It is a week of great joy for Catholics, and thus for the whole world, since we are all about sharing the beauty of the saints God has shared with us.
St. Patrick will soon be with us on March 17, and his exuberance for Christ has won over not just Ireland (or Arlen, if you want to pronounce it like a local) but really the whole world.
St. Joseph never leaves our sides, but we'll celebrate him in an extra special way on March 19, and how we will ask him to bless the whole world whether they know him yet or not!
But there is another saint we rejoice in this week, and he's laughing (as usual) - this time because he finds it funny that he's made it into the week of Giants, although he'd be the first to tell you he's far from a giant himself. More like Little Sprout at the side of the Green Giant in those old commercials for vegetables!
Nonetheless, though not himself a Giant, our brother Marcel Van is happy to ride into heaven on the coattails of a sort of giant - the great little St. Therese of Lisieux, the little flower of Jesus, who became his sister and mentor, as well as his companion and best friend despite the 30 years that divided her exit from this earthly life and his entrance into it.
There. At last we've come to the point.
Servant of God Marcel Van's birthday (not into heaven, but into earth) is today!
And let's see..............if he had stuck around to a ripe old age, he'd be 93!
That was the very age at which I met Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E., Italian missionary extrordinaire. Well no, I wasn't 93, but he was! And he was as spry and active a 93 year old missionary as I'm sure Marcel would be if he hadn't flown the coop and darted to heaven in 1959 at the age of 31.
And so, having the pleasure of Marcel's company as an angel to guide us from heaven, rather than a friend we might meet in the normal earthly way (standing, socially distanced with masks on, let's say, waiting in line at Costco or the local grocery, perhaps), what is Marcel's message for us today?
Happily, another of his best friends and one who is, in fact, quite versed in providing Marcel's words to the English speaking world since he (the friend I'm about to introduce) translated Marcel's opera omnia from French into English (the French having been translated from the Vietnamese by Marcel's "bearded Jesus," Fr. Antonio Boucher, C.S.s.R.), none other than Jack Keogan (pronounced Cogan, it turns out!) has a message for us in these lovely spring days that comes straight from Marcel.
Jack K. recently wrote the most delightful reflection from himself and Van (Marcel's name before he entered the Redemptorists and so a kind of nickname quite common among his dear ones), and having shared it with me he instantly ran the risk of my sharing it with you! I don't think he'd mind at all! Quite the contrary!
Since Jack resides in England and I (Miss Marcel) am in California, the time change causes a slight lag in our communications. Fortunately, I'm confident with Theresian confidence that in our common mission of Marcel-for-world-domination, as well as in the wake of Laetare Sunday, Jack will rejoice in my publishing his message here. Ah, but if this blog post suddenly poofs out of existence, it may turn out that I spoke too soon. Or to put it another way, Jack being British, he may object to Marcel for world domination, but I bet he agrees that we should continue our project of introducing everyone to Marcel Van and Marcel to everyone, and so at least in that spirit, let me without further ado offer Jack's wonderful words, which in their turn will introduce Marcel's charming message.
Here, then, is Jack:
As part of my lock down reading I decided to revisit Van's autobiography. As you know, little Van's early years were not always filled with sunshine and roses! It was not long before he was introduced, without his awareness, to his vocation "to change suffering into joy." Many a reader has, on reading the early years of Van, had to put the book down to compose themselves before taking up again the story, so unbelievable was the cruelty that Van was the victim of and, sad to say, the perpetrators were, very often, those entrusted with his spiritual growth and bodily welfare.
At Christmas 1941, Van, aged 13, learned that the Father Director of the junior seminary at Lang Son wished to admit some new candidates. It was here that, in the care of the Dominican fathers, Van encountered the paternal love and sympathetic attention that his tender soul craved. Whilst there, he was enrolled in the Cadets of Our Lady, a spiritual movement modelled on the boy scout movement and run, in the seminary, by Father Dreyer Dufer.
Let Van take up the story:
"On joining the troop I had, first of all, to do my training as a cub scout but at Pentecost of that year I was admitted to make my promise and joined the troop of scouts, second class. I received the name of *Squirrel* of the "Stag" patrol.
"This happy life had transformed me within a short time into a new man. In my opinion this change was due partly to the spirit of charity which animated our teachers, but it was due, mainly, to divine grace itself which was active in me. I noticed that I had always found it easy to live in intimacy with God, and I had the fairly clear feeling that God was everywhere for me like a palpable reality. In the past my soul had become ill with the anxiety which imprisoned my life in a narrow, parched setting, and although it had been set free by God on Christmas might 1940, it still remained, more or less, sickly, as if it had not yet recovered entirely the serenity of early infancy. But at the seminary God caused all the after-effects of the sickness my soul was still suffering to disappear. He used this "joyful life" to give back to me my former smile.
"He had opened my soul fully to the wonders of nature; he had tightened the bonds of my love for him during these nights of intimacy and silence under the light of the moon, at the side of a spring, or, again, in the peace that one tastes in the shade of a pine at the side of a mountain.
"At this point the memory of the days when we went camping comes back to me. Ah! to go camping! This fills me with happiness and brings back to my memory all the joys of those unforgettable days. To go camping was, for me, the sweetest of retreats. There, alone with God, with Jesus my leader, the only view the trees, the mountains and all the marvels of nature were for me a stimulus to unite myself more intimately to Him. The more beautiful the flower, the more gentle the breeze, the more green the tree, the more roaring the waterfall, the more verdant the meadow; the more, also, was my heart uplifted as if by so many steps right up to the highest heavens, and there I loved God and He wrapped me in His tenderness. What intimacy there was between us during those moments of calm and close union! There, I went over in my mind my past life and I did not see an instant, not the smallest movement, not the least action, which did not have its origin in divine grace." [Autobiography (534)]
And Jack concludes, in a word common the world over (or so I imagine) as expressive of the inexpressible:
* * *
Wherever you are, dear reader, I hope the sun is shining. I hope you can see flowers, or a single flower, from where you sit (or stand, or recline, or kneel). But if you see only this page, no worries! We're pleased to offer you, in honor of his birthday, some of the flowers Marcel would have seen:
And just in case the beauty of these flowers, in their on screen form, is not quite enough to transport you into the arms of Love, let us add a favorite quote of our own from our little brother Marcel's Autobiography. This comes at (599) and I can never hear these words often enough. It is with joy that I speak them to you, along with the original speaker - St. Therese, the little French flower of Jesus, the Carmelite spouse of the One who is always happy to use her to spread His love and His peace to the four corners of the earth. So wherever you are, we pray her words reach the depths of your heart:
"God is our beloved Father! O dear little brother! I wish to remind you unceasingly of this so-sweet name. I am asking you to make sure from now onwards always to keep the memory of this name of Love, and never to adopt a worried air or a fearful attitude in the presence of this Love which is infinitely paternal!"
Now there's a Lenten program! An Easter and Pentecost program, and a program for life!
On this, our dear Marcel's birthday, may you bask in the love of our beloved Father, and may our sweet spouse Jesus free you from all anxiety so that you, like Marcel and Therese in heaven, may never more adopt a worried air or fearful attitude in the presence of this Love which is infinitely paternal.
If you have trouble living as heavenly a life as we at Miss Marcel's Musings suggest, don't forget (or if you have never heard it before, or if you are Marcel-ish and forget constantly, then let us remind you again and again, without a trace of annoyance but only gladness that we have this little mission) of the words of our Blessed Mother to Marcel and us:
If you don't succeed in Not Worrying Any More Ever (or in other words, if you find yourself worrying), just say this perfect prayer:
Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice.
And then, allow yourself to relax and be at peace.
Or if you are me, feel free to say it again at the next moment when the latest worry (or the old one) pops up again, but no scrupples and no obsession about this - simply "Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice!" and then rejoice that we have foiled the liar, and launched ourselves right back into Jesus' arms, and with a gift, even!
It is our custom here to end with the prayer St. Therese taught us in Story of a Soul at the end of her Manuscript C (often simply at the end of the book). It's our way of joining her in asking Jesus to bring the whole world to HImself. Hooray for Jesus! Hooray for little Therese. And on this March 15, 2021 (or whenever you find yourself reading this post) - HOORAY FOR MARCEL!
Draw me, little Jesus; we shall run!
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