My husband and I used to have an I Believe in Love apostolate. Before you gag at the sentimental sound of it, let me explain.
There's this magnificent book called I Believe in Love. I don't know much about the author except that he was a French priest who gave a retreat (perhaps many retreats) on the teachings of St. Therese, and this retreat was transcribed into a book, translated into English, and has been kept in print for more than forty years, most recently by Sophia Institute Press. And kept in print with good reason, for it is the best book on St. Therese that I know, and with very few exceptions an immediate hit with everyone who has the great good fortune to read it. Our apostolate, then, was simply to give out copies of I Believe in Love to as many people as we thought didn't have one already. Later this became a game I played with a dear friend who, unbeknownst to us, had been doing the same for some time herself. We joined forces, and it was exciting to see hearts opening up before Jesus' infinite love like so many flowers in the warm rays of the spring's welcome sun.
Then I found Marcel, and my first instinct was to start a Conversations apostolate.
Just as our I Believe in Love missionary work had included more than believing in love ourselves (in fact, it's sometimes easier to hand out books than to believe in Love - at least for a blonde soul like mine), so too my Conversations apostolate would include more than just talking. I thought I could give out copies of Conversations like we'd done for so many years with I Believe in Love.
Jesus, on the other hand, didn't think so, and His adorable will made itself known before I'd given away a single book.
Some years ago I came across a wonderful aid to identifying God's will. I found it in a 12-step book, and it's an acronym that sounds like a government agency though as far as I know, it isn't one. It's "ODAT", usually shorthand for One Day at a Time, but in this case it stood for Opportunity, Desire, Ability, and Time. The writer explained that if you want to know whether a particular project is God's will for you, start by asking whether you have all four of these, because the absence of any one will indicate that the work you have in mind is likely NOT God's will for you. I've found this a brilliant approach to discernment because it's so simple. And here was the perfect example of its clear application.
Upon consideration I realized that while I have the opportunity, and the desire, and the time to foist Marcel's Conversations on every person I love, alas, I do not have the ability. You see, when we first started giving out copies of I Believe in Love about 25 years ago, the book was small, the price was low, and we got a discount on our bulk orders from a bookseller friend. In more recent years, amazon.com's "I'm your best friend, call me Mr. Discount" policy and, when we went directly to the publisher, Sophia Institute Press' super cheap shipping made our apostolate do-able. Not necessarily in bulk, but hey, we'd already given out the book to most people we knew.
When it came to Conversations, however, Jesus had the perfect way to keep me from flooding the market. He merely made sure that He (and His mother and His dear Therese) had lots of conversations with Marcel, whom He repeatedly urged to write them down, and then, in spite of Marcel's extreme littleness (or rather, as He often explains, because of it), Jesus made sure that nothing was lost. The consequence is a very substantial book.
Which pleases me to no end. Even if I had a better memory, there's no way I could keep in mind all the spectacularly beautiful, tenderly solicitous, infinitely loving things that Jesus tells us through Marcel. There are just so many! And this satisfies a need I've felt for a long, long time. The one problem my closest conspirators and I had with I Believe in Love was that we needed more words. Once we'd read it once or twice, convincing and encouraging as it was, we only wanted more. I can't make this complaint about Conversations. Granted, it's ruined me for other spiritual reading because I'll never be done with it, but this is a small price to pay for my ideal book. Like the Bible, it's the book I'll never finish, though I've read it from cover to cover. That's just how it works. Who can fully comprehend the Word of God and God's words?
I'm happy, then -- ecstatic, really -- over the nice heft of Marcel's Conversations. But speaking of prices to pay, the size of the book and its subsequent cost do a number on my ability to buy massive quantities in order to bequeath them to unsuspecting victims. The monthly book budget just won't allow such largess.
Ah, Jesus, how clever You are! You have prevented my efforts at making supply exceed demand. You have thwarted my desire to introduce the whole world, by force if necessary, to our little brother. You have opted, once again, for the little way . . . and the way, too, of desire. Your plan is so much better than mine! Here in this corner of the Internet we can invite others to know our Marcel. We can introduce them to him and, more importantly, to Your love for us expressed through Your conversations with him. And then, when You've taken Your very sweet time (and after all, You do have all time at your disposal) just as You did with me, You can lure each heart into the depths of Yours and into the heart of Your Apostle of Love. What treasures await! And You wait too. Oh how good You are to wait! But You are full of consideration and have decided it is better for You to wait than for my family to subsist on Kraft macaroni and cheese. We can buy groceries and let You be in charge of Marcel's book sales, one book at a time.
And now, to the point.
I didn't quite mean this post to be about such paltry things as the rising cost of good literature, the insufficiency of my book budget (which is actually quite sufficient for my needs now that I've got Marcel's complete works), nor to distress you with the news that unless I win the lottery (and since I don't buy lottery tickets, my winning is even less likely than you might think) I will probably not be buying you a copy of Conversations any time soon. Rather, I wanted to address the question up top (the title of this post) about whether you believe in Love. And I don't mean "you" as if I've got a list and I'm checking it twice, or as if I can read souls and know that yours isn't full of as much faith as it ought to be . . . No, dear reader, this is not that kind of blog. Charismatic gifts aside, I'm not a mean person, and you are definitely safe here.
Actually I'm asking the question in a kind of "This is what Jesus has got me wondering about myself, and the wondering is moving me from fear to adoration" sort of way. Yesterday morning, I picked up Marcel's book to help me pray, and Jesus said the most remarkable things. (He's always doing that, and you'd think it would get old or I'd stop being surprised, but love is like that: always new, always startling, and always more wonderful than before.) Since I've now admitted that I'm not buying everyone books, I figure the least I can do is share some of what I've found in mine. My hope is that you'll be inspired to save your shekels and get a copy of your own when you have the opportunity, desire, ability, and time. (I'll put links to I Believe in Love and Conversations at the end of this post, just in case.)
The passage that moved my heart yesterday morning and was confirmed by a hummingbird shortly thereafter is at (400) in Conversations. And yes, I said a hummingbird!
I went outside with Marcel and Jesus (the two of them were in the book in my hands at the very least), and sitting on a chair in the southern California sunshine, I heard a whirring behind my head. It sounded suspiciously like a hummingbird. Looking down, I saw a shadow vibrating on the cobblestones in front of me. I turned my head, and yes, there was a hummingbird! He hovered for a few moments, and then he did what very few hummingbirds do (at least when I'm watching) -- he flitted up and perched, resting on a branch of the oak tree that hung over us. I took it as a hint, a sign, a tiny message from one who is even more fun to watch than a sparrow (two of which used to be sold for a penny, all of which are watched over and loved by God, and none of which are loved anywhere near as much as He loves us). If a hummingbird can rest in the presence of the conversations of Marcel and Jesus, how much more then should I? I'm certainly not as constitutionally averse to it.
So here's what made the hummingbird and me pause. Okay, at least it made me pause. As for the hummingbird, think what you will, but it's darn rare to see one just sit back and relax. My guess is that he was awed by the nearness of Jesus' infinite love just as I was. Sadly, he couldn't read, but happily I could, and here is what I had just read:
"Marcel, I love you dearly; My love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it, Marcel?
Nothing is more hurtful to Me than to see a great number of souls that I love in preference to all the others, who behave towards Me with such indifference that they do not even wish to believe in the preferential love that I have for them."
And so I started thinking about this preferential love of Jesus, and how He seemed to love me that way, just as He loved Marcel.
You might wonder if you, too, are loved with a preferential love. I can tell you right now that you are. I know that you are, for Jesus has brought you here where you can read His words to Marcel -- words which are meant for us as well. He loves you dearly; His love for you is truly indescribable. Do you believe it?
He wants you to believe in His love for you, this indescribable love that made Him take on a body like ours so that He could have a human tongue with which to tell us of this love which is beyond description. Just before the passage I've quoted, Jesus says, "Marcel, are there any words which better encapsulate love and tenderness than the words of the Gospel?" I think of His invitation, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and you will find rest for your souls. Learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart." And those unsurpassed expressions from the night before He died, when He pleaded, "Let not your hearts be troubled," and again, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," because "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you."
Jesus frequently reassures Marcel, "I am not scolding you." Here, then, we should note that He is not scolding us either. His words are never meant to be a source of scrupulosity, but only a source of comfort. When He tells Marcel that what hurts Him most is to see a great number of souls "who do not even wish to believe in the preferential love" that He has for them, He is not talking about us. How do I know? Because we want more than anything to believe in His love! The question now is -- as He asked Marcel, so He asks us -- do we believe it? Do we believe in His tremendous love?
It's such a relief to know that He never gives up on us, never stops pursuing us, never stops telling us (in the old words and old books, and in new ones too) of His indescribable love. Even as He laments that it is not enough, this or that expression of His love, still He persists. Even as He knows that we do not understand, so too He knows that we want to believe.
Let's not give up on our end either. Let's never stop listening to His voice speaking to us in the old books and the new. If you need a place to start hearing His words of love, I suggest first the Gospel of John, chapters 14 through 17. Second, if you haven't yet read I Believe in Love, you can click on the title here (I Believe in Love) and order it directly from the publisher or, if you prefer, click on amazon.com.
Will you be surprised if my third suggestion is to read Marcel's Conversations? I suggest it with such enthusiasm that I won't even mind if you skip over the first two suggestions and get my favorite book asap by clicking on this title, Conversations. Then you can read John 14 (and what follows) while you wait for Marcel's book of Jesus' words to arrive.
Meanwhile, don't forget that our Savior and the Spouse of your soul loves you dearly. You are pleasing to Him, and He wants nothing more than to stop you worrying and start you living like a little child who knows he is loved.
Come to think of it, I want exactly that too, so I'll say a prayer now asking Marcel to intercede for us all and obtain for us the Truth he now sees face to Face, the Truth that will make it easy for us to answer that opening question "Do you believe in Love?" with a resounding and jubilant "Yes!"
Recently I've been taking consolation from something Jesus told Marcel about the most beautiful thing. This saying of Jesus is in the very first entry of Conversations, among the early pages headed "Before 7 October 1945," and the passage I've been pondering lately is at (14), that is, on the fourteenth page Marcel wrote for Fr. Boucher. It shows us concretely what we already know generally, that Jesus is full of truth and grace from the beginning. Still, I'm not going to tell you yet what it is that Jesus said was the most beautiful thing, because it's got me thinking, and I'd like to share my thoughts first, to lead up to His. That's just one outrageous aspect of a blog--if you're silly enough (and apparently I am), you can preface Jesus' Truth with your own musings.
Since Jesus is telling us through Marcel about what is the most beautiful thing, I've been thinking about beautiful things. It's kind of fun to imagine what might be the most beautiful thing. What if you had three guesses?
If I had three guesses as to what the most beautiful thing might be, I've decided that first I'd guess Jesus, second Mary, and third friendship, and in particular, friendship with the Saints.
That Jesus is most beautiful might seem too obvious to comment upon, but here is a delightful commentary from Marcel which surpasses anything I could have imagined. When Marcel was serving Mass for Fr. Boucher on Christmas night, 1945, he saw Jesus. Here is what he wrote:
"His hair was blond and curly, His eyes were dark and of average size, His lips were fresh and bright red and His face was quite round but not entirely so. Finally, He was barefooted. Seeing Him like this I found Him very handsome but it is impossible for me to describe Him perfectly; all that I can say is that He was of a beauty which surpasses all imagination. However, if at that moment I had been an artist possessing all the colours I could wish for, I would have painted His portrait immediately. But, as I am very clumsy, all I could do was feast my eyes on Him . . .I stayed there quite dumbfounded, while Jesus sat with me in the cradle, looking at me and laughing . . ."
Ah, beautiful little Jesus!
And must not His Mother, from whom He takes His beauty, be then the next most beautiful thing? Some might argue that since He came from her, she must be more beautiful, but I think we have to make allowance for the beauty of His Divinity transcending even the beauty of our spotless Mother.
I love the story of Lucia, the seer of Fatima, who was pressed by a sculptor to admit that his image of Our Lady of Fatima, perfected with directions from Lucia herself, was most beautiful. Poor Lucia! Having seen the real Lady, clothed with the sun, she could only respond, "It's not as ugly as all the others!"
But then when I consider what else is beautiful and what I might guess third as to the most beautiful thing, I'm inclined to say friendship with the Saints. I'm just bowled over by the joy and consolation that flows from this understanding that we are not alone. Not only has God given us each our own guardian angel (and if we could see them, I bet they would be on the top of our list of most beautiful things!), but He gives us too, in increasing numbers as our lives in exile go on and on, the friendship of His favorites. He gives us everything, and so He gives us His best friends as our own as well.
It's no accident that when musing upon Marcel and his writings, my thoughts turn to friendship with the Saints. His friendship with Thérèse is the stuff that dreams are made of, and she in turn has such a profound understanding of love and friendship, especially friendship with the Saints. By "saints" we can mean those around us striving for sanctity, but in particular the depth of friendship increases when one of the parties has gone to cash in on the Heavenly reward. I love reading in Proverbs 3 that:
"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality . . . In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks among stubble."
We are the stubble, and the souls of the just are so happy to dart about as sparks among us! To the foolish it looks like our friendships are over, but that is far from the reality. Here is what Thérèse wrote on the subject to another of her spiritual brothers (this one her contemporary), Maurice Belliere:
"I have to tell you, little brother, that we don't understand Heaven in the same way. You think that, once I share in the justice and holiness of God, I won't be able to excuse your faults as I did when I was on earth. Are you then forgetting that I shall also share in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe that the Blessed in Heaven have great compassion for our miseries. They remember that when they were weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults themselves and went through the same struggles, and their fraternal tenderness becomes still greater than it ever was on earth. It's on account of this that they never stop watching over us and praying for us."
If you have not yet experienced this compassion of the Saints, and, more specifically, of a particular Saint for you, I urge you to delve into this beautiful world. If you don't know where to start, start with Marcel. Having been himself very weak, he can certainly relate to your weakness and have pity on it. And further, having been himself the beneficiary of one of the sweetest friendships ever between Heaven and earth, he certainly knows the importance and beauty of such friendship. If you ask him, I'm sure he'll be glad to be your friend. And as he's still relatively unknown, you'll be getting in on the ground floor, so to speak!
I could say more, but I must not abuse my privilege of writing about Marcel, and this I would do if I either taxed your attention or (worse yet) Jesus'! He's infinitely patient, but it's not polite of me to bank on that, making Him wait to tell us what He, Truth, knows to be the actual most beautiful thing.
So here goes. Here is what Jesus told Marcel sometime before October 7, 1945, and according to His words, what He'd told another friend of His, the Visitation nun Sister Benigna Consolata sometime in the early 1900's (she lived in Como, Italy from 1885-1916, and was another of Jesus' little secretaries). Are you ready? [The ellipses (or little dots like these . . . ) are in Marcel's text here at (14); I'm not leaving anything out, though I'll add bold for the Most Beautiful Thing.] Here goes then. Jesus tells us:
"What I said previously to Sister Benigna Consolata . . . My little flower, My spouse, little apostle of My love, I recall it now for you . . . Nothing is more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves . . . Accept, therefore, to do My will. My child, I am taking you in My arms, I am lifting you to My lips and I am giving you a kiss. Seeing your soul burning with love for Me, I am beside Myself and My sole desire is to see many souls love Me as you do . . . My spouse, there is nothing so beautiful as to do the will of the one one loves. There are still many things that you must write and that I will tell you later . . . Little apostle of My love, the words that I am dictating to you here, do you find them beautiful? . . . As for Me, I find them very beautiful as they are coming from a heart overflowing with love."
I admit it. I find Jesus' words beautiful.
So now that we know what Truth has to say is most beautiful, what does become of my list? (What Miss Marcel Muses, we could call it, or WMMM for short!)
Maybe Jesus is being modest. I don't think He can deny that HE is most beautiful :)
And if you asked Him straight out, I very much doubt He could deny His Mother's beauty either!
As to friendship with the Saints . . . well this is exciting. I think in my musings I've made a connection or had an insight.
But first a confession. When I initially read that nothing is more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves, I was a more struck by a low-grade anxiety than by its beauty. You see, I have (and I guess others might have to) a fear that the will of the One I love is going to include suffering. This is something Marcel shared with me, and it brings me tremendous comfort to read about Jesus' teasing, laughing, ever patient responses to Marcel's fear. He (Jesus) says, "I haven't even mentioned the word!" or in another place, "All I have to do is mention the word (suffering) and you are a basket case!" I'm paraphrasing, but not by much!
What I forget, and perhaps Marcel often forgot too, is that the One whom we love is Love! There is nothing scary in Love! On the contrary, as St. John tells us in his first letter in the New Testament (and he should know--He was Jesus' beloved disciple and leaned on His sacred breast at the Last Supper when Jesus poured out His love, Himself, in the fullest gift He, God, could come up with: Himself as food for us in the Eucharist)--"Perfect love casts out fear."
Marcel has helped me see, in his friendship with St. Thérèse and with Mother Mary, and especially in his friendship with Jesus, that these words that Truth speaks are true: There is nothing more beautiful than to do the will of the one who one loves. That is a kind of act of friendship, that doing. It is an act of devotion, of expression of love for the One who loves us into being and keeps us here until such time as He will take our being to Heaven to live happily forever with Him. We do not have to be afraid, or even a tiny bit anxious. The most beautiful thing is to do His will because His will is from Love, for love, in love--there is only Love!
I've been clinging to Jesus' revelation lately because I had hoped to write more frequently on this blog. But the will of the One I love has recently included laundry and grocery shopping, preparing meals (and eating them - much more fun!), and many other ordinary actions of daily life that aren't writing. Bummer! And yet . . . I have been able to read Marcel (if not write about him), and in Marcel's Conversations I find Jesus encouraging me with His trademark, "Be not afraid!" and "I love you, little one" over and over again (and delightfully, in many other words, phrases, sentences, and thoughts of His heart). As long as I am trying to do the will of the One I love, I can let go any calendar of blog post entries that I'd been semi-consciously hoping to fulfill. It is all for the love of Jesus, so what does it matter if I have to set aside my schedule for His? I have the unshakable feeling that His schedule is by far the more beautiful one!
I end this post, then, with the hope of writing another soon, but along with that hope is a conviction that whatever Jesus has me doing next will be most beautiful. Meanwhile, may I recommend to you something with which you can fill your time until we meet here again? You know a picture is worth a thousand words. I wonder if that means that a moving picture is worth a million? There's a terrific video about Marcel Van, and thanks to modern technology and the generosity of many of Marcel's friends, you can watch it for free (with English subtitles even) on your computer. My favorite part is the part about friendship with the Saints . . . well actually that comes up several times, but my very, very favorite is when the movie includes part of an interview with Marcel's "bearded Jesus," his novice master, spiritual director, confidante, and eventual translator, Fr. Boucher. The emotion with which Fr. B speaks of Marcel is overwhelmingly beautiful. Praised be God, who gives us friendship with the Saints!
The movie is called Hidden Apostle of Love, and you can get to it by clicking on these very words: Hidden Apostle of Love.
If you get a chance to watch that, and then you find you want more Marcel, you can explore the website (full of treasures) where you find the video. If you are further inspired to want yet more friendship with Marcel, I continue to highly recommend (even when I'm not writing!) his Conversations. And now I'm signing off to go and have a good friendly chat with him myself, to let him know he may be hearing from you soon!
Sometimes it seem like you can find anything on the Internet.
That's not actually true though. I discovered recently that there is nothing (at least nothing I could find) on the Internet about long haired poodles except scary pictures about the pelt the groomer will have to shave off if you try this (a long haired poodle) at home . . . Which reminds me, speaking of things you should not attempt with dogs: you should also not try putting on roller skates before you take your dog for a walk (especially if you have a big dog, your driveway is sloped, and the leash is "retractable" which also means extendable before the dog takes you for quite the ride of your life) . . . which reminds me, at last, of what I'm supposed to be talking about here, namely Dummies books.
Did you know that (supposedly, according to Google) you can find free Dummies book cover generators and templates on the Internet? Well fortunately for us all, I'm such a dummy myself that I couldn't figure out how to make them work, so instead of an insulting and ugly book cover as the image at the top of this post, we get a laughing picture of Marcel - or a picture of Marcel laughing - and I can't yet figure out if he's laughing with us or at us, but I guess that depends on if we're laughing! I'm laughing now, as I think about my new book series. We have "for dummies" and "idiots guide to" -- but let's face it, those are both insulting, and as I heard someone funny say on the radio, they're also rather confusing for those of us who qualify. Hours of indecision can follow when a dummy or idiot (or simply an indecisive person like myself) discovers a bookstore that carries both series. How to choose whether one is a dummy or an idiot, and thus know even where to begin finding the books you need?
I think I should start a less insulting series called "___ for Blondes." Or do you think that might carry its own pejorative connotations? I've already told you my soul is blonde, so I'm certainly not excluding myself, and being from California I find it not only a more flattering series title, but one that is sure to make me millions . . .
Anyhow. On to Marcel.
I realized a few months ago that one of the things I love about Marcel and Conversations is that what we have here is The Little Way for Dummies! I even thought that could be my next book, until I realized I'd have to join the bright yellow or bright orange colored covers franchise. I really do like beautiful book covers, and I hate lots of bullet points inside and little icons and sidebars and fingers with strings tied to them. (Although we just watched It's a Wonderful Life last night, and Uncle Billy's fingers tied with strings were charming!)
Nonetheless, whether or not a book comes out with the name, the reality remains: Marcel being very little, he manages to translate St. Thérèse's Little Way of Spiritual Childhood into a language spoken by those of us who are, while I don't want to say dummies or idiots, at least very, very little like he is. He makes the Little Way more accessible. He brings it down to our level.
What makes me smile is that the Little Way was already supposed to be doing that - bringing sanctity down to the level of the littlest ones. But something happens over the years - accretions, our sister Thérèse's fame and her miracles, lots of books written to explain what is supposed to be simple. Don't get me wrong: I love some of those books and all of her fame and miracles; I wouldn't trade them for a million dollars, but still the whole kit and caboodle does tend to obscure the original message, at least for someone as prone to distraction by shiny things as I am.
I was delighted today to find in my bucket of endless treasures (Conversations) Jesus' confirmation of the quote I used to lead into "Who is Marcel Van?" There I quoted his vice-postulator saying Marcel was the one who was weaker and littler than Thérèse . . . and sure enough, there's evidence in the text (as we used to say in college). On p. 225 in my edition (506), Jesus says it plain as day (the day was, to be precise, April 22, 1946).
He says, "Little brother, it is necessary for you to know that you are very weak, that no soul is as weak as yours; and I admit that your weaknesses never cause Me the slightest sadness. It is only your scruples that make Me feel such pain as to clasp you in my arms, to spoil you and give you my kisses." And then (who can stop, once he's begun quoting Jesus to Marcel?), Jesus adds, "Enough, Marcel, my little brother. Do not be sad, do you understand? From now on, no more worrying, all right?"
So there we have it. Marcel is the tiniest of the little ones, the weakest of the weak. When you read the Conversations you'll see it clearly. Jesus tells him all sorts of wonderful truths, and Marcel either changes the subject (because he's distracted by his uncomfortable sandals, or a stomach ache, or something someone said to him earlier, or any number of the exact same things that distract us constantly) or he admits to Jesus that he's already completely forgotten the important things Jesus told him. To which Jesus responds with His trademark patience and kindness (hallmarks of Love, that is Himself), and that characteristic gentleness of Heart which He begs us to imitate when we come to Him, rest in Him, and learn from Him.
Jesus also responds with humor, and reassurance in case Marcel (or we) think He is being harsh when He is only teasing, and in case Marcel (or we) think He's scolding, when He's only pointing something out, and in case Marcel (or we) worry and fret, as we so often do, and worst of all despair that our weaknesses are causing Him pain or frustration with us.
What could be more perfect than Jesus' infinitely sensible and adorable explanation of why Marcel (and all little souls) should not worry about their constant forgetfulness of His truths?
To those for whom the Little Way, even in its simplicity, is somehow still too much to remember, Jesus says, "What did your sister Thérèse 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 then you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours?" (387)
What is it, again, that we've forgotten when we've forgotten what little Thérèse taught us?
I think her Little Way can be summed up in five words:
Failure is the new success.
Or again: Weakness is the new strength.
Or how about: Losing is the new winning.
These are all straight from the Gospel . . . and yet I, for one, have a really hard time remembering them. Especially when I've just failed or lost or said or done something (or failed to say or do something) so that I'm left wearing my weakness on my sleeve or on my face. I'm supposed to remember that these failures, losses, weaknesses are all to the good.
Jesus teaches it this way on page 296 (652) of Conversations: "Yes, it is just as you say, little brother; it is only in these moments of fatigue that I am able to make you see your weakness and to teach you that, truly, you haven't got a scintilla of virtue . . . Little brother, see how weak you are. That it is enough for you to abandon yourself to Me and to put all confidence in Me alone."
To which Marcel replies, "Now, I am not angry any more because I no longer am tired." (Talk about a familiar pairing!)
And Jesus responds, "Nevertheless, little brother, your weakness has not disappeared for all that; it will remain in you until the time when you receive from Me the first kiss of your life . . . Little brother, always remember that you are a truly poor and destitute soul. Do not worry about your weaknesses, as your sister Thérèse has told you, and as I, Myself, have told you many times. It is in knowing your nothingness that your confidence in Me will be truly firm."
Ah, Jesus! Ah, Marcel! Ah, forgotten message of little Thérèse!
For no matter how many times I hear it, no matter how many times I tell myself, "Don't forget! Remember this, at least!" (and I just can't bring myself to tattoo it on my forearm - I'd probably forget to look there anyhow) -- well, despite all these admonitions and reminders, like Uncle Billy I still forget!
This is why the Conversations and Marcel himself are the Little Way for Dummies. Because we find repeated in them over and over the same message of love, the same truth that will set us free, that Word of littleness that came to us first in the manger on Christmas in the darkness of night.
"It is in knowing your nothingness that your confidence in Me will be truly firm."
"It is enough for you to abandon yourself to Me and to put all confidence in Me alone."
I open at random and read Jesus repeating again His message to Marcel and to us: "I have a means which can allow you to understand: this means consists in loving Me and in abandoning yourself to Me in total confidence." (429)
To which I add: Don't worry if your confidence feels less than total. This will put you somewhere nearer Marcel on the scale of littleness, rather than next to Thérèse. (Although this is, recall, a scale of littleness, so you won't be far from either of our sister and brother team -- it's a little scale!) What can you lose from being weaker and littler, by any measure? Remember: weakness is the new strength. As for little, that's what puts you in the game. I'm tempted to quote Thérèse on staying very little and becoming littler all the time, but Marcel is the commentator and I'd only have to quote him again then too (or Jesus' words to him).
So let's keep it simple - not with bullet points or bright yellow covers or stick figure faces with crew cuts, but with a final quote from the ultimate authority. There will be time for more later. For now I've found a good ending in these words of Our Lord. He's speaking to Marcel (p. 48) but much more importantly, He's speaking to you:
"My child, the smaller your love is for Me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy."
That's the Little Way for us, and who could ask for more?
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