As you can see from the title above, this post is the third installment in our acclaimed series, "Why Marcel." Acclaimed? you ask. Having recently seen, outside a restaurant in a neighboring town, a sign that announced, "World Famous Fish Tacos!", I feel quite within the bounds of truth-in-advertising to call our series "acclaimed." One reader wrote in, "Why Marcel was excellent," and another, in reference to Why Marcel Too wrote, "Soooooo good!" I won't go so far, yet, as to call our series "World Famous," like the fish tacos the international community has apparently been raving about, but perhaps today's inbox will bring international kudos, in which case I'll keep you posted!
With or without world wide recognition, however, we boldly assert that our triple explanation of "Why Marcel" is, in fact, of universal importance, capable of bringing international happiness (if not whirled peas). But even more thrilling to Jesus, Mary, Therese, and myself is that our posts on Marcel's 2nd Therese-ness, and Jesus' important messages to us through him, are capable of bringing happiness to you, dear reader. And as Jesus keeps telling us via Marcel, to increase your happiness is to increase His happiness. This is definitely all good, so let's continue with making everybody happy by delving more deeply into the charming mystery of Marcel and his mission.
We know that Jesus and Mary both call Marcel the second Therese, and we've seen that Marcel has a mission to be another little secretary in charge of transcribing Jesus' messages of love. Moreover, Jesus asked Marcel to write down both sides of their conversations, so that just as Therese had taught Marcel, so Marcel could teach us that God is interested in all our stories, however seemingly trivial or mundane, because He loves us so much that He's happy to come down to our level.
I think another way He proves His love for us is by making sure that we get His message. So that even after He has sent St. Therese to us, making her book a bestseller translated into nearly every language on earth, her name a byword, her image (statue, picture, what have you) visible everywhere in the world. . . after raising her to the highest honors of the Church - Purple Heart, Academy Award, Emmy, Obie, Tony, Congressional Medal of Honor, OBE . . . Oh, wait, oops, wrong list. I mean to say Blessed, Saint, Patroness of France, Patroness of the Missions, Doctor of the Church, etc. . . . In other words, after the good God has set forth the Little Flower to be our exemplar and teacher, every bit of it finally for the one purpose of making known her Little Way, as if this weren't enough, note well that our tireless Savior doesn't hesitate to bring Marcel onstage in order to rewrite His very same message anew for us in page after page after page.
And why, again?
One great reason is that we are forgetful bears of very little brains full of fluff.
But Jesus gives Marcel another reason in the opening pages of Conversations:
"In showing you My love, My great wish is to see you draw towards Me, a great number of souls who will love Me as you do . . . Oh! My spouse, how many souls there are waiting for the words that you are writing to learn how to love Me" (7).
Isn't it marvelous to read the words of Jesus and know He's talking about us? We are those souls who have been waiting for Marcel's Conversations so that we could learn how to love Jesus! Even though we may have already learned how to love Jesus from Therese . . .
I know that among the readers of this blog and of Marcel's writings, there are at least two who are fairly young in years, like Therese was when she learned how to love Jesus, and like Van was when Therese began, in her turn, to teach him how to love God. Before they had heard of Marcel, both these readers, though young, already loved Therese so much that they each chose her for their confirmation Saint and now bear her name.
Then there are those of us who have met Marcel later in our lives. Did you know that the famous Jack Keogan, translator extrordinaire to whom we owe our English copies of Marcel's writings, only learned of Marcel Van after he (Jack) was 70 years old? If I'm slightly off with that estimate, it's only slightly. Like me (if a few years older), Jack had spent decades knowing and loving Therese before she introduced him to Marcel.
Which makes me wonder.
Do you think our sister Therese hides our brother from us for a while because she knows that once we meet Marcel, our honeymoon with her is over? No, honeymoon is the wrong word because that's for two, and Marcel goes everywhere with Therese, so that falling in love with him, we're falling in love with her all over again. Not to mention Jesus!
I take great joy in remembering how I felt as I waited for my first copy of Conversations to arrive in the mailbox. I couldn't wait to read it, because I couldn't wait to hear what Therese had to say to Marcel, and thus to me.
She loved this game! She knew well that once I got the book, her words would take fourth place in my heart, after the words of Jesus, Mary, and Marcel. She doesn't mind a bit; she'd have it no other way, because all that matters to her is that we learn to love God as she loved Him. If Marcel turns out to be better at teaching us, then far from hiding him, she's the first to make sure we find him and his words, and especially Jesus' and Mary's words to us through him.
But to take a broader view, it's not really Therese's game plan. Jesus is the One determined to leave no stone unturned in His quest to get us snuggled close to His loving Heart. He's the One who never tires of planning and sharing His plans with us. And so He explains to Marcel in Conversations (512):
"Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of My Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person. You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience."
Holy fish tacos! This is exactly the message Jesus was teasingly teaching me yesterday when I looked in Magnificat to see if I was forgetting a special Saint-of-the-day. You bet I was! St. Peter Chrysologous, and wouldn't you know that Brevity, whom I mentioned in the first post of this series, had been waiting to get the last word? As I read in St. Peter's bio, "his homilies were vivid yet concise - marvels of brevity." Marvelous Brevity indeed! And isn't it even more marvelous that God sent St. Peter Chysologous, the "golden-worded," to be a great Saint and brilliant preacher, and yet we are told that "of Peter's writings only one letter and a number of sermons survive."
How blessed we are in our day of sound-bites, instachatmonkeyfishfacebook, and snapatwit to have such veritable volumes of Marcel's own musings to keep us in words! (And I wish I had time to find the passage where Jesus calls Marcel a chatterbox, or the Vietnamese equivalent, but we'll leave that for another day.) As Jesus had explained to our little brother, "You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience."
I couldn't have said it better myself, neither briefly nor at great length (though great length is my preferred mode). Only a day after St. Peter C., we celebrate the feast of the magnificent St. Ignatius of Loyola, the man so on fire with the love of God (this fire having been lit, miraculously, from the very cold embers in his previously indifferent heart) that he and the words of his famous Exercises have raised up any number of Saints, including the Patron of the Missions (alongside whom Therese was raised up as Patroness), St. Francis Xavier. We can see that St. Peter Chyrsologous had one mission, St. Ignatius another, Xavier yet a third. And again, the big St. Teresa had her mission, her daughter Therese yet another, and Marcel - well, Marcel had Therese's mission too! Wonderful Marcel, not afraid to follow in your sister's footsteps as closely as possible. What would we do without you, her apprentice and accomplice, asking only to be as like her as Jesus can make you? Your humility bewitches us! And yet even in your very littleness, Jesus' plan includes a special place for you, a place in middle management, we might say.
As Our Lord told you, little brother, "Later, you will see, I will have a whole army of apostles and all I will teach them will be to love Me as you yourself love Me. But I need someone to serve as intermediary. You, therefore, will be this intermediary. My 'little apostle,' do you accept this role? It will suffice to write down My words and afterwards there will be other apostles who will enable them to be put into practice by everybody. So, therefore, your work will be accomplished and My love will spread. . . If it does not, My love will be extinguished among men" (Conversations, 14).
My plan (speaking of plans) it to help accomplish this work, and thus help spread Jesus' love, and then not have to worry about that awful and unthinkable last consequence that Jesus' mentions. No, dear Jesus, don't You worry about that either!
As for our little brother, I wouldn't say he was worried exactly, but he does love to find out the whole truth, and so later in their Conversations (388), he asks, "But little Jesus, has the expansion of the reign of Love already begun in the world?" Jesus responds by revealing the hierarchy of His apostles:
"Yes, already. But the starting point of this expansion is in France itself. And it is your sister Therese in person who is the universal Apostle of the other apostles of My Love. Yes, it is from there that the expansion of the reign of My Love has emanated and which continues still. And you, Marcel, in writing down My words, you also work at this task, as I previously said. There are still many other apostles that you do not know and who also work in great secret, continually following each other to spread the reign of My Love in the world."
I like to think I'm one of these apostles, but as to working in great secret, that's debatable. Secret or not, though, we apostles are everywhere. I dare you to immerse yourself in Conversations and resist the compulsion to foist Marcel on your family and friends! But perhaps you don't need the encouragement of a dare - if this is not your first time at Miss Marcel's Musings, I venture you've already begun your apostolic work in some form or another, secret or not. Sharing the Truth (and the way to the Truth) with those you love is irresistible. Here's how I've seen this sort of thing play out before . . .
There was once a great Thomist (that is, a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas who spent his life imbibing the Angelic Doctor's wisdom) named Charles DeKoninck. He taught young people to become disciples of St. Thomas too. Some of them were, by name, Ronald McArthur, Marcus Berquist, Jack Neumayr, and Ralph McInerny. Over time, they grew older, and having spent years imbibing the Angelic Doctor's wisdom as their teacher had before them, they in their turn became great Thomists and great teachers. I know all this because I was profoundly blessed to have these men as my teachers. Which means that the great Thomist Charles DeKoninck was, in a sense, my teacher in the reading and love of St. Thomas, for I learned from those who learned directly from him.
I say all this not to impress you (and if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you will more likely smack your forehead with your hand and cry "Oy!" when you realize the depths of silliness to which I've brought my profound blessing, but again, I blame Marcel), but rather to point out two things. First, that it's natural for Jesus' plan to proceed apace - His plan that the Little Way of loving Him will spread like wildfire once Marcel is working under Therese to ignite the blaze. But also, wonderfully, that with Marcel teaching us in Conversations how to follow the Little Way, we are brought extremely close to St. Therese, for we are learning from one who learned directly from her.
Which is just what God the Father intended when He sent Therese to meet little Van and begin teaching him how to love. And what Jesus intended when He began speaking to Marcel and commissioned him to write down both sides of their conversations. And this is what we, in reading Conversations, fulfill to the letter: we learn how to love Jesus as He wants to be loved. Simply, sincerely, naturally, honestly. And yes, poorly, weakly, forgetfully, distractedly!
What I love about Marcel, and for now my final word on Why Marcel (instead of St. Peter Chrysologous, or St. Ignatius Loyola, or St. Francis Xavier, or any of the other shining stars in the firmament of Heaven) is his utter poverty, his so familiar weakness, his predictable and lovable forgetfulness, his ability to answer the most sublime of Jesus' revelations with utter incomprehension.
Marcel in his littleness charms and delights me, and since he reminds me so much of myself, I'm forced to the conclusion that I, too, am charming and delightful - perhaps not to those around me in exile, who would like very much if I did not respond so frequently with predictable forgetfulness and utter incomprehension - but to my Heavenly Father, who has always known how weak I am, and yet has never minded at all, as I'm finally beginning to understand. As our sister Therese told her sister Leonie,
I assure you, God is much kinder than you think. He is content with a glance, a sigh of love.
He's not looking for brilliance or success, cleverness or hard work in our communications with Him. Our true Father is pleased with our briefest glance, our smallest sigh of love.
I hope to write again soon and share what Jesus told Marcel along these same lines. confirming Therese's insight and illuminating it, but for now, let's end with a glance and a sigh for Jesus, along with our five favorite words of love.
Draw me, we will run!
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