'd been thinking it was Mother Agnes' edition, but looking at it more carefully, I think it's Therese's alone!
Second surprise, which wasn't too surprising since I'd been suspecting it all week - it was Mother Agnes' version (which I found in my Thomas Taylor/"green book" translation from the 1920's) which held the key to Marcel's request to Therese, "You will be my sister now. Please?"
You see, Marcel, when he read Story of a Soul for the first time in October of 1942, was necessarily reading Mother Agnes' version. That was the only edition then available - no matter the translation, and I'm guessing Marcel read it in Vietnamese. (And this parentheses is entirely incidental but oh so charming: did you know that the first English translation was made by a Polish priest in 1901, just 3 years after Story of a Soul came out, and just 4 years after Therese left exile for Heaven? How wonderful! God bless that dear priest!)
Well when he started reading Story of a Soul (Marcel, that is, not the good Polish priest), our brother immediately felt its influence. God began immediately to reveal to him the union He had planned from all eternity for their two souls - Therese and Marcel's. I've quoted the pages from Marcel's Autobiography in previous posts, and they are simply beautiful!
Marcel raced through the book; he must have, because a few weeks later or less, he was re-reading it. Maybe even re-re-reading it! He tells us that he especially loved these early chapters wherein Therese recounts her childhood memories. And I'll tell you frankly, they are not my favorite chapters (though I do love them, I don't love them anywhere near as much as I love the later chapters), but I think I know why they were so precious to Marcel. Well yes, he tells us, so that helps me with my insight! But the deal is, he's just a boy when he's reading this book, and what stuns him is to find a soul so much like his own, with a childhood so much like his own. God painted the same picture in both their lives: first an idyllic childhood surrounded by love. Then an abrupt change when love was to some extent withdrawn and traumatic events wounded these two children's little, loving hearts.
For Therese, it was the death of her mother at age 4 that changed everything.
For Marcel, it was his going off to become a priest (at age 6 or 7, the little rascal!) that changed all.
But both had remarkably strong memories of early cloudless days, and then both endured suffering - grievous suffering - while still knowing the love of God in this second phase of their lives.
Marcel was himself still a child when he read Story of a Soul, so he loved Therese's stories of her childhood. Especially, though, he mentions reading one fine day about how Therese - though she usually followed Celine in everything - did not follow Celine in choosing a second mother.
After their mother Zelie's death, and hearing the poignant remark of Louise, the maid ("poor girls, now they have no mother!"), Celine chose for her second mother Marie (their eldest sister, who was also Therese's godmother and therefore a natural choice for Therese too - first, because Celine chose her, second, because Marie was eldest so most like a mama, and third, because she was already Therese's godmother). Therese, surprisingly, struck out on her own and chose Pauline for her second mother. But what does her original text say? What did Therese write for Pauline (Mother Agnes) about this choice? We read in Fr. Clarke's translation (ICS edition) of Story of a Soul:
"Accustomed to following Celine's example, I turned instead to you, Mother, and as though the future had torn aside its veil, I threw myself into your arms, crying: 'Well, as for me, it's Pauline who will be my Mama!'"
But wait! Just listen to what Marcel (then named simply Van) says in his Autobiography (586). His two friends, Tam and Hien, were teasing him because Sister Tin had agreed to be their big sister, but she'd rejected Van, even though this whole project of getting a big sister had been his idea! Marcel writes:
"But the squirrel [this is Van] absorbed in his book The Story of a Soul, did not pay any attention, and was in no way saddened. He suddenly let out a cry of satisfaction since the disappointment he had just experienced had brought to him an incredible opportunity. I had just reached in my reading the passage in which Therese wrote: 'Always accustomed to follow Celine, I should have done well to imitate her in such a good action, but I thought that Pauline might, perhaps, be unhappy and feel neglected at not having a little girl; and then, looking at you tenderly and leaning my little head on your breast I said in my turn, "For me, my mother's going to be Pauline."' At that moment I clearly understood Therese's words, and I did as she did, saying to myself: 'Right now Therese is expecting a little brother, but no one has chosen her to be their sister so it is not right to make her suffer in this way.' So I got up, and went to the church and kneeling down at Saint Therese's statue, I said to her with a sincere heart, 'For me it is Therese who will be my sister.' As soon as I had said those words, my soul was invaded with such a current of happiness that I remained stunned by it and was incapable of thinking for myself. I was dominated entirely by a supernatural force which flooded my soul with unspeakable happiness."
Wait. What? This is magnificent! This, too, has changed the course of history! But where is this passage of which Marcel speaks? It wasn't like that in Fr. Clarke's very faithful translation of the original manuscripts............
Out comes Fr. Taylor's earlier edition, faithful in its own right - to the book originally sanctioned by Therese, edited by Mother Agnes, published by the Lisieux Carmel, and the source of Therese's Little Way for every reader up to the 1950's. Let's read Fr. Taylor's translation for a moment. Same passage, beginning of Chapter Two:
"Accustomed to imitate Celine, I should undoubtedly have followed her example but that I feared you might be pained, and feel yourself forsaken if you too had not a little daughter. So I looked at you affectionately, and hiding my head on your breast exclaimed in my turn: 'And Pauline will be my mother!'"
Therese once said that if she could have lived longer (and had the opportunity for more study), she'd have liked to learn the Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) in order to read the Scriptures in their original versions.
I could never relate to this remark and sentiment, much as I admire it. Myself, I'm so thrilled to have a dozen Bibles around me and read the various translations the Holy Spirit has (the way I see it) inspired! This holds true too for my pathetic efforts at learning French (which consist of buying or collecting various "Learn French" materials but end there) because how much more fun to surround myself with every possible edition and English translation of our sister's writings and go from there!
In this case I am happier than a clam (I hope clams are very, very happy) to have discovered that, just as I suspected, Mother Agnes' work on Therese's book was invaluable. Those changes and additions that some later scholars detest (they're scholars, so they can't help it; we don't need to mind them, only we will cherish what they despise so that no fragment is lost!) are the very morsels that so delighted earlier readers and followers of Therese's Little Way. I'm sure in their many conversations, Therese had told Mother Agnes, perhaps again and again, how that scene played out after their mother's death, what inspired her, what exactly motivated Therese in choosing Pauline for her second mother.
Mother Agnes then, when in the year following Therese's departure she had to prepare Story of a Soul in its very first edition (having no inkling, I would imagine, how many more editions in every known language would follow!) was not making things up. Rather, in her grief mingled with joy, in her astonishment at the shower of roses Therese was already beginning to send from heaven, Mother Agnes simply added, under the inspiration of her sister and the Holy Spirit, what she intimately knew to be the fullness of what Therese had experienced. And these words that Mother Agnes added were the very ones that inspired Marcel to take Therese as his sister, which in turn prompted her to speak to him and acknowledge him as her little brother!
Tomorrow begins March, and by the time this is posted, it will be March for many readers already. Will we meet sooner than the last day of the month for Chapter Three? I sure hope we'll meet long before then, but as to discussing Chapter Three, well I wouldn't be surprised if that was about a month off!
But first, might I mention one more thing? Or maybe just two more things that I love about Chapter Two?
First, I love when Therese tells about her first confession and that Pauline instructed her "it was not to a man but to God I was about to tell my sins; I was very much convinced of this truth. I made my confession in a great spirit of faith, even asking you if I had to tell Father Ducellier I loved him with all my heart as it was to God in person I was speaking."
How adorable! But it brings up a good and important point that has helped me many times through the years. As little St. Jacinta said, we should always (with God's help!) approach the sacrament of confession with great joy and trust. We are going to meet Jesus' mercy! We are going to make Him so happy because we're entering that stream of mercy that is always flowing from His pierced side. This is wonderful! And it is also very true that we are confessing our sins to God. But I must add that I've found it often helpful to remember that just as the Church is human as well as Divine, so we are confessing to man as well as to God.
So if, perchance, you catch a priest having a crummy day and you hear him say to you something in the confessional that doesn't ring quite with the gentleness of Jesus - let's say you confess something small and the priest gets impatient with you, or some such - well, don't worry about it at all! Just remember that you're not confessing to God, you're confessing to man! Of course you are confessing to God too, and it is God who's embracing you and shedding mercy like roses all about you, but you're also confessing to a priest with human failings, so in case you hear a gruff response, don't worry a single bit!
And finally, I want to comment on a passage in Chapter Two that moved me very much as I read it the other night. Therese mentions at the beginning of the chapter how she felt when gazing upon her mother's seemingly huge coffin. Then she writes, "Fifteen years later, I was to stand before another coffin, Mother Genevieve's. It was similar in size. I imagined myself back once again in the days of my childhood and all those memories flooded into my mind. True, it was the same Therese who looked, but she'd grown up and the coffin appeared smaller. I had no need to raise my head to see and, in fact, no longer raised it but to contemplate heaven which to me was filled with joy. All my trials had come to an end and the winter of my soul had passed on forever."
Later in the book Therese will tell us about the circumstances surrounding Mother Genevieve's death (I think she will, that is! If I'm remembering correctly!). But what really filled me with tender joy and gratitude was the way in which Therese could write about the time of Mother Genevieve's death as a time when "All my trials had come to an end and the winter of my soul had passed on forever."
You see, after that time Therese would suffer her trial of faith and the physical pains of tuberculosis. And yet these were nothing compared to the sufferings she went through as a child! I have often quoted the words of Isaiah's Chapter 40 to those I love who are suffering and trying to climb out of the Pit: "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her slavery is at an end, her guilt is expiated, she has paid double for all her sins."
I don't say this because I know they won't suffer again. In fact, being in the human condition, I know they will suffer again! But I also know that there is suffering, and there is suffering. And there can be (can have been) a time when our trials have come to an end and the winter of our souls has passed on forever - even in this life, even when some other trials still await us.
Which leads me to conclude that we don't need to be afraid! Now that we know Marcel and Therese, now that they have taught us more and more of God's limitless love and infinitely solicitous and tender compassion for us, now that they've taken our hands to lead us along the Little Way with them, we will never suffer again in the wintery way we once did! We aren't alone anymore! Therese said it of herself in this passage I've quoted, and she knew whereof she spoke. So feel free to tell God that you'll accept everything from His hand, but let's let bygones be bygones and old winters be old winters! (Yes, this winter may still be with you, but let's put the winters of our souls behind us for good!)
Those are my thoughts, my two (or twenty-two) cents, and I've had such fun telling them to you! I hope you enjoyed Chapter Two, and if you haven't had a chance to read it yet - well, good thing I didn't spoil it by commenting on it to the last word!
And to close with a last word here? Let's sign off with a prayer, using it to place all our trust in Jesus, our True Love.
Draw me, we will run!
Little Jesus, we love You so much! Stay with us until the day You bring us to Heaven!
And now . . . Happy March!
Can you believe February is almost over?? That means we only have 2 more days for Chapter Two of Story of a Soul. Are you in? I am, but boy do I feel like the heroine of The Paradise Project (you can check out the kindle version by clicking title preceding parentheses1) - I can make a misadventure out of any adventure! Marcel's Book Club, our own little Paradise Project, is only in month two, and already (like in month one) I'm scrambling.
No matter, this is the Little Way after all, and I don't know if you are as creative as I am in this realm, but I find that (the Little Way) such a great excuse for just about all my faux pas. Even the one I just made (isn't there a plural of faux pas? No time to even google it!)! If that seems to be taking the easy way out - well that's the idea!
The important thing is (and I'll fight for this to the end) to have fun while we're being good, and that we can manage even under deadline. Not to mention keeping promises (another important thing), and since I had said in our last post (just below this one) that I'd give you more of the new (old) book that's recently and delightfully come my way, well, first things first. There's plenty of time tomorrow and the next day for our meeting of Marcel's Book Club, and it's only fair I give you slackers a heads up so you can start reading Chapter Two asap (and don't worry - I say "slacker" with only great tenderness and a big smile. I'm a slacker too!). Right after you finish reading this post, maybe!
Which means I'd better keep this post short, so neither you nor I have time to forget we're supposed to be reading the very lovely and original text that started it all. Though this is Marcel's Book Club, so forgetting is absolutely an option!
What I'm going to write about today (before I forget this goal and promise too) is from At the School of St. Therese written by Mother Agnes in the style of a dialogue between the Little Soul (that would be ours) and Therese. As with any good book, I want to transcribe every word for you here, but seeing as we only have a couple days in which to post this, then read Chapter Two of our Great Book, then meet back for another posting of Marcel's Book Club, my guardian angel is urging me to not give him a heart attack (yes, I know technically that makes no sense since angels don't have bodies - but think about it - how could an angel be heartless?), and so he suggests this one most wondrous passage . . . It falls under the subtitle "How we must interpret the counsel 'not to shed tears before God.'" Here goes, then:
The Little Soul: You also said that in our sorrows, 'We must not weep before the good God.' Yet on certain days it seems to me that little children have no other means to regain courage, than to pour out their little troubles before their father or mother. I even thought that to tell Our Lord what saddens us is giving Him a proof of love and confidence . . . With a friend like Jesus, must not everything be shared, sorrows as well as joys? Otherwise, it seems to me that our close intimacy with Him might be diminished.
[Isn't this just the best? Marcel is the little soul, now I see that! Well the book was written either before he was born or when he was rather a young child, but you can see how Therese, in the midst of the bliss and plentiful knowledge of the Beatific Vision, sees all with God's sight, and inspires Mother Agnes with Marcel's own - later! - words.]
Therese: Do not be uneasy, the words which trouble you were a somewhat special counsel . . . There are cases indeed in which to dwell inwardly on our little daily sufferings, to brood over them before God, may encompass the soul in the net of sadness: then it is good for her to spread her wings and fly - thus losing sight of herself. But on the contrary, in other circumstances, it would be a lack of simplicity towards God not to unburden ourselves before Him of the weight which oppresses us. See, He Himself advises it, I nearly said orders us to do so, in His Gospel: 'Come to Me all you that labour and are burdened and I will refresh you.' Moreover, believe me, He is so good, that to comfort a soul is always the sweetest consolation of His Heart.
Little Soul: Oh, Saint Therese, what an amount of good you do me! . . . Yes, you show me the Divine characteristics such as I always secretly imagined them to be, without daring to believe that my thoughts were right.
Therese: It is because she knew it well that the holy foundress of my Carmel in Lisieux, Mother Genevieve, sometimes said to sorely tried souls: 'Go and confide in the good God . . . complain to Him . . . He loves complainings . . .'
+ + +
So there you are! I'm going to end now because I bet you have just as many loving complaints as I do! Not to add to your to do list, but I think Marcel must be laughing, this is so much fun!
1. complain to Jesus (lovingly and just see if it doesn't end in laughter!)
2. read Chapter Two of Story of a Soul
3. come back to Miss Marcel's Musings soon for MBC, February edition!
oh, and let's not forget to pray!
4. pray our little prayer together
Ready? We can check off that box in a jiffy:
Draw me, we will run!
Wasn't that easy? I'm hoping our little way through Chapter Two is just as simple and delightful. See you here again soon! And don't forget to enjoy the last moments of February - it's not every month that can be so short, so cold, and so useful for getting us to pour out our complaining hearts to little Jesus!
Today is the feast of Saints Jacinta and Francisco of Fatima! They are the youngest non-martyred canonized Saints! Congrats, little sister and brother! And thank you so much for loving Jesus and Mary so well!
Under the icon of Jacinta and Francisco you can see Marcel looking at us (Therese is in the background and their expressions are similar) - and he's saying, "Really? So I can NEVER be the youngest canonized non-martyr Saint?" Well, sorry, Marcel, but I think others besides the little Fatima Shepherds have come before you who had already ruled you out as youngest - like how about your sister Therese? She was only 24 when she exited stage left, which means even if you get canonized, you won't beat her record (let alone J and F's).
But actually, I may have mis-interpreted Marcel's look. On second thought, I imagine he's saying, "The third paragraph? You're leaving our readers in suspense about the mystery photo until the THIRD paragraph?"
My goodness our little brother is testy today! Yes, my manners are atrocious, and I have left you in suspense too long, and I won't let Marcel's impatience stop me from getting to the point at last (in the fourth paragraph, I might add): That lovely woman in the photo on the right is none other than Pauline, Therese's second eldest sister, first of the Martin girls to enter the convent, and eventually Mother Agnes of Jesus, named to that post (after she'd held it a couple of times) "for life" by one of the Popes who realized it was silly not to let the one who formed St. Therese be the former of the Lisieux Carmel and the top dog (or, rather, top nun) in charge of the Carmel's work spreading the word on the Little Flower.
So . . . what is Pauline doing perched atop our post today? She has a surprise for us - okay, she's as bad as Marcel (which makes her smile; everyone in Heaven loves being compared to Marcel!), interrupting me before I've even had a chance to say what her surprise is. But she wants you to know that her surprise is not really hers, but from Our Lady of Joyful Surprises and her little shepherds, whose day is today (this is the day, in 1920, that Jacinta went to heaven; Francisco preceded her by several months, going to heaven first of the three seers, on April 4, 1919. Poor Lucia! She had to wait until just a few years ago to join them, in March of 2005 when she was 97!).
I can't contradict Pauline on this because I know she's right. With our morning prayers, my son and I invoke Our Lady under one or other of her titles, and our favorite seems to be "Our Lady of Joyful Surprises." We're always ready for any number of joyful surprises, and Our Lady is wonderful at fulfilling our hopes.
This morning, once again, we invoked her, and true to form, she came through in a big way. And today's surprise, which I was tempted to attribute to Pauline, is at least written by Pauline, when she was Mother Agnes and helping spread Therese's message of Spiritual Childhood from the Lisieux Carmel to the four corners of the world. It's a big world, but the message spread quickly, and one of my most delightful activities is capturing echoes of the original shout-outs the Carmel sang to the glory of God.
The first such echo I struggled to hear many years ago was sung by Celine (written by her, technically) and it led me to meet John Wu and his friend (who became mine), Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E., an Italian missionary who called little Therese "his guiding star." Eventually they led me to Celine's (anonymously published) book, The Spirit of St. Therese. If memory serves me, I ordered it, once I'd tracked it down, from Wales!
Another echo I've enjoyed re-capturing recently was sung (written) by Celine and Pauline together (Sister Genevieve and Mother Agnes, I mean, but both incognito, as the sisters always are in the Carmel). It's the Little Catechism of the Act of Oblation, very highly recommended, currently in print with Sophia Institute Press.
But most recently I've been wandering in the hills and vales looking for (hearkening for an echo of) At the School of St. Therese from the pen of Mother Agnes/Pauline. It's taken a few months, but thanks to the love of Our Lady of Joyful Surprises and the mischief of little Jacinta and Francisco, this latest treasure, this rose of incalculable beauty and heavenly fragrance, this dear slim volume came to me today on a kind of informal inter-library loan from a Los Angeles Protestant seminary to my local public small town library just five minutes from my home. Thank You, Jesus! Please bless all who brought this book to me!
I didn't know this book existed until a few months ago. That is, though this book has existed (in English) for 81 years, I only found out about it a few months ago. I've been confident since then that God would provide, but now that it's here, this sweet manna from the Heavenly Father in my own hands, I can do no less than share it with you. I'm so excited about what I've read (yes, I gobbled it up straightaway, and yet I know there will be baskets-full left over after I distribute it) that I must write some passages for you here, especially because not only is it out of print (the book, not the manna it contains), but hard to find even for something out of print.
Where shall we begin? At the beginning, since that would be simplest. And simplicity is our story today! Mother Agnes (Pauline) begins by telling us:
"In the life of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, simplicity was the rule. To think otherwise would be to change the very encouraging character which God had willed to give to His little Servant expressly to win to His Divine Love the little souls who would follow her."
Oh my goodness! Heavens above!
Immediately when I read that bit, I thought of our little brother Marcel. But let me try and restrain myself for a moment and quote a smidgen more:
"Her life should be simple to serve as a model for little souls." (Depositions of the Carmelites of Lisieux at the Process of Canonization)
And now I must tell you the subtitle of this wondrous volume: "Her True Spirit explained by Herself and supported by the writings of Doctors and Theologians of Holy Church."
So here, then, where I left off quoting, we get our first Doctor adding his own two cents, namely St. Francis de Sales (one of my favorites!):
"Simplicity banishes from the soul that solicitous care which so needlessly urges many to seek out various exercises and means to enable them, as they say, to love God, and which makes it impossible for them to be at peace if they are not doing all that the saints did. Poor souls! They torment themselves about finding out the art of loving God, not knowing that there is none except to love Him. They think that there is a certain art needed to acquire this love, which is really only to be found in simplicity."
Well shiver me timbers and knock me over with a feather! This is Marcel to the core, and what's so delightful is that Our Lady of Joyful Surprises had already surprised me (before the call about the book's arrival) with a passage in Conversations that had taught me (or re-taught me, since I'm always forgetting) the kind of simplicity that I was soon to read about in Pauline's pages.
This morning I'd flipped open to 5 Mother 1946. There Marcel tells Mother Mary how he and Therese and little Jesus were having fun and renamed May, "Mother." Our brother also tells us about how he planned his prayer time in the chapel so he could stay awake, how Therese and Jesus helped him, and so on, until suddenly, he writes (599),
"But once again I was distracted, thinking of the Vietminh and Vietnam. I wanted to have many rifles and aeroplanes to fight the communists and prevent them from reigning over Vietnam, my country. Mother, I even asked little Jesus to grant me what I wanted, but He was content to answer me: 'The best weapon for safe-guarding the interests of your country and to snatch it from the hands of the communists, is prayer. Do not stop looking towards Me, little brother, and that will be enough. Each of your glances with this intention is enough to make me understand the situation of Vietnam, your country.' My sister told me the same thing."
And then, Mary agrees: "And I, my child, I tell you the same thing also. The only means to save your country from communism is prayer. This is very easy; it requires neither cunning, nor rifles, nor ammunition. A glance, a smile, or a sigh toward little Jesus is enough; it is like a game within reach of everyone."
This was exactly what I needed to hear! May I beg you to join me in prayer? That is, in a glance, a smile, or a sigh toward little Jesus (or Mary)? My intention is like Marcel's, for my own dear country. Or, rather, for my own dear small town! There are forces of darkness threatening us, and without going into details, I can say briefly (for there are so many more important things to write to you about!!) that I've been realizing the power of prayer. If you ever hear anyone say that prayer can't or doesn't change anything, just smile or laugh (and definitely don't slap the speaker, tempting though it may be), because clearly the one holding this view is confused. But I've realized that in every situation (like with my town or with such an attitude toward prayer), the only recourse I have, finally, the most powerful recourse for all of us to change anything, is . . . yes, prayer!
There was our brother Marcel, worrying about a very reasonable and big worry: Vietnam being taken over by the communists! But was he supposed to worry? Nope. Was he supposed to get guns and fight? Nope. Was he supposed to print underground newspapers or arrange for radio broadcasts or go to political rallies? Nope! Some people were perhaps called to do those things, but Marcel is one of Jesus' favorites, as he is one of ours, and so Jesus gave him the straight dope: Prayer. That's it. And not big, long, complicated, exhausting prayer. A sigh, a glance, a smile. Wow! This is great news!
Just like St. Therese!
And here is Mother Agnes, one of those handful of lucky souls who were closest to Therese and knew her from the inside out and the outside in. And what does Mother Agnes want us to know first? The beauty of it is she's not going to want us to know so much that she needs to write a long book. The whole longed for tome that fell into my hands (finally!) today is only 80 pages long. If you lop off the prayers at the back, just 78 pages! Small pages! With long footnotes from the Doctors and Theologians (which are, mainly: Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary and St. Gertrude, St. Francis de Sales, St. Augustine, St. Irenaeus, St. Ephrem, St Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Alphonsus, St Peter Julian Eymard, St. Claude de la Colombiere, Jean Pierre Caussade, Father Grou, and a few others).
And the first of the few things about Therese that Mother Agnes wants us to know is: her simplicity. Just like Marcel's!
And now, speaking of simpicity, I'm going to publish this post before it disappears (my computer is threatening to reboot), and then, in all simplicity, we can continue another day soon!
Before I go, as always, let's offer our little very powerful prayer together:
Draw me, we will run!
And remember - no more worrying, about anything, anymore, ever!
If you notice the date below the title above, or if you check this blog relentlessly for the good news (finally!) of a new post, you may be wondering if I'm a day late here...But let me assure you that after pondering the timeless nature of this blog, the eternal excellence of Marcel's (and Therese's) message (which is really simply the eternal truth of the Gospel), I've decided not to let a little thing like time-as-we-know-it stop me from presenting to you our Valentine Message.
Above you will see not-exactly-Marcel, but a Vietnamese boy very like him, dressed in traditional Tet (Feb. 1st) garb and holding a letter for you. It's a love letter of course!
In Marcel's Conversations we read that little Jesus was sleeping and leaving the chatting to Marcel, Therese, and our dear Mother Mary during the early months of 1946, starting His divine silence after a short conversation with Marcel on January 2nd. At about (241) Jesus says:
"I continue to smile on you and to give you kisses . . . So, Marcel, be joyful and say again to me: 'Little Jesus, I love you. O little Jesus, come with me.' I love you very much, Marcel. I am very happy with you and when I see you joyful, I am happier still."
Ah, I love that prayer! "O petit Jesu, viens avec moi!" And then to know that He is kissing us, smiling upon us, happy with us, and even happier when He sees us joyful! This is a new message to me every day, and the reason I never get tired of Marcel (perish the thought!) and his wonderful Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese.
Well, to finish up this thought before starting another (finish up, that is, this thought of Jesus' sleeping, which began soon after these last reassuring words I've quoted), I should add that Marcel had the idea that Jesus would sleep until Tet, February 1st. In fact Jesus slept longer, and Marcel was such a brave little brick about it! In my world if Jesus sleeps longer than a day, I'm rudely waking Him up. I'd like to tell Him that I will offer up His silence (don't worry, it is not audible messages I'm missing, but just His little kisses), but frankly I'm just too little!
But what exactly is "Tet"? Good thing we have the internet to answer all our deepest questions! (Okay, just kidding - it's good for answering our shallow questions; for the deep ones, turn to our Mother the Church!)
Tet is the Vietnamese New Year, and like all New Year's Days the world over, a day of celebration, but in particular in Vietnam, their most important holiday festival! I just discovered that the date changes from year to year - so in 1946 Tet was on February 1st, and this year it was February 5th. No wonder I got a special heart in the mail, inscribed with our signature prayer on one side (Draw me, we will run!!!) and another line from Song of Songs on the other. I had thought it was an early Valentine, but it was for Tet!
This explains too why my husband made some hilarious remark, just pre-Valentine's Day, about me giving him cash for our American holiday. Cash? How perplexing. But now I get it! On Tet, the adults give red envelopes with cash in them to the children in exchange for New Year greetings! Silly husband! I am not really the grown-up around here! No wonder it worked the other way! (He did not give me cash, but rather roses and the like, as is our U.S. custom for Feb. 14th).
And that explains too why our faux-Marcel in the photo above looks so happy with his red envelope!
Our own Marcel (the real one) never had much money (received or to give), so he gave and continues to give us words and kisses, wishes that little Jesus will kiss us too, and prayers to that effect. How wonderful! How much better than plain old money!
And did I tell you that Tet is celebrated for a few days up to even a week? I say let's stretch it this year to 10 days, to encompass today! Happy Tet! Since Jesus is always making everything new, let's have another Happy New Year now, in honor of Marcel and Vietnam and miracles every day!
Here is a miracle that came to me last night, which explains also why the Holy Spirit prevented my posting Valentine's greetings of love and more love on The Day itself. I needed the extra bit of info to share with you too.
Did you know that P.G. Wodehouse, funniest writer ever, sweet lamb, good egg, and darling ducky of Bertie and Jeeves fame (that is, he wrote of them, and frequently) died . . . Well, you may know he died, although with St. Therese we prefer to say "entered eternal life," and I found out last night that was in 1975 . . . but did you know Plum died/entered real life on February 14th?
How delightful! How fitting! I don't think our good Pelham had much clue about the fullness of truth, but the part of truth revealed to him was certainly immortalized in his kindness to others and his ability to make us laugh! Late last night I started reading the beginning of a sort-of-memoir he wrote called "Over Seventy" (published in the U.S. as "I Like America"), and I was laughing and smiling until it almost hurt - but not quite, because PGW never hurts, He, like Jesus (though in an infinitely lesser though still treasured way), only heals!
Well Plum (the name his dear ones called him), I am asking Marcel to give you a big, loud kiss today! He (Marcel) was already in heaven long before you got there - okay, 16 years before, which was just about half his earthly life, though a fraction of yours! - so I'm letting my prayers and requests work outside earthly time (since they're meant for heavenly greetings) and trusting he gave you the tour straight off, 44 years ago yesterday. I like to think that anyone (you especially) who has brought so much innocent joy to so many can be nowhere else than reaping a very blissful eternal reward. It's like the line they forgot to put in the Bible, in Matthew 25. "When, Lord, did I make You smile and laugh?" "My beloved child, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to Me!"
Meanwhile, we have St. Claude de Colombiere's feast today. If you didn't know, don't blame yourself - it's not on the universal Church calendar that I could see, but it is his feast nonetheless. He was St. Margaret Mary's spiritual director (her bearded Jesus, if you will), her very essential link to Jesus, so you can imagine he had a lot to do with spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart as revealed to St. Marge. Hooray! Another way to continue our celebration of Love! Isn't that fitting too? That Jesus would give us a feast of the herald of His Sacred Heart the very day after we've had our greetings of "Will you be mine?" He is waiting for us to be His too! Or actually, I don't think He's waiting - I think He knows He already has us! Double and triple Hooray!
I want to close this post with a special Tet/Valentine greeting to one of my favorite people in the world . . . I was reminded of him on the Vigil of Valentine's Day when I did something unusual for me. I tore myself away from Conversations long enough to pick up Marcel's Correspondence and read several pages (that I wanted to transcribe here, but for now time does not allow) - and they shot me over the moon with love! (I did get back home by Valentine's Day, thankfully.) And I realized, once again, that I would be a Sad Suzie, rather than a Merry Miss Marcel if it weren't for the many years of "hard labor" (which, since it was a labor of love, I pray were years of more mirth than even a whole library of Plum's works could produce) put in by another certain British gentleman who certainly should be knighted for his service to the realm and to the world.
Do you know who I mean?
None other than Marcel's little brother, the peerless Jack Keogan.
I don't mean that "peerless" to be any slur on his blue-or-other-blood, but rather I mean "unrivalled, unequalled" - for he certainly is unrivalled and unequalled in his gift of love to us, the four volumes of Marcel in such sterling, readable, priceless-above-pearls-English-prose (with the occasional poem thrown in for good measure). So here goes my Valentine/Tet message across the pond.
Thank you again and again for translating Marcel's oeuvre into English for us! We would be so sad without your gift of our dear brother's words in a language we can understand. We hope your every day contains much more than earthly roses and red envelopes of cash - may your every day contain Jesus, our True Love, His (and our) dear Mother Mary, and those darling imps: the first and second Therese(s). God bless and keep you and all those dear to you, and may this New Year be full of even more blessings and consolation than last!
with all our love,
Marcel's English language readers :)
And now, lest another day fly by without sending my message of love to you, dear reader, let's pray, and then raise a glass (of strong tea, hot cocoa, or your favorite drink of choice) to the New Year!
Draw me, we will run!
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