Ah, the wonders of modern life.
Did you know that even with the Internet handy, one can fail to remember? I once married a man thinking this (my marrying him) would be the last time I ever had to think . . . He was such a brainiac that I'd just have him do all my thinking for me from the moment "I Did" onward.
So I did, but it didn't.
I mean it didn't quite work. Not the I do, that worked great. But the no more thinking was, alas, just a pipe dream. Turns out one is still responsible for at least faux-thinking, and 30 years later I can say that though I've depended tremendously on his smarts, just like in recent years we've all come to depend on our friend Google (or whichever HAL is your nearest and dearest brain replacement), nonetheless whether we're talking electronic or spousal IQs, in the end, we're stuck with whatever God has given us - I mean given each of us for brains.
Straw, in my case.
Forgetfulness being a theme here at Miss Marcel's Musings, I can honestly and happily admit that I don't even remember why I was emailing a friend yesterday about which character(s) we might be in The Wizard of Oz. Now it occurs to me that we could have easily solved the type-casting by taking some no doubt, quite well-oiled Internet test. Luckily, neither of us had the brains to think of such an obvious solution, which may give you a hint as to who we ended up being.
I wrote to said friend something like, "Tin Man? Cowardly Lion? Is there a third?" (meaning of the sweethearts that Dorothy meets on her little way). My friend replied that I was forgetting the very one we most likely were - namely, Scarecrow! Light dawned for me (it often does, and not just in the morning or in the East - although since the East is where Marcel comes from, I may have to say yes, actually, my light comes from the East more often than not).
Yes, I had totally forgotten the Scarecrow, but as this wasn't a real-time conversation, before I could interrupt with head shaking and laughter, my friend accused me of having pulled a fast one on her.
She had been so thrilled to be able to tell me, "No, Dopey [which brings up another question, but there, we've already answered it], you forgot Scarecrow!" but a moment longer and, even while she wrote me the email to tell me my match (and my forgetfulness), she second-guessed herself and me. Since the email she sent captured her two minds perfectly (so as you can see, she's a lot smarter than I am: she's got TWO, count them: 1, 2, brains!), I'm simply going to quote her now:
"We are Scarecrow! With puddin' head brains, oatmeal brains . . . errrr, wait a minute? Was that just a joke? You DID remember Scarecrow and I was too stupid to get the joke? Yeah, I see it all now. I’m just going to watch Bob Ross paint for a very long time. Then Mr Rogers' neighborhood. That’s all my pea headed brain can handle. You’ll need to find a wittier friend."
Heavens to murgatroyd, I'll take all the friends I can get, and I hate to exclude wits, but I'm not sure I could keep up! We've discussed this before at MMM, the whole wits vs. witless dichotomy, and I don't want to play favorites, especially because Marcel and I prefer Jesus above all others, and He is, as God, Wit Itself . . . but ah, just between us, can I admit here that OF COURSE I actually forgot my Wizard of Oz counterpart, the dear and darling Scarecrow, Dorothy's first friend (after Toto) and ablest counselor (besides Glinda, who, I must admit, does compete for my alter-ego and idealized true self: blonde hair, great crown, lots of sparklys, desire to discern - "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" - and finally, "I'm in a bit of a muddle," when she can't understand how the whole good vs. evil drama is playing out here).
Then, turning at last to my electronic brain Google, unable myself (sans brain) to remember - now that he's been brought to my attention - whether Scarecrow has a trademark song that would fit me . . . voila! here it is! Song, blog post title, and undeniably familiar feeling/sighing wish all rolled into one captivating, show-stopping number. Do you remember it?
"What would you do with a brain if you had one?" asks Judy/Dorothy.
"DO?" responds Ray/Scarecrow. "Why if I had a brain, I could . . . "
I could while away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain.
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.
I'd unravel ev'ry riddle
For any individdle
In trouble or in pain.
(With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.)
Oh, I, could tell you why
The ocean's near the shore,
I could think of things
I'd never thunk before,
And then I'd sit down and think some more.
I would not be just a nuffin',
My head all fulla stuffin',
My heart all full of pain;
I would dance, and be merry,
Life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain.
Ah, sweet music! I've been feeling so grateful for music lately, and this only confirms its brilliance. Thank You, Jesus! And please bless Judy G, Ray B, Jack H, Billie B, Margaret H, Bert L, Frank M, Victor F, Herbert & Edgar and Harold (for the music), and all the munchkins! Oh and L. Frank Baum - and absolutely everyone who gave us this priceless story and its perfect songs.
Because what would Miss Marcel do with a brain but the very things Scarecrow has named? Straight off, and we need go no further for a perfect expression of our hearts' desires, we could while away the hours, conferrin' with the Flowers - you know, Marcel and Therese! And come to think of it (or maybe it's an intuition, rather than a thought exactly, brainless as we are over here): who needs any more brains than that?
Wanting confirmation of my new identity, I flipped open Conversations, and here is our find of the day, dropped down from heaven without any need on our part to search - just, "Take and read . . ."
Marcel: O Jesus! Little Jesus, what are You saying now? And who would be able to understand such figurative language?
Jesus: Marcel! There you are again, wishing to understand. How will that help you? Continue, therefore, to write, and there will be somebody else to understand . . . You have already forgotten what I said to you before. . . it is really unfortunate. And how would you succeed in understanding . . . Come on, it is sufficient that you understand these few words: your duty simply consists in writing; in the matter of understanding, that's your director's business. If you don't understand, that must not trouble you. There is nothing in what I say to you which is beyond the intelligence of your director. I have told you that already many times, but you always forget. Do not be sad. The more you forget, the more you see your weakness and your ignorance, and the more you are dear to me and receive my kisses. So, there are, therefore, hours of suffering and hours of happiness.
+ + +
Well I could do without the hours of suffering, but as it is not my job to understand, but only to write, we'll leave that aside for now. Heaven will be long enough to understand suffering - it would be nice to see in an instant what Marcel and I just aren't getting about this whole suffering thing, but in exile, befuddled as we are, what a consolation to know we are dear to Jesus and receive His kisses.
Which brings me to an even more crucial question than Which Character are you?
Do you know how dear YOU are to Jesus?
This is a secret Marcel and I can't keep to ourselves, much the same as Therese couldn't keep it to herself but had to come down to tell Marcel (and us too, thanks to him). But brains or no brains, I can hardly expect to convey our sweet Jesus' infinitely tender love for you if He Himself is finding it a challenge!
When I realized I'd closed the book of Conversations without giving you Marcel's page number for the passage I'd quoted, I re-opened the book. But as St. Junipero Serra said, "Always forward!" There's no finding or re-finding a page unless Jesus wants it for us, and I'd already given you that one. He wasn't concerned about giving you the reference, but rather He wanted to tell you not to worry if you don't yet know His love as you'd like. You don't yet know His love as He'd like either, so you're not alone!! Here is what He tells us in a kind of adorable apology (and I'll tell you before I forget: this passage is at (39) in Marcel's numbering of the pages he on which he wrote their Conversations):
Jesus: 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 single glance of My love. My child, I do not know what words to use to succeed in making you understand more. Little one, do you understand? Allow me to explain things to you still more clearly. If I spoil you to that extent, can you wish for more?
Firmly believe that I am always pleased with you. I have never said to you that an action had offended Me. I have said to you, simply, that things that are troubling you at present are simply grains of dust. Do you understand? Be at peace, you have not offended Me . . . Listen therefore, I am speaking to you.
Little child of My love, My love can never be measured. My love for you my child, and for souls, is still hidden; it is impossible for Me to show it completely in this world. The day when one will see love, when one will be united eternally to love is the only day when one will succeed in understanding it clearly. Has your sister Therese not told you, 'My love alone remains eternally'?
+ + +
There, then. It's not just me (or you). Our Love, the Word Himself, has trouble conveying the ardor of His devotion to us. Let's not worry that we have trouble conveying ours to Him, nor realizing His. Let's not worry about anything at all, any more, ever! That will please Jesus and fulfill His express wishes!
In the meantime, before Heaven which will in an instant reveal His infinite Love (and boy won't that be a relief!), and thus leave the rest of eternity for Him to explain to us just exactly why suffering was such a good idea, for now He has once again given us the easiest little way to hop into His arms and be lifted there (to that Heaven in our souls where He resides, and eventually to that Heaven where we'll see Him face to Holy Face).
Did you notice the bold words He said? It's that glance of love again! He told us (and He and Marcel have been giggling about it ever since we didn't notice it for our Novena day in which we talked about Therese's glance of love, in the Catechism and in the Song of Songs):
My words are the expression of the deepest love; but I, I regard them as being only a single glance of My love.
I'll close by saying that one good glance deserves another, and after ours, I'm going to give you - from me and Therese and Marcel and Jesus - some flowers. One of the million reasons flowers are so awesome is that they don't need language or words to tell us how much Jesus loves us! I'm guessing He made them just so He'd know we caught His glance . . .
Ah, but before I give you my own choice expressions of our glance and His (our prayer, His flowers), St. John of the Cross has suddenly entered my heart, offering his wondrous but still-falling-short attempt to express what cannot be expressed: the sweetness of our Bridegroom's love, His ardour, His thirst for our souls, and ours (the Brides') for His, the glances we exchange . . .
From our holy father's Spiritual Canticle, then:
A thousand blessings casting
among these leafy groves He hastened by,
His passing glance a lasting
beauty imposed, His eye,
His face, alone clothed them with harmony.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
With but a single hair!
Upon my neck You watched it flutter, fall,
Your gaze held captive there,
a prisoner in thrall:
one glance of mine wounded You past recall.
You looked with love on me,
and deep within Your eyes imprinted grace;
this mercy set me free,
held in Your love's embrace,
to lift my eyes, adoring, to Your face.
Let none despise me now,
if You have found me dark, am I not fair?
Your look that can endow
all things, sought me - see how
Your eyes on me left grace and beauty there!
* * *
Draw me, we shall run!
* * *
Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. Not to break you away from deep prayer, but wouldn't you know, Jesus won't let me put into this post an image of flowers? I can only conclude that He's telling me to tell you to go find a flower that's 3-D. No, not at the expensive movie theater where you wear goofy disposable glasses to "sense" this glance of His love - but right outside in nature (or the suburbs or the city, but they've got flowers everywhere, or nearly - you can even try the grocery store!). If you have the inclination, shoot me an email with the nifty "Contact Me" button in the sidebar to let me know what flower spoke His love to your heart, and let's hope next time I post, I'll be able to put in pictures for us to enjoy.
Sheesh. I can't help it. I'm about to break into song again . . . if I only had a brain!
It's our policy at Miss Marcel's Musings to keep links to a minimum so we don't send you away before you've gotten your fill of our hero, Servant of God Marcel Van.
That being said, Marcel himself is relentlessly insisting that we send you over to Catholic Exchange to read an article that will send you even further with its own links and fun. No use trying to reason with our resident mischief maker; he only says "What's life without a little fun?" Actually, he's after a lot of fun, and you'll find it when you follow where he leads. (Now why do I want to say, "If you lead where he follows?" I guess he wants you to feel like it was your idea!)
With the assurance of Marcel's full endorsement, then, we introduce Maura McKeegan. Maura is a friend of ours and the author of THESE wonderful books (hint: click on THESE), but primarily she's a wife, mom, and friend of the Saints. She's a friend of Marcel's in particular, so he's extra excited to make her a friend of yours - not to mention that she's just written online about about one of his own heroes, St. John Bosco, and another Apostle of Children, the Papal Ninja.
I can't repress Marcel, nor disappoint him, and we could all use a good pick-me up as the weather gets warmer and the children get restless, so I'm going to give you the link I've been building up to, but don't blame me if your house, like Maura's, turns into an obstacle course. If anyone is to blame, it's Marcel, but no use blaming him either: he'll only laugh, and he's got Jesus on his side. Nothing to it, then, but to do it.
We begin (or end) with a prayer, and our favorite is more perfect than ever today:
Draw me, we shall run!
And now, click HERE to find out about St. John Bosco, the Papal Ninja, and something beautiful for God. Oh, and don't forget to have fun!
My husband had a t-shirt for decades (really!) with a "photo" of the Madonna of the Streets on the front and a Mother Teresa quote on the back. The Mama Teresa quote was perfect and said, "How can there be too many children? That would be like saying you have too many flowers."
Marcel and Therese and I are big fans of that sentiment, the implication of which is that you could never have too many flowers. See Therese in heaven above, handing her cross-turned-to- roses nosegay to little Jesus in the arms of Mary, with good St. Joseph looking on, flowers of his own in hand? Ah, how good the Saints are - a chip off the old block (our Heavenly Father). I was relieved to find this exactly-right picture for our opening gambit today. Trying to choose among flower pictures was too much - like trying to choose the right tokens for a charm bracelet, like trying to order the right milkshake at Steak-N-Shake, like trying to choose the flowers for the nosegay I promised to help you collect, St. Francis de Sales' style, from our novena. Whew! I'm not good at making decisions!
One trick I've discovered to make decision making easier (and I do believe my first memory has to do with trying to make a decision in Gemco with my Nana. That was a complete disaster (let's not tell the story - let's go pick flowers!), but I've learned since then that the secret to making decisions is not to make them alone. There's a brilliant 12 step concept that "Participation is the key to harmony." So true!! And even if a friend is unavailable to help at the moment of decision (and how many times will I make the dopey mistake of choosing the waitress as my friend in a crucial decision, asking her, "What's your favorite among the entrees?" as if she's not going to have radically different taste-buds than Miss Marcel's!).....even if a friend is unavailable, there is always a heavenly friend to be had! I nominate St. Anthony for helping you (as he helps me) "find" the right one among many when it's time to choose.
Let's recruit his help now, then, when we are re-entering the garden of our novena in order to choose the flowers we want to carry with us to keep us refreshed and delighted by our darling trio of Jesus-Marcel-Therese. I can see Marcel between Jesus and Therese. He is the littlest and they're holding his hands to swing him! You see, they're no help at all. As Mary pointed out when having to clean the room of Marcel's soul (especially of those sticky cobwebs - his silly worries, i.e. his worries, since they are all, like ours, unfounded), those three are useless when it comes to work - they will play from sun-up till sundown if you let them (and she always does, sweet enabling Mother that she is :).
St. Anthony, you see we need you! Come to our aid! Anto!
(and then you respond "Padua!")
One last reflection before I present you with our flowers.
I planned to go to 9 a.m. Mass yesterday, but God had other plans, and I found myself beside my younger son and a good friend in a pew at noon Mass. (Can you believe I'd lost track of time writing yesterday's post in the a.m.? I was grateful because wait to hear what happened next!)
The priest, a wonderful Peruvian with a great love for Jesus and the Church, brought together in his brief homily the Alleluia verse and the Gospel in a way that exactly suited my heart. I'd been jolted out of my usual distractions by the Alleluia - it was exactly the verse I wanted to find last week or before from St. Paul about the word of God. Here it is:
The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
The wonderful priest took a thought from our Holy Father (emeritus) Pope Benedict (or Papa Ben, as we at MMM think of him) to explain that usually our process is to first think, and then use words to express those thoughts. You can imagine the distress this caused my blonde soul! But wait, Jesus is so gentle. Father then explained that in the liturgy, the opposite happens. First the words - the words of God; and then our thoughts! Whew, what a relief! I've been doing it right after all . . . He said that our minds are formed by God's word, and then we can discern. Through His word, our own words, thoughts, and hearts discern and are formed, are formed and discern. Since the word of God is alive, this is a participative and harmonious process, we might say! Or in simpler language, it's a conversation, a really grace-filled, divinely inspired conversation. In yet other words, as the big Teresa puts it most beautifully, it is prayer: "nothing other than an intimate sharing between friends; taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us." Thank you, Father, for telling me exactly what I needed to hear!
And now, as promised, a flower or two from each day of our novena . . . If you, dear reader, are joining us today without having been part of our novena, be assured your intentions have been included in it. God is out of time (well, He has all the time in the world, but He's also above it, in cool God fashion rather than L'Air du Temps!), and so we happily include - retroactively as it were - your needs, your hopes and dreams, your loved ones - in our Novena to end all Novenas. And feel free to scroll down and participate in it as you're able, like a do it yourself retreat. Well yourself, Jesus, Mary, Therese, and our own Servant of God the little Marcel Van.
Flowers from Day 1:
If one doesn't want to be bothered by this unceasing desire to do more for these people, there's only one way out: don't become a missionary. In other words, don't love. Be like stones. (Blessed Clement Vismara)
Patience! Only God can do it. Leave a bit of work for those who come after. (Blessed Clement)
Yes I know that He is a Father with an infinitely kind heart, that He leaves His children completely free to come and importune Him unceasingly, and that He finds His happiness in this since He can then show them His goodness and His mercy . . . (Marcel)
Flowers from Day 2:
One thing comforts me: it is that by a simple glance thrown at Your love I can fascinate You, dazzle You. I cast my glance, therefore, on Your love, I confide myself to Your love. I am certain that Your love will never abandon me, that it will never be saddened by my weaknesses. (Marcel)
I deliver myself to Love with the certitude that Love will never refuse to welcome the glance of a little weak soul like mine. (Marcel)
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes . . . " (Jesus)
Flowers from Day 3:
Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid . . . Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you. (Jesus)
No more worrying, any more, ever. (Jesus)
I kiss you unceasingly, and the more I give you, the more I wish to give you. (Jesus)
Everything pleases Me about children. (Jesus)
Flowers from Day 4:
When you do not know how to express yourself, leave it to Me. (Jesus)
Yes, Marcel, you are inclined to fear things that are not worth the trouble. (Jesus)
How can we spend even one single day without listening to Jesus when He says: "I love you, ______." (Mother Teresa)
My children, you don't have to be different (from what you are in reality) for Jesus to love you. Believe simply that you are precious to Him. Bring your sufferings to His feet and simply open your heart so that He loves you the way you are, and He will do the rest. (Mother Teresa)
No matter what happens, remain peaceful . . . do not worry. I remain always with you, yes, always, always. It is impossible for Me to leave you, even for half a second. Remain tranquil, you are always very pleasing to Me. (Jesus)
Flowers from Day 5:
I assure you that, when the Lord calls me, I will say to Him, "Lord, I shall remain at the gates of Paradise. I shall enter only when I see the last of my spiritual children enter. (Padre Pio)
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)
O blessed Jesus, give me stillness of soul in You.
Let Your mighty calmness reign in me.
Rule me, O You, King of Gentleness, King of Peace
(St. John of the Cross)
Flowers from Day 6:
Draw us, we shall run!
No doubt, she will remain at Jesus' feet as did Mary Magdalene, and she will listen to His sweet and burning words. Appearing to do nothing, she will give much more than Martha who torments herself...(St. Therese)
Flowers from Day 7:
For simple souls there must be no complicated ways;
as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving,
Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
I decided to choose at random the life of a saint, a life which would fall into my hands . . . With my eyes tightly closed I mixed the books together, higgledly-piggledy, and waving my arms three times, I let my hand fall on the pile of books and, as agreed, I would read the book upon which my index finger landed firmly. While following this procedure I recited a kind of magic formula to the Blessed Virgin to guide my hand on to a volume which was, at least, interesting. It's done . . . I opened my eyes, not knowing what was happening, and I did not know what to do. I had just put my hand on a book . . . that I had not yet read, but had already dismissed as containing nothing unusual. I took hold of it and read the title: The Story of a Soul. (Marcel)
Flowers from Day 8:
Here is the teacher that I am giving you; He will teach you everything that you must do. I want to make you read in the book of life, in which is contained the science of Love.
We can never have too much trust in the Good Lord, who is so powerful and so merciful!
We obtain everything from Him according to the measure with which we hope for it! (St. Therese)
On finishing the preface, I felt my soul immediately relieved and overflowing with happiness. I comforted myself in this way: "So, to become a saint is not only to walk by the path of 'saints of bygone days.' There are many paths leading to holiness." (Marcel)
I understood that God is love and that Love adapts itself to all forms of love. Consequently, I can become holy by means of all my little actions: a smile, a word, a look, provided that all are motivated by love. What happiness! Therese is a saint who corresponds totally to the idea I had in my mind of holiness. From now onwards, sanctity will no longer frighten me. (Marcel)
Flowers from Day 9:
What a maroon! (Bugs Bunny)
Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of my Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person. You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience. (Jesus)
No more worrying, any more, ever. (Jesus)
If we take our quotes as so many petals from a flower-a-day, that equals nine flowers. Which means we need three more to fill in the gaps up to a dozen - not only the number of roses pictured above, but also the number of baskets left over after Jesus fed the multitudes (really big multitudes). That's perfect because I happen to have three more roses to share with you. They've just bloomed, and they are full of heaven's sweet scent.
First, I wanted to share the rose that was offered to a new friend of mine. Some time ago she was in the holy Sanctuary of Chumayo, New Mexico. She was at Mass there, and just before Communion a woman in front of her turned around and offered her a rose. Accepting it, she went up to receive Communion. When she returned to her pew, there was no sign of the mysterious woman who had given her the rose . . .My friend thought this seemed suspiciously like St. Therese . . .
Second, I received a delightful rose of an email from our birthday gent, Jack Keogan. He wrote that he was quite overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of prayers for him on the occasion of his 87th birthday. Not to be outdone in generosity, he wanted us to know that when, in July, he makes a pilgrimage to many of the holy places in France (Lourdes, Marseille, Paray le Monial, Dijon), he will speak of us to Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Bernadette, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, and The Sacred Heart, St. Margaret Mary and St. Claude de la Colombiere. This goes for all who kindly prayed for him via our 9 days of posts, and he asked that I pass on his gratitude and the promise of his prayers to anyone who thought of him during the "big novena".
This feels like the hundredfold Jesus promised! We are overwhelmed, too, good Jack, and we thank you for your promised prayers and the torrent of graces they will unleash. May the angels accompany you and make your travels safe and delightful!
And finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: the last rose of the dozen . . . pray our signature prayer with us (which was included as a petal above, but is really much more than even just one whole rose (and surely more than one petal) - pray this rose with us and find yourself swept into a veritable sea of roses!
Draw me, we shall run!
I don't know if you, dear reader, love St. Francis de Sales the way that I do (with great affection and gratitude), but he wanted to join us today (along with Snoopy and Lucy) in order to instruct us very gently in how we might continue to profit from our recent novena. Luckily for us, his once-upon-a-time English translator, much like our Jack Keogan with Marcel's Conversations, did such a fab job that lo, these 35 years after I initially read the first 19 pages or so of Introduction to the Devout Life, I still remember that quaint and ideal word (so perfectly conveying St. F de S's meaning) "nosegay," thus allowing me to instantly recall (with a little help from our friend Google) the exact words (in English) that good St. Francis dropped by to share, thus sparing him the trouble of an apparition or locution, and me the trouble of finding that answer to prayer ("Excuse me, not to be rude, but are you really St. Francis de Sales?") spiritual director who may well be just a phone call away but most likely has, as good Father Thomas Dubay used to call it, a "time pressure problem." (So many locutions, so few qualified spiritual directors.)
But thanks to the two-fold gift of the great spiritual masters and Doctors of the Church - 1. their books; 2. their kind reluctance to burden us with frequent audible contact - and the remarkable talent and charity of their translators, we can by-pass a personal spiritual director for now and, l'air du temps [please see yesterday's post for a brace of translation options], avail ourselves of any number of loving, qualified, ever available, virtual spiritual directors. Today, then, in addition to our on-staff director, Marcel Van, and our occasional guest director, Charles Schultz, we welcome St. Francis de Sales, who without further ado recommends:
One should gather a little nosegay of devotion. My meaning is as follows: Those who have been walking in a beautiful garden do not leave it willingly without taking away with them four or five flowers, in order to inhale their perfume and carry them about during the day: even so, when we have considered some mystery in meditation, we should choose one or two or three points in which we have found most relish, and which are specially proper to our advancement, in order to remember them throughout the day, and to inhale their perfume spiritually. Now we should do this in the place where we have made our meditation, either staying where we are, or walking about alone for a little while afterwards.
My Heavens! I don't know what is more charming - St. Francis' willingness to multi-task at a moment's notice, sharing the breadth of his wisdom with us while gazing on the Face of God and praying for us in His presence, or the picture he paints with these words: walking in a beautiful garden, taking away four or five flowers, inhaling their perfume and carrying them about with us during the day - what an antidote for our digitized, citified, modernized, screen-filled lives!
We may find it a challenge, though one worth accepting and fulfilling, to walk through a garden in the near future (St. Anthony, come to our aid and help us each find a nearby actual-factual garden in which to stroll and refresh our beauty-starved 21st century bodies-and-souls), but as to the spiritual garden of the mysteries we've been considering in our novena, to this garden we have immediate and easy access.
Since, then, we are in the place where we made our meditation, let's stay a moment longer, that we might choose from our novena a nosegay of little flowers to take with us as we go about our days. Our first and second little flowers are none other than Therese and Marcel, and since, in the immortal words of Snoopy pictured above, "Every lover needs a lovee," now that they've found us, these two Little Flowers have no intention of letting us go anywhere without their sweet fragrance accompanying us.
As I hope you already know, our garden here at Miss Marcel's Musings is open 24/7 and you're always most welcome to wander our little ways, but perhaps you have other demands on your time and can't peruse our paths to your hearts' content. Or maybe you are like me and Marcel, blessed with a bad memory so that Jesus is forever having to repeat His loving blandishments to your eager but forgetful heart. As docent at this site, I'm happy to help in any way I can, and presenting you with a nosegay of reflections to take away from our novena is just one of my many happy tasks here at MMM. I don't mean to discourage you from revisiting the paths down which we've rambled; in fact, I hope these flowers of devotion will invite you back for more rest and refreshment - back along the paths of our novena, or back to continue our stroll with the Saints as we proceed forward. There's no end to the beauty of our garden, and its master gardener Therese, along with her apprentice Marcel, pray that this little bouquet will remind you to return frequently to one of the many sun drenched benches here, where you can read Conversations with us at your leisure.
There is a large sundial in the center of our garden. It's hard to see at first, surrounded as it is by sunflowers. You'd think a sundial should be surrounded by small flowers at its base - pansies, perhaps, or marigolds. But no, nothing but sunflowers would do for Marcel and his friend Jon (all I can tell you now about Jon was that apparently he spent the day with Marcel when Therese left them in charge of plantings about the sundial). We can't complain, though, because the effect is lovely, and it doesn't obscure the sundial once you know that the secret to seeing everything is to stoop low, rather than aiming high. It's the little way, and the best view is reserved for small children and those at their level.
As St. Therese herself explained, "The only way to advance rapidly in the path of love is to remain always very little. That is what I did, and now I can sing with our holy Father, St. John of the Cross: 'Then I abased myself so love, so very low, that I ascended to such heights, such heights indeed, that I did overtake the prey I chased."
Have you ever seen children trying to catch birds in the backyard? Look out, little Jesus! You are the bird in this game and Therese has learned the secret of sneaking up on You, putting salt on Your tail, and nabbing You for keeps! It's with good reason (and to great effect) that she tells us, "My patrons and my special favorites in Heaven are those who, so to speak, stole it, such as the Holy Innocents and the Good Thief. The great Saints won it by their works; I wish to be like the thieves and to win it by stratagem - a stratagem of love which will open its gates both to me and to poor sinners. In the Book of Proverbs the Holy Spirit encourages me, for He says, 'Come to me, little one, to learn subtlety!'"
Anyhow, here we are wandering down another winding pathway, but the motto on the sundial, that's what I wanted to make sure you didn't miss. It says "For simple souls there must be no complicated ways." There was quite the kerfuffle over it because Marcel had an idea which Therese couldn't help but tease him about, before she placed the order for the angels to etch the inscription. We can't go into the whole story here, but the short version is that Marcel's choice for the motto was, he thought, perfect because it had a reference to time in it. Therese laughed because it was very, very long - too long to put around a sundial, and so she chose one that was much shorter. Marcel laughed back at her and pointed out that hers didn't have the time-honored time-allusion in it. Which was quite clever of him to even know, but his guardian angel was behind this sudden infusion of Sundial Motto Lore.
As you can see, they are both laughing at Miss Marcel, who even in relating the motto cannot help but complicate the simple presentation of a nosegay to our readers.
The great thing about being little is that we don't hurt ourselves much - when we fall we are not far from the ground! And so, dusting off my knees, I then curtsy to you, dear reader, as a bride once did each time the guests at her wedding clanged their glasses - how adorably modest and sweet was that bride! I curtsy and offer you this nosegay of little flowers from our recent novena, sealed with a KISS for "Keep it simple, silly!"
And now, an important claimer from the management:
We at Miss Marcel's Musings heartily subscribe to the perennial wisdom presented herein with no apologies. You'll find nowhere (but in the next few lines) any of that infernal nonsense, "The opinions and views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position, let alone the opinions and views, of those presenting them to you but now disclaiming any awareness of the content in order to prevent lawsuits or any other inconvenience."
And so we not only offer (with our heartfelt endorsement) this nosegay, but also the tried and true adage we've mentioned before in these posts and repeat now: "A picture is worth a thousand words."
With that in mind, we hope you'll accept our blonde presentation of good St. Francis' suggested little bouquet - though we suspect he had in mind something with more words and fewer pixels. Due to the ubiquitous time-pressure problem, those words will come tomorrow (God willing) in the form of a flower or two from each day of our recently concluded novena. For now, we leave you with a trinity of little flowers just for today: a word (or several, really) from Marcel; our signature signature; and one last kiss until we meet again.
Marcel: What I have, little Jesus, You already know. I told You this morning. I have nothing of real importance; I have only my poor, loving heart and I offer it to You. I asked Mary to place it under your eyes at the altar of repose in the church, so that there, by its presence, it might make You forget Your sadness and You may keep it continuously in this church. Little Jesus, although my heart is not worth a lot, I dare to wish, however, that it be placed today in all the tabernacles of the world where You are present in the Eucharist. It is true that I am expressing here a great wish, but I really believe that You are going to respond to this mad desire in realizing it fully. Besides, I know very well, as You told me, that even by my sighs of love, I can give You a place of rest in me. I am asking You to distribute my sighs of love in all the tabernacles of the world where, today, You are residing. I have not the strength nor the opportunity to go and visit all these tabernacles: I have only my sighs of love to make these visits in my place. Graciously accept them and grant my wish. (Conversations, 467)
Draw me, and we shall run.
And finally, as promised, one last kiss for the road . . .
I have this painting above my kitchen table, where it hangs waiting to draw me deep into prayer every morning over my Lucky Charms or pop-tarts.
Alright, I don't actually eat Lucky charms or pop-tarts anymore (what a loss!), and the painting across from me is not the original - that hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid, but I have a very nice replica, for which I'm grateful and which I do sometimes gaze upon while eating my oatmeal or eggs. More often than not I forget to gaze, but when I remember, the beauty of this image only deepens and never grows stale.
Recently I realized that besides being the most exquisite illustration I've ever seen of Jesus and His cousin John the Baptist, Murillo's painting also does a remarkable job of portraying Little Jesus and little Marcel. Like John the Baptist, Marcel talked about sandals, but perhaps more significantly, like St. John the Baptist our dear Marcel received the Life Giving Water from Jesus in order to share it with us and prepare us for His coming to our hearts.
What is striking me today, though, on this Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist and day-after-the-birth of JK and MME (see yesterday's post for a fuller celebration of THAT solemnity - wow, what a great day in history it was that brought us those two Marcel-lovers!), is a sentence of St. John's that perfectly announces and summarizes the Little Way.
"He must increase and I must decrease." (John 3:30)
Lest we be overcome by my perspicacity (brilliance, insight, wisdom) in connecting this quote with the Little Way, let me just mention that after I put in the Scripture reference (retrieved from Bible Gateway through google), I re-read the sentence and found I'd written, "He must decrease and I must increase." That does about sum up both my mastery of Scripture and the blonde ditziness that helps me spend much of my day in laughter! But happily we are men and not angels, and that means we get as many second chances as we need and can cram into said days.
If we can get Marcel to stop laughing, we'll continue with our Scriptural exegesis. I was so ready to be deep with you today! But our dear little brother has my number and wants to make sure I walk the talk, as well as talking the walk down our little tiny way.
Isn't that it, though? He must increase and I must decrease. If we reverse the order (not the meaning), we get us decreasing - acknowledging and admitting our weakness, littleness, and powerlessness with St. Paul, St. Therese, and dear Marcel, in order that He can increase - filling our souls and our lives with Himself: our weakness attracting His power, our littleness making more room in our souls for His greatness, our inability to make ourselves holy and successful drawing down His mercy and His Love beyond all telling.
Zechariah magnified the Lord after hearing Mary's Magnificat and seeing the fulfillment of God's prophecies in his and Elizabeth's son, born this day to become the forerunner of the Christ, the answer to the prayers of all Israel as well as the answer to the prayers Zechariah and Elizabeth had uttered so fervently many years (decades even) before.
We finished a delightful novena yesterday. It was delightful because Marcel led us along his sister's Little Way and shed laughter as well as roses over our prayers. I've been hearing about how many of the prayers were answered nearly instantly. Then last night a friend wrote to let me know she'd enjoyed the novena to the full, and she added, with great faith and hope, "Lots of intentions on our end. Some, we will no doubt never know the outcome this side of eternity." How true!
I love, love, love Zechariah's reaction to the angel's announcement that Elizabeth would bear a son. "You're a day late and a dollar short, buddy," is my modern translation (the MMRV - Miss Marcel's Revised Version). Did he even remember his prayer of yesteryear? I know that I, too, would have been (would be, for miracles still happen) less than thrilled to find out that what was so desirable in youth (many arrows in the quiver) is suddenly to be fulfilled (and one child is infinitely more than none, so no need for God or His angels to offer triplets, for the elderly to be taken aback) - fulfilled when one has long ago accepted God's Plan B and rearranged one's life accordingly. And now - NOW, after all this time! - now He sends an angel with Plan C??!!
You gotta love history - so full of God's interventions, just when we were getting complacent with our lot. But that complacency has a price, and it is the loss of our youthful hope and idealism. As Pope Saint John Paul II never tired of reminding us: this hope and idealism is a treasure not to be squandered or lost! He had such a gift for extending the age of "youth" into what used to be considered middle age, almost. (The invitation to world youth day is extended to "youth" aged 16 - 35.) And with good reason, as Jesus never tires of teaching us through Marcel and Therese, as He taught us not too long after He was little Jesus playing with His cousin John (later "the Baptist") - in His justly famous words: "Unless you become like little children . . . "
Unless we become like children . . . what?
Pretty dire consequences, let me tell you!
Unless we become like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Little children have many qualities: some endearing, some quite frustrating for the grown-ups who care for them. The characteristic that comes to my mind now is both endearing and frustrating, but overall charming and even capable of inspiring T.V. shows from "Kids say the Darndest Things!" to "America's Funniest Home Videos," and now that we've shifted our attention from the T.V. screen to the computer screen, this characteristic of children has inspired hundreds (or more like tens of thousands) of hilarious home-made YouTube offerings.
To put it plainly, little children put it plainly.
They are direct. They say or express in whatever way is available to them whatever is on their minds, in their hearts, or before their minds and hearts have much to express, whatever their tiny bodies are feeling.
From gurgles, smiles, and laughter to the less attractive crying, spitting up, and tantrums, little children don't leave much to our imaginations when it comes to how they're doing. It's a kind of all-or-nothing, filled with passion and complete honesty. Which is how Jesus taught Marcel to be with Him. To be honest, to express what was new (or old) in his life, to tell Him everything, simply.
Such immediate and direct contact with God is at least one way for us to be like little children and thus obtain the Kingdom of Heaven. As my older son pointed out to me last night, this kind of holy daring and demanding posture also fits perfectly with Jesus' teaching (which I applied to Padre Pio the other day) that the violent take the Kingdom of Heaven by force. I've met nothing more violent than a famished baby desperate to nurse, or a toddler (or me!) with low blood sugar. The solution is so simple! Feed the baby and ourselves, or in the spiritual realm (as well as the physical) let's be sure to call on Jesus as soon as we realize we're in need, hungry for something even when we don't know what it is we are hungry for. He will know it is Himself, and feed us accordingly.
Which would be a sublime thought (and reality) to wrap up this post, only Marcel, obedient to his Teacher's admonition to express himself, is now clamoring for our attention. He wants to be part of the action, and he wants to tell us something now in honor of the Solemnity.
One quick prayer to the Holy Spirit later, and this is what Marcel has for us today. I opened Conversations at random, letting our little brother choose the page, and he is giving us the passage around (434) with Jesus speaking as follows:
"Little brother . . . the only difference between the souls of children and the angels in heaven is that the souls of children are united to a body and so, consequently, they have natural defects. But in spite of that, a child's soul is pure like that of the angels in heaven. Because of that children always possess in themselves the Trinity and continually taste natural joys that the Trinity lavish on them . . . There is no need for me to expand on this subject; I will simply say that the soul of a child is a perfectly pure temple inhabited by the Holy Trinity . . . Marcel, listen to what I am saying to you. The world is very stupid. When the hearts of children have become like a temple where the goodness of the Trinity dwells here below, goodness which has the power to draw to the world the benevolent glance of the Trinity, the world works to destroy these temples of divine goodness and make them disappear because of scandal.
"O world, without Love, you would already be destroyed and reduced to cinders . . . O world, God now wishes to transform you by way of Love; you must live in Love . . . However, to accomplish that, many prayers will be necessary, since the world still rebels against Love."
Thank you, Marcel, for sharing Jesus' words with us. Did it help you, little brother, to hear Truth say that thanks to our bodies, unlike the angels we can always expect to have natural defects? It sure helped me! I'm thinking that we need to be patient with ourselves and each other. Even when we are (unbeknownst to us, invisible to the naked eye) making progress along our Little Way and living more tightly clasped in the arms of Jesus, we shouldn't be surprised that we still get irritable or feel the need to complain. Jesus was not too impatient with your worries about your sandals, your soutane, the heat in your room, and so on and so forth, and He understands our little colicky moments as well.
Then, too, we can try to be patient with each other - with the children big or little that Jesus has brought into our lives. As St. Ephrem said (or so it says on my fridge), we must be kind to each other for we are all fighting a great battle.
And Jesus tells us we must pray. Marcel, I'm so glad (and relieved) that you and Therese have shared with us such helpful hints on prayer. I used to fear that I was displeasing Jesus by not saying more prayers, for longer, and in a less comfortable position . . . but you teach us (as Jesus and Mary and Therese taught you) that there are many ways to pray, and even our breathing and our sleeping are prayers. What good news!
Ah, here is another passage the book has practically flipped itself open to show us. Thank you, dear book of Conversations! Thank you, dear guardian angel! Thank you, especially, dear Blessed Mother, for these words to Marcel and to us:
"My second little Therese, listen to me; each time I speak to you, I can only suggest the same thing: prayer. Prayer of the will, prayer of works, prayer of feeling. Do not forget that there are many means which can help you to pray without tiring yourself. You must not be afraid of prayer. The first Therese of the Child Jesus has taught you the easiest method of prayer, which does not require any words. Since you are very small, continue to follow this method just as she taught you. Little Marcel, my child, pray a great deal for my apostles. Prayer is the weapon and the food that will later serve my favoured children. I wish to have a great supply of it in reserve that I will keep at their disposal. When you turn your glance in my direction, remember what I am saying to you now; that will be a very easy manner of praying that you will be able to use many times a day. My child, continue to follow the method that your sister Therese has taught you; I am only reminding you of it now so that you may remember it more easily." (261)
Now here is a funny thing. I could not for the life of me remember what the first Therese taught Marcel about prayer. And then Our Lady, our loving Mother, gave us this clue: the glance!
Ah, the powerful glance that pierces heaven, the very description by Therese that Holy Mother Church chose to answer the question "What is prayer?" in her universal catechism. The glance of love! Yes!
Gazing at my picture of beautiful little Jesus while I eat breakfast (and now I'm thinking I may be excused for indulging in a pop-tart, if I can find one, on such an important solemnity for children), I am already saying a prayer! How good God is. How He understands the poverty of His dear children!
And then there is the other simple prayer the first Therese taught us recently. I think we'll use it as our signature prayer here at MMM.
Have you ever heard of a signature scent? That's a special perfume a woman wears, one that complements her natural loveliness and allows the people close to her to associate her with the beauty of a particular smell. When I was a little girl, my mom always dabbed her wrists and neck and behind her ears with L'aire du Temps. I knew she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and when she'd lean down to kiss me at night I'd breathe in her signature scent and say a little prayer thanking God for giving me such a beautiful mommy. Wouldn't you know that even though I don't think she has worn L'Air du Temps for a long time, she's more wonderful than ever?
I just found out two very interesting things from my friend Google. First, you can buy L'Air du Temps at Sears and Walmart. I have an $11 gift card from Sears, and there's a Walmart not too far away. Perhaps I'll soon be smelling like a beautiful mommy!
Next, it is true what they say about Google translate. I looked up L'Air du Temps there a moment ago and they told me it means "the weather." Even to a non-French speaking blonde, that sounds suspiciously simple for three (four if you count the truncated 'le' at the outset) words . . . but our friend Wikipedia has a more satisfying explanation. There I found, "L'air du temps is a French expression that roughly translates to 'the current trend' or 'fashionable at the moment.'"
Which would explain why my mom later moved on to Giorgio, Chloe, and other timely fragrances. But regardless of how time (and thus the current trends and what's fashionable at the moment) flies, her earlier signature scent has stayed with me. Children are very impressionable, as Jesus was saying in His words to us a moment ago.
And so, I think we kids here at MMM should adopt a signature prayer, a kind of club motto or mantra, our Semper Fi and battle cry all wrapped into one short phrase. A signature signature, if you will, with which we can heed Jesus and Mary's urging for us to pray a great deal, but without fear and without tiring ourselves.
My goodness we have a lot to thank St. John the Baptist for - he pointed out Jesus, the little Way, and now he's helped us find the words to print on our penon (long, narrow flag, often triangular or swallow-tailed, late 14c., from Old French; penon "feathers of an arrow; streamer, flag, banner," from penne "feather," from Latin penna "feather"), like the one he's holding in Murillo's portrait above. And here it is, just before we sign off:
Draw me, we will run!
St. John the Baptist, pray for us!
St. Zechariah and St. Elizabeth, pray for us!
Blessed Mother, remind us to glance at you frequently, and answer our every look with your motherly embrace and sweet compassion.
Little Therese, teach us to pray as you taught our brother Marcel to pray.
And Marcel, thank you for being so much fun! Kiss little Jesus for us, a lot!
If there's anything I love more than sparkly things, it's people using them (or the thought of them) to climb to even more sparkly things! Another friend of Marcel (and friend of mine, and mother of my friend Tim, who is also a great pal of Marcel's) let me know she had something fun - and sparkly - over at her place HERE. See if you don't agree that ruby red slippers are right up there with glass slippers as THE most wonderful footwear! But ruby slippers are only the beginning . . .
Clearly my first task is to make good on yesterday's promises, and you'll be relieved to know I found the Brad Pitt quote. I've caught him with his rose colored shades, to the left, above, so you can see I was not being as accurate a reporter as the Internet's code of acceptable conduct requires (I had surmised he wore rose colored contacts under his shades; this photo proves he's simply wearing rose colored shades). You won't be surprised, then, to hear that I falsely quoted him too. My bad. Turns out he didn't say the lucky ones would find twue wuv 3 or 4 times per life, but I'm not as disappointed as I might have been at my shockingly inaccurate memory. As you know, it's company policy here to revel in our weaknesses, knowing as we do that they are a magnet for God's power. Secondly, a faulty memory is so very Marcel that we rejoice in the likeness to our alter ego (or is he an altar ego?). And finally, the truth is always so much better than what we make up that I'm never sad to discover The Real Thing. And here is what it turns out BP (aka "that maroon") said, according to reliable sources.
"How many times do you think real love comes to someone in a lifetime? If you're lucky, maybe two or three."
Not bad, Brad! We wish you the real thing, and two or three times over at least! Because when I think of some of the Real Loves that God has put into my life, I can see I've been more than lucky - I'd call it positively blessed. It's like blowing out birthday candles - take a deep breath before you count your blessings because each succeeding year, there are more to maneuver, especially if we're looking at the cake-of-our-life through Rose colored glasses - you know, the kind Therese promised to fit us up with. Think of her as a holy optician in the service of the Divine Physician. Try what frames we like, the lens is already prescribed, and it's none other than Marcel's prescription. If the world comes into focus with these glasses on - no, wait, I'm not sure if we want the world to come into focus! Let's say instead that if these glasses help us to see Real Life (and True Love) in better perspective, then we've found what we're looking for, and we can't expect our sight to be properly adjusted if we leave our new glasses on the nightstand and go back to missing out on the beauty that surrounds us. (I grew up in a family of ophthalmologists, so these wacky metaphors come naturally. Which is helpful because so much has been said about Therese that it's hard to be original, but I just may be the first to call her a holy optician. A holy optician to the stars, no less: that would be us, the future saints!)
But did someone say Birthday cake? Let's see if we can produce one in honor of the last day of our novena. Cakes are so very festive, and we have much to celebrate today.
Not to change the subject, but did you know that St. Therese was a blonde? It's absolutely true! This was a shock for me when I first came across it in some authoritative description of her (no, it wasn't Parade magazine, but something even more authoritative, if you can believe it!). Since Celine's photos of her are black and white, Therese's eyebrows look dark to me. Then there's the famous photo when she tried to look older to convince the bishop to let her enter Carmel right away (she was 14 going on 15): she put her hair up in an elegant do, and it looks dark. Lastly, there's a picture of her dressed as Joan of Arc for a convent recreation, and she's wearing a brunette wig (or so it looks in the photos), and dopey me, I always think that's her real hair!
I feel like a careful journalist, protecting my source, but you know me by now, and the truth is I can't remember the source. Nonetheless there is also photographic proof of Therese's natural hair color, proof to counter the pictures I've mentioned. Look again at the children in the birthday cake picture above. You know how you can identify the saints by their symbols? Don't you see the rose on the mug in front of the little girl at the right? And wouldn't you peg her for a blonde, no question? That is obviously Therese and she's clearly a blonde. Except that on closer inspection, we may want to call her a dishwater blonde. . .
Blast if I haven't forgotten why I wanted to prove she was blonde. Oh yes, now I remember. But oops, another circular argument (on the plus side, they never leave loose ends! A circle is so very satisfying and eternal) - I was going to prove that little girl was St. Therese because she was blonde. And had the rose. But you can't deny that roses and Therese go together, so I think we need not worry about our logic. I'll tell you sometime about how my talent for logic-at-parties got me into grad school, but we have no time for that now.
Marcel has been waiting patiently while I jabber, and funny enough, he's glad he didn't interrupt because Heaven knows I've worked myself into a tight spot, and he's enjoying it. Talk about a maroon! It turns out that I may be one of the few people on the planet who knows where St. Therese's shower of roses comes from, that is, where she got the idea. Okay, I may be one of thousands of people who know this, but are they all blogging this week? Are they doing a novena that zipped right through and past St. Aloysius' Day with barely a nod? Whew! We did nod at least, and that was enough to set Aloysius and Marcel into gales of laughter, knowing as they did that I'd come begging Al's pardon today.
But now I'm laughing with them, because I don't have my copy of Therese's Last Conversations at hand, so I looked on the internet for this connection between St. Therese and her roses, and St. Al's and his. I was relieved to find that someone DID know about the link, but it turned out to be me! I mention it in an article called 24 Reasons to Love St. Therese that Catholicmom.com published on her feast in October, 2015. Poor me back then. Not only did I fail to give the complete story of Therese and Aloysius (the problem with brevity! and by contrast, the joy of a blog!), but I left off reason 25, the biggest reason of all to love Therese, since I didn't know it yet. Simply put: Marcel!
Well, regardless of my continuing inability to tell a story straight, we greet you St. Aloysius. How very much gratitude we owe you for starting off the storm of glory that hit our world when Therese joined you in heaven, having first decided when she was still on earth, to imitate you in this matter of showering roses. Thank you, St. Al! The other day I did read that you died when you were 23. Don't let St. Therese lord it over you that she was 24! And then Marcel, the eldest among you at 28!
You have none of you a leg to stand on. You have all been outlived by two Miss Marcels, a little lover of Marcel, a new friend of Marcel (we hope), and the man who who knew just enough, so no more jostling for "oldest and brightest." It's the Little Way, remember? And in order to get to the point here - which is obviously: WHO IS BLOWING OUT THE CANDLES while Therese-Marcel looks on? - we'll need you to stop your ribbing up there and get ready to shower more roses.
It is Day 9 of our Novena of Joy. It is also June 23rd. We started on June 15th and went 9 days (including today) and that means June 23rd. It's customary to end a novena on a saint's day or other holy day. What shall we say about June 23rd? Was there a method to this Marcel Madness? And who exactly is Bugs calling a maroon? Brad Pitt is only allowed cameos here, but Bugs and Daffy are no fly-by-night characters. Tweety, or Wile E. Coyote with a little help from another ACME product, maybe, but not the rabbit and the duck.
Oh. I was about to say everyone knows rabbits and ducks can't fly.
No harm done, this blonde moment brings me to my point as effectively as anything could.
For it turns out that I am the maroon.
I thought I could pull a fast one on Miss Marcel East, but at the 11th hour, she called my bluff. Last night she emailed and wrote:
"I know I’m gonna sound like a total dope, but did you do this novena specifically so it would end on Jack's and my birthday? I didn’t realize it would end on our day until tonight! What a maroon!"
Ah, you only know the half of it, Miss Marcel East, but that half you have uncovered with the skill of a modern day Sherlock (or is it Watson I want here?). And who are you calling a maroon?! So I've been duped. I thought I could pull it off and you foiled me - but I have the hope that Jack will be surprised!
Who is this Jack? the gentle reader joining us may ask. Why none other than Jack Keogan, the man who brought Marcel to the English speaking world! That is, to us!!! Talk about men to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. And just as Miss Marcel East was the one who innocently suggested, "Why don't you start a blog?" some months past, so Jack recently and innocently mentioned (in a parenthetical remark, no less; as I like to say, great minds think alike, and someday I'll have to share with you the letter Belloc wrote Baring in which nearly the whole turned into a parenthetical remark, which the first B then deftly defended) - but as I was saying, Jack innocently remarked, "On June 23rd, if you wish to say a prayer for me, it's my birthday."
If I wish to say a prayer for you? Now we get to the crux of the matter, the hub, the essence, the nub, the rub, the very knot of my dilemma. (Do dilemmas have knots? If not, the knot at the heart of my skein of tangled yarn, let's say.)
Mr. Jack Keogan, the man who knew just enough . . .I can't say you knew too much, for if you'd known the extent of what Therese and Marcel were getting you into on that fateful day when you called Les Amis de Van to procure Marcel's Autobiography in English, how could you have had the courage to even make the call, let alone spontaneously (surprising even yourself) offer to do the translation yourself, when you found it didn't yet exist?
A long sentence, the meaning perhaps muddied, but hey, I'm not a great translator even of my own thoughts onto virtual paper! But you, dear Jack, well I'm sure you are a great translator, or what's even more important, a translator after Jesus' own Heart. Did you notice, amidst the many words so dear that you have rendered from the French into perfect English for us, the passage where Jesus explains to Marcel that someday you will come and work for them? I'll write it out here, so that not only you, but all the people I've inveigled and cajoled into praying for you, can read Jesus' loving description of you. And yes, you were the original "intention" of my novena, you and Miss Marcel East who shares your birthday today; both of you as true originals soon joined in my ever expanding intention list by a little lover of Marcel, the very one who loved him before she knew him, and a hopeful new friend of his, whose birthdays, so it happens, coincided on 15 June, precisely 9 days before yours.
Lest we forget to finish our novena, I will lead us in one last prayer, this one chosen by today's birthday girl and about which she said, "And I just adore: draw me and we shall run. Oh, it’s perfection. What more is there to say. It’s the prayer of a lifetime. " So let's do it!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Oh Blessed Trinity, draw me . . . we shall run!
And dear Father, thank you for Jack and MME. Thank you for the little lover of your beloved Marcel. Thank you for the girl of hope who fills the world with joy. Fill them, in this novena of their birthdays, with Your Spirit of Love and thus draw them, running, into the arms of little Jesus on the lap of Mary. Answer every prayer of their hearts, and every prayer that has been added to this novena, which we offer you with the confidence of Therese and the irresistible littleness of Marcel, through Jesus' name. Amen.
Now doesn't that feel right and just? Our novena is complete, except to read together the passage of Conversations that will give you a portrait, from Jesus Himself, of Marcel's two translators. If you want to see a more grown-up photo of these two great friends of Marcel (although the birthday child is quite charming and a good likeness, I imagine, of all 4 of our birthday kids), here it is:
Not that I'm sure the priest on the right is Fr. Boucher, Marcel's bearded Jesus, novice master, spiritual director, and the one who spent 20 years translating M's Vietnamese into perfect French. But he (the priest on the right) is a Redemptorist, so we'll let him fill in as Fr. Boucher - because he's also filling in for our Birthday Jack, the one who spent 20 years translating Fr. B's French translations of M into perfect English, and who I'm absolutely sure is as dear to Marcel as bearded Jesus!
As to the girl on the left, that is Te (Tay), whom the Redemptorists and Marcel her brother sometimes called "Marcelle." She is standing in for our Miss Marcel East, and the little lover of Marcel, and the girl of hope and joy. Isn't it a fine photo? It's worth a thousand words, unless the words come from the adorable mouth of Marcel's Jesus. His words, in any language, are worth more than all the photos, black, white, sepia, and color, ever taken! So let's read them together now, and with them, wish the Man who Knew Just Enough, good Jack Keogan, many happy returns of the day!
From the Jack Keogan translation of Marcel Van's Conversations (513):
(Jesus): Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of my Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person. You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience. It is the same for crosses, for sufferings; I must choose different crosses for each soul to whom I send them, since, if I dealt with all souls in the same way, who would be able to walk along the path of perfection?
Often, however, translators do not act with enough prudence when they translate books destined for the use of all souls; indeed, having little experience, and not knowing the degree of perfection these souls have reached, they often translate only according to their own personal fervour . . . This is what I wish: for books useful for all souls, a person of experience is necessary to translate them who is aware of the degrees of perfection by which souls must pass, so as to translate for the ordinary soul and for the common good. By that, many souls will be able to understand what they must gain, or what is still lacking in their spiritual lives.
If the translator allows himself to be guided by his personal fervour, or that of someone he knows, he will often lead many souls away from the path by which I was conducting them. And they, believing themselves to be deceived, will commit themselves to a new way that is not meant for them and which they will abandon little by little, to their detriment . . .
Little brother, that's enough. You are tired, go and sleep. Today ask for permission to write to your little sister. I have been suggesting it for a long time already . . . You must give your sister a little happiness; nothing pleases her so much as to receive your letters.
* * *
Good Jack, lest you fear that you are that bad translator Jesus describes, remember that, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have no way to know how many have eaten of these four delectable puddings you've set before us, but this I do know without doubt: those of us who have so eaten, and I can count (give me a second, please), yes I can count an even dozen off the top of my head whose lives are even as we speak being radically changed by Conversations alone, which we wouldn't have without your translation. And rather than your work having prompted us in the wrong direction, to follow "a new way that is not meant for them . . ." thanks to you and your years of work for Jesus and Therese and Marcel, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the Little Way, that way of little Therese and littler Marcel, the way which has been offered to all the faithful as a sure way by Our Holy Fathers, the Way that is Jesus.
Do write your little sister Miss Marcel when you have a chance, and I will happily post here any greetings you'd like to send to your many fans, the many who have joined me in not only wishing to say a prayer on your birthday, but in offering you this spiritual bouquet of Theresian roses - our novena! May Therese be her usual lavish self, and with our brother Marcel shower you and yours with heavenly roses beyond counting, this day, this year, and forever.
But our battle cry, straight from Jesus, is "No more worrying, about anything, any more!" And in that spirit, do not worry dear Jack that you have not written enough to your little sister. You have many little sisters now, and we have all fulfilled Jesus' prophesy: "Nothing pleases her so much as to receive your letters." We want you to know that every page of Marcel translated by your able hands and your experienced heart is a letter to us that we enjoy again and again. I know it's true for this little sister and for Miss Marcel East: Nothing pleases us so much as receiving these pages from Marcel, Jesus, Fr. Boucher, and you! Thank you, kind Jack, and may God bless you.
And may He bless us all! May roses surround us beyond our wildest dreams, such that the whole world wonders along with us, and as He draws each of us, so those we love will run to Him too.
Many happy returns of the day to our 4 birthday honorees of June 15th and June 23rd, and thanks to all who have joined me in happily praying for these my intentions. Please know I have loved praying for yours!
Now wasn't that fun?
I woke up in the nicest possible way this morning. It was too early, but instead of an alarm going off, there was Jesus whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Before you decide I'm in need of a seasoned spiritual director to help me discern from whence this voice came (that's one of the bummers about really hearing voices - you have to figure out FOR SURE whose they are!), let me assure you that I hear His voice as Therese did back in the day (her days on earth) not like Marcel did.
Oh what a terrible beginning! Just when we're getting close to Marcel meeting Therese and finding out they are practically the same person, here I come separating them. Forgive me Marcel (Therese is laughing - I'm not going to ask her forgiveness; she thinks this is hilarious - me getting myself into a pickle before we've even properly begun this post).
First let's deal with Therese. Okay sista, a proper beginning. An introduction. Readers, meet Therese (the short one) and her older sister, the intrepid Celine (the taller one). There, are you satisfied you imp? (She's nodding, which encourages me to explain about the voice I heard - so I can explain what I mean when I say she's nodding. Apparitions on top of locutions - this is quite an 8th day!)
Second let's deal with Marcel. My explanations about how I'm merely imaginative, not holy nor persecuted by evil minions, will have to wait.
Did you ever read A Severe Mercy? It's well worth your time (no, not giving you a link - you don't have permission to go find it before we finish our 8th Day. My own distractions are bad enough; if we start letting yours in, we'll never make it through in one piece or one peace). It's written by a friend of C.S. Lewis, a man named Sheldon Vanauken, and it's a memoir about Sheldon's love for his wife, and their conversions (thanks to C.S. Lewis). What's stuck with me all these years (I read it maybe 30 years ago. And yes, I guess I must be about a hundred now if I can say "I read that 30 years ago," but time does fly) is the explanation Sheldon gives about the kind of union true love desires.
Do you mind if I digress just the teensiest bit? Speaking of true love reminds most people of The Princess Bride (which you should watch after we finish here) and "Twue Wuv," but for me it brings to my blonde soul a much more enlightened and edifying association. A quote I read in Parade magazine about 10 years ago (give or take 5) in an interview with Brad Pitt. He said, "If you're lucky, true love comes to you maybe three or four times in your life."
You just have to admire that man's insight. Most people would have limited it to one - if you're very lucky, true love comes to you maybe once in your life. But Brad has either much more luck than the rest of us, or he's wearing rose colored contacts under those cool shades. Let's include him, and all his true loves, in our novena, just in case they aren't using the same definition of true love that we're lucky enough to have been given. And in all honesty, I don't remember if it was "three or four times" that he opined love (true love) would come to the lucky . . . but that was the gist and it was certainly more than once. If I get a chance, I'll try to unearth that quote so we can confirm and know what to look for! Because we certainly are among the lucky ones, here with Marcel and Therese while the rest of the world wanders around in a daze, still looking for soul mates. We've found ours, and that leads me back to where we were before this slighty more than teensy (we'll call it tiny) digression.
Which is back with Marcel, apologizing to him. Marcel, I know you cherish your oneness with Therese. But while Sheldon was so over the top admirable in his pursuit and dream of complete oneness - I think I remember his example was liking the same foods, wanting your steak cooked the same way: a unity that encompassed every detail of your preferences - I know that you, dear brother, understand it isn't every detail that must be identical for spirits to be kindred, but something deeper and more essential.
With you and Therese, then, it's okay that Jesus spoke to you in different ways. The important thing is that He, who never changes, gave you both the same message. As He explains to you in the conversations you had with Him, you are littler than your sister, weaker, poorer. She was very little, very weak, very poor in spirit, but you, Marcel, were a quark to her grain of sand. Both extremely small, but one (you!) immeasurably smaller than the other. And so, as Jesus told you, He had to come down even closer to you and speak to you with even more immediacy, like a mother would lean down and pick up her crying infant and nestle him to her cheek and breast to soothe him, whereas with a crying 5-year-old she might hold him beside her knee, her arm around him, asking what was wrong.
Not to annoy Therese by calling her something so big as a 5-year-old! She was careful to be specific when answering Mother Agnes' (her sister Pauline's) question about what she meant by spiritual childhood. In her explanation she included, "That's why I've been concerned to always remain a very little child before God - because as children start growing, they're expected to start working!" As she told us on Day 6, those who love cannot remain inactive, so it's not exactly that she was afraid of work. (And then here is another reason we love you more, Marcel: you were afraid of work and told Jesus you only wanted to play. I'm with you on this one, I'd rather play!) Rather, she didn't want to work in order to earn Heaven. That was going to be Jesus' job, to give the little ones heaven by a new way, a way which consisted of Him taking them in His arms and lifting them up there with Him (like the elevator Therese had seen in a hotel in Paris, a wonder that made the laborious work of climbing stairs - say to a third floor room, and carrying luggage - so unnecessary).
But again: there is little, and then there is minuscule. You, Marcel, are minuscule and thus Jesus spoke to you in a different way than he spoke to Therese. You needed Fr. Boucher (oh how he's been waiting to be invited into the novena - why of course you're invited, Father!). You needed him to help you discern; to ask you to write, then to stop writing, then convinced by your obedience as much as by the words Jesus was giving you, to pick up your pen and write some more, everything in fact, to your and Jesus' Hearts' content.
Perhaps we are not as little as you are, Marcel, and thus Jesus finds He can speak to us in more ordinary ways.
Your sister Therese was adamant that God made her life imitable (able to be imitated) in every important way, so that little souls (not as minuscule as you, but little nonetheless) could have a model to imitate - we read yesterday in your Autobiography how you yourself felt the need for a saint you could imitate. And certainly in those days you had no idea Jesus would later speak to you in the ways He did, but still even before you heard His voice (or your sister's) you couldn't have survived a day if, as Mother Teresa told us in her Varanasi letter, Jesus didn't constantly tell you that He loved you.
This more ordinary way of hearing Jesus, the way we too can hear Him, the way I heard Him this morning when He whispered His sweet nothings in my ear to wake me - like so many things experienced by little souls, this too is explained beautifully by Therese in her autobiography, the book we've left you eyeing suspiciously, Story of a Soul. Like you, Marcel, she wrote out of obedience and charity, only in her case it was her sisters who put her up to it, rather than a spiritual director.
One of those sisters, the one responsible for most of the book, is Marie of the Sacred Heart, Therese's oldest sister and godmother. "Manuscript B" is the part of Story of a Soul that Therese wrote when Marie asked for a souvenir of her retreat in which Therese would explain the secrets that Jesus was revealing to her little soul. In it she writes:
"Without showing Himself, without making His voice heard, Jesus instructs me in secret. It is not by means of books, because I do not understand what I read, but sometimes a word like this one that I pulled out at the end of the prayer time (after remaining in silence and dryness) comes to comfort me: 'Here is the teacher that I am giving you; He will teach you everything that you must do. I want to make you read in the book of life, in which is contained the science of Love'"
Ah, Therese! Ah, Marcel! How mysterious are the ways in which God speaks to us. Let's see. You, Therese, had St. John of the Cross, and Holy Scripture (some of it, the best parts, that Celine brought with her into the convent in a special hand-written notebook she shared with you, as well as the New Testament), the Imitation of Christ (which is WAY too big for me - try as I might I have never been able to hear much there from Jesus to my soul), Fr. Arminjon's book that you and Celine had loved together (which Sophia Press now sells, but no links for little souls!) and which Mr. Marcel East loves so (but alas, again I have not found my nourishment there, for Jesus had another book in mind for me) . . . and then Marcel, our brother, you had Therese's Story of a Soul (and we'll soon find out what happened with you and that book) . . . but we, the blessed beyond the Blessed, we have YOUR BOOKS, Marcel, YOUR Conversations in which to hear Jesus' voice speak to us. We get the best of both worlds - He speaks to us in a word we read, like He did to Therese, and He speaks to us in every word that He spoke to you, as He tells us (and I have quoted in my musings before) with great Authority.
I take it back then. Something hadn't sounded right about our being not as little as you, but now we're back where we belong. Is there such a thing as half a quark? That would be us, which is why Jesus gives us everything, in you, in Therese, in daily Communion (when we can avail ourselves of this free gift) and so much more.
So now, gentle reader, you can relax in the full realization that Jesus' whispering in my ear might simply have been my sleep-reading of Conversations. In fact, no, though; He whispered as I woke, and fortunately I have not the charism of sleep-reading (wouldn't that be like the Midas touch? I feel like it would cost more than it was worth - I do so love my sleep). But I think it was like Therese says in another place (which I don't dare find for you now lest we never get back to the story of Marcel's soul): that she never heard Jesus audibly, but she heard Him in her heart (like we do). This is getting circular - I hear Him as Therese did who heard Him as I do! Maybe I will have to find you that other explanation (Doctors of the Church are clearer than their typists), but what's much more interesting than how Jesus spoke to me (through my imagination which needs not much encouragement to rule the house) is what He said to me. And that I will tell you without delay.
Jesus was whispering that He is so happy I've been telling you to be confident! And the crazy thing is that since He is God, He can whisper this to me in so many ways, and He is doing just that, longing as He is to tell you to trust Him, to place all confidence in Him, to put no limits on your requests of Him.
It was so sweet to have these thoughts as I woke, thoughts about how He is so pleased with us for turning to Him in our novena, and pleased with me for telling you to be confident and to rest assured that He is hearing your prayers. He always has heard them, but didn't you say them often with some fear? Well of course you did - I mean we all do because as a friend reminded me in an email recently, Perfect Love casts out fear, but we don't have perfect love yet. I was delighted to remind her back that it is not our own perfect love that will cast out fear from our hearts, but Jesus' perfect Love! And one way He does this - casts out our fear - is by sending us saints who will show us the way to life without fear. And among these saints, the one canonized in order to have more authority in telling us, "No fear!" is St. Therese - who is even a Doctor of the Church because Jesus wants us to trust her telling us to trust Him! And then, as if that weren't enough, He sends us Marcel and tells us, "All that I say to him, I say to you," and over and over again repeats to our brother and to us, "No more worrying, any more, ever!"
We fail. We worry. BUT - here is the message He sent, along with His own Holy Spirit and a burst of joy this morning, a message that I He delivered again while I was looking for another particular quote I wanted to share with you. Certainly St. Anthony is not the only one who helps us find things. Jesus will help us find things, but most especially He'll help us find what He is trying to give us, whether or not that's what we're looking for. Because instead of that elusive quote I was hunting, I was captured by this one, from a story one of her novices told about Therese, and which appeared in the early copies of Story of a Soul (which included extras like her counsels to these same novices). Here is the quote Jesus liked best and wanted us to find:
"If I'm leading you into error with my little way of love," Therese used to say to her novices, "don't be afraid that I'm leaving you to follow it for a long time. I would appear to you soon to tell you to take another road. But, if I don't come back, believe in the truth of my words:
We can never have too much trust in the Good Lord, who is so powerful and so merciful!
We obtain everything from Him according to the measure with which we hope for it!"
Isn't she marvelous? But the good news is that she did come back - not to say her way was mistaken, but to say that her way was sure and true! You know she's come back with her shower of roses, but did you know there are volumes and volumes (all in French, too bad for me!) in the Lisieux Carmel, full of testimonies sent to Therese's sisters in the years immediately following her death (or rather, her entrance into Life)? These volumes are called, fittingly, "Shower of Roses" and some of them were printed in English not long after Therese's Story of a Soul made its first rounds; printed at the back of a a fat green book called Souer Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus edited by one Rev. Thomas N. Taylor. How I love this book! Keep your eyes open and find it the old fashioned way . . . it turns up with surprising frequency - or not so surprising frequency when you consider that a jillion copies were sold in any number of editions (that later came to be called Saint Therese of Lisieux, after she was canonized).
Thanks to Fr. Taylor, then, I've read many times the story (in the Shower of Roses section at the back of the green book) about how there was a poor Carmel in Gallipoli, Italy - I mean destitute - and after reading Story of a Soul (which had been sent around as Therese's circular obituary letter to Carmelite convents all over the world), the mother superior led the sisters in a novena to Sister Therese. Though she was but recently deceased, these nuns were no dummies and saw that she was obviously a Saint, even though not much had yet been started in the way of pursuing her canonization. Fr. Taylor, besides publishing the green book, was the first one to suggest such a thing (a process and eventual canonization) to Therese's sisters. Who at first thought he was crazy. She was very good, certainly, but canonized? They were as far from expecting this as, later, was Marcel. She wasn't like the Saints they were used to honoring. But God has the last word about what kind of Saints he wants to add to the list of the Blessed.
But to return to our nuns in Gallipoli. They were praying a novena to Therese who was not yet even Blessed nor venerable (nor did she even have a cause). That sounds familiar . . . Oh, because it's what we're doing here! A novena to Marcel and Therese - do you think they would obtain what we asked for us?
Well, listen to what happened to this innocently unprepared mother superior when she prayed to little Therese (little Marcel wasn't born yet, so we can't blame her for not including him) for financial relief.
Therese showed up in the mother's bedroom and had Mama Superior follow her to the cash box, which had been bare like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, when what to her wondering eyes should appear but MONEY in the box!? Mother thought she was dreaming and in her dream when the little Carmelite whom she'd first mistaken for Teresa of Avila (which made the dreamy nun laugh and say, No I am little Therese) started to walk away, Mother said, "But you might lose your way," because it was dark except for the light streaming from little Therese. The shining angel-of-a-nun smiled back at her and said, "No - my way is sure."
In the morning, waking up in her own bed, Mother was understandably addled. Her sisters pressed her and she told them of her dream. The other nuns led her to the cash box and sure enough - MONEY! Later the Bishop got involved: he was much impressed by the words, "My way is sure," and as he suspected, these words meant a great deal to the novices in Lisieux. More miracles occurred (more money) until with their 15 minutes of fame, the these poor Carmelites came to the attention of those who could help support them with alms from earth. For her part, Therese had been true to her word, and left no one in doubt: her way is sure.
Which means we, too, can absolutely trust her words, and she is telling us that God is absolutely trustworthy.
So what shall you ask of Him? If you've been here for a few days already, you may have a tidy list going. Now's the time to get the spiritual equivalent of a huge roll of butcher paper and ask your angel to help you list your every intention - everyone's every intention! - and then let's take a hint from Marcel's sister (and ours) and trust that God will answer them all.
You don't feel very trusting?
I will trust with you.
I'll also add to my long list, "Little Therese, you have no need of your confidence any more. You can see God! You know how good He is. So give us your trust, your confidence, your daring, your audacity, your spirit of adorable curly-headed childlike abandonment into the loving arms of our Good Heavenly Father."
That's taken care of.
Which is good, because there's something else I needed to mention.
Are you worried that you haven't specified all your intentions? Instead of needing a huge length of spiritual butcher paper, is your list fitting on a mini-post-it note so far?
Hey, you're not going to believe this, but you're not alone.
It's so hard to remember what we're supposed to be praying for (what we were asked to pray for, who we promised to pray for, what those pesky long term intentions are that have been with us so long they're now part of us at the cellular level, but what were they again?). So Therese gave us a brilliant solution to free us from worrying even about this, about our inability to pray properly.
St. Paul took pains to assure us that the Holy Spirit will pray within us "as we ought," and Therese, eager child ready to help out the Holy Spirit, has shared her prayer with us (in Story of a Soul, and in our Day 6, I think it was), so let's say it again with her now. Our repetition may help us remember it for future use too. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Jesus, Draw me; we shall run!
I don't know about you, but I'm finding Therese's simplicity more and more attractive each day. Kind of like Marcel - that is, I'm finding his simplicity more attractive every day for sure, but I'm also finding her ever more attractive just as he did. You don't need to take my word for it, though; it's time to rejoin Marcel and let him tell his own story.
When we last saw our hero, he was having a bad night. He'd been hit upside the head with not just one, but two dilemmas: first his problem of desiring to be a saint, which desire felt like a temptation caused by pride, so in this very desire he feared he was offending God. And second, he'd asked the Blessed Virgin for help and a sign, and she'd given him this boring book to read. We left him standing in the study hall, Story of a Soul in hand and a look of disdain on his young face. Remember, he was only 14, but he is our hero, so I for one have high hopes this will turn out well. (Plus I've read the story before, and these pages are seared into my soul like an anointing from the Holy Spirit.) Marcel has just decided that he'd better read what Our Lady has given him. We join him now as he procrastinates . . .
+ + +
I did not stop looking at the book, but I did not commit myself to open it and read it. I remember clearly that in the Lang-son seminary my friend Cau, who was in charge of the library, had passed a similar book to me; unfortunately I had only leafed through it from beginning to end, but seeing that it was not illustrated I had returned it to the library and asked for another one. This was the first time since then that it had again fallen into my hands, and once more I did not feel any sympathy for it. But I had promised to read it . . . I must do so. So, taking hold of it, I went to sit down with book in hand and I began reading. Shortly afterwards I moved my chair to a corner near the fireplace so as not to disturb my friends, and again I read a little. Oh, what an interesting book! I turned the pages quickly to the last chapter to see how it ended. At that moment I no longer despised the book. I went back to the first pages and began reading once again. On finishing the preface, I felt my soul immediately relieved and overflowing with happiness. I comforted myself in this way: "So, to become a saint is not only to walk by the path of 'saints of bygone days.' There are many paths leading to holiness." I continued to read the first chapter.
I had not read more than two pages when my eyes began to mist over little by little, then two streams of tears flowed down my cheeks, flooding the pages of the book. It was impossible to continue reading. My tears were the witness of my repentance for my attitude of a short while ago, and at the same time a source of indescribable joy. Yes, only the tears springing from my heart under the impulse of a strong emotion were capable of expressing the intensity of my happiness. I had the sensation that my heart had melted into burning tears which were flooding my face. I do not understand how in the grip of such a great joy it was, nevertheless, impossible for me to hold back my tears. What moved me completely was this reasoning of St. Therese: "If God only humbled himself towards the most beautiful flowers, symbols of the holy doctors, his love would not be an absolute love, since the characteristic of love is to humble oneself to the extreme limit." Then, taking the sun as an example, she writes, "As the sun shines at the same time on the cedar and the little flower, in the same way the divine Star especially lights up all souls, big or small."
Oh what reasoning, so deep in its simplicity! In reading these words I was able to understand, a little, the immensity of God's heart, which goes beyond all created limits; that is to say, it is infinite. So, without need for any further reasoning, I found in these words the key which opened for me a way which was direct and pleasing, leading right to the summit of perfection. I understood that God is love and that Love adapts itself to all forms of love. Consequently, I can become holy by means of all my little actions: a smile, a word, a look, provided that all are motivated by love. What happiness! Therese is a saint who corresponds totally to the idea I had in my mind of holiness. From now onwards, sanctity will no longer frighten me. I have found a way which, less than a century previously, had been followed by a soul: and this soul has reached the ultimate goal, just like many other saints who led lives of sorrow, and sown with thorns. [And yet this way is not sad or thorny.] It is the way of love of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus.
+ + +
There is so much more Marcel wants to tell us. He has met Therese in her book - soon (in just six more pages of his book) he will meet her in a more personal and profound encounter. I wish I could copy these pages out for you here, but we have to keep moving, to get our posts published, our little prayers said, and soon it will be time for Day 9!
Do you know that yesterday I got a concerned email from a loving Marcel-ite and friend who worried, "Suzie, I have not seen Day 7! Is everything okay?" Truth be told, I posted it past the deadline for those in later time zones. As it was, I barely made it before midnight in my own time zone (oh come on, my angel says, we had an hour and change to spare!). So I'm determined to post Day 8 well before anyone can worry about me - because it's true: something dire would have to happen to stop me writing about Marcel for you!
Are we satisfied with our little prayer from Day 8? I think we might add one of my other favorite prayers, because this is my chance to get you to say it with me!
On a related note, do any of you have the same problem I do? Trying to get my family to say a novena with me is like pulling teeth! Not that I try hard, but like pulling teeth, one would rather not try at all. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I think my husband and sons don't trust me; I must have foisted too many long-prayered novenas on them. I can't remember doing this, but who knows? One who loves cannot remain inactive :) If this is, indeed, a problem you face too, you could try my solution as well: Just start a blog and then make your readers pray along with you!
But before you start your blog, join me in this prayer which I think is quite short (not as short as our earlier prayer, but pithy in its own way) and one of my very favorites. It, too, can be found again later by clicking on "Prayers" above the typewriter up at the top here.
This favorite is an official novena prayer to St. Therese, so it's a perfect way to approach the end of our very little novena. We'll trust our angels to list our intentions, those we remember and those we've forgotten, our own, each other's, and those of the people who (poor things) haven't made it over to Miss Marcel's Musings yet. I've said this prayer so many times I accidentally memorized it, which is nice because whenever I come across a rose, I say it quickly to make it clear to heaven that I'm taking every rose as a sign, now that Therese wants me to believe as she did in God's love. I'll ask your angel to help you learn it by heart too - but don't hurt yourself trying! As Marcel has just learned, littleness is nothing to fret over or despise . . . .
Novena Prayer to St. Therese
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
please ask God to grant the favors
I now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help me to always believe as you did,
in God’s great love for me,
so that I may imitate your “Little Way” each day.
* * *
Don't forget to come back tomorrow, when we'll finish our novena and I'll announce the intentions I started with, so that you can enjoy hearing about how beautifully my prayers have been answered. Well no, they haven't been completely answered yet, but I'm full of confidence (Therese's confidence) that they will be when we meet again tomorrow . . . I'll try to post early (God willing) so you can read it on our final day, June 23, no matter your time zone. Meanwhile, have a good rest. Tomorrow will be more fun than people in exile should be allowed to have, and you'll want to be ready!
For simple souls there must be no complicated ways;
as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving,
Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
We're back for Day 7 of our Novena of love and laughter. And I am even more excited than I've been on Days 1 through 6! This might strike you as slightly (or extremely) unbalanced. How much excitement can one person feel - and share - without becoming totally unhinged?
I don't have an answer to that sensible concern, except to say that no one whose husband calls her sillier than the poodle (and take my word for it, the poodle in question is super duper silly) can be expected to put a lid on her excitement. Especially not when the Saints have been provoking her with their kisses, their teasing, their surprises, their roses.
You see, we've started a novena. That's the Catholic version of winning the lottery. Not like buying a lottery ticket, mind you. I'm saying that praying on this scale is like winning the lottery, and not just a $50 prize, but the millions we know would unhinge our lives much more quickly than any amount of holy enthusiasm is likely to do. The obvious question to ask, then, is "What scale? If praying on 'this' scale is going to produce such radical effects, what kind of prayers are we talking about?"
We're talking about the time-honored, time-tested novena in whatever form, however silly or sensible. For those of you just joining us now, mid-novena, feel free to read and pray the previous posts with us, but you're already in without that extra effort; our Boss has a policy of paying in full no matter what hour - or in this case, day - you join the party. The lovely reality is that, by definition, in its very 9-ness every novena replicates the original Pentecostal one: the Apostles praying in the upper room with the Blessed Mother, awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit. And just as they could be sure (though they didn't know it yet, but instead prayed with fear) that Our Lady's presence guaranteed God's descent among them, for He can never resist her humility and poverty, so we too can expect His Personal outpouring of Love, and every good thing that comes along with it.
You can see then that we're living dangerously, but with the best of Friends on our side. Up above are Marcel and Therese; we know Our Lady is near us, and wherever she goes, her loving spouse St. Joseph is with her. I'm confident St. Anthony and Blessed Clement Vismara have joined the merriment; today we have St. Aloysius jumping in; and then our guardian angels have been prompting and aiding us too. To what heights can't we climb in hope? To what depths will not the Infinite Mercy of God reach? There are no limits to what God will do for us, and He is all-powerful, so there won't be an obstacle He can't overcome. So far in these days I've heard of a major medical healing; a house finding for a family who needed a new roof over their heads; and the holy departure of a dying grandfather, surrounded by the Divine Mercy as he left this exile for Home. Then there are the myriad smaller miracles - as difficult to number as the individual bits in a cascade of confetti tossed up and over a smiling bridegroom and his beautiful bride. No more fear, then! Let's rejoice in the prayers He's answered and those He's waiting (until the exact right moment) to fulfill. He hears every one of our cries, and for those who are too tired to cry, we're including your needs in our prayers, tucked safely inside our hearts, which we hand joyfully to God.
One reason we have so much confidence in our little brother Marcel is that he knew the meaning of prayer. Actually, he kept forgetting, but Our Lord and Our Lady joined St. Therese in tirelessly teaching him new ways to express himself to God and intercede for the world. So many ways! Too many to cover in our few nine days, but we won't fret at what we can't do. Let's go ahead, instead, with what we can do! Yesterday I stopped abruptly (or so I felt it was) with little Marcel crying out, "I was looking, therefore, for a saint of my imagination but where then was he hidden, as I could not find him anywhere? I dare not invent a new way myself. So what was there to do?" I told you not to worry, God would answer this prayer, and soon. But let's return to our brother's Autobiography and here him tell us himself about what happened next and how God surprised him and turned his world (and his concept of sanctity) upside down. Marcel continues, in the study hall of the minor seminary where we left him, at (564):
The good God undoubtedly must understand me. I loved Him, and I wished to prove my love in any way, be it even with a smile or a mouthful of good rice. I hardly liked the discipline, which always frightened me, but when one loves is it necessary to give oneself the discipline? People normally get more pleasure from a simple glance of love than from a thousand presents which may be offered to them. That is why I always remained undecided, not daring of myself to be the last in the world to become a saint, in spite of all the love I had for God. That's how it was. God brought the reply to this thorny question to me.
One evening, at a special visit to the Blessed Sacrament, when I was absorbed in meditating on the Incarnate Word hidden under the appearance of bread, as the books tell us, suddenly my mind was invaded by a strange thought which drove away all the sweetness I was tasting in the presence of God; a thought which urged me to become a saint. Ah! To become a saint! . . . How many more times shall I consider this thought as being a temptation to pride? and I chased it away with all my strength, even asking the Blessed Virgin to come to my aid. I was powerless before the thought, as if a supernatural power was obliging me to keep it fixed firmly in my mind. No! I decided to resist . . . "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, come to help me! . . . " No! No! It is not possible for me to become a saint. I have a great fear of the discipline, my stomach is too weak to fast, and I am incapable of staying on my knees for a long time in meditation. "O my God come to my aid, deliver me from this temptation." I opened once again the book, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament by St. Alphonsus, and, I don't know why, but it was as if the thought of becoming a saint was totally obsessing my mind and body. The strength of my resistance made me tremble, and I no longer knew to what means to have recourse in order to break entirely with this thought. I was extremely worried. I was afraid that by saying 'Yes' to my conscience, I was committing a sin for having 'dared to want to become a saint.' I still categorically refused, therefore, and I looked for every reason to reject this thought.
The hour having passed, I had to return to the study room. I went to throw myself at the feet of the statue of Our Lady of Grace before leaving the chapel, and I said this prayer to her, "O dear Mother, show you are truly my Mother. I beg of you to give me a sign which will allow me to understand if the thoughts which are torturing my heart at this time come from God, or from the devil who wishes to trouble me. I want you to hear my prayer. Tomorrow, permit me to come back close to you in the hope of receiving your counsel and of recovering peace." Then I returned to the study room. It was the time when, ordinarily, I did my homework and learned my lessons, but this time I had already finished both. I wished to use the time therefore to read a life of of a saint. I went to the mantelpiece with the idea of taking a volume of the Lives of the Saints.
I saw with a quick glance that all the dust-covers of these books were known already to me. There were also among them some volumes that I had never touched, for the simple reason that they had no pictures, which removed any desire to read them. I said to myself: "If I don't spend the time reading a life of a saint now, what can I do?" . . . After reflection, I decided to choose at random the life of a saint, a life which would fall into my hands. I would read it even if I had already done so. I put this into practice immediately. With my eyes tightly closed I mixed the books together, higgledly-piggledy, and waving my arms three times, I let my hand fall on the pile of books and, as agreed, I would read the book upon which my index finger landed firmly. While following this procedure I recited a kind of magic formula to the Blessed Virgin to guide my hand on to a volume which was, at least, interesting. It's done . . . I opened my eyes, not knowing what was happening, and I did not know what to do. I had just put my hand on a book . . . that I had not yet read, but had already dismissed as containing nothing unusual. I took hold of it and read the title:
The Story of a Soul
I let the book fall noisily on the pile of books, with the intention of leaving it to one side without even opening it. But I reproached myself: "Ah! by acting like this you have broken your promise. No! A cadet of Our Lady would never permit himself such reprehensible behaviour." I took the book again with my head full of muddled questions of this nature: "What is this Story of a Soul? Who is this Saint Therese of the Child Jesus? Where does she come from??? What is certain is that she resembles many thousands of other saints." Then I summarized her life in an amusing manner in these terms: "Since her birth until her last breath she had many ecstasies and performed a number of miracles; she fasted on bread and water, only taking one meal a day; she spent the night in prayer and gave herself the discipline until she bled. After her death her body exhaled a very pleasant fragrance and many extraordinary things happened on her tomb. Finally, she was canonized by the Holy Church ... etc." Today I see clearly how rash these thoughts were. Without knowing anything about Saint Therese I had dared to sketch out her life in such a summary manner.
O, my dear sister, you must necessarily be a saint of heroic courage to put up with the erroneous judgments that I have held on your life. On that day you doubtless had to exercise much patience in my regard, and perhaps had to make an effort not to smile on seeing me allowing myself such childishness. But you were there, waiting for me in such a way that a few minutes later your unfortunate little brother sees the word of God come true: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." The book which with pique he had just rejected pitilessly, was the book that most harmonized with his own soul. One could even maintain that it was the description of his own soul, the story of his own life."
And with that, dear reader, we must end so that I can post this 7th Day just under the wire . . . I thought earlier that I might have to tell you the secret of a "little" novena in the spirit of Therese and Marcel. One must forget a day, or lose count, or fall off the novena, or get distracted by some shiny thing and generally prove one's littleness in the ability to succeed at 9 days in a row. We were close today to not having this post, but the truth is there is nothing I've seen (and you will gasp, but I had to do errands today and was in five stores, two libraries, a post office and two banks), nothing that could in the least draw my attention away from the sparkling attraction of Marcel and Therese . . . because I know what's coming next in their love story, and it's so good!
But with that, I will leave you until tomorrow. Except (always an "except") to comment on the thought that woke me this morning, and that I've not been able to attend to until now. It was at the top of this post, and I will quote it again now. It's from Story of a Soul, that book that is tantalizing Marcel where we left him. Will he or won't he? Tune in tomorrow to find out, but meanwhile, we have some acquaintance with Therese's memoir, we quoted it yesterday, and here again is the line that captured my heart and woke me:
For simple souls there must be no complicated ways;
as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving,
Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
I have known this saying - "For simple souls there are no complicated ways" - for many, many years, and it is with great good humor that I have quoted it often in order to laugh about my inversion of the sentiment. For my complicated soul, I always jested (but in earnest), there are no simple ways!
Little did I realize I was misquoting St. Therese! She does not say that for simple souls there ARE no complicated ways, but that for simple souls there must be no complicated ways. And furthermore, she did not claim any power of simplicity for herself, but rather remarked that Jesus was the One who gave her a simple means of accomplishing her mission. What a relief! In other words, I'm not giving up yet. And even in these past few days, I've had the bizarre but miraculous and happy experience of doing something differently than I'm used to doing it - and I could tell it was not exactly me, it was Jesus giving me a new simplicity in the doing of a task I'd always approached in a much more complicated and stressed out manner. Thank You, Jesus!
Whatever your hopes are, then, and I do hope you've awakened some dreams as well, I pray that Jesus grants them swiftly and in a manner far greater than you'd dared to imagine. I love to consider how St. Monica was praying that her son, that rascal Augustine, would just get right with God before he headed into his early grave. She had no idea how her prayers moved the good God. He did far more than give her son a deathbed conversion: He made Augustine one of the greatest Doctors the Church has ever known, a Bishop who fought heresy and preached truth for years and years and years, and left volumes upon volumes to inspire every theologian to come after him until the end of time! That's the kind of answer God wants to give YOUR prayers, so let's get to it - let's pray together, and let's not worry about anything any more, ever.
Dear Jesus, You love us so much more than we know. Begin to teach us just how much. Shower us with Your kisses, pour Your blessings upon all our dear ones, draw us close to Your Sacred Heart and never let us go! May we become best friends with the Saints. May we find the books You have in mind for us - the books that will set us on fire with love for You - and may we become littler and littler, just like Marcel and Therese. And if there is anything You need to change in us, please do it gently, because we don't like the discipline any more than our brother did. Finally, we ask You to bless everyone who needs our prayers, everyone for whom we've promised to pray, and all those who are in special need of mercy at this moment and throughout these days. We love You, Jesus, a lot! Kiss Marcel for us and tell him to come teach us how to be saints like he is, so we can live with You both forever in heaven. Amen!
In case you think it's all cupcakes and roses over here, I want you to know that in order to write this post today, I had to get past an extremely enthusiastic and absurdly affectionate poodle. Swimming with the sharks? Wrestling with alligators? Running with the bulls? Try blogging with the poodles, or even one poodle, and you'll find out what separates the men from the boys . . . or in this case, the women from the girls. But here I am, having lived to tell the tale, so praise God with me as we dive into Day 6.
We have lots of friends joining us up top, so before anything else I want to introduce them. To the average Catholic web-surfer they may look like a series of photos of St. Therese, but there's more than meets the eye, and in fact your picture may be among them. In the spirit of "I AM Heathcliff!" (a perennial favorite here), I'm pleased to introduce you to, from left to right, St. Therese, Marcel, a mystery guest, and Miss Marcel.
Yes, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, I'm identifying myself with the photo I can only call unfortunate. Do you know the story of the famous painting done of St. Teresa of Avila - the big Teresa? I don't think she was a fan of sitting for a portrait, but like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, she likely cut a deal with God to empty purgatory when, out of charity, she did so sit. What I know for sure is that she wasn't a fan of the end result. What historians might call our authentic portrait of her was so unflattering that she saw it and recoiled, exclaiming there was no way she was that ugly! I love knowing the Saints had to put up with the same frustrations we do - even the humiliation of being captured in an unphotogenic (or unportraitgenic) picture!
So forgive me, Therese, but I don't think that photo on the far right was photographer Celine's best effort. Nonetheless, as my sacrifice for today, I'll claim it. I'm putting you, sister, on the far left, then the second Therese, the littlest one - that would be Marcel, and skipping over what I think is a highly attractive photo (one of my favorites), I'll take last place (this sacrifice thus freeing me up for some random self-indulgence later in the day).
But who is the mystery guest with veil flung back and a dreamy look in her eyes? Why it's you, dear reader! You didn't think we could leave you out of our photo album here, did you? Now that we're praying for all your intentions, you're one of the fam, and we've got some great prayers today, so sit back and enjoy seeing how we corner Jesus and get Him, almighty God, to give us everything - and without any long and involved rhetoric, but using Therese's simple, childlike methods and then letting Him watch us play or sleep, depending on how much oomph we have with which to tackle the rest of the day. (Having tackled - or been tackled by - the poodle, I'm already exhausted!)
I think after the rubber chicken episode yesterday, we might want to pile up some prayers alongside our pile of intentions. Well not that many, but that powerful, I'm thinking. I've got 3 prayers lined up - one for each person of the Trinity - so let's get to it and then we can have dessert. I should probably clarify that for once I'm using "dessert" metaphorically - our dessert today will be a helping of Marcel's Autobiography, and it is so sweet, so "to die for," so elusively fabulous like Turkish Delight, that you won't be disappointed. Plus it pairs well with that H.D. limited edition caramel chocolate truffle ice cream we suggested the other day, and we highly recommend actual desserts to accompany our metaphorical ones. (Studies show that blogs visited by readers with treats in hand tend to have a high reader retention rate than those perused by untreated readers simultaneously driving and texting. Or rather, I'm confident these would be the results if researchers actually undertook such valuable studies.) But first, our Day 6 prayers.
The first is one of my favorite prayers EVER - among the simplest of prayers (just after "Help!"), and given to us first by God in that book I've already mentioned (earlier in this novena) as being able to teach us all we need to know about prayer. We might not have noticed by ourselves that this line from the Song of Songs is itself a prayer, and we very likely wouldn't have realized how very powerful a prayer it is, but thankfully St. Therese has passed along this little way before us, leaving her trademark rose petals (instead of breadcrumbs) for us to follow. This rose will prove not only fragrant and beautiful, but incredibly helpful to us because with it Therese teaches us how to charm the heart of the Father, offering to Him our every need with one simple sentence. Here is what she writes in Story of a Soul, very near the end:
"Since I have two brothers [her spiritually adopted missionary priest brothers, Fr. Adolphe Roulland and Maurice Belliere] and my little Sisters, the novices [among whom were her sister Celine and her dear protege Marie of the Trinity], if I wanted to ask for each soul what each one needed and go into detail about it, the days would not be long enough and I fear I would forget something important. For simple souls there must be no complicated ways; as I am of their number, one morning during my thanksgiving, Jesus gave me a simple means of accomplishing my mission.
"He made me understand these words of the Canticle of Canticles: "DRAW ME, WE SHALL RUN after you in the odor of your ointments." O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say: "When drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!" This simple statement: 'Draw me' suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction for You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after it everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your Love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, You know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine . . ."
And again, a few pages later in this "Manuscript C" (written for her Mother Superior) that became the final pages of her Story of a Soul, Therese writes:
"Mother, I think it is necessary to give a few more explanations on the passage in the Canticle of Canticles: 'Draw me, we shall run,' for what I wanted to say appears to me little understood. 'No man can come after me, unless the FATHER who sent me draw him,' Jesus has said. Again, through beautiful parables, and often even without using this means so well known to the people, He teaches us that it is enough to knock and it will be opened, to seek in order to find, and to hold out one's hand humbly to receive what is asked for. He also says that everything we ask the Father in His name, He will grant it. No doubt, it is because of this teaching that the Holy Spirit, before Jesus' birth, dictated this prophetic prayer: 'Draw me, we shall run.'
"What is it then to ask to be 'Drawn' if not to be united in an intimate way to the object which captivates our heart? If fire and iron had the use of reason, and if the latter said to the other: 'Draw me,' would it not prove that it desires to be identified with the fire in such a way that the fire penetrate and drink it up with its burning substance and seem to become one with it? Dear Mother, this is my prayer. I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say 'Draw me,' the more also the souls who will approach me (poor little piece of iron, useless if I withdraw from the divine furnace), the more these souls will run swiftly in the odor of the ointments of their Beloved, for a soul that is burning with love cannot remain inactive. No doubt, she will remain at Jesus' feet as did Mary Magdalene, and she will listen to His sweet and burning words. Appearing to do nothing, she will give much more than Martha who torments herself with many things and wants her sister to imitate her. It is not Martha's works that Jesus finds fault with; His divine Mother submitted humbly to these works all through her life since she had to prepare the meals of the Holy Family. It is only the restlessness of His ardent hostess that He willed to correct."
Therese continues in the last few paragraphs she managed to write (the final lines written in pencil, for she was no longer strong enough to hold a pen) in praise of prayer and then in a brief explanation of the odor of the ointments of the Beloved. I would quote it all to you, only then we'd be reading about prayer instead of saying ours. Don't worry, this will be short and not only painless, but even delightful. Here, then:
Draw us, we shall run!
Can you imagine the results of this simple prayer? Besides Jesus promising (7 times, I once counted) that He and the Father would give us whatever we ask in His name, we have His word, as Therese reminds us too, that if we hold out our hand, He will fill it, He will grant our requests, He will not be able to resist the pleadings of His little ones.
But regarding promises, I have one to keep, the one about a Trinity of prayers today. Our second is in honor of the Son and addressed to Him, and taken from the intercessions the Church has given us in morning prayer for Wednesday of Week III, which happens, fortuitously enough, to be today (as I'm writing. Due to the timeless nature of the Internet, you may be reading this on Saturday of Week IV in the year 2057 - if so, aren't you glad you're here, instead of looking for a used hovercraft online? Those ads are likely old news, whereas at Miss Marcel's Musings we specialize in eternal offers of happiness and sporty rides to the destination of the Saints - never dated or outmoded).
What I like about this particular intercession from the Divine Office is that it encompasses everything we need, or very nearly everything. So without further introduction:
Jesus, look with mercy on the flock you have gathered together in Your name,
- Let no one whom the Father has given You perish.
We might add (so let's): "And do gather everyone together into Your flock, in Your sweet name."
No use forgetting anyone! This is not the Novena of Novenas for nothing, nor even for merely some things. But before I wax eloquent about everything (or as Snoopy would have it, wax Eloquent, but that's a story for another day), let's move on to our third prayer. I'm getting really hungry for dessert, and that delightful dish, Marcel, is waiting for us, so let's run!
This third prayer needs a qualification for little souls: Do not be afraid. This is an awesome prayer, one that "holds the secret of sanctity" according to the great Belgian Cardinal of yore, Desire Joseph Mercier who advised saying it daily.
[A formatting note: Please forgive me for giving up on accent marks here - I'm always pronouncing Therese as "Teh - rez" and the Cardinal's first name has a couple accent marks too, for those who know how to insert them into a blog post, such that I think we'd say "Dez-er-ay" (if we were on a first name basis). If we call him Cardinal Mercier that will solve our problem, but privately I'm sure he'd be happy to have use his middle name. We could call him Joe - he's just that near and dear to us.]
And Cardinal Mercier's prayer? I originally saw it many years ago, but in the last few months it's been popping up everywhere in my life and with great frequency. I can only surmise that the Holy Spirit, to whom this is addressed, wants me to share it with the whole world, so I'll do that now. And if any of it sounds too big for a little soul, just close your eyes as you run - I won't lead you astray. Take a deep breath, and one . . . two . . . three . . . GO!
O Holy Spirit, Beloved of my soul . . .
I adore You.
Tell me what to do,
Give me Your orders.
I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me
and to accept all that You permit to happen to me.
Let me only know Your will.
Did I just get you to promise something you might later regret?
No way, Jose (for rhyming purposes, that's Hose-ay), but when all else fails, Don't think, just do.
Not like Nike (ny-kee), but like the Saints!
And now that we've asked Jesus to draw us, and we can be confident that soon everyone will be running (even those who haven't been running with us already, those who have no idea we're over here holding secret meetings, praying for them behind their backs, poor dears), now that we've asked Jesus to permit no one to be lost, and we've given ourselves up to the Holy Spirit's sublime plans, let's have dessert!
Not just any dessert, mind you - we've said 3 whole prayers which makes this practically a Feast, so let's share what looks to be a Vietnamese layer cake with lemon curd filling, chocolate-raspberry butter cream frosting (fresh raspberries lavishly adorning the top and the base), and lots of layers in your favorite flavors, which may happen to be a medley of dark chocolates, I'm guessing, but for more adventurous types let's add anything their heart and palate desires. . . I can't say exactly how many layers, or if the Vietnamese (other than Marcel and his entourage) have any previous acquaintance with this cake. Let's peek under the cover hiding this delectable confection and see!
(We now take a momentary break for those without an actual cake already sliced and plated before them to raid their secret chocolate stash. This is almost as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and neither that nor this should be read without appropriate comestibles at hand.)
I have often freely acknowledged my attachment to Conversations. No question that's my favorite of Marcel's book, and really my favorite book ever. BUT I would be depriving you of so much if I didn't dip into Marcel's Autobiography too. It's absolutely a sign that ONLY GOD WILL SATISFY US (not to yell at you, but to highlight the main point) - what's a sign? That I could possibly have any desire for other books when I still haven't scratched the surface of Marcel's. Not that I want to scratch Marcel (tickle him, absolutely, but not scratch). I just have to laugh that I'm worried about my book budget when merely opening the Autobiography this morning was enough to remind me that I have the field, the treasure buried therein, the pearl, and Jesus Himself right here in FOUR (count them! Autobiography, Conversations, Correspondence, Other Writings) books which are worth more than the whole library of Alexandria (not to mention all the libraries in the world, if they don't contain these four that I have with me constantly.)
But enough about me and my silliness. (Yes, this morning my husband did tell me that I was sillier than the poodle. Wow. If he's right, I'm in a class of my own, a class of unprecedented silliness, with only Marcel-Jesus and Jesus-Marcel to compete for top honors!) It's time to cut the cake, as it were; time to taste the light but rich autobiographical offerings of Marcel - and there are no calories! And yet it's more nourishing than a 7 course meal, more delightful than Bananas Foster!
I will say before we start: This is where to start. I mean, if you have the chance, do read the Autobiography (even more than I can give you here), but Do listen to Ralph (not Elizabeth) and Don't start at the beginning. If you don't know who Ralph and Elizabeth are, you have another treat in store, to wit, The Paradise Project, which will not only teach you how to read a book (with great laughter, hopefully, and occasional accidental snorts, and again, chocolate at hand) but will also show you that there is great and wholesome literature still being written - as a friend and reader wrote to me only yesterday: you can give it to your children to read without any reservations! Nothing to skip, only pages to read twice - once to yourself, and the second time out loud, when the other people in the room want to know what's so funny.
BUT, while you can click on the title above, order your copy, and get back here without missing a word, the whole reason I brought Ralph into this was because he instructs Elizabeth as I will instruct you: Do Not start (Marcel's Autobiography in this case) at the beginning. If you are a rebel or one who hates to be told what to do (and not to do), then I'm happy if I've forced your hand. Start at the beginning of the Autobiography and I won't really worry about you. But for those who know that (a) they often don't get past page 19 or a new book - I think that is the actual statistical average for most people, and this time I'm not kidding! I know too it's about my statistical average - or (b) they'd rather read the best part first or (c) they prefer tears of joy to tears of sadness . . . . I suggest starting at (562) of the Autobiography, at the section titled "The little way of childhood." That's where I started when I first found this magnificent book, that's around where I'll start today for our dessert, and that's where I think you'll find the heart of the book (and Marcel). It's like the seasoned Carmelites telling those interested in starting St. John of the Cross: start with the Spiritual Canticle, then the Living Flame of Love, and only then go back to the Dark Night of the Soul and Ascent of Mount Carmel. (And if you really want to be happy quickly, leave all his books aside and start with his poetry, like you might be starting Marcel by reading excerpts here . . . but there comes a day when you're ready for the whole big fat book or Complete Works, and then, we can only suggest you start with the chocolate that's likely to be your favorite, rather than with that one you always accidentally take from the assorted "nuts and chews" box, and then are stuck with.)
Whew. Will I ever let you pick up your fork and have that first satisfying taste of the Autobiography? Yes. Right now. We begin with Marcel at his page (562). It is October 1942. Marcel is a boy of 14, and after many years of suffering and a circuitous path, he is now in a good minor seminary.
The little way of childhood
My dear Father, having arrived at this point in my story, I feel the necessity to interrupt things to make you aware of an unexpected discovery on the way to perfection. It is God Himself who is the origin of the discovery and who has guaranteed its success . . . In spite of my great desire to attain holiness, I was certain that I would never succeed, since to be a saint it was necessary to fast, give oneself the discipline, carry a stone round one's neck, wear chains and a hair shirt, put up with the cold, scabies, etc. . . . ! My God, if that's how it is, I give up! since, as I understand it after having read many lives of the saints, sanctity can be summarized quite simply in these external practices, with for good measure, prolonged ecstasies, nights spent in prayer . . .etc. All of these things being too much for me, I was in despair, faced with these conditions which were so hard to accomplish, and I came to the conclusion that my desire for sanctity was for me pure madness; a serious temptation which I had firmly to rule out. I don't know why, but the more I chased away this temptation the more it plagued me. The more I tried to flee it the more it returned with greater insistence. I had to beg the Blessed Virgin often to free me from this troublesome idea. It was obvious to me that sainthood was impossible.
Compatible with my personal idea, I would have wished that my life of sanctity could conform to the thought of Saint Augustine: 'Love and do what you wish.' Yes, I would have wished that all my actions, all my gestures were devoted to the service of God, so as to reach right up to Him who is absolute perfection. But how can I dare to run such a risk, since I have not yet succeeded in finding an officially recognized guide to approve as acceptable my notion of sanctity? I have even scoured the entire series of the lives of the saints without finding a single one who was joyful, who laughed and could be mischievous like me. From their early childhood they showed an aptitude to put up with hunger and to spend long hours in prayer. And as for the saints who had first of all led a sinful life to be converted afterwards, they practiced frightening corporal penances. I was looking, therefore, for a saint of my imagination but where then was he hidden, as I could not find him anywhere? I dare not invent a new way myself. So what was there to do?
* * *
Oh, Marcel! We are so lucky to have you! Without you, we too would have had to invent a saint of our imaginations - but our imaginations could never have come up with a saint as little and charming, as imitable and adorable, as funny and friendly as you are! Only God could make you for us, just as only He could make Therese for you. Give Him so many kisses for us! Tell Him we thank Him for all the stars in the heavens, all the Saints in glory, but more than any of them, we thank Him for you, little brother!
And now, dear reader, I'm going to do a terrible thing. I'm going to stop transcribing the Autobiography so that I can get lunch for myself and my son. Believe me, I'd much rather munch Marcel (metaphorically) than eat any food this earth has to offer. To console myself, I think I'll get us steak burritos (I told you I live in Mexican food land), and I promise to do my best to get back here bright and early tomorrow to tell you how things turn out for our little brother. Or do you mind if I tell you now? I don't want either you or Marcel to be left hanging - don't worry, he will find Therese soon and then everything will come up roses! Even as I write this, even as you read this, he has already found her and doesn't mind us saying with Jesus, "Time's up. Go and rest," or in my case, "Go to Garden Market." Besides, we've said 4 prayers now - one for each person of the Trinity, and one for Marcel. That's a lot of praying for little souls, and we've got to keep up our strength. We're in the home stretch: only 3 more days to go in our novena. We can pick up tomorrow exactly where we left off today. No, not with burritos, silly - but with the Autobiography. It only gets better, so see you later, alligator!
And now I'm going to do something I never like to do, but my hand is forced by Marcel. I'm going to publish this without finishing my proofreading, so please forgive any typos (and feel free to Contact Me and point them out if you like!)...but great news to those who love Marcel (and how could any of us help it?) - today I recorded an interview with the kind and professional Michael Lichens, editor of Catholic Exchange. He will make it into a podcast we hope will appear up at Catholic Exchange next week - a podcast about MARCEL! I'll let you know when it's online, and meanwhile, thank you and God bless you, Michael L! And God bless us all, as we move forward however imperfectly with our novena of love and laughter.
A big thank you to Catholicity, the group that put this image on the Internet for us to enjoy. And how I'm enjoying it! I had a question from a reader: "Are you sure Padre Pio is kind? I have this impression he was quite scary - but did he really say that about waiting for his spiritual children to enter Heaven first?"
Not to be naive, but there the answer is, white on black, clear as day. I found it on the Internet, so it must be true, eh? No but really, this time we've got visual confirmation: take a good look at the friar leaning on Padre Pio's shoulder. How could he get away with that affectionate comradery if Padre Pio was a meanie? And the other friars, the ones standing in front of their brother Pio (or to the right of him, from our view) - can you believe how happy they look, and how they're clearly smiling at some joke or prank Padre Pio is about to pull on the besotted friar who leans on him with such abandon? I can't quite see Padre Pio's gloved hands behind the quote, but I bet he's holding a rubber chicken with which he's about to whack the young friar who's mugging for the camera!
Marcel (in cahoots with St. Anthony) must've been the one to find this photo, practically instantly, the moment I went looking for something to reassure our readers that Padre Pio is an absolute teddy bear. Okay, an unusual giant teddy bear (with the stigmata, bilocation, and a thick Italian accent), but chock full of tender compassion, and believe it or not that's why he sometimes had to act gruff.
It's no secret that I'm the mom of a really big family. Big in time, if not in numbers. My two sons were born 12 years apart, with no babies in between, so you can imagine how eager we were to welcome the second little fellow. To add to the joy, this second boy had been prayed into existence from Lisieux, where my mom and my Aunt Joan had gone and asked St. Therese to ask God to give us another child. There had certainly been a lot of prayers said for us over the years. One of my favorites was uttered by friends who'd visited a Marian shrine during the summer, and when the start of school (Christendom, where my husband taught) brought us together again, they greeted me with an exuberant, "ARE YOU PREGNANT?" I had to disappoint them, and they were disappointed indeed, but so darling as they explained that they'd prayed for me to our Blessed Mother and were sure she'd answer their prayer.
She did, but not until Therese got involved in the exuberance. And there was no doubt the Little Flower was involved in the miracle because baby boy #2 was due, to our delight, on October 1st, her feast day!
When the time came near, we knew a C-section would be necessary, so the great Dr. John Bruchalski of Tepayac/Divine Mercy Care asked when I'd like to schedule it - I could go in up to a week before the due date.
In an instant I knew two things. First, there was no way I wanted to spend every St. Therese day for the next 18 years giving a birthday party for a houseful of boys (my own and the ones we'd invite). And second, if I had a way to get out of that last week of pregnancy, the most uncomfortable of the lot, I'd gladly take it.
Providentially, one week before Therese's feastday is September 23rd, Padre Pio's feastday, and that year, 2002, it was going to be his first feast as an officially canonized Saint. Just what the doctor ordered, after I convinced him of the day's merits.
I recall Dr. John smiling as he said, "I don't know if I'm working that day, but what a great day! You'll have Padre Pio to help out!" I quickly explained that I wanted and needed both of them. Luckily Dr. John did have hospital duties that day, and it went like a dream. Especially the part when my just born baby boy started crying and then I cried, in awe that he truly was a baby and not a basketball. (What can I say? I kinda knew he was a baby, but something inside me couldn't believe God had given us another miracle, and somehow this was actually my first grateful thought when I heard his cry.)
All of which is to say that I've been a huge fan of Padre Pio's for more than 15 years, and I've read lots about him. Call me a Padre Pio expert, if you will - and isn't it funny that he's been surrounded by experts ever since he was a young priest with that crazy stigmata and his many other extraordinary charisms? Some of the experts were there to attack him, others to defend him, and as you might guess, I'm a defender. I don't know how many times I've heard an objection like my dear reader's, but I can't blame her. Padre Pio's gotten a bad rap over the years, and he's rather like cilantro - you either love him or you hate him. Now that he's canonized, hating him isn't much of an alternative, but let's say you either love him or you'd rather keep your distance. The middle ground is uninhabited.
(For the record, I used to hate cilantro but made my peace because I love Mexican food, live in Mexican food-land, and while you can scrape off surface cilantro, it's fairly impossible to pick out if it's been mixed in. Besides, by the time I've picked out the raw onions, I'm starving.)
So now that we've reviewed my credentials as an expert, I need to tell you what I've discovered about Padre Pio.
It's true he was sometimes gruff and sometimes scary - but only in two circumstances:
He was gruff when he saw people suffering and was afraid he'd break down in tears of compassion. I'm not kidding or exaggerating - that's what the friars close to him said and what he himself admitted. Padre Pio was so tenderhearted, so loving, so merciful, so much like Jesus, that when he passed by the multitudes on his way to the confessional, he sometimes had to look (and act) gruff lest he lose it completely and break down weeping. Besides the suffering he'd see on people's faces or in their handicaps (many having come in search of healing and miracles), he could also read souls - so he knew in the depths of his own soul the deep distress of many of these penitents.
Then there were the times he'd yell at people. He did, there's no denying it, but this he would do when he knew someone was being insincere - purposely leaving out grave sins in confession, unrepentant but seeking absolution anyhow, making a mockery of the Mercy of God and the passion and death of Christ. Pio had no patience with this intended mockery, and by reacting strongly, he was an instance of the violent taking the the kingdom of heaven by force, as Jesus told us so enigmatically that they do. Not the violent ones who abuse others and then try to force a holy priest into giving them absolution, but the holy priest who knows the power of holy anger in rebuking them. Because the result, frequently, was these same insincere sinners becoming quite sincere in a newfound repentance - if not immediately, then after going away publicly humiliated and having a chance to think about what they'd done (before their meeting with Padre Pio and during it). I think too that Pio was so charismatic (in the more colloquial meaning of the word), so attractive in his holiness, so like Jesus Himself in the supernatural beauty shining out of his handsome face, that those he rebuked couldn't stand his rejection. They wanted to come back and earn his praise and love, and they often did!
Marcel is taking a nap today and wants me to keep talking about Padre Pio. I don't want to disappoint those of you who come over here knowing you'll find Marcel himself, but the poor lad is tired from his frequent appearances these days of our novena, so let's humor him (and Jesus) by going to Pio for our spiritual nourishment today. The cool thing about Padre Pio's wisdom is that it is plentiful and so sweet EVEN THOUGH he was forbidden to write (answer letters and so on) in the early 1920's and when the other restrictions the Vatican imposed on him were lifted in 1933, this one never was! Consequently his writings are confined to the early years of his life and priesthood, but what he wrote then is a treasure trove, and on top of that, in later years people loved to record their experiences, encounters, and edifying exchanges with him.
Some of these are hilarious - like the lady who kept silently praying to him during his long Mass, calling out to him in her mind, begging him repeatedly for his help with whatever her great need was. Afterward when he passed her in the crowd at church, he singled her out and addressed her, saying, "Why did you keep calling out to me like that? I was trying to say Mass! Once would have been enough!" When you add to this the troubles he had with many people wanting to snip off pieces of his habit for a relic (I surely would've been one of them!), you can understand there may have been a third reason he was sometimes gruff and scary, namely self-defense!
.....................Well! So much for my plan. That imp Marcel woke up and hid my set of Padre Pio quotes. Sure I could continue searching or look in one of my many books for the very words you've been waiting to hear, but let's be honest - this blog isn't Pondering Padre Pio, it's Miss Marcel's Musings, and it isn't only Marcel whose heart isn't in the Pio quotes. Miss Marcel is missing the second Therese, and even the Padre is wondering what Marcel will say next. So to humor the lovable Pio and get our daily dose of sanity and silliness (in equal measure), let's turn to the star of our show. Marcel, come on down!
[We interrupt our regular programming for a news flash. Conversations just begs to be shared - the dialogue is inimitable and, shall we say, beyond laughter into absolute nuttiness. That's why I'm forever sharing it here, but my family, too, gets their doses. I was on my bed a few minutes ago, smiling as I read aloud, "What have you to moan about? You have only one thing to do, to wear your socks until I tell you to take them off." At that moment my husband walked into the room and looked at me like I was the crazy one. "What are you reading?" he asked, completely perplexed. I simply held up the book so he could see our little brother on the cover. "Oh," he said, and started laughing. No more explanation needed. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.]
Marcel's been keeping it real - I've heard about answers to our novena prayers raining down from heaven even at this early juncture, so don't stop believin', and do continue throwing those glances and pleas heavenward. We prayed together yesterday for a friend to get the right house for her family and within an hour she called to report Mission Accomplished.
We're working with something more powerful than dynamite in this novena, something more reactive than - well I'd know what was reactive if I'd been paying attention when the boys watch Myth Busters, but that's my quiet time with things exploding as kind of a background soundtrack, so let's just say more reactive than one of Wile E. Coyote's more regrettable ACME products!
What we're dealing with here is, to name names, Jesus, and judging by the kind of conversations He has with Marcel, I'd say Jesus is crazy. As usual, I've got a Doctor of the Church to back me up, and this time it's St. Catherine of Siena. I open my nook copy of Mother Teresa's Secret Fire (nook for the bedroom, hard copy for the living room - if you want to picture me in my ideal state, I'm like one of those happy people in the 2nd half of Wall-E, set up comfortably in a recliner for life, but it moves fairly swiftly, so I need my books waiting for me in every room), and there is the beautiful Dr. Catherine waiting for us to quote her in Italian. She says Jesus is "pazzo d'amore; ebbro d'amore" - "crazed with love, drunk with love." That's it, He's so in love with us, He'll do anything to get us and keep us, including answering our prayers right and left.
One of my prayers is (always, always) to find the books I'm supposed to find. This prayer has had amazing, comical, joyful-tear inducing, and head-shaking provoking answers from heaven, and Marcel has lately joined the bandwagon of those angels whose full time job seems to be orchestrating my book-life.
Take last night, for instance. Not to whine, but I have a limited book budget and I was saving it this month to use in a particular raid I had planned for the end of June. My husband likes to quote the magnificent Russian whose name is even more impossible to spell than the other Russian names one occasionally wants to spell - let's do it phonetically or so: Alexander Soltzinetzin - to remind me in the kindest possible way that self-limitation is the key to happiness. I can only respond that if so, Marcel certainly wants me to be happy. Because last night we stopped by (Marcel and I) at a friend's house-she's-moving-out-of (another friend than the answered-novena friend, but God bless this friend and her dear family too!) to peruse the books-they-are-not-keeping. Her husband and I have run into each other over the years at local libraries and bookstores; he's as enamored of books as I am, and to have the pick of his cast-offs made me fill like a cat in a roomful of uncaged canaries with clipped wings (sorry, Tweety)!
Ah, but what to do when I'd filled my several bags (some for our parish school library, some for hubby, some for son #2, and a few books for me) and it was time to make a choose-your-own-donation? I want to publicly apologize here (to my friend and her husband) that I didn't put more in the basket, and yet the pittance I did drop in, while not quite the widow's mite, took out 2/3rds of my monthly book allowance. (Think small numbers, remembering the great Russian and my wise husband's claim that self-limitation is the key to happiness. And I might add that I am a very happy woman.) Naturally I spent time afterward working on my justification for shifting the expense to another envelope. (Yes, the envelope system is the only way I can keep myself in line - and I have a lot of fun doing so, month by long month.) Alas, there was no way out. Clearly this re-allocation of funds from later in the month to last night (rather than from one envelope, say the uninteresting "boys' activities" envelope, to another, i.e. the book envelope) was entirely Marcel's idea of a joke - never at another's expense (haha, except literally, right?), and completely in the service of love.
Because sure enough I found the perfect quotes to use for Day 5 of our novena, right smack inside two of my new books. Quotes that replace the Padre Pio ones Marcel hid from me, with the further advantage that the new ones will lead us to the page in Conversations that Marcel wants us to read today. His smile is wide - whether it's the rubber chicken in Padre Pio's hand or the re-adjustment of my book purchases he's grinning at, I don't know, but it's clear he's having a good time, so let's smile back and see what he has for us . . .
First, from Thoughts for Book Lovers (compiled by Harry S. Lumsden, God rest his soul, 3rd edition, 1904):
"Books let us into the souls of men, and lay open the secrets of our own." --William Hazlitt
Hazlitt was a favorite essayist of many great essayists, Chesterton among them (God rest all their souls - I told you this novena would keep getting bigger!), and I've tried to read a volume of his in the past, but leave it to Marcel to steer me back to the Little Way. Apparently I just needed one quote from good W.H. because, right there, can't you tell he's so right and true? For myself, I find his quotation applies perfectly to Conversations, which lets us into the souls of Marcel, Therese, Mary, and Jesus our Love. As if that isn't enough, this book reveals to us beautiful secrets of our own souls as well. The most important secrets of any I've ever known, secrets about my littleness, weakness, powerlessness, forgetfulness - but all bathed in the light of Jesus' infinitely tender and solicitous love. Wow, what a happy examination of conscience Marcel leads us through. It's more of a picnic on the perfect day (clear skies, a slight breeze - that would be the Holy Spirit joining us - and let's not forget the recliner out there in the open air) than the scary scrupulous walk among shadows we may have taken in the past when entering our soul without Marcel and his trusty Divine Light.
Now that he's with us, though, no more scruples, no more darkness. He's even poetic, giving us next a quote from Robert Frost, God rest his soul too, along with the souls of all poets. What would we do without them? Talk about revealing souls and secrets, not to mention beauty like we'd never see without them. Take Bob, here, for instance. Do you know his poem "The Tuft of Flowers"? It's worth reading from start to finish, but *SPOILER ALERT* Marcel wants to give us the ending, so we'll have a kind of Cliff Notes or Reader's Digest Condensed Version.
Bob was feeling lonely, walking through a field freshly mowed (with a scythe, mind you, because the best poets don't usually wax eloquent about rider-mowers), but with the scythe swinging fellow nowhere to be seen. (This is starting to sound like a horror movie, but Scythe Man doesn't make an appearance, so we're all good.) Bob is sinking fast into the abyss of poetic melancholy, when a butterfly shows up, sent by Jesus to cheer him. (Bob doesn't mention Jesus, but clearly behind every lovely creature is a Loving Creator.) The butterfly meanders about and leads the poet to "A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared, beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared," so that he realizes he's not alone after all. The man who spared the tall tuft of flowers left them for Bob to enjoy. After some more deep thoughts, and relishing his communion with the mowing man he hasn't seen, the poet concludes (this is the part Marcel loves):
But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;
And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.
"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."
+ + +
Marcel and I feel strongly about those last lines. We love seeking the shade at noon, dreaming, holding brotherly speech (as it were), and we are totally on board with the heart-felt reality that men work together, whether they work together or apart. And as Jesus is responsible for the butterfly, so Therese is the one responsible (with Jesus, always with Jesus) for Marcel's and my musings. If we are all three of us chatterboxes (my sister and brother and I), it's because we can't stop singing God's praises, wherever we see them. And what a world of glory He's set us in - full of Padre Pio and poetry, butterflies and brooks, pranksters and books! There's no end to His beauty, and yet it is almost eclipsed by His goodness and merciful love for us. Marcel and I would quote you the whole of Pied Beauty by our favorite, Gerard Manley Hopkins (Fra Angelico in verse), but it's enough to sing the finale:
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Ah, Love! With tears in our eyes at His beauty past change and yet so visible and lovely even in the changeable, Marcel and I rejoice. Rejoice with us!
And now that we are rejoicing, I can tell you that I absolutely love and rejoice in the parts of their conversations where Marcel and Jesus accuse each other of talking too much. It soothes my Chatty Cathy conscience (which shouldn't bother me, but sometimes does) to know I'm in good company; really, the best. But it's our brother's turn to talk now, and here is what he said to Our Blessed Mother on 31 March 1946, which he and Jesus and Mary delight to give us today:
My Mother, in past times, little Jesus did not have the slightest defect; there is nothing astonishing in that, since He is true God. However, He also knows one thing: that the natural defects of children never sadden Him, since we, the children, are all descendants of Adam.
Dear Mother, how is it that I understand these things? Truly it is the work of my sister little Therese. Because, Mother, she did not have enough time to speak to children about you, she wishes to make use of me now to do it in her place. If I speak in this way, it is not at all with the intention of making it known to all men, but because Jesus has made these things clearly known to me . . .
Dear Mother, I recognize further that I have no talent that makes me worthy of being the apostle to this group of pure souls. But because I am part of this same group and perhaps because I have a sensitive ear, I can grasp more clearly the words of my sister Therese . . .
Oh Therese . . . I beg you to remember what you asked of God in favour of children, since that is your work and not mine. However, since you asked Jesus to make use of me to accomplish this work, you must watch over it yourself; as for me, I am simply like the humble pen of Jesus . . . If you wish to make use of me to write something, I can only follow the impulse that is communicated to me by you . . .
+ + +
I couldn't agree more. And now, as Jesus would say, time is up. I hope you get to go rest, but if you have work to do, know that Marcel is happy to work with you. As Robert Frost discovered, "Men work together, whether they work together or apart." So even if you don't see him, may our brother Marcel accompany you today and every day until he leads you right past our father Pio into Heaven. But watch out for that rubber chicken - our Padre's as mischievous as Marcel, and I suspect he may give us a loving thwack as we skip ahead of him into Jesus' loving arms!
+ + +
My gracious! Talk about working together - Marcel and I both almost forgot to give you a novena prayer for today! Padre Pio sent us back with this one, in honor of Jesus' gentleness which, he says, may yet keep him from bonking us with Freda. Yes, his chicken has a name . . . which leads me to believe it's not just a figment of my imagination, so don't say I didn't warn you!
This prayer comes to us from St. John of the Cross, and you can find it any time, day or night, by clicking way, way up at the top above the typewriter on "Prayers." It's short, but sweet, and if you don't have Bach's Cantata 140, chorale # 4 (Sleepers Awake) readily available, this is the next best thing.
O blessed Jesus, give me stillness of soul in You.
Let Your mighty calmness reign in me.
Rule me, O You, King of Gentleness, King of Peace.
There. Now you can go rest or work, as the Spirit leads you and the Fates allow. See you tomorrow, same bat time, same bat(ty) channel!
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