We both have work to do today."
This is what I imagine Jesus saying to me as I begin this post.
It is Good Friday. Shouldn't there be silence?
Today there is silence in Heaven, but on earth we still have work to do. Today Jesus pours out His love on us, and we must receive it. For us who are very little, this is a kind of work. And for myself, having been given Marcel and Jesus' words to him, there is much that I must tell you about this tremendous Love, today more than ever.
If you are reading this on Good Friday, know that you are welcome here and we will speak only of Love, so it is a good place to be.
If you are reading this and Good Friday has passed, no matter. I am hoping my words will be of eternal value. This is not a delusion of grandeur, but rather an echo of Truth. I'm thinking that just as an echo carries the mirrored sound of its original but in a continuously lesser reverberation as the echo re-echoes, so the words I write today, by echoing the Infinite and Eternal Truth, will have a chance to last, if not forever, certainly a very long time.
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My usual method here is to pull gold nuggets and sparkling diamonds from the book of Marcel's Conversations and hold them out to you in the light. Today will be no different, but there is an added bonus. I haven't been forthcoming with gems from his Autobiography, primarily because I'm so enamored with the Conversations. Today, though, I'll start with a quote from Marcel's life story. Don't worry, I haven't changed my tune -- I'm only using this quote to highlight my love for Conversations! Still, on this day when Jesus holds nothing back, it's good to gather treasure from every hidden spot in which He's left it . . .
Marcel tells us in his Autobiography (578), "The book, The Story of a Soul, had become my dearest friend. It followed me everywhere and I did not cease reading or re-reading it without ever getting weary of it. There was nothing in this volume which did not conform to my thoughts, and what enthused me still more in the course of my reading was to see clearly that the spiritual life of Therese was identical to mine. Her thoughts, even her 'yes' and her 'no' were in harmony with my own thoughts and the little events of my life."
I think Marcel must be having trouble keeping the silence of Heaven today. First, he is (like me) a chatter box. But second, he is prone to laughter, and although Jesus told him decades ago that he would be a second Therese, I'm sure he never expected that someone (namely, me) would carry his Conversations everywhere, exactly as he'd carried Story of a Soul and for the exact same reasons. Yesterday, for example, after I asked my older son (who is visiting) to please hold my book (Conversations, naturally) while I drove (safety winning out over affection), my younger son explained to him, "She doesn't go anywhere without it. It's her constant companion."
I can't help it. Reading and re-reading Conversations, I never get weary of it. There is nothing in this book which does not conform to my thoughts, and best of all I love to see that Marcel's spiritual life is identical to mine. Forgetfulness, distraction, lack of understanding, complaints -- we could be twins!
You might wonder about the little detail of Marcel taking down Jesus' words verbatim. I'll admit that at first glance this looks like something that separates me from my soul-mate. No question: for Marcel, Jesus' words are more of an audible reality. But on closer examination, we find that in these very words of Our Lord to Marcel, He promises, "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." (59)
Naturally, then, this week I am more prone than ever to keep Marcel and Jesus' Conversations very close. You see, every year I struggle to understand what Jesus desires of us during Holy Week. Certainly the Church gives us her most beautiful liturgies to help us. But the revelation of His love is so great, and we remain so small. It is a happy time because normally, as Marcel reminds Him (and us), "It must be very painful for You who are Love not to be able to show Your love" (22). And yet it is so very, very sad to think (even for a moment, which is about all I usually manage) of how much Jesus suffered for us in order to show us His love. What are we to do?
Thankfully, through Marcel, Jesus lets us know how to think about His love and His suffering. Even before Holy Week of 1946 (in which He spoke to Marcel every single day!), Jesus is His usual compassionate and considerate Self in reassuring us that we must not worry about anything, including His suffering. Here's a passage from Conversations that is almost more surprising than Jesus trying to get Marcel to prick his finger with a pin (to make him laugh when Marcel was sad - what a sweetheart Jesus is!). I've loved this passage a long time, but I've held out on copying it here, not sure the world was ready for it. Enough! Jesus pours out His love for us today, and He wants us to understand Him, so imitating Marcel, I will simply transcribe what Our Lord has said:
"Little Marcel, my life has been one of suffering; but I have never been sad at having to suffer. So, my life must be called a painful life but not an unhappy life. If I had been sad about my suffering, how could I now exhort you to be joyful when you encounter suffering? Marcel, you must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a thing said. Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me? . . . Never have I been sad; on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations. If, at that time, I had been sad because of my suffering, I would be even more so in the sacrament of the Eucharist . . . No, little Marcel, it is not like that. The more I sacrificed myself for souls, the more I wished to sacrifice myself, more and more. And, in fact, that is something that Love alone is capable of understanding. You, little Marcel, you are not able to understand it." (369)
Oh Love, help us to understand!
You seem to be telling us that You are not sad today. And yet how are we not to be sad? You have suffered so much for us and, even You admit, experienced so much pain on our behalf. Today is our day to stand at the foot of the cross and console, as best we can, our dear Blessed Mother. What are we to do?
Ah, Marcel! I will start by thanking you for all that writing you did! For in your Conversations, we find the answer to every one of our questions. To this most immediate and pressing question of how to live today, the answer (thanks to you, little brother) comes from Our Blessed Mother herself. On Passion Sunday, 1946, she explained:
"My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . . Little Jesus is your true friend; if you love Him, try to protect Him by your sighs of love. Thanks to the little sacrifices that you impose on yourself, little Jesus loves to stand close to you, since these little sacrifices are for Him like so many caresses . . . However, my child, continue to tell me quite simply your little problems; by that you please me, and I, I can only love you more." (383)
Thank you for loving us!
We'll try to accept cheerfully the little things that annoy and inconvenience us today, but you know we'll do it badly! And then we'll come and tell you quite simply how we failed, knowing you'll love us even more.
He will be amused at our simplicity, since He loves children so much.
"Here, Jesus," we'll say, tossing our flowers up to Him. "We love You, Jesus!"
Our flowers, though wilted and torn, will distract Him from the stones that sinners throw.
And if our guardian angels help the flowers reach Him up high on the cross, they (our angels) can block the stones too.
I think this is a good plan. I'm not going to take it personally that yesterday the guardian angel medal fell off my key ring, and last week my guardian angel bracelet broke off my wrist. Marcel has shown me the humor of Heaven, so I'm taking these as winks. My powerful angel has been busy carrying my wilted flowers to Jesus and thus wasn't attending to the key ring or my wrist. Thank you, guardian angel! Help me today, too, when the silence scares me. Help me to hear again the words of Jesus to us through Marcel . . .
St. John the Beloved Disciple, the one who today stands at the foot of the cross beside Mary (and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - as if Jesus didn't want us to forget this precious name of Mary!), tells us in his first letter that Perfect Love casts out fear.
When Perfect Love is hiding, I find copious laughter also does the trick. It's hard to be afraid when laughing, and nothing provokes laughter like Jesus and Marcel's conversations. If I sound like a broken record, you've got the wrong metaphor. I'm more a bear of little brain, and though laughter comes easily to this bear, I repeat that nothing provokes it more effectively than these conversations between Jesus and Marcel! As my younger son just said (in another context, but it fits here perfectly), "Jesus will love us for our laughter." So see if you don't agree that there's something quite delightful in Jesus' response to Marcel's Holy Thursday question: "Little Jesus, do you want to allow me to fast tomorrow? I really wish to do so, but as my will is already lost in yours, I must again ask your opinion."
[Disclaimer: For those of the proper age to fast, the following is not intended as a dispensation from the Church's Good Friday prescriptions, nor should Jesus' advice to Marcel be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. And if you think I mean this seriously, the answer is yes, but I am also laughing!]
Here is Jesus' reply:
"My will is that you do not fast, first of all because you have not reached the age for fasting and then because you are too weak. In fact on normal days when you eat as you wish, when the time for dinner approaches, I see that you sometimes shake all over. However, my spirit still remains with you; do not ask bearded Jesus permission to fast; but if he asks you to do so, you should. To obey him is the best thing." (475)
And now for the part that makes me smile, at the very least.
First, Jesus' advice about what we can offer Him.
Second, His apology for Marcel's suffering -- He is so gentle and tenderly solicitous!
And finally, the punch line.
"Little brother, are you tired? Rest yourself. I love you dearly. Offer to me your sadness, your disgust, your sickness and your hunger. I truly ask your forgiveness for having again today deprived you of your collation and allowed you to endure hunger. In spite of that you are not yet dead and you still have the strength to laugh with me. Be patient. Come on, smile a little so I can see . . . Good, rest yourself, you are tired. If not, trouble! Mary will scold you." (475)
Oh Jesus! You are laughing at us! Even as you apologize for making us fast today, you tease us that we're not yet dead from it! Well if You can smile about such a truly pathetic imitation of fasting as we are proposing to offer you today, I will gladly smile with You!
But You are not satisfied with a smile. Even on this most solemn of days, You seem to prefer laughter, at least from those of us to whom You've given the gift of spiritual childhood, those of us to whom You've given Marcel.
For when I turn to Good Friday in Conversations, when I seek to discover what You discussed with Marcel that may guide our thoughts on this day, I find Marcel being just as down to earth as ever, just as hilarious in his simplicity and candor with You. And when I'm face to face with this little brother You've given us as an example of how to speak with You, my fear vanishes, my sadness flees, and I know that I can tell You everything. The Church will give us perfect words today, words we can speak to You with solemnity, but You, knowing how hard it is for children to sit still for long, You give us Marcel and laughter. Thank You, Jesus!
And now, enough of my commentary. Here is Marcel's entry for Good Friday. Read as much or as little as you have time for, but if you've gotten this far, I give you, along with a big smile and a sustaining hug, Marcel's socks.
19 April 1946
Marcel: Little Jesus, I absolutely do not wish to wear socks; I think I have no reason to wear them, since I am only a little cold and I am not at all ill. However, You force me to wear socks all day.
Jesus: Why do you complain so? I did not tell you to wear socks because you were ill, but simply to wear them. Consequently, wear them, and wear them through obedience. Is that not a good thing? Wear them, therefore, until I tell you to take them off. If you wear them it will be beneficial for you and beneficial also for others . . . Little brother, are you unhappy today?
Marcel: A short while ago I was suffering a lot, but now the pain has diminished and is quite bearable. I offer this suffering to You, Jesus.
Now, little Jesus, I am going to confession. Help me to make it well. In order to spend a joyful Easter, I must have a pure heart . . .
Little Jesus, allow me to take off my socks. My feet are now warm; I am no longer afraid of being sick. So, to wear socks makes me stand out too much; none of my brothers wears them. Nevertheless, You still oblige me to wear them. It's very painful. I have a strong desire to take them off, but I fear that You may not be pleased.
Jesus: What have you to moan about? You have only one thing to do, to wear your socks until I tell you to take them off. You say that that makes you conspicuous? However, this morning, all your brethren fasted; you alone did not. Doesn't that make you conspicuous? Why not reproach me for that? Alas, little brother, how difficult you are to please. It is necessary for you to wear socks, I wish it to be so . . . Little brother, do you have a good appetite today? Come one, tell me.
Marcel: I have had no appetite at all for the past few days and now, I feel sick once again. However the suffering is slight and bearable . . . Little Jesus, it is warm now, allow me to take off my socks. It is very sunny; I no longer feel the cold.
Jesus: If you take them off now, that will be very harmful for you. Come, be patient for a little while and offer this sacrifice to me. When it is necessary to take them off, I will tell you. Stop thinking about them. Accept this little mortification with the intention of comforting me on this day of my crucifixion. On the other hand, today you must pray for priests; it is necessary for you to remember these priests who have strayed far from Love and who walk barefooted in the sludge of sin . . .
My dear little brother, today stay near the cross, kiss my feet and do not cease repeating: 'O Jesus, I love you for the priests who do not love you. Make your Love penetrate freely to the innermost hearts of priests. Make it so that fervent priests may be full of zeal for your Love.'
Little brother, always remember this: the voice in the world that rejected my Love came first from the priests; that is why it is now necessary that the voices of priests rise up to protect my Love in the world. If not, the world will be unhappy . . .
Marcel: Then what can I do so that priests become good as You wish?
Jesus: Little brother, I have just told you: stay at the foot of the cross, and there your voice will be powerful enough to call priests to my Love.
Marcel: Little Jesus, tell me why You love priests so much? Each time You speak of them, I see that You show them the greatest respect.
Jesus: It is because priests are my other selves. Their dignity is greater than that of being my Mother. The dignity of our Mother Mary does not equal that of priests. However, Mary is more powerful since she is my Mother and, as a consequence, priests, being my other selves, are also the children of Mary. In heaven, a priest's soul will be the object of the veneration of all the saints, including our Mother Mary.
Little brother, you are already very tired. Is that not so? I dare not speak to you any longer for fear of tiring you too much, then Mary would not be pleased. Enough. Go and rest. You will write another time. As you did not sleep well last night, take your siesta a little earlier. You will write this evening. I am giving you a kiss . . .
Marcel: Little Jesus, at midday I slept very well. On awakening at the end of the siesta, I sat on my bed for a moment, then, seeing that all was silent, I thought it was not yet time for rising and I slept another five minutes. When I got up I was quite afraid but bearded Jesus knew nothing of it.
Jesus: My little one! After that do not complain of doing anything differently than the others! There you are, you have acted differently than your brethren in sleeping five minutes too long. You should be ashamed, Marcel.
Marcel: I did not gain anything from it since I got up feeling very tired and I still do.
Jesus: Little brother, so you have forgotten that today you are at the foot of the cross? It is by accepting this tiredness that you will be able to comfort me.
Marcel: Oh! I had completely forgotten to wear the cuissard today. [The cuissard was a small wire chain worn around the thigh, which was uncomfortable rather than painful.] I only thought about it at noon. Little Jesus, is that serious? Whereas I should have worn this little chain longer, today I have not worn it at all. It seems that I am quite negligent towards You, little Jesus; graciously forgive me . . .
Jesus: It is for this reason that I have made you wear socks. It would be a good thing for you and at the same time a mortification conforming to my will; and yet you continue to ask to take them off. Marcel, your little sacrifices are very pleasing to me. You still will have to suffer a lot, but don't worry. Remember today is the anniversary of the day when I gave you to my Mother Mary so that you might be her true child; it is also the day when I gave Mary to you to be your true Mother. Finding myself in the presence of my Mother, I suffered with joy. At that moment, when all the creatures of the world seemed to have abandoned me, only my Mother remained to comfort me. Even God the Father seemed to wish no longer to look at me; but my Mother Mary did not cease to look at me until the time when I escaped from suffering. Oh! Little brother, Mary is your real Mother as well as mine. When she sees you suffer, she is closer to you to console you, for all time until you, too, will have escaped all suffering. Mary, you are the true Mother of Marcel, the real Mother of all souls; never be far from your children . . .
Marcel, Mary is your true Mother, and you are really her child. Always think of her; she understands you better than you understand yourself. She knows your sufferings, she is always close to you, carrying you unceasingly in her arms and covering you with kisses . . .
Little brother, no matter how great your sufferings, always remind yourself that I, also, have suffered, but that Mary has comforted me. It will be the same for you. Mary will never abandon you in your suffering. Besides, when you suffer, it is she who suffers even more, since she is your Mother.
Little brother, time is up. Go and eat your fill without concerning yourself about the fast . . . First of all, a little smile . . .
Marcel: I am really sorry for not being able to write down all Your words.
Jesus: No matter, that's already enough for you. Do not worry; you will have to write much more. That's enough. Go, otherwise . . .
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Apparently Marcel was unable to write down everything Jesus said. May you hear His loving voice telling you all the rest of His words today . . . and if you hear nothing, don't worry. We have His words to Marcel for us, and He says "That's enough."
Here in southern California, the weather is not being Good Friday-ish, though it is smiling and laughing like Marcel and Jesus do. I'm watering my four rose bushes, and it's with great joy that I announce 30 buds ready to bloom! You, dear reader, are among the lucky ones. My roses are always from St. Therese, and I'm asking her that one of these roses be especially for you, as a sign of the heavenly graces she and Marcel are procuring for you at this very moment.
Remember how special you are - you're in on the ground floor of Marcel Mania! I'll be praying for you during this Sacred Triduum that our little brother Marcel and our sister Therese, Mother Mary and our dear Jesus smile upon you now and forever. Whether or not you wear socks for Jesus today, His love for you is limitless, and I pray you may know this is true.
If you think it is very mischievous of Marcel to disguise himself as Padre Pio, I can only say that IF Marcel did so, that WOULD be quite mischievous! But no, although Marcel's recent mischief relates to Padre Pio, I don't think he'd get very far trying to be Padre Pio. Although . . .
Recently I've been realizing that the two - Marcel and Pio - are not as different from each other as they appear at first sight. Certainly Padre Pio has a wonderful beard and the stigmata, while Marcel is a clean shaven young man who complains of pains much closer to ours than bearing the wounds of Christ would be . . . But lately I've found 3 similarities between them (besides their wondrous love of Jesus and Mary) that are at once interesting and imitable. Well, two of the similarities are imitable anyhow.
The first and less imitable similarity is that both Pio and Marcel entered religious life when they were 16. For those of us who are slightly older than even 17, this is no longer an option, but I like knowing that both Pio and Marcel, when they were Francesco and Van, not only loved Jesus from an early age, but also wanted to give their lives to Him from childhood - and did so at the identical age of sweet 16, Francesco entering the Capuchins in Italy where he was renamed Pio; Van entering the Redemptorists in Vietnam, where he became Marcel.
The second trait they share, this one completely imitable, is that both Pio and Marcel are quite taken with Jesus' kisses. I love this!
In Marcel's case, it is Jesus Himself who often speaks in the most affectionate terms. In the Conversations, He says, "I am kissing you without stopping; I respond to each of your glances with a kiss" (187) and again:
"Marcel, I love you very much. I do not cease giving you kisses and embracing you in my arms. I look at you all the time and I smile on you and I am always pleased with you. So, therefore, because of the single fact that you always recognize your weakness, you receive from me perpetual support. That is enough. You are very tired Marcel, very tired. I am giving you a kiss and I hold my lips close to your cheek for all eternity." (237)
In the following passage from 31 October 1945, Jesus explains what these kisses require on His part:
"My little child, when I wish to give you a kiss, I must, first of all, contain my love before daring to give it to you. Because, if I give you a kiss putting into it all my love, in the wink of an eye your love for me would lose itself entirely in the depths of my love so that you would no longer be able to sit here to write the words that I am addressing to souls. When I do give you this kiss it will be the last. And this will happen only on the day when it will please me to unite your love to mine forever in a single love. The last kiss will, in truth, be the first kiss given to my spouse when I come to look for her . . . Still a little longer and this kiss will be given to you, my little child." (41)
Oh, but Jesus cannot entirely wait to give His kisses, and on Palm Sunday of 1946 (just to take one more example), He says, "I am kissing you and I do not cease to hold you tightly in my arms . . ." (441)
Understandably, Jesus as a true lover is not limited to kisses but must hold us tightly too. Padre Pio knew this just like Marcel did, and experienced Jesus' affection especially in Holy Communion. From a small book called Padre Pio's Mass:
Padre Pio was asked: "What is Holy Communion?"
"It is all an internal and external mercy. An embrace. Ask Jesus to make Himself felt sensibly."
"Where does Jesus kiss you?"
"When Jesus comes does He visit only the soul?"
"The whole being."
"What does Jesus do at Communion?"
"He finds delight in His creature."
An embrace . . . Jesus' kisses . . . delight -- this leads directly to the third thing that Padre Pio and Marcel have in common. Let's hear it first from Jesus. Telling Marcel what to report back to his director, Jesus says:
"Marcel, you will add this: my Father, little Jesus loves me a great deal. He is very pleased with me, He often gives me kisses, and laughs often with me . . ." (180)
Jesus laughing? How can He help it, face to face with the likes of us! It doesn't hurt our cause that He is Kindness and Gentleness, and how can we doubt that He has not only an exquisite sense of humor (if He is like us in all things but sin, and He is), but that He also has the simple joy of a child relishing and rejoicing in His Heavenly Father's creation? And what is laughter but the bubbling up and overflowing of joy? This joy starts in the Heart of our true Heavenly Father, of whom Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the Kingdom" (Luke 12: 32). Jesus in His turn finds His delight in the children of men -- especially in Marcel!
To take a random sample of their laughter, and to show it is not all on Marcel's initiative, listen to what he tells Mary on April 13, 1946. This was the day before Palm Sunday - just like today, the day on which I write! Marcel says:
"Dear Mother, this is what little Jesus said to me: 'Marcel, try to prick yourself a little with this needle to see if it hurts.' I was then busy darning socks. In spite of Jesus' words, I did not do anything for fear of hurting myself too much. I was a little sad at that particular moment and little Jesus said that to me to make me laugh." (439)
No wonder Marcel is mischievous -- he wants to be just like Jesus, and Jesus is mischievous first!
I was planning to tell you here that Jesus laughed often with Pio too, but alas, when I searched out my proof in the little book "Send Me Your Guardian Angel" (which was the advice Padre Pio gave his spiritual children), I found only the Blessed Mother and Pio's guardian angel laughing with him. In this particular ecstasy that Fr. Allesio Parente witnessed, Jesus was there, but we don't know from Pio's words that He laughed along with the others . . .
For now I'll simply say that Marcel and Pio both loved to laugh, and furthermore I'm confident that they still love to laugh. I mean I'm absolutely sure of it, and with more proof than a book could give. You see, just the other day Padre Pio's relics came to a chapel near me (at Thomas Aquinas College), and I brought Marcel along to pay the great Saint a visit. You can bet that was a mistake! Or rather it would have been if I didn't love to laugh just as much as those two imps!
It began innocently enough. I arrived quite early, and as I was praying in the empty church, I noticed that the lady setting up the relic display had lots to do, and I felt inspired to offer my help.
"Excuse me," I said to her after I'd left my pew and snuck up behind her. "I'm sure you've done this many times, but would you like some help?"
She sized me up in about a tenth of a second and politely but firmly refused. "Thank you, but I don't need any help at this point." End of conversation. Back to work for her, back to the pew for me.
As I knelt again, I realized it had been a set up. I couldn't quite hear their laughter, but I was suddenly and completely certain that Padre Pio and Marcel had conspired to "inspire" me because they knew exactly what this woman would think (I saw it too, despite her poker face), and they thought it was hilarious. What she had conveyed along with her words was something like, "Ah, yes, I've been doing this a long time, and I know your type. You offer to help so you can be near the relics, but we both know you'll cut a chunk out of Padre Pio's cape the minute my back is turned!"
Boy, she had my number! And weren't Pio and Marcel laughing like crazy! I'm surprised I wasn't kicked out of the place, although, as I mentioned already, you couldn't actually hear them. They must have been covering their mouths with their hands!
I settled into my seat, smiling at the trouble makers but refusing to actually laugh out loud in church. Clearly I would have to be the grown up, so I simply changed the subject by picking up Conversations and opening it to where I'd earlier stuck in a new Divine Mercy holy card. I began to read and was delighted by what Jesus in His mercy had chosen for me. Thérèse was speaking to Marcel (and me) and she said:
"It pleases little Jesus more to receive your weaknesses than it would to accept your extraordinary mortifications. Why is that? Because if you are weak, little Jesus constantly holds you close to Him and holds you tightly in His arms . . . Marcel, thanks to your weaknesses, you can save a great number of souls. Little Jesus wants you to reveal all your weaknesses so that men will know of the mercy of their true Father in heaven towards the world. So therefore, my dear little brother, all little Jesus does to spoil you, far from being harmful is, on the contrary, useful for you and by it you can save a great number of sinners." (614)
I thought this was so beautiful that I began copying it into the journal I'd brought with me. I was a little secretary too, writing the same words Marcel had written, words from our big sister that were extremely consoling. And they mentioned God's mercy - no wonder St. Faustina and Jesus had chosen this page for their holy card; it was full of mercy and Jesus' embrace.
Except there was more . . .
Later, after the Mass in honor of Padre Pio was over, I was ready to continue copying, and so I read on into the next paragraph. Now it was Marcel speaking:
"My sister Thérèse, it is said that eating peanuts makes one cough a lot. So, I don't know why bearded Jesus makes me eat them. Perhaps he doesn't know that. Is that so, my sister?"
It didn't help that I thought he was asking why Jesus made him eat them (I misread "Jesus" for "bearded Jesus," Marcel's spiritual director) - didn't Jesus know they might cause him to cough? Once again I had to work hard to be appropriately devout in my pew. I wanted to crack up! The famous peanut passage! And so soon after our recent joke here at Miss Marcel's Musings about the man walking into a bar. Oh, Marcel! You are hilarious!
Somewhere within and among all these urges to laugh, we (the congregation) were invited to come forward and venerate Padre Pio's relics. The Italian man in charge explained that, according to Canon Law, by touching any holy thing we had to the relics, we would instantly have a third class relic of our own to take home. Bingo! Conversations came with me to the front of the church, I touched it to the reliquary containing Padre Pio's bloodied glove, and voila! As I re-entered my pew, I was again overcome by the urge to laugh. I held it in, but silently explained to my little brother, "Marcel, I know we haven't made you a Saint or even a Blessed yet, but guess what? You are now a 3rd class relic!"
The chapel, which is large, was teeming with joy. I sensed that Padre Pio had brought his own fun, and his brother (and ours) Marcel had upped the ante. The two of them were full of mischief! Pio certainly is the elder brother: he's the more dignified and venerable one, and he was the one who drew the crowds. I think Marcel has him beat in the silly category, but then we must remember that every saint has his own mission. There is Padre Pio, world famous, full of extraordinary charisms and miracles, his relics on tour, for Heaven's sake! And then here is Marcel, whose inestimable greatness is the direct consequence of his inestimable weakness. His relics are, I imagine, unobtainable because they reside somewhere (perhaps unknown?) in North Vietnam. And his fame? Compared to Padre Pio's, it is nothing. And yet . . .
Here we have another instance of Marcel's mischief that I've been meaning to tell you about. When I first met him a year and a half ago at St. Bernadine's Library at Thomas Aquinas College, he sidled up to me like a homeless stray kitten. I'm not a cat person generally, being allergic, but I do love Asian cats and so this particular Vietnamese kitten had me at a disadvantage. Full of compassion and curiosity, I took him home and instantly fell in love. Some part of that love (on my side) was thinking he was otherwise friendless. Come to think of it, maybe that's how he saw me too!
But lo and behold, in the last few weeks I've heard some information that makes me question Marcel's stray cat strut. A friend in France wrote to me that Marcel is far from unknown there, in the country Jesus so often commended to his prayers. Quite the contrary of unknown - Marcel is beloved there by religious, seminarians, priests, and even bishops, and many are surprised to discover he's not yet beatified or canonized (they don't know about his third class relic status either, but that is quite recent). And, said my friend, Marcel is even on the list of saintly people taught to children in Sunday school!
As if that isn't reputation enough, my friend in Texas told me she'd spoken to her pastor, who is Vietnamese, about Marcel. He said that although the communists in Vietnam do all they can to obstruct Marcel, still he is known by many in his home country also!
You can see why I'm thinking it was just another instance of his mischief, this pulling the wool over my eyes regarding his popularity vs. homeless status, but it gets even better. Last week I discovered (again, thanks to my friend in France) that there are not only religious there who know of Marcel, but there is even a religious order of sorts, Missionnaires de l'Amour de Jésus, whose charism is based on the Little Way of Thérèse and Marcel!
Oh mischievous Marcel! When will we truly know you? Since you are one with Jesus, your mystery has become infinite like His. I don't mind; I love your mischievous ways, and I'm grateful you found me and pretended to let me find you. Now let us find more kind hearts to adopt you into their homes, as many more as there are tricks left up your sleeve. I bet that's a nearly uncountable number! I'm sure you have a capacity for friendship to rival Padre Pio's - he who continuously invited people to become his spiritual children. In you we have a brother rather than a father, but wouldn't it be in keeping with your mischief, little Marcel, for you to become a patriarch too? With smiles, laughter, kisses, and a snuggle next to the merciful Heart of Jesus, I pray that your family grows more numerous than the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky!
Tomorrow is Marcel's birthday, March 15th. But in Marcel's world, children are the ones who rule (little Jesus being King), and you know how children look forward to their birthdays. I know some adults who look forward to their birthdays too (not to name names, but Miss Marcel is one such!), and speaking for myself, I just can't wait another day! Perhaps Marcel feels the same, so I thought I'd start his celebration just a smidge early. If, by the time you read this post, it is past March 15th, we can extend his birthday too. Anticipate, extend -- these are good customs when it comes to birthdays! I like to think of it as the birthday novena, the birthday triduum and/or the birthday octave, depending on how much celebration you can pull off. Since Marcel is in Heaven where the party never ends, I'm thinking all three will be fine with him!
But wait! Do the Vietnamese celebrate birthdays? Being curious and having access to Google (a winning combination), I have just discovered that they do - and according to quora.com, we're just in time to celebrate with Marcel because:
"Traditionally Vietnamese host parties on the date of birth for the elderly in the family, we call it 'mung tho' (to celebrate their longevity)."
This March 15th (2018) is Marcel's 90th birthday. I'd call that longevity! Although it's hard for me to picture Marcel as an old man . . . I even looked in St. Thomas' Summa Theologiae this morning to confirm what I'd heard - and sure enough, St. Thomas would put Marcel's age now at 33. This is from the Third Part of the Summa, Question 46 (On the Passion of Christ), article 9 (Whether Christ suffered at a suitable time). Good Lenten reading, though I must admit I had to blow the dust off the book. My husband has been reading Volume I of the Summa at breakfast (this is the kind of thing Catholic philosophers do), but I'm a girl in a hurry so I skipped ahead . . .and found that here, St. Thomas replies thus to the 4th objection (I know, you're thinking this is the boring part of the blog - but no, it's actually pretty amazing - see what you think) -
"Christ willed to suffer while yet young, for three reasons. First of all, to commend the more His love by giving up His life for us when He was in His most perfect state of life. Secondly, because it was not becoming for Him to show any decay of nature nor to be subject to disease, as stated above (III:14:4). Thirdly, that by dying and rising at an early age Christ might exhibit beforehand in His own person the future condition of those who rise again. Hence it is written (Ephesians 4:13): "Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."
I'm sure I've heard and read that last quote, from Ephesians, many times, but I never realized there was a way of taking it literally! What would we do without the Doctors of the Church to open the full meaning of God's Word to us?
Considering Marcel left this exile ("died" as we commonly say, but we know he was just passing through to Real Life) at age 31, he got pretty close to being a perfect man of 33. And now, according to the Common Doctor, he's there at perfect manhood forever, so let's all raise a glass in honor of his union (at last!) with his True Love, the Perfect Man, the Spouse of our Souls, Jesus.
Hip, hip hooray! Happy birthday Marcel!
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
So, a man walks into a bar . . .
I know, I know, it doesn't seem like the kind of story these girls are busy with in Renoir's painting, but bear with me. We'll get back to the girls soon enough.
As I was saying, a man walks into a bar. It's early afternoon, no other customers cluttering up the joint. The bartender's polishing the counter but pauses to ask the man what he'll have.
"Scotch on the rocks, please."
The phone rings at the other end of the bar, and the bartender excuses himself to answer it.
"Nice haircut," the man hears.
He looks about him, startled. No one's come in; the bartender's on the phone. Weird.
"And I like your tie."
He swirls around to see who's crept up on him. Not a soul is there. Bizarre.
"Is the jacket new? Because it's really an excellent fit - looks like it was made for you."
The man doesn't even bother looking around, just rubs his eyes and then looks desperately toward the bartender, who's approaching with his drink.
"Did you say something?" he asks hopefully. He takes the glass and swallows half the contents in a gulp (he leaves the ice).
The bartender shakes his head. "Not me."
"Well that's the darndest thing. I come in and order my drink. You walk away and I hear someone tell me I have a nice haircut. Then he likes my tie, and just before you come back, I hear my jacket's tailor made, fits like a glove or some such, but you can see for yourself there's no one in the place. I think I need another drink."
"Relax," says the bartender. He points to the bowl on the bar in front of the man. "It's the peanuts. They're complimentary."
+ + +
Okay, I'm laughing (I get a kick out of those peanuts every time!) and Marcel and Jesus are laughing too, but I'm not sure if it's just because they think the joke is funny (they've heard it before) or because they think it's funny that I'm telling it here. No matter, as long as I've got them laughing, we can relax (it's the peanuts, they're complimentary! Okay, I'm laughing again!)
I haven't counted lately, but I'd say there are at least 1,000 books in my house. Four of them, right next to my bed, are Marcel's books, but of them all, the one I reach for first thing in the morning and replace beside me last thing at night is Conversations. Kind of like the peanuts joke, it doesn't get old, always makes me smile, and often even gets me laughing out loud.
So this morning I was reading Conversations, and I came across Jesus saying, "Marcel, I love you dearly, I am very pleased with you. These little stories please me, they even make me forget my sadness and they will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind." (396)
Guess what little story Marcel was telling Jesus?
No, it wasn't the peanut story!
But, oddly enough, what Marcel was telling Jesus didn't look anything at all like a story to me.
See what you think. Here's what came just before Jesus' words about Marcel's little stories pleasing Him:
Marcel: Alas! Little Jesus, all You know how to do is to speak. [Jesus had just given an explanation in answer to a question Marcel asked.] In such heat, to oblige me to close my door and write, who would be able to put up with that? To allow me to do the work carefully that You ask, You should pay attention so that air comes into my room to refresh me a little; without that Your work will be delayed. You can take it or leave it.
I feel a little like the man in the bar. Did Marcel really just tell Jesus that He could take it or leave it? Unless it's the translation (just kidding, Jack!), I don't see any alternative but to start laughing. Which, I might add, I am doing again.
Marcel, I love you!!!
Who else would talk to Jesus this way? And get the response Our Lord and Savior gives you?
For here is what comes next:
Jesus: Marcel, what good is that going to do? The fanlight being open, the air can get into your room. And when it is a little too warm you will be able to offer me this sacrifice, without fear of any harm to yourself; and by this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire...
Marcel, do not complain. Try to smile a little. Do not be afraid of perspiring; nevertheless, I see you look tired. That is sufficient, rest yourself. [And here comes what I quoted at the outset.] Marcel, I love you dearly, I am very pleased with you. These little stories please me, they even make me forget my sadness and they will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind.
Have I told you that my husband is a philosopher? He (and this goes for me too, though I am not a philosopher exactly) loves St. Thomas Aquinas and counts himself one of St. Thomas' disciples. St. Thomas is amazing because he commented on many books of Sacred Scripture, many books of Aristotle, and also managed to write huge tomes like the Summa Theologiae. Add to this the many, many commentaries on St. Thomas' writings (my husband's favorites are by Sylvester Maurus, for the record), and a disciple of St. Thomas is kept quite busy merely hoping to get through a fraction of the Angelic Doctor's recorded wisdom.
I bring all this up because while I don't think Marcel will be named a Doctor of the Church any time soon (for one thing, he needs to be beatified and canonized first!), I can think of no greater "philosophical" work for my life than spending the rest of my days writing commentaries on Marcel's Conversations. Take the section I've just quoted. I need to comment on what kind of little story Marcel was telling - this is imperative, because Jesus says "These little stories . . . will draw to me, later, from little souls, a number of other little stories of the same kind." But before I even get to that, I must comment first on this other word of Jesus (from those quoted above):
"And when it is a little too warm you will be able to offer me this sacrifice, without fear of any harm to yourself; and by this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire . . . "
Speaking of the weather, I don't know about you, but here's my take on it. Occasionally, it's just perfect. Heavenly. You know, like it will be in Heaven. The rest of the time, the weather falls into two categories. It's either too hot, or too cold. When it's too cold, I complain (at least to myself) and can't wait for the weather to change. Which it will do sooner or later -- most often into weather that's too hot! And I live in one of the most perfect places (weather wise) on the face of the earth!
But here is the great news! There is nothing niggly or small, mean or thrifty about Jesus!
If someone suggested to you that we could offer up the discomfort caused by the weather, after you rolled your eyes (why is it so unhelpful to hear "Offer it up"?), wouldn't you figure it was actually a pretty good idea because by doing so you could help Jesus save a soul? (Or maybe you'd think you could help save a soul if someone offering up a chemo treatment helped too.)
I think that's about our usual estimate -- offer up my paper cut and I've helped Jesus save 1/15th of a soul.
That's our estimate.
According to Jesus, as He says to Marcel (and remember: what He says to Marcel, He says to us),
"By this little sacrifice you will be able to save a great number of souls from eternal fire . . . "
This is truly a conversation for our time!
We live in the "super size it" era. That's not a problem for Jesus!
Let's go, He says. Let's do it! I know how little you are. Don't worry, I'm God. Give me your frustration with the weather and I will save a great number of souls!
Actually He said "you will save a great number of souls." Isn't that just like Him? I love that. As Marcel's big sister said, He cannot be outdone in generosity.
But let's get back to Marcel's little story. Did you see a little story in there? At first I didn't, and then I realized that Marcel's complaint about the heat - that's his little story. That's the kind of story Jesus is happy to hear from us. He's told us before through Marcel, but like Marcel we may have forgotten. The deal is, He's interested in everything that concerns us. For many of us (most of us?) what concerns us from minute to minute is often nothing more nor less than the current annoyance that threatens to unhinge us. Why not tell Jesus about it instead of just mumbling to ourselves? He actually wants to hear it!
Which brings me to the darling Renoir girls at the top of this post.
One of them is looking at the picture in the book, waiting for the other to keep reading (or turn the page). The other is looking out, kind of dazed. I think she's wondering how in the world I'm going to tie her into my story.
Well, little girl, it's like this. You have such beautiful hair. And so does the girl sitting beside you. I used to have beautiful hair too, though I don't any more . . .
And thank heavens I don't just now. The lack of it (not hair - it's not that bad, I definitely still have hair, but the lack of beautiful hair) is what gave me the key to unlock Marcel's little story here.
You see, on Ash Wednesday I was kind of naughty. Not like eating a steak naughty, but like going to get a haircut at a nice hair salon naughty. I knew it was a day of penance, but I figured why not cheer everyone up and get a haircut? The young woman who cut my hair seemed to think it was a good idea, and she spent quite some time asking me just what I wanted and attempting to understand the amount of time I would be spending on my hair "styling it" after she cut it. I tried to use plain and simple words. "None" is the word I remember using to describe the time I want to spend and will spend "fixing" my hair. I mean I will definitely wash it when need be, and brush it into a pony tail before I face the day. I will even brush it into a new pony tail in the middle of the day, just to do my best to look as pretty as I can.
There was no language barrier, and yet perhaps she thought I was joking. Anyhow, we agreed that she shouldn't cut it too short for a pony tail. And then she went to work. She cut and cut, and then she dried my hair and cut it some more. She asked if I minded. Not at all. We were both having a good time using our talents - she was very talented at cutting and styling hair, I discovered, and I am very good at sitting in a chair while someone cuts and styles my hair. It didn't occur to me that the very cute me which was the result of her efforts might require her daily ministrations to keep up the level of cuteness.
My husband (who is kind enough to always think I look beautiful) was surprised, but in a good way. He, too, thought the new look was quite cute. Reminiscent, he thought, of Marlo Thomas in "That Girl." It wasn't very penitential of me, but we were all smiling, and Jesus had said in the Gospel that we're not supposed to look like we're fasting.
Can you guess the sequel?
However long one puts off washing her hair after it's been styled with such loving care by a professional, the time does come eventually.
And then, another surprise!
Jesus can fix everything, and what was not penitential at the outset, did, with just one quarter sized dollop of shampoo, become more fitting to the season when the time came.
This morning, after reading Marcel, as I was yet again attempting to figure out a way to
a. be presentable in public
b. not spend the morning "styling" my hair,
I realized that I had a little story to tell Jesus! We both thought it was very funny. Unlike Marcel, if I am too hot, I can usually turn on the a/c instead of perspiring. But also unlike Marcel, there is this little matter of my hair flipping the wrong direction, refusing to sit quietly in a pony tail, and generally threatening to take up all my time. (Oh, and I don't think I mentioned that despite the hairdresser's best efforts to determine my personal needs and desires, the result of her work was a haircut that was exactly like hers! If I took the requisite time to style it, you could tell it was just like hers; as it is, you'll have to take my word for it.)
Suffice it to say that I am offering up this sacrifice without fear of any harm to myself, and by this little sacrifice I can save a great number of souls from eternal fire -- that's what Jesus said to Marcel and me this morning, and He never lies!
So, the moral of this post is three-fold, in honor of the Trinity.
1. Don't get your hair cut on Ash Wednesday and expect it not to be, ultimately, penitential.
2. Do tell Jesus every little story that you can. (Annoyances, pet peeves, and bad weather fit the bill, so it's unlikely you'll run out of material.)
3. Rest assured that Jesus loves you dearly. He is very pleased with you, and your little stories please Him too, making Him forget His sadness. Can you think of anything more wonderful?
Jesus put Marcel to all that work, writing in the heat, just to get the message to us. Now that we've sorted it out, they're both hoping to hear from our little souls "a number of other little stories of the same kind." What better work for Lent than to make our Jesus forget His sadness? If all else fails, tell Him the peanut joke. That one really cracks Him up!
So you are here - you have found Marcel! Congratulations! If you scroll down, you will find more Marcel . . . and I have been loathe to write a new post because I love so much what Jesus says to Marcel in the next post down:
"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)
And I especially love Jesus' admonition (to us too, since He just reminded us that all His words to Marcel are words to us too!),
"Do not worry any more, ever."
He really means it, and I hate to change the subject, because we need to hear it over and over again. Well, don't worry (really!) even about this seeming change of subject - I'll be sure to get back to Jesus' sweet and gentle commands to us (through Marcel) at the end of this post.
First, though, I must carry out my mission . . . I know, that sounds fancy. I don't know if I knew I had a mission until I just wrote that! Wow, the Holy Spirit is right here, supplying the words, and He's surprising even me! But in simple language (since we are simple souls here at Miss Marcel's Musings), my mission is to give you more Marcel. Thus I can't stop with what I have already written, but must forge ahead with More Marcel. And lest we all think this is too heavy a burden for such a little one as myself, I have two solutions.
First, did you know that the ant can carry 5000 times its weight?
Really! I got this quote from Nature World News (and they wouldn't lie!) -
"The ability of worker ants to carry many times their own body weight is well documented, but new research on heavy-lifting ants reveals that the neck joint of a common American field ant can withstand pressures up to 5,000 times greater than its own body weight."
I'm not going to tell you my weight (I don't know it actually!), but I will say that I'm so glad we are embarked on the very little way of Marcel. As Miss Marcel, I often feel smaller than an ant, and I am American, and when it comes to writing about Marcel, I'm fine with heavy-lifting. So don't worry, it's my pleasure to keep more Marcel coming your way here.
But wait, there's more!
In the last 24 hours I've come across a second solution to the fulfillment of my mission and the fulfillment of the growing need we all have for more Marcel. And it's such a great solution that it doesn't just bring you more Marcel....it brings Much More Marcel right to you, almost instantly. (It would be actually instantly if I got to the point, but what's a great punch line without a build up?)
It turns out that although at first glance Marcel seems unknown, in fact there are others besides Miss Marcel who are smitten with him, befriended by him, and quite faithful friends of his in their own right . . .After all, those four published volumes I keep talking about did not appear solely through the work of Marcel's bearded Jesus (Fr. Boucher, pictured above). No, there were other friends involved. Some are in France, and at least one is in England. And now, thanks to my wildly expanding techno-expertise (and the help of a friend of mine and Marcel's who lives in my corner of Marcel's world), I have links to these far-flung friends (far from California where I live, but very, very close to Marcel) over to the right, in the sidebar under my Author blurb, and just under their own More Marcel heading. Can you guess which link leads you to England, and which to France?
No, don't go meet these new friends just yet!
Let me introduce them here, and then you can jump the pond and visit England, and cross the Channel and stop over in France. Marcel is waiting for you in both places, and I promise to keep my intro as brief as I can so you can (almost instantly) go meet his very dear and trés bon friends, those who have known him and loved him and sung about him for much longer than this common American field ant! Ready for the intros?
The Marcel Van Association is the work of Jack Keogan, translator of Marcel's works into English.
Les Amis de Van is the website of the group by the same name whose mission is (hold onto your chapeau, this is amazing!) to promote Marcel and advance his Cause for Beatification. They also sponsor Vietnamese seminarians, publish the life and writings of Marcel in various languages, and in short, they are his trés chers amis. Why haven't I told you about them earlier? You will be shocked by the answer.
Can we keep this just between us?
(Okay, shhhh. I'll tell you my little secret . . . but in parentheses so it goes no further. Believe it or not, Miss Marcel doesn't know French! And since the Amis de Van website is in French, well, it seemed like a closed book to those of us who have English as a first language and are working on English as our second language too! Why it didn't occur to me to use Google's handy "translate this page" feature I cannot tell you! Ants don't always think of these things - at least not the heavy-lifting ones.)
And on a more logical note, it wouldn't have made sense to give you more Marcel, let alone Much More Marcel, before I'd given you some Marcel.
There, now that the intro and explanations are over, you are almost free to click over and find much, much more Marcel in England and France. What's left? Two things . . .
1. I promised you another word from Jesus to us through Marcel, and I have one! Today I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Jesus at adoration. During my time before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, I asked Him to bless the devoted Amis of Marcel, and here is the word He gave me for you . . . Remember, every word He speaks to Marcel is for all of us as well! And today He says:
"Enough, Marcel, my little brother. Do not be sad, do you understand? From now on, no more worrying, all right? . . . " (507)
So that's it - no more worrying! No more sadness! He is God and He is taking care of everything!
2. Speaking of Les Amis de Van and their website, I had great news this week from a dear friend in Texas. Having met Marcel here, she wanted to get a hold of all his works. I did say Texas, right? They do things big there! And so she went directly to the boutique at Les Amis de Van and bought the 4 volumes for about $25 each, and using their one flat rate for shipping ($10), the books came quickly -- much more quickly than she expected, and I'm sure much, much more quickly than my first copy of Conversations came when I ordered it from a large American online .com bookseller for between $30 and $40! So here is the link to the store at Les Amis de Van, where you will find wonderful things at great prices - in short, much more Marcel that you can hold in your hands and take with you to your holy hour. All you have to do to get there is click HERE.
Oops, and one more very last thing . . . Marcel visited my alma mater, Thomas Aquinas College, this week. I'm so pleased he found another place to make yet more friends! If you want to see what his presence there looks like, you can click HERE.
And now, I will say Bon voyage! À bientôt!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below.