As usual, I have so much to say, I don't know quite where to begin. Even coming up with a title for this post was tricky. So many truths, so little time! And what to focus on when God's blessings have been so bountiful?
Like our sister St. Therese, Marcel and I hope to spend eternity singing the mercies of the Lord. Actually, to be quite literal, Marcel is already in that blessed eternity singing away like a little songbird with full throated joy. But for those of us who are his younger and weaker siblings still in exile, I write this post to make his ecstatic song, Therese's, and ours ring out over the earth. May God be praised for never forgetting the little ones. He never forgets - quite to the contrary, He lifts us onto His lap (when He can pry us off Mother Mary's knees!) and carries us in His arms. I have new evidence of this Love beyond telling, and I'm so very grateful for the chance to sing His Mercies for you!
We are meeting in this post to continue our year long journey through Story of a Soul. May, called by the French "Mai" and called by Marcel "Mother" (in honor of Our Lady, whose month it is!), is the fifth month of the year in any language, and that means for us Chapter Five of our little sister's autobiography. Hooray!
Before we open our sister's book, however, we must take a peek into our brother's pages. Not his Autobiography, splendid as that is, but rather his Conversations, our book of choice at Miss Marcel's Musings.
A couple of weeks ago on May 7th (but a few years back, in 1946), Marcel transcribed a conversation he had with Jesus in which, after Jesus reported having been to France for a short time, Marcel replies:
"So, little Jesus, why did you not take me with you? I wished to go to France to see my sister Therese's room and also the Buissonnets. I regret very much that you did not take me with you."
Later in the conversation, Therese gets involved and promises Marcel, "In a short while I will take you to France, so that you may enjoy the countryside at your leisure" (Conversations, 633).
Marcel, not having been born yesterday (he was almost 16 in May of 1946), asks pointedly:
"But, my sister, when will that happen?"
To which Therese responds cagily: "That will happen later, no other time."
Our little brother, savvy teen, catches her out:
"Later, that surely means when I am in heaven, not anything else. But when I am in heaven, even if you do not take me there, I will go to France nevertheless to see if the children are well behaved."
Can you guess the sequel?
I really don't know if Therese ever took Marcel to France once he got to heaven. But I didn't want to take chances regarding the fullness of his eternal bliss, so I took him myself this month! To France! Really and truly!
Which means that when we read Chapter Five of Story of a Soul for this month's Book Club (and anytime I re-read it here-on-after), Marcel and I can assure you that THESE PLACES REALLY EXIST because we've been to them!
Therese tells us in this chapter about her wonderful Christmas conversion. Marcel has loved this moment ever since he first read about it, for he saw reflected in his own life a parallel Christmas conversion, and it sealed the deal of his love for Therese to know that God had dealt with them in the same miraculous way on the same Miraculous Night. But now Marcel not only knows it from Therese's writings, from his conversations with her, from the Beatific Vision, but also from GOING TO FRANCE at last, to Les Buissonnets, Therese's childhood home where the fireplace that witnessed her conversion can be seen and touched (and was!) by the likes of us in 2019!
My guess is that the Midnight Mass she attended that Christmas Eve was at her parish church (a 13th century Gothic cathedral), St. Pierre. We went there too!
The staircase she climbed up to her room - we climbed up it too!
She writes also in this chapter about her prayers for the murderer Pranzini's conversion. He was, as she later referred to him, her "first-born," and as she used to say when having Masses said for him (to shorten his purgatory, no doubt), "He was very naughty!"
Marcel and I saw the crucifix (a small black standing crucifix) before which Therese prayed for her naughty son! And we even saw a recent edition of "La Croix," the newspaper in which she read of Pranzini's last-second grasping and kissing of the chaplain's crucifix as he took his final steps to the guillotine and eternal life!
I think Marcel was paying more attention than I was at Les Buissonnets, but after we left, I realized I'd forgotten to look for "the Belvedere" - the upper room where Celine and Therese had their spiritual conversations and rivaled St. Augustine and St. Monica in their mystical delight and ecstasy at the Creator's marvels. So . . . of course we had to go back for a second visit! There, way up high, were the windows out of which Celine and Therese had looked, "with enraptured gaze" beholding "the white moon rising quietly behind the tall trees, the silvery rays it was casting upon sleeping nature, the bright stars twinkling in the skies, the light breath of the evening breeze making the snowy clouds float easily along." As she tells us, all this raised their souls to heaven, "that beautiful heaven whose 'obverse side' alone we were able to contemplate."
Marcel and I couldn't go out late at night (the sun set so very late there this time of year - at nearly 10 pm!), but we saw those tall trees upon which Therese and Celine gazed, and we were under that same French moon and twinkling stars, felt that same evening breeze, saw the snowy clouds in Lisieux skies . . . and we (Marcel and I - and my husband, who came along too) will never be the same!
Therese chose the feast of Pentecost as the day to break the news of her vocation - her very early-to-the-monastery-vocation - to her beloved Papa. Pentecost was on May 29 in that year of 1887 (Marcel's Pentecost of 1946 will be the same day as ours this year). So it was in this darling month of Mother (May, Mai) that our sister "found the opportunity to speak" to her "dear little Father." She tells us in this wondrous Chapter Five that "He was seated by the well, contemplating the marvels of nature with his hands joined." Marcel and I know the very spot! We too contemplated the marvels of nature there, in the lovely backyard of Les Bouissonnets. There we stood by the beautiful statues of the little Queen and her beloved King that mark the exact place where Therese gained her father's poignant blessing.
Finally, although Marcel and I (and my good husband) didn't travel, as Therese did, to Bayeux to see the Bishop, we did trace her footsteps "as soon as we arrived at Lisieux . . . looking for consolation at Carmel." Yes, we were there too, at the Carmel where Therese did in fact manage, by God's loving mercy, to enter at 15!
We can never thank God enough for this inestimable grace to discover our sister's Little Way firsthand, up close and personal. Thank You, Jesus! Draw me, and we will RUN! -- I wish for you too, dear reader, a trip to Lisieux, but meanwhile, know that we brought you with us. You were prayed for at all of Therese's holy places, before her relics, and in the Basilica that bears her name. There I discovered that everything she says is absolutely true (though a bit understated), and there I found that long before she was declared a Doctor of the Church, our Holy Mother had presented Therese as a teacher for the whole world. Hooray again! Nothing like the Truth to draw us to Love, and both were in abundance in Lisieux.
As for the children in France, they were extremely well-behaved! We happened to visit Lisieux during the week when the Catholic school children of Paris make their annual pilgrimage en masse to our sister's town, to her Carmel, and to her Basilica for a Mass with the Bishop - the whole works! And they were marvelously good! They set such a good example, in fact, that we've decided to call this simply our own first annual pilgrimage, so we'll see you next year about this time in Lisieux!
And for those wondering about the picture that tops this post: it captures the statue and mosaic behind the main altar in the Crypt of the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux. Unfortunately, it doesn't capture the three exclamation points that complete Therese's last words in exile, but believe us, they are there!!!
First off, that you might understand the title above, let me explain that I'm asking, "Why Marcel?" and in that question I'm asking in particular, "Why do we need Marcel in addition to Therese?" Or in other words, "Why do we need Marcel when God has already sent us His little French flower, now a Doctor of the Church, to authoritatively teach us and lead us along her Little Way to Heaven?"
Secondly, that you might understand the photo above, do note that though Therese was actually a blonde on earth (ah, happy blondes of the world, let us unite in our fair and ditzy beauty!), I think it only right and just that occasionally she appear as a brunette, especially when in the company of Jesus' little Vietnamese Flower. If Marcel at one time wanted to be a girl so he could be a Carmelite so he could be just like Therese, how fitting that Therese should sometimes want to look Asian in order to resemble Marcel! Is she wearing a wig (I think we call them hairpieces now) or did she color her hair temporarily? Some questions will only be answered in heaven!
But finally - and the reason I feel compelled to write this post despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that have kept me from writing it for days - I have great news. I think this question (Pourquoi Marcel?), a question which, if not perennial, is nonetheless essential to our mission here at Miss Marcel's Musings, can be answered right now!
"Right now this very minute?" you may well ask skeptically.
"Why yes!" I reply.
Why wait for Heaven in Heaven when we can have instant gratification? Why not receive and live the truth discovered by St. Catherine of Siena (whose feast slipped by us a week ago), that wondrous Doctor of the Church who proclaimed that all the way to Heaven is Heaven, since Jesus said He is the Way! And what could be more Heaven than Jesus? Just think - for those following the Little Way, this Way must be Little Jesus Himself! No need to wait, then, for the answers to some of our more pressing questions - He has answered them through His little Flowers! (No, I'm not going to settle the question of Therese's hair in the photo atop our post, but I can tell you it was a wig she wore - hair piece, I mean - when she played Joan of Arc next to Celine's St. Catherine in the pious recreation they performed at the Carmel.)
We ask again, then, with bated breath (or is it baited?) that simple but pressing question:
The answer came to me out of the blue the other night when I was reading and listening and singing along with my French children's book on Marcel. Talk about an altered state of consciousness!
In times past, the Saints who didn't know Latin, but prayed with the Church in her native tongue, sometimes had mystical insights into what they were praying despite the language barrier.
Similarly, I feel ready (just letting You know, God!) for instant infused knowledge of French . . . but meanwhile I sourire and chante (smile and sing, though not in the proper grammatical forms), and continue lifting my foot to that first marche (step) while those sweet imps, Therese and Marcel, keep me entertained. They laugh and tease me, asking why I need to know French when thanks to Jack Keogan, I have all of Marcel's many written words in English now (and they want me to thank Fr. Boucher, too - Marcel's bearded Jesus - for providing the French translation from which Jack so lovingly drew out the English for us, since I don't think Jack knows Vietnamese, and neither do I!).
And so, at the bottom of the stairs, like those Saints of old (Teresa of Jesus was one) who understood despite not understanding (in her case this happened with our favorite Song of Songs), the other night I did understand something - despite not understanding - of a darling song I sang with darling Marcel in darling (but rather badly pronounced on my part) French.
Let me see if I can find it again for us. There's always so much to tell you, and my forgetful brain (a kind of half Pooh, half Marcel brain) can't keep it all in stock. Thank Heaven for books!
Looking into my copy of Van: dis-nous en qui tu crois! now, I first find a different song (than the one that so moved me the other night), and I can't help but share it with you before we get to the other.
Here's my English translation (which may or may not be what the French authors were saying):
God is Father, and this Father is love!
Never be afraid of God, He only knows how to love.
God is Father, and this Father is love!
Open your heart before Him always.
* * *
This sweet message we receive from Marcel is the very message God gave him through St. Therese at their first meeting, which is, in turn, the very message she gave us in her writings, and long before she lived and wrote, this was the message He gave us in the fullness of time through His best-beloved Son, Jesus. I figure that since that fullness-of-time-giving was a while ago, our loving Father felt compelled to send Therese to remind us. And then, you guessed it, He had to send Marcel to remind us again even more recently. And yes, I'm here because we're bears of very little brain, so why not remind ourselves yet again of the one thing worth knowing in any language?
But I'm stalling! I promised the song that moved me the other night, the song that Marcel and I sang together and which convinced me, once again, that we'd be lost without him. Here it is, in my kindle-assisted translation:
Jesus, well I know that only confidence is capable of attracting Your heart to me.
By a simple look cast upon Your love, I can fascinate You, dazzle You.
I gaze upon Your love, I confide myself to Your love.
I have certainty that never will Your love abandon me,
that never more will You be grieved by my weaknesses.
Love knows me!
+ + +
Do you begin to feel as I do? In the Song of Songs, the loving Word of the Father tells us, "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace."
Here is Marcel repeating His truth: "By a simple look cast upon Your love, I can fascinate You, dazzle You." I love hearing this! Otherwise, who would've known? How could we have suspected? Well yes, God Himself told us in our Song of Songs, but ah, little Miss Marcels, how quickly we forget! One reason Why Marcel is so he can repeat for us, and repeat Jesus repeating for us, again and again, how loved we are! But wait, there's more!
Wanting to give you a reason for my hope, the day after I sang with Marcel and discovered again the Father's Love, I went searching in Story of a Soul and Conversations. It was one thing to be moved by music and song to appreciate Why Marcel, but could I find a more prosaic explanation in the books of our two little secretaries? On the Feast of the Apostles Philip and James, then, here is what I confirmed:
The reason we need Marcel in addition to St. Therese (whom God knew we needed to remind us of His Little Way: Little Jesus) is because, as Therese said quite clearly, there was no way she could tell us everything in her short exile on earth, despite the many, many words that she left us. Even she, wonderful as she is, couldn't manage in 24 short years to convey everything God had shown her about His infinite love for us (which love He had already expressed in His one Word, Jesus, but which we are so slow to hear).
As she wrote to her sister Marie, and later to all of us through the publication of this letter as part of Story of a Soul:
"I feel how powerless I am to express in human language the secrets of heaven, and after writing page upon page I find that I have not yet begun. There are so many different horizons, so many nuances of infinite variety that only the palette of the Celestial Painter will be able to furnish me after the night of this life with the colors capable of depicting the marvels He reveals to the eye of my soul."
She wrote these words about a year before she died, or rather, as she rightly preferred to say, a year before she "entered into Life". Luckily for us, now she's in Heaven! She was certain that once she was there, the Celestial Painter would furnish her with the colors capable of depicting the marvels He had revealed to her. But how can she get the message to us?
I pray you have experienced some of the myriad ways she paints His love for us. Roses are one exquisite way. The endless succession of books published about her are another. Her relics are a third.
I could go on and on, as she does, but still something is missing. Still her hands are tied, as it were, in this attempt to paint for us the marvels He revealed to her. I have known and loved her for 35 years, and still, something was missing.
Was missing . . . when suddenly -
What a perfect messenger! What an entirely fit canvas! He's so very, very, very little, and so completely ready for her Little Way.
And somehow, despite hot rooms, bad pens, oozing sandals, various and sundry physical aches and pains, frequent degout and seemingly tireless fatigue, our little brother obeys and (how can I not cry when recounting his charity for us, a tiny reflection of His charity for us) he WRITES.
What does Marcel write?
His book titles are brilliantly chosen.
He writes his Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese.
He writes his Autobiography.
He writes Correspondence, and Other Writings.
Marcel writes A LOT!
And yet, as Therese in her wise simplicity wrote to her sister, so Marcel in his turn, in his simplicity admits to his sister Te in a letter he wrote before his death (his entry into Life):
"I will tell you the rest in Heaven."
He too is in Heaven now! And does he tell us the rest? He does!
Ah, and much as I love roses (love them!), I love words even more, and I LOVE that Marcel tells us the rest, now that he's in Heaven, in words.
The words he wrote in obedience, words which his sister Te didn't get to read until much later, long after he'd gone to Heaven. Words which, as I mentioned, had to be translated from the Vietnamese before most of us could read them, and then into other languages from there.
And if we must limit ourselves to one of his books - because it's just nowhere near as meaningful to ask which 4 books you'd take with you to a desert island - let's take Conversations. Here is Marcel at his most expressive, because here is Jesus at His most expressive.
Can I tell you something I learned just this morning from Conversations?
I learned that without this book, I make life a lot harder than it needs to be.
I've mentioned lately that I'm enjoying this year of the Lord 2019 tremendously because it matches exactly, in dates and feasts and seasons, Marcel's year of 1946, the year of Conversations.
Yesterday, for instance, was May 4th, the second Saturday after Easter and the first Saturday of Mother (our name for May). This was exactly how it was in 1946 too! May 4th was the second Saturday after Easter and the first Saturday of Mother, and so we can understand why Marcel began his entry of May 4, 1946 with, "Dear Mother, on this day which is specially dedicated to you . . . "
Well yesterday I forgot to read the entry for May 4th. Silly me! No wonder my day was punctuated by sadness. Karen Carpenter, God rest her soul, used to sing, "And I won't last a day without you." Too true, Marcel! I won't last more than about 15 minutes without you!
What did I miss? What did our brother write for us yesterday? I was planning on showing how our beloved Jesus, our Savior and Spouse, uses these conversations with Marcel to convey to us the marvels our sister Therese hinted at while still on earth, but which she is now free to share (through Marcel's kind copy work and Jesus' generous dictation) in much more vivid hues. And yet, while I could re-copy page after page of Conversations (happily!) to illustrate, looking at yesterday's nearly lost (to me, this year) entry will more than suffice.
Because here what we find is that Marcel not only conveys what Therese understood, but gives himself for our good, loving us and praying for us in the midst of his writing for us. Meanwhile Mary our true Mother and Jesus our true Love can't resist, in these conversations, teaching what sound like new lessons in love, although every word is perfectly consonant with (and a kind of expansion on) the message of the Little Way. The very Little Way. The really super tiny Little Way - or rather the Little Way for the littlest ones (who would be, and are, us).
See for yourself what I mean:
4 May 1946
Marcel: Dear Mother, on this day which is specially dedicated to you, I promised to go to communion and to offer to Jesus all that belongs to me, and to ask Him to have pity on your apostles.
Mother, I love you a great deal. Concerning your reign to come, it will not be given to me to work for its expansion, since I cannot preach to the world or do absolutely anything. However, dear Mother, I will be your child, I will stay in your arms with little Jesus to help your apostles; I will love you in company with little Jesus, and my sister Therese, and my father Saint Alphonsus. With little Jesus, I will hide myself in all the souls on earth, so as to love you in each one of them. I will even be in the souls that do not love you, so that there also you may be loved.
* * *
Like Marcel, Therese couldn't preach to the world or do absolutely anything big. . . and yet she became the patroness of all the missions of the world, on a par with the great St. Francis Xavier! Our sister and brother sure find ways, in the arms of Jesus, to overcome their personal limitations!
But what really struck me here is the compassion Marcel shows to us, and his promise to love Jesus in us. Whether you're one of these apostles of Mary that Marcel mentions, or (worst case scenario! Though how wonderful to welcome new readers to the blog!) "one of the souls that do not love" (!), Marcel has promised to hide himself, with little Jesus, IN YOU! What will he do there? Ah, what he learned from our sister Therese is the only worthwhile thing to do, hidden and unappreciated as it may sometimes be: he will LOVE!
There is something else, though, in yesterday's entry in Conversations, something I would be remiss not to mention and which I no doubt am remiss in not mentioning every day to you, it's so stunningly beautiful. Here is a case in point, another reason Why Marcel: because who but Marcel teaches us the best prayers? He didn't think of them himself, but he has the very best teachers . . .
And so, yesterday, he wrote for us these words from our Blessed Mother, words she addressed to "My child" - and that certainly covers us all! - words which I've quoted for you before, but as I say, I ought to be quoting for you on a daily basis. What else is a blog for, if not to spread truth, joy, and copious amounts of Jesus' peace and love?
To give you a smidgen of context, Mary has been instructing Marcel on not worrying. That's his job, but unsurprisingly, he's bad at it, so here is what Mary comes up with to help Marcel and those of us in the same leaky boat:
"Listen, I am going to tell you a new method of sacrificing yourself. Each time that you are troubled, even if only for the span of a breath, say this: 'Little Jesus, I offer You this worry as a sacrifice.' Then, remain in peace. Thanks to this sacrifice, you will be consumed in the fire of Love, which will act freely in you. Thanks to this sacrifice, how many sinful souls will be able to avoid an occasion of sin that would expose them to falling into despair?
"Always remember this method, all right? Little Jesus loves this kind of sacrifice a lot; He even prefers it to the joy of being able to pull you from the hands of the devil, since it is the devil who gives birth in you to these anxieties with the intention of misleading you. Consequently, if you offered your anxieties to little Jesus, naturally, the devil will be ashamed to see that the net that he holds out to you to drag you along has fallen into little Jesus' hands. Then, little Jesus will make use of it to draw you to His heart . . . What a blessing for you! What a benefit for little Jesus! Oh, my child, it is impossible to express the extent of this great benefit. And yet, to obtain this result, you only have to say: 'Little Jesus, I offer you this sacrifice.'"
+ + +
What do you think? Isn't this the best?!
There is that one catch, though: the thing about "always remember this method, all right?"
And yet don't worry now that you'll forget to offer your worry!
Mary is nothing if not an enlightened Mom par excellence, and neither she nor her Divine Son have any illusions about our ability to remember. (That's why they gave us books! So we could re-read and re-remember, if only for a heartbeat!)
In today's entry, then, 5 Mother 1946, Mary gives us an even easier method of prayer, and it mirrors exactly the teaching of Therese, thus bringing us full circle. Why Marcel? To repeat Therese, but in a way more adapted to our radically smaller souls (smaller than Therese even imagined, I imagine!)!
What is this easiest method of prayer? Okay, maybe the second easiest, since yesterday Mary also told us: "Little Jesus loves your heart because your heart comforts Him during your sleep and during the hours when you are unable to converse with Him." Perhaps the easiest method of prayer is sleep! This tempts me to digress into Charles Peguy's spectacular poem on Sleep, but I'm going to try and contain myself, finish this post, and have breakfast. That way I can go to Mass, another important method of prayer! (Not always easy, but we're about to learn some methods we can take with us to help us pray during Mass.)
I will introduce this second easiest method of prayer (the first being sleep!) by alerting you to Holy Mother Church's endorsement of it. That way no scrupples or objections will stand between you and Jesus.
In that great gift from St. John Paul II, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, the fourth section is (as in all traditional catechisms) on prayer. And in this fourth section, the first definition of prayer the Church gives us is from none other than our little sister, Therese. She comes right before St. John Damascene here! And she says:
"For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love embracing both trial and joy."
May I translate?
Prayer is a heartbeat, a glance, a sigh, whether in sadness or in joy.
That's from Story of a Soul, and quoted in the official Catechism of the Church!
In Conversations, we find today advice from Jesus to Marcel on intercessory prayer. Marcel has been worried about his dear Vietnam. Jesus explains:
"The best weapon for safeguarding the interests of your country . . . is prayer. Do not stop looking towards me, little brother, and that will be enough. Each of your glances with this intention is enough to make me understand the situation of your country."
Marcel concludes (he is telling Mary), "My sister told me the same thing as well."
And lovingly, Mary our Mother replies:
"And I, my child, I tell you the same thing also. The only means to save your country . . . is prayer. This is very easy; it requires neither cunning, nor rifles, nor ammunition. A glance, or a smile, or a sigh toward little Jesus is enough; it is like a game within reach of everyone."
Shall we review?
God told us in the Song of Songs that our simplest glance ravishes His Heart.
Therese told us in Story of a Soul that prayer is for her (and can be for us) a glance, a sigh of love.
Finally, joining her and repeating this teaching are Jesus and Mary, giving us the go-ahead in Marcel's Conversations, repeating, "A glance or a smile, or a sigh toward little Jesus is enough . . . " (600)
It's like my little French song said:
By a simple glance upon Your love, I can fascinate You, dazzle You!
In short, Jesus will stop at nothing to get His message across, because it isn't only Therese who had trouble expressing what she knew about His Limitless Love. He Himself, God made man in order to have an adorable mouth, just like ours, from which to speak all Truth (Himself!) - He too felt the constraints, the limits, of the finite expressing the infinite. As He said in a passage of Conversations that I never tire of recalling:
"The words that I am addressing to you here are far from expressing all the love that I bear for souls. I do not know what human language to employ to translate the full intimacy of this love. The intimate words that I address as well to other souls, I borrow from the language that people ordinarily use to express their feelings. If I used the intimate language that is more suitable for me to use when speaking to you, you would understand nothing. Indeed, my child, humanly speaking, my words are the expression of the deepest love; but I, I regard them as being only a simple glance of my love." (39)
Ah, Love! You too struggle with the frustration of how to tell us how much You love us!
May we, so intimately acquainted with our poverty on every level, teach You a lesson?
You taught it to us Yourself through Therese and Marcel, but perhaps You have forgotten?
Don't worry, dear Jesus, that human language is never enough . . .let's simply look at each other! That will be enough!
+ + +
Because the more we know of Love, the easier it is to believe in Love, to live in Love, to offer ourselves to Love . . . and Love loves that offering, our very selves, more than anything!
Jesus, we love you! We offer You our worry as a sacrifice! We offer You ourselves!
Draw me, we will run!!
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