Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen as He said!
Happy Easter! We are just barely out of the Easter Octave, the Easter Day that lasts 8 days and yet is one day. We are now in the shadow of the Divine Mercy, and what graces the Lord pours out upon us from His wounded side!
But then after yesterday's feast of St. Mark, we have today the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. What an embarrassment of riches! She has a delightful history and is overjoyed to continue that history here and now in our lives. She wants nothing more (nor less) than to share the Good Counsel that Divine Wisdom, her dear Son now risen but once a little babe in her arms, has for us.
We have once again traversed Lent and Holy Week. Whether we were extra zealous or extra sleepy, those beautiful days fulfilled their promise and have brought us into Eastertide, and what a marvelous time to spend with Our Lady. After she witnessed Our Lord's Passion, formally received us as her children and held her dead beloved Son in her arms on Good Friday, after she waited through the long hours of Holy Saturday, after she received (as tradition tells us) the first Resurrection Visit of Jesus early Easter morning - ah, now she waits only to share all her compassion and fulfilled hope with us, her littlest children.
Here is what she says, as we gaze upon her lovely, delicate features:
"My dear little one. You have just been looking at me . . . My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze." (Marcel Van's Conversations, 426) What power we have: simply by gazing upon her we draw her compassionate gaze upon ourselves!
The story of the original Our Lady of Good Counsel image in Genezzano is marvelous! Here is an account from the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, whose special patroness she is:
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Devotion to the Mother of Good Counsel is associated with the story of a miraculous icon. The sacred image is found in a church in Genazzano, a beautiful town thirty miles south-east of Rome. The church dedicated to the Mother of Good Counsel was built there in the fourth century. In 1356 the church was given over to the Augustinians. Restoration started in 1467, when a widow, Petruccia, sold all her belongings to help finance the project. However, funds ran out before the task was completed.
That same year, all the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody coming from heaven. As they looked up, they saw a white, shining cloud that descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The cloud gradually vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. Immediately, Mary began to cure the sick and grant countless graces.
The news spread throughout the country. Two Albanians from Scutari appeared in the town with a curious tale. They had fled from their homeland to escape the invading Turks. Before fleeing, they had stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture until they could see the towers of Rome, when it suddenly disappeared. The mysterious icon of Genezzano was identical to the one in the church in Scutari.
The amazing news reached Rome. Pope Paul II sent two bishops to investigate the story. The prelates reported that 171 miracles were recorded in the months following the icon’s appearance. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. An icon that had been venerated there for centuries was, indeed, missing.
The image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived the subsequent centuries through the tumult of several earthquakes and withstood the bombing during World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the explosion, remained intact.
In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV established the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel to promote devotion to Mary under this title. Pope Leo XIII added the title Mother of Good Counsel to the Litany of Loreto. Pope Pius XII dedicated his term of office to Our Lady of Good Counsel. And Pope John XXIII visited her shrine to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council.
The icon at Genazzano is about a foot wide and eighteen inches high. It depicts a mother figure that is half turned toward her son and half toward the viewer, reflecting Mary’s concern for both Jesus and his Church.
If Our Blessed Mother is willing to ask her Son to work miracles to let us know of her motherly concern, Our Lady of Good Counsel is certainly willing to speak words of advice and instruction to help us over the hurdles of our daily lives.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!
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Two more things I love about this picture in Genezzano:
First, the eggshell thin image is actually not attached to the wall! It miraculously hangs in the air a short distance away from the wall!
Second, when Our Lady and little Jesus are saying yes to a request, ready to grant a miracle, their images become rosy cheeked!
How they love us., and how they want us to ask for favors. They will pour out their love upon us no matter what, but when we ask, they are thrilled to respond with even more graces. Do you have any special requests? I know I have a growing pile of intentions in my heart, and I commend these - and your needs - to our dear Mother of Good Counsel and Divine Wisdom in her arms. She says to us, "My dear child, remain in peace, all right? Little Jesus has not scolded you; neither have I. Our sole intention, both of us, is to get rid of your troubles. Do not worry. I love you dearly." (Conversations, 426)
As for her good counsel pertaining to our particular needs - it is time to snuggle close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and listen. They will tell us what it is we are in such desperate straits to hear, the advice we need. Our job is to quiet ourselves, cozy up, and listen. Oh, and throw in a "Jesus, I trust in You!" or two for good measure!
May your Easter be replete with love, joy, and peace, as well as answered prayers. And may Our Lady, Our dearest Mother, whisper into your heart every needed good counsel!
Draw me, we will run!
As we enter the heart of Lent, Jesus is so very near to us! And to make sure we stay awake a little longer, in these days the Church puts on Our Lord's lips some of the most beautiful words of Scripture, including the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah. These started on Monday and continue through Good Friday because Our Holy Mother knows we are getting tired, and she imitates our Savior in pulling out all the stops. In a liturgical repetition that is quite rare, in both the Mass and the Divine Office today we find Jesus telling us what His Father has done:
"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." (from Isaiah 50)
Our beloved and adorable Jesus will not shield Himself, but is there any way we can shield Him? And what is this word He speaks to us who are weary?
His words are ever ancient, ever new, and He invites us once again into His Most Sacred Heart. He has said to us:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:28-30)
Then this morning as I opened Marcel's Conversations, I found some wonderful advice about what to do once we are in His Heart. Jesus does not leave us without a plan, but says to us through His words to Marcel:
"You asked to be buried in my heart. It is good. I agree to it most gladly and even if you did not ask for it I would not neglect to bury you in it anyway . . . Come on Marcel, say after me: 'Jesus, I love you.' Little Marcel, why do you not say a word of love to me? Yes, why? Is it that you have already forgotten the word Love so that I must urge you to say it? In order to prove to me your love, you have only two things to do: to say to me: 'Dear Jesus, I love you a lot.' Then look at me."
Yes, just when we wonder if we can take another step, or perhaps when some of us are eager to do so but want to know where to plant our feet, Jesus gives us perfect advice, only two things we need to do. He wants to hear of our love that He may be consoled in His agony and sustained on His journey to Calvary. He continues:
"When you enjoy my conversation, you must say to me, 'Dear Jesus, I love you greatly.' This will be one way of answering me. As for looking at me, you will do so at the times when your heart feels bitterness and is unable to say a word to me. You will use this glance to give me a sign of your love. But you must make use of it only when I am not speaking to you. When I speak to you, don't just be content to remain there, leaning forward open-mouthed listening to me speaking without deigning to reply to me . . . " (193)
We will be hearing more of His words this week from the Scriptures and liturgy and in the remembrance of all He did for us in His Passion. Let us respond with these simple words: "Dear Jesus, I love You a lot! Dear Jesus, I love You greatly!" But then too, if our hearts are dried up and His voice seems far away, if we are not hearing Him so clearly, let us look at Him. I've put Therese's sister Celine's image of the Holy Face (which she painted on her knees while looking at the first negative image of the Shroud of Turin) atop this post so we have Jesus before us. Let us look at Him and love Him!
But what about shielding Him from the innumerable blows that will rain down upon Him in His Passion? In a passage we have quoted before from Passion Sunday 1946, Our Lady gives us this sweet suggestion:
"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 . . ."
Surely there will be plenty of inconveniences to accept cheerfully this week! Let us do our best to offer Jesus (and those around us) a smile when we are tempted to something quite different. What an amazing thing that we are invited to protect Jesus in this way!
But Jesus Himself has yet more advice about how He would like to be shielded, saying in that same Passion Sunday conversation:
"The sighs of love that souls cause to rise towards me are capable of stopping the enormous stones which are thrown at my Love; these sighs divert the arrows of sinners which target my heart . . . Oh! Marcel, the weak sighs of men prevent me from dying, suffocated on this earth. From where does such power come? From the love within them. What happiness for me to be able to frolic in the midst of these sighs! I feel very much at ease and completely at peace, no longer fearing being seen by my enemies, or of being pierced by their arrows . . ." (387)
Certainly His words are mysterious when read this week! The Church will accompany Jesus through His Passion and death, and frolicking seems quite foreign to anything we will witness in Holy Week. Ah, but we are children, and He speaks to us of what we can understand. Our love for Him, enclosed in our sighs, can comfort Him and His Heart will be that much less sad . . .
I was delighted to discover in the earlier passage I opened to this morning a further commentary from Jesus on these sighs of love. Jesus is the greatest Teacher, as well as the beloved Spouse of our Souls, and He does not leave us vague on how to sigh! He explains:
"Marcel, I am going to teach you now how 'to sigh with love' for me. Dear Marcel! To sigh with love for me consists in wrapping each of your sighs in all the love of which you are capable in order to then offer them to me. These sighs, flying towards me, release a sweet perfume which intoxicates and attracts me. I then look for the place from where these sighs come to me and when I have found it, I turn in that direction in order to enjoy the fragrance which draws me more and more towards it. Having arrived close, I see the flower with the sweet fragrance. I hurry to gather it joyfully and I take it away to please myself. When it has pleased me long enough I lock it in the bottom of my heart so that this flower will have to stay there in peace throughout eternity. Dear Marcel, look how the simple sighs of love have the power to draw my heart and to place me as it were outside myself . . . Little Marcel, if only I could find many flowers exhaling such a fragrance!" (194)
Let us be such flowers for Jesus this week, wafting sweet scents of love to Him through our little sighs, distracting Him from the pain and cruelty inflicted upon Him by those who hate Him, reminding Him that we love Him and are grateful for all He has done. Let us take Him out of Himself, so He may forget a little and be filled with the fragrance of love!
It seems a tall order, but He has instructed us well and our marching orders are sweet and clear:
We tell Him we love Him a lot - that is, a lot of times we can tell Him we love Him very much! And we look at Him. And we wrap each of our sighs in all the love of which we are capable and offer them to Him.
He knows ahead of time how badly we will do these things, and says to us as He said to our brother, "My little Marcel, you get younger every day, so much so that I must begin again to teach you even the first words that I have already taught you. Why do you forget so quickly? However, don't be sad because you have such a short memory. Even if you forget, you please me nevertheless, on condition that you do not worry about it." (193)
Our sister St. Therese said that children fall often, but they don't get hurt because they are so close to the ground! Let us offer our many falls in union with Jesus' falls on the Way of the Cross, and then let's dust ourselves off and tell Him again, "Jesus, I love You a lot!" Then look at Him. And give Him our smile. And sigh with love. Oh! And then let's not forget to kiss Him, and as Therese taught us, let's kiss Him on His adorable Face.
As we enter these Holiest Days, you are in my prayers. May Jesus' love transform you, and may your love bring consolation and joy into His Sacred Heart, which so treasures the perfume of your sighs.
Draw me, we will run!!!
April Fools Day and a Friday in Lent - what an odd conjunction, and how unfitting, we might think. Yet it takes none other than our little Sister St. Therese to open our eyes to the very perfect fittingness of God's timing. Because, after all, she advocates our being fools for Our Lord as He has been a fool for us! Or rather she explains how He is the fool, and try as we might, nothing we do for Him can match the folly of what He has done for us.
Here are her words to the first sweet echo of her soul, her sister Celine, in a letter from August 1894:
"We have only the short moment of this life to give to God . . . and He is already preparing to say, 'Now, My turn . . .' What a joy to suffer for Him who loves us unto folly and to pass as fools in the eyes of the world. We judge others as we judge ourselves, and since the world is senseless, it naturally thinks we are the ones who are senseless! . . . But, after all, we are not the first; the only crime with which Jesus was reproached by Herod was that of being foolish, and I think like him! . . . Yes, it was folly to seek out the poor little hearts of mortals to make them His thrones, He, the King of Glory, who is seated above the Cherubim . . . He, whom the heavens cannot contain . . . He was foolish, our Beloved, to come to earth in search of sinners in order to make them His friends, His intimates, His equals, He who was perfectly happy with the two adorable Persons of the Trinity! . . . We shall never be able to carry out the follies He carried out for us, and our actions will never merit this name, for they are only very rational acts and much below what our love would like to accomplish. It is the world, then, that is senseless since it does not know what Jesus has done to save it, it is the world which is a monopolizer, which seduces souls, and which leads them to springs without water . . .
"We are not idlers, squanderers, either. Jesus has defended us in the person of the Magdalene. He was at table, Martha was serving, Lazarus was eating with Him and His disciples. As for Mary, she was not thinking of taking any food but of pleasing Him whom she loved, so she took a jar filled with an ointment of great price and poured it on the head of Jesus, after breaking the jar, and the whole house was scented with the ointment, but the APOSTLES complained against Magdalene . . . It is really the same for us; the most fervent Christians, priests, find that we are exaggerated, that we should serve with Martha instead of consecrating to Jesus the vessels of our lives, with the ointments enclosed within them. . . And nevertheless what does it matter if our vessels be broken since Jesus is consoled and since, in spite of itself, the world is obliged to smell the perfumes that are exhaled and serve to purify the empoisoned air the world never ceases to breathe in."
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Therese was encouraging Celine in her plan to enter Carmel and live a comtemplative life. She encourages us, too, in our plan to sit with Jesus, to be near Him, to make the greatest moments of our lives those in which we remain with Him and He remains with us . . . even as we (and Therese and Celine) do have practical tasks that occupy us in between our contemplative interludes.
And yet which shall we treasure more? It's so easy to hear the voices within and without us that say we are wasting our time unless we are visibly productive. No, says Therese, we are being little Magdalenes when we take time for prayer, when we live a quiet, hidden life, when we prefer Jesus to all else, this Jesus whom so many do not yet know. We are filling the Church and the world with the perfume of our love, and most especially His Love, and we have confident hope that these mingled perfumes will draw many to His Loving Heart.
In a recent post we quoted Therese's words to her little brother Marcel Van, in Conversations, when she explained to him that if his prayer time was dry, he shouldn't worry. This is a gift to Jesus and nothing displeasing to Him.
Wouldn't you know that Mary, our loving Mother, says the same? In Conversations (282) she also takes pains to make sure we understand that our folly in spending time with Jesus is always a precious and worthwhile foolishness, even when we don't feel it to be so . . . She says:
"My dear child, if you do not feel the fervour of your love, do not worry about it. Indeed, what has your sister Therese taught you and what have I repeated to you on this subject? Remain at peace, your good will is enough. The sufferings you are now bearing are the best proof of your love for Jesus. And if you do not feel this love, it is because you have offered it entirely to little Jesus. It is the same in regards to me; I am not reproaching you in any way if you do not feel any fervour in loving me. Feelings of fervour and love are two different things. When you feel joy in loving, supposing that you are capable of expressing your love, certainly you would do it as much as is possible. This is what one calls the fervour of love. On the other hand if, in loving, you only feel distaste and sadness, without feeling anything of the fervour of your love but that, nevertheless, you keep in your heart the desire to love, come what may, even were it necessary to die of it, that is to love with all your heart, with all your strength.
"My child, for the moment, offer to little Jesus all the love of your heart, offer him equally, the fervour which you formerly enjoyed. In that way, whatever the fervour of your love might be, Jesus will accept all and you will not cease loving with all your heart and with all your strength. . . . My child, do not forget what I have just reminded you of, retain it with care. And if you feel yourself incapable of expressing your love to little Jesus, do not worry about it unduly, accept this trial and in doing so you will give to Him double evidence of your love. And I, in seeing you so unhappy, how would I be able not to love you more? Therefore stay peaceful; it is sufficient that you have the will to love Jesus. Regarding your relations with little Jesus, in all that you have done until now, allow me to concern myself with it in your place. It is sufficient for you to accept this trial with a joyful heart."
Ah, what a Mother! She will not let us fall into the error of worrying about how we feel at prayer as if that were a sign of how Jesus feels when we are at prayer. Remember, He was a fool first for us - He came to dwell with us when He had been perfectly happy in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity, and this was and is His delight - to be with the children of men! So too it is His delight when we choose to be with Him, however poorly we feel it or attend, however foolish the world (and sometimes we ourselves) deem our quiet time.
Our Lady has one more word for us here, and it is a doozy. That contradiction Christ brought, that mystery that St. Paul tells the Corinthians "is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Yes, the dreaded cross, but let us not focus on the dread, let us be fools and focus on the union with the One who first made that Cross our salvation, who clung to it in Love, who shares it only out of Love. What Mary tells us is simple:
"Your only occupation should be to love in joy. You can cry when you are sad and laugh when you are joyful, but your heart must love little Jesus always in joy . . ." and again, "I want you to love little Jesus in peace and joy. I love you, I feel compassion for you, I am smothering you with kisses, I am wrapping you in my cloak. So, remain peaceful, I will hide your sadness so that little Jesus does not see it . . ."
How wonderful to have such a mom to do for us what we can't do for ourselves! She'll hide our sorrow, but meanwhile let us try to show our joy. The apostolate of the smile! Or in the eyes of the world, the apostolate of foolishness, wherein Christ Our Lord is all to us, and we give our all to Him.
The joy of Marcel for us at Miss Marcel's Musings is always his utter simplicity. He is direct with Jesus, whether it is about a too-tight soutane (outfit), sandals that ooze black gunk, or bananas and their deliciousness! Let us not be afraid to be ourselves with Jesus, and no doubt that will many times mean being foolish or silly. All the better, to imitate our Master as well as our little brother!
Jesus, we thank You for being a fool for us! Happy April Fools Day, and may all our days be full of foolishness for You!
Draw me, we will run!
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