As I write, it's Trinity Sunday. Don't worry if you're reading on another day - as always, I promise to deliver what you've come to expect from a blog: timeless and immortal truths. Well, yes, I'm smiling, fully aware that occasionally your Internet reading material falls short of deathless prose, but here at Miss Marcel's Musings, we aim to please, and today of all days, our team has assembled perennial wisdom that won't disappoint.
In a nod to world calamity, we acknowledge the striking defeat for goodness, truth, beauty, love, joy, peace, and the whole of mankind at the Irish polls these last few days. But my thought is that if we put all our eggs in the human basket, we're bound to be disappointed. With clumsy oafs like ourselves swinging along a wide and perilous road in the valley of darkness, we're bound to come up with many broken shells rather than adorable chicks at the end of the day . . . Can we really be surprised that after a series of bad decisions beginning shortly after our establishment in the Garden of Eden, we've flubbed it again?
I'll admit it. I was surprised. I had hoped for better; I had hoped our prayers for life would be answered, but once again, God has this crazy idea that free will (and the suffering that often follows in its wake) is better than The Divine Puppet Show I envision - you know, the one where He perfectly manipulates each person on the face of the planet so that the world stage features a kind of Peanuts Ice Capades where former Olympic gold medal winners skate along to upbeat music in perfectly synchronized (if cartoonish) beauty.
Wow. After an analogy like that, no doubt you're glad I'm not in charge! Fortunately, I'm not. Not in world affairs, and not even on this blog. I'm low man on the totem pole in both places, but the good news is that here, at least, sanity reigns, thanks to our resident Doctor of the Church, St. Therese, and her little brother (and ours) Marcel Van. Marcel's honorary degree is in silliness, which is a perfect complement (and compliment) to Therese's Little Way. We don't have to figure out how to solve world problems or right world wrongs. We can simply listen to our brothers and sisters the Saints on how to deal each day, whether it's Trinity Sunday 2018 (I do that as a reality check, but the "2018" does tend to make me pause) or any other square on this constantly unfurling calendar of days that leads to the Last one.
Trinity Sunday in Heaven. As you can imagine, everyone is pretty well occupied with the Beatific Vision. Over there is St. John of the Cross - we won't interrupt him, but let's borrow a page from his "Sayings of Light and Love." I happen to have a copy handy, and his very first saying will set our feet back on the Little Way of trust and surrender. The Mystical Doctor begins by telling us:
"The Lord has always revealed to men the treasures of His wisdom and His Spirit; but now that the face of evil more and more bares itself, so does the Lord bare His treasures the more."
Talk about an impressive endorsement! I submit Marcel, making his way center stage, as one such lovely instance of God's treasures becoming visible at the very moment in world history when we need cheering. And since he brings St. Therese with him wherever he goes, we've got her joyful countenance to cheer us as well. But before we get to the stars of our show, let's return to Juan's opening number. He's a great warm-up, and one of my favorite bits of his is #61 of these sayings. It's among the most reassuring sentences I've ever come across, because St. John says:
"See that you are not suddenly saddened by the adversities of this world, for you do not know the good they bring, being ordained in the judgments of God for the everlasting joy of the elect."
There, now. That puts our Irish disappointment into perspective, doesn't it? Heaven isn't letting our antics distract from the awesome reality of God's eternal Providence: He has not forgotten us nor will He let us stray forever. As St. Therese has so consolingly put it:
"Do not fear. The poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you. He will go far, very far in search of you if at times you wander a little."
Have you heard of Pranzini? He was the convicted murderer that Therese called her "first-born." He was the one whose story captured the headlines back in the late 1800's when Therese was a girl, and his story would fascinate us now. Therese's father, the gentle St. Louis, had a rule that his girls (at least this littlest one) were not allowed to read the newspapers that came into the house. Oh wise guardian of childhood innocence! Would that we had such restrictions on our intake of the latest atrocities! Nonetheless, St. Therese was just as mischievous as we are, and on this one occasion, having heard of Pranzini's plight (he was to be executed, and he'd refused to see a priest), she prayed and sacrificed and begged God not only for his conversion but that "just this once" she'd have a sign that her prayers were answered. She figured the sign would bolster her courage and confidence for the many conversions she'd pray for in the future, and God must have agreed. Because sure enough, when she sneakily peeked at the paper covering Pranzini's execution, she saw that after he'd climbed the scaffold, at the last possible moment he'd grabbed the crucifix from a nearby priest and kissed Jesus in an unexpected act of repentance that saved his soul and assured Therese that God never gives up and always answers our prayers sooner or later (often later).
Which would be enough if this blog were "Triumphs of Therese," but while that name has a ring to it and does describe our exploits fairly accurately (Marcel being one of her triumphs as much as Pranzini; and finding themselves caught in the same parenthetical embrace here, they're likely now laughing and poking each other as they behold the Face of God), still we're Miss Marcel's Musings, and it's time for Marcel to take his place center stage.
No rest for you, Marcel! If you're going to be a second Therese, you know that means spending your heaven doing good on earth, working until the last trumpet sounds, showering us with roses and all the rest of it. For someone who didn't like to work back in the day, you've certainly changed your tune! Luckily for us, I might add. Another reminder everything changes and nothing but God's love is set in stone . . .
Our little Marcel is the Apostle of Children, so I'm sure he's even more disappointed than we are at the plight Ireland's unborn children face from here on out. But what about Jesus? And our true Heavenly Father? And the Spirit of Love? Let's waste no time on our own sorrows: it's time to cheer up God. If that sounds silly, well this is Miss Marcel's Musings, so you'll have to look elsewhere for doom and gloom. No time like the present to heed our littlest sister's brilliant advice in her Conversations with Marcel - and I happened to come upon it yesterday morning, right before I'd need it. First, actually, I came upon Jesus' words recalling to Marcel (and us) the words of Therese. My guardian angel didn't let me lose the thread, and next thing I knew I was reading, a few pages prior, Therese's original plan. I'll give you her words first (recounted by Marcel), then Jesus' seal of approval.
And not only that! Like in any good hard sell (we're selling friendship with Marcel, but think of the K-tel Commercials or Ginsu Knives), to get your free bonus - in this case, Jesus' own explanation of how to save the world - act now! (But no need to panic; here "act now" means "read on . . . "). No time to waste moping. Over the echoes of Ireland's shrill outcry against Love, let's listen to Love's response and busy ourselves with the important work of cheering up God.
We find this entry for November 13, 1945 in Conversations:
Marcel: My dear Jesus, this is what my sister Therese said to me: "When on your return to work you notice that Jesus is sad, you must try to please Him. Go close to Him and ask Him a little question of this kind and, certainly, His sadness will disappear and He will give you a beautiful smile. You will say to Him: 'My Jesus, why do you look so sad? What news then have you received today? I dearly love You Jesus.' And if you notice that He continues to be sad, repeat these words unceasingly: 'You are the only one I love, Jesus.' He is sad because there are too few who love Him. Finally, if you see that His sadness still persists, call me immediately and both of us, together, will speak of love . . . And, come what may, Jesus will be forced to smile . . . One more word of advice. If at certain times Jesus is sad, it is because, more than ever, His love is trampled underfoot. There you have it, the sole cause of His sadness . . . When, therefore, you see that He is sad, do not be sad because that will make Him only sadder still. All there is to do in this case is to seek to make Him forget His sadness."
And then on November 14, 1945:
Marcel: Why did You not give me more kisses this evening, dear Jesus? I am really sad. I have never felt anything like this. There must certainly be something that has hurt You . . . Ah! I forgot the advice that my sister Therese gave me yesterday. Sad as I was, I am now happy . . . Forgive me Jesus and tell me why You are so sad. I love You so much. I invite the whole of paradise to come down here to love You. I am even making use of Your love to love you. Yes, dear Jesus, I love You a great deal . . . There, without having had need to call my sister Therese I have succeeded in making You smile. Truly, You have a very charming smile.
Now allow me to ask You a question. Why were You sad just now? Tell me. If I am unable to comfort You, I can at least say again that I love You always and that I love You dearly.
Jesus: My little flower, when you see that I am sad, follow the advice of your sister and do not stop being happy; that is the only way to bring joy to Me . . . My dear child, what saddens Me is to see huge amounts of clay enclosing magnificent pearls, which are very dear to Me, pile up, condemning Me to look at them from afar while no one thinks to offer them to Me. Nevertheless, my child, if someone placed, if only for a moment, these clods of clay in My hand, they would become as many precious pearls in My eyes . . . My dear child, do you understand the meaning of these words? Let Me explain.
The clods of clay designate sinners. They allowed all the love I have given them to be lost in profane love and this profane love envelops them, making them similar to clods of earth . . .
My dear child, do you love these lumps of clay? If you love them, try to think of them always and offer them to Me. These simple words: 'Jesus, I offer them to You' or any other loving words said with the intention of offering them to Me is sufficient for Me to receive them in My hand and there, My child, I will transform these ugly lumps of clay into many pearls as precious as diamonds.
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There we have it - how to cheer up God in these dismal days, and cheer up ourselves in the process. Even more, a bonus: offering Ireland (and ourselves while we're at it) to Jesus that He may melt the clay that encrusts us and, holding us in His wounded hands, reveal the precious pearls He's made us to be.
For more on what to do for Ireland's unborn, you can check HERE, where the Angel of Fatima provided the answer at a time when world politics offered no more cheerful a prospect than now. Our part is so much simpler than we think, and perfectly summed up in the Angel's prayer recited so often by Lucia and her cousins, Saint Jacinta and Saint Francesco:
O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee,
and I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee,
and I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
O my God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee,
and I beg pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust, and do not love Thee.
And now that our work is done and we've gained our prize, as Jesus told Marcel, "Time has passed my child. That's enough. Go promptly."
Oh, but one last thing - I couldn't let Trinity Sunday pass without linking you to St. Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. (You'll find it at the bottom of this page of prayers.) Today's feast, which came on June 11 in 1895, is the anniversary of the first time Therese said this Act which subsequently released her (and God's) "storm of glory" upon the world. Her prayer is full of surprises much more heartening than those you'll find in the headlines, so treat yourself to the whole shebang - and praise God from whom all blessings flow!
We're so used to St. Therese of Lisieux (aka, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, or as she's known here at Miss Marcel's Musings, Marcel's big sister) being called The Little Flower that it's a delight to discover Jesus called Marcel, too, His Little Flower. This makes perfect sense because Jesus told Marcel he would be "a second Therese," but did you know - get ready . . . are you sitting down? - that Jesus calls us His little flowers too?
Since I'm always forgetting just about everything, I quickly, easily, and frequently forget the many particular wonderful things that Jesus tells Marcel. And yes, I am in danger of getting a big head over this talent of mine, because Jesus is so clear (and says quite as quickly, easily, and frequently as I forget) that our forgetfulness, our weakness, our littleness is no deterrent to Him, but rather like an irresistible magnet (I don't know if He says we're like magnets - I kinda made that one up because it's so true). But luckily, the one thing I keep remembering is that Jesus told Marcel that every word He speaks to Marcel, every word that Marcel writes in their Conversations, is meant 100% for us too! Wowza! I love, love, love that! Because it means that when I've forgotten everything (which happens on a daily if not hourly basis), then I need only open this wonderful book to be reminded of exactly what Jesus is trying to tell me.
Yesterday was a doozy. I mean the day was fine, but I realized when I was about to go to sleep at night that I had forgotten one of Jesus' most important messages to me. I won't go into details now - I've got a book all ready to go to press, a book about this important message which I believe is for everyone of us just like Marcel's messages, but it's making its way in the world at this very moment, knocking on publisher's doors (one knock at a time, then a long wait, then a yay or nay which so far has been nay but soon will by yay we hope), so we'll wait until Jesus is ready to tell the world about that one. Meanwhile, in my own little private Idaho (and I must tell you my great Ida-ho story someday), it is only important to let you know that once again, in perfect accord with my most brilliant talent, I forgot. All day long I forgot.
So I told Jesus I was sorry and a silly, and we gave each other kisses, and I went to sleep. When I woke this morning, amazingly enough (miracles do happen!), I remembered to remember first thing what I'd forgotten until last thing yesterday. And then I remembered too, after we gave each other kisses, to ask Jesus to give me something in Marcel to read. Because thankfully the one thing I do remember is that I'll find His words to me there. Thank you, guardian angel!
Knowing there are many pages in Conversations, I wondered this morning where to begin. I have this recurring problem that I'm forever putting bookmarks (photos, receipts, holy cards, any old place marker) into the specialest pages of my specialest book - but then these pages that I want so very much to remember tend to be the only places I open to, when in fact there are so many other pages waiting for me to re-read them. Ah, what adorable problems! We talk about "first world problems" and lately I've heard the expression "champagne problems." (I doubt I'm in a different tax bracket than you, dear reader, yet I really have worried lately about which groomer is the right one for Hamlet, our standard poodle. Wow, even to me that sounds over the top! Forgive me if my "champagne problems" make me sound like I'm dripping with diamonds . . . most of my diamonds are actually cubic zirconia, I promise.)
Well, the whole point is that I think my problem of "which page in Marcel to read first?" needs a new problem category - we'll call it the "embarrassment of riches" category. Though I have all 4 of Marcel's book (thank you, Jack Keogan, Les Amis de Van, CD, and amazon for making them so readily available to us HERE), I don't fret about which to open of a morning or evening (or midday). Hands down Conversations is my favorite. Again, knowing that every word is from Jesus to me - that puts it right up there just below Sacred Scripture. Okay, in this case "just below" means infinitely below, but nonetheless closer than any other book . . .
I won't keep you in suspense a moment longer, though. This morning when faced with my E.o.R. problem ("Embarrassment of Riches" problem, but conveniently acronymized to sound like Eeyore), I immediately thought, "page 33." The nice thing about living in the land of littleness is one does not need to pause and ask, "From whence that thought? Heaven or somewhere not so trustworthy?" Nah, just my imagination, and since every page is fabulous, why not page 33? Has a holy ring to it, and sure enough - whammo, it turns out to be quite something! How I keep being surprised by the continuously exquisite quality of Jesus' words to Marcel (and the spectacularly simple, down to earth words of Marcel to Jesus) is just as much of a mystery as anything. Except, I almost forgot - I have my forgetfulness to thank for these constantly new surprises!
Some stuff, honestly, I have no excuse for forgetting. Certain images ought, I submit, to be so surprising on the first read that one never can quite erase them. For instance - here I'm wanting to get you to page 34 (or, rather, 10 November 1945, since your edition might be numbered differently), but I think, "No, I'd better tell about page 33 - (79) in Marcel's numbering - because that's important too." Then I peek at the bottom of the previous page to see where we are, I mean context-wise, and find Marcel beginning to tell of a vision he had. For the most part, as far as I can figure, Marcel hears Therese and Jesus and Mary, but "visions" properly speaking are not as frequent. Here, though, he explains to Fr. Boucher, "My Father, on that day (the feast of Christ the King), I saw Jesus seated a little bent with a sad face . . ."
So far so good. I mean I don't like that Jesus is sad, and we'll read on to see what we can do to make Him happy again, but there is nothing here to totally arrest the attention. (Reading it, that is. I'm sure if we saw what Marcel did, we'd be quite attentive!) And yet, here is the image I'm thinking should have remained emblazoned on my soul, it's so very Marcel. To whom but Marcel would Jesus appear thus? " . . . and with some earphones on His ears."
Okay, I'm falling in love with this book all over again. Earphones on His ears? And I forgot this? Such is the weakness of my memory, but reading it again, it's hard to take myself too seriously. I can't imagine Jesus wants us to be entirely somber today, either, or why would He have given us this image? We will need the sweetness of His humor, because what comes next is more poignant. Still, I console myself that here, too, Marcel shines out in his darling simplicity:
"Then voices were heard in the languages of different countries, even Vietnamese as I recounted earlier. When it was France's turn, Jesus spoke for a very long time so that I have forgotten everything and I was unable to remember it, whatever it was. It is only on the day when you, Father, asked me to pray for France that it came back to my memory, and that Jesus reminded me in asking me to speak to you about it.
"My Father, when the voices were silent Jesus spoke to me. He was still seated, His head bent forward, a hand supporting His chin and the other placed on His chest, and He had a preoccupied air. I suddenly heard a man's voice addressing Him in French in a very insulting tone. (That is all I was able to understand.) At that very moment the Virgin Mary was also present, not ceasing to look at Jesus in a very sad manner. I then heard, coming from another side, a voice also speaking French and which was comforting Jesus. But this very weak voice was drowned out by the hurtful voice.
"I then saw a quantity of large parcels which were returned to the sender. They bore these words: 'Parcels of sufferings which no one accepted.' And the Blessed Virgin, without stopping, had to untie all of these parcels. I saw then that Jesus turned to the side from where the words of love were coming . . . then, little by little, flowers also began to arrive and then the hurtful words addressed to Jesus diminished imperceptibly. As for the flowers, Jesus took them and sent them somewhere, and I never saw them again. I then heard other voices whose sweetness made Jesus forget His sadness, as He had Himself told me earlier. The Blessed Virgin had dispatched all the parcels of sufferings . . . And the words of love became more and more numerous and clear. Of the voices that I heard, the majority came from little souls which repeated, above all, words of this kind (it is possible I may make a mistake in writing them): 'Dear Jesus, kiss me! Dear Jesus, I love you.' At each of these words Jesus showed a very great joy; and a luminous ray of light escaped from His lips towards the place where the words came from . . .
"This vision lasted for about ten minutes. Until that time Jesus had never yet spoken to me about France, but the other day, when you advised me to pray for France, Jesus reminded me of what He had told me and He asked me to tell you all that I have just heard." (80)
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Today Jesus is asking us to pray for Ireland. His dear and beloved Ireland is voting on killing babies. So often Jesus tells Marcel (as do Mary and Therese) that prayer really makes a difference! Pray with me now, won't you?
"O Jesus, give everyone in Ireland Your sweet kisses! Whether they go to vote for or against the babies, kiss them repeatedly so they don't even know what they're doing, but in Your embrace, may they vote for life, for joy, for children! May there be not only victory for Your Love, but resounding victory! Let this country of Your Heart remain a bastion of safety for the little ones. We have so often failed in every way, but do not abandon us to our own designs! May Your infinite Mercy prevail, in Ireland and all over the world, especially today. We love You, Jesus! Give us Your kisses and never stop!"
Perhaps when you read this post, the dye will be cast. Well it is all temporary, removable markers rather than Sharpie's while we're yet in this life. The permanent tattoos only happen on the Last Day when we are sheep or goats forever (and how I pray we may all be the littlest sheep held in the arms of the Good Shepherd). For now, if the dye has been cast in blackened hues, don't worry even about that. We will simply keep praying and let Jesus fix it soon. If the dye is cast in more vivid and warming hues, in the colors of life and love, then hooray! Jesus can do anything, and we thank Him for whatever He does or allows here.
But what of the Little Flowers of Jesus' love?
We saw some flowers already - "Little souls which repeat, above all, words of this kind: Dear Jesus, kiss me! Dear Jesus, I love You!" And I think Marcel says, "It is possible I may make a mistake in writing these words of love" because he suspects we may have other words on our lips, though their meaning is the same. Sometimes, being little flowers, we don't remember to ask Jesus to kiss us but say instead, "Help!" or "Jesus, I trust in You!" or "Thank You, Jesus, for not letting me hit that pedestrian!" (I live where there are many walkers. It is lovely, and inspires many prayers of this kind.)
But Jesus has much more to say about His Little Flowers . . . and I will only preface His words of November 10, 1945 with the important explanation He gave to Marcel less than a week earlier, on November 4, the explanation I find so crucial and (praise God) so memorable:
"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. Do not be afraid, therefore, if later somebody say that I spoke only to you . . . " (59)
Finally, then, I'm ready (and I hope you are too) for Jesus words on His little flower(s). Not just to St. Therese, not just to Marcel, but for each of us too. If you've read this far, it's a thousand to one that you'll see your face in the flowers that come next.
Jesus: My little flower, write today only that which follows . . . For the very delicate flowers, a mild wind is enough to flatten them to the ground, and in their powerlessness how will they be able to get their petals to stand up again? They must wait for the gardener to come and lift them up . . . My little flower: you should know that I love these delicate flowers more than the others. I am always close to them, to caress them and support them; and if they happen to fall, they cannot fall anywhere but into My hand and there, no matter what they do, it is impossible for them to escape the kiss from My lips. And even if at this time the mud that sticks to the flower should soil My lips, I would not hesitate to lean forward to give this kiss to this frail flower of My love.
Marcel: And I, dear Jesus, to what category of flower do I belong?
Jesus: You, My child, you know that I always call you by the name of little flower. You, therefore, belong to the category of my little flowers and, in fact, you are a very fragile little flower; the slightest breath of wind is enough to make you fall at My feet. That is why I dare not depart from you. Is that not to your advantage? It is precisely because of your weakness that you are, on My part, the object of a greater love and that My lips are always ready to cover you with kisses. But you are very weak, so weak that you cannot even put up with My kisses. My little flower, remember always that you must never be sad because of your weakness. And no matter how great your weakness may be, be tranquil always, believing that My love would never have the heart to separate itself from you, My little flower. (82)
Ah, Love! You know we will forget, but I love what You tell us to always remember: that we must never be sad because of our weakness! No matter how great our weakness may be, You bid us be tranquil always - no doubt with the peace that You alone can give us - believing that Your love will never have the heart to separate itself from us. Even when we separate ourselves from You, how compassionate You are to ensure we always fall right back into Your wounded hand, the hand that never ceases to hold us, to caress us, to embrace us, to protect us from not only the bitter winds, but even from ourselves.
Jesus, if today You allow your delicate little flower Ireland to be flattened, we trust that You will help her get her petals up again. Meanwhile, hold her close to Your Sacred Heart, and keep her children safe there too.
If I could write forever, I'd keep transcribing the words Marcel has transcribed. Others may think the work has been done, but what fun would life be for Jesus' little secretaries if they didn't keep writing? And so, if I could, next I would type for you the marvelous paragraph in which Marcel (following Jesus' passage above) demands that Jesus provide the song that he (Marcel) must sing at the little novitiate entertainment.
I haven't watched every part of both Marcel Movies yet, but I did get to see the full recording of Fr. Boucher's interview (nearly an hour long). My heavens! What love! What charm! What it is to see a saint talking about another saint, and both of them so near to us!
One of the most delightful moments is Fr. Boucher telling about Marcel's demanding this song from Jesus. I almost prefer to hear Bearded Jesus tell it - he gets so much joy from his protege's cheekiness! My favorite Marcel lines (okay, I can't be pinned down from one day to the next, but ONE of my favorite lines at least) is told by Fr. Boucher (and translated by Jack Keogan, I think, in the subtitles on the DVD) -- when our inimitable little brother says to Jesus, "Take it or leave it!" I can only add: Would that we all so boldly laid down the law for The Law!!
Jesus did write the requested song for Marcel, and Fr. Boucher calls it a perfect summary of Therese's Little Way. I kept rewinding the movie so I could copy out Father's summary of the song and tell it to you. Well actually I planned to remember it, but we know how futile that is, so why not share it now instead? I love that I can go back to these posts and rediscover here, too, what Jesus is saying to us.
Fr. Boucher summed up Jesus' song which sums up the Little Way thus:
"Perfection consists in this: Love, trust, surrender."
There, I couldn't remember where I put the paper I wrote it down on, so I'm remembering it after all! Love, trust, surrender.
Jesus, I love You a lot!
Jesus I trust in You!
Jesus, You are wearing earphones? I surrender! You and Marcel are the most delightful pair known in all of history - recorded and pre-recorded (pun intended)!!
And if you look back to the top of this ramble, you will find yourself, delicate little flower, in the hand of Our Lady, and she is offering you to little Jesus on her lap. There is no safer place to be, and they will never drop you, so be tranquil always, Little Flower!
The girl sporting the floral wreath above is Marie of the Trinity, a novice under the direction of St. Therese (who is standing behind her) in the Lisieux Carmel. One of my favorite books is about the two of them: Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity by Father Pierre Descouvemont, and one of my favorite moments in the book is when Father D tells us that from the time she was a child, Marie had wanted to sometime in her life be friends with a Saint. Not just the way we are friends with the Saints because we, on earth, love and depend on those who are in Heaven and vice versa. No, Marie was a child after Therese's own heart, and she had a much bolder aspiration. She wanted to actually live with a Saint, and not only that, but for the Saint (uncanonized as yet because still alive) to be her very good friend, and then later for that very good friend, when gone on to Heaven, to be so recognized by the Church as a Saint.
I may have forgotten to mention it here lately, but as Therese so clearly illustrates (and as Jesus so clearly tells Marcel), we are to be demanding, importunate, entitled, unquestioningly confident, and ridiculously bold with God - in other words, as Jesus says in the Gospel, just like little children.
Not to change the subject, but my husband and I were in a Tesla showroom yesterday (let's just say it's his 30th wedding anniversary too, and if we can peruse bookstores, why not showrooms?). Well to my great delight, the Tesla people have actually named one of their fanciest model's features "Ludicrous Mode" - that's their version of Star Wars' Lightspeed and it takes you from 0 - 60 in a record 2.4 seconds. (Who knew? I was the blonde who asked "Where's the engine?") Well the point is, Marie of the Trinity prayed in ludicrous mode, and we should too, because as Therese teaches, "God is so mighty and so merciful; we obtain from Him as much as we hope for." Look at the results of Marie's prayer - she was one of Therese's best friends for the few years they knew each other on earth. God does not hesitate to give us the very coolest gifts. Never mind a Tesla (sorry, honey, out of our price range), but the very best gifts, like real friendship with real saints . . .
I was thinking of this friendship between Marie and Therese because last night I had my prayer answered. Not the one about being friends with a saint (I'll tell you about that one later), but the prayer about watching the Marcel Movies. (If you click on "Marcel," you'll go to the one I started watching last night; if you click on "Movies," you'll be whisked to the other of the two, which I hope to watch today.)
Near our home there's a wonderful movie theater that has Dollar Night every Tuesday. Too often there is not a single movie (of the 7 or so playing there) that is worth a dollar. We found this out the first time we said, "Let's just watch anything - it must be worth a dollar each!" Well no, actually, it wasn't, but it was free to walk out, so we didn't lose too much. Recently, however, we went to see "Paul, Apostle of Christ," and then the next week, "I Can Only Imagine," both of which were excellent films about faith, hope, love, and our adorable Jesus who loves and saves us. (I would mention that both of them have very intense scenes of suffering, so please look them up online by clicking their titles here, and read about them before you decide to see them yourself, and "I Can Only Imagine" is not suitable for children.)
I mention the theater and the satisfying movies I've seen lately because I find it such a pleasure to watch a good movie - a pleasure and a rare treat. Even with religious movies, it's the rare one that delivers what I'm hoping for, and here God has been showering down good movies upon my head as if they were the heavenly roses I've been boldly requesting. I'll take what I can get and keep praying in ludicrous mode! But since you likely don't have a dollar theater near you, and even if you did, you would often run up against the usual slate of movies unworthy of your gorgeous soul, please do consider spending the price of two normal-movie-theater tickets (and a small popcorn) on one of Marcel's Movies. Because WOW - you are in for a treat!
Here's the deal - on the first one, "Turning Suffering Into Joy," besides the movie itself, one of the special features is an 11 minute clip of an interview with Fr. Antonio Boucher, Marcel's "Bearded Jesus." (You can see his picture on the right at the top of this post.) The interview was done 15 days before Fr. Boucher went to join Marcel in heaven, and it is awesome. I only watched a few minutes of it last night before I had to pause the DVD so I could write down a quote . . . And now - hold onto your hat - the second movie, "The Beatification Process of Marcel Van," includes the full 55 minutes of that interview!
If you can't wait to hear Fr. Boucher on Marcel, you don't actually have to . . . Thanks to Marcel's good friend Jack Keogan, there's yet a third Marcel Movie, and this one available for free online (at Jack's site: marcelvanassociation.com). It's called "Hidden Apostle of Love," and it too has an excerpt of that poignant and powerful interview with Bearded Jesus, Marcel's novice master, spiritual director, and best-earthly-friend and spiritual father.
What got me thinking about Marie and Therese was the unavoidable fact that Fr. Boucher is, in the interview, a very old man reflecting on someone (namely Marcel Van) who was his very good friend on earth, but whom he knows to be now in heaven. Not long before he died, having spent the 20 previous years translating Marcel's writings from Vietnamese into French, Fr. Boucher succeeded in convincing the Church to open Marcel's Cause. Not surprisingly, then, his story reminded me of Marie of the Trinity's. What would life be like if you were close friends with a future Saint? Taking Fr. Boucher's and Marie's lives as examples, we can see that after your Saint friend left you for Jesus-in-Heaven, you'd spend the rest of your own life pondering their messages, writing down what you remembered (if writing is your thing), and praising God for this insanely wonderful gift He'd given you. Oh, and furthering the Cause if there was one, or perhaps working to start a Cause if there wasn't. Or, because a Cause is really, like most everything in the life of a Saint, begun on God's initiative, maybe you'd just go on living your life, but always with the precious memories and inspiration of this friendship which, now that your friend has run the race and reached your common Goal, lights your way to get there too.
But on the other hand, maybe you'd forget about the friend entirely. Until the promoters of the Cause contacted you to give your witness before the official tribunal. Wouldn't that be awkward? What would you say? How about, "I don't know what you're talking about. Who?"
That is, in fact, what one of Marcel's dearest friends, Brother Andrew as he was called in their novitiate days together, said when he was contacted. Wonderfully enough it all made sense eventually, as Brother Andrew (or rather Fr. Joseph as he is now) explains in the foreword at the outset of Marcel's Volume 4, "Other Writings."
It turns out that Brother Andrew and Marcel were such best buds that Brother Andrew prayed, "Jesus, I'm afraid I may love Marcel more than I love You. If that is a danger, please separate us and make me forget Marcel entirely." Doesn't it sound like Brother Andrew was a saint-in-the-making too? This is like praying for humility or suffering, and I urge you: PLEASE DON'T. For myself, I'm more likely to pray, "Jesus, please give me friends who are so good and holy that I'm in danger of loving them more than You!" I am confident He'll make sure He's still my Truest Love, but oh how consoling it is to have another Jesus on this earth to be a friend in exile, just like Marcel had Fr. Boucher (and Fr. Boucher had Marcel).
But alas, Brother Andrew prayed his prayer, and God who is so mighty and so merciful answered it to the letter. So that many decades later, the people in France who contacted Father Joseph (the former Brother Andrew) had to send him the magnificent correspondence between himself and Marcel Van (from many decades before) and even Marcel's other writings too, before Fr. Joseph remembered that yes, he had in fact been a very close friend, a best friend, of Marcel Van's, now that you mention it!
And now I'm going to mention briefly a third way one might react to having been friends with a Saint. If you were me, for instance, and you had the privilege of knowing a Saint in his last years, and being his very good friend, exchanging scads of letters and having miracles happen due to prayers the Saint said for you (while both of you were still on earth), well as I say if you were me in this situation, you'd occasionally remember that you had a best friend ever who was now a Saint, and most of the time you'd just go on forgetting.
Which is why, last night when I realized that I always forget which day is Marcel's feast, his death-in-exile and birth-in-Heaven day, and when I remembered that it is July 15th (I think - if I'm getting it right this time!), and then I remembered too that July 15th was the day (in 2006) that my dear Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E. (Italian missionary extraordinaire and lover of St. Therese from the time he served as an altar boy at the Papal Masses for her beatification and canonization in the early 1920s) with whom I had the privilege to be friends from his 93rd to his 98th year (thank God for longevity!) left this earthly exile for Heaven . . . well, I was floored.
In these two and a half years since I've met and become close friends with Marcel, I've often thought that Fr. Maestrini was orchestrating the whole thing from heaven, right there with St. Therese, making sure Marcel and I became BFFs. Thank you, Father, and forgive me for being (when I'm not remembering) so very forgetful. But then, that's the beauty of Jesus' words to us in Conversations. He's forever telling us through Marcel that forgetting is no problem - it only allows Him to remind us again of the many things we've forgotten!
Thank You, Jesus, for friendship with the Saints: those on earth and those in Heaven. Help us to remember our friends, those who have gone before us to You and those from whom we are separated in this life. Most of all, help us to become Saints so that our memories of each other, even if never called upon as testimony in Causes (!!!), will fortify us, cheer us, move us to tears of joy and awe, and finally bring us to You in Heaven, where we'll live together with each other forever, never to be separated again!
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P.S. Well no, I didn't get it right this time, and the Phil Collins song "I Missed Again" is running through my head . . . I just now looked up Marcel's death-in-exile, birth-in-heaven day and Nope, it's not July 15th as I stated above, nor is it June 10th (the date I thought it was a couple of days ago), but are you ready? It was, is, and ever shall be July 10th (1959). Not that I'll remember, but you might, and do feel free to hit the Contact Me button in the sidebar to let me know next time I flub it here.
Marcel's got nothin' on me - I'm as forgetful as he ever was, and then some! But I have the advantage of his Conversations to remind me that Jesus doesn't mind a single bit. And as a bonus, this little addendum gives me the chance to say Happy Pentecost! Whatever day it is when you read this post, may the Holy Spirit fill your life with friendship and the Saints. As to Fr. Maestrini, his birth into heaven actually was July 15, 2016, and I'm adding a link HERE to introduce you to him and let you know I got that right at least!
P.P.S. I said it was two and a half years since I met Marcel. Actually, no, it's only been one and a half. Time flies when you're having fun, but the flip side is: How could there possibly have been a time I didn't know Marcel? Either way you look at it, reality and truth triumph here in my corner of the Internet, so let it be known that it's been merely a year and a half of Miss Marcel musing (pre- and post-blog). Ad multos annos!!!
The problem with having a blog is that when the truth gobsmacks you (i.e. hits you upside the head, to use a more scientific expression), you feel obliged to share it. Having a blog, you'd be selfish not to share it, and yet a blog is so silly that you know you can never do justice to the truth you're struggling to simultaneously hold onto and give away.
Which reminds me: a devoted reader recently brought to my bird-brained attention that I tend to occasionally split my infinitives. In defense of this particular folly, let me explain that I find myself using such a defamed construction because it best expresses my blondest thoughts and feelings, but even if that were not the case (and perhaps blonde is no longer a politically acceptable defense), I have in my corner no less a raconteur than the great James Thurber, and no less a stylist than the magnificent E.B. White. In my defense I could go on with their defenses at length, and in fact I did just that in the first draft of this post. (Yes, believe it or not I do revise these before I publish!) In the interests of economy, however, I have decided to save that amusing digression for a later date. If we're not economical with our use of the internet, all kinds of dire things may happen. Far be it from me to remind you that the meat is still in the freezer, but speaking generally, you know what I mean. I'll content myself with merely announcing here, for the whole wide online world to see, that according to White (and Strunk) in The Elements of Style: "Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does." An example? "I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow." Not that I can't bring myself to really like the fellow, but Strunk didn't know Marcel, so he's at a disadvantage.
I do sense, however, that even contenting myself with White and sparing you Thurber's hilarious take on the subject (if you must have it, you can find it HERE), I am ambling away from the important and life-changing Truth that compelled me to begin splitting infinitives today. This is not an entirely accidental digression - every part of me, be it grammatical or ungrammatical, humorous or serious, hesitates to dissipate the perfume of grace surrounding the ultimate Mystery I want to relay.
I am always turning to Marcel to solve my problems, always quoting from Conversations because no less an authority than Truth Himself is found there conversing with our little brother. Today, though, I want to begin with St. Therese, the one who first spoke to Marcel and first taught him the truth about God's infinitely tender love for us.
In a letter to Celine, our spiritual sister writes: "You wish to become a Saint, and you ask me if this is not attempting too much. Céline, I will not tell you to aim at the seraphic holiness of the most privileged souls, but rather to be 'perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.' You see that your dream – that our dreams and our desires – are not fancies, since Jesus Himself has laid their realization upon us as a commandment."
Okay, that isn't what I was about to quote, but it's so great that I couldn't resist!
More to the point at hand (and what I was looking for when I found the words just quoted) is the letter Therese wrote to her sister when Celine was about to enter the convent. And here she speaks not only of the perfume we must feel free to dissipate, but also of our tendency to be fools - which is what I feel I am in desiring with all my heart to convey the beauty and richness of two sentences Our Lord speaks to us in the Gospel readings, taken from the Last Supper, that prepare us for Pentecost. These two sentences are what compelled me to begin a new post so soon after my last, and in fact they were on my mind - though they never made it from there through my fingers to the keypad - when I last wrote.
First, then, with Marcel's permission, let me quote his - our - little Therese:
"What happiness . . . to pass for fools in the eyes of the world! We judge others by ourselves, and, as the world will not hearken to reason, it calls us unreasonable too.
"We may console ourselves, we are not the first. Folly was the only crime with which Herod could reproach Our Lord . . . and, after all, Herod was right. Yes, indeed, it was folly to come and seek the poor hearts of mortal men to make them thrones for Him, the King of Glory, Who sitteth above the Cherubim! Was He not supremely happy in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit of Love? Why, then, come down on earth to seek sinners and make of them His closest friends? Nay, our folly could never exceed His, and our deeds are quite within the bounds of reason. The world may leave us alone. I repeat, it is the world that is insane, because it heeds not what Jesus has done and suffered to save it from eternal damnation.
"We are neither idlers nor spendthrifts. Our Divine Master has taken our defense upon Himself. Remember the scene in the house of Lazarus: Martha was serving, while Mary had no thought of food but only of how she could please her Beloved. And 'she broke her alabaster box, and poured out upon her Savior’s Head the precious spikenard, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.'
"The Apostles murmured against Magdalene. This still happens, for so do men murmur against us. Even some fervent Catholics who think our ways are exaggerated, and that – with Martha – we ought to wait upon Jesus, instead of pouring out on Him the odorous ointment of our lives. Yet what does it matter if these ointment-jars – our lives – be broken, since Our Lord is consoled; and the world in spite of itself is forced to inhale the perfumes they give forth? It has much need of these perfumes to purify the unwholesome air it breathes."
As Marcel was before me (and no doubt Celine before Marcel), I am comforted and emboldened by our sister's words. But I also have Marcel to embolden me, and so I can do Therese one better.
She writes: "Folly was the only crime with which Herod could reproach Our Lord . . . and, after all, Herod was right. Yes, indeed, it was folly to come and seek the poor hearts of mortal men to make them thrones for Him, the King of Glory, Who sitteth above the Cherubim!" and then she asks: "Was He not supremely happy in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit of Love? Why, then, come down on earth to seek sinners and make of them His closest friends?"
I can answer that, Therese. You may be a Doctor of the Church, but I have an advantage over you: just as you learned everything at the feet of the Master and with the help of St. John of the Cross, so I learn everything there too, but with your help and Marcel's! Ah, the little grasshopper has become a teacher in his own right, and his audacity inspires my own. I dare, then, to answer your question and tell you precisely why He came down to earth to seek sinners and make of them (us!) His closest friends.
To put it simply: He couldn't help Himself.
As you say, dear Therese, "Our folly could never exceed His, and our deeds are quite within the bounds of reason." But come to think of it, His deeds were quite reasonable too . . . St. Thomas tells us: “The lover is not content with a superficial apprehension of the beloved, but strives to investigate from the inside all particular things that belong to the beloved, so as to penetrate to his inmost being.” Or again, in the words of our holy father St. John of the Cross, “This is the property of love: to seek out all the good things of the Beloved.”
How then could Jesus NOT come down to live among us?
I grant you His taste in friends is surprising, but there is no accounting for taste, as one of my dearest friends used to love to repeat. And we have His own words, His guarantee, that He is here among us still for precisely that reason: For Love, for His and the Father's Love for us, unaccountable and mysterious as such perfect Love may be.
I sometimes wonder why I take so long to get to the point. I'm sure others sometimes wonder this too, but today I have a defense of even this folly: I ramble and digress because when the point is as magnificent as Jesus' points always are, there is no possible commentary I could make after putting bare Truth on the bare page. I want to give the world His words to transform us all, but I know my presentation will always lack the simplicity and depth of His, no matter how few or many words I use.
As St. John of the Cross says, “The Father spoke one word from all eternity and He spoke it in silence and it is only in silence that we hear it.”
Yes, but it warms my heart to know that the Son, who is this single Word spoken by the Father, Himself used many, many words to convey to us what He had come to reveal, and none more moving and revealing (at least to me) than those He spoke on the night before He died.
Among those words He spoke at the Last Supper are Jesus' words for today, the few words that unleashed so many of mine, the Truth that hit me upside the head and compelled me to split infinitives and then defend myself. Believe me, I did originally consider putting these words alone on the page and calling them a post, because I'm well aware how little I can add once His words are out there. But where would be the sport in that? Where the Marcellian littleness? When did Jesus' words ever inspire silence in my namesake? I will only spare you the litany of my complaints (a la Marcel and the oozing sandals, the hot room, the too tight soutane, and so on and so forth) because such complaints are better whispered to Jesus who is, according to Marcel, to blame. As to the folly of my blathering, my best defense is that it precedes Jesus' eternal wisdom, rather than follows it, and that's the best I can do.
And so I will end now with Jesus' words, the ones I wanted to start with. Oh, and speaking of starting, don't even get me started on ending with a preposition! But enough of me, here is our Jesus, telling us plain as plain why He had to come live with us and why He will remain with us through all days until He scoops us into His arms and Heaven forever.
First, speaking to us directly, He says:
"As the Father loves Me, so I love you. Remain in My love." (John 15)
And then, speaking to the Father:
"And I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one, as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that You sent Me, and that You loved them even as You loved Me. Father, they are Your gift to Me. I wish that where I am they also may be with Me . . . I made known to them Your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them." (John 17)
Truth Himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true. I pray that His words may penetrate your heart and, by His Power, transform your life. May you know, at least for a moment and hopefully for a lifetime, that you are loved and beloved, and may this perfect love with which God loves you cast out all fear, now and forever!
Each day we must build up our stock of joy,
in the form which constitutes the highest and purest joy,
in the form of wonder.
--Father Maurice Zundel
I have told you this so that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.
Today is officially the first day of my husband's and my 30th wedding anniversary. I have the vague impression that other people confine their anniversaries (of their births, their weddings, even Mother's Day) to merely one day, but fortunately I now have this blog wherein I can set the rest of the world straight.
Remember how Heaven will be eternal bliss as we gaze on the Face of of God, our Love, forever? And remember how our life of grace on earth is a foretaste of Heaven? (I know sometimes it doesn't taste like Heaven, but go with me on this one; St. Thomas tells us so, and he's not the only one.)
Well, my policy is becoming clearer to me: We must practice extending our celebrations by increasing the time we allow ourselves for wonder and joy. We wouldn't want Heaven to be a complete change of activity from what we do now, but we're all in such a rush and such a tizzy down here (myself very much included), that anniversaries of every kind may be our last chance to slow down and revel in the miracle of His plan.
Have I told you yet about my husband's famous line about our anniversary? It was 10 years ago, and if you do the math, you'll find that was on or around our 20th wedding anniversary. It was the beginning of summer (this week back then, in fact, so we're now actually celebrating the 10th anniversary of this priceless moment of husbandly courage and candor), and naturally I was beginning to plan how to milk our anniversary (which on the calendar comes in August) for all it was worth. So I said to my husband, the moment his school year ended, "Honey, this is the summer of our 20th anniversary! What shall we do to celebrate it?"
Let me defend him before I cast him into the abyss of Too Much Truth. It is likely that having been married to me for 20 years, he knew me well enough at that point to know my expectations for our special day (which I was considering our special summer) might be just a tad high. Not like, "Let's splurge and go out to dinner at a place where they give you two forks" high, but more like "Shall we take a world tour, or simply go to Europe and see every Saintly place the Continent has to offer?" high.
And so, because the best defense is a good offence, Tony looked at me, his beloved bride, and blurted out, "I'd rather go to the dentist than have our 20th anniversary."
Translate: "At least when you go to the dentist, you know there will be an end to the event." Or perhaps a more literal translation would be, "I love you darling, and I'd marry you all over again, but I'm already exhausted and I'm not ready to spend my whole summer celebrating when I know this is going to turn out badly. At least the dentist gives me a new toothbrush."
The upshot was that I laughed very hard, we started on a level playing field, and wonderfully enough, we came up with a list of fun activities for the whole summer - mostly local; none overseas - and had the best 20th anniversary time ever. And true to form, five years later when our 25th anniversary rolled around, my absent minded professor actually did (inadvertently) schedule a dentist appointment for our special day!
You can see my conundrum. It's our 30th, and the only obvious solution for a man with this attitude is a root canal. And yet that wouldn't be sporting: I'm all for togetherness, but I never said I'd rather go to the dentist than anything at all, let alone substitute it for our anniversary.
Luckily, I'm beginning to see that God's got this, like absolutely everything else. And so my wonder begins as this day dawns, May 15th and the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, whose wife was a Saint too. Do you think it was for not whacking him over the head with a farm implement when he said he'd rather have a tooth pulled than celebrate their 20th?
In fact we didn't actually get married on this day, but it was the day we quickly decided upon when my husband proposed and I, after a momentary lapse during which my life flashed before my eyes and I consequently and uncharacteristically paused before speaking, and he said (the man is hilarious), "You can tell me tomorrow if you want," thus startling me out of my brief reverie so that I yelled (or sweetly responded, eyes downcast under dew-tipped lashes; I forget which): "Yes!" -- to marrying him, not to waiting until the next day.
As I recall, we then looked at each other in awe and wonder. Really.
I said, "Are you sure?" and he laughed and assured me he was sure.
We continued to gaze at each other in awe, and one of us (me?) said, "We can raise lots of children up to heaven!" and the other (that would be him) heartily agreed, both of us lost in the wonder of God's plan for our future. And then we wondered aloud together how soon we could possibly get married and came up with the first Saturday after school was over (then it was grad school, but school it always is for us) which happened in that year to be the Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer.
Which brings me at last to the subject of this post: Joy in God's plan. Which plan, I might add, is so often not ours. At least not our Plan A - you know, the plan we have so that God can replace it with Plan B.
Grammatically, "joy in God's plan" could mean at least two things: The plan of joy God has for us, or, on the other hand, the joy we take in the plan of God. Luckily for those of us bears with little brains, they amount to the same thing, for as Jesus told us two thousand years ago (and yesterday) through the Apostles at the Last Supper, His desire is that His own joy fill us so that our joy may be complete. And just to confirm that His intentions haven't changed, He tells us again today through Marcel something similar in their Conversations:
"Be joyful little brother, never give in to sadness" (404),
"You must always be joyful" (549),
and speaking of what St. Therese has told Marcel,
"She does not cease to remind you that, even in difficulties, you must never be sad but always joyful. I myself have just told you the same thing, assuring you that I continue to smile on you and to give you kisses . . . So, Marcel, be joyful and say again to me: 'Little Jesus, I love you. O little Jesus, come with me.' I love you very much, Marcel, I am very happy with you and when I see you joyful, I am happier still" (241).
Our dear Mother Mary, too, repeatedly tells us through Marcel in their Conversations:
"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" (284).
I guess the tears come first in frustration, which Our dear Lord shed too, twice at least we know from the Gospels. As one of my favorite sermons from my favorite Book of Sermons (which you can see by clicking HERE) has it: "Christ, Our Lord, was a prey to incidentals. He was a victim of incessant annoyances which left Him no peace. He could never carry out without interruptions what He planned to do."
Isn't that our life exactly?
And so, in God's eternal design, my husband and I didn't get married on this day thirty years ago, but a few months down the road. And the sequel has been just as funny: our "lots of children" we've been raising to heaven have been two unimaginably wonderful sons, not a dozen. And finally, as if to remind us that He's still full of surprises and His plan is still better than ours, the first jaunt of our summer this year, which was to begin yesterday and would have landed us today in a tropical paradise for the beginning of our anniversary festivities, was at the very last minute postponed. Not to mention the tropical paradise is seeing massive rain, with thunderstorms projected into the indeterminate future!
Again, the sequel is just as delightful. Because God's plan trumped ours, I ended up in church yesterday afternoon, rather than on a plane. Right there I was able to practice turning my tears into joy, although I admit it wasn't hard to rejoice at finding myself on solid ground in God's large house rather than in a cramped metal tube flying far above the earth but well below Heaven . . .
Furthermore, it was a particularly wonderful visit to church because it included an unexpected (but irresistible) confession with a holy and gentle priest (my confession, not his), and Mass with a Gospel reading that strung together a series of sparkling words straight from Our Lord's Heart, each brighter and more beautiful than the one before.
Soon I was so overwhelmed by God's love that I had to amuse myself with Marcel's trick of distracting himself so as not to get into trouble. I was in such awe at Jesus' words, the relics He's left us, that I was afraid I might swoon if I didn't change the subject. Okay, it did occur to me that all this holiness and intensity of devotion might be the effect of half a Coke I'd drunk an hour before, but after consulting with friends (one of whom was wondering if the cup of coffee she'd had earlier was responsible for her similar reaction to the Gospel) we decided no, what we were experiencing was really the thrill of Jesus' words of love. And it occurred to me that our usual distraction is just His infinite mercy keeping us from dying of love too soon, which would happen if we had any awareness of the depths and heights of His love for us. But when, despite our best efforts to spend Mass thinking of what we'll eat for lunch or dinner, the wonder of His infinite Love threatens to bowl us over, we can turn to Marcel for advice on how to stay upright. He knows a thing or two about staying focused, it turns out, and comically, it's not much different than where we started. Here is what he wrote to Brother Andrew in 22 May 1949:
"I am giving you this advice when you go into town: you must be very attentive, I mean do not be immersed in deep meditation, as happened to me several times to my misfortune. So, from now on, when I go to town on my bicycle, beforehand, when I go to the oratory to ask Jesus' blessing, I have to force myself to adopt a nonchalant air so as to avoid that the intimacy with which Jesus gives me His blessing does not make me feel its effect as far as the town. In acting this way, with an air of not having any intimacy with Jesus, my intention is to avoid being distracted, as happened more than once, as when I was already in town and I believed I was still sitting peacefully on my bench in the oratory . . . ! Because of that it happened to me once, and even many times that I had funny adventures on the road. I will tell you of one to help you to be on your guard.
"One afternoon, when I had gone to town, I do not know on what business, I was returning to the house and I could not have been happier! My mind was probably in the clouds - perhaps also because I was chatting too intimately with Jesus - and I pedaled without knowing too well where I was at. Suddenly, I saw vaguely in front of me some people who were walking four abreast in the middle of the road. You know well the width of this road which stretches from the coconut market to Hang Bot. However, they marched in ranks of four although there were only four of them. I had hardly noticed them, me being behind them, for they were going in the same direction as me. I was afraid. I wanted to ring the bell, but alas, there was not one. I hurried to apply the brakes, once again a problem! You know the state of the bicycles at the Thai-Ha community. I was really frightened, it was impossible for me to get out of it: If I turn to the right I fall on the track of the electric trams, if I turn to the left I hit the fourth person. I therefore cried out "Xe!" ["Motor!"], resigning myself to land on the tram lines; I had, unfortunately, not the time to do so, as my bicycle turned suddenly on the person who was marching near it. I fell to the ground. I do not know if I felt any pain, all I do know is that the lady I had struck did not stop whistling between her teeth to express her annoyance. I got up quickly, both bothered and a little unhappy, but I was able to contain myself immediately. It was not possible for me, a religious, to argue with a young woman in the street. Really that would have been-
"I remained calm, therefore, although I would have had reason to reproach them. I hurriedly apologized to the young lady asking her if she had been hurt. She replied by muttering in her teeth, reproaching me for this and that. Her three friends joined her to complain . . . I did have a little consolation: the three young ladies, in spite of everything, in speaking to me favored me with the title of sir. [In Vietnam this term was used for men over 40. Marcel was 21!] It was not too bad, after this adventure, to be called sir. I allowed them to get things off their chests and then remounted my bicycle. But the young ladies continued: has sir learnt to ride a bicycle? So is sir blind?
"As for me, back down to earth, I questioned myself to determine the cause of this amusing adventure. I remember very well that my eyes were wide open. I would never dare close my eyes as the little girl of Lisieux once did. But, nevertheless I hit someone whilst riding the bicycle on the road. Although I reflected a lot all the way back to the house, I could not find any explanation. It is only later that I remembered this: in passing in front of the church in Hang-Bot, inadvertently I took off my hat to salute Jesus in a very intimate manner, so that, throughout the journey, my mind was wandering all over the place . . . ! I did not stop reproaching Jesus, and after that I paid great attention. But alas! My Brother, there remains the rest of the journey to finish. Sometimes, even if I pay attention, it happens that my mind wanders here and there." (Correspondence)
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Oh dearest little brother, Marcel! You are so wonderful that you fill me with joy! Even when you are advising me how not to die of love (not any old death of love, but dying by getting into an accident while multi-tasking by driving and chatting with Jesus, for instance), you leave me in doubt as to whether your mind "wandering all over the place" was like mine, occupied with trivia, or like our sister's, absorbed often in God. And even when you are absorbed in God, what could be more imitable and delightful than your conversations with Him, wherein He reveals to you His burning love, and you reveal to Him your oh so understandable, if seemingly trivial, concerns.
Jesus: Little Marcel, do you love me?
Marcel: Yes, I love you.
Jesus: But how do you love me?
Marcel: I love you so much that it is impossible for me to express it.
Jesus: In that case, you must never worry. When I say something to you, you must listen straight away.
Marcel: But, little Jesus, why does Brother Mark behave so harshly towards me? Do not forget that I can place the fault at your feet since it is you who live in Brother Mark; it is you who allow him to make me suffer. . . (Conversations, 351)
You can see why my joy and wonder return again and again to Marcel. Who but our nutty little brother could get away with blaming Jesus for everything?! What a wonderful example for us to follow! But remember to save such intimate blaming for a time when you are not driving, or you may find yourself blaming Him face to Face!
As to yesterday's Gospel and my need to distract myself from Jesus' words there, well I knew I'd be driving home afterward, so that can be my excuse for not wanting to die of love just then. Not to mention that we haven't finished raising son #2, nor the disappointment my husband would feel if I were not here to badger him into a series of remarkable anniversary adventures.
I'm sure you too have many reasons to stay on this earth a while longer: people who need you, who love you, for whom this earth would be too far from Heaven if you went away too soon. Careful, then, with the words that follow. I've been waiting for years to share them with you, and I will end with them today, on the feast of St. Isidore the Farmer (and by implication, his adorable saintly wife, Maria). They are words all straight from Jesus - the first set spoken to us through St. Gertrude the Great, and the rest at the Last Supper and in yesterday's Gospel.
"My daughter, seek those words of mine which most exude love. Write them down, and then, keeping them preciously like relics, take care to reread them often . . . Be assured, then, that the most precious relics of mine on earth are my words of love, the words which have come from my most sweet Heart." (words of Our Lord to St. Gertrude)
Is it any surprise that my most precious possession is my copy of Marcel's Conversations with Jesus?
"Jesus said to His disciples, 'As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is My commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father. It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. This I command you: love one another.'" (Jn 15:9-17)
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God's plans for my yesterday prevailed in spades, and as per His custom, brought me great joy. When I went online to rearrange my plans to fit His, I found that Marcel had snuck back onto Catholic Exchange, HERE. I was enraptured, once again, by Jesus' words. As if that wasn't enough, my French connection informed me that if I went HERE and HERE, I would find the two best gifts (anniversary, Mother's Day, St. Isidore the Farmer Day gifts - any excuse will do) ever - a pair of DVDs on Marcel! They are now available in the U.S. for $20 each with free shipping, and one of them includes the nearly hour long recording of Fr. Antonio Boucher, Marcel's novice master, spiritual director, and "Bearded Jesus," speaking of his dear little Marcel. This was taped only 15 days before Fr. Boucher went to meet Marcel and Jesus in Heaven! I couldn't have concluded this post without telling you of this bounty and sharing it with you through the wonders of the clickable internet. I hope I have refilled your stock of joy for today, and I hope that wherever you go next, you will take the intimacy of Jesus' love with you. But remember: drive safely!
"As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. Remain in My love. . . I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father . . . I have much more to tell you now, but you cannot bear it. But when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all truth . . .It is expedient for you that I depart, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you . . . These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you, but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you."
These words all come from Jesus' Last Supper with His best friends, and you can find them in the Gospel recorded by one of those best friends, John, who that night rested his head on Jesus' chest and heard the beating of His Sacred Heart, as well as His many words and promises of Love.
Last night I had the privilege of attending another sort of last supper among best friends. My husband teaches at Thomas Aquinas College, a small school of less than 400 students. As we did when we were graduating from the same place 31 years ago, the students gathered with their teachers and chaplains for the Presidents' Dinner in St. Joseph Commons.
(Afterward we all went bowling - last night and 31 years ago. Let me just say that although it seems like bad sportsmanship to refuse "double or nothing" after you've won a hard fought game, I'd refuse it if I were you. The likely outcome if you take it and then bowl like me is that you'll end up with nothing, though much laughter will lead you there. Suffice it to say that after my terrible beginning and before my similarly unhappy ending, I did play an impressive game in the middle.)
My favorite part of the evening, hands down, is the toasts the students and faculty make. It's a last chance to give public witness to the friendships that Heaven has given here: the Heavenly friendships which are, in my opinion, the greatest treasures (outside the Sacraments) on this earth; the friendships which, in many cases, will continue with this intensity only when we are re-united in Heaven forever.
This was the 11th such farewell dinner that my husband and I have attended since we returned to our alma mater exactly 20 years after our own President's Dinner. In the interim, we were blessed to be part of the Christendom College community where my husband taught for 14 years. There, too, this time of year is a season of warm and poignant good-byes as students (and faculty) bid farewell to friends made during four years spent living together in the hard-fought pursuit of virtue and Truth.
The news in the world and the Church can be so depressing. My advice is to ignore it as much as possible. Christ alone gives true peace; as He said, "Not as the world gives do I give." My husband and I have seen the reputations of our two dear colleges rise and fall and rise again, depending on the perspective (often skewed, sometimes hilarious, frequently biased) of the portion of the world momentarily interested in our aforesaid common pursuit of virtue and Truth.
What do I know from long experience living in the heart of these communities?
Only God is perfect. And every perfect gift comes from Him. A college, however faithful to the Magisterium (and these colleges are as faithful as the day is long - and the day is very, very long), is an imperfect institution because it is made up of imperfect men and women. But among our imperfection, the perfect gifts He gives are so beautiful to behold . . . And among these perfect gifts, friendship is among the greatest. Friendship with Him, ripening into Easter vigils full of blooming young lilies whose lives are newly baptized and pledged unto death. Friendship with each other, which will sustain the separate pursuits of virtue and Truth which once were sought together. Friendship which comes from Heaven and will be fulfilled in Heaven.
My best friends of college days were, as with the students who toasted each other last night, almost beyond counting - which is funny when you consider how relatively small Thomas Aquinas College is. But if I was forced to count, if I had to toast in the limited time available, I'd want to remember three friends in particular. One is my husband, who sleeps while I write. The other two (Jackie and Jon, since they were not nameless, but have names I invoke regularly) are even nearer to me as I write - as near as Heaven, which I'm confident they now call Home.
The toasts last night ended with a final benediction from our oldest chaplain, Fr. Cornelius Buckley of the Society of Jesus. He does great honor to his forebears, St. Ignatius and Francis Xavier, for he is as merry as he is holy, and as much a friend (and fan of friendship) as they were back in the day. He thanked God for this time, this dinner among friends, a dinner which he noted was "the last time we'd all be together like this until the Heavenly Banquet."
The evening had, as always, brought tears to my eyes: tears of gratitude that God has let me live in such places, among such saintly people, amidst such Heavenly friendship. With Father's final blessing, I felt a fuller measure of gratitude, love, and joy. While it's true that good-byes are hard, they are always only temporary. Not only do we have the joy of spending time, however long or fleeting, with friends in this life, but we have the hope and promise of spending eternity with them. That means Forever! Toasts unlimited, joy galore, seeing God face to Face and each other in all our future glory. Can you imagine how magnificent that will be? How good God is!
Reading Marcel is such a pleasure because he is so very human (read: poor, weak, little, imperfect), and yet while experiencing the depths of our human condition, he was brought by Jesus to the heights as well. And if I had to choose two words to explain how Jesus brought our brother Marcel to the heights, those two words would be Heavenly friendships.
When you begin to know of Marcel, even the least little bit, the first thing that jumps out at you is his friendship with St. Therese. He asked her to be his big sister and she responded with a resounding "Yes!" and lots more to say besides. They became the best of friends, and it wasn't long before Jesus, too, began speaking to Marcel, speaking as a friend speaks to a friend. Mary's role is that of a Mother, and she is Mother par excellence to Marcel, but as a mother I like to think that this mothering relationship doesn't exclude friendship. Rather, like marriage it is a special form of friendship. So there we have it: Marcel's heavenly friendships are with none other than Jesus, Mary, and Therese. You can see why I cherish his Conversations: they are the record of these intimate friendships with God, His Mother, and His dear little Therese, "the greatest saint of modern times."
But like a ginsu knife commercial - Wait! There's more!
Recently I've been realizing that Marcel's Heavenly friendships also include two more types. I won't leave you in suspense: the first is with us! But before he got to Heaven in order to initiate friendships with us like St. Therese had with him, he had heavenly friendships on earth with people wayfaring just like he was. And the words he and his friends exchanged are worth noting because they teach us so much about our own experience - that past, and that to come.
When Van was just a boy, shortly after he'd chosen Therese to be his big sister and she'd come to instruct him, he himself became the teacher of his little friend Hien. After Van told Hien much of what Therese had taught (while keeping the extent of his friendship with Therese a secret), Hien responded:
"Van, you are truly very fortunate! Frankly, until now I had never heard it said that there are such intimate relations between earth and heaven. O Van, I wish to have no other spiritual sister than your spiritual sister! . . . Also, Van, from today I am choosing you as my spiritual brother so that you may be my guide on the way of perfection, since I am still very imperfect." (Autobiography 637)
Marcel writes, "From that moment Hien and I, like two flowers from the same stem, lived closely together, helping one another in our ascent towards God . . . I noticed shortly afterwards that the divine grace acting in his soul enabled him to make rapid progress. It could be said that we had both arrived at a level of the spiritual life which could be described as reckless since we allowed ourselves to be guided by this doctrine of Therese: one responds to love by love and a perfect confidence" (638).
Let me interject that Marcel took great joy in the resemblance between his life and that of Therese - and here is a great example of similarity. His account of his friendship with Hien reminds me so much of Therese's account, in Story of a Soul, of her friendship with Celine when they too were young and falling in love with Jesus.
But what captures my heart even more than Marcel's commentary on this friendship is the remark Hien made to him one day: "Van, I think that if I had never met anyone in my life like you to understand me, I would have probably died of sadness" (639).
I have good news. Just as it took Therese to come down and understand Van to keep him from dying of sadness in this exile, and just as Van was immediately (after meeting Therese) willing to share her love (Jesus' love) with Hien, so we too are next in line to receive Heavenly friendships, and in particular the friendship of our dear brother Marcel Van. Listen to what he says after quoting Hien's tribute to him:
"Hien has been my first little brother, the first flower of the season. It is St. Therese who has enabled me to find him, pick him, and offer him to God."
There would be no point in Marcel speaking of Hien as his "first little brother" unless he planned on having more of the same! And there would be no point in my having written about the beautiful friendships I'm privileged to witness and partake in, unless I had such friendships to offer you, dear reader! You don't even need to have (yet) the confidence that Therese and Marcel prescribe. That confidence will come as you more and more see God's goodness, but meanwhile I will have confidence for you. I am completely confident that Marcel, with Therese's help, will become an intimate Heavenly friend to you, happy to teach you his big sister's secrets - the secrets of Jesus' passionate Love for you - and happy to accompany you through this exile until you reach your true Home and all your Heavenly friends at the Father's House.
This year I'm especially moved by the graduations at my two beloved colleges coinciding quite perfectly with Jesus' Ascension. And when I'm tempted to be sad about Jesus seeming to leave us (will you judge me harshly if I tell you I've been saying the glorious mysteries since Easter and making the first two mysteries the Resurrection, while leaving out the Ascension?), I remind myself that He didn't leave without the promise which will keep us from dying of sadness. In Matthew's Gospel, Our Lord's last words (and this at His Ascension) are "Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."
We have Him here with us in the Blessed Sacrament, and we can meet each other there, in Him, Heavenly friends old and new, those in Heaven now, and those still on earth.
There will be many reunions for friends who must part soon: marriages, ordinations, first vows, baptisms, alumni days, and, dare I say it, funerals. I do not regret my two college friends' departure for better climes, though I sometimes recriminate them for leaving me here while they go to eternal bliss. No matter - I have Jesus as they do, even if I'm more easily distracted from Him. And they will not forget to remind Him about me, even if He could forget me for an instant!
I hope you too are blessed with a multitude of Heavenly friends, and that you are not too often parted from them during our earthly pilgrimage. As to the end of the pilgrimage - may you not be too surprised by the Love of God in Himself and His friends (and yours) when you get there!
Finally, speaking of pilgrimages, my second son Dominic is on one now - after a day in Fatima with friends kind enough to take him with them to Portugal, they are on their way today, on Ascension Thursday, along the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela, scheduled to arrive there on Pentecost. I can only say: never underestimate the power of Heavenly friendships, and please in your charity offer an Ave for their safe and holy travels, as I offer an Ave in thanks for yours! God is really all that good, and then some.
I've been trying to write this post since May 1st, St. Joseph's day. Well, maybe "trying" is too strong a word. How about "desiring"?
I'm hoping today is the day . . . and I've decided to say that whenever I get this up (and whenever you see it, which I realize might not be the instant I post it), let's call it St. Joseph's day! After all, we can honor dear and good St. Joseph any and every day - and St. Andre Bessette, the wonderful Holy Cross doorkeeper in Montreal, builder of St. Joseph's Oratory and the one who fired me with love for St. Joseph this past May 1st in the wee hours, encourages us to do just that: to celebrate, turn to, and rely upon our dear friend and father St. Joseph every single moment. So here goes!
I've been saying a novena to little St. Therese. I started with 3 big intentions, but before I knew it (as usual) the novena list had expanded. Why waste all those potential miracles? The novena was set to end just in time for April 29th, which I discovered, after I'd begun my 9 days, was the 95th anniversary of our sister's beatification. That was a lovely surprise indeed, but just to be fair I gave Therese until May 1st, St. Joseph's day, since I kept piling on the requests.
Oh my heavens! When St. Joseph's day came, I read some inspiring stuff about St. Andre's love and dependence on him, and I realized I should make this a double whammy novena. So I'm continuing it through the octave of St. Joseph's feast, and I've added in one extra very special request - that St. Therese and St. Joseph grant great blessings to all who read Miss Marcel's Musings and/or this post! Miracles unlimited, just waiting for the recipient to stand under Therese's (and Marcel's) shower of roses! Here, step forward just a smidge - perfect! You are poised to have heavenly rose petals raining down upon your sweet head!
I spoke to a friend last night, my East Coast Miss Marcel. She figures into one of the original 3 novena requests, and she had great news. About the time the novena originally ended, the request I'd made for her was granted. Well, granted a little. Now I'm busy telling Therese and Marcel and Joseph that we are grateful for the sign - but no more joking around! They have access to God's infinite Love and unending compassion, so I'd like to see some really BIG roses, if they can just stop horsing around for a minute. This is what I get for giving Therese an inch (and a few extra days) - she can't help teasing! No wonder she and Marcel get along so well!
But while we wait for the serious outpouring of graces, I may as well entertain you by telling you what I read from Brother Andre that got me so fired up. It was in an ebook (which I found on amazon) called "Go to St. Joseph: Do whatever he tells you," by Brian Kiczek. There are lots of wonderful things in this book, but here is what Brother Andre said that I loved the most, and that reminded me of Marcel and Jesus:
"When praying, one speaks to God as one speaks to a friend,"
"When you say to God, Our Father, He has His ear right next to your lips. There is so little distance between heaven and earth that God always hears us. Nothing but a thin veil separates us from God."
"When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don't have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend Saint Joseph . . . Tell him, 'If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well pray for this on my behalf.'"
Have you heard that saying, "The proof is in the pudding"? Well St. Andre's pudding was full of miracles. He was a thaumaturgist, a very cool thing to be because it means a miracle worker. Of course it's God who does all the miracles really, but this is a word that applies to those for whom He very regularly does those miracles at their request.
St. Andre's job for a zillion or so years (he lived to be quite old, as you can imagine) was to be the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal. He didn't have much education, his health wasn't good, and this was the humble task his superiors assigned him. Forever.
Perfect! A doorkeeper doesn't just open the door randomly - he opens it for the people who want to come in. And if he's a really lovable and loving doorkeeper, soon people want to come in to talk to him while he's holding the door open! This is what happened, and the crowds got bigger and the people more interested in seeing him as the news spread that all you had to do was ask him to pray for you and WHAM! Miracles unlimited!
The author of this ebook quotes Cardinal Turcotte saying of St. Andre, "He was convinced that God could use him to accomplish wonderful things." And then Brain K. goes on to say, "We should be just as convinced that God can use us to accomplish wonderful things, especially if we 'Go to Joseph.'" Because St. Andre had a particular BFF, and that very bestest friend was St. Joseph. Like any good thaumaturgist, Andre knew he had no power - his weakness was his strength, attracting the love of God and the love of God's foster father, and clearly, after all, you only had to depend on THEM to get the job done! For his part, he quipped, "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained for forty years." I love it!
But back to our proverb. It turns out (thank you, Google) that the original of "The proof is in the pudding" is actually "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." This means we have to taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good. St. Andre's pudding (which is really St. Joseph's pudding, because Andre turned to St. Joseph with all requests brought to him) is full of miracles - and so is Therese's pudding. In order to prove it, though, we've got to try it ourselves.
As usual, there's so much more I want to say. About the Saints and their nearness to us and to Jesus; about how He uses them (and how they love to be used!) to show His own more-than-nearness to us. Oh, if only I could tell you what I've learned from Marcel!
I will content myself with telling you this:
When I first read Story of a Soul when I was about 20, I was struck by the tender intimacy St. Therese had with Jesus. This love that I'd hoped to have with Him - I saw in this book that such love was possible because here it was in action!
Thirty years later when I first read Conversations, Marcel showed me that Therese's close relationship with Jesus was not only imitable but even surpassable! She and he and Jesus all give the same condition. We need only be weaker than Therese. I can do that! Okay, then we need to surrender to Jesus - that seems more of a challenge, but what do we have to lose?
In the end (and at the beginning and in the middle, for that matter) whether we are weak or strong, we are called to this same intimacy - Jesus is longing for us to be as close to Him as St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother were to Him when the three of them lived together in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth. Marcel had that kind of closeness to Him - you see it in Conversations on every page, and I can never get enough of the encouragement that gives us.
Are you ready? This is the umpteenth intention I'm adding to my novena, and I'm sure Therese and Marcel and St. Joseph will obtain if for me, because it is God's greatest desire (and He is God, so He gets what He wants) - May you be drawn into Jesus' embrace so intimately that the two of you never let each other go!
And now while you're there, so close to Jesus' Sacred Heart, whisper to Him everything you need. He's so mighty and so merciful, you will obtain from Him as much as you hope for!
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If you, like me, can't get enough of Marcel, you will be delighted (like I am!) to know that he appeared at Our Sunday Visitor this week in a wonderful article by Jim Graves HERE. May our Heavenly Father rain down roses on Jim's head too!
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.