You might be thinking that all these roses are a good sign - and you're right, they are! But here is the wonderful news: they don't just symbolize the gifts Jesus is giving us to answer our prayers - they're also our gifts to Him! You may wonder how I know this . . . .well how do I know anything? I read about it in Marcel's Conversations!
Whether I can find the passage again (the one that explained to me about the roses) is anyone's guess. I certainly can't find it on my own - I don't have that kind of time! The other day I saw a dear friend who told me she'd visited Marcel's blog and she had a wonder of her own: how did I find time to write so many words? Well that's the easy part: I type fast! I tried to explain, too, that I don't think when I write. This saves so much time! Now if only I could remember where I'd put that funny quote along these lines. Let me look in Conversations for that too (no, Marcel didn't say it - though I think maybe he did too, since he said nearly every funny thing possible to say, but the quote I'm looking for now is on a bookmark I made by cutting out the quote and then putting sealing tape on it. We're very crafty here at Miss Marcel's Musings).
Nope, not in my book today. I'm pretty sure that was among the heap of bookmarks I took out of Marcel's pages so I could start fresh. Of course I'm now tripping over all my new bookmarks (and the ones I couldn't possibly take out even those I was doing my best to declutter), so I might as well have left that in - kind of like my friend who never cared to make her and her husband's bed, knowing they'd just have to unmake it to sleep in again that night anyhow. She used to tell him, laughingly, "I guess the maid didn't come today!" Wasn't it a fun joke on her (she thought it was hilarious) when she and her husband lived for a semester in Rome (they were teachers) and a maid DID come in every day and make the bed for them! So you see, even before we've gotten to Marcel proper (as if such a little boy could ever be "proper," but I mean before we've gotten to his and Jesus' words), you've learned something. Ha! Perhaps you shouldn't let on that you learned it here!
Despite my missing the clever saying from the famous author (the one on the bookmark which is in the top drawer of my dresser in my room where my husband is sleeping in our unmade bed - you can't blame me yet; it didn't seem wifely to simply make it on top of him while he slept), we can find many clever, or at least charming (if not memorable - no fault of theirs but given our Marcellian memories like sieves) quotes in Marcel for this post. I'd like to begin with the one about the flowers, but let's see if it wants to be quoted . . .
Apparently it wants to be paraphrased, because my quick-flip is not unearthing what we're looking for. So (heavy sigh, deep breath), what I'd found before I lost it was a passage in which Jesus explained to Marcel that the beautiful flowers in His heart were from Marcel's tears of a previous day. They'd all blossomed into these flowers that were so very beautiful and adorning Jesus' love.
I'm sure our laughter can also produce lovely flowers for Jesus, so don't feel compelled to cry! But it's nice to know that the tears of yesterday and yesteryear are of use to our Love. And speaking of things of use to Him, I'd like to take a moment to applaud the capitalized pronouns. Isn't it spectacular how the pronoun with an unclear antecedent is suddenly made luminously clear (just like the Light of the World) when we properly capitalize it?
Take for instance, "Jesus explained to Marcel that the beautiful flowers in His heart were from Marcel's tears." You know exactly Whose heart "His heart" refers to, though if we hadn't capped, you might be scratching your head and asking, quite grammatically, "To whom did the flowers belong, to Marcel or to Jesus? Precisely whose heart did they adorn?"
Therese was a huge fan of capitalizing pronouns that refer to God; it was one more small way she could fittingly honor Him, and she was adamant in this practice. I love it too - on her behalf and God's, and it saddens me to see the no-caps-for-God's-pronouns custom having taken over Catholic as well as secular publishing. It also makes me laugh (let's see: sadness interspersed with frequent fits of laughter. We find this hysterical!) because keeping God's pronouns capped makes life so much easier for the reader, not to mention the editor. Since clarity of communication is a gift we seek whole-heartedly, it cracks me up (when it doesn't bum me out) to see so many throwing away such an obvious answer to the problem of unclear antecedents, at least when we're talking about God and men, and who wants to talk about anything else?
I console myself that it's not my job to change what I can't, so we won't worry but instead let His peace wash over us even as we eschew modern irreverent stylistic practice and make it a policy at MMM to cap our "He"s when they're His. He's given us the courage to change what we can, and so we will, with great gusto! Welcome here, then, capital letters of God's pronouns! And to you, dear reader, if I don't always appear consistent it's because sometimes we might get overwhelmed with caps (depending on the passage and the number of pronouns which are not just "He" and "His" but also when Jesus is speaking "My" and "Mine"), and so I feel free to use my discretion . . .
Another talent of Therese that I rejoice to borrow (her discretion), this time not only for piety's sake, but also in the service of charity and expediency. She felt quite free, the intrepid Celine explains, to quote loosely when it served her purposes. Unlike St. Anthony, she hadn't the opportunity or infused gift to memorize the entire Bible. So for those of us who are bad Protestants (that's what I call myself when I can't remember chapter and verse, but just the general gist, and I thank the good Lord He made our Protestant-Christian brothers and sisters so familiar with His word because someone ought to be!), it helps to know we're allowed to do our best and adapt as necessary.
But there is a quote I wanted to give you verbatim today, and it's on courage (which we were just talking about), so let's go with it now. Angels help us to adore Him, you behold Him face to face - and you are so good at multi-tasking; please help me find this quote, if you would . . . Ah yes, I had more than one angel helping me find the page. Here is Marcel smiling from a bookmark right where I needed it. Why is he smiling? And where did he come from? I was so enamored with the picture on the cover of his Other Writings that I went to the drugstore some time back and used their copy & print machine to make my own holy cards of mischievous Marcel. Here, then, is what he wanted me to share with you right where he marked the spot.
Jesus is speaking to him, but more currently He used this passage to speak to me this morning, after I'd been fretting slightly before I slept last night. You know that "I'm feeling less profitable than a half-pence run over by a bus on cobblestones, how will I ever produce a nickel's worth of anything tomorrow?" sort of feeling one has just before blessed sleep swooshes in . . . And in particular I was worried about what I might say in this post when the new day dawned. (Silly, silly me! I could quote Marcel, from his book, the whole day through and we'd all be the better for it. But we do tend to fuss about "Who will roll away the stone?")
Though I know worry is worse than useless, it's positively frowned upon by Jesus, nonetheless there I was worrying. Then blessed sleep did whoosh in, and I hadn't another coherent thought until about 5:30 a.m. when I hoped I wasn't really waking up yet. And I still wondered what I'd say here.
All was made right with that understanding smile from our little brother, along with his words and His words at (324) in Conversations:
Marcel/Miss Marcel: But I do not know how to express myself.
Jesus: In that case, be content to put up with this suffering, since I wish it. When you do not know how to express yourself, leave it to Me. But, sometimes, you could express yourself but you are afraid to do so. (Laughing) Would you be afraid someone is going to gobble you up? Yes, Marcel, you are inclined to fear things that are not worth the trouble.
+ + +
Boy do they have my number! No wonder Marcel is laughing along with Jesus now - he's safe in His arms forever, while we go on fearing things that are not worth the trouble. Let's get one thing straight, though, before we continue. You didn't have any plans to gobble me up, did you? Ha! I love that line! Who knew Jesus could be so dear, so funny, so intimate, so "down-to-earth"? I suppose we should have suspected He might be. After all, why come so far down to earth if He had no intention of being down-to-earth?
But luckily this endearing and adorable nearness of Jesus has reminded me of the longer passage that the angels (especially my guardian) unearthed for us today. It's on the same subject of Jesus' gentle, loving nearness, and I would've forgotten (did forget, in fact) if my angel hadn't surprised me with it a again and yet again.
I like to say Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love as soon as I can after I wake, kind of like a morning offering, and thank goodness prayers badly said still count! One of the books I use to help me say the Act is Jacques Gauthier's I Thirst. (Yes, it is a good book. No, I haven't read nearly all of it though it's quite thin, but I'm eternally grateful to Jacques because he's given me a book large enough to have a good size rendering of the Act, and small enough to move around the house with me each morning until I get to say it. No, you shouldn't go look it up now. I won't even give you a link to tempt you at this juncture!)
So this morning when I finished the Act and then realized I'd hardly been paying attention to any of the words but decided that was still perfectly acceptable since Jesus knew I meant most of it (still not fond of that paragraph on suffering) and wasn't likely to pay any better attention a second time through, well THEN I turned the page.
You see, the Act of Oblation is Appendix One in I Thirst, and immediately following it is Appendix Two. Which, I might add, I never (never? well hardly ever) look at or see. Today I did, and good thing I did because there I found Mother Teresa's "Varanasi letter." Since I'm mentioning books already, let me tell you that one of the first places I saw this letter was in Our Sunday Visitor's greatest publishing triumph (because this is one of the best books ever, right up there after Marcel's 4 volumes), Mother Teresa's Secret Fire by Fr. Joseph Langford, the priest who founded (with Mother Teresa) the priest branch of the Missionaries of Charity. Fr. Langford knew Mother Teresa well; so well that he forced her hand, begging her to tell, insisting that she tell her whole Order (and through them the rest of the world), about the experience she had on September 10, 1946, her "Inspiration Day," the day she received on a train her "call within a call," namely the call to found the Missionaries of Charity.
What I love about Fr. Langford's book is that instead of focusing on Mother Teresa's care for the poor as her primary charism (and thus, incidentally, making me feel very, very guilty as many books about Mother Teresa, however important and true they may be, do make me feel), he zooms in on her more essential gift - the gift that is the same in the lives of all the Saints, the secret that explains how they could love Jesus as much as they did. You don't have to buy Fr. Langford's book to find out (although it's well worth the price, containing as it does some priceless pages). It's my pleasure to tell you here and now this secret, and you can drink without paying, without cost. I know what it is to hear about a new book and want to rush over and buy it, quick as a flash, so I can own more wisdom, but you're welcome to try something new for the time it takes to read the rest of this post. Stay with me and Marcel, relax for a moment, take a deep breath, and we'll tell you what the Holy Spirit has been wanting to tell you from the beginning, what the Heavenly Father has been wanting you to hear for a very long time - eternally, I dare say!
Mother Teresa's secret fire, and that of every Saint of every age, is nothing less than Jesus' love for her, that love which God shows first, way before we do a darned thing. St. John, who felt Jesus' love by leaning on His Sacred Heart at the Last Supper, tells us exactly this in his first letter. But speaking of letters, let's get to Mother Teresa's. Because of Fr. Langford's urging and pleading, she broke her decades' long reticence (half a century's worth of keeping her secret) and wrote to her sisters the message she considered, without question, her most important legacy.
Fr. Langford explains that the Varanasi Letter "was so named after the city on the Ganges where she visited on March 25, 1993, the feast of the Annunciation to Mary - the date she wished to affix to this letter that, for the first time, would speak openly of her experience and her message. Her insistence on that date for her letter would honor the original 'message' announcing the fullness of divine love given in Jesus, revealed to Mary by the angel Gabriel on this day." (This explanation is from his book; now I'll quote the letter from Appendix Two in I Thirst, where it follows my well-loved if badly said Act of Oblation.)
One more word before I give you Jesus' through Mother Teresa. I want to add that I wouldn't feel any desire to offer this letter if it wasn't exactly what Jesus is telling us through Marcel. What I love about Conversations (and that book I do suggest you may want to rush over and buy HERE, because I doubt I can give you every bit of it on this blog, though Heaven knows I'm happy to try, quoting page after page, day after day) - but as I was saying, what I love about Conversations is that Jesus is telling us there, in the plainest possible words, the same thing He's been saying every since His adorable mouth could speak, and long before that, through the Prophets. Believe me, it's all good, just like Jesus Himself! He told us in John 10 that we'd recognize His voice, and I now not only believe Him, I have experienced it. That same resonant, gentle, loving Voice that tells us, "Do not worry, little flock, it has delighted your Father to give you the Kingdom," (which Kingdom is Himself), tells us the same thing in a thousand different ways in the pages of Marcel's book.
Then, too, in Mother Teresa's letter I hear the echo of our Savior's same sweet Voice, the echo of His love, and I pray you'll hear it too . . . Saint Mother Teresa writes:
My children, Jesus wants that I tell you how much love He has for each one of you, beyond all you can imagine. I worry that some of you have not really met Jesus - one on one; you and Jesus alone. We can certainly spend time in the chapel, but have you perceived - with the eyes of the soul - with what love He looks at you? Have you heard His words of love? Ask for this grace; He has the burning desire to give it to you. As long as you do not hear Jesus in the silence of your heart, you can not hear Him say "I thirst" in the heart of your poor ones. Never abandon the intimate daily contact with Jesus as a real and living person, instead of just a pure idea. How can we spend even one single day without listening to Jesus when He says: "I love you, ______." [Your name goes there.] That is impossible! Our soul needs that as much as our body needs to breathe. If not, prayer dies and mediation degenerates into simple reflection. Jesus wants that each one of us listen to Him, as He speaks to you in the silence of your heart. Be attentive to what could prevent this personal contact with the living Jesus. The devil will try to use the wounds of life, indeed our very own faults, in order to persuade you that it is impossible for Jesus to really love you. Beware, that this is a danger for all of us. But the saddest thing is, that this is completely contrary to what Jesus would want and expect to hear from you. Not only that He loves you but even more; He ardently desires you. He misses you when you do not come close to Him. He is thirsty for you. He loves you always even when you do not feel worthy of Him. When you are not accepted by others - or even sometimes by yourself - He always accepts you.
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.
+ + +
I will add Jesus' words to Marcel in Conversations at (404). He has so much to say, and I don't want you to miss a single syllable of His love:
"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; later, in heaven, you will be with Me on Mary's breast. We will then be able to converse quite freely, unlike now. The happiness we will taste will be a true happiness and without end . . . I am giving you a kiss . . . Be joyful . . . "
+ + +
And now all that remains is our Novena prayer. I don't want to whisk you away from Jesus next to you, Jesus telling you to tell Him everything, but when you're ready, here's a prayer to our Mother, on whose comfy lap you can sit with Jesus while you pour out your heart out to them both.
An Old French Prayer
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in our hearts, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Bring them finally to rest on your Immaculate Heart with Jesus and with us in eternal joy, forever and ever, Amen. Oh and help our friends find the right house, the house where you will draw them all closer to Jesus, our Love. Amen again.
+ + +
Okay, you caught me. In purely Theresian style, I've added a smidge to that prayer - but it's only because I just got a phone call asking me to pray, and once again I'm not one to leave you out. The more the merrier, in this novena and in everything else we do and pray. Be assured that your intentions are equally included, though silently, and may all your dreams come true!
Now Jesus is giving you a kiss, and so am I. Be joyful . . . and if you can manage a laugh, I'm sure that will provide yet more roses for Jesus' Heart. Have you heard the one about the dying man and the chocolate chip cookies? That always gets a laugh from Miss Marcel East :). May you too find laughter today, and if you're very lucky, your favorite cookies as well!
Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid . . . Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name,
He will give it to you. (Jesus to us in John's Gospel, Chapters 14 & 15)
Here we are on Day 3 of our novena, and I must start by saying: Welcome!
Welcome to you who've been here since the very beginning (2 whole days ago, or even 3, depending on what time you're reading this and how you count it - our novena beginnings shrouded in the mists of the past, anyhow), and an equally warm welcome to those just joining us along our little way. Everyone is welcome, and to those who are new I can only warn you that we're praying dangerously over here. It's a lot of fun, even more fun than that pre-Christmas giveaway Oprah used to feature on her show. Same idea but better and bigger because we have an even more generous Host for Whom it's always Christmas. He's always giving us His beloved Son, and much more in the bargain.
I'd say the sky's the limit, but I think we can shoot higher than that. As Jesus keeps telling us, we only have to ask, and for those who are a bit shy, still thinking small or feeling unimaginative, having a hard time knowing what to put on their list after "a pony," no worries! That's our first principle and foundation at Miss Marcel's Musings, No more worrying, any more ever, and besides, regarding the list, I'm asking big for everyone.
It's Father's Day here in the U.S. today, and although I don't know how far this American tradition extends to other parts of the world, I vote (living in a democracy, it's practically a habit) to extend it universally - let everyone from the Japanese to the Seraphim celebrate fathers today! Let's ask our Heavenly Father to bless all fathers today, near and far, across oceans or right beside us, as the case may be. Jesus has promised that His Dad will give us everything, so in His name, we ask you, Abba, to pour Your blessings down upon our own dads - our physical dads and our spiritual fathers - You know how numerous they are, and we don't have the means to thank them, so we turn to You to give them every good thing, most especially eternal life in Heaven after a happy life on earth. (There. I think that covers "all good things"!)
Hopefully by the time you read this, I'll have repaired a little glitch in yesterday's post, but you don't have to go there now. We'll trust the angels to see to the perfection (or lack thereof) on Miss Marcel's Musings, and while they do, I'll tell you what happened. At the end of Day 2, I'd been offering a few pictures in lieu of thousands of words on John C.H. Wu, and between a photo of the latest edition of his book Beyond East and West, and the photo of a Memorial Mass card for Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, some text (literal words) disappeared when I embedded a link into the book-pic. (Can you believe I can do that? I can, but apparently not without some loss of text, at least not yesterday. Still, I think it was worth it. With these nifty links not only does the text kind of shimmer, but you can click over and get the book yourself, just that crazy-easily! What a world! I'll put one in the title a few lines up and you can see what I mean without having to scroll way down to yesterday's oops.)
My oh-so-succinct message (that got lost and may now be found)? In answer to the question, "Who is John Wu?" I wanted to tell you:
John C. H. Wu was the man who wrote the book pictured, and (below the book, I'd typed) in it he introduced me to the priest in the photo below the book, Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E.
That book was a life changer for me, precisely because it gave me five years of friendship-on-earth with Fr. Maestrini, the man John Wu called the holiest priest he'd ever met. I mentioned yesterday that John Wu was father to a marvelous family (twelve children, I think it was), but Fr. Maestrini's fatherhood was (and continues from heaven) more along the lines of Blessed Clement Vismara's. As Fr. Clement wrote, a missionary priest has more children than he can count! Thanks to John Wu and Beyond East and West (and since I'm never likely to win an Academy Award, I'll take this opportunity to also thank my guardian angel, St. Therese, her sister Celine, the staff of Christendom College library, and the Holy Spirit, to name a few), I became one of Fr. Maestrini's spiritual children while he was still rabble-rousing this side of Paradise, and my Lord-y, that's a gift that keeps on giving.
At this juncture, we reach a tricky fork in the road. Do I tell you more about John Wu and Fr. Maestrini? It's a fabulous story how I found them (or rather they found me), and I love telling it, but I don't want to forget that today is Father's Day. While that means (a) the perfect day to tell the story, it also means (b) a good day to celebrate the fathers in our lives - by going to Mass (how perfect that father-fest is celebrated on a Sunday when we will all, hopefully, have a father to appreciate - namely the one who gives us Jesus today at church), by making a phone call or having a barbeque or perhaps belatedly filling out that Father's Day novena list to drop in the church collection basket (oops!) . . . So which way to go?
Our best guide at this blog is none other than the adorable and hapless Marcel, so let's lead where he follows. (Haha, I meant to say let's follow where he leads but he's such a sport, he's game for anything!) We've got 6 more days for me to tell you about Fr. NM (as I like to call him) and the inscrutable John Wu (he's more admirable than inscrutable, but it sounds good, doesn't it?), and I have an idea how to use those days to our best possible joy. If you, dear reader, want to hear the story of my finding Fr. NM through a book I didn't take off its shelf at the CC library back on February 10 or 11, 2001, drop me a line (you can use the Contact Me button at the top of the sidebar) to request that tale and I'll tell it soon, God willing.
Meanwhile, I can't help but rush ahead with a passage Marcel wrote for us to read together today. I know he meant if for us for today, if not when he first wrote it, then certainly at this moment. Not to be inscrutable myself: I know he wants it for us now because it's where his Conversations opened this morning as I looked for a good Father's Day passage. My wish is his command (Marcel and Jesus are one, as you'll soon hear, and we saw yesterday how much power we have over Jesus in His great love for us), and so I merely knocked this morning, and this door opened. Behind Door Number Three I found Jesus speaking to Marcel, saying:
"Marcel, time has passed, love Me well. I, Jesus and you, Marcel, we make only one whole in God the Father, in Love (the Holy Spirit) and in the arms of Mary. Marcel, I kiss you unceasingly, and the more I give you, the more I wish to give you. Marcel, time is up." (376)
Isn't that just like Jesus? Not only His unceasing kisses, but the reassurance that the more He gives us, the more He wishes to give us. Exactly what we needed to hear as we forge ahead, piling up our petitions for Him. He likes this game too, and talk about a win-win!
But wouldn't it be a fun joke to play on Marcel (and a great gift for him, proving that even in heaven things just get better and better) for us to elect Marcel as a father today? Right before the words I've quoted, Jesus Himself makes the connection for us. He's so good, and this is part of the hundred-fold that Blessed Clement mentioned on Day 1. Marcel's children are now uncountable too!
Here's what Jesus says, and as usual it's not only a gift for Marcel, but for us as well. These words are among my favorites in Conversations because, for one thing, I tend to remember the part I'll put in bold, and it has proven a frequent source of delight. But then, too, it gives us what I'm always looking for and what Therese asked for straight out - that easy way we now call her Little Way. A Divine endorsement comes at the end of our next passage. God is so very good!
Here's what Jesus says (again, at 376 in Conversations):
"Marcel, your apostolate must be directed toward children. I wish you to draw children to Me. I love them dearly. When they play ball, when they have swimming competitions or play no matter what childish game, I am present in the midst of them . . . Marcel, everything pleases Me about children; a word, a smile, even a tear which they shed in a moment of sadness, all that pleases Me . . . . My life as a little child, even a very small child who hardly knows how to walk, is capable of imitating it. I am the true way which leads men to heaven. Why have a way if men were incapable of following it? Men can follow this way easily, without even trying . . ."
You see, Marcel is all things to us: little child pleasing Jesus (and us) in everything, and a father to little children too! So Marcel, we elect you as our dad today. Help us to please Jesus in everything. Help us to be little children in our games, our words, our smiles and our tears. Help us to follow the Little Way, and keep us laughing, because children always laugh and we love to laugh too! Oh and Marcel, ask Jesus to bless all fathers today - those who have fathered us and those we love, those who have been fathers to us, those who are honored and those who are forgotten, those who are on earth, those who are in purgatory (go open the doors for them now - that will be a fun Father's Day game!), and those in Heaven. We want Jesus to give them lots of kisses, and most of all ask Him to give kisses to our priestly fathers. Oh, and since you told us that you're going to ask a million zillion things of the Father anyhow, please ask Him to send more priests to every part of the world, and to bless all those who want to be priests, all seminarians, and all missionaries. Help Therese pour down showers of heavenly roses on the whole world, especially the sad and troubled places, and then come give us a kiss from you and Jesus. Thank you, dear Marcel, brother and father!
May a thousand smiles be yours today. I'm giving you one now, along with my love and gratitude. Thanks for saying this novena with me, and Happy Father's Day!
Oh, and I can't end without adding a note from Padre Pio. He's been very polite, not wanting to interrupt, but he wants me to tell you that he LOVES being a father, and he promises not to enter heaven (what a conversation he and St. Peter must be having!) until all his spiritual children are in before him. So....feel free to ask him (if you haven't already) to count you among his spiritual children. I did say this was the best novena ever, didn't I? We make it our aim to please, and if you act now, we'll throw in the ginsu knife collection for free! (Okay, just kidding about the knives, but the Padre Pio offer is honest-to-goodness true, and comes with a huge bear hug at the pearly gates, redeemable just before entrance.)
I promised to tell you about John Wu today, and I promise, I will. But as you may have noticed, Therese gets top billing, and that's for 3 reasons. The first is - she demanded it! The second is (as I found out this morning) - she demanded it because she wanted Marcel to get top billing. If that sounds incomprehensible, I'm thinking again about how Jesus told Marcel he'd be a second Therese. Have I told you yet about my favorite movie line from the old Laurence Olivier/Merle Oberon Wuthering Heights? Beautiful Merle Oberon crying out with great pathos, "I AM Heathcliff!" Well Marcel is just as beautiful, crying out, "I am Therese!" We have to leave aside for the moment the theology that gets him out of that pickle (or we'll never get to the third reason Therese is up top), except to say, quickly, that love demands union, and union comes in many forms.
The third reason, though, follows directly on the second - Therese wants Marcel to come first today because, as I discovered anew in Conversations this morning, he's just the perfect interpreter, translator, megaphone if you will, for her little teeny tiny way.
I went to a party last night. It was really as lovely a party as I could have desired. Many wonderful people were invited, but most could not accept. The result was an intimate gathering of old and dear friends. (Old in the sense of having known each other long, but naturally, living in California as we all do, the women looked young and fresh as butterflies newly out of the chrysalis stage, the men strong as eagles and that sort of thing.) Nonetheless, despite the charming company, delicious treats, fine wine (or for those of us too young in palate to appreciate fine wines, sparkling Pellegrino), and pleasant conversation, I still woke up with a social hangover. You know the feeling, eyes bleary from staying up a titch too late, head swollen and unsettled thanks to the myriad moths of memories from the previous evening: Did I really say that? Was anyone offended? Did I speak too much? Too little? and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah, ad infinitum.
There is a remedy. It's not hair of the dog, exactly, but maybe not too far from it. Instead of trying to save one's self by oneself ("It was my interaction with people that did this; I'd best remain alone in my head for a while to recover"- surely a devil's ploy and quite ineffective, believe me), the best remedy I've found is to dive into conversation with the Saints. And just as Jeeves would provide the winning concoction to Bertie, both of them knowing that not just any hair of the dog will do, but some special combo of raw egg yolks and orange juice with a dash of Jeeves special secret ingredient, so in my book it's Marcel and Therese who combine for the ideal morning after, soul-settling concoction.
Take this morning for instance. After a brief bout of the "What-did-I-say"s in bed, I moved to a couch with my journal and Conversations. I wrote a few lines to Jesus about how little I felt, and how incapable of prayer: yesterday, today, and - well, not forever because hope springs eternal . . . but left to my own devices, I've nothing to offer. He knows this, but it was all I had, until I glanced to a sloppy box higher up on my journal page. There I found yesterday's imagined conversation with Him (which, needless to say, I'd forgotten completely, Marcelle that I am), and read: "Listen daughter, littlest one: to be with Marcel in Conversations is to be with Me. To hear My words to him is to hear My words to you. "
No time like the present, I thought, especially given my likelihood of forgetting this Word as soon as my eyes left the page. I opened Marcel, then, and here is what I found:
11 February 1946
Marcel: Jesus, there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that I recognize my weakness; in fact You already know the state of my soul. My confidence, however, is far from being weak. I know with certainty that only confidence is capable of attracting Your heart to me . . . Jesus, I am very wretched and, when I think of my weaknesses, this thought only leads me to discouragement. One thing comforts me, however: 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. Love knows me, Love understands my feelings thoroughly.
O Love, there is nothing but that. Sometimes, in thinking of my fate, I feel overwhelmed by fear and I do not know how to defend myself against these feelings. I have only one means which my sister Therese has pointed out to me and which consists in going to hide myself in Love's shadow, to confide everything to Love. Yes, yes, I continue to act in this way; I deliver myself to Love with the certitude that Love will never refuse to welcome the glance of a little weak soul like mine since it finds condensed in this glance all the love and all the confidence of which my heart is capable. So, therefore, dear Jesus, graciously accept this glance of my weakness. Little Jesus, is my trial going to end soon? Why do You make me wait so long?
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I don't dare turn the page of Conversations. I didn't this morning when I first read this passage, and Heaven knows that if I turn it now, we'll be lost - how can I resist giving you everything our little brother gives to me, and Jesus gives to us through him? The only solution is to be strong and resist temptation. We will rest with these two paragraphs. There's so much to say here that, as it is, I don't know what to put in and what to leave out. I was planning only to copy the first paragraph, but as happened this morning, I read on, and then how to deprive you of the rest? Besides, there is at least one little soul among you to whom Jesus is especially saying that second part . . . so open your beak, little bird, and let our dear Lord drop in the tender morsel of His Love.
I'll start with what hit me most forcefully this morning. It's that glance Marcel gives Jesus.
Did you know that if you've read this far, you've already said our prayer for Day 2 of the Big Novena? It was and is, to my joy and surprise, the very glance I mentioned yesterday - that is our prayer for today, as well as Marcel's words (if you want words to go with it).
Now I'm in a blessed conundrum. As I write this, I don't have access to what I wrote in yesterday's post, nor the previous St. Anthony post. I know, I know, this is like finding the little man behind the curtain instead of the Great Wizard of Oz. You'd pictured me, no doubt, surrounded by screens, a scene (to keep up the inestimably helpful Hollywood imagery) straight out of a room at Langley (sorry, hopelessly addicted to action movies over here - and why is the CIA always the bad guy? And how is it that they have instant access through ubiquitous invisible cameras to EVERY corner of the world 24/7?), surrounded by the latest technology with my finger on the pulse of the world.
Actually it's just me and my $150 netbook (that was quite a deal a couple summers ago) and no wifi at home . . . and I managed to save this nifty "new post" page (to write the new post on), along with some pictures I imported yesterday, but I ended up without my string of 40 open windows at the top of my browser, hence no access to my previous posts. Which means I don't know when I mentioned the glance as your one-stop faster-than-drive-through quick-novena-prayer. I know I gave 2 nine-word options for St. Anthony's day (and I really should write another post on the stories of previously experienced St. Anthony miracles a few of you have sent me - thank you!) . . . and then yesterday too I wrote about how you'd be included in this novena (starting in the previous post and ending when we get to the Day 9 post) whether you managed to read along through the duration or not (it's recently come to my attention that I use a lot of words, so no pressure on any of you to read them all: that's a personal decision) . . . I only know that somewhere in there I mentioned that you could just throw the quick glance to heaven. Whether it was in St. Anthony's post or Day 1, this Marcelle couldn't say. We're going for authenticity here, and you see my memory is authentically pathetic.
But back to this morning, today's post, and the prayer you've said already, wittingly or unwittingly. (Wits are optional here. I can hardly demand you have them when I can't locate mine.) Marcel wrote to Jesus for us:
"One thing comforts me, however: 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."
Is it really that easy?
This is the Little Way.
Really the Way.
And lest you think Marcel is too good to be true, that a glance can hardly be considered a prayer, that there must be something you're missing, I'm thrilled to tell you that he has, on this particular point, a better authority than even St. Therese to go on. But let's not pass too quickly over her credentials. She's a Doctor of the Church (nothing to sneeze at!), and she was the one who said before we did (Marcel and I) that a glance was as good as a prayer, or rather, that a glance is a very good prayer. She's even quoted on this in the Church's official, universal Catechism.
I'll be honest, I was relieved to vaguely remember that the Catechism picked this up from her, because I'd be hard pressed to find where in her many writings (letters, memoir, last conversations, etc.) she said this bit about the glance. Easier to find it in the Catechism, which has a stellar index of the Saints' quotes you'll find therein. My stars, though, we don't even need the index for this one because Therese's quote is not hard to find: it's the one that our Holy Mother, the Church, offers at the very outset of the section on Prayer (a big section; one of the four pillars of any catechism worth its salt) following the large and bold-face question:
WHAT IS PRAYER?
To which the Church, in the words of Therese answers:
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple glance turned toward heaven;
it is a cry of recognition, and of love, embracing both trial and joy.
They even give the reference (Story of a Soul), but as I say, we have an even better authority to go on. Long before Therese said it, God Himself told us it was true that a glance is a very successful prayer, and you can find God's quote easily too, as I did this morning when I couldn't believe how familiar Marcel's words sounded - even more familiar than Therese-quoted-in-the-Catechism. You don't need to go looking or rack your memory or call a friend; you've got friends here, and on behalf of Therese (who I know knew this source) and her little brother Marcel (who surely learned it from Therese), I'll tell you where you can find this and every other important thing you want to know about prayer - in God's sweetest love letter, The Song of Solomon.
There, in 4:9, the Groom (Jesus) tells the Bride (your soul):
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes . . . "
Oh Marcel! How could we doubt you? Jesus Himself is your instructor. As Isaiah prophesied in chapter 30 of his book, "Your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
Marcel, don't let us fall off this Little Way, neither to the right nor to the left, but keep us close to you and your tutor, Therese.
And if this is true, which it must be, then I can't get over our power over Jesus. He's not giving us a moment between His power lunches with the Big Saints and His answering the calls of the Archangels. He is entirely with us, not only attending with interest, but being ravished by our briefest glance!
Oh Love! How can You love us so? And when will we be freed from the endless distractions that make up our life in this exile? Let us cry out with Marcel, "Little Jesus, is our trial going to end soon? Why do You make us wait so long?"
But alas, there are many who depend upon us, many whose trials would be much harder to bear without our company, much as we sometimes wonder if our company is quite the thing to cheer our fellow sojourners (when, say, we haven't eaten enough lunch and our banter tends to the irritable rather than the pleasant) . . . No, it's safe to say Jesus has our times and seasons arranged in the best manner for all concerned, and we don't need to rush Him into letting us out of our cramped economy class seats - we'll get there when we get there, though maybe we can cajole Him into letting us stop for ice cream more often. (I seem to be mixing my traveling metaphors here, but He is bigger than any single form of transportation, so why not ask Him to stop our flight so we can get swirl cones on the side of the road before we continue on this seemingly interminable flight to heaven?)
Yet with or without ice cream (and if you are in the market, my sources tell me there's a limited edition Haagen Dazs caramel chocolate truffle that is really worth trying), and despite those who rely on our smiles and hugs, I conclude that we must continue making things uncomfortable for Jesus so He'll take us in His arms once and for all and give us the Kiss to end all kisses. And how do we make Him uncomfortable? By ravishing His most sweet and Sacred Heart with one glance from our eyes. . .
Welcome to Day 2 of the novena to end all novenas!
I seem to have reduced our intentions to sudden death, so let's widen the nets again and bring back in all the fish we don't want to get away - the souls of those we love, that we may all be kissed rapturously by Jesus; the temporal needs that press heavily upon us or our dear ones; the health we beseech God to grant those who are suffering; and so on and so forth . . . Just every possible thing that crosses your mind and qualifies as a need during these next several days. (Limited edition caramel chocolate truffle ice cream included. This might be a Big Novena, but it's for little souls!)
And now we must answer one simple question before we close for today.
Who exactly is John C. H. Wu?
Your eyes might be tired from all this screen time, and your glance busy ravishing Jesus, so I'm going to give you pictures worth thousands of words.
John Wu is the man who wrote this:
in which book he introduced me to the man in the photo below:
And both of them, without doubt, led me to meet Marcel and write this blog.
Is that, for once, not enough information? I will add only that John Wu was a convert to the Catholic faith thanks to St. Therese, that he became a great Catholic thanks to the guidance of Fr. Nicholas Maestrini (pictured just above), and eventually was the first Chinese ambassador to the Holy See! Oh, and he wrote this little book on St. Therese called The Science of Love, which, thanks to the wonders of indie publishing, you can get HERE (for less than a dollar if you want the digital version). And finally, as you can see, he had a rather marvelous family, pictured below with their Holy Father Pius XII. So to conclude Day 2 of our novena: John Wu, pray for us! Pope Pius XII, pray for us! Fr. Maestrini, pray for us! Marcel and Therese, pray for us! And Jesus, our Love, come give us kisses - if not the real first Kiss of Heaven, then lots and lots of smaller ones and some ice cream!
But wait! Who is this pretty girl pictured at the tail end of our post? Just when I thought we were finished for today, here is lovely Maria Felicia (of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, no less) giving us a huge smile because she's going to be beatified on the last day of our novena. Did I know that when I started yesterday? I absolutely did not! But the news reached me yesterday afternoon from my beloved priest-who-knows-everything, with the words, "Today begins the novena leading up to her beatification!" Perfect timing - heavenly timing, really. So we conclude, at last: Dear about-to-be-Blessed Felicia, pray for us, and for all those dear to us too!
I'm so excited that I don't know where to begin. Let me start by saying "Welcome!" to our guest visitor today, Blessed Fr. Clement Vismara. It's his feast today, and he's a super great friend of Marcel's, and so Marcel and I have brought him over here. Even though my first thought is that we're totally taking him away from the party going on in his honor in Heaven right now, I have to remind myself (or, rather, little Marcel reminds me - he thinks it is SO funny to remind me, since he was always being reminded too when he was in exile) that Father is not leaving his party to be with us - rather we are leaving our humdrum going-ons to join his festivities. And you can see in the picture below, that he's a popular and fun guy. For the men reading this, don't worry that he's surrounded by girls. That's just to show he is a gentle soul and the life of the party. He'll gladly welcome boys to the party too!
So who is Blessed Clement Vismara? I could take Jesus' snarky attitude and tell you, "Blessed Clement Vismara is Blessed Clement Vismara, and I'm proposing him to you as a new friend today, and that's all you need to know!" But okay, besides that I might get in trouble for calling Jesus "snarky" (this is a blog of firsts, I feel)(and Jesus, you know I'm just teasing, right?), I really do want you to know more about him than that.
Father Vismara was a P.I.M.E. missionary in then-Burma (now Myanmar, which tends to take some of the romance out of it, but after you get used to the name it is also very romantic, like Shalimar!), and he was there for 65 years, practically uninterrupted, though he was originally from Italy and just a regular fellow - before he grew the long beard and became a great saint, that is. He did all the cool things that missionaries do in books (and before that, in real life) - he built an orphanage and a church and then another orphanage (one for boys, and then one for girls when he got Sisters to come take care of them) all in the midst of a tropical jungle among people who had never heard of Jesus before. And so on, and so forth, as my friend Fr. Maestrini used to say (and hopefully still likes to say, because it sounds so charming with his Italian accent). Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, also a P.I.M.E. missionary from Italy, comes into the story today because it was he who introduced me to Fr. Clement. Excuse me, I mean Blessed Clement, but he was only Father Clement when Fr. Maestrini introduced us. Okay, I can't pull your leg - I didn't actually meet Fr. Clement in the flesh (hence our need for a relic beside his picture, above). By the time I met him, Father CV was in heaven and well on his way (on earth) to becoming Blessed, thanks to the hard work of his postulators and the promotion by his friends like Fr. Maestrini. In the picture below you can see Fr. Maestrini (way before I knew him, and well before Fr. Clement left Burma for more temperate climes in Heaven) talking to a nice couple who are, no doubt, about to become big donors to the missions. My goodness, if Fr. Maestrini ever gets canonized, he'll be the patron saint of fund-raisers!
We'll save Fr. Maestrini's fuller story for another day, but meanwhile, there was Fr. Clement out in Burma, and here was Fr. Maestrini, first in Detroit, Michigan for 20 years or so (after his 25 awesome years as a missionary to China), and then in West Palm Beach, Florida. Fr. Clement needed money to feed the little children in his care - many of them had been neglected or abandoned because their fathers were addicted to opium and their poor abused mamas had no way of procuring much food for them, and so on, and so forth. But that didn't overly worry Fr. Clement. By the grace of God, he just kept smiling, trusted all to Jesus (knowing our Heavenly Father loved these children much more than he did, and he loved them a Lot!), and then wrote letters to the United States so that Fr. Maestrini could spread the word. Incredibly wonderful letters about the missions and the amazing and hilarious things happening there.
Let's see if I can find you an example. I have with me the book that served as my introduction to Fr. Clement (I mean Blessed Father Clement), and which was given to me by Fr. Maestrini when I first met him (Fr. NM, but then through him Fr. CV) in 2001. Fr. Maestrini was then 93 (almost 94), and his friend Fr. Clement had already left Burma for Heaven 13 years before, in 1988, at the age of 91. You see these missionaries love to live long lives. Once they're past the initial danger of martyrdom by unfriendly natives, they tend to keep going - there's so much work to do, they just can't stop!
As you know (or perhaps have forgotten as I have seemed to, but it's up at the top of this page) we are here together at Miss Marcel's Musings, thanks to the generosity of St. Therese and her little brother Marcel. It's time then, that we beckon to them - they're chatting it up with Fr. Maestrini right next to (and on the lap of) Jesus. Those three don't stray far from the Heart of the party! In fact I hate to interrupt them, so I'll just bring them in peripherally for now. You see, I wanted to tell you that Fr. Vismara was born in 1897, the same year that Therese died. I thought that was a cool conjunction of dates. She became the patroness of missionaries - right alongside St. Francis Xavier, missionary extraodinaire, and I just love that they are equals! - so she must've been quite the patroness of Fr. Clement's missionary work in Burma. And then, guess what else? That book I mentioned, the one that's beside me now and was my intro and from which I'm supposed to be getting a letter to share with you (but my goodness there's so much to tell you!) - well you're going to love the title. It's called (because Fr. Clement is called), "Apostle of the Little Ones." Doesn't that remind you of someone? Jesus called Marcel "the Apostle of Children," so you can see now why Marcel was so eager to get Fr. Clement to make a guest appearance on the blog!
But back to the letter I promised, to give you a picture (besides the ones above) of the adorable and insane life of a missionary. We'll see where the Holy Spirit leads us with this - I'm going to open the book at random and let Him choose. Here goes . . . .
Wow! As usual, God has surprised me! Leave it to the Holy Spirit and things get very interesting. I'm on page 74 of Apostle of the Little Ones . . .This particular letter is called "My Boys are my Life," and it was written in 1934. (Fr. Clement had 54 years of life with his boys ahead of him - how good God was to them all.) We'll start a little before where the Holy Spirit opened the book, so it will read better. (Just like cheeky Marcel to correct God, eh?) Here we go then - these are Fr. Clement's words from Burma:
There is no contrast between rich and poor here. Everyone is poor, and they have no hope of changing or improving their own destiny. Is one of the families starving? Almost invariably, the entire village is starving, too. Trouble shared is trouble halved. Trouble halved is the consolation that encourages them to go on living.
Here in Mong Lin I am considered a gentleman; perhaps this is not a good thing. Let me explain. Everyone thinks I'm a rich man. Although I myself am unable to understand what my wealth consists of and where my assets are. However, when I compare myself with the poor people around me, I come to the conclusion that I want to stay here forever, so I won't have to go back to being a commoner again.
And yet it is a fact that, in addition to everything else, a true religion must indirectly aim towards raising people to a better level, both materially and spiritually. Only healthy eyes are capable of seeing clearly; an empty stomach is not inclined to search for knowledge. If I want to talk like a philosopher as well as a poet, I must add that even though material well-being is in the last place of importance and dignity in a person's life, it is nevertheless first and foremost in the line of vital needs.
Since this is the way things are and we are living in such misery, if it weren't for love or the instinct to survive, people would be better off dead. You shouldn't be shocked that a mother or father, not knowing what else to do to earn a living, should agree to give their own children away for the highest price simply to allow the rest of the family to survive. Although the children who are given away may lose the warmth of their own nest, such as it is, they gain the advantage of a full belly.
I do not believe the missionaries of Keng Tung are in any danger of dying without heirs! In practically every parish of our mission there are orphanages for boys and girls with as many as eight hundred children who are alive simply because the priest or nun is there. If any public speaker would criticize Catholic celibacy, I would be happy if he would support even one percent of the children that I have. I came here about ten years ago, and I don't know how many children I've taken into my orphanage because I've never taken the trouble to count them. But give or take a few, I would guess about two hundred of these little children have come to me, and I have raised them until they were capable of earning their own living. After they left the nest, they flew away--and they're still flying. Some of them have told me, "Thank you!"
. . . . I think that now you may understand the burning desire of a jungle missionary who has eyes for seeing and a heart for loving and is eager to improve the spiritual condition of his people. It's the most natural thing in the world; it's just cause and effect. 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.
Although he will wear himself out working for others for as long as he lives, to the point of breaking his back, a missionary will never accomplish his goal of saving the whole world. But this thought does not discourage him. He may be sitting alone by the side of a mountain trail, wiping away the sweat with his shirt sleeve, and he will spontaneously say: Patience! Only God can do it. Leave a bit of work for those who come after.
When you are a missionary, another strange thing happens to you. God grants a hundred fold of all you have given up for His love. I believe that on this entire planet, with the exception of the mission world, there is not one father who is more of a father than I am. And I can prove this with a single indisputable fact: When the father of a family sits down to dinner, one table is enough for his entire family; but when I sit down to eat with my boys, we need at least four tables, each eight feet long, with eight benches just as long. It is the same with my girls in another building.
The "one hundred times over" promise of the Gospel is just an expression. In reality it could even be two or three hundred times over. Someone once said, "There are three beautiful things in the world: children, flowers and stars." Here we have all three: plenty of children, along with the flowers and stars. . . .
In the evening - every evening about six o'clock - I go to the big church to pray the rosary with my little orphans. When we come out, the stars are twinkling in the sky. I close the church door myself because I am always the last to come out, which suits me. The pavement in front of the church ends with three steps, which were built with bricks and covered with cement. The tropical sun heats them so much that they stay warm until late. I sit on the first step, stretch my legs over the third one, and sit there with my nose in the air and my eyes staring up into infinity. My three dogs, which are familiar with their owner's habits and want to enjoy the warmth of the bricks, come quietly to keep me company. All four of us sit there comfortably.
What do I think about? Is it "a nostalgic longing for sanctity," as a Protestant author wrote? Sadness never overwhelms me. I don't know what it means to be sad, even when things go wrong. Immeasurable light-heartedness yes, but never sadness. According to a French writer, there is only one sadness in the world: not to be a saint. At such times, I'm not actually thinking. It's more like sitting dully, sluggish and numb, but never sad.
"Eni, hey, Eni. Bring me my pipe, the big one!"
A little twelve-year-old boy comes running when I call. He's the "man Friday" of my house, which is only eighty feet away from the church. He brings me an ember, a box of local tobacco, and my pipe. Sometimes he's nice enough to fill it and light it for me. Sitting here alone in oblivion with my pipe going, what am I missing? Please tell me, because I don't know. The sky is everything at Mong Lin: in front of me, I can clearly see the Southern Cross, and the North Star is behind me. There are supposedly two thousand stars that I should be able to pick out with the naked eye, but I've never counted the "lilies" of the heavens.
Thousands of fireflies are flitting across the field. They even fly into the church. Stars in the sky, stars on earth . . . and me in between!
. . . If you follow your star,
you can't miss the glorious haven.
When you are born lucky like me (!), you don't need to follow your star. I just needed to remain firm in order to reach the glorious haven. The worst thing that could happen is my pipe could go out.
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There were many places in the above letter where I thought, as I finished typing a sentence, "Now that should complete the excerpt," but then I would make the mistake of reading on, and how could I not share the next sentence, and then the next with you?
Oh glorious saints who were once cheerful workers on earth - share your joy with us as we share your words with each other! Rain down your heavenly roses on us and get Jesus to pour down heavenly graces on our heads. How can we be like you? How can we smile hugely at the plethora of children, flowers, and stars with which God continues to bless even our sad world?
Marcel has an answer for us. Always, and today is no exception.
What can we do when we meet a new Saint and are in awe of his goodness and then (if we pause to think, which we should never do, but we are weak!!) we nearly despair at our own distance from his vision of joy in the simple things, the abundant good with which God surrounds us too? As I say, if you are like me, we nearly despair! But mightn't we instead follow Fr. Clement's example and instead sit daily, sluggish and numb, but never sad? Ha! There's a solution that appeals to me! Unfortunately we are not out on the warm step looking at the stars - we are more likely sitting sluggish and numb before a movie with parts we have to skip! No matter, the saints never despair on our behalf, for they know from whence true virtue and strength and, best of all, cheerfulness comes. All from Jesus, through Mary, and even through the likes of Marcel and themselves. And they will help us! They will never leave us alone with our despair and our middling attempts at entertainment.
If you think about it, they're cheering each other up, even in the Presence of God. Can't you just imagine how much Marcel must make his brothers and sisters, the Saints in heaven, laugh? All they have to do is catch a glimpse of his Conversations, and if they glimpse the right pages, they will be laughing as much as we are. But then, if they - and we - catch a glimpse of some other right pages, we will all be in awe of what Jesus has done with this little boy, what He has taught little Marcel through Therese and His Mother and His own words.
Let's catch a glimpse of some of those best pages. I've found the perfect passage for today, and it will help explain my title above. No, you don't have to scroll up - I'll tell you again, oh forgetful one who so belongs here with forgetful me and Marcel!
The title of this post is DAY 1 - and that's good news, hopeful news really. Hopeful because it presages eight more days; I'm hoping to write for nine days in succession so that we can pray a novena together! I don't want you to get the idea that I'm only about mini-novenas. I love all kinds of novenas! Okay, full disclosure: I'm not a fan of every novena. I'm a total failure at those that have long prayers for every one of nine days, especially if the prayers are different each day. Maybe there is a grain of simplicity in me after all! Or is it holy laziness? (Haha - sounds better with the adjective, doesn't it?)
Regardless, you have nothing to fear from any novena I'd suggest. And I'm not quite clear on this one yet, but it'll come clear as I write, so keep reading for a couple more lines and we'll have it.
My happy idea today is: How about we say a novena together? I'll try, with God's help and Marcel's, to give you nine posts (this is the first) - a veritable novena of Marcel (!!!!!!!!! - nine exclamation points to celebrate, and a tenth to say Thank You to heaven!) - and we'll pray some fun prayer together each day.
Do you have your intentions ready? No worries if you don't yet. Perhaps like Father Clement then and Blessed Clement now, you already have all you want. (Big smile here.) You can pray for my intentions! They add up like the stars in the sky, the flowers in the field, the sand on the seashore - you name it, anything that adds up quickly so as to become almost uncountable is a perfect image of my intentions, which tend to pile up as the days of a novena progress.
But again, no worrying any more ever! Jesus and Marcel and I are not counting on you to already have all you want. In fact, we're counting on you NOT to have all you want, and thus to be motivated to join me in this prayer. You don't have to tell me all your intentions, and I'll keep mine a secret until the last day. Well, by then I won't be able to tell you all of my intentions, since though the internet gives me unlimited space in which to write, my own life does place limits on my writing time. Not to mention the limits on your reading time! I'll just do my best to get here once a day for these nine days, and you do your best to either read what I've got for you (and pray here with me) or if you can't stop by, simply join me with a quick glance to the heavens and a smile - Jesus will know that's your contribution to the day's prayer! And if you forget even the quick glance and a smile, you're a perfect Marcel-ite - if we're all flowers in God's garden, we Marcels and Marcellas tend to be Forget-me-nots. We forget You too often, Jesus, but thankfully You never forget us!
For this special novena, I have three intentions to start with, and those are the three I'll tell you at the end of Day 9. Some of you know me a little better than others do, and you may suspect you know my intentions, but I bet you don't! They came to me all in a rush this morning, and I beg you to pray with me for them, just as I'll include your intentions as I pray . . . And if our intentions (singly and collectively) start piling up so that, thin or thick as they may be, they begin to threaten to reach heaven - well that's the idea! For here is what our brother Marcel has to say about asking for the moon. Finally! You thought I'd never get to him? I certainly thought I'd never make it. This is the passage I found for you this morning - once I got the idea for this novena, tempting as many pages were to quote, I knew just what I wanted (or rather just what Marcel wanted) to tell you. This is from 30 March 1946 of Conversations, at about (341).
Marcel: My dear Mother, I always feel some distaste, but during these latter days, and today particularly, I seem to taste in my soul a little joy. Mother, reminding myself at this time of the method that I use ordinarily to ask something of God, I feel an immense joy. Later, in heaven, I will continue to use the same method without changing anything. God is my true Father. Now, to please Him and to act in such a way that He is always pleased with me, I will not cease to keep close to Him and to ask Him for graces in great number. One might think that this will be very boring for Him, however, I know that His Father's heart is not like that of earthly parents. 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 . . . As for me, little Marcel, when I speak to Him, my Father, I will know how to behave like a skillful and importunate little child. When I want to ask Him a favor, I will present myself first of all before Him, or rather, kneeling before Him, I will place both my hands on His knees and I will speak to Him in these terms: "Father, I love you dearly. At this time I have need of a favor, be it for me or for another. In the name of 'Your merits' and of 'Your love' I beg You to grant me this favor." Dear Mother, I am sure that my Father will take pleasure in granting it to me, since I will have prayed in the name of Jesus who is "Merit itself" and in the name of the Holy Spirit who is "Love." I am absolutely certain therefore that He will give me a sign to go and find you, dear Mother, and when I do, I will speak to you like this: "Mother, through pity for me, grant me this favor." Surely, Mother, I will then be comforted. Yes, I will be greatly comforted; however, dear Mother, it is only in heaven that I will enjoy perfect consolation . . . Dear Mother, I love you dearly. Time is up.
+ + +
Time is up for us too, so let us simply say, as our first novena prayer, "Oh Marcel! You are little like us and you used to be weak, but even then you knew - at least this once - the perfect way to pray, on earth and in heaven. Now that you are in heaven, remember us who are still stuck on earth. Pray for us, Marcel, to Jesus and Mary, for all the intentions of our hearts: those we can think of now, and those we'll think of later. Take them all for us, your little sisters and brothers, to our loving Heavenly Father too, and with your inimitable charm, obtain for us even more than we think to ask! And then give us a sign of your Heavenly love - a flower, a star, a child in our midst, through which we can see you smiling at us. We love you a lot, little Marcel! Kiss Jesus for us - kiss Him a lot for us!"
Amen! But before I go, here's one last photo of someone you need to meet. This is John C. H. Wu, who on Valentine's Day 2001 first introduced me to Fr. Maestrini who introduced me to Blessed Clement Vismara, whose party we're crashing today. Who is John C. H. Wu? Don't get me started! But come back tomorrow, and if we're lucky, I'll tell you then . . .
This is going to be a "choose your own adventure" blog post, a "live dangerously!" blog post, or at the very least, the "fastest written-and-posted ever" blog post.
Why? 3 reasons to start with:
1. I've been trying to write here for at least a week (maybe two) and we've been getting nowhere fast.
2. Tomorrow is St. Anthony's Day, so now we're running out of time.
3. There is nothing more wonderful than friendship with the Saints (okay - friendship with Jesus, but since the Saints are united to Jesus, I'm gonna say: really the same thing!)....and I can't wait another minute to tell you that St. Anthony (and so many others, Marcel included at the top of the list) are waiting to befriend you.
So here are your options:
a. Choose your own adventure . . . and ask St. Anthony to make it happen! Think "make-a-wish foundation" style wish/adventure which, since we're all terminal, is totally appropriate only it's now or never! Ask away! Heaven is listening on the other end of this request line and they have even more funding than the real Make-a-Wish group, so go for it and reach for the stars!
b. Join me in the mini-est mini novena ever! I once made news (my 15 minutes of fame) with a mini-novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It really was lovely, and maybe that's the novena you'll want to say. You can find it HERE (by clicking the here that was there, just before this parenthetical remark began). Maybe that novena will even qualify as the adventure you choose! But this is, after all, Miss Marcel's Musings, and I wasn't nearly as little when I came up with that mini-novena, so (no surprise) now I'm suggesting a mini-er novena . . . Namely one that starts when you read this and ends about a second afterwards. I know, I know. "Novena" - something about 9, right? Well we blondes have more smarts than you'd suspect - I'm thinking the haiku of novenas; or do I mean to help you be a twit and call this the tweet of novenas? Either way, my point is we can save the 9 no sweat. How? 9 Words! Here goes:
St. Anthony, we love you a lot. Help! Please!
Or if you find that doesn't work for you, I've got a variation: less polite, more umph. Try this:
St. Anthony, we love you a lot. Help! Now!!
I put the "we" in both so that you're actually already included and your needs covered when another of us says this novena (and I just did, when I wrote it, and then again proofing it! 2x mini-est novena!), so no more worrying, about anything, ever. (Our one rule here at MMM: you can take it and leave the rest if you must, but really - it's time - no more worrying! About anything! Any more - ever!)
c. (Still listing your options here) I'm pre-dating this June 13th, the day of The Saint (Il Santo in Italian, but see how that capital "I" looks awfully like the small "l" - just a little shorter? so confusing!) . . . as I write, and hopefully post pronto, it will be the Eve of St. Anto's Day - but the point is, even for those who read it later than the 13th, these Saints are up for anything, anytime, especially when it involves helping us get to where they are, happy in heaven forever.
And now I can't keep this to myself any longer. After all these months writing this blog (way too few months, actually, but God willing we'll make up for it in the future), I still haven't shared one of my very favorite passages in Marcel. Do correct me if I'm wrong - just click the Contact Me button to your right, way up at the top, and email to tell me that I did actually share this already - and if I'm wrong, I'll be relieved because I can't tell you how many times it's got me laughing (this favorite passage), and it would be so wrong of me not to have shared such laughter with you! But enough said - if it's been said before, it's worth saying again, so here it is:
Marcel got to pick a new Saint for the new year (a custom for the novices at the Redemptorist house in Hanoi). He'd previously picked St. Therese. You can bet that was rigged! (By her, I'm thinkin'.) So he told Jesus he wanted his sister Therese again.
Wouldn't you know Jesus pulled a fast one? Lo and behold, Marcel chose . . . St. John Eudes.
Yes, exactly! That's just what Marcel said, and you can bet it wasn't said friendly-like!
Funny thing is, just the other day someone told me there is a parish in my general vicinity (Los Angeles archdiocese, I think) that is named for St. John Eudes. Then I was told that it's the only one in the U.S.A. with that designation! So yes, I guess we aren't too far off from Marcel in not knowing about this Saint.
Counter cultural as I am, I happen to know about St. John Eudes, but I can't really take personal credit. It's because Miss Marcel East and her Mr. were married on his feast day in August some years ago. Since I love anniversaries and Saints' Days, he stuck in my mind as someone who'd touched my world. Sure enough, it turns out he (St. JE) is tremendously wonderful. And why should that surprise us? I haven't met a Saint yet who isn't . . .
St. John Eudes is especially cool because he had a huge devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary - so much so that when Pope Leo XIII declared his heroic virtues, he gave John the title, "Author of the Liturgical Worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Holy Heart of Mary." Wow! He was also French (like Therese), and he founded an Order to train priests and preach missions (if I got that right from my quick internet research). In other words - he was no slacker, but more importantly, he was really terrific! So that if, for instance, Marcel were to ask Jesus, "Who is this St. John Eudes that You've stuck me with for the next year?", you can bet Jesus had a lot to say in reply.
Except that He didn't - say a lot in reply, that is - and this is what I love so much about Jesus and Marcel. In a word: They are hilarious! There's no way around it.
And for once, this passage is easy for me to find because it is simply 1 January 1946. As I re-read the pages, it turns out Marcel had asked Jesus to give him "Jesus" or "Mary" or "Therese." My goodness (to take our little brother's side for a moment), you'd think that was plenty of options for God! And so Marcel complains to Jesus: "You always tell me that You give me all I ask; and yet, after having begged You so much, You have not given me what I desired. Truly, You do not keep Your word. I am very sad because of it, little Jesus."
Jesus replies (at 228 in Conversations): "Come, come, Marcel, what did I say to you the other day? I told you that I would choose a very strange patron for you. So how can you reproach me for not having kept my word? . . . "
Marcel is not so easily silenced. He persists: "So, Jesus, why have You not given me my father Saint Alphonsus? And who, therefore, is Saint John Eudes, little Jesus? I know absolutely nothing about him; I only heard of him for the first time yesterday."
Ah, and here is the kicker. Jesus speaks His mind as freely as does His little brother Marcel!
Remember how much He could say about this neato torpedo Saint? Instead, our Jesus gives me the line I love and find eminently quotable:
"Saint John Eudes, Marcel, is Saint John Eudes, that's all."
I admit I have a goofy sense of humor, but I'm over here giggling again as I read this for the umpteenth time. Jesus continues with a simplicity matching Marcel's own:
"He is a saint who loved me a lot during his life, after his death he ascended to heaven with me and then the Church canonized him . . . And now, I want to give you him as your patron for the year. Marcel, you are too fussy; even if you know nothing of Saint John Eudes, that's of no consequence and I am not obliging you to know any more about him. The only thing that you must know is that I have chosen him for your patron of the year. And since I have chosen him for you, why would it not be as suitable as another. Do not be sad, Marcel. And even if you were sad, you would not be able to change it since you have already eaten some sweets in his honour . . . "
So there you have it! Tomorrow is St. Anthony's day. All you really need to know is that the Church proposes him to you as a new friend - if not a patron for the year! (And why not a patron for the year? You may have forgotten to choose one on January 1 or on New Years' Eve, especially if you're not in a religious order.) Oh, and you should eat some sweets in his honor (honour if you are in England)!
And just to give you every possible option in celebration of this great feast for this great Saint: let's not forget that all-inclusive and ubiquitous multiple choice answer:
d. All of the above!
But now, although you don't need to know anything more about St. Anthony, I'd like to give you a few frivolous facts for your continued delight (since delight and feasts go together just as much as sweets and feasts), and because St. Anthony really is The Wonder Worker. Since we all need a Wonder Worker now and then (or hourly), these fun facts will help you cozy up to him - as if that adorable little Jesus in his arms wasn't enough to lure you in! We'll call this last bit of today's post:
A Few Fun and Frivolous Facts about the Guy with the Lily and the Book and best of all, Baby Jesus
+++ He is called St. Anthony of Padua the world over . . . except in Portugal, and it's a sore spot there! St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, and so the Portuguese call him "St. Anthony of Lisbon." And if you want to get on their good side, you can do that too. I think St. Anthony is fine with any title, as long as you call on him because . . .
+++He loves to help us find lost things! I know this so well because I have long experience of his intercession in this regard. A favorite prayer to him (much longer than the novena prayer I've given you but almost better because it rhymes) is: Dear St. Anthony, please come around, there's something lost that must be found! . . . Now I'm not going to whitewash the situation - he won't necessarily find the lost item instantly. Our last lost item - my son's glasses - were gone a whole week before he finally told me (St. Anthony, not my son) what he almost always tells me, namely, "Look in the couch." What a card - a real joker! Because the glasses WERE NOT in the couch! They were, in fact, under it. Nonetheless, thank you once again, St. Anthony!
+++Or as the Nigerians would say: ANTO!!!! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .PADUA!!! Because they are super duper devoted to St. Anthony and even have a Nigerian St. Anthony Guild in his honor, among whom this is the group greeting, as it were. But what you can do (if you don't live in Nigeria and thus have no opportunity to join his Guild) is when you have lost something, yell (or perhaps whisper, if you've discovered the loss in the quieter hours) "Anto!" - and if you have anyone else with you, let them know that the proper response is "Padua!" This is a great quick prayer of intercession for the finding, and works equally well as a prayer of thanksgiving when the object is restored. A kind of "Marco!" . . . "Polo!" that makes sense and doesn't require a swimming pool.
+++And then, too, when he's restored your lost things, you can give something to St. Anthony by giving something to the poor. This is called "St. Anthony's bread" and means that in thanks for his helping you find your lost stuff, you give alms to the poor he so loved when on earth (and certainly has not forgotten now that he's in heaven).
Here's how this works: You lose your watch. You call on St. Anthony. You don't find the watch. You really need it (or just want it back because it was your dad's, or a gift, or cost a lot, or just helps you know what time it is!), so you say, "Okay, St. Anthony, I'll make you a deal. Find me the watch and I'll put $20 in the poor box at church."
Alternately, you might offer to say a Rosary for his intentions. I'm sure Saints in heaven still have intentions - at least until we're all there together forever. Meanwhile, there remain many more souls to save, console, convert, encourage, etc. And also keep in mind that $20 was just a suggested donation. If you're Bill Gates reading this, 20 million might be more appropriate. If you're the average Joe or Jolene, you might offer anything from 50 cents to 50 dollars, depending on how near or far it is from allowance day or payday.
Can you guess what happens next? You're thinking that next thing, straight off, you find your watch. (It's in the couch, no doubt.) Well, not so fast. In my own experience, what happens next is that I don't find the watch. Then I re-think my offer to St. Anthony and realize I'm being kind of paltry. Can I only give this offering to the poor if he gives me back my watch? It isn't long before I buckle - "Okay, St. Anthony, I'm going to give $20 to the poor even if you don't find my watch, but it would be so nice if you did help me find it please." Wouldn't you know that's usually when I find the watch? But then again, if it doesn't show up for a while (I'm on my 3rd year or so of waiting for a sapphire and cubic zirconia silver ring to reappear, though don't worry, I didn't actually like it very much), I feel like St. Anthony and I are closer friends than before because he did pull me one step closer to Jesus with that $20 spent on the poor . . .
Just to be clear about what I'm not saying, I'll tell you one of my favorite St. Anthony stories. One of my sons (who shall remain nameless though we all have Anthony in our names somewhere), having long known and practiced St. Anthony's Bread, cried out one day in frustration, "Okay, St. Anthony, no more games! I don't have time for this anymore!"
My dear boy had misunderstood when I told him that I thought (never confirmed, just a frequent suspicion) that St. Anthony sometimes puts things where they weren't so that we'll find them. My son's take away was that (contrary to my opinion) St. Anthony was hiding things on him so that he'd be forced to bargain and give to the poor to get his things back!
Heaven will be so interesting, don't you think? All will be made clear - including where that ring is (this is not going to be on the top of my "Tell me, tell me!" list when I get to the Beatific Vision, but still I wonder), and whether The Saint did, in fact, have fun mischievously hiding things as well as putting them where we'd find them once we'd lost them of our own accord. What do you think?
There. Done. A post for St. Anthony.
And a final prayer to seal our novena:
Little Marcel, please kiss little Jesus in St. Anthony's arms, and tell Him that's from us!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below. To receive new posts, enter your email and click "Subscribe" below.