Don't worry, I'm not getting bossy here with the post title. I'm just repeating the words I've been hearing from Our Lord these days, and wow, are they helping me, so I couldn't help but share them in the hopes they might help you too!
Do you ever have one of those mornings when you wake unrested, or at least aware that you could use a couple more days in bed? If you've ever suffered really down times, these types of mornings can scare you into worrying you're falling back into a long term bummer of a time, but even if you've never been sad for long, there is that constant tendency I find in the human species to project whatever we're feeling into eternity.
"I'm going to feel this way forever," we muse - and that refrain repeats itself worryingly, no matter how old and experienced we get, wisdom still evading us, as well as the reality that if you can count on anything, it's that our feelings are forever changing rather than forever staying the same!
Well to get to the point - there is a solution! It's a twofold solution, and the books under the twofold advice from Jesus I've quoted above, say it all:
"Read Marcel! Call on Pio!"
Never one to call when I can read, I've been reading Pio as well as Marcel, but first, let me tell you why Jesus has me reading Marcel, and what He's been telling me there.
"There" is, of course, in Conversations. That's where Jesus has me reading and I'm so grateful.
Forgive my rudeness, though. In our family, we try not to say "of course," because it can sound rude, but I say it now because I have such a love-love-love relationship with this book, that it seems a matter of course to me that when Jesus says, "Read Marcel!", He means read Conversations, kind of like when he says, "I'm going to kiss you now," to Marcel or me, He means a kiss, not a slap! In Mother Teresa's language, Jesus' kiss can be suffering - and perhaps that's universal, but there are exceptions, and Marcel and I hold little Jesus to kissing when He mentions kissing! So, too, when Jesus says, "Read Marcel!" - well, there are other Marcel books, but for me and Marcel, there's Conversations first and foremost (middle and most-of-all, finally and fabulously!) and that's where we find Jesus' instructions and His kisses.
So what has He been instructing us lately? I was delighted to find that when I woke up worrying about a week ago and Jesus said, "Read Marcel!", I opened to a favorite passage that never gets old. As St. Paul tells us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and as Jesus tells Marcel, we never have to fear that these words (to Marcel and us through him) are untrue. As Truth Himself explained on 22 October 1945:
"Never doubt the veracity of my words. Pay a lot of attention to what I am saying. I am repeating for you once again: if the words that I am saying to you were not true, how could I ever allow a soul who loves me and confides himself to me without reservation to fall into error? Furthermore, be really convinced of this and never forget it."
But the words that have been my consolation this past week are from a later date, and a date that happens to be my birthday! On April 7, Jesus told Marcel quite a few reasons why he and we should not be worrying - anymore, ever, about anything! In our pictures above, I showed both available editions of Conversations, but if you don't yet have one (or both), or even if you don't have them (or one) at hand, or even if the problem is simply that you don't have your copy opened already to April 7, well no worries is our message! I'm going to copy out the whole wonderful speech of Jesus-our-Love for you here. Just keep reading, and re-read as often as necessary. That's what I've been doing, and I can't recommend such reading enough. From April 7, 1946, then, at (385), as transcribed by Marcel for us in his Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese of the Child Jesus:
JESUS: How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed; and you still have this defect. Come, little brother, since you do not wish to cause me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you? I tell you that I am happy with all that you do; why do you not believe what I say? All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to me already. All that is my property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . . Little brother, remain tranquil. I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother. Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard has he not said these very true words to you: "Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Little brother, if after that you still trouble yourself, it is certain that Mary will be very hurt. Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me, but since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness? Marcel, there is in you only this tendency to worry which makes me fear for the future. So remain peaceful. All that you do belongs to me. You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you . . .
Little Marcel, are you at peace now? . . . Very good. From now on never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand? It is sufficient for you to love me. We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . . Do not worry, Mary is happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, Marcel, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
What did your sister Therese teach you? You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours? . . .Little Marcel, love me a lot.
* * *
Do you love these words like I do? I hope so! But do you fear that they may not be intended for you? Perhaps you haven't yet adopted the name Marcel into your own, and you fear these words are addressed to our little brother, but not to us . . . Not to be rude again, but you're wrong if that's what you think! I must be direct, for we can't let all that work Marcel did (writing down Jesus' words) go to waste!
Here, in fact, is Jesus' response to the possible suspicion that His words are not for us entirely. When Marcel asked Him on 4 November 1945, "Jesus, is it to me alone that you are speaking, without speaking to other souls?", Our dear Lord responded, "My child, listen. I am going to speak clearly to you so that you understand. All of the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future - know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls."
Read Marcel, then, and read his words - really HIS words - to us again!
If you find that despite your best intentions, you are still worrying, you should know so you won't worry about your incapacity to stop worrying, and so you don't fear your inability to quell every little perturbing thought and feeling, that our dear Mother Mary adds later, very helpfully, "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." (596)
But don't worry, either, when that peace is short lived. You can do what I do, and keep reading, over and over as I've been doing this past week, the bold words above, and then try to stifle those worries by Jesus' dozen or so reasons. I think I counted a dozen . . . you can see how many reasons you find!
And then, after I offer my latest worry or anxiety as a sacrifice to little Jesus and try to remain at peace in Mary's arms, then when the worry sneaks back into my thoughts yet again (!), then I call on Padre Pio!
I have friends who are otherwise very reasonable people, but who have got into their heads the very unreasonable and seemingly unbudgeable idea that Padre Pio is a big meanie. Well, I've decided that, averse to confrontation though I am, I will fight to my dying breath to show these dear friends and yes, the whole world, how very sweet, kind, gentle, paternal and maternal, loving and lovable our dear Padre Pio is!
Who else promised to stand outside Paradise until he brought in every one of his spiritual children before him? And who else is so gallant, so gracious, so generous in accepting every one of us who asks to become one of these favored spiritual children? Why, this dear Father even promised that all those close to anyone who is his spiritual child will also be his spiritual children too! And lest you think being Padre Pio's spiritual child is thus weakened in its effects (sharing your father with so many), here are his own words: "I have never lost a single one of my spiritual children. I follow them all with my prayers." Man oh man, however you might reckon heavenly time, that's a lot of waiting outside the pearly gates, all on account of this spiritual father's sweet love for us! Sounds like Jesus, if you ask me! And as in the case of our dear little brother Marcel, so in the case of Padre Pio, their union with Jesus is the key to their charm and their power over the Heavenly Father's heart.
As I mentioned, Jesus seemed to tell me to call on Pio, so I started by bolstering my confidence in the famous Padre by reading anecdotes about him from two marvelous books compiled by Diane Allen called (in one of his helpful sayings) Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry. Or perhaps a more accurate chronology of the events is that I found myself reading these books, and then read between the lines Jesus' message to me: Call on Pio! If you would like your confidence bolstered but don't have these books on your shelf yet, you can start by reading similar true and moving accounts at padrepiodevotions.org - I think some of the stories may even be told in both places.
I never tire of reading stories of the Saints, in particular, stories of the Saints in their kind attention to us, which is one of the reasons I love both St. Therese and St. Padre Pio so much. Similar to what St. Therese promised, Padre Pio said before he died, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." Neither of them ever tires of paying attention to us, and so there are seemingly endless stories, ranging from the short-short story to the epic life adventures (which can read like novellas) of those who have been friends and recipients of Therese's and Pio's attentive intercession. Sometimes these stories are contemporary with our Saints' lives on earth, and other times the favors were granted after the Saint's entry into Heaven.
(By the way - and this is more parenthetical than usual but I just can't resist sharing this fun new information! - I recently read that several priests reported seeing Padro Pio at the canonization of St. Therese - he must've bilocated there, since it was in the 1920's after he was already living permanently at San Giovanni Rotondo. Isn't that delightful?)
Because the Holy Spirit filled Padre Pio with such a range of miraculous charisms, some of the anecdotes about Pio's kindness and merciful love tell of events which happened during his life on earth, and yet involve favors he gained for people who prayed to him even then (while he was living at the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo), just as though he were already in Heaven! I guess in a way he was, given his intimate union with the Trinity even while he remained in exile . . .
Since, however, long experience has shown me that I can blather on and on about how nice Padre Pio is and make just about no headway whatsoever in convincing my deluded friends that he is, indeed, gentle and friendly, I'd better get to it and tell you one of these stories now. Let the adorable facts speak for themselves!
As I'm wondering which story to tell, one pops into my dizzy head - the story that made me laugh aloud the other night and interrupt my husband's own reading (or was he praying - oops!). I couldn't resist sharing the fun with him, and I can't resist sharing the fun with you! Because yes, kindness, gentleness, sweetness and all that sort of thing cling to our Padre like he clings to Mary, our Mother, but without fun, where would we be? Marcel has proven, if nothing else, that Jesus appreciates impishness as much as anyone, so I'll tell this favorite story of Marcel's and mine . . . It really took me by surprise!
There was a man in Italy, Laurino Costa, who had a family to support, but he had been out of work for some time with no prospects. He was given a photo of Padre Pio and it made a huge impression on him. Laurino looked at the photo a lot, and even began to have dreams of Padre Pio, so he decided to write and ask Padre Pio to pray for him to get a job. From Chapter 25 of Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry (Book 1): "Right away, Laurino received an answer to his letter. Padre Pio wanted Laurino to come to San Giovanni Rotondo at once."
Laurino had no money to make the trip, but he felt a strong and growing desire to do as Padre Pio said, so one day he hitchhiked to the train station - though without money to buy a ticket once there! He ran into a friend at the station, and, when asked, in telling the friend of his hope and intention to get to Padre Pio's place - but also explaining that he had no money for the ticket - Laurino was overheard by another man standing nearby. This stranger volunteered to take him to San Giovanni Rotondo, as that was his own destination and he would be driving there. This thoughtful stranger was Dr. Giuseppe Gusso, the doctor who ran Padre Pio's Home for the Relief of Suffering, and a good friend of the Padre's!
Laurino's first problem solved, off he went to see Padre Pio. As most did when they got to the monastery, Laurino attended Padre Pio's early morning Mass. Afterward, Padre Pio motioned to him to approach, and again, like most people to whom this happened, Laurino thought, "He must not be beckoning me. He doesn't know who I am."
A word of advice. If you ever see Padre Pio beckoning you, set aside your first reaction that he can't be beckoning you. Even if he is beckoning the guy behind you, hey, why not step forward and see what you might get? I promise it won't be a slap, but a kiss!
Here's what happened to Laurino. First Padre Pio had to tell him, "Laurino, come here at once!" and then, while Laurino trembled in astonishment (and fear, let's admit it!), Padre Pio simply instructed him, "Go over to the hospital and prepare the food for my sick."
Then ensued the best conversation ever. Laurino objected that this wouldn't work, as he had no idea how to cook! Padre Pio repeated his invitation/command. He insisted, so that Laurino, although filled with fear at the very thought of such a plan, asked, "If I go to the hospital kitchen and try to cook, will you help me?" Padre Pio - who so far has seemed to justify my obstinate friends' resistance to his sweetness! - came through with flying colors, for now he promised, "Yes, I will be there with you and I will assist you."
Have I ever told you of my fear of cooking for an institution? It's amazing the fears one can dream up! Since my husband has been working for Catholic colleges (two of them, sequentially) for the last hundred years or so, I had the opportunity once, at the beginning of the school year, to place a whole heart-load full of misplaced empathy on the head cook at one of these wonderful places. I simply woke up at the beginning of the students' return, and thought in a panic, "How can she do it? How can she manage? How will she cook for all these returning people?" It was a terrifically absurd fear, because the woman I was fearing for had been doing this for years and years and had no fear of it at all! But Laurino? Now he was afraid, and rightly so! For himself! Because he'd never cooked for his own family, let alone a hospital full of sick people and their large medical staff! The story continues:
"Laurino walked out of the church and across the plaza to Padre Pio's hospital. The year was 1958. As soon as he entered the hospital, he was introduced to one of the nuns who was employed there. 'You must be the new cook for the hospital!' the nun exclaimed. 'We have been waiting for you anxiously and are so glad that you have arrived!'"
Laurino was shocked! But it got worse! He went into the hospital kitchen and found the kitchen workers standing and instantly staring at him, waiting for his orders for the day's cooking! Surrounding him were massive institutional ovens, stoves, fridges, and sinks. Even the pots and pans were enormous, and this wasn't a nightmare - it was real, though his fears increased and he had that familiar nightmare feeling!! But then . . .
"As Laurino continued to look around the kitchen, his fears began to subside. Suddenly, everything seemed strangely familiar to him, as though he had always been a cook. He felt confident that he could do what was required of him. He then proceeded to give the instructions to the kitchen staff. That first day on the job, Laurino cooked for 450 people."
He'd only planned to stay a day or two at the monastery, but Laurino now had a job and a steady income! He was, bizarrely, the head cook for the Home for the Relief of Suffering, and a fine cook at that! Despite his thought that his family would hate to move there, Laurino followed Padre Pio's instructions to move them to this new place, and sure enough, everything worked out beautifully! Laurino was the head cook for many years, and always aware of the deep affection in which Padre Pio held him.
I love this story because it has the typical Padre Pio affection and humor, but also the assistance that came in his not only getting Laurino a job, but a job near him where his family could live in a good place, and also - best of all in some ways - a job which on his own Laurino was totally unfit for, but which Padre Pio miraculously helped him to accomplish with confidence and - I am guessing - joy!
Okay, this is not the sappy, sentimental story I had intended to tell. There are so many of these too - romantic stories of spouses Padre Pio brought together, marriages his intercession repaired and strengthened, children he healed, and on and on, often with such gentleness - especially when the people involved were afraid of him! I've read story after story of those who were waiting in line for confession, and suddenly were seized with fear and started to leave. One way or another, whether it was a shove from the person behind, or Padre Pio leaning out of the confessional and calling the fearful one in to confess, when the encounter with Padre Pio occurred, far from being a frightening experience, it brought tremendous peace.
Often people would be so scared in his confessional that they couldn't get any words out, whether they had come with a well prepared confession, or had promised a neighbor they would ask Padre Pio's prayers for a sick child. Over and over again, Padre Pio would gently do all the talking, leading the person through the confession by a list of the sins that had been committed. This unexpected litany, far from increasing fear, would bring awe but also a realization of being loved, being known and loved, being embraced by mercy and the infinite forgiveness of God as poured through a priest one with Him, apparently in omniscience as well as limitless love.
It is tempting to transcribe story after story from Padre Pio's treasury of spiritual fatherhood, and even his spiritual motherhood! Being a Miss Marcel, I can't remember where it was in the two books I've been reading that I found this, but I do remember seeing how some wanted to call him Mama as well as Papa, because Padre Pio's love for souls was so tender and maternal. This follows almost inevitably from his own experience of Mother Mary's care. He said of Our Blessed Mother, "She treats me as if I were her only child on the face of the earth. Her loving care toward me cannot be described in words." This is how Mary treats each of us - as she and Jesus often assure us through their words in Marcel's Conversations, and so too this is the tender care Padre Pio lavishes upon us, whether we yet recognize it or not.
There was a man named Bill Martin who came from Brooklyn, New York. He visited Padre Pio in the monastery in Italy, and he was quite sad to leave, so happy was he in Padre Pio's presence. The day Bill was leaving for home, he was surprised and thrilled to have Padre Pio send a message to him to stay! Sure enough, Bill stayed and became Brother Joseph Pius Martin, and after Padre Pio's death, he became Fr. Joseph Pius Martin! Here are some simple words from this wonderful American son of his saintly Italian father: "To meet Padre Pio even after his death is to find heaven, because that is where he will lead you."
* * *
Having written most of the above post yesterday, I reflected this morning on how far short of my desires these paragraphs fall. But how wonderful! If my poverty and weakness are so apparent even to me, how much more will Jesus see and recognize that He alone must work miracles in your heart and life! My power is that of an inchworm; He is almighty God!
It did occur to me that I could do my little inching part, however, in helping His grace flow more freely into your heart by offering again the words (His words) that inspired me to write in the first place. My own problem in reading is that I often gulp the words, rather than savor them, because there are so many lovely words ahead that I don't want to miss. This can have the effect of turning a leisurely feast into something less nourishing . . . or to radically change our metaphor, my rush forward turns the words into machine gun blasts, which is a sorry change from the beautiful flowers they are in themselves. Such loving words from Jesus are meant to fall from Heaven like light raindrops, or dew from above, as Scripture would have it, and I apologize if I have turned them into rapid fire! And so, to close, we will do a repeat of the best words in this post - Jesus' words to us through Marcel - but this time, I will place them at a little distance from each other, allowing you to soak them in like sunshine, or watch them waft about you like bubbles from a bubble wand, or best of all, feel their caress like the delicate and gentle hand of a mother soothing her beloved child.
In the words of our own adorable Jesus, spoken to us yesterday, but meant for us forever:
How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed . . . Come, little one, since you do not wish to cause me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you?
I tell you that I am happy with all that you do . . .
All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to me already.
All that is my property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . .
Little one, remain tranquil.
I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother.
Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard, has he not said these very true words to you:
"Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me . . . but since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness?
There is in you only this tendency to worry which makes me fear for the future.
So remain peaceful . . . All that you do belongs to me.
You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you.
Little one, are you at peace now? . . .
From now on never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand?
It is sufficient for you to love me.
We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . .
Do not worry, Mary is happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
What did your sister Therese teach you?
You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless!
And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew.
What happiness can be compared to yours? . . .Little one, love me a lot.
* * *
Jesus, we do love You a lot!
Draw me, we will run!
Mother Mary, hold us in your arms beside Jesus and Marcel!
Little Therese, pray for us!
Padre Pio, be our spiritual father, and teach us the gentleness of Our Lord through the ever-present solicitude of your kindness and your prayers.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
P.S. Word has reached us from across the pond that our dear friend and benefactor Jack Keogan (translator of Marcel and conduit of all that is good) is rather under the weather. Please join me in praying for him and his dear wife, that he may soon be up to snuff! Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Comfort of the Afflicted, pray for us, and especially for Jack!
On September 7, 1946, on the vigil of his profession as a Redemptorist, Marcel wrote in Conversations:
"Mary, tomorrow is the feast of your birthday. How happy for you! . . . Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my sister Therese's profession. Ah! What happiness! It is not only the day of my little Mother, but also that of my little older sister. Is it not clever on little Jesus' part in having chosen this day to join Himself to me? What happiness, dear Mother! Beginning tomorrow, each year I will celebrate on this day a triple anniversary: that of your Birthday, that of the religious profession of my sister little Therese and finally that of my own profession, which will make three anniversaries on the same day. Ah! Little Jesus really has a talent for choosing . . . "
As with everything Marcel says in this most delightful book of Conversations, I could not agree more. Little Jesus really does have a talent for choosing, and it is wonderful how He manages to pile miracle upon miracle and mystery upon mystery such that a single day can encompass so many anniversaries, and a single feast contain so much meaning.
Take the Feast of Epiphany, for instance. Each year I'm thrilled to find this antiphon in the Church's Divine Office:
"Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation."
Somehow we celebrate on Epiphany not only the visit of the Three Kings to little Jesus, which marks God's revelation of His Incarnate goodness to the nations, but also the Trinitarian manifestation at His baptism in the Jordan, when the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove over Jesus' head, and the Father's voice thundered, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." But two is never enough when there could be three, so we celebrate also that day the epiphany of Christ's Divinity when He worked His first public miracle for the newly married couple at Cana, in response to His Mother's simple request, "They have no wine," and again her words to the stewards, "Do whatever He tells you." And thankfully, His telling is so simple. He doesn't make us turn water into wine, but only asks us to fill the jars.
Talk about a feast and an anniversary! Every year from then on, that married couple celebrated not only their wedding anniversary, but on the same day year after year they celebrated Jesus' turning water into wine for them, a prefigurement of the Eucharist when He turns wine (and a drop of water) into His precious blood for us, and in every drop makes available to us "the best wine," namely His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - Himself for our food and drink!
With September 8, too, He couldn't resist adding even more layers of meaning and more anniversaries. I bet you'll never guess the other anniversary, the September 8, 1948 event (see, I'm even giving you a hint as to what year He added it and still you'll never guess!) that brought yet another manifestation of Jesus and Mary to the world. Don't worry, you're not alone. I didn't know it myself, this other lovely anniversary, until yesterday, when the following tender manifestation of God's infinitely solicitous love took place.
I woke early enough to go to Holy Mass. Well yes, that was a miracle, but it wasn't September 8 yesterday (let alone 1948), so that isn't the miracle I want to tell you about. Hang on, I promise we're getting to it, and not just one miracle (though it is simply one more anniversary I'll point out to you), because I've decided that the heart of childhood is miracles, and as little Miss and Mr. Marcels here at MMM, we're all children, so we need lots of miracles. Just yesterday morning, in the Church's Divine Office, we prayed to Jesus, "You became a little child and lay in a manger, renew in us the simplicity of little children." And I've realized since then that the heart of a child is a heart that needs miracles, and so it confidently anticipates miracles, it recognizes miracles, and then it revels in miracles. Hear, then, the sweet miracle that took place at Mass - I mean beyond the usual insane miracle of transubstantiation and Holy Communion with Our Lord!
On my way into Mass, I asked Jesus to give me a little gift. The church I was entering has a table in the back foyer, and on that table are often small trinkets that parishioners have received in the mail from Padre Pio groups, St. Anthony groups, and St. Therese groups - do you know what I mean? On Christmas morning I found there, left by some kind soul who wanted to share the love, a small, beautiful cardboard triptych of St. Padre Pio. In the Octave of Christmas I found one day a "blessed golden rosary of St. Therese" left for me with a small cardboard presentation of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. So, naturally, yesterday I was curious to see what God would give me, but I foolishly entered church by a different back door, and too late discovered I had bypassed the Table of Treasures.
This was a good thing, because I was already late for Mass and so I hastened to a pew and hid my disappointment, which was soon forgotten in the joy of receiving the ultimate gift of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. But just because I forgot didn't mean Jesus forgot!
After Mass, I had the further joy of speaking to Fr. O'Shea, one of my and Jesus' favorite priests. As we exited by the side door and Father was descending the few steps there to the parking lot, an Indian man approached us and explained that he and his wife were returning home after having come here for the burial of their 24 year old son who died a month ago. (And yes, please join me in praying for Khain that he may already be eternally happy with Jesus in Heaven, and for his parents and his dear brother's consolation). But this kind man wasn't asking for sympathy; he was trying to give us something.
As Fr. O'Shea was hastening to a waiting car and its driver, he gave us a blessing, but didn't receive the man's little something, which then by default (but really by Divine Providence's careful plan) was given to me! It turned out this sweet man wanted to share with us and thus spread a special devotion he had brought from home, none other than the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, called in his country (and others, I know), "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour," and according to the little booklet he gave me, called in the island of Crete (near Greece) where the image at the top of our post was first venerated, "Our Lady of the Angels." Little did he know that in missing Fr. O'Shea and hitting me, he was passing his beautiful devotion into the hands of Miss Marcel! I gave him in return a little picture of Marcel on which I scrawled the site of our musings here, so perhaps he'll soon know what a conflagration his spark has begun, but honestly, I'm in awe of God's kindness through the generosity and love of a bereaved but smiling father.
But back to our additional September 8th anniversary . . .
Since getting to know Marcel, I've discovered that Our Lady of Perpetual Help was bequeathed to his (and his spiritual father St Alphonsus') order, the Redemptorists, by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1866. What I didn't know until yesterday was that "In the year 1948, Fr. Edward Placidus Fernandes, returning to India from a trip to Europe, and seeing the wonderful devotion to our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Belfast, Ireland, brought with him a picture touched to the original Picture at Rome. On the 8th of September, 1948, the Birthday of our Lady [and the 2nd anniversary of Marcel's religious profession and the 58th anniversary of his little older sister Therese's profession] - which happened to be a Wednesday that year [and incidentally yesterday was Wednesday too] - after a triduum of preparation [and we have just celebrated a triduum since Epiphany!] by the Redemptorist Fathers, the First Novena services were held in the Church of St. Michaels' Mahim, in Bombay, India, of which Fr. Frenandes was the vicar. Only two services were held every Wednesday, and it took three months before the devotion could take deep roots among the people. It was a very modest beginning without any pretence to citywide publicity or patronage." So says my precious booklet straight from Bombay and the kind gift of Jesus through Khain's father in answer to my little wish for a miracle yesterday morning . . .
And what has been the result of Fr. Edward's September 8 manifestation of the Mother of God and her little Divine Son flanked by the two angels holding the instruments of our salvation?
Now every Wednesday of the year - all year round - thousands of the faithful of India flock to the church of St. Michael's Mahim in Bombay (also called Mumbai). They arrive early since devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour begin at 6:00 in the morning, but then more pilgrims continue arriving in an uninterrupted stream throughout the day, since devotions are renewed hourly or so in various languages until the 16 services are over at 10:30 at night!
St. Therese loved to adapt the Scriptures and other beautiful words for her purposes when quoting them for family, friends, her adopted spiritual brothers, and her little novices, and so I'm in good company presenting you with this (slightly adapted for our use) prayer to Our Lady of the Angels, of Perpetual Help, of Perpetual Succour, from my new tiny booklet. Won't you join me in a little lunge into the arms of Mary, into the place she's saving for us to snuggle with Little Jesus, Marcel, and Therese (and thousands upon thousands of devoted Indians who set us such a good example of love)? We don't have to wait till next Wednesday, and by Wednesday we'd likely forget to say this special prayer anyhow, so for at least one heartfelt recital together, here is our prayer lunge into Mary's arms:
O Mother of Perpetual Succour, dear Mother of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of the Angels,
behold us, your little children, at your feet. We have recourse to you and put our trust in you.
O Mother of Mercy, have pity on us. We hear you called by all the refuge and the hope of sinners;
be then our refuge and our hope. Help us for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth your hand to us, poor little ones who recommend and dedicate ourselves to you as your perpetual children.
We bless and thank God for having in His infinitely solicitous mercy given us a new confidence in you, a new pledge of eternal salvation and eternal happiness, a foretaste of Heaven and a vision of our place in your arms with little Jesus. Alas, too often in the past we have forgotten to trust you, forgotten to turn to you, but we know that with your help we can begin again to trust and hope anew. We know that with your help we will conquer the enemy and our fears. We know that our littleness and weakness, our failures and forgetfulness only attract Jesus to us more, He who has come to save us, we who are so much in need of His salvation and love. We know that you will help us if we recommend ourselves to you, and so we ask you to preserve us from forgetting you and Jesus, we beg you to preserve us from ceasing to give you and little Jesus our glances, our sighs, our love and our trust. This, then, is the grace we seek from you and beg of you with our whole hearts: obtain for us always to have recourse to you and to say to you, O Mary help us, Mother of Perpetual Help, and keep us close to Jesus in your arms, never let us separate ourselves from Him or you, and take from us the fear of that separation for ourselves and our loved ones, since we know He will never fail us, He who is our little Jesus of limitless love.
+ + +
Now isn't that the best? You may not remember, but our very first post at Miss Marcel's Musings was topped by our very first photo (all the way back in December of 2017, practically centuries ago) which was of none other than Our Lady of Perpetual Help! And at last here we are discovering why the Holy Spirit inspired us to begin exactly that way. You see, you just have to wait, and wait, and wait, and don't be afraid to cry out, to repeatedly ask, to keep glancing and begging and getting all your friends to beg too, for that miracle you are awaiting! Jesus will hear us eventually and then He will give us the miracles we await so impatiently . . . but this picture gives us the clue as to why the wait: Jesus is a bit distracted, what with angels holding interesting objects and his dear little sandal falling off too! Ah, the sandals! You see, Marcel, you weren't the first to have sandal troubles!
I don't know precisely what it is you're praying for this minute (and don't worry, your desire is your prayer even when you aren't saying words to ask for it), but I feel safe in guessing you still have a few miracles you're waiting and hoping for (however weak that hope may feel), miracles that Jesus hasn't quite released from His loving hands. You can see in our icon that He's clutching Mary's hand, so that would explain why He hasn't let go of those miracles and dropped them into our laps yet. He probably needs us to climb up next to Him and take her hand in ours, thus freeing His! It's at least nice to know what the hold up is, don't you agree?
For yes, I'm in the same boat, waiting for a few special miracles that look like they're bigger than the miracle of the gift of my booklet yesterday, the holy trinket desired by my childish heart and provided by the so sweet Heart of our Father in Heaven, the One who knows how many hairs are on our dear-to-Him heads, the One who is lovingly aware of all us frequently falling little sparrows on the face of this beautiful planet.
The good news is that in every storm, Jesus is very near.
Just like the Church offers us little Jesus and big Jesus in the triple mystery of Epiphany (what with the mysteries of His Baptism and the Wedding Feast of Cana superimposed on the visit of the Wise Men from the East), so in these days after Epiphany, and yesterday in particular, the Church offers us Jesus calming all our fears as we sweat it out in the boat which seems perpetually tossing in an endless storm. Listen to Him as He approaches, saying as He said to His first apostles when He saw they were tossed about while rowing (for the wind was against them) - and saying this really, really late, in the 4th watch of the night (doesn't that sound late?), after coming toward them walking on the sea. Mark tells us Jesus planned to pass by them, but ah, not really - You can never resist our weakness, good and adorable Savior! And when we, like the apostles, cry out (because we're idiots and think maybe we're seeing a ghost!) - when we see You but in our blind desperation we are terrified (and I'm just quoting the gospel from yesterday here, which aligns so perfectly with our long experience!), then You, Love, at once speak to us as You spoke to them - oh, do speak to us today, and every today until the eternal today! - saying the words we long to hear, the words You perpetually repeat to our timid hearts:
"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!"
The gospel then says, "He got into the boat with them and the wind died down." And this makes perfect sense, and this is what He will do for us too, because as St. John the Beloved Apostle - one who had been terrified in the boat in the storm when Jesus appeared before them on the water and spoke these words of love - as St. John told us yesterday in the first reading at Mass:
"God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . ."
May we revel in His love! May we allow Jesus, Who is Love Incarnate, cast out all our fears! And may we, like the children we are, continue to hope for and expect and find miracles each day!
I could write forever, but then I wouldn't have a chance to go into this day where miracles await, and you'd be stuck here with me, reading these endless musings! Let's go, then, let's run and jump into Mary's arms. Let's pray for each other there, pray for Jesus to grant the miracles we need and those we just want - He's Limitless Love, so let's ask and receive! God bless you on your little way, and meanwhile, let's begin our prayer with Therese's simple formula that asks for everything:
Draw me, Jesus, we will run!
Today is the Feast of Saints Gregory Nazianzen and St. Basil the Great! They are, as you will soon see, not only Doctors of the Church, but also brilliant advocates of friendship, so we have many delightful reasons to rejoice in these older brothers of ours today.
But wait! It's also the birthday of the first Little Flower, our sister St. Therese! And she, like Greg and Basil, has so much to teach us about friendship. Unlike them, though, it isn't primarily her words on friendship that provide the key to our longings for this great gift, but really her friendship itself. Sure, with those who had this grace in her lifetime on earth, but even more with any little soul now who seeks a soulmate. She is always ready to accompany each of us, not only like the guiding star she is, but much more intimately as the sister of our days and nights, the kindred spirit who doesn't leave our sides, just like she didn't leave Marcel. So don't even think we can stop celebrating as we move out of the Octave of Christmas!
I just mentioned great gifts, and that reminds me of Christmas miracles, which some of us have been praying for these past weeks. I need to let you know that Finn has not been miraculously healed in this Christmas octave, but before you go exclaiming over Little Jesus' naughty refusal of this gift, let me add that I have it on good authority (namely, Finn's mama) that Christmas miracles have abounded for his family, even though this particular gift wasn't under the tree.
Another dear friend of mine and Marcel's, similarly requesting a Christmas miracle for a suffering child, reported also that (a) the big healing has not taken place so far, but (b) smaller miracles have shone out in these days, like rays of sunshine through the clouds, and he is grateful. The way I see it, then, the greatest miracle of all has taken place: namely the persistence of faith and the glorious and ever-resplendent gift of HOPE, which have not been withheld by the dear Infant Jesus. So like the girl who never got the pony for Christmas, we have found consolation in the gifts that were under the tree, and they have been nothing to sneeze at!
Meanwhile, our comradery with each other and the Saints continues to raise our spirits to the heights of Heaven, where all the angels and Saints are crowding in to adore the newborn King of all creation, the Alpha and Omega who will wipe every tear from every eye, and even soon make all things new. Hooray!
But what about friendship and today's feasts? You won't believe this quotation, even if you've read it before, and I predict it will become one of your favorites! Listen to the story, as told by St. Gregory Nazianzen, of his friendship with Basil (who became "the Great" partly through their very acquaintance and Gregory's admiration of him). I love this so much!!! Here is Gregory's account:
Basil and I were both in Athens. We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.
I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend, the great Basil. I knew his irreproachable conduct and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.
What was the outcome? Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honour than his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.
Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognised that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.
The same hope inspired us – the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.
We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that everything is contained in everything, yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.
Our single object and ambition was virtue and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.
Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.
* * *
I am almost speechless, and at the same time I want so much to comment on each word! Let me begin (and perhaps end, depending on the time God allows me for this task) by excerpting the bold portions - which I had emboldened because they embolden me! I have been blessed with so many friendships with the Saints (in heaven and on earth, as Therese encourages us to identify the Saints), and these bold words more or less, in varying colors from pastels to neons, and nuances of experience, describe to a T (like in "Therese!") and to an M (if you don't mind my coining the expression, because like in "Marcel!") what I myself have counted among my blessings, as well as what I've rejoiced to see in the Saints. Because one way to read these bold parts is in the bold friendship of Marcel and Therese! And then in their bold adoption of us into their company!
This is no mere pie-in-the-sky ideal (well, maybe banana cream pie, or lemon meringue, my favorites! YUM!!) - but rather, in light of Therese's birthday today, a "have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too" experience! We can see this friendship in the Saints of old (or more recent times) and we can live this friendship with our favorite heavenly friends, and we can, thanks to their example and assistance, become such friends with each other. What a birthday gift from Therese to us! Like her holy mother in the Carmelite Order (who is also her name-Saint) Teresa of Avila, I think Therese is absolutely a patron Saint of friendship. AND as a birthday bonus, after the bold parts of our quote from today's Doctors, I have, thanks to one of Therese's best friends on earth (and in heaven), Marie of the Trinity, another quote which will, we pray, embolden you to become best friends (if you haven't already) with Therese and Marcel.
First, then, for a repeat performance by St. Gregory Nazianzen, who told us all the way back in the 300's what it was to be and have a friend in Christ:
I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell.
Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognised that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: the same desires the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.
We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that everything is contained in everything, yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.
Our single object and ambition was virtue and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.
Is this kind of friendship too much for us to desire?
No way! It is exactly the kind of friendship that deserves the name! Let's do it! Let's love Jesus with all our hearts, having only one desire - namely Him - and let's run to Heaven together!
And if you haven't had the blessing of a friendship like this yet, may I suggest your finding such a friend in Therese and her sidekick Marcel? Never was there such a dynamic duo, but they love nothing more than making their duo a trio, and all it takes is YOUR friendship thrown in the mix, a friendship and companionship that they crave!
Here is what Marie of the Trinity said about Therese, after her friend (with whom she lived for 3 years and 3 months in the Carmel of Lisieux in the late 1890's) "left" for Heaven (but really with plans she immediately fulfilled, plans to return, to "come down"):
"I feel her even closer to me than when we were together. When she was on earth, I had to endure sharing her with many other people, but now she is with me entirely and I don't have to share her anymore. I think this is the privilege of all those who are part of the legion of 'little souls,' of whom she is the queen."
And we may truly add about this legion of little souls: "and of whom Marcel is the little prince!"
Marcel too experienced Therese's constant presence - not always by his feelings, but in reality. She promised him, as Jesus promised him, that she would never go away from him. And do you know what? She and Jesus promise the same to us, and we are even luckier than Marcel, for now that he is eternally happy with them in Heaven on Mary's lap, we have the assurance that he, too, will never leave us!
May this funny sci-fi sounding year of 2020 be merely the first in which your deepest yearnings for friendship are fulfilled. I can say in all honesty regarding my vocation as Miss Marcel:
I am not alone in my regard for my best friend Marcel. I seek to persuade others, to whom he is less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fall immediately under his spell.
If you have not yet fallen, might I suggest a copy of Conversations (or two copies!) for ease of access to the heart of the second Little Flower? He will not disappoint!
And I can't help suggesting one other friend whose books are full of life-changing truth and love. One of these friends-in-Christ whom I've been blessed to meet in recent months (for Jesus is always doing new things, and new friends are at the top of His favorite miracles list) had a nifty connection with the author I'm about to mention. My new friend's parents lived next door to this fourth Doctor (after Greg, Basil, and Therese), and knew his friendship! WOW!
There is a great book (not a Great Book, but a really terrific one) by G.B. Stern called "And Did He Stop and Speak to You?" The title refers to a line from the poem Memorabilia by Robert Browning in which Browning waxes eloquent about the awe of someone finding out that another had once passed the poet Shelley in the street. The poem goes like this:
Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!
But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
And the memory I started at--
My starting moves your laughter!
I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world no doubt,
Yet a hand's-breadth of it shines alone
'Mid the blank miles round about:
For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather--
Well, I forget the rest.
-- How very Marcellian that he forgot the rest! And I'm not quite sure what to do with these last two stanzas, but it seemed quite rude to leave them off, especially when they might mean something very special to you!
But to get back to G. B. Stern's appreciation of Browning's appreciation of someone passing Shelley, well she (yes, she, for G is short for Gertrude, a Catholic convert whom you might unknowingly know as the one who wrote The Ugly Dachshund which became a Disney movie, but I know as the co-author, with another lovely British convert, Sheila Kaye-Smith, of Talking of Jane Austen) used it as a starting point of her own awe at her own good fortune in knowing lots of great people, among whom was Monsignor Ronald Knox. And now you know we may never get back to the point unless I stop name dropping and actually do get back to the point!
The point (which I had forgotten but brooded over for a moment and it came back to me, thank Heaven!) is that my friend's parents not only lived next door to our next most highly recommended new BFF, but actually did speak to him! And he even signed a book for them, a book my friend has, in which the inscription says (I'll leave out my friend's parents' names to protect the innocent :),
"To my good friends . . . whose friendship I cherish. In gratitude for all you have shared with Mary Jean and me throughout the years. --Kurt"
Wow! I guess I already said that, but WOW!!!
And who is Kurt?
None other than Dr. Conrad Baars, the greatest psychiatrist after St. Thomas Aquinas, and happily for us, one who lived in more recent times and wrote in English!
One thing has led to another for my friend recently, namely his allowing me to be his friend too, which naturally led to my bullying him into reading the complete works of Dr. Baars (Kurt to his friends, so we are calling him Kurt now too). My friend reports that his reading is going well, complete with major insights every few pages, and the desire to spread the works of this genius in whatever ways we can! As St. Gregory said so truly and so well:
"I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell."
That other dear friend, the one who first suggested I write a blog on Marcel, also loves Conrad Baars. She has asked me more than once to write a book on "The Great Trifecta" - her affectionate nickname for St. Therese (and the Little Way, which now is synonymous with Marcel and his even littler way, but along the same path), St. Faustina (and the Divine Mercy), and Dr. Conrad Baars. She joins these three in a trinity because they have contributed so overwhelmingly to the salvation of the world and the peace of little souls in the 20th and 21st centuries, but more importantly to us, in some ways, they have saved our sanity and our souls, over and over again.
Of Conrad Baars' books, my favorites may be Feeling and Healing Your Emotions and Born Only Once, though Psychic Wholeness and Healing is spectacular too, as are, really, every single word he wrote. His daughter Sue and at least one of his sons (whose name escapes me, so please forgive my Miss Marcel memory or lack thereof) have done great work in keeping their father's legacy of insight, teaching, and healing alive and well, though Kurt died on October 18 (feast of St. Luke, patron of physicians), 1981. Too soon, but I thank and praise God that Kurt had two years to admire and write about the young Pope John Paul II, in whom he saw (as he had seen previously in good St. John XXIII) the exemplar of an affirmed and affirming man.
So . . . you have your work cut out for you! If you already have some of Conrad Baars' books, perhaps you want to dust them off and start reading! If you don't know him yet, aha! You have so much beauty, truth, and goodness ahead of you in your acquaintance with him!
As for me, I should add that the first time I heard about Conrad Baars was in the early 1980s, not long after he had died. A fabulously good, smart, and holy Jesuit (who in fact later said my husband's and my wedding Mass) had him topping a list of recommended books. But I didn't come across any of these books for about ten years. And then what? When I saw one for the first time, I immediately bought it. And then my life changed? Not a bit! When I began to read it, the book didn't move me and I quickly put it down. You know what that means, don't you? The Holy Spirit knew I wasn't ready for what would become life changing when the moment was right.
I think I saw or bought the book again in 2001.
Still not the moment!
But in the summer of 2005, after a very dear and bestest friend died and went to Heaven to intercede for me (thoughtful of her!), I came across CB in the St. John the Evangelist Library at Christendom College (where my husband taught and I frequented the library with its wonderful librarians and invaluable collection) and then POW! The moment had arrived, and I was never the same again. I checked out Born Only Once and in it Dr. Baars solved a third of my problems (the next two of his books solving, in short order, the next two-thirds of my problems!). As I recently told my new friend, I remember one memorable day (hence, even I can remember it!) when I read on three or four successive pages (of Psychic Wholeness and Healing) the exact explanations of three serious afflictions that were dogging (one for each of us) myself, my husband, and a good friend. Dr. Baars' clear assessment of the causes, symptoms, and cures of these three intense and longstanding ailments was nothing short of genius - or perhaps I should say inspired and miraculous.
Enough said. Read Conrad Baars! Get to know him and you will, through him, get to know the teaching of the Church (for Dr. Baars, like his friend, mentor, fellow Catholic and co-author Dr. Anna Terruwe, take their principles from St. Thomas Aquinas, the Universal and Common and Angelic Doctor - thus bringing our total of Doctors to five today, not counting my friend and his father, who bring us now to seven; but wait, Dr. Sue Baars makes eight!).
I could write about these incomparable friends for days, but then you would be reading for days, and you wouldn't remember to read Conrad Baars. Go, then, with my heartiest congratulations on having received, for Therese's birthday, as many friends and kindred spirits as your heart desires!
With little Therese, Marcel, Kurt, Greg and Basil, and each other, we sing:
Little Infant Jesus, worker of miracles most unexpected, draw me, we will run!
I love these days of the Christmas octave. We have the joy of celebrating, after Christmas Day #1 on December 25, the successive feasts of St. Stephen, St. John the Beloved Apostle and Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and then this year hard on their heels, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. What riches! And then two pure Christmas Octave days (with St. Sylvester thrown in for good measure), and suddenly we are in the Vigil of the Feast of Mary the Mother of God, coinciding with fireworks, champagne, and midnight kisses while people wish one another "Bonne annee!"
In Marcel's Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese, these days are also rich, containing so many brilliant, glorious, and hilarious gems that it is impossible to mine them all, but no need really since they spill over and off the pages bringing joy to all heaven and those of us on earth especially blessed to know our brother and his transcriptions.
And as if the official feasts of the Church and the un-official feasts of Marcel's and our joy aren't enough, there is an anniversary tucked into these days. Believe it or not - and yet how could Providence have planned it otherwise? - our first post here was on December 27, 2017 on St. John the Beloved Apostle and Evangelist's Day. Our subsequent posts followed quickly, as if already we couldn't contain our joy at having discovered Marcel and, by God's eternal kindness, been given the happy mission of writing about him (and Him)!
You can click HERE to find that series of Miss Marcel's first Christmas octave gifts, and strange as it still seems to me, you can start "at the top" by scrolling to the bottom of the page. Oddly as these things are arranged in blog-ville, the posts pile up on one another like Dr. Seuss' turtles on Yertle, or to put it another way, in Biblical fashion, the first shall be last, and so our first post is last on the page.
How did that happen?
Not the order of the posts on the page (that mystery is beyond me!), but rather the very existence of these posts at all . . .
It was quite simple. A dear friend I had introduced to Marcel suggested that I start a blog on our little brother. She thought I'd resist the idea, but when the Holy Spirit breathes where He wills, who can resist? Not me! And since I love writing and I love Marcel, the match was truly made in heaven. As the Divine Mercy would have it, I've absolutely adored every minute of writing and posting here, and I'm grateful to have met some wonderful saints (some in heaven, some on earth) through the process.
Wait! Does this sound like a retrospective that will end in my moving on to greener pastures?
Not a chance! I can't imagine there are greener pastures than those through which Marcel leads us, and I'm happy to report that I'm as smitten with him as ever, as consoled by the pages of his Conversations, as grateful for his entrance into my life and this grace of writing about him as I have been from the get-go. And then because there is no limit to God's limitless Love, my delight increases exponentially as I hear from those who have also fallen head over heels for our brother Marcel (whether through this blog or elsewhere). What fellowship and mutual encouragement have poured out upon and through this place of musings about Marcel the Mischievous and his ongoing antics!
As the old calendar year ends and 2020 (a whole new decade!) begins, I invite you to revel with me in Jesus' words to Marcel, words which He spoke 75 years and a day ago (on December 30, 1945), words which - like all Jesus' words in Conversations - are meant for us too, to encourage us, to help us count our blessings, to remind us of His eternal and ever-new love for us:
"Marcel, don't you find it blissful to be loved by me, to have been chosen to be my little friend, my spouse, the mother of souls and the apostle of my love?"
Jesus goes on to explain that many others have been called to these same duties - ah, what sweet duties! - to be loved by Him, to be His little friends, His spouses, the mothers of souls and apostles of His love. He calls to us:
"I am still waiting and if a soul presents itself ready to accept these duties, I will confide them to him without delay."
I pray that you will accept these duties - and firstly, the dearest and most important duty of all: to be loved by Him!
May you know His love in 2020, and may you rejoice in Him as He already rejoices in you. If you doubt it for even a second, look at that photo of little Jesus above, and see the look of love and laughter He casts upon you. He is so good, so mighty and so merciful, so ready to pour out every good thing upon us!
Draw me, we will run!!!
I think this painting says it all. Mary is looking at baby Jesus, the Incarnate Deity, while Joseph looks at Mary. The shepherd, too, is transfixed by God made man. And the Angels? I think they are divided between wonder at the Mother of God, and sharing her wonder. As St. John of the Cross puts it in his Romance on The Birth:
But God there in the manger cried and moaned;
and these tears were jewels
the bride brought to the wedding.
The Mother gazed in sheer wonder on such an exchange:
in God, man's weeping,
and in man, gladness,
to the one and the other
things usually so strange.
And yet He didn't come down to earth to cry, but to love us and be loved. To kiss us and be kissed. To sigh with us and let us sigh to Him. To smile at us and let us smile at Him. To glance at us - gaze at us, really, and let us gaze back, long into the night and through the ensuing days and years, until He brings us to Heaven where we will gaze in joy forever.
Marcel and I and our big sister Therese wish you a long gaze at Jesus this Christmas. May your sighs, which to a stranger might seem sighs of fatigue or irritation, become sighs of love as He enfolds you in His newborn yet eternal love. May you know His smile as He gazes at you from His poor manger crib. And best of all, may you experience His sweet kiss in Holy Communion, for He has come down from Heaven for no other reason than to unite us to Himself, as He has united His nature to ours.
Wherever Christmas finds you this year, know that Jesus will find you too. His look of love has only grown more ardent through the centuries since His first nativity, and over the years since your first magical Christmases. He loves you so very much - more with each passing moment! - and as He told Marcel, "a single one of your joys suffices to console Me very much."
In the interest of delighting and consoling Jesus, then, may your Christmas be merry and bright! And we hope your joys run into the realm of the uncountable, rather than remaining single joys!
Here at Miss Marcel's Musings, we are praying for a Christmas miracle for our friend Finn, a 13 year old boy who isn't able to walk or speak these days. And, I should add, we aren't the only ones praying! I wrote about our prayer (tucked into a longer musing) HERE, and my alma mater posted about that article (and thus about our prayer for Finn) HERE.
We're asking Marcel to approach the Holy Infant and obtain the gift of Finn's complete healing - either today or sometime in this Christmas octave. Please join us in asking for this miracle, and let us approach the creche together with great confidence, for Jesus loves nothing more than delighting us, even as He delights in us.
Sometimes His delights seem long in coming - it has been this way for Finn and his family. And it was this long, drawn out little way for Marcel, too. It was only on Christmas in 1940, when Marcel was nearly Finn's age, that our brother at last received the miracle he awaited. When he later read Story of a Soul, he rejoiced that his sister Therese also had the grace of a Christmas miracle in her childhood.
For Therese, she called it her conversion, for she was healed of her hyper-sensitivity (though God preserved her gift of a sensitivity like His, far beyond your average bear's). For Marcel, his miracle was an interior illumination that enlightened him as to how he could go on amidst suffering - his vocation was to turn suffering into joy. What I love is that this miracle did not make him insensitive either. One only has to dip into his Conversations to find that Marcel was a big fan of lessening suffering wherever and in whatever form it was to be found, so I'm sure he will be happy to plead Finn's cause with their best friend, little Jesus.
We know that however long He takes in fulfilling His promises, Jesus came to bring His abundant joy (His joy within the perfect eternal Love of the Blessed Trinity), and so we hope and pray He will bring miracles to Finn and to all those who need miracles this Holy Night and throughout this Season of Joy.
Marcel, pray for Finn and for us to the Divine Infant!
Mary and Joseph, draw us into your radiant circle of love, in the light of His Holy Face!
And darling little Jesus, draw me, we will run!!!
Marcel and I will be praying for you at our Christmas Mass - if it is in any way possible, may our Heavenly Father, adorable baby Jesus, and their Holy Spirit, love you even more!
Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
Where I live, there are many Mexicans, and so Our Lady gets the honor that is her due, with her children rising before dawn to sing to her, and many others sure to make it to Holy Mass to receive her Divine Son.
But you know what? We are all Mexican today! Our Lady returns to us in every one of her true apparitions so that we will know her tender maternal love, and I will tell you something I discovered today: I'm convinced this appearance of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego in 1531 is Marcel's favorite.
How do I know? Well first off, it's mine, and I'm sure my little brother and I think alike on this score.
Secondly, though, I think Our Lady is at her most maternal when she appears to St. Juan Diego - calling him even, as a mother will, "Juanito, my Juan Dieguito" - "Little Juan," and "My Juan little Diego!" St. Juan was a widower at this point, not a little boy, but to a mom, her son is always her little boy!
I found two things this morning that confirm my opinion that Marcel''s Our Lady and Our Lady of Guadalupe are essentially the same. (Okay, yes, I suppose I have to concede that all the Our Ladies are essentially the same! But still, who can resist Our Lady of Guadalupe as the most Our Lady-ish of Our Ladies?!)
My first discovery has delighted me to no end, and will continue to delight me until I get to Heaven and then some! For this morning I found that the words of Our Lady to all of us through Juanito on this day are ACTUALLY in the Church's official Liturgy of this day!! To be more specific, the Office of Readings (part of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours which all priests are obliged to say, and most religious and many lay people say too) has for its second reading (the "non-Biblical reading") today the account of Our Lady of Guadalupe's visit to Juan and it includes my favorite words ever. I'll share the whole story with you here (from the Office) with the best part highlighted (though it's all wonderful) -
At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”
He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”
When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”
Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”
She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”
But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.
On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.
Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”
When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”
Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”
He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.
The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”
* * *
I do admit that the part about the Castilian roses and then Our Lady's image are pretty exciting and beautiful moments too, but I can never get over her words to us, which I usually read in this translation:
Hear and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little one:
Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you.
Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance.
Am I not here who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle?
In the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else that you need?
Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.
My guess is that our little brother Marcel never knew, in his life on earth, the words of Our Lady to our little brother Juanito, but thankfully he knew words nearly as gentle, compassionate, and loving, if not more so - words from Our Lady, or better yet, our Mother, to Marcel himself!
Just today I had a blast reading Marcel's Conversations entry for May 13 - which is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima (though I don't think Marcel knew about that apparition either), but also another important feast of Our Lady, especially for those who claim Therese as their sister: May 13 was the day Our Lady smiled on Therese and cured her of her mysterious childhood illness!
Well, reading the pages Marcel wrote for us on May 13, 1946, I alternated between laughter and, no, not tears, but simple joy at the words Marcel and Our Lady exchanged.
You see, Marcel was very concerned about (and frankly against) people calling Mary "Queen" because he saw and felt that she was our Mother, and why in the world would she be anything else, especially something (namely, Queen) that puts distance between herself and her children?
And so, Marcel asked Mary straight out:
Mother, later in heaven, you will continue to call me your child, is that not so? And I, I will give you the name of Mother to the exclusion of any other name. And similarly, if I do not call you by the name of "Queen", will you be pleased with me? Is there anything wrong in not calling you "Queen"?
To which Mary replies, equally straight forwardly:
My child, let me put it another way. Before dying, did Jesus tell you to call me "Queen" or did He tell you to call me "Mother"? Did He say: "Here is Mary, your Queen?" No, He never said that. In giving me to you to be your Mother and in giving you to me to be my child, He simply said, "Here is your Mother, there is your child." Consequently, not calling me "Queen" has no importance. I am not a queen; I only have the power of a queen. In relation to men, my children, I am simply and always your true Mother. I would never deal with you as a queen with her subjects, for fear of contradicting Jesus' last words to me. The Trinity never established me as a Queen; it has established me only as a Mother. So, in heaven, you will never hear the word "Queen" but only the word "Mother."
Hooray, Marcel! You have found for us the true name of Mary, and even beguiled from her the
true reason for her true name!
And so, on this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I can only bid you in the words of St. Paul repeated on Advent Sundays, Evening Prayer II (again, from the Church's solemn Liturgy):
Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again, rejoice! Everyone should see how gentle you are. The Lord is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Make known your needs to God in every form of prayer, and in petitions full of gratitude. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Philippians 4: 4 - 7)
I hope today is a day of great rejoicing for you! Our Lady loves you so very much, and she repeats to you her words to Juan Diego, meant for all of us. Let's close with her words so they might surround us like the fragrance of Castilian roses surprising us in winter.
Hear and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little one:
Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you.
Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance.
Am I not here who am your Mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle?
In the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else that you need?
Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.
Mary, our dear Mother, we love you!
St. Juan Diego, pray for us!
Our Lady of Guadalupe bless us and all those we love with your maternal solicitude.
Draw me, we will run!
Pictured, from left to right: top row: Our Lady and little Jesus from the Tokyo Carmel, St. Therese with her signature roses, Murillo's St. Joseph and baby Jesus; bottom row: Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (who now speaks Vietnamese, thanks to Marcel!), Padre Pio (who spoke many languages occasionally, thanks to his guardian angel), Marcel (who speaks all languages now that he is in heaven) and novena prayer to St. Therese.
* * *
"I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of . . . "
-St. Therese's Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of the Good God
+ + +
Heavens to Murgatroyd, it's been a coon's age since I've mused here, but Thanksgiving is fast approaching as well as the end of November and beginning of December, and before we know it, the first Sunday of Advent, the start of a whole new year, will be upon us! I thought I'd better make an appearance then, because what use is Thanksgiving without thanking God together for the many signal graces He has given us? And what would November 2019 be without our continuing paradise project, which leads us this month to Chapter 11 of Story of a Soul in MBC, also known as Marcel's Book Club? And finally, what better time than now (as the liturgical year ends and begins anew) to gather to remember the enormous - limitless, really! - Love of the Good God?
I thought I'd start our musings, then, with a gratitude list. If you're not in the habit of making gratitude lists, I highly encourage the practice, a tried and true method of getting oneself out of the drizzly (or worse!) cold of a late November day and into the warmth of the Heavenly Father's embrace. It's very simple too - all you have to do for my version is pick up a Rosary (or use your fingers if no Rosary is at hand), and begin counting. For each bead, or each finger, you name a blessing. Sometimes this is easy and the blessings and beads (or fingers) slip along like nobody's business. Other times it takes a little help from our guardian angels because we may have fallen into a rut and forgotten all the many good things that surround us. But either way, it's bound to bring us closer to God, the giver of all good gifts, because He has truly surrounded and filled every one of us with So Many Good Things!
Were you able to go to Mass last Sunday? And even (I hope and pray) receive Jesus in Holy Communion? Right there you have a double infinite blessing that comprises the best the Father has to offer!
How about this morning? Did you get some breakfast or a cup of coffee or tea? Possibly even a smile from someone you saw or ran into as the day began or got going? Or here's one you can try - is your own smile still working? Lift the corners of those lips and make your cheekbones rise into your eyes! Try to look like Marcel and me, whose eyes always disappear in photos when we give our best grins and say cheese - or pho mai (which sounds like foe-my) if we're speaking Vietnamese! What a gift, to be able to smile so big your eyes scrunch up! And if you're able to share it with someone else, another double blessing! (No pressure though. Maybe share it with yourself first, when you're near a mirror. You'll find yourself looking so much better - and so much better looking! - than if you just gaze critically at the reflection gazing back!)
The quote I began with under the picture I'm grateful for (of the holy cards I'm grateful for, of the Saints I'm grateful for, and whew! that's a handful of fingers or almost a decade of beads right there!), is from one of my favorite prayers, Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. You can find the whole prayer HERE, along with other beautiful prayers and lovely photos, and if you do check it out, you might discover what comes after the ellipses with which I ended my partial quote above, but I'm happy to save you the trouble by repeating the quote:
"I thank You, O my God, for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of . . ."
You can see I've left the ending blank again so you can fill it in yourself. In fact, I'm not a big fan of how Therese ends the sentence in her prayer, so I usually skip that part and substitute my own - she thanks God especially for the grace of passing through the crucible of suffering! As I've mentioned more than once at this blog, I'm not a big fan of suffering, and so it wouldn't be a very authentic prayer if I repeated it word for word. I like to insert instead here after "I thank You, O my God, for all the graces You have granted me" the more true-for-me phrase, "especially for the grace of knowing the Saints." I can never get over how blessed we are here at MMM to have met Marcel, so little known and yet so very lovable! What joy he and his Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese have brought to my life!
If you're Catholic, let me congratulate you on already having won the lottery, by the grace of having at your fingertips (to receive and thank God for) the 7 Sacraments so full of Jesus our Love, and so guaranteed to bring you close to the only One (the Three-in-One) who will make you truly and completely happy - forever!
So having won the lottery, what else is there? I think the discovery of Marcel and all he teaches about Jesus (which is everything Therese and Jesus and Mary taught him) - and I'm happy to share this rich gift with you - is like knowing what to spend the lottery on, now that we've won it. The Church is so big, so very catholic and replete with all the treasures of Christ. And yet we each need to find our place in this Ark, this barque of Peter, and that can take time. I'm so happy that after 51 years of happy membership, I found Marcel's mansion in our Father's house! Come on in, there's so much room and lots of comfy chairs!!!
You can finish the unfinished sentence/prayer with whatever grace you're especially grateful for, but as I can't say often enough, I'm definitely especially grateful for getting to know the Saints, and in particular, Marcel. Which brings us, because if I don't get there we never will - my being the little typist who's providing the words of our post which today includes our Book Club for November - to Chapter 11 of Story of a Soul.
Now that I've admitted to using a "Take what you like and leave the rest" approach to one of my favorite prayers (Therese's Act of Oblation and in particular the sentence we began with), let me say two things about Chapter 11.
First, I used this same approach of taking and leaving in my reading of Chapter 11 itself! I was surprised to find that I didn't love every line or paragraph at the outset of this chapter, but then it hit me: how can Therese appeal to such a wide audience if not by having parts God intends specifically for each reader? Marcel loved the memories of her childhood. Those are not my favorite of her recollections! I love the chapter we read last month, which had originally been her letter to Marie of the Sacred Heart, her eldest sister and godmother. Someone else no doubt loves the opening half of Chapter 11! God is so good, so benevolent, so solicitous to each of us, that I'm confident He highly approves of our taking what we particularly like, and leaving the rejected rest for those who will find most nourishment precisely where we don't.
I mentioned that our opening quote today comes from Therese's offering of herself to Merciful Love. That very offering resulted from her familiarity with the practice some had of offering themselves to Divine Justice. Therese said straight out (in this exact book we're reading!) that she found that offering to Justice very generous - but it didn't appeal to her at all!
And then today I read in Chapter 11 a passage in which she explains her own approach to prayer, which she contrasts to reciting the prayers of others. After praising the power of prayer over God's Heart, she writes:
"To be heard it is not necessary to read from a book some beautiful formula composed for the occasion. If this were the case, alas, I would have to be pitied! Outside the Divine Office which I am very unworthy to recite, I do not have the courage to force myself to search out beautiful prayers in books. There are so many of them it really gives me a headache! and each prayer is more beautiful than the others. I cannot recite them all and not knowing which to choose, I do like children who do not know how to read. I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus."
Well, no wonder Marcel and I love this passage! It reminds us exactly of what Jesus Himself told Marcel! In Conversations, our little brother recorded the following dialogue from April 3, 1946:
Jesus: Little Marcel, do you love me?
Marcel: Yes, I love you.
Jesus: But how do you love me?
Marcel: I love you so much that it is impossible for me to express it.
Jesus: In that case, you must never worry.
We could stop right there and call it a day. Is there anything else we need to know or do? Just to love Him, that's all Jesus asks for from us, and then He doesn't want us to worry. Ever! But as always, because His Love is infinite, there is more. And perhaps I should add: because Marcel is Marcel, there is always more. For here is what Marcel says next:
"But, little Jesus, why does Brother Mark behave so harshly towards me? Do not forget that I can place the fault at Your feet since it is You who lives in Brother Mark; it is You who allows him to make me suffer. Little Jesus, before accusing me of lacking in charity, see what virtue You Yourself are lacking in acting as You do. Enough, this month is the month of brotherly charity. I beg You in my turn to devote Yourself again to the practice of this virtue. And we, in practicing it thus, both of us together, we will certainly make rapid progress and Mary will be happy ...
"Little Jesus, here we are now well into Lent and, lo and behold, You are sending me delights. It seems to me that acting so You are behaving against the spirit of the Church. Is that not the case little Jesus?"
I could quote Marcel forever - he is so wonderfully bold, brash, honest, and direct with Jesus! First he accuses little Jesus of being unkind to him in Brother Mark, then he blames little Jesus for being too kind to him in Lent! Doesn't this sound like us? A few days ago where I live we were complaining about the unseasonable heat. Now it has become a more proper frigid temperature for the season - and I'm totally ready to complain about that! And how does Jesus respond, in His limitless Love, to our limitless accusations? What we might call our heartfelt and hilarious prayers? They are surely not from books, any more than Marcel's rant was (sure, now it's in a book, but he wrote it down after expressing it or as a way of expressing it - our little brother wasn't reading this "prayer" from a book anymore than Therese read her prayers, aside from the Divine Office!)
I bet that along with your gratitude list, you have a few choice complaints to make about how someone has been treating you, which (taking Marcel's cue) you can really attribute to Jesus Himself! Why in the world does He treat us (or allow us to be treated) this way? And if we approach Him with our complaints as well as our gratitude and love, will He be angry with us? The wonderful thing about Marcel's Conversations is that Jesus had him write them down in two voices - namely Marcel's and his heavenly interlocutors' - precisely to teach us how to pray, and to teach us what He makes of our prayers.
At the outset of this marvelous transcription of conversations in Conversations (4), Jesus tells Marcel:
"In asking you to be the intermediary of my love with your companions, my intention was that you write not only the words that I dictate to you, but also those that you speak to me. Since there are many who only listen to what I say without daring to converse quite frankly with me as children, under the pretext that it is not proper . . . tell them that I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love me . . . Continue to write my words down and call them 'Love of Jesus.' As for the words you address to me, you will call them 'Love of Marcel.' I do not look for elegant words as do people of the world, only childlike words coming from a loving heart have the gift of charming my ear. And you, my child, always act in this way since I find much attraction in the words that you address to me here; I never tire of listening to them . . . "
Do you know what? I'm going to give you a special blessing, a special gift for Thanksgiving, and just like Marcel complained that Jesus was giving out of season by giving to him in Lent (rather than waiting for Easter), so too you may complain that I'm giving you this gift on the cusp of Advent rather than waiting for Christmas. No worries! I will give you this gift over and over as long as I'm able to type my musings and post them here - it's a gift that keeps on giving, not only to you, but to Jesus, the Spouse of your little soul!
The gift is this truth from Jesus: "And you, my child, always act in this way since I find much attraction in the words that you address to me here; I never tire of listening to them . . . "
Perhaps no one has told you before, but it is entirely true, for Jesus is God who can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is Truth, so He only speaks truth, and He tells you this: that He never tires of listening to your prattle, your words of love or complaint or thanks or - if we might import our little Therese's understanding of prayer - your every simple glance toward Him! He never tires of any of it! And to seal the deal, He tells us in the Song of Songs:
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace."
Don't you think a jewel of our necklace could be one of our Rosary beads of gratitude? But our glance - that comes first as most dear and ravishing to Him, and this glance can be even a glance of annoyance, as long as we look toward Him!
Do you want to excuse yourself on the grounds that perhaps these words are not meant for you? Haha! You find yourself at the wrong blog! Because here Jesus has answers for all our timid fears and hesitations, answers that Marcel wrote for us in Conversations, a book I have free access to (in 2 copies, no less!), and here is what Jesus says to your fear of being left out of His circle of Love. Directing His words to Marcel on November 4, 1945, He explained:
"All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future - know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls. You see by this that I communicate with all of them. And if, like you, they are sincere in their relationship with me, then I am speaking also to them . . . Do not be afraid, therefore, if later somebody says that I spoke only to you . . . "
And now, knowing Jesus is speaking to all of us in His words to Marcel, let me complete the dialogue we were listening in on a few paragraphs back. Remember the chat Jesus and Marcel were having in Lent? Jesus told Marcel that, seeing as Marcel loved Jesus, "he must never worry." And then Jesus added, "When I say something to you, you must listen straight away."
And what is Jesus saying to us? To what does He want us to "listen straight away?" He tells us that He loves to hear us! He loves to speak to us - not only has He given us every word in the Bible for our own, but every word of the book of Conversations in more recent times, just to make sure we don't miss out on the sentiments of His Sacred Heart and the totality of His message of Love. But more than that, more than the words Jesus gives us, He wants us to give to Him our words, our sighs, our glances, our kisses!
And how does He respond to Marcel's childlike diatribe about Brother Mark, His supposed faults, and His "behaving against the spirit of the Church"? Jesus replies:
"Come, come, Marcel, you are speaking as if you do not know how to reflect. If you were to speak that way to someone who was about to do you a favour, the person would not be able to stop himself from scolding you. But I, far from scolding you, I still love to hear you speak in this way, since you do not intend to reproach me and furthermore, it gives me an opportunity to make you understand something about grace. Marcel, listen carefully. In order to give grace to men, I do not need to wait for a particular season or to pay attention to the temperature because, in that case, there would be times when men would be deprived of the grace necessary for the life of their souls. Remind yourself that my Love never acts in that way. It knows the moment when it must show itself and when it must be hidden. " (352)
I could quote these two forever, and even here in this passage there is so much more to bolster our courage and make us laugh, but we must return to Chapter 11 lest the paradise project police find us out! I started by saying there was plenty I would leave aside when meeting with you about this chapter, and now I find that there is far too much of interest to have time to finish with it in one (even one very long) post - and yet one is all we have. At least our sister Therese is laughing at my dilemma, and I have to laugh with her as I find her writing some pages along, "I am once again far from my subject, with all my dissertations; I beg you to excuse me . . . " Yes, I do excuse you, sis! And I know the feeling!
Ah, but dear sister - then you write to your Mother Marie de Gonzague these words which tell me the Holy Spirit knew long ago of this day when we would meet and laugh, for you write:
"You act like God Himself who does not weary of hearing me even when I tell Him simply my pains and joys as if He did not know them."
I am reading as I write, and what a gift our sister gave us in advance, to confirm the truths of Conversations we have been attending to while wandering away from her Story of a Soul!
"No matter," it's as if she says. "My lessons are the same whether in my Story or Marcel's. Isn't he the second little flower of Jesus?"
Yes, he is! And how both of you remind us that God loves to hear our every familiar story too!
And so, even while I encourage you, dear reader, to revisit, at your leisure, these pages from our sister's pen in Chapter 11, I will fly to the end, soaring over many words that may be precisely the ones you need, but ending with the exact words we always end with here . . .These are perhaps my favorite words from Story of a Soul, because they ease my own soul, helping me to live my own story with peace and joy and confidence, and finally, they put God's words in my mouth, sweeter than honey!
However new you may be to this blog, you will know by now that I love to comment - to muse, as it were - on the beautiful passages that fall from my sister's and brother's pens. But in a gesture of thanksgiving, as well as in honor and deference to your own Thanksgivings, I am going to simply transcribe the last pages of Story of a Soul. These are the pages that bring me greatest joy from Chapter 11, and perhaps most joy from the whole book. Next month we will have the Epilogue (written by her sisters) to occupy us for one last month of paradise, but for now, let's finish with the last words Therese wrote in her memoir. These words are on prayer, and so they complement what we've found in Marcel and earlier in this chapter and finish our lesson on "How to Pray." She tells us:
"Since I have two brothers [her adopted spiritual brothers, missionary priests for her to pray for specifically] and my little Sisters, the novices [assigned to her spiritual direction], if I wanted to ask for each soul what each one needed and go into detail about it, the days would not be long enough and I fear I would forget something important. For simple souls there must be no complicated ways; as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving, Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
"He made me understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles: 'DRAW ME, WE SHALL RUN after you in the odor of your ointments.' O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say: 'When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!' This simple statement: 'Draw me' suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possess. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine . . . "
[And now I am - forgive me! - skipping 3 glorious pages which I pray you will have the grace to read without me, though certainly Marcel will be near you! We pick up, then with Therese's continued commentary.]
"Mother, I think it is necessary to give a few more explanations on the passage in the Canticle of Canticles: 'Draw me, we shall run,' for what I wanted to say appears to me little understood. 'No man can come after me, unless the FATHER who sent me draw him,' Jesus has said. Again, through beautiful parables, and often even without using this means so well known to the people, He teaches us that it is enough to knock and it will be opened, to seek in order to find, and to hold out one's hand humbly to receive what is asked for. He also says that everything we ask the Father in His name, He will grant it. No doubt, it is because of this teaching that the Holy Spirit, before Jesus' birth, dictated this prophetic prayer: 'Draw me, we shall run.'
"What is it then to ask to be 'Drawn' if not to be united in an intimate way to the object which captivates our heart? If fire and iron had the use of reason, and if the latter said to the other: 'Draw me,' would it not prove that it desires to be identified with the fire in such a way that the fire penetrate and drink it up with its burning substance and seem to become one with it? Dear Mother, this is my prayer. I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say, 'Draw me,' the more also the souls who will approach me (poor little piece of iron, useless if I withdraw from the divine furnace), the more these souls will run swiftly in the odor of the ointments of their Beloved, for a soul that is burning with love cannot remain inactive. No doubt she will remain at Jesus' feet as did Mary Magdalene, and she will listen to His sweet and burning words. Appearing to do nothing, she will give much more than Martha who torments herself with many things and wants her sister to imitate her. It is not Martha's works that Jesus finds fault with; His divine Mother submitted humbly to these works all through her life since she had to prepare the meals of the Holy Family. It is only the restlessness of His ardent hostess that He willed to correct.
"All the Saints have understood this, and more especially those who filled the world with the light of the Gospel teachings. Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous Friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses? A scholar has said: 'Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will lift the world.' What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the Saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the Saints militant still lift it, and that, until the end of time, the Saints to come [that's us!] will lift it.
"Dear Mother, now I would like to tell you what I understand by the odor of the ointments of the Beloved. Since Jesus has reascended into Heaven, I can follow Him only in the traces He has left; but how luminous these traces are! how perfumed! I have only to cast a glance in the Gospels and immediately I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus' life, and I know on which side to run. I don't hasten to the first place but to the last; rather than advance like the Pharisee, I repeat, filled with confidence, the publican's humble prayer. Most of all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene; her astonishing or rather her loving audacity which charms the Heart of Jesus also attracts my own. Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus' arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.
"No, there is no one who could frighten me, for I know too well what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. I know that this whole multitude of sins would be lost in the twinkling of an eye like a drop of water cast into a burning furnace. In the lives of the desert fathers, it is told how one of them converted a public sinner whose evil deeds were the scandal of the whole country. Touched by grace, the sinful woman followed the Saint into the desert to perform a rigorous penance. On the first night of the journey, before even reaching the place of her retreat, the vehemence of her love and sorrow broke the ties binding her to earth, and at the same moment the holy man saw her soul carried by angels to God's bosom. This is a striking illustration of what I want to say, but the reality itself is beyond the power of words to express.
"It is not because God, in His anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love . . . "
And here is the end of Therese's writing - the last pages being written in pencil, for she no longer had the strength to hold a pen!
What shall we take away? His Mercy, His Love, her determination to tell us the Truth of both!
Little Therese, little Marcel, we thank darling Little Jesus for giving you to us as our flowers too! Help us to thank Him for the untold blessings He has given us, which only we can discover and thank Him for. Help us to turn to Jesus always with confidence and love, to tell Him our simplest (and most complex) hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, and even what we're looking forward to or dreading tomorrow!
Thank you, Therese, for teaching us the words with which we close today and always:
Draw me, we will run!!!
Once upon a time, about three or four months ago, a dear friend who has a talent for shopping (more like a super power, really), bought and gave me an antique French medal with the most adorable image of Little Jesus on the front. We knew it was French because not only did she buy it from France (thanks to the wonders of modern technology, i.e. the internet), but on the back of the medal there were French words. Specifically:
(and please mentally insert an accent mark over that final "e" in Bonte!)
Translated literally, this prayer says:
"O Jesus, King of Love, I have confidence in Your merciful goodness."
What a beautiful set of words to go with the truly beautiful image of Little Jesus!
When my friend gave me the medal, she explained that I didn't have to wear it but could instead place it where I would see it often.
"Au contraire!" I replied (though in English). "I must wear something this beautiful. I want it always with me."
And thus my association with Little Jesus, King of Love began. He was a bit anonymous, and I did not often remember to speak to Him in the words of His flip-side-prayer, but He accompanied me everywhere, attached as He was to a rosary bracelet our sister St. Therese had given me on our last day together in Lisieux last May.
Then recently (it was All Souls Day, to be exact), another kind friend sent me a link to a devotion she had just discovered which she - knowing nothing of the medal dangling from my wrist - thought I would love too.
She was right! But add in the dangling medal bearing sweet Little Jesus as my constant companion, and I more than loved the new devotion. I was bowled over, delighted, thrilled, and in a word, awestruck.
I was, in fact, once again overwhelmed with God's tender solicitude, for it often seems that He loves us so much that He can't stop sending new tokens of His affection. Considering that He said twice in the Bible, "Behold I make all things new," (in both Isaiah and in the Book of Revelation), I don't think His ever-new tokens are merely figments of my imagination. Sometimes He sends a new version of something ancient - like each day's sunrise and sunset - and sometimes He sends something entirely new, like this devotion that the Holy Spirit was determined I would "discover," with the help of angels both heavenly and earthly.
For what my dear friends had sent me, each unaware of the other's find, were first the medal with invocation, and then the story of the invocation and subsequent medal of Jesus, King of Love.
The invocation was revealed on August 28, 1922 to a humble French laywoman, Yvonne Beauvais, who became an Augustinian Canoness, a Hospitaller of the Mercy of Jesus, known later as Mother Marie Yvonne Aimee de Jesus, or in English, Yvonne Beloved by Jesus.
And just as when Jesus spoke to Servant of God Marcel Van, and so many other mystics, He promised that His words were not only for the original recipient who then transcribed the message, but for all little souls, so, too, Jesus told Yvonne that the short invocation He gave her was not only for herself but also for all little souls.
Quite understandably, then, Yvonne spent the rest of her life - when she wasn't busy running a convent, serving the poor, singing the Divine Praises, helping priests, advising Abbots, hiding Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi's, and so on - spreading this invocation, gaining indulgences and endorsements from Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, and Pope St. John XXIII, and even painting a picture to go with the prayer.
In 1940, the world was full of sadness and fear as war raged, so Mother Yvonne gave it a cause and source for serenity in the image of Little Jesus she painted. He holds an olive branch in one hand, while His other hand points to His Sacred Heart. He wears a crown on His curly topped boyish head to show He is King of Love, and His gaze looks out, waiting to meet the gaze of each little soul, waiting to fill each dear soul with His peace that passes all understanding.
Since the medal sent me some months ago was antique, when I heard more recently of the story behind it, I thought the devotion must have fallen into obscurity. Who knew of such a lovely person as Yvonne Beauvais? Who knew of the invocation Jesus had revealed to her nearly 100 years ago, and who had seen (besides my generous friend, myself, and the shopkeeper in far-away France who had sold the medal) Little Jesus as Mother Yvonne portrayed Him?
To my astonishment and great joy, I couldn't have been more wrong in my guess that Little Jesus was neglected. Thanks to the links sent by my second friend, I discovered there exists a monastery in Ireland, Silverstream Priory in County Meath, which in 2012 was consecrated to little Jesus King of Love. As if this wasn't enough (and it wasn't!) the monks at Silverstream have started a confraternity for those who wish to unite, simply, in the saying of the little invocation morning and night and in wearing (or carrying on their person) the medal of Jesus, King of Love.
The monks say a Mass for the confraternity members once a month, and also on 5 special days in January and February each year. There are no dues, no fees, no big commitments and no meetings - just a union of prayer under the King of Love, a union of confidence in Him, a union of saying the invocation morning and evening each day. If you want to join, you can click HERE and fill out the form online. I did so a week ago, and lo and behold, I have already received from the monks an enrollment card (with Jesus' adorable picture), a holy card of Mother Yvonne, who is now a Servant of God, and a blessed golden medal of Jesus King of Love!
As for the invocation, I have read varying translations of it. The one sent in the monk's welcoming letter (and the one that is most literal) says in English:
O Jesus, King of Love, I trust in Your merciful goodness.
The prayer on the back of the medal says
O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy.
Another possible translation is:
O Jesus, King of Love, I trust in Your merciful kindness.
I think each one of those translations does its own beautiful job of capturing in a sentence the invocation Jesus gave Mother Yvonne for us. As she said in her letter to Pope Pius XI when she requested an indulgence for the prayer:
"It is so sweet, so strong, so rich, this little invocation . . . This invocation is appreciated by the sick; it consoles them. They love this prayer because it appeals to the Kingship of Christ Jesus, to His Love, His Mercy, His Goodness; in some way, it compels us to trust. It condenses our familiar invocations to the Sacred Heart and sums them up."
On their website, the monks answer the question "Who may join?" the Confraternity, by saying it is perfect for those who have suffered or are suffering. I would add that this Confraternity, with its devotion to Jesus, King of Love, is tailor made for the scruppulous, for converts, for long-time and cradle Catholics, and finally for everyone! You can't help but notice the similarity between this invocation and the prayer our Savior taught us through St. Faustina, "Jesus, I trust in You." Who doesn't need an infusion of trust, confidence, and peace? And I can think of no better way to attain these desperately needed gifts than by igniting the spark of love in our hearts into a burning flame through the repetition of the cry, "O Jesus, King of Love, I trust in Your merciful goodness!"
If you go to the link for the confraternity (which is, again, HERE), you can follow other links provided therein to more information on this devotion. May God be praised for His infinite solicitude, His unending Love for us, and His mercies which are new each morning.
Draw me, we will run!
From where I sit (on the East Coast for a too-short visit), All Saints Day is ending, and All Souls Day about to begin. But I know that elsewhere (westward, where I usually am) it is still the Feast of All Saints, while traveling toward our friends in the British Isles, Europe, and Africa (in other words, eastward), we find All Souls Day already begun.
I take the Heavenly Liberty, the liberty of bilocation if you want to call it that, of being in All Saints Day a titch longer then. It's so hard to leave this glorious feast, even as I look forward to doing my part tomorrow to release all of purgatory to join Heaven's ranks . . .
What shall I say, then, while I still have the chance to celebrate our known and unknown brothers and sisters who see the loving Face of God?
Marcel would have me quote our favorite sister, little Therese, in one of our (many) favorites passages among those recorded by Mother Agnes (our sister Pauline) when Therese was preparing to enter eternal life.
Our little dying Carmelite said, on her deathbed, some hilarious things, and some prophetic things, and many simply remarkable and memorable things, and we are so grateful they were transcribed by Pauline, Celine, the Maries (of the Sacred Heart, of the Trinity, and of the Eucharist) and later published as her Last Conversations. Though I love this book and frequently search its pages, I have to smile that 99% of the time I am totally unaware that it has nearly the same title as the second Therese's (i.e. Marcel's) book - my Book of books - Conversations.
Be that as it may, I woke this morning with a desire to share with you a very particular passage from Therese's Last Conversations, and so I began to transcribe it asap. Alas, life intervened and delayed my progress, but hooray, now I can finish copying out the passage for you at last.
Here, then, is a gift to you from Marcel and Miss Marcel, in thanksgiving for all the Saints, and in cahoots with our own particular sister-Saint, little Therese. Our gift (Therese's really) is a thought worth musing over, and we hope and pray you will realize its implications. Since it's gotten late, we won't leave these implications a mystery for you to solve, but tell you our hope:
You, dear one, can be the little spark that lights the fire of Love in the heart of a great Saint, or even many great Saints!
Marcel and I love to increase the glory and joy of our brothers and sisters the great saints (and the small too) by saying the short but powerful prayer we presented earlier this week. We're then confident that we'll be told, on the Last Day when all is revealed, that we were the cause of Therese's holiness, as well as the holiness of many other of our saintly siblings!
We've finished our two triple novenas, but the prayers we said or read for the last 50 days (as well as the fruits of these prayers) will be with us forever. Here, then, is the last of those prayers we introduced, presented now as the icing on the cake, or rather the bow tying up our gift to the Saints, even as we await their gifts to us (the answers to our petitions for our needs in these novenas).
Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and all the Saints, we beg You to enkindle every one of our sisters and brothers with Your Spirit of Love and to grant them the favor of making You loved very much.
And now that we've prayed this innocent looking but so powerful prayer together, let me show you what trouble I've gotten you into! Here is the passage I've been waiting all day to share with you, in which St. Therese paints a vivid picture of our meddlesome part in the Communion of all the Saints!
Pauline (Mother Agnes) records this "Last Conversation" from July 15th:
She told me about the following, the memory of which was the source of a great grace to her:
"Sister Marie of the Eucharist wanted to light the candles for a procession; she had no matches; however, seeing the little lamp which was burning in the front of the relics, she approached it. Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick. She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lighted those of the whole community. It was, therefore, the half-extinguished little lamp which had produced all these beautiful flames which, in their turn, could produce an infinity of others and even light the whole universe. Nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light. How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?
"It is the same with the Communion of Saints. Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to a hidden soul, for God wills that the Saints communicate grace to each other through prayer with great love, with a love much greater than that of a family, and even the most perfect family on earth. How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I've received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in heaven.
"Yes, a very little spark will be capable of giving birth to great lights in the Church, like the Doctors and Martyrs, who will undoubtedly be higher in heaven than the spark; but how could anyone think that their glory will not become his?
"In heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glances, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them."
+ + +
Praise God with me for the marvelous assembly of our brothers and sisters the Saints, and the joy and love with which they regard us from their places already before Him! May they bring us, every one, to their company, and meanwhile may they answer all your so-far-unanswered prayers!
I must admit that I'm charmed by Therese's "half-extinguished little lamp which had produced all these beautiful flames which, in their turn, could produce an infinity of others and even light the whole universe."
I know two such half-extinguished little lamps - or three, or four, or five, come to think of it. These are dear friends, heroes of mine, who seem swamped in suffering, yet their faith, and hope, and charity (all of which seem to them more than half-extinguished) are being used by our dear Jesus at this very moment to produce beautiful flames in erstwhile cold hearts . . . using them, in other words, to save souls on earth and liberate those in purgatory.
Do not be afraid, little half-extinguished lamps. We are in this together, and together not only with each other, but with the whole Communion of the Saints-in-Heaven too! May they intercede for us, obtain the answers to our hearts' deepest longings, and fill us and those we love (especially those we love who are suffering) with inescapable peace and joy!
Jesus, we trust in You!
And for those who can only say it but don't feel it, no matter - we know You are God, You are all good, all-powerful, and You love us (even when we can't see or feel it)!
Jesus, we trust in You!
DRAW ME, WE WILL RUN!!!
"It is confidence, and nothing but confidence, that must lead us to LOVE!"
- Marcel's sister St. Therese
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle all my sisters and brothers with Your Spirit of Love and to grant them the favor of making You loved very much.
So here we are, in the last few days, the final triduum, of our second Triple Novena of Love. We are just past St. Jude (pray for us!) and his compadre, St. Simon (pray for us too!) and sneaking up on the Vigil of All Saints, our last day of prayer. Ever? No way, Torme! (We're big Mel Torme fans over here, so I thought I'd change that up a little!)
I'm thinking maybe one way God ensures we'll keep praying is by not answering all our prayers at once. But I do hope you're seeing answers to some of your prayers! I think the way it happens in my life is that God answers prayers constantly - some for me, some for others - but then new needs crop up so quickly that I hardly have time to thank Him for those He has satisfied before I find myself asking for more. And just for the record, I don't think He minds at all. As St. Therese used to tell her novice Marie of the Trinity: To restrain our hopes, desires, and prayers would be to put a limit on God's Limitless Love, Goodness, and Omnipotence! So ask away!
This week I'm very grateful because my husband and I are in the midst of a miracle, even though the miracle sits amidst an ongoing unanswered prayer request. Our miracle is the great grace to spend time with Tony's family even while my father-in-law Paul is very ill - terminal cancer and the latest complication, pneumonia - but we're hopeful Paul will be home from the hospital soon, and we're so happy we can spend some days with him wherever he is! My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are the ones holding the fort, and what a mightily heroic job they're both doing! I know that even with the help of their good angels, these dear women are exhausted, so I ask your prayers that our presence will lighten their load.
Meanwhile, your intentions are included in our prayers as well! We've got them all in our big bucket of prayer requests which correspond to St. Therese's buckets of roses. She's planning to share them (the intentions and the roses) with the other Saints this week - may every Saint be involved, and may every rose be dropped down to a needy heart and home! You qualify I'm sure, so look for roses!!!
And then, along with our other graces and miracles, we are here together! And just in time to have a meeting of Marcel's Book Club for October! Yes, we already had one earlier this month, but that was really last month's overdue . . . like last month's was the month's before, better late than never. Never give up, though, because miracles happen and we're getting back on track before our year of reading Story of a Soul comes to a close. We're not done (or undone!) yet! So if you've got a copy of our sister's autobiography handy, you can read it before or after you read this post, but I hope you do read it - Chapter 10 in particular, which is where we are for our 10th month's installment. I'm sure I'm going to glide over (or skip altogether) many pages, and those might be the very pages she wrote for your heart, so think of this as an appetizer, rather than the whole feast!
Chapter 10 of Story of a Soul (in John Clarke's edition, but really every edition is good) picks up Therese's religious life where she left off in her writings for Mother Agnes, her sister Pauline, who (prompted by their sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) had requested Therese's childhood memories. Those formed Manuscript A, the opening chapters of the book.
Now Therese is writing for Mother Genevieve, the mother superior who received her into Carmel and oversaw her first steps there, and is now mother again (following the three years when Pauline became Mother Agnes and was superior). This portion of the book is referred to as Manuscript C, and is the third part of what Therese wrote that was gathered, after her death, into what the world now knows as her "Story of a Soul."
As Marcel and I dive in, we find ourselves skimming until the third page of Chapter 10, when we are, together, arrested by this paragraph:
"O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the lives of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God?"
Therese has a ready answer, but I have another question . . .
She says, "It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said: 'Tell the just man ALL is well.' Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother."
Ah, yes, all that is well and good, but here is my question:
"Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to me?"
And my ready answer is, always, the Saint who leaves books for me to read!
It is a constant source of wonder to me that God has chosen books as the way to reach my soul. Time and again books have changed my life, to the point that you might ask, "How much changing can one life afford?"
Oh, plenty, I assure you! And I know God has many ways of changing lives, even without books (perish the thought, but then again, His ways are not always ours!!). Did you know, for instance, that the good Carmelite known as Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, which has changed many a life) was himself changed and converted by seeing a tree without its leaves when the seasons changed? I appreciate this and have looked at trees admiringly and wonderingly, hoping something miraculous would happen to me too, but give me a book any day (which I suppose we can think of as a tree in another form) and I am happier and more changed by far!
Take Story of a Soul, say, and let's pick up where we left off a moment ago, because here is a passage with great life changing potential! Therese writes:
"You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by."
Marcel and I interrupt merely to say, "Amen, sister!" And then back to Therese:
"Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires."
Did you know this is one of the great truths of all the Saints and the spiritual life?
Therese got it from St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as well as from the Scriptures. But just yesterday I found it in an article on Mother Teresa written by my dear friend Maura HERE. Maura quotes a letter Mother Teresa wrote to Malcolm Muggeridge, and when I saw Mother Teresa's words, I almost fell off my chair!!
St. Mother Teresa says (in words reminiscent of her namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux), "“I don’t know why, but very often in my heart a desire has come to be with you in England when you make your first Holy Communion with Jesus. I don’t know—but Jesus never gives desires which He does not mean to fulfill.”
Poor Malcolm had no idea he would make his first Holy Communion ever - but sure enough, the grace of God and His love through the saints brought dear Malcolm into the Church ten years later, and he received Jesus in his First Holy Communion, and many, many more thereafter.
Talk about miracles! If we have had the grace to receive Holy Communion even once in our triple novenas, we can be sure miracles are happening! And I love that Maura's article appeared on Mother Teresa's feast, September 5th, the day before we set out on our Road of Triple Novenas!
What goes around comes around, as they say, and how lovely that we are still here (or here again) to petition Mother Teresa, Malcolm Muggeridge, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Brother Marcel Van and so many more on this upcoming feast of All the Saints. God is so good, and our Communion of Saints - and our communion with the saints in Holy Communion - is yet another miracle of His grace and His Love in which we can rejoice, even while we don't let up petitioning Him for all we need and haven't yet received.
But what about Therese and her lack of discouragement? I, for one, and Marcel for another (as he tells in his own writings), have certainly felt some discouragement when seeing the difference between ourselves and the saints. What is Therese's solution? What saved her from a like feeling?
She knows, and we must learn, that God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. This is a perfect lesson for our prayers, too! If yours aren't answered when this triple novena ends, do not be discouraged! Keep knocking, and the door will open! Keep asking and you will receive! Here is what Therese says she understood next:
"Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections."
Wow! Did you expect this answer to our prayers? An answer to the plague of perfectionism! How marvelous!
A dear new friend and brother recently sent me two stones, precious relics from the Cave of St. Michael that Padre Pio used to frequent (as did many other Saints, and Popes too). St. Michael had appeared at this cave, said it was holy, and promised those who came to the cave would be healed of the ravages of the plague - and even those to whom stones from the cave were brought! This must be the gift I was given recently: to be healed from this plague of perfectionism! But I hate to hoard relics, so please accept them (spiritually at least) from me as little pebbles from our sister Therese and our brother Marcel, in the name of St. Michael. What are these little pebbles? They are our saints' healing words, and they sound like this:
"I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections."
So far, so good! And then?
"But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new."
Aha! We are little, we cannot be other than we are (try as we might, for years, for decades even!), so we too need a little way to get to heaven! Lucky for us, our sister explains:
"We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs, for, in the houses of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection."
Me too! Marcel too! You too? Let's read on!
"I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: "Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me."
"And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for. But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what I discovered: 'As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you.'
"Ah! Never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul. The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more."
This gets better and better! Therese has already given us permission to stay little. Now she says it is even better to become littler and littler! This is not just a cure for perfectionism, it is a whole new way: the way of the child who abandons himself in his father's or mother's arms!
And next comes something to make me smile. I brought back many holy cards from Lisieux (and sent out one of the last extras today!), and some were in French. I delighted in pretending to know French so I could translate them, and one of my favorite quotes I translated as, "O my God, You have exceeded all my expectations!"
Knowing that Therese's hopes and expectations were so very great, I love that she says He not only met them, but exceeded them. I like to think about how St. Monica prayed for years that her son Augustine would get baptized before he died, so he could slip into heaven. God far exceeded that mom's expectations! He went so far as to make Augustine one of the greatest Doctors of the Church (right up there with our sister Therese, haha!)!!
And here it is, the line I love:
"O my God," Therese writes next, "You surpassed all my expectation. I want only to sing Your mercies. "You have taught me from my youth, O God, and until now I will declare Your wonderful works. And until old age and gray hairs, O God, forsake me not.' What will this old age be for me? It seems this could be right now, for two thousand years are not more in the Lord's eyes than are twenty years, than even a single day."
I love, love, love that Therese took God at His Word. She never hesitates to remind those around her (and the rest of us, who have inherited her words) that God promised and explained, over and over in the Scriptures, that it is not years alone that bring wisdom. In fact, as she and Marcel and I love to quote, and as I heard again today at Mass because the Church loves to use this as the Alleluia verse,:
"Jesus full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were pleased to do."
Marcel and I are skipping to the next page, because Therese says it so much better than we can:
"Mother, you know that those souls are rare who don't measure the divine power according to their own narrow minds; people want exceptions everywhere on earth, but God alone hasn't the right to make any exceptions! For a very long time, I have known that this way of measuring experience according to years is practiced among human beings. For instance, the holy King David has sung to the Lord: 'I am YOUNG and despised.' And in the same Psalm 118, he does not hesitate to add: 'I have had understanding above old men, because I have sought your will. Your word is a lamp to my feet. I am prepared to carry out your commandments and I am TROUBLED ABOUT NOTHING.'"
* * *
I find myself in a great dilemma at this juncture. It seems absolutely wrong to write more. There is so much here already to fill our hearts and minds, that writing more for you to read is like inviting you to be a glutton!
At the same time there is so much left in this chapter that is beautiful, that would nourish our souls, that seems a waste to leave in the book and not bring out onto the table.
And yet I cannot go on. I think my dilemma is solved by the simple solution of what Fr. Thomas Dubay (God rest his darling soul!) used to call "The Time Pressure Problem." I need to go make dinner (or discover it in the fridge!), and you? You may have things to do, people to love, prayers to say, something to eat, or sleep to enjoy.
But most of all, I hear Marcel saying, "Enough! I want to stop where Therese talks about very few years bringing great wisdom, and especially where she finishes with our being TROUBLED ABOUT NOTHING!"
Yes, Marcel, it's your book club, so you get the last word. How about one I remembered in the middle of the night, which brought me as much consolation as any of the magnificent sentences we read in Story of a Soul? Granted, this word is from Jesus, but it does appear as you wrote it for us in your Conversations. Thanks be to God for the miracle of books, and especially this book-of-my-heart! And so I quote (for once from memory!) these words of Truth Himself to our hearts:
"The smaller your love for Me, the more mine will envelop you in its intimacy."
Now there's a reason to get littler and littler!
May your dinner be delicious, and your sleep even more so! I ask Our Lady to send angels to watch over you, and may God answer your prayers, every one, though He take His sweet time in doing so, until the day we sing, with little Therese and Marcel, "O my God, You have surpassed all my expectations!"
Draw me, we will run!!!
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