I've been so good about giving you fair warning when Marcel's Book Club is coming up . . . but I've been so bad about posting anything until the last minute of the two previous months. And so . . .
Surprise! Here we are in Chapter 3!
You have several choices at this point. Think of it as a choose your own adventure post - and here are your choices:
I. If you have already read Chapter 3 of Story of a Soul (recently!), feel free to simply proceed ahead with reading this post!
2. If you haven't yet read Chapter 3 for our March MBC, you can either:
a. with heroic restraint set the computer aside and wait to read this post until you read Chapter 3 first;
b. read on now as an inspiration to do your own reading of Chapter 3 later (but still in March if you want to continue with our Paradise Project of reading a chapter of Story of a Soul per month).
Seeing as I haven't got much past the beginning pages of each chapter so far -- what a treasure trove!! -- I'm confident your reading of the following reflections, either before or after you've read Chapter 3 yourself, will merely add to (or prepare you for) any thinking you do and inspirations the Holy Spirit drops like dew into your soul during your own tete a tete with Therese. Or rather, your own tete a tete a tete, since where Therese is, Marcel is sure to be found as well!
Chapter 3, then . . .
I want to start by asking, "Can I be honest?" but there's always a strange implication that accompanies such a question, as if I haven't been honest so far. I guess what I really mean is, "Can I be honest and say this is definitely NOT my favorite chapter?"
There. By being more precise, I've taken care of the answer as well as the question and now the truth is out. This is definitely not my favorite chapter.
I do love the part about the doll who sticks her arms up Therese's nose!
(oops! If you haven't read it yet, I should have said Spoiler alert! But she tells it much better than I do!)
And I love, too, how Therese and her cousin Marie play the blind leading the blind until they knock over a tradesman's wares and suddenly can see well enough to skedaddle!
But despite these entertaining moments (and more!), the title to the chapter - "The Distressing Years" - got me ready for trouble, and looking for trouble, it was trouble I found. Whichever way I look at it, I'm just not a big fan of suffering. And yet, I have to admit that good came out of every one of Therese's sufferings. . .
Her loneliness at boarding school highlights the intimacy she shared with Celine and Celine's goodness to her, as well as her love for her family and their nourishing home life.
Then there was the deep sadness, trauma really, at losing her second mama, Pauline. About this, Pauline later said that if she had known how it hurt Therese, she would have handled her departure and Therese's knowledge of it very differently. And yet Therese sees in the very way it did happen the seed of her own vocation to Carmel, or perhaps the watering of that seed. When Pauline explained her call to Carmel and what that life entailed, Therese understood and desired the same - not for Pauline's sake, but because God used Pauline to show Therese the garden in which He would plant her as well. How beautiful, too, that from this very early date Pauline took Therese's vocation seriously and, rather than brushing her off or considering her "cute," arranged for her to have a heart to heart with the Mother Superior.
Therese's mysterious illness (and it was interesting to read about it again from her perspective; she knew much about what it was and was not) though in itself heart-rending, leads to the grace of the Virgin's smile, and Therese's realization of Our Lady's love for her. I find it wonderful, too, that this miraculous grace came through a particular statue held dear by the family. Later this statue came with Celine to the Carmel and eventually watched over Therese during her last illness.
You see how hard I'm trying to not mind the suffering! But since Therese's autobiography left me a little sad this month (I can't help it - I'd rather read about the joyful years than the distressing ones!), I've opened our brother Marcel's Autobiography in the hopes of a little more cheer. He hasn't said much to me about Therese's Chapter 3, though it is his book club, and I conclude it's because he has something of hers to give us that didn't appear in her own memoir, but his!
This week has been rich in Saints for me - starting with St. Joseph's Feast, then in my reading about St. Andre Bessette as his faithful apostle, and finally with Padre Pio taking center stage. Fitting, then, are these words that Marcel records Therese having said to him when he was waiting, seemingly forever, to gain entrance to the Redemptorists. She's recommending that he invoke (pester, really, on a daily basis) St. Gerard, who was a lay-brother in the Redemptorists as Van hopes to be too, and she says at (786):
"Do not be afraid. If you ask you will certainly obtain. Normally saints are very easily moved; consequently, they never refuse the graces which are asked of them, above all, when it is a question of a saint who will soon be your big brother, your patron and whose little brother you will be. . . Don't believe that among the saints in heaven there is only your Therese who knows how to ask for favours. How many saints, powerful over God's heart, regret that my little Van has not had recourse to their intercession?"
When, soon after this advice, St. Gerard's feast arrived without the hoped for miracle (of the Father Rector admitting Van into the Order), Marcel says, "I was lacking any enthusiasm." That's our boy! I have to admit, terrible as it sounds, that I'm more inspired by an ounce of resistance in a future saint than by a pound of devotion! Marcel writes, "I had hoped that that very day would see Saint Gerard's miracle, but . . . absolutely nothing happened! What a disappointment!"
It's at times like this that we all need a Saint who doesn't give up on us, even when counseling us to invoke other saints! Therese is that good counselor and after St. Gerard's apparent failure, she explained cheerfully to our little brother:
"What, are you annoyed with me? This morning I had intended to let you have the good news, but, being busy wishing my brother Saint Gerard a happy feast day it was impossible for me to do so. It seems that you want to lose heart already. Come now, why are you so easily discouraged? There's still the octave of the feast. Anyway, your brother Gerard being very busy this morning he could not effect immediately the miracle for you. But now he can. Therefore, during Benediction don't forget to remind him of the favour you have already asked for, all right? Tell him what you desire and if you don't forget, that will be sufficient."
I think Therese and Marcel (and St. Gerard too) must want us to remain enthusiastic about calling upon them, and St. Joseph as well. Was there anything you asked of St. Joseph on his feast (or forgot to ask him) that hasn't yet been granted? Let me say, in the words of our sister, "There's still the octave of the feast!"
Marcel did, by the way, follow Therese's advice (he didn't forget this time!) and he did get what he asked for - quickly!
As to our requests - let's multiply them and tell Therese that she promised the saints are not indifferent to us, so if they are busy or otherwise distracted (I hear the Beatific Vision is rather absorbingly wonderful), it's up to her and Marcel to remind them that We Need Them. Now!
There. That wasn't so distressing after all. We just needed to perk up Chapter 3 with a little salty Therese from her later years goading Marcel into various escapades with the Saints. I love that he adopts them only reluctantly - who can blame him with Therese such a terrific sister to him already? But it behooves us, too, to follow her advice, so let's invoke the whole crowd!
Dear Therese, Marcel, St. Gerard, Pauline and Marie, Celine and Leonie, St. Louis (Therese's dear king and papa), St. Joseph (little Jesus' dear papa!) and St. Andre, St. Padre Pio and all you holy angels and Saints: pray for us, that we may have every grace and joyful surprise we need to smile and even laugh so that we can delight the Heart of Jesus!
And dear Jesus, we will never tire of placing our simple request before You:
Draw us, we will run!!!
I hope you enjoy Chapter 3 - don't let my grumbling deter you if you haven't read it yet! But most of all, I hope you find yourself nearer each day to many saints, old and new, so that you KNOW with the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit how very dear you are to our brothers and sisters in Heaven!
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