My friend Maura has a beautiful piece on Catholic Exchange called "When Your Heart is Troubled and Afraid." (If you click on the title of her article, you'll be there!) Guess what she said? Among other wonderful things, she quoted Our Lady's words to Marcel when Mary advised him to offer his worries as so many sacrifices to little Jesus - and then be at peace. Yay, Maura! Yay, Marcel! Yay, Blessed Mother! Could there be any more perfect advice?
Thanks to Maura's mention of Marcel, I received an invitation from the editor at Catholic Exchange. I've written for CE before, and he wondered if sometime I might like to write something about our dear little brother for them. Would I? O happy day! I love writing for CE, and I had a piece in the works, so I didn't waste a moment but polished it up, finished it off, and sent it in. When it appears, you can click HERE and see what I said.
Meanwhile, wouldn't you know that soon after I sent that piece in, I realized there was SO MUCH I hadn't said. It surely is a valley of tears! I was sad thinking of what I'd left out, but then I cheered right up when I remembered I had another place to write about Marcel, a place where I could remedy my omissions to my heart's content. That would be here at Miss Marcel's Musings. And so, for the record, here's what I forgot to say . . .
First and foremost, I forgot to say what Jesus told Marcel on November 4, 1945. Like Marcel, I forget a lot, and so I am constantly struck anew by the amazing things Jesus says to him. This particular sentence, though, is one I want to tattoo on my forearm. Well okay, I don't actually want to tattoo anything on myself, but if I did, this would be high on the list because it's spectacular and worth re-reading every couple of hours. For Jesus, He who cannot deceive nor be deceived, told Marcel that day:
"All the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future -- know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls. You see by this that I communicate with all of them. And if, like you, they are sincere in their relationship with Me, then I am speaking also to them. It is not necessary that you understand this." (58)
What blessings! What treasures! Every word that Jesus speaks to Marcel in Conversations is meant for us too! And that would include some words I need to hear so often that it's a good thing I have two forearms - thus leaving me another one on which to tattoo something else I forgot to say in the CE article, namely what Jesus said to Marcel (and hence to us) on April 13, 1946. I think these may be my absolute favorite words of all time, and to know Jesus meant them for us as well as for Marcel has me wanting to sing them from the rooftops. Or better yet, broadcast them during the Super Bowl! Or best of all, simply share them online where, God willing, they may remain until the Last Day when, suddenly, like everything else, the Internet appears for the small potatoes it really is. But enough of my blathering. Are you ready for my favorite words? They come on (437) in Conversations when Jesus tells Marcel and us:
"Do not worry any more, ever."
That's it. That's the whole shebang.
Not that this is news, exactly. After all, Jesus said the same thing, more or less, the night before He died, as Maura points out in her article. He tells us not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid. He says it twice, and you can read it for yourself in John 14. What I've learned from Conversations as well as from the Gospels is that Jesus does not hesitate to repeat Himself. Thank Heavens! Like Marcel, we forget what He's said. Or even when we remember (or hear it again), we can think it's too good to be true. And although I have no trouble taking what Jesus said in the Gospel as meant for me too, maybe you're thinking that when He said at the Last Supper, "Let not your hearts be troubled," and again a little later, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," perhaps He was just speaking to the Apostles.
Nice try! You know how it works. The Gospels (in fact the whole Old and New Testaments) are God's love letters to us. There's no chance that He didn't mean what He says there for us!
But we are not only forgetful, we are also very, very poor. Our intellects are darkened by the Fall (not to mention winter!) and we have all been wounded not only by original sin, but by the sins of men (including our own sins). We are just a mess! There seems to be sooooooo much to worry about. And some of us have done a good job convincing ourselves that if we don't worry, we'll be in trouble. Isn't worrying how we get things done? If I'm not preoccupied with getting that bill paid, or whatever is next on my "to do" list, won't it be left undone?
You'd think we didn't have guardian angels to remind us of our daily tasks, and of Jesus' words . . . but we do, so let's give ourselves a rest and believe what Our Savior came to tell us, first 2000 years ago, and more recently through our little brother Marcel.
"Do not worry any more, ever."
But not only that . . .
One of the many things I cherish about Conversations is that Jesus insisted Marcel write down what he said as well as what He said, so that we'd all know how He loves our little stories, our digressions, diversions, distractions, and whatever we want to tell Him. We're like the 6-year-old who, when the teacher has finished explaining her lesson and asks if anyone has a question, wildly waves a hand in order to say, "Teacher we have a hamster but this morning it wasn't in the cage and my brother said it escaped and . . . " So, too, Marcel with his comments and interruptions.
Here, after Jesus tells him (and us) "Do not worry any more, ever," I must report that Marcel stays quite focused, but again, I'm so grateful for his part in the conversation. I can relate especially to his first sentence . . .and then I love hearing what Jesus says in reply.
Marcel: I do not understand why, I wish not to be troubled yet I always am. Yesterday, Jesus with the ginger beard [a Redemptorist in their house] repeated to me what he had said the other day: 'When one has Mary for a true Mother, it is not appropriate to worry.' And after having heard these words my anxiety dissolved. Little Jesus, at such times, are you pleased with me?
Jesus: I am always pleased with you, because whatever concerns you in no way offends Me. However I have one fear; it is that if you worry excessively, you will end up being angry, even with Me, which would be very dangerous. That is why I tell you that it is not appropriate to trouble yourself. Besides, everybody repeats the same thing to you: your Mother Mary, your sister Therese and, if St. Alphonsus spoke to you, he would only tell you not to worry, since it is a useless thing to do and often even harmful. That is enough little brother, go and rest; the time is up. (438)
I hope everybody repeats the same thing to you too. But in case no one has lately, let me add my voice to Mother Mary's, St. Therese's, and St. Alphonsus' (who, surely if they spoke to you, would say the same thing!) -- Do not worry any more, ever!
If you need one more reason not to worry, I have the best one of all. Remember how Jesus told Marcel that every word He spoke to him was not just to Marcel, but to all souls? That means that He is telling you now, "I am always pleased with you, because whatever concerns you in no way offends Me."
I'd say that's a good reason not to worry any more, ever! But of course, you may not understand how this can be true, that Jesus is always pleased with you. I know it's hard to get, and so I add Jesus' words: "It is not necessary that you understand this." Not yet, anyhow.
In the meantime, why not ask Marcel to help? He's where he understands everything now, and never forgets any of it. I'm sure he'd be glad to teach you what Jesus was at such pains to convey through him to us.
These are the things I forgot to say in my CE article, but then again, there's only so much room in one article . . . and to be completely honest, I wish I could have quoted the whole of Conversations. Yes, I know, much, much too long for one article. More like a book, and it's been written, and I did recommend it, so I think I must take Jesus' words to heart: That is enough, little sister, go and rest, the time is up.
As I write, it is Ash Wednesday. And it is also Valentine's Day. If you're reading this and it is no longer Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday, you will still want to read on. Because unless you're reading this in 2030 (and I do like to think that my musings here are like instant deathless prose), we aren't out of the woods yet.
Ash Wednesday on Valentine's Day. Or, if you prefer, Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday. I don't remember that happening before, and although my memory is bad, just like Marcel's used to be, I think I would have remembered this. Unlike Marcel back in the day, I have Google to help me out (he had Jesus - a much better source, but hey, we do what we can), so I looked it up. Sure enough, the last time these two special days coincided was 20 years before I was born, so I'm not forgetting anything that happened in my lifetime at least. (I did think this crazy coincidence of dates would be too much to forget).
The year that last saw Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday was 1945, which is pretty amazing for three reasons.
First, it was in 1945 that Marcel started writing down his conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Thérèse.
Second, though that last conjunction of Heart Day and Ash Day was 73 years ago (correct me if I'm wrong - my math, like my memory, can be squishy), the previous two instances of the conjunction were in 1934 and 1923. In other words, the last three instances were each just 11 years apart.
Here I'd thought the aftermath of the first World War, the Great Depression, and World War II were a lot to live through, but people living through those years had the Ash-Heart Day thrice too! Poor darlings! And for some people I am lucky enough to know, this 2018 occurrence will be the third time in their life. (I know, it is absurd that the year is 2018. I feel like I'm living in the future, in sci-fi territory, though I always pictured we'd be in those polyester pantsuits the space-filled-future was supposed to feature so prominently). But wait, there is more . . .
The third reason it is amazing that 73 years have passed since the last Ash-Heart Day is that the next one will be in 2024, and the next again in 2029. In other words, Ash-Heart Days are starting to come fast and furious, our next being in 6 years, and the following only 5 years after that.
I think this calls for a policy. I mean if you don't have to worry about something for 73 years, you might just let it slide and call it a day. But if you know the situation will arise again practically tomorrow, and then yet again in what starts to feel like another blink of the eye, well, it's time to know where you stand.
Yes, you see, you can't get out of it. We have entered one of those divisive moments in history, a truly "there are two kinds of people in the world" sort of moment. Brace yourself, The question is coming. What do you think? Is the glass half empty? Or is it half full?
I know at first glance this glass is looking like we're not just half empty, we're down to the dregs. Darned if you do and darned if you don't, which is NOT a good way to start out Lent (with all those darns). But I'm feeling inspired, so let's try a double take.
I should warn you that I tend to look on the bright side of things, which can be annoying to innocent bystanders and once earned me the nickname (just for a moment, but how I have cherished it) of Polly-Suzanna. So, not surprisingly, I'm seeing this Ash-Heart Day as a win-win situation. I'd rather you did too, so that whichever camp you fall into, you'll be able to thank God for His Providential timing. Here's how it goes:
If you dread Ash Wednesday every year (or even just hate it once you're in - like the priest who told us in his homily that he never ate breakfast: didn't want it, wasn't hungry in the morning - except on Ash Wednesday when he always woke up absolutely ravenous), having it be Valentine's Day too could be a glass is half full kind of moment. I mean who's to say you can't have your one full meal at a five star restaurant with your best beloved?
On the other hand, if you usually dread Valentine's Day, whether because you're single, or because you're part of a pair, the other half of which has expectations (let's not dwell on this, girls. They're good men, just not as romantic as we are perhaps), well then what a perfect out! It's Ash Wednesday! Heaven forbid you should celebrate: you're wearing sackcloth and ashes, and those are never optimal attire in public places, as Jesus pointed out in today's Gospel.
But now that we've made everyone happy . . . okay, maybe not the other half of the anti-Valentine's Day contingent, and possibly not those who love both days and don't know how to split the difference . . .
Well we do need a policy, that's one thing we can agree on. (If you're a Meyers-Briggs "P", I know you don't think we need a policy, but Miss Marcel happens to be a "J".) As I said at the outset, we're not out of the woods yet, even at midnight when we're all biting into a steak sandwich (or is that just me?).
Enter Marcel. At last!
And Jesus! The reason for the season, as they say.
And with them, as always, St. Thérèse, the second Solomon, the one who has an answer for everything and it's even got an easy-to-remember name, if not an acronym.
What was it again?
Ah, yes, the Little Way - the way that turns everything upside down, that rolls the dice and comes out with 7's and 11's every time, the way that more effectively than any other takes lemons (us) and turns them into lemonade (saints), sans bitterness but with plenty of sweet.
If you've stuck with me till now, here comes the pay-off. I've got a plan for surviving these ubiquitous Ash-Heart Days, a plan inspired by Marcel and company, and it's nothing more nor less than a third alternative that makes all things new. Bears the signature of Jesus, you might say, He who is forever making all things new.
So here it is.
I don't think this Ash-Valentine's-Wednesday is a glass half full.
Nor is it a glass half empty.
It is nothing if not a glass overflowing.
You've heard of this glass. It's talked of in one of St. Thérèse's favorite psalms, the one we almost know by heart, despite ourselves and our poor memories. No, not Psalm 103; that's her other favorite. I mean the 23rd Psalm. You know, the Lord is my shepherd, and there is nothing I shall want. The thing is that after the still waters, and then the valley of death (don't worry, He's right there and we're fine), He sets a table for us, even in the sight of our enemies, and guess what? After He anoints our head with oil, then our cup overflows!
Okay, so today we were anointed with ashes. I won't say that's oil, but hopefully we've been baptized and even (we are so lucky!) confirmed - that was definitely an anointing with oil. And now, on this day which I'm betting the devil was looking forward to, a day on which he planned to watch our frustration, instead he had to watch the beauty of Ash Wednesday coming together with the beauty of Valentine's Day. Our cup overflows with not only the glory of these 40 days (or at least the beginning of them) but with the sweet elixir of the Lover and the Beloved.
You may not see the work of Marcel in this yet, and it's not your fault. I'm blathering on and on when what I really want to do is simply copy out some Marcel for you. This is from Conversations, and it helps me to remember that Lent is not a depressing season, but a chance to spend more time with our true Love, Jesus. How is that not wonderful? Actually I know how it can seem not wonderful - for those of us who are little, it seems scary! Penance? Yikes! But before we panic, let's read what Marcel, prince of the little ones, wrote to reassure us.
The year was 1946, just one past the last Ash-Heart Day. Marcel was in Lent and it had been full of ups and downs, but at (352), on April 3rd, he writes:
"Little Jesus, here we are now well into Lent and, lo and behold, you are sending me delights. It seems to me that acting so you are behaving against the spirit of the Church. Is that not the case little Jesus?"
And Jesus responds:
"Come, come, Marcel, you are speaking as if you do not know how to reflect. If you were to speak that way to someone who was about to do you a favor, the person would not be able to stop himself from scolding you. But I, far from scolding you, I still love to hear you speak in this way, since you do not intend to reproach me and, furthermore, it gives me an opportunity to make you understand something about grace. Marcel, listen carefully. In order to give grace to men, I do not need to wait for a particular season or to pay attention to the temperature because, in that case, there would be times when men would be deprived of the grace necessary for the life of their souls."
Ah, Jesus! You are so gentle, so dear, so kind and reassuring!
Truly the cup of Marcel's conversations overflows with Your goodness, and I wanted to pour more into this post than I have, but alas, even on a day of fasting, sooner or later one eats. Or at least we do at my house, and I am being called to the kitchen to fill my own family's cups to, if not overflowing, at least the brim.
I will stop here, then, and mention only, in conclusion, that Jesus is waiting to fill your cup. He is the Divine Host, He is the one who changes water into wine (a fitting hope for those who abstain from alcohol in Lent!), He is our tremendous Lover, the Spouse of our souls. May this Lent - starting on Valentine's Day - be your best ever by giving you Jesus in an intimacy you haven't yet tasted. He can do all things, even with such fragile vessels as we are. Let Him fill you - and thus, mysteriously, you will satiate His thirst.
Oh, and if you feel like you've heard from Marcel and Jesus, but wonder what Thérèse had to do with it, look up top at the photo. Those are for you, from her! Who says they don't celebrate Valentine's Day in Heaven? Or maybe she thought Ash Wednesday was the ideal time to shower you with roses. Either way, she hasn't forgotten her promises, and she hasn't forgotten you. Happy Ash-Heart Day!
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