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!
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