O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart,
I implore You to fix deep within me Your divine image
and to set me on fire with Your Love,
that I, and all those I love, may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Your glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.
Draw me, we will run!
* * *
This novena, along with the help of some heavenly friends, is already working miracles! I was going to begin (directly after the novena prayer above) with "Now that we've got that out of the way . . . " when I realized I ought to admit that this morning when I didn't know how to pray (a not unusual occurrence), I said this prayer many times over, alternating it with gazes at Celine's portrait, and I really enjoyed myself!
I know I said yesterday not to worry if you felt nothing while praying or gazing, and I even quoted our Sainted sister's words, that we should love to feel nothing. But let's be honest: like Marcel, I'd rather have no suffering ever, and that includes the "degout" or disgust that our little brother so often complained of, not to mention plain old ennui (which google defines for me as "a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement"). If I had my druthers, I'd keep it simple. Bring on the joy!
As if my wish is His command, Jesus - who so solicitously anticipates all our prayers and desires - sent two visitors, interlopers as it were, to fill this day and this post with joy even before I was articulating the request. This is the opposite of ennui! This is listfullness! Satisfaction arising from too much occupation and excitement! (Overstimulation of a spiritual sort?) This is pure joy. Because guess whose feast is today? Wait, don't guess yet. I'm going to give you a hint, by way of another portrait of the Holy Face, only this time of Little Jesus to please our little Marcel. Here it is:
Yes, you got it! Today is the Feast of Blessed Fra Angelico! Ah, thank You, dear Jesus, for the gift of beauty and all the joy it brings us! Thank You for our dear artist-Dominican-friar-Saint, who received Your first real kiss on this day, February 18, in 1455, and waited until 1982 for our beloved Holy Father St. John Paul II to proclaim him officially Blessed. Well, I bet he wasn't waiting too impatiently, seeing as he was face to Face with Beauty, namely You, dear Jesus!
We might think of Blessed Fra Angelico as opposite of St. Therese in that it took more than 500 years for his sanctity to be officially proclaimed (whereas with little Therese it was quite a bit less than 50 years! even less than 30 years!) - but Marcel wants to point out that all of us with eyes to see had been enjoying Fra Angelico's artistic gifts to us long before he was beatified, allowing this un-Sainted Saint to move us closer to Jesus by the gorgeous pictures he left us. So too with Therese, her Story of a Soul - the first editions of which contained some of her poetry, letters, prayers, and "shower of roses" as well - the creative work she undertook out of obedience and for the love of Jesus moved many souls closer to Jesus even before there was talk of her beatification (though granted that talk started pretty quickly after her exit stage left).
But I said "Interopers" - plural - so I'd better rush on to our second guest today, a young Cajun girl who belongs here because not only has she been showering roses on my loved ones today, but guess who her favorite Saint was?
No, silly, not Fra Angelico . . . nor Marcel either, because he only died a month and a day before our new BFF! This little girl's favorite saint was Saint Therese! Her own name (our second welcome interloper) is Charlene Richard, though a couple of her nicknames were "Charlie Brown" and "Sue-Sue." (You bet I like them both!) And my goodness, she is so much fun!
Charlene was born January 13, 1947 in Richard, Louisiana (which is handy because her last name and her birth town are the same!), and died on August 11, 1959 - which was the same year that Celine and then Marcel went to heaven! But before I tell you any more, let me show you a picture of her.
Isn't she cute? And better yet, doesn't she look impish, like she's got something up her sleeve? Welcome to Marcel's club, Charlene! We're so glad to have you among our host of little ones and powerful intercessors!
Briefly, Charlene's story is this: She was born second in a family that later could boast 10 children. They lived in rural Louisiana and were devout Catholics, but no more devout that we are. (Haha, I hear you laughing and saying you bet they were a lot more devout than we are! Well, maybe a little, but "normal" is the word often applied to Charlene's family and Charlene herself.)
Charlene loved animals (especially dogs and cats, which were plentiful in her home and surroundings), babies (she wouldn't charge for babysitting and one person said of her, "She always had a baby on her hip!") and sports! She played softball and basketball and was even president of the basketball team! She loved to stick up for underdogs (once pouncing on a bully in the school bus, then getting in trouble and responding to the bus driver, "What about him?", meaning the bully!), and she was an excellent mimic! She also loved the Rosary, which makes her more like Marcel than like Therese I think - but the point is that like both of them and us, she really loved Our Lady a lot!
When she was about 12, Charlene read a book about St. Therese and asked her "Mom-Mom" (grandma), "Can I be a Saint like her?" Her grandma said yes, if you pray like her, and as you will see, Charlene must have done so! Because I think she did become a Saint somewhat like Therese, and here's what happened:
In that summer when she was 12, Charlene got sick and they found out she had lymphatic leukemia. This is something like what my father-in-law Paul has, that is, a blood cancer that makes itself known in the lymph nodes. Or at least it sure sounds like that's about it! But while my father-in-law is gratefully enjoying some respites and breaks between bouts of suffering, Charlene only had about 12 more days of her 12 years left! She was in the hospital for this time and died quickly after the diagnosis.
Meanwhile, during this almost two week period of suffering in the hospital, when the chaplain told her a Beautiful Lady would come to bring her to Heaven, Charlene responded, "I know, and I'll tell the Blessed Mother you say hello!" (or something along these lines!) And each day she would ask this good priest when he visited her, "Who are my sufferings for today?" So Father would give her the names of some who needed conversion, and others who needed healings, and Charlene prayed and suffered for them. Later, Father and the Sister who ran the hospital confirmed that all those Charlene prayed for had been healed or converted, as she requested!
After Charlene died, her story spread, and her grave became a place of pilgrimage. Therese taught her quickly in Heaven how to scatter roses upon earth, and by the time of her 30th anniversary Mass in 1989 (a memorial held at her grave), 4,000 people came!
There are Prayer Cloths of Charlene, and Friends of Charlene, and a marvelous, wondrous, adorable book about her that I'm reading on my kindle - it's called "Saint" Charlene Richard: Her Continuous Consecration to God, and the story of this book's existence and its dear author, Carolyn Anne Thibodeaux Keith, is as marvelous as the story of Charlene and inspiring me to no end today!
Carolyn's book on Charlene is available in paperback as well as in digital form, and you can check it out (read a sample!) HERE. I don't like to recommend books except for Marcel's Conversations (oh, and okay, Story of a Soul which my goodness you can get for $9.19 in paperback!!), and I definitely know better than to recommend a book I haven't finished reading yet - but hey, I'm throwing caution to the wind because that's what Charlene did when she took on me and my million and two intentions - two of which she obtained miracles for instantly, so we're down to a million! This will be a cinch!
So here's the deal. Last weekend a good woman let me know that there are several (four, I think it is) new saint causes just starting in the U.S. For ease of information sharing, I will give you the link I received and where I first read about Charlene - though the hilarious part is that by her picture I thought she was a woman (maybe older) not a child! But when I started reading about her - wow! pow! wham! - it was just like those old Batman TV shows with Adam West - I was knocked out!!!
So HERE is that article.
One thing led to another, and as I was praying to Therese and asking Charlene to put in a good word too, one of my specific requests was instantly answered (a big one!) and then, whoosh, another!
I don't want to keep you from asking for all your needs to be miraculously answered, so I'm going to end here, but let me say: Thank you, dear Charlie Brown (I mean Charlene!)!! and Thank you dear Therese! And of course thank you Marcel, because we wouldn't have a blog without you, nor half as much fun neither!
And to little Jesus, source of all miracles, we roll up all our prayers into one big-little request and say simply with our trio of little ones on Mary's lap:
Draw me, we will run!
P.S. I got a kick out of one priest devotee of Charlene who (according to an account I read) ended up calling her "my little money girl" because she came through so generously in getting him the money he needed to restore the churches where he was pastor. Sure enough, having myself put my million and two intentions in her capable hands, I just heard that one more of these intentions (this one having to do with money) was taken care of today! So at my house we're down to only 999,999 intentions needing miracles - what a little wonder worker!
I mentioned last week that we would be doing a novena in honor of the Holy Face, especially perfect this year because the Feast of the Holy Face (Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday) falls on February 25th next week, which is also Celine's "Feast," the day she finally left this land of exile for her true Home in Heaven.
Celine was taught her love of the Holy Face by her family, especially Therese, and after Therese died, she learned to love the Holy Face even more when she saw the newly photographed face from the Shroud of Turin. She wrote of this first meeting:
"I cannot describe the impression I felt while contemplating the features of my Jesus . . . I was mute with emotion, it seemed to me that I saw Him in person. Yes, it was indeed Him, I recognized Him, God who thus portrays Himself in Holy Scripture: "Merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in goodness and faithfulness, who preserves His grace up to a thousand generations, who forgives iniquity, revolt and sin" (Exodus 34:7). He who, on the evening of His Passion left us for inheritance "His Peace" after giving us the means to keep it, telling us "Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls."
"It was indeed my Jesus, as my heart had foreseen Him. This image was not inferior to the ideal that I had made of the mortal features of my God . . . And, seeking the vestiges of His Love for us I followed the wounds with the bloody imprint . . .Then, unable to contain the feelings of my heart, I covered this adorable Face with my kisses and sprinkled it with my tears. And I resolved to paint a Holy Face according to this ideal that I had glimpsed. I went to Our Mother, who, while finding the Holy impression wonderful, did not share my enthusiasm. I told her that I understood her sensation, but that, according to this sketch, I would make a clearly defined, true portrait of Our Lord. She allowed me this."
We can see the result of Celine's enthusiasm and the fulfillment of her promise in the portrait at the top of this post. I'm so grateful we have not only the photos of the Shroud, but also Celine's remarkable portrait which makes Love even more visible. Let's ask her to intercede for all our intentions, even as we offer our prayers as so many kisses with which we can cover this adorable Face over the next 9 days.
Therese had written in a letter, "Jesus is on fire with love for us . . . Look at His adorable Face! Look at His eyes lifeless and lowered! Look at His wounds . . . Look at Jesus in His Face . . . There you will see how He loves us." She loved Him so much that she wrote more than one prayer to the Holy Face, but I would like to offer just the tail end of one of those prayers for our novena, in honor of our very little way. If you don't feel all the sentiments of this prayer, don't worry - that's part of the little way too! Therese advised her sister Marie, "Let us love to feel nothing!" That's because we entrust all to the power of Jesus and His Love, while we try to remember that our poverty, our failings, even our lack of feelings (or the excess of them!), are never obstacles to Jesus but simply magnets for His mercy!
I had originally intended to post the beginning of our novena yesterday, and I also thought I might post every day for 9 days. As you can see, the first of those intentions went by the wayside, and I'm betting the second will too, so what I can say is that barring the internet imploding, this post will be here for the duration of our novena (and likely long after as well!) so that you can come return each day and repeat our Holy Face prayer.
As always with our MMM novenas, you are included just by virtue of hearing about it! And look, you're even reading the post! And I'm guessing you're going to read through the prayer that comes after this paragraph! You are thus amazing and hence triply included! And then if, by dint of life getting in the way, you forget to say some days (or the rest of them), know that we'll be keeping your intentions safely with ours and allowing Celine to offer them to Therese (and Marcel) to offer them to our adorable Jesus, along with scads of kisses. Which leads to only one conclusion: No more worrying, any more, ever! And now for our prayer:
O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart,
I implore You to fix deep within me Your divine image
and to set me on fire with Your Love,
that I, and all those I love, may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Your glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.
Draw me, we will run!
It may have been the pictures. I love the pictures almost more than anything else on Miss Marcel's Musings, and after our previous post (the one below this one, in bizarre blog protocol), I just wasn't satisfied with the images I had chosen. Bernadette looked too stern, the grotto was too distant, and Our Lady looked to me, though lovely as always, not real enough after the photos that preceded her.
But then again it may have been my experience this morning in my bedroom, looking about and seeing Our Lady of Fatima watching over me, thanks to a statue it took me forever to find because (according to another Miss Marcel and she is right on the money), "You have to look at the face," and it took me a while to find a slightly smiling Our Lady of Fatima. And then Our Lady of Guadalupe was also casting a benevolent glance my way from her little statue (gift from a dear daughter of hers), but also Our Lady of Good Counsel from her picture on the wall. Yes, I do have a lot of images of our Heavenly Mother surrounding me, and I can't imagine having any fewer!
But with all these kind gazes converging on my own little self, it suddenly hit me, "I can't choose! How can I give up any of my dear Mother's images or appearances?" I realized that I wouldn't want Our Lady to stop appearing under different visages, in different places, at different times and to different people - because then we might think she'd stopped caring about us! And from her side, I see why she will likely never stop reaching out to the littlest among us through her apparitions and locutions - because how could a mother stop attending to her children, especially when they are (metaphorically and collectively) constantly tending to step out into the road without looking both ways?
As if to confirm this adorable truth of our loving Mother Mary's determination to always be there for us, in the middle of writing I was interrupted by a call from a friend in Rome. Delightful interruption! Next thing I knew, my friend was telling me of her visit with a religious sister in a green habit, a Missionary of Divine Revelation. Interesting in itself, but also mind-boggling because this order sprung from a vision of Our Lady in Rome, an appearance she made in 1947 to an anti-clerical Protestant who was on a mission to kill Pope Pius XII! (I merely copy the facts of the story, but desire to interject that this confused Bruno was absolutely and entirely different from every Protestant I've ever met!)
Our Lady, quite experienced in the field of apparitions, appeared first to Bruno's 3 children, who sank to their knees and murmured "Beautiful Lady! Beautiful Lady!" over and over. The occasion was an outing with their father Bruno, who at the time of the apparition had been reading his Bible (near the place of St. Paul's martyrdom, for they were visiting Rome) while the children played. but now he couldn't hear them. He found the children kneeling and praying with their simple admiring phrase, and it incensed him! He tried to stop their strange behavior, and when they didn't respond to him, Bruno tried to physically move them out of their kneeling posture, but found them like marble and impossible to move! At which point he - God fearing if deluded - cried out, "God save us!" And that was enough for Our Lady to appear to him too!
And here is where I just bow before her delicacy, for she appeared holding the Bible! What better way to show Bruno what was what! You can read the whole story if you google Missionaries of Divine Revelation, but I had to tell you part of it because Our Lady wants us to know she'll never give up on us!
I have such a sweet memory of my own mom coming into my bedroom to say goodnight to me before she and my dad went out somewhere. She was so beautiful, and the most wonderful floral scent wafted from her (L'air du Temps, her signature scent in those long ago days). Our Lady is just like that! She may have places to go, bringing Jesus to everyone on the planet, but she's always up for stopping in and giving us a kiss, while her odor of sanctity - her sheer loveliness - brings joy in her wake.
Wonderfully, today, February 13 (two days after Our Lady of Lourdes) is the anniversary of the reunion of our Our Lady and Lucia, the Fatima seer who lived nearly forever! On this day 15 years ago (in 2005, for those who don't like word problems), Lucia finally zipped off to Heaven to meet again her dear cousins Jacinta and Francisco. At last! It seems I must be counting wrong, though I'm using my fingers for the decades and counting it over and over, but I'd say it was almost 90 years since the three of them had together seen Our Lady! Now reunited, they must have had quite a party at her feet, or more likely in her arms, after long hugs with Our Lord!
It was Lucia's Memoirs that catapulted me into a new relationship with Our Lady in February of 2013, eight years after her entry into Heaven and no doubt the first chance she got to show me some of the wonders Our Lady had shown her on the 13th of various months from May to October of 1917. That shows the beauty of 13, and the reason Lucia must love this date of her future feast! I only know that when she introduced me to Jacinta and then Francisco seven years ago, it was a painless hop, skip, and jump from falling in love with them to falling in love with Our Lady of Fatima.
Still, I can't help but often shy away from this particular Our Lady these days, because it's hard to shake earlier misconceptions that she's scary - she does ask a lot, and I think the problem is that we don't see first, as the shepherd children did, that light coming from her hands which reveals the infinite love God has for us . . . When I remember that light and reflect on how those little ones learned of God's tender and eternal love for them, and when I hear the beautiful Lady's voice as an echo of that love, my heart is drawn to hers, rather than turning in on itself, afraid.
And then, too, we all have our associations with various Our Ladies, and my connection with Our Lady of Lourdes runs deep, even as my need for the most affirming of Our Ladies (or so she seems to me, Our Lady of Guadalupe) seems to increase daily . . . Not to mention my ever increasing need for Good Counsel!
So on second thought, I refuse to give up a single one of Our Lady's glorious and humble appearances!
And yet at the same time, it occurs to me that even among a collection of many beloveds, it's natural to have a favorite (even while we keep the others near, just not center stage), and my heart responds with the news that my latest favorite is not so hard to identify after all. She's one I haven't mentioned yet in these two Our Lady posts, but this morning, having appreciated all the many Marys who love me, it suddenly (she suddenly) dawned on me and my heart sang.
Are you ready? I said in the last post that I couldn't promise to be logical, though I would always tell you the truth. Well this second (or third?) thought is both logical and truthful, because the winner of the "Favorite Our Lady of Miss Marcel" is . . .
Our Lady of Marcel!!!
Granted she's not yet included in any Litany of titles of Our Lady that I know of (though we could make one up and that would be fun!), nonetheless, Our Lady of Marcel is certainly an authentic and reliable Our Lady along with the others because she did speak frequently with Marcel. And oh, how how unutterably gentle and compassionate she was to him and is to us! I did obliquely mention her the other day when I reported Jesus' reassurance to Marcel and us that he (and we) shouldn't worry because Mary was "happy with both of us." Only in Marcel's Conversations could we find such a charming admission from Our Lord!
To tell the many reasons Our Lady of Marcel is my favorite would take many posts, so I'll limit myself for now. Certainly the image at the top of this post says more than a thousand words could, with Marcel-Jesus sleeping so peacefully on our dear Mother . . . and if I try to express what I see in that photo, I'd say I think I love Our Lady of Marcel best because, as Marcel puts it in (253) of Conversations, "It is very easy to love you, Mary. You are happy with a simplicity of heart without demanding anything out of the ordinary."
How soothing, how comforting to little souls! I'm reminded of Therese's explanation of her way of spiritual childhood, in which she says that children when they get a little bigger are asked to work, and so she never wanted to grow up - even a little! - because she had no interest in working to gain her bread - she wanted to depend entirely on God for everything, like an infant depending on his parents, or like Our Lord recommends in the words of the Our Father where we simply ask Him for what we need.
Marcel goes on in that passage to speak of us, for he speaks of those he will teach to love Mary once he's in Heaven and knows all languages. And he paints another picture, as beautiful as the one above, when he explains, "It is in loving you that they [that is, us] will hear clearly Jesus' voice. Indeed, if they love you, you will carry them on your knees with little Jesus, you will shelter them with Him under your cloak so that they will hear everything He will say."
May you hear clearly Jesus' voice, both when you read Conversations (or our words from that book here) and when you love Mary. May she carry you on her knees with little Jesus and shelter you with Him under her cloak! Then you will hear everything He will say, and again, if you can't make out the words, try opening up Marcel's book and you will hear His voice and recognize it, like the sheep recognizes the voice of the Shepherd.
O Good Shepherd! Draw me, we will run!!!
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, because on this day, February 11, in 1858, our beautiful Mother Mary appeared to 14 year old St. Bernadette Soubirous for the first time. Our Lady came back to see Bernadette (and Bernadette came to the grotto to see Our Lady) 17 more times, their final meeting here being on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! How's that for ecumenism?
This feast is very dear to my heart because in high school I got to be Bernadette in a play my senior year. Then a few months later, I visited the campus of Thomas Aquinas College for the first time, and the first Mass I attended there was on Februrary 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes! Some years later when St. Thomas and his college and Our Lady had changed me forever, my husband (yes, now I had a husband) interviewed for a teaching job at Christendom College - on Februrary 11th! And then some years after that, I found in the Christendom College library a book (Celine's Memoir of My Sister St. Therese) that led me to another book (Beyond East and West, by John C. H. Wu) that led me to another book (Forever Love by Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E.) that led me to a wonderful Italian missionary priest (the same Fr NM, P.I.M.E.) who had "met" St. Therese when he served in his youth as an altar boy for Pope Pius XI at St. Therese's beatification and canonization Masses in 1923 and 1925! (That was many years before I met Fr. Maestrini, no longer an entirely young boy when we became friends! Though he was forever impish, like Marcel!)
In short, I love this day, and I love Our Lady of Lourdes and dear St. Bernadette, a little one if ever there was one! And so another little one, Marcel by name, and I were chatting this morning (not much like an apparition nor even like a locution, but much more like me thinking of something and Marcel NOT appearing to say I got it wrong). And here is what I thought of and Marcel tacitly approved, and I'm SO very excited to share it with you, because I think it's A Big New Discovery! And it's about Our Lady and Our Ladies, so how fitting for the day!
In fact it would be very strange if Marcel had any objections to my idea, because it comes straight from Jesus, Truth Himself. I just had to tweak it a little to make it apply to Mary, but see what you think - I think it works perfectly in this new context!
Jesus is speaking to Marcel on April 23, 1946 (Easter Tuesday that year), and He says in Conversations:
"Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of my Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person. You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience" (512)
Actually, upon re-reading this passage, I see I don't have to tweak it at all. Our Lady's reign of Love is no different than her Son Jesus' reign of Love - she is only and always about spreading His Love and bringing His Kingdom of Love to all souls (and all souls to it), and so, I'm sure that my idea is just as sensible and brilliant as I thought!
But what is my idea?
Well, I mentioned recently that I have friends who find Padre Pio a little scary, and I resolved (again) never to give up helping them see how un-scary he is, how very gentle and generous, how assuredly loving and mild, despite those true stories of his yelling at PEOPLE WHO LIED TO HIM in the confessional. Really, as long as you don't intend to lie to Padre Pio in the confessional (too late to do so anyhow!) or snip off a piece of his habit for a relic when he's walking by (too late as well, though had I been there when he was walking by, I'd have been tempted to snip for sure!), as I say, as long as you won't do these things (and you can't now, so you're quite safe) you're in like Flynn with him! And that brings to him everyone you love too!
But somehow I'm getting away from the point . . . which is that like Padre Pio, sometimes certain Our Ladies can seem a bit scary. But unlike with Padre Pio, I realized this morning that I'm perfectly fine with allowing Our Lady of Fatima, for instance, to fend for herself, with the help of Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia (who are the ones who got me to fall in love with her, and come to think of it they started on February 11, 2013!).
Why this sudden disappearance of my previous compulsion to convince timid souls that Our Lady of Fatima was just as full of love and gentleness as the other Our Ladies? And yes, despite my goofiness, I do realize they are more or less the same one, single, uniquely wonderful, loving and lovable Mother of God, but isn't it fun that she is so very multifarious?!
Well, though . . . what did Jesus just tell us?
"Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of my Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person."
I think that means that Our Lady comes to us in many guises (and sometimes seeming disguises) so that she might "use a certain manner of speaking" here, to suit the needs of her children, while over there, she "will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of her audience."
Wowie zowie! Isn't this awesome? Our Lord is so infinitely solicitous, so tenderly concerned with each of our souls and our feelings - that He is determined, as is His so beautiful Mother, to come to us each in a way we can best recognize and receive Him!
And that makes sense because with the proliferation of Our Ladies, there is the perfect representation of our dear Mother to meet the needs of each of her children.
I have long found this to be true of St. Therese as well, not that it takes away from who she really is, but like St. Paul she was concerned to be all things for all men, and so there were times when, with her novices for instance, she would speak to one in an entirely different way than she spoke to another. Celine made sure to explain in the beginning of her Memoir of My Sister St. Therese that as Fr. Pichon (the Martin family's spiritual director) used to say (and I think he followed St. John of the Cross in this), "There as many differences between souls as between faces." So, Celine warned, because she wanted to share absolutely all Therese's counsels to the novices - but these counsels were different depending on the recipient's temperament and disposition - the reader should (in a familiar modern saying) "Take what you like and leave the rest." Some counsels will suit and help one reader, while other counsels could be detrimental.
So, too, I think we ought to follow our natural attractions and not worry when one particular Our Lady speaks to our heart - and another doesn't!
Marcel, for instance, loved Our Lady of Perpetual Help, an Our Lady particularly confided to the Redemptorist Order to which he belonged. Therese loved the Virgin of the Smile - the representation of Our Lady in a family statue which Our Lady had used to smile upon her and cure her of her childhood illness. My Fr. Maestrini loved the image of Our Lady of Confidence (whose bookmark fortuitously marks the page from which I quoted Our Lord's words about His needing different apostles, and which I've extended to different Our Ladies).
I think if I had to choose - and I am having flashbacks of a previous post somewhere in these musings in which I tried to choose before! - today I would have to hurl myself into the arms of not 1 but 3 Our Ladies! That works because Our Lady is holding so many of her children right now (you, Marcel, Therese, just for a start) that with three of her at my disposal, I just might avoid crushing one of you as I hurl!
Can you guess which Our Ladies speak most sweetly to my heart?
Tied for second (and third, technically) are Our Lady of Good Counsel and Our Lady of Lourdes. I depend on Our Lady of Good Counsel daily to keep me out of trouble, and Our Lady of Lourdes has been with me so long now and is so simple and sweet. Though Our Lady of Mount Carmel is always near, too, come to think of it, and I also have a soft spot for Our Lady of Grace - she's Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal who took St. Catherine Laboure's head in her lap and stroked her hair, as I picture the scene. And I can't help but love Our Lady of Fatima, for I have seen behind her requests and into her Immaculate Heart so full of love, and I so appreciate the light that came from her hands before she asked the children to do anything - the light that filled them with the knowledge of how much God loves us all!
Ah, but numero uno? That's easy, like chips and salsa, cake and ice cream, or hot chocolate and marshmallows with a squirt of whipped cream on top! I can never get enough of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose roses and face, and especially her advice, echo so exactly the Our Lady with whom Marcel is constantly speaking in Conversations (and whose words he shares with us). As Jesus tells Marcel somewhere, "Everyone tells you not to worry!" That would include Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I love her for that!
But it is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and I have something special to share about her, whether we take her in particular, or as another face of our very favorite Our Lady.
One of Our Lady's children who felt the deep meaning of Lourdes was St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes. She lived in Chile and died, wonderfully, exactly 100 years ago this coming April 12th! She was like Therese and Marcel and Elizabeth of the Trinity, burning out young due the ardor of her love (and Jesus' love). Teresa was only in the Carmel (for yes, she was another young Carmelite nun when she died) for 9 months, dying when she was nineteen. But here is what she wrote when she was seventeen, and I get choked up when I read it - I have to agree with every word, and it sums up the true Immaculate Heart and attraction of all Our Ladies exactly!
From St. Teresa of the Andes' Spiritual Diary:
Lourdes, Mary, Mother Full of Sweetness; February 12, 1917
The day before and yesterday we went to Lourdes [the Grotto of the Virgin of Lourdes in Santiago]. Lourdes! This word alone causes the deepest chords to vibrate in the Christian, the Catholic.
Lourdes! Who doesn’t feel moved when pronouncing that word! It means Heaven in this exile.
The word bears under its mantle of mystery whatever great things the Catholic heart is capable of feeling. Her name causes past memories to be taken away and deeply touches the intimate feelings of our soul. It contains joy, superhuman peace, whence the pilgrim, fatigued by the sorrowful journey of life, can find rest; can without fear put down his baggage, which is our human miseries, and open his mouth to receive the water of consolation and comfort. It is where the tears of the poor are mixed with the tears of the rich, where they meet only a Mother who is gazing on them and smiling on them. And in that celestial gaze and smile there gush forth sobs from all breasts so that their hearts are filled with happiness and they cannot pull themselves away. It makes them hope and love the eternal and the divine.
Yes, Mother, you are the celestial Madonna who guides us. You allow heavenly rays to fall from your maternal hands. I didn’t believe such happiness could exist on earth; yesterday my heart, while thirsting for it, found it. My soul was ecstatic at your virginal feet, listening to you. You were speaking and your maternal language was so tender. It was from heaven, almost divine.
In seeing you so pure, so tender, and so compassionate, who would not be encouraged to unburden his intimate sufferings to you? Who would not ask you to be his star on this stormy sea? Who is there who would not cry in your arms without instantly receiving your immaculate kisses of love and comfort? If he be a sinner, your caresses will soften him. If one of your devoted ones, your presence would enkindle the living flame of divine love. If he be poor, you with your powerful hand will aid him and show him his true homeland. If rich, you will sustain him with your breath against the dangers of his very agitated life. If one is in affliction, you with your tearful gaze will show him the cross and on it your Divine Son. Who will not find balm for his pains by considering the torments of Jesus and Mary? The sick man finds in your maternal heart the water of salvation that allows your enchanting smile to blossom forth, and makes him smile with love and happiness.
Yes, Mary, you are Mother of the entire universe. Your heart is filled with sweetness. At your feet let the priest prostrate himself with the same confidence as the virgin in order to find in your arms the fullness of your love. The rich as well as the poor can find in your heart their heaven. The afflicted as well as the happy can find on your mouth a celestial smile. The sick as well as the healthy can find caresses from your sweet hands. And, finally, sinners like myself find in you a protecting Mother who can crush beneath her immaculate feet the head of the dragon. And in your eyes I see mercy, pardon, and a shining lamp to keep me from falling into the muddy waters of sin.
Yes, my Mother. At Lourdes I found heaven. God was on the altar surrounded by angels and you, from the concave of the rock, offered Him the cries of the multitude kneeling before your altar. You asked Him to hear the supplications of the people banished in this valley of tears, while at the same time, together with their hymns, they were offering you their hearts full of love and gratitude.
* * *
I forgot to mention that I had the privilege of going to Lourdes in France when I was a girl. What struck me most was the little "house" of Bernadette and her family at the time of the apparitions. I put "house" in quotes because it was actually an abandoned prison, so damp and rank that it was considered too awful for prisoners! But the Soubirous family needed a place to live, and so they lived there. On the wall (in French, but my angel helped me translate it at the time) were stenciled the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world that He might shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world that He might shame the strong.
Being foolish and weak myself, like my brother Marcel, I'm charmed to think that God chooses the likes of me, of Marcel, of Bernadette, and no doubt of you too, as apostles who have the delight of receiving and sharing His message of love.
And since they really all are one single lovely Our Lady, why not allow the words of one of them to suffice as our meditation for today? From Our Lady's heart to ours, then:
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.
Or as Jesus assured Marcel, and thus sends to us the message:
"Do not worry! Mary is very happy with us both!" (Conversations, 386)
I started this post mentioning my husband (remember, it was on this day that he had an important interview), and so I realize it would be fun to conclude with a link to him. He had the pleasure of giving a talk on logic recently. (Isn't that funny? I have the pleasure of reading and writing Marcel, and while Tony loves Marcel too, his mission - Tony's, not Marcel's! - is to read and write logic.) So if you feel a penchant for reading or listening to logic, you can click HERE (right after we say our prayer) and I promise you'll read only what is true! And yes, I promise to only write what is true here, too, at Miss Marcel's Musings, but I can't promise to always be logical! Remember, Jesus needs all of us to convey His message in ways our audiences can receive!
He is so good, and His kindness is at its most merciful when He gives us all our Our Ladies. May Our Lady of Lourdes especially bring healing and joy to us all today, and to all those we love, as well as the whole Church from Papa Francis at the top down to the newest baptized baby!
Draw me, Mama, and we will run!
This peacock was sent by God to brighten up our winter - I mean mine and yours! I saw him a few days ago (the peacock, not God!) while I was walking the dog, which just goes to show that I have a great neighborhood (thank You, Jesus!) and there are perks to what the Northerners think of as No Seasons. But I am not gloating (and it has gotten down, down, down in temps these last nights) - no, I'm sharing the riches of God's beauty with you! How can I help it when He has given them so freely to me?
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!
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