As you can see from the title above, this post is the third installment in our acclaimed series, "Why Marcel." Acclaimed? you ask. Having recently seen, outside a restaurant in a neighboring town, a sign that announced, "World Famous Fish Tacos!", I feel quite within the bounds of truth-in-advertising to call our series "acclaimed." One reader wrote in, "Why Marcel was excellent," and another, in reference to Why Marcel Too wrote, "Soooooo good!" I won't go so far, yet, as to call our series "World Famous," like the fish tacos the international community has apparently been raving about, but perhaps today's inbox will bring international kudos, in which case I'll keep you posted!
With or without world wide recognition, however, we boldly assert that our triple explanation of "Why Marcel" is, in fact, of universal importance, capable of bringing international happiness (if not whirled peas). But even more thrilling to Jesus, Mary, Therese, and myself is that our posts on Marcel's 2nd Therese-ness, and Jesus' important messages to us through him, are capable of bringing happiness to you, dear reader. And as Jesus keeps telling us via Marcel, to increase your happiness is to increase His happiness. This is definitely all good, so let's continue with making everybody happy by delving more deeply into the charming mystery of Marcel and his mission.
We know that Jesus and Mary both call Marcel the second Therese, and we've seen that Marcel has a mission to be another little secretary in charge of transcribing Jesus' messages of love. Moreover, Jesus asked Marcel to write down both sides of their conversations, so that just as Therese had taught Marcel, so Marcel could teach us that God is interested in all our stories, however seemingly trivial or mundane, because He loves us so much that He's happy to come down to our level.
I think another way He proves His love for us is by making sure that we get His message. So that even after He has sent St. Therese to us, making her book a bestseller translated into nearly every language on earth, her name a byword, her image (statue, picture, what have you) visible everywhere in the world. . . after raising her to the highest honors of the Church - Purple Heart, Academy Award, Emmy, Obie, Tony, Congressional Medal of Honor, OBE . . . Oh, wait, oops, wrong list. I mean to say Blessed, Saint, Patroness of France, Patroness of the Missions, Doctor of the Church, etc. . . . In other words, after the good God has set forth the Little Flower to be our exemplar and teacher, every bit of it finally for the one purpose of making known her Little Way, as if this weren't enough, note well that our tireless Savior doesn't hesitate to bring Marcel onstage in order to rewrite His very same message anew for us in page after page after page.
And why, again?
One great reason is that we are forgetful bears of very little brains full of fluff.
But Jesus gives Marcel another reason in the opening pages of Conversations:
"In showing you My love, My great wish is to see you draw towards Me, a great number of souls who will love Me as you do . . . Oh! My spouse, how many souls there are waiting for the words that you are writing to learn how to love Me" (7).
Isn't it marvelous to read the words of Jesus and know He's talking about us? We are those souls who have been waiting for Marcel's Conversations so that we could learn how to love Jesus! Even though we may have already learned how to love Jesus from Therese . . .
I know that among the readers of this blog and of Marcel's writings, there are at least two who are fairly young in years, like Therese was when she learned how to love Jesus, and like Van was when Therese began, in her turn, to teach him how to love God. Before they had heard of Marcel, both these readers, though young, already loved Therese so much that they each chose her for their confirmation Saint and now bear her name.
Then there are those of us who have met Marcel later in our lives. Did you know that the famous Jack Keogan, translator extrordinaire to whom we owe our English copies of Marcel's writings, only learned of Marcel Van after he (Jack) was 70 years old? If I'm slightly off with that estimate, it's only slightly. Like me (if a few years older), Jack had spent decades knowing and loving Therese before she introduced him to Marcel.
Which makes me wonder.
Do you think our sister Therese hides our brother from us for a while because she knows that once we meet Marcel, our honeymoon with her is over? No, honeymoon is the wrong word because that's for two, and Marcel goes everywhere with Therese, so that falling in love with him, we're falling in love with her all over again. Not to mention Jesus!
I take great joy in remembering how I felt as I waited for my first copy of Conversations to arrive in the mailbox. I couldn't wait to read it, because I couldn't wait to hear what Therese had to say to Marcel, and thus to me.
She loved this game! She knew well that once I got the book, her words would take fourth place in my heart, after the words of Jesus, Mary, and Marcel. She doesn't mind a bit; she'd have it no other way, because all that matters to her is that we learn to love God as she loved Him. If Marcel turns out to be better at teaching us, then far from hiding him, she's the first to make sure we find him and his words, and especially Jesus' and Mary's words to us through him.
But to take a broader view, it's not really Therese's game plan. Jesus is the One determined to leave no stone unturned in His quest to get us snuggled close to His loving Heart. He's the One who never tires of planning and sharing His plans with us. And so He explains to Marcel in Conversations (512):
"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."
Holy fish tacos! This is exactly the message Jesus was teasingly teaching me yesterday when I looked in Magnificat to see if I was forgetting a special Saint-of-the-day. You bet I was! St. Peter Chrysologous, and wouldn't you know that Brevity, whom I mentioned in the first post of this series, had been waiting to get the last word? As I read in St. Peter's bio, "his homilies were vivid yet concise - marvels of brevity." Marvelous Brevity indeed! And isn't it even more marvelous that God sent St. Peter Chysologous, the "golden-worded," to be a great Saint and brilliant preacher, and yet we are told that "of Peter's writings only one letter and a number of sermons survive."
How blessed we are in our day of sound-bites, instachatmonkeyfishfacebook, and snapatwit to have such veritable volumes of Marcel's own musings to keep us in words! (And I wish I had time to find the passage where Jesus calls Marcel a chatterbox, or the Vietnamese equivalent, but we'll leave that for another day.) As Jesus had explained to our little brother, "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."
I couldn't have said it better myself, neither briefly nor at great length (though great length is my preferred mode). Only a day after St. Peter C., we celebrate the feast of the magnificent St. Ignatius of Loyola, the man so on fire with the love of God (this fire having been lit, miraculously, from the very cold embers in his previously indifferent heart) that he and the words of his famous Exercises have raised up any number of Saints, including the Patron of the Missions (alongside whom Therese was raised up as Patroness), St. Francis Xavier. We can see that St. Peter Chyrsologous had one mission, St. Ignatius another, Xavier yet a third. And again, the big St. Teresa had her mission, her daughter Therese yet another, and Marcel - well, Marcel had Therese's mission too! Wonderful Marcel, not afraid to follow in your sister's footsteps as closely as possible. What would we do without you, her apprentice and accomplice, asking only to be as like her as Jesus can make you? Your humility bewitches us! And yet even in your very littleness, Jesus' plan includes a special place for you, a place in middle management, we might say.
As Our Lord told you, little brother, "Later, you will see, I will have a whole army of apostles and all I will teach them will be to love Me as you yourself love Me. But I need someone to serve as intermediary. You, therefore, will be this intermediary. My 'little apostle,' do you accept this role? It will suffice to write down My words and afterwards there will be other apostles who will enable them to be put into practice by everybody. So, therefore, your work will be accomplished and My love will spread. . . If it does not, My love will be extinguished among men" (Conversations, 14).
My plan (speaking of plans) it to help accomplish this work, and thus help spread Jesus' love, and then not have to worry about that awful and unthinkable last consequence that Jesus' mentions. No, dear Jesus, don't You worry about that either!
As for our little brother, I wouldn't say he was worried exactly, but he does love to find out the whole truth, and so later in their Conversations (388), he asks, "But little Jesus, has the expansion of the reign of Love already begun in the world?" Jesus responds by revealing the hierarchy of His apostles:
"Yes, already. But the starting point of this expansion is in France itself. And it is your sister Therese in person who is the universal Apostle of the other apostles of My Love. Yes, it is from there that the expansion of the reign of My Love has emanated and which continues still. And you, Marcel, in writing down My words, you also work at this task, as I previously said. There are still many other apostles that you do not know and who also work in great secret, continually following each other to spread the reign of My Love in the world."
I like to think I'm one of these apostles, but as to working in great secret, that's debatable. Secret or not, though, we apostles are everywhere. I dare you to immerse yourself in Conversations and resist the compulsion to foist Marcel on your family and friends! But perhaps you don't need the encouragement of a dare - if this is not your first time at Miss Marcel's Musings, I venture you've already begun your apostolic work in some form or another, secret or not. Sharing the Truth (and the way to the Truth) with those you love is irresistible. Here's how I've seen this sort of thing play out before . . .
There was once a great Thomist (that is, a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas who spent his life imbibing the Angelic Doctor's wisdom) named Charles DeKoninck. He taught young people to become disciples of St. Thomas too. Some of them were, by name, Ronald McArthur, Marcus Berquist, Jack Neumayr, and Ralph McInerny. Over time, they grew older, and having spent years imbibing the Angelic Doctor's wisdom as their teacher had before them, they in their turn became great Thomists and great teachers. I know all this because I was profoundly blessed to have these men as my teachers. Which means that the great Thomist Charles DeKoninck was, in a sense, my teacher in the reading and love of St. Thomas, for I learned from those who learned directly from him.
I say all this not to impress you (and if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you will more likely smack your forehead with your hand and cry "Oy!" when you realize the depths of silliness to which I've brought my profound blessing, but again, I blame Marcel), but rather to point out two things. First, that it's natural for Jesus' plan to proceed apace - His plan that the Little Way of loving Him will spread like wildfire once Marcel is working under Therese to ignite the blaze. But also, wonderfully, that with Marcel teaching us in Conversations how to follow the Little Way, we are brought extremely close to St. Therese, for we are learning from one who learned directly from her.
Which is just what God the Father intended when He sent Therese to meet little Van and begin teaching him how to love. And what Jesus intended when He began speaking to Marcel and commissioned him to write down both sides of their conversations. And this is what we, in reading Conversations, fulfill to the letter: we learn how to love Jesus as He wants to be loved. Simply, sincerely, naturally, honestly. And yes, poorly, weakly, forgetfully, distractedly!
What I love about Marcel, and for now my final word on Why Marcel (instead of St. Peter Chrysologous, or St. Ignatius Loyola, or St. Francis Xavier, or any of the other shining stars in the firmament of Heaven) is his utter poverty, his so familiar weakness, his predictable and lovable forgetfulness, his ability to answer the most sublime of Jesus' revelations with utter incomprehension.
Marcel in his littleness charms and delights me, and since he reminds me so much of myself, I'm forced to the conclusion that I, too, am charming and delightful - perhaps not to those around me in exile, who would like very much if I did not respond so frequently with predictable forgetfulness and utter incomprehension - but to my Heavenly Father, who has always known how weak I am, and yet has never minded at all, as I'm finally beginning to understand. As our sister Therese told her sister Leonie,
I assure you, God is much kinder than you think. He is content with a glance, a sigh of love.
He's not looking for brilliance or success, cleverness or hard work in our communications with Him. Our true Father is pleased with our briefest glance, our smallest sigh of love.
I hope to write again soon and share what Jesus told Marcel along these same lines. confirming Therese's insight and illuminating it, but for now, let's end with a glance and a sigh for Jesus, along with our five favorite words of love.
Draw me, we will run!
In the previous post (which you can find just below this one), we got a good start on Why Marcel. The Reader's Digest Condensed Version is that he's the second Therese, and we need another Therese because her Little Way has been such a crowd pleaser that she's become a celeb. You know, a celebrity, and that means while her stock has gone up, her credibility has somewhat gone down. Sort of like if Donald Trump promoted the Little Way (wouldn't that be fun?) - impressive, but then we'd wonder if he was really living the dream (of obscurity, littleness, weakness, powerlessness, and absolute surrender to God).
One thing about having a blonde soul - I feel like I'm the author of many firsts. I'm not sure anyone else has compared Therese to Donald Trump! Well God bless him, may he discover and live the Little Way too. But that prayer having been said, we must get to Marcel and see exactly why Marcel too. Not just why we need a second Therese, but why Marcel is the one to be that second Therese.
As I've been thinking about the great littleness of Marcel and the beauty of his mission, I've felt a nudge (from the Holy Spirit? my guardian angel? Hamlet the poodle?) toward his Autobiography. Yes, it was definitely the Holy Spirit and my guardian angel (the dog does nudge, but usually toward his food or water or the door to The Great Outdoors With The Squirrel), because when I opened to my favorite pages of the Autobiography - where Therese first speaks to Marcel - there I found Therese saying straight off what I've been beating around the bush to say for a few days now. Here is the passage:
"Van! My dear little brother! . . . Yes, it is really your sister Saint Therese who is here . . . From this moment I will let you know all my beautiful thoughts on love, that which has occurred in my life and has transformed me in the infinite Love of God. Do you know why we are meeting today? It is God Himself who has arranged this meeting. He wished that the lessons of love which He has taught me in the secret of my soul are perpetuated in this world, and, for that, He has deigned to choose you as a little secretary to carry out the work He wishes to entrust to you" (Autobiography, 590).
Therese then explains that God is allowing them to meet so she can be the one to reveal to Marcel his beautiful mission of being God's little secretary.
It was some time after this conversation (nearly 3 years, I think) when Jesus told Marcel the same thing in His own words. In the first entry of Conversations, He says, "I want you to serve as an intermediary of My love . . ." and tells Marcel to do the same work as Sister Benigna Consolata.
Sister Benigna was a Visitation nun (like Therese's sister Leonie) whom Jesus had chosen as His little secretary in the early 1900's. The novices in Marcel's Redemptorist house knew of her and were enthusiastic about her writings, full of messages which Jesus had dictated. So when Jesus told Marcel he would be another little secretary like Benigna (though I am so grateful He also said, "I do not wish you to cause yourself as much pain as Sister Benigna), Marcel knew what Jesus meant. (And I don't know how much pain Benigna experienced; I'm only happy Jesus did not wish as much for our little brother!)
I love Marcel's reply to Jesus' commission, a reply reminiscent of Moses explaining to God that surely He could find a better spokesman. Since Moses stutters, he tells God that he's n-n-not the man for the job. God smiles, and agrees to cut a deal. Aaron can help.
Marcel's reply to Jesus, along the same lines, is equally adorable and equally futile: "My Jesus, my handwriting is terrible."
Ah, Marcel, you have made Jesus (and me) smile! No worries, He will trust Fr. Boucher (Aaron to your Moses?) to decipher your terrible handwriting when the time comes. The important thing is that you are completely natural and sincere, along with being entirely weak, forgetful, and easily distracted. Hence you are the perfect one to show us that these are the very things in us that draw Jesus as a moth to a flame. Here, in His own words, is why He wants and needs you to be His little secretary (rather than someone who has perfected the Palmer, Spencerian, or Italic handwriting method):
"In asking you to be the intermediary of My love with your compatriots, My intention was that you write not only the words that I dictate to you, but also those that you speak to Me. Since there are many who only listen to what I say without daring to converse quite frankly with Me as children, under the pretext that it is not proper . . . tell them that I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love Me . . . "(Conversations, 6).
Really? This seems too good to be true. We know that especially for half of the human race (can you guess which half?), simple ordinary conversation flows like floodwater after a deluge! I was looking for a sweet and mild simile, something about a dear babbling brook or the like, but let's be honest here - we women can talk! I've known my share of men, too, who can hold their own when it comes to filibustering, so if this is all Jesus is asking, we've got it made. Can it really be this simple? (Spoiler: Yes, it can be. Yes, we've got it made in the shade.)
The great thing is that Jesus always means what He says. And even more wonderfully, He knows how slow we are to believe, so He keeps repeating Himself, ad infinitum, you might say.
At her first meeting with Marcel, Therese had explained at length this same surprising truth Jesus is so insistent upon: "I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love Me."
She explained it to Van in these words:
"When you speak to the good God, do so quite naturally as if you were talking to those around you. You can speak to Him of anything you wish: of your game of marbles, of climbing the mountain, the teasing of your friends, and if you become angry with anyone, tell it also to the good God in all honesty. God takes pleasure in listening to you; in fact, He thirsts to hear these little stories which people are too sparing with Him. They can spend long hours telling these amusing stories to their friends but when it's a question of the good God who longs to hear such stories to the point of being able to shed tears, there is no one to tell Him about them. From now on, little brother, don't be miserly with your stories to the good God. All right?" (Autobiography, 601).
And then . . . Therese laughed!
Marcel, although he so often complains of not understanding, is nonetheless smarter than he sometimes looks, acts, and sounds (what a twin soul!). He was well catechized, and he was not going to just take this crazy advice without being sure. In recounting this first amazing conversation, he admits a few pages later, "There were many words that I did not yet understand. So at my request she had to break off often to explain clearly to me the meaning of each sentence. Furthermore, I am quite analytical. I thought that on many points Therese would have been justified in getting angry, since I did not cease from reasoning forcibly. But how could she be annoyed with her unruly little brother? Knowing full well that his stubbornness was restricted only to the time of discussion, but once he had understood, it was over, and he would have been ready to defend the contentious point even at the cost of his life" (608).
Yes, but first he must be convinced, and we know by experience that sometimes good things are hard to believe, even if our teacher explains it every which way.
Here, for instance, in this question of how to talk to God (how to pray, really), after Therese has told Marcel that he should tell God, his loving Father, all his little stories, however mundane and seemingly trivial (though actually of great interest to Marcel himself), our little brother asks, quite logically, "But, holy sister, God already knows absolutely all of these things. Is it still necessary to tell them to Him?"
Listen to Therese's answer and you will see why she's a Doctor of the Church. So smart!!!
"It is true, little brother, that God knows everything completely. All is present to Him from all eternity. From all eternity, also, God knows, absolutely, all of that so nobody has any need to speak of it to Him. However, to 'give' and to 'receive' love He must lower Himself to the level of a man like you, and He does it as if He's completely forgotten that He is God who knows everything, in the hope of hearing an intimate word springing from your heart. God acts in this way because He loves you; He wishes by that to fill you with precious graces, to let you know of all the good desires and all the delights that one tastes in His love" (602).
If I had a shred of editorial sense, I'd stop here and comment, or move on with the rest of this post. But ah, any amount of editorial sense (and let's pretend my sense is tremendous, just for the sake of argument) is positively dwarfed by the overwhelming sense of gratitude at what Therese will say next. Hang on to your hats! This is the Little Way at its finest and most beautiful. Therese further explains:
"I want to make use of an example here. When a daddy wishes to give his little child a kiss, of course he cannot remain standing up straight and lazily demand that his child heaves himself up to his lips to receive this kiss on his cheek. Could such a kiss be called an affectionate kiss? Evidently not! To give a kiss to his little one, it is understood that the daddy must bend down a lot, right to within reach of his face, or again, take the child in his arms. In both cases he must bend down.
"Have you understood, little brother? God is our loving Father. In order to show us His love, and to receive the love which we offer to Him, He has really wished to lower Himself to our level. For love, there is no difficulty in lowering oneself in this manner. The only problem, before which God appears to be powerless, is to notice our lack of love and confidence in Him. He sees Himself rejected in a totally unfair manner, yet He never rejects us."
Again, this passage calls for, if not a commentary, then utter, grateful silence. So please, feel free to pause and soak in that image, that utter truth, that knowledge of God's infinitely condescending love.
I, on the other hand, must keep typing! We little secretaries can't pause until Jesus says "Time!"
And He is not saying time's up yet; rather, He's wanting me to tell you how wonderful it is, this teaching of Therese, so wonderful that He, too, will soon enough (after Therese has said this) tell Marcel the same thing. Jesus and Therese are tag-team-teaching! As I mentioned a moment ago, Our Lord does not tire of repeating His lessons. So after sending Therese to Marcel, He will Himself teach to him (and to us through Him), again and again and again, what she is trying to make our little brother understand. Divine patience! How lovely this virtue of God!
And now Jesus is saying, "Time!"
He's given us so much to think over that I'm saving the rest of this post . . . Why Marcel, Part 3, is on the docket, and meanwhile, although I said we had it made in the shade, even in the shade you must be feeling His love, after all these words He's had me transcribe. . . So please kick back and bask in this lesson that the only thing He asks of you is to tell Him your little stories, let Him share in your everyday life, and let Him come down to your level and kiss you. How sweet He is! And how very little we are . . . and how well He knows that and caters to it. For so long we've been thinking we need to do something big, even if that's only to talk to Him like we know what we're talking about. Forget it, let go - we had it wrong. We can talk to Him in any words that come easily, and if we are too tired to talk, we can just look at Him, or merely sigh. Ah, but that's a lesson for another day - tomorrow I hope . . .
For now, in closing, let's pray together our little prayer that accomplishes everything, and then let's rest. Our work is done for today, and we need to gather strength to be ready for His kisses tomorrow.
Draw me, we will run!
Oh, and little Jesus, we love you a lot!
Way back in the dark ages when I started this blog, I had a lot of fun with a post I called "Why Miss Marcel?" The possibilities of what I might be asking amused me to no end, but finally I wasn't surprised at Miss Marcel's sudden appearance, nor was I asking her to explain why she'd done him in, but rather, I was simply exploring the reasons why I was calling the blog "Miss Marcel's Musings." In order to save space and time (you never know when they might suddenly run out is my thought), I will not recap my reasons (nor my amusement) here, but if you want to revisit them, you can go HERE.
Meanwhile, here today, and hopefully not gone tomorrow, I have titled our post "Why Marcel" with no punctuation, thus hoping to avoid repeating the Who's On First routine of that earlier essay. And, too, I don't have a big question mark in my head this time, so I don't need to muse and amuse by considering options. It's been ages since the "Why Miss Marcel?" post, and we've gained not only in blog post archives, but also in confidence. Which is good, because if we've been hanging out with Marcel and Therese (who go together even more predictably than salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, Abbott and Costello, and Calvin and Hobbes, so to be around one is to be around the other), and managed somehow not to increase in confidence, that would be bad.
Hooray for confidence, then, and for titles with question marks. I do so love titles with question marks; that's even how I once began reading the fiction of Mons. Robert Hugh Benson, namely thanks to a book that practically jumped off the library shelf into my arms (different library altogether from the one where John Wu repeated the attempt, and again from the one where Marcel did the same) thanks to its title. How could I resist Loneliness?? It only had one question mark at the end; the other is to end the question I'm asking in that last sentence, but here I go again, gawking at grammatical gifts. We shall leave the question mark (and our gratitude) for another day . . . just now my point was supposed to be that much as I admire the QM, we will dispense with her beauty today, opting for a more sure-footed title, namely and simply: Why Marcel. As in "I'll tell ya why, if you'll stop your yammerin and let me talk!" Or rather, if I can stop my yammering and get down to it. Come Holy Spirit!
You see, it occurred to me the time was ripe for revisiting why Marcel is such a big deal over here at Miss Marcel's Musings. Yes, yes, true enough, we could hardly call it MMM without some reference to the man behind the myth, but (not to rock your world) theoretically at least this blog could have been called Suzie's Random and Somewhat Stream of Consciousness Ramblings, thus engendering the acronym SRASSOCR. And yes, yes, true enough, that would have been too much for any of us to remember twice in a row, and how awfully annoying it would quickly become to have to repeat the whole string - either of words in the Full Name of the Blog or in the not-so-handy acronym. But then again, theoretically that is, we could've started with an acronym, say PEACHY and called the blog Pleasant, Earnest, and Catholic Happy Yammerings (or any of a large number of titles that go with that peachy acronym).
So let me say it once and set the record straight forever: theories are all well and good in their place, but the honest Injun truth is that there would be no blog here if there were no Marcel in my life. And to set out to explain "Why Marcel" is more than merely to restate the obvious, that I was forced into it after naming the blog Miss Marcel's Musings. After all, we could just have easily called it WWW and focused our discourses on world wide wrestling, though granted that would have taken more out of me in the execution of posts. More research on my part, and that sort of thing. Not to mention the confusion pictures of flowers and such would have caused the WWW community at large.
But finally, I repeat, the purpose of this blog is to write about Marcel, hence the name of the blog. And so, then, to assert "Why Marcel" (as opposed to querying, "Why Marcel?" as if I was searching for the answer) is to prepare to tell you in a kind of follow up post to The Purpose of the Saints, albeit with fewer words, God willing, The Purpose of Marcel. You know, in the big scheme of things.
I don't want you to have to scroll down and re-read that post (or even press a magic word here and be transported there by techno-marvels), so let's re-cap. At the tail end of that whale of a post, I finally got to the Big Reveal, namely:
"The purpose of the Saints is first (and this is how they become Saints) to let Jesus love and kiss them.
But secondly, on earth and from Heaven, their purpose is to convince us to let Jesus love and kiss us too."
Due to the unwieldy (if adorable) and unprecedented length of that post, I haven't gotten a lot of feedback except from the lady with a headache. Thankfully she came to the post with the headache as a pre-existing condition, so she's not suing me for pain and suffering, as far as I know. Plus she's not from my land-of-litigation, California, so perhaps she wouldn't even think of such a thing if I weren't mentioning it now. The obvious course would be for me to delete this paragraph (or at least the references to lawsuits), only she has already let me off the hook regarding deleting and shortening posts, with the apt acknowledgment that we here at MMM are not revisionists. Good. We are proof-readers (usually), so never fear that I'll hesitate to delete an extra word . . . but those are more in the manner of typos (the extra words I'll delete), and I did fix the ones I found in our marathon Purpose of Saints post.
All that remains, then, is to continue where we left off, and taking St. Junipero Serra as our model in this matter, repeat, "Always forward!" and never worry about what musings we've left behind.
Forward then, just for today, is this matter of narrowing down our description of the Purpose of Saints to fit Marcel like a well cut and generous soutane, if not like a glove. Granted, Marcel's purpose does seem awfully like "to let Jesus love and kiss him," and then "from Heaven to convince us to let Jesus love and kiss us too." But just as St. Therese made distinctions among the Saints in the first and last pages of Story of a Soul, so we must too. We might say that Jesus' kisses had different effects on the different Saints, and then the way they teach us to accept His kisses varies from one Saint to another. I am certain that St. Juan Diego, St. Padre Pio, and St. Josemaria Escriva, who were all canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002, have different missions in the Church, even if these 3 missions could all be summed up in our Purpose of the Saints Statement.
At the beginning of Story of a Soul, Therese distinguishes between Big Saints and little Saints, comparing them to the variety of flowers God has created. We know Marcel is a little Saint, like Therese, though paradoxically she ended up as the greatest Saint of modern times (according to Pope Saint Piux X, somewhat of an expert on the subject from the inside, you might say). We'll get back to this momentarily, this Big/little dichotomy, because it factors into Why Marcel. But first, let's see what Therese says at the end of Story of a Soul. Apparently her last pages are less well known than her first, and it would be a shame (perhaps a crime) to let you go another moment without knowing that in her distinction there, she's offering the Little Way to a variety of future Saints (this variety would be us) not distinguished by size, but rather by sin. She writes:
"I have only to cast a glance in the Gospels and immediately I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus' life, and I know on which side to run. I don't hasten to the first place but to the last; rather than advance like the Pharisee, I repeat, filled with confidence, the publican's humble prayer. Most of all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene; her astonishing or rather her loving audacity which charms the Heart of Jesus also attracts my own. Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus' arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him. It is not because God, in his anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love . . . "
Those are the last lines Therese penned, or rather penciled, in what became Story of a Soul. She penciled, rather than penned, because she was so ill that she no longer had the strength to hold a pen. The contrast between the weight of pens and pencils were not as negligible in her day, I think. Plus she would've had to dip her pen into ink, moving her arm (and pen) back and forth from the ink to the paper. So though the last words are faint (she didn't have the strength to press down much with even the pencil), that's how she finished her memoir.
Fortunately for us, she gave her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes, carte blanche to edit her writings. Many have criticized Mother Agnes' free hand, but not Miss Marcel! (That is, not that Miss Marcel is beyond criticism, but rather that she owes only eternal gratitude to Mother Agnes.) Because listen. People in those days (a hundred and twenty years ago, when Therese died and Mother Agnes prepared Story of a Soul for publication and distribution) had some sense and some decorum. So the idea that Mother Agnes could just publish Therese's recollections - written for her blood sisters and her Mother Superior in the convent - publish them without changes and without regard for those whose feelings might be hurt or what damage might be done . . . well that's not an idea that entered her pretty and charitable little head! Instead, Mother Agnes took full advantage of Therese's clear instructions: which were to use her discretion in editing, and then go ahead and make a book out of these writings (which originally had been written by Therese with no such object in view), but be quiet and quick about it, because the devil would want to gum up the works, suspicious as he was (and what a smart devil!) that this book would do tremendous good in bringing souls to God.
I mention this here, about Mother Agnes' work on "Histoire d'une Ame" because whenever I recommend Story of a Soul, I like to explain that there are two editions - Mother Agnes' edition, which was THE EDITION before the 1950's, and the critical (just as it came from Therese's hand, no deletions, no additions) edition which came out in 1957.
While it is natural to our critical age to assume without question or comment that the critical edition of Story of a Soul is best (and should never have been tampered with, as the critics call what Mother Agnes did), I beg to differ. And not just because I don't like conflict. I'm willing to fight over this one, actually.
I beg everyone to remember that it was the first edition of Story of a Soul (the one we owe to Mother Agnes' obedience to Therese's wishes) and translations of it that took the world by storm and ushered in what Pope Pius XI later called, fittingly, Therese's "Storm of Glory" - the miracles, the showers of roses, the quick beatification and canonization, the worldwide admiration and affection that were so spontaneous and universal, and in fact so immediate after the publication of Story of a Soul (which Mother Agnes pulled off only a year after Therese's death) that the Church worried her careful Process (never dispensed with, though the waiting period had been waived in this case) would be outrun by the faithful's devotion.
Anyhow, you may rest easy that this duplicity of beautiful books (or perhaps I mean to say duplication! but since others have worried over the "true" and the "false" edition, I'll let my word stand) causes no difficulty to me. Merely another instance of God's goodness and His continuous embarrassment of riches set out for us to enjoy (especially in the pages of books). For my part, I highly recommend the ICS edition of Story of a Soul, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D. Fr. Clarke did a remarkable job of translating Therese's works (he went to God, his reward, and to meet his sweet Therese before finishing the translations of the last two of her books: her poetry and her plays), and the delightful surprise in this Story of a Soul is the inclusion (following the 1973 authoritative French edition) of footnotes which include passages Mother Agnes had added to complete Therese's thoughts.
For instance (my point in bringing all this up), at the end of Story of a Soul, on this very last page from which we've quoted, there's a footnote to share a story Therese used to love to repeat (and which Mother Agnes had added after the paragraph Therese wrote last, which we quoted above). And just as I wouldn't want you to miss those final words Therese penciled in, so too I wouldn't want you to miss this marvelous story she loved from the Fathers of the Church (though she was too weak to write it herself here, so thank goodness Mother Agnes did). And no worries that Mother Agnes is just making stuff up, pretending she's Therese writing this. There were plenty of little secretaries in the Lisieux Carmel who'd been busy writing down everything Therese spoke for quite some time. So here is Therese's other last word on the subject of God's love and mercy, and her own imitation of Magdalene in the practice of loving audacity:
"No, there is no one who could frighten me, for I know too well what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. I know that this whole multitude of sins [those she would have committed if God had not prevented her; in fact, as she'd put it "all the sins that can be committed"] would be lost in the twinkling of an eye like a drop of water cast into a burning furnace. In the lives of the desert fathers, it is told how one of them converted a public sinner whose evil deeds were the scandal of the whole country. Touched by grace, the sinful woman followed the Saint into the desert to perform a rigorous penance. On the first night of the journey, before even reaching the place of her retreat, the vehemence of her love and sorrow broke the ties binding her to earth, and at the same moment the holy man saw her soul carried by angels to God's bosom. This is a striking illustration of what I want to say, but the reality itself is beyond the power of words to express."
Ah, Therese. You are wonderful! You see what we miss, that God does not give His love only to the innocent, nor is it only the innocent who can have confidence in His love. What would we do without you to explain these truths of the Little Way to us?
As to your purpose and mission, you were very clear. You told your sisters from your deathbed, "My mission is about to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to give my Little Way to souls. If God grants my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of time. Yes, I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth . . . I will return! I will come down!"
Which brings us back to that distinction you made at the outset of Story of a Soul, and brings us very near to Marcel. These were the pages which not only charmed his heart (as they have charmed the hearts of countless others), but also calmed his fears and filled him with peace. He could be a Saint, he learned from you, for there are such things as little Saints, just as there are little flowers. You wrote:
"I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don't receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw Him shower His extraordinary favors on saints who had offended Him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom He forced, so to speak, to accept His graces. When reading the lives of the saints, I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way when coming to Him, helping them with such favors that they were unable to soil the immaculate beauty of their baptismal robe. I wondered why poor savages died in great numbers without even having heard the name of God pronounced.
"Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
"And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.
"I understood, too, that Our Lord's love is revealed as perfectly in the most simple soul who resists His grace in nothing as in the most excellent soul; in fact, since the nature of love is to humble oneself, if all souls resembled those of the holy Doctors who illumined the Church with the clarity of their teachings, it seems God would not descend so low when coming to their heart. But He created the child who knows only how to make his feeble cries heard; He has created the poor savage who has nothing but the natural law to guide him. It is to their hearts that God deigns to lower Himself. These are the wild flowers whose simplicity attracts Him. When coming down in this way, God manifests His infinite grandeur. Just as the sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each little flower as though it were alone on the earth, so Our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as though there were no others like it. And just as in nature all the seasons are arranged in such a way as to make the humblest daisy bloom on a set day, in the same way, everything works out for the good of each soul. . .
" . . . It seems to me that if a little flower could speak, it would tell simply what God has done for it without trying to hide its blessings. It would not say, under the pretext of a false humility, it is not beautiful or without perfume, that the sun has taken away its splendor and the storm has broken its stem when it knows that all this is untrue. The flower about to tell her story rejoices at having to publish the totally gratuitous gifts of Jesus. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good in her."
Oh little Therese! You are identifying yourself with the little flower, and yet the Church has named you also one of the holy Doctors who illumine the Church! What are we to do? How are we to believe you. Are you little or big? You have taught your Little Way with clarity and conviction from your little place in your little convent in your little town. And yet libraries have been written to try and set forward your doctrine in its purity and beauty. Pope Pius XI called you the star of his pontificate, and said when he canonized you in 1925 (only 28 years after you died) that you enjoyed such knowledge of the things above, that you show everyone else the sure way of salvation. St. John Paul II said of your writings and teachings, when in 1997 he named you a Doctor among the great Doctors, the same words that St. Gregory the Great said of Holy Scripture!
Can you answer me one question, then, dear Therese? Here it is, and I dare you to provide some solution, for my perplexity is greater than Marcel's when he turned to Our Lady and compelled her to put the story of your soul into his hands to clear up his difficulties. Just one question, that's all I have:
Are you a little Saint or a big Saint?
(Gosh that sounds familiar. "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" To which Therese answers in the words of Dorothy, "I'm not a witch at all!" But she can't wriggle out of the little or big Saint question quite so easily).
Therese, all joking aside (for the length of this paragraph at least, if we can contain ourselves), your mission is to teach us to love God as you did, to teach us your Little Way. Might I say that this will be a much more convincing way if you are one of us? Not a teacher who preaches from the heights, but one who has walked the walk before you talked the talk. Otherwise what is your advantage over the many Saints who would teach us how to love God but along Big Ways? Where is your credibility now that you are shining among the brightest stars of the firmament, and if we may say so, as far as our eyes can see, outshining them all? (Our Lady and good St. Joseph excepted.)
I suppose I've answered my question by saying we want to know you walked the walk before you talked the talk. You did live like that obscure grain of sand while in exile, and it was only after death that this grain of sand became a shooting start. But still, it is so hard to appreciate your littleness now that you are so very, very, very (etc.) BIG!
I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again.
Enter Marcel, stage left.
It may already be too late to save us from too many words. If you, dear reader, have a headache, please take two Advil and continue reading in the morning. Or if it's the morning, come back in the afternoon. We'll still be here. But in the interests of brevity (ha! Brevity is a beloved friend, but an introvert who sits too quietly in the corner for us ever to remember her virtues or emulate her sweet ways!), we'll get to the point (and you with the headache, you can pick up later where you left off) and tell it like it is - that is, Why Marcel.
In five words or less, even.
Simply: he is the second Therese.
It is what Jesus called him, what Our Blessed Mother called him, and the name by which they said he would later be known.
His mission is hers, Therese's that is, only in a more credible fashion now that she's up and left us for stardom. Not that she dwells immovable in the highest of the Heights. She promised to return, to come down (she promised this more than once), and she has and does. Frankly I'm not sure I'm ready for her to come so close that she speaks to me in the same (audible?) way that she spoke to our little brother Marcel, but that's fine with her too. She knows I'm more a signature scent kind of girl, happy to occasionally breathe in an unexpected and delightful fragrance that lets me know she's near. (This has not happened frequently, but it has happened occasionally. My favorite was when, about two states and 3 houses ago, I smelled a horrible smell in the house in the middle of the night. A skunk? A dead rat in the walls? I don't know, but it was awful. I prayed to Therese to get rid of it, and then I did my part and went back to sleep. In the morning the smell was gone, and I am an experienced purveyor of smells, so don't tell me I'd imagined it or it was passing. It passed because my good sister took it away with her! Not quite the same as leaving behind the indefinable fragrance of some bouquet left by the heavenly FTD, but it made my day!)
So great, she comes down and gives us roses or even the scent of roses without the visible roses. Awesome. As I said, in fact, great! Except that is the problem. She's up there with St. Anthony and Padre Pio, batting 1000 when it comes to answering our prayers and letting us know she's answered them. (Thanks be to God for husbands, or at least mine. I had her batting 100 until I asked the baseball man what that meant. He said he hoped I was asking about batting 1000, which means always getting a hit. That would be more like it!)
Do we think of St. Anthony and Padre Pio as little Saints?
I don't think so!
I'd say enter Marcel, except that he's already here. The thing is, he's so little in every way that it's easy to overlook him. Which is why he makes the perfect mouthpiece for the Little Way. Or perhaps I should say the perfect scribe, for I'm not asking him to speak to me (audibly) either. Thanks to Fr. Boucher and Jack Keogan (with the mysterious Fr. Marie-Michel and the wonderful Amis de Van as intermediaries), I've got every word Jesus and Therese (and let's not forget our Blessed Mother) wanted him to write for us. Praise God, from whom every good and perfect gift comes.
And now, in the interest of giving you every word that He wants me to write for you today (and not one extra), we'll end here. Tomorrow is another day, and one in which, if we're lucky, we can say more about Why Marcel. Why, indeed! Meanwhile, not a word less than I'm supposed to give you, which means concluding together with our favorite prayer:
Draw me, we will run!
It has come to my attention that yesterday's post was, while sweet, not quite short. I know this because it gave at least two of us a headache, and that's not ideal!
Happily, the solution is to offer a new post: short and sweet, like our little brother Marcel. Same ingredients, but not tripling the recipe this time.
So here are the elements - Jesus and our brother and sister handed them to me this morning, and I'm hoping to whip them together into a quick 3 rose cupcake sort of peace offering. For those who came away with headaches from our alternative to too many sweets yesterday (too many words), this is good news because gee whiz, headaches are not our goal here at Miss Marcel's Musings!
First up is a line from Therese's best-ever-letter to her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart (LT 197). Can you believe I forgot the best part? Here it is:
"Dear Sister, how can you say that my desires are the sign of my love? Ah! I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy. This is my only treasure - why should this treasure not be yours?"
Second is from our dear Jesus in Conversations (178):
"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."
And finally, sweetness from Marcel, with a dash of Therese's salt, at Conversations (181):
Marcel: My Father, after my communion I was still afraid, asking myself if Jesus would come back to me or if He would leave me again for a long time in this state of abandonment. I felt then as if I had some sugar in my mouth and I realized that this sensation, accompanied by a great freshness, only had this effect when I still felt bitterness in times of suffering. When I swallowed my saliva it was not sweet, but each time I breathed I felt something sweet and fresh. As I still felt much distaste, I asked my sister Therese: 'Will Jesus come to make me happy?'
Therese: Certainly little brother, how could He not come to kiss you? But allow me first of all to prepare a place for Him.
Marcel: Jesus has already entered into my soul, so why must a place be prepared for Him?
Therese: He has not yet introduced Himself to you, Marcel, be patient for a while.
+ + +
There, isn't that better? I'm going to get a cold glass of frothy milk to go with my JMT cupcakes because wine gives me a headache, and we're all through with headaches, thank the good Lord. But don't let that stop you! If you're a cab girl, or have another favorite - ooh! Cupcake makes a Red Velvet! - well then pour yourself a glass. And most of all, relax, because Therese will prepare us for enjoying sweet Jesus (with Marcel as her little assistant), and our part is merely to embrace our littleness and our poverty. You know how it is after the headache's gone - all that's left is littleness and poverty, but it's a pleasure without the pain!
May your day be full of joy and your heart be full of Jesus, and to help you on your way, I'm offering a big hug, a bigger smile, and our prayer:
Draw me, we will run!
If my title and photo have made you smile (or even groan), then I've succeeded. But I feel very bold today, and with the help of Jesus and His best friends, the Saints, I'm going to try to not just make you smile (or groan), but to fill your heart with Love. Let's see what God can do . . .
Yesterday, by some strange Providence, I found myself in the company of two very dear friends - not in the presence of both at the same time, but some hours apart - and having the same amazing conversation with one after the other. They were both feeling shy of Jesus' love, kind of like Marcel hiding from His kisses (I don't remember if Marcel ever did this, but that was what it was like with my friends), and I felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to reassure each of them that really, Jesus loves kissing them, and it would be lovely for Him if they would stop covering their faces with their hands!
Kisses are very personal, so forgive me for bandying them about so openly here, but the time has come to talk of many things (as the Walrus said in a famous silly poem, and I don't hesitate to say the same), to let Jesus love us, and if kisses must be mentioned, I'll not shy away from this dangerous subject. "Live dangerously" is advice Conrad Baars once (more than once) lovingly gave me, and I'd like to be, as Fr. de Teil (her postulator) called Therese, an obedient child.
So then. First mystery: how or why did these conversations happen so nearly at the same time? They both took place yesterday, on July 24 . . . and the beautiful cause gave me a kiss and revealed her presence briefly just before I started writing this post. July 24 is the birthday (on earth; her heavenly birthday is March 2nd) of another dear friend, the one who told me, "A great conversation is a grace." Of course! Thank you, Jackers! You were Jonathan to my David (or vice versa) and when you left, you made sure I wouldn't be left without friends, without graces, without conversations.
Nor did you leave me without signs of your continued friendship from Heaven ("best friends in Christ always!") through, most frequently and of all things, the radio. Others listening to Sirius XM and turning up "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" may have enjoyed it (I hope they did!), but I knew why it played when it did. No sooner do I ask you, "Really? Is it you?" then you answer, "Who else would remember - even you forgot! - 'Awimbaway, Awimbaway?'!"
Ha! Well thank you, Jackie! Thank you for radio music, for Conversations, and thank you for conversations - you often spoke truly, but never more so than when you said great conversations were great graces, and you have showered these upon me in abundance from your place next to Therese and Marcel. So I am certain it was you, yesterday, on Mary's lap with little Jesus, prompting me to do my very little best to convince these two so adorable hearts that Jesus cannot wait to spend the rest of their lives up close and personal. I'd asked you for a grace on your birthday, leaving it to you to choose. Of course! What better reminder of those early days of friendship-in-Christ than heavenly conversations. Thank you, and please help me now to finish what we've started . . .
Because I went to sleep last night only after saying to my super smart husband, "Am I wrong?" He knew what I was asking, and it concerned shyness - or boldness - with Jesus. Was I right to insist with my friends that Jesus is asking us to ask Him for graces beyond imagining? He (earthly spouse) replied, in his brilliant Thomistic and Theresian simplicity, "You're not wrong. We don't achieve these things. God achieves them in us."
Ah! Philosophy comes to the aid of theology once again! Jack-attack, you always appreciated Tony's wisdom, whether it was in song and story (Moammar) or straight logic. And ask Jesus to forgive me for even a moment of hesitation - when the girl who wants to be the second Marcel (who was the second Therese) asks if she is too bold, things have come to a bad pass! Or rather, it's a sign of tiredness, and Jesus is such a big proponent (as we see in Conversations) of rest and sleep when one of His little ones is tired.
So I got my answer, peace restored, and I slept.
Then wouldn't you know I woke this morning with another worry. After extracting myself from an extremely awkward dream in which I'd insulted Oprah (while accepting her hospitality), she'd heard me, I'd tried to tell her of an occasion on which I'd been so grateful to her, she didn't buy it, and I went looking for my husband after she walked off in an elegant huff (interestingly, she was so much shorter than I'd expected), I re-entered my world and, recollecting the most important events of the last 24 hours - namely my attempts to embolden my friends into accepting Jesus' kisses - I was assailed by another worry. The second Marcel indeed! But to be specific with my own pre-dawn "Who will roll back the stone?", here was my second worry:
What if I'd been too hard on them? What if my two dear friends were shy because they were so much better than I am (which they obviously are), and what if the tears I saw in their eyes - those tears of love when I urged them to let Him kiss them - were tears of pain as well as tears of love? How I would hate to cause them pain! Had I then been wrong to try to force them to open the doors of their hearts to Jesus who stands knocking? As my friend Joe Feeney once said, "He doesn't stand on ceremony. He wants to come in and sup with you, and if you're having tuna fish sandwiches for supper, He's so happy to have tuna fish with you!" But perhaps I had been too pushy . . .
The only One who could solve this problem, clear my head, and set me back on the Little Way (not that I'd fallen off, quite, but I needed to be sure I was facing the right direction) was Jesus, so I said my morning prayer, took my book and booklight to the sofa in my room, and quietly opened Conversations.
As Jackie said, a great conversation is always a grace, and thank Heaven I can now have one at will, just by opening to Jesus' and Marcel's words. They never fail me, and this morning was no exception. So for my two dear shy friends, I have some words (more words! You have not signed waivers or contracts, and you won't accept money for being my friend, but clearly a base line requirement for our relationship is not minding more words!). Thank you in advance for letting me say more words, and I will trust that these particular words will not offend or cause tears of pain, for they're from our brother Marcel, our sister Therese, and the One you've been hiding from (who doesn't mind, by the way, for your littleness is sweet to Him). And I'm asking the Holy Spirit to use them to ease your fears as Tony dismissed mine with his, "We don't achieve these things. God achieves them in us."
Let's start with the passage from Conversations that Jesus and His Spirit of Love chose when I opened the book this morning asking for reassurance in this matter of His love and our unworthiness, our shyness, our littleness and weakness. Here is what I found (at 237), and please remember that Jesus has told Marcel earlier (in the clearest possible language) that all the words He speaks to Marcel, from the first to the last, are for us too. And I daresay that these words, given directly in answer to my request that Jesus show me the truth about how much He wants to kiss us (and whether we would be right to shy away, since we are so very poor and will not be able to return His kisses with the ardor of the great Saints) - well I daresay that these words are especially for us right now.
Marcel: Little Jesus, now that I have the time, there is something I wish to say to You. Is that all right? I do not yet understand what You said to me earlier. Do You wish me to understand?
Jesus: Yes Marcel, I do wish you to understand . . . But you seem to be very tired. That's enough, go and rest; I do not wish you to tire yourself by writing. You please me just as much by taking a rest. Go and bathe your head to soothe your itchiness and, when your fatigue has disappeared I will speak to you again. Marcel, I love you very much. I do not cease giving you kisses and embracing you in My arms. I look at you all the time and I smile on you and I am always pleased with you. So, therefore, because of the single fact that you always recognize your weakness, you receive from Me perpetual support. That is enough. You are very tired Marcel, very tired. I am giving you a kiss and I hold My lips close to your cheek from all eternity.
+ + +
This is good stuff! But, I asked myself, what had Jesus said earlier that Marcel so wanted to understand and Jesus said He too wished Marcel to understand? I turned back a page, and there I read these words (around 233):
Jesus: Marcel, are you happy now? Are you pleased with Me? Do you wish Me to kiss you? Say to Me: 'Little Jesus, I love You.' Recite also the invocation I have taught you: 'O little Jesus, come with me.' Chase away all sadness, Marcel, I do not ever again wish to see you sad. As your sister Therese has just said, to please Me, you must always be joyful.
Marcel: Little Jesus, is it really true that the female saints love You with a more ardent love than their male counterparts? I have heard some brethren say it is because ordinarily the female saints love Jesus with a more ardent love that many among them receive extraordinary favors from Him. Is it really true, little Jesus? If this were really so I would demand to be a female saint since if, in being a male saint, I should love you less than in being a female saint, I would not like to become a saint.
Jesus: Marcel, are you asking again to become a female saint? How could that happen? Allow Me to give you some explanations. It is not true that the female saints love Me more than the male saints nor is it for this reason that I show Myself to them. If it were so, how can you explain the fact that there are many female saints to whom I have not shown Myself and who, in fact, love Me more than the others? There you have a general reply which will help you to understand. When it is a question of souls, remind yourself Marcel that it is not a case of distinguishing between man and woman; as I have already told you, each soul loves Me with a different love. Those who love Me with a forceful love, even if I do not give them any external sign of love, never abandon Me, since they know Me sufficiently and are always disposed to act with courage . . .
However, Marcel, it is another thing for the weak souls like yours. These souls love Me with a really ardent love but lack constancy, so that, if at the time of trial, My love did not show itself to them, these souls might not have the strength to love Me. I am, therefore, obliged to show My love to these weak souls. Without that they would fall and, once fallen, in spite of all of their efforts, I do not know if they would be able to rise again. Do you understand, Marcel? Normally it is to these little souls that I must show My love; and it is precisely because they are weak that they give greater glory to Me in making My love shine forth more each day. It is for this reason that your sister Therese has taught you to accept your weakness with joy; the greater is your weakness, the more love supports you. And if anyone recognizes his weakness, this is not a reason for Me to abandon him; since, for Me, the essential thing is that one loves Me with a sincere heart.
Marcel: So, I am very weak then?
Jesus: Yes, Marcel, you are very weak. I have never seen a soul weaker than yours. However, Marcel, this must not discourage you. It means little that you are weak. After having put everything into My hands, why would you be afraid of your weakness? All that remains for you to do is to love me. As for the rest, I will take it upon Myself. Indeed, what can little children know? To love, there you have it, their sole occupation.
Marcel: So, I am weaker than my sister Therese? Nevertheless, my sister Therese, being French, certainly had better health than me. Is this not the case, little Jesus?
Jesus: Oh Marcel! What a question! When I am speaking of the spiritual soul, here you are measuring the health of the body. It is not the fact of being French that makes the soul strong. Really Marcel, you know nothing. Not only are you weak but also you know nothing of your weakness. However, remain in peace; if you know nothing of your weakness, I know it very well and that is sufficient. For yourself, be happy to love Me. 'My Jesus I love You,' there are the words you must know.
Concerning your sister Therese, she recognized her weakness, since she was truly weak, and this weakness led her to give herself up totally to the action of My love. It is thanks to her weakness that she has been able to lead many weak souls to recognize their weakness and teach them the conduct necessary in this state of weakness. Marcel, don't go so far as to believe that the French are not weak. You are too meticulous. But don't take that as a reproach. Say to Me: 'Little Jesus, I love you.' The time is up; I will speak to you again later.
+ + +
This is where we came in . . . For next, Marcel confesses, "Little Jesus, now that I have the time, there is something I wish to say to You." And our little brother asks "Is that all right? I do not yet understand what You said to me . . . Do you wish me to understand?" To which Jesus responds, "Yes, Marcel, I do wish you to understand," but because Marcel is tired and Jesus is merciful, He asks Marcel to take a rest. I should give you a rest too, but what just came on the radio (as I write) but "Blue Moon"! Which would be neither here nor there (or rather, here but not there) except that it turns out "Blue Moon" was sung by the Marcels! I'm taking this as a sign that the first Marcel has something more he doesn't want us to miss - the punchline, you might say. For when Marcel returns after his rest, he and Jesus come back to his question and Jesus' definitive answer, which I find to be (just as I'd asked) a kind of definitive answer for us too . . .
Marcel: Little Jesus, I have some time now and I feel less tired; after more than an hour of recreation, how could I not be rested? You spoil me a lot, little Jesus. A moment ago there was no electricity; I asked You for it and You gave it back immediately. The only drawback is that You amuse Yourself a little in not ceasing to make my light blink instead of leaving it steady. So, little Jesus, speak. You suffer from the defect of giving me too many kisses. Before I have even finished saying: 'Jesus, I love You,' and from the moment that I appear a little joyful, You do not cease to cover me with kisses as if You had never given one to anybody.
Jesus: Marcel, be happy. You have spoken long enough, it is now my turn. Really, Marcel, I indulge you in everything and I love you dearly. My only wish is to converse with you, to take delight in you and to joke with you, in a word, to do everything with you. Marcel, does this thought not please you? You always receive My kisses and My smiles; to each of your sighs I respond with marks of My love. Marcel! If you did not love Me, whom would you love instead of Me, your little Jesus? Marcel, think only about loving Me; love Me with all the love of your heart since only love is eternal. In heaven only the love to love Me will remain in you, as your sister Therese has taught you. Go now . . .
+ + +
Oh my heavens! Oh my Jesus! There it is - the answer and the question all rolled into one reply to our brother Marcel. Here it is - You, dear Jesus, want not only to kiss us (and like Marcel before us, we can't believe how You kiss us, as if You'd never kissed anyone before!), but You say You want to talk with us, to take delight in us, to joke with us, to do everything with us. Everything, Jesus? You have done this marvelous thing and brought us away from the near occasion of mortal sin, so we don't do really bad stuff, but really, Jesus? Everything? You know we are SO very silly! Do you want to watch Jason Bourne with us? Really? Do you want to look with us into the freezer as we remember we'd better get dinner for the troops? Do you want to scour the Internet with us, looking for something-we-know-not-what? Do you want to hear us (our jokes, we'll call them) when those words fly out of our mouths because everything dumped out of the freezer and one frozen meat-thing dropped right onto a foot we'd come to love and hoped not to lose? Really, Jesus? You want to be with us in everything?
Because then You say those words which might undo all the good Your previous words have done for us. You say (I won't leave out part of Your gift of words to us - I won't be afraid this undoes every word that came before), "Marcel, think only about loving Me; love Me with all the love of your heart since only love is eternal."
Well haven't You, the Divine Carpenter, hit the nail right on the head!
This is what my two dear ones (and so many more I could name with them, and so many more to come who will have this exact same fear) are worrying about - this is precisely why they are hiding from Your next kiss!
Jesus, You have called us (me, these two friends, a handful of others to whom I've confided Your desires, the extent of Your crazy-love) to live in the world. We are most of us married and You have blessed us with children (or perhaps we are caring for children without an earthly spouse to support us, or perhaps it is one child, or perhaps we are waiting for You to call us to the vocation You have waiting, but for now we are working and living in community, and so on and so forth) . . . So You want to kiss us, and we want to kiss You back, but when You say, "Think only about loving Me with all the love of your heart," well Jesus, don't You know this seems impossible, since You've given us others to love in Your place?
In Your place.
Your sometimes distressing, often delightful, occasionally unrecognizable Self in them, who stand in Your place for us.
Well listen Jesus, You are going to have to show us all that You understand. We are not St. Anthony Mary Claret with the gift of transforming union, spiritual marriage, and a need for deeper recollection in order to welcome You to stay with us. (For those of you on whom the St. AMC reference is lost, don't worry. All will be revealed when my book-on-Therese finds its publisher.) Okay, maybe that last thing we don't need was a little off - yes, we do need deeper recollection, but if You give it to us, we're afraid we'll become even worse at loving those around us than we already are. We are so easily distracted by shiny things around us; how will we be able to live the lives You've chosen for us if we are supposed to be "distracted" by shiny You within us???
Ah, You have already given us the answer in your many answers to Marcel. You are forever telling him to go and rest, go and meet his brothers, go and do whatever comes next. There's no feeling that Marcel must bilocate, nary a word on Your side about this extraordinary recollection we fear You demand . . . You only ask him to say, when he remembers (and we know he's always forgetting, just like we are), "My Jesus I love You," and "O little Jesus, come with me." Why would he have to say "Come with me" if he was staying with You? And yet, because he is so weak, so very weak, You want to stay with him. Stay with us too, Jesus! Help us ask You to stay with us too, though we know to the bottom of our soles and our souls that we will be so very, very bad at staying with You!
But here I am feeling not only like the second Marcel, but like the second Therese (granted that's a tautology) because I have the feeling that even if I'm using Jesus' and Marcel's words to try and convince those I love (and the whole world, if I have the chance) to let Jesus kiss them, I really need to just trust Him to do everything. Here's the passage that says what I feel (and it's by the first Therese, from what she wrote to her sister Marie, and which became the conclusion of Manuscript B, the middle part of Story of a Soul):
"O Jesus! Why can't I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to your Infinite Mercy. But why do I desire to communicate Your secrets of Love, O Jesus, for was it not You alone who taught them to me, and can You not reveal them to others? Yes, I know it, and I beg You to do it. I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!"
Okay, that's almost what I'm feeling, but of course our sister is not God, and she had to go and ruin her passage by putting in "provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy," and "worthy of Your Love." I know my own little flock, and they will be the first to shy away again, objecting: "I do not have total confidence! I am not worthy of His Love!" Yes, yes, little ones, but to take the second problem first, Therese does not mean being worthy of His Love by being super duper holy, but she means being worthy of His Love by being super duper weak. We've gone over this before, my little Marcels, but I'm the last to call the kettle black or blame you for forgetting. I will simply repeat our lesson: This is the Little Way where failure is the new success, weakness the new strength, and total poverty the perfect object for Infinite Wealth.
But how about that total confidence Therese just mentioned?
I've been thinking. I can't even count (yesterday I counted the words in "Draw me, we will run," and reached six. Hmmmm). But I can still try to think at least, and this is what I have come up with (more math, too, so see if I've got the sum right) - little Therese asked (while on earth and remembering Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit) that the angels and saints would give her a double portion of their spirit and their love. I'm thinking that means if we simply ask her for a double portion of her confidence, not only will that simplify things, but we'll get four times the confidence of all the angels and saints! This should be close enough to total confidence to please Jesus. And in fact, as He repeats again and again to Marcel, as He told St. Paul too, it is not perfection He is looking for in us, but He delights to find in us weakness so that He may fill us with His strength. I'm sure that goes for confidence as well as every other virtue we so sorely lack.
Nonetheless, I must add (even if you're totally reassured, and I bet you're not quite that), we aren't the first to come away unsatisfied from "Manuscript B," from which I've taken the paragraph quoted above. As I mentioned, it was first a letter Therese wrote to her sister and godmother, Marie of the Sacred Heart, who'd asked her to tell about the way upon which Jesus was leading her. Therese did so write, and Marie responded immediately. With admiration and sadness, she wrote back (they were in the same convent, but silence was the usual mode, so passing notes came in handy), "You know I don't begrudge you your holiness, but bummer, I was hoping I too could walk this way, and obviously I can't." (Same old, same old: Marie wrote that she had not enough desires or confidence, not enough worthiness . . .) To which Therese replied in the most beautiful and pertinent letter of all time (on September 17, 1896; LT 197, if you want to know its technical name):
"Marie, you dodo. You slay me! You've totally missed the point!"
Well that's my New Living Translation, but let's go with the standard and wonderful Fr. John Clarke translation just for accuracy:
"Oh, dear sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love . . . The desire alone to be a victim suffices, but we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, and this is the difficulty, for: 'The truly poor in spirit, where do we find him? You must look for him from afar,' said the psalmist . . . He does not say that you must look for him among great souls, but 'from afar,' that is to say in lowliness, in nothingness . . . Ah! let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be, He will transform us in flames of love . . . Oh! how I would like to be able to make you understand what I feel! . . . It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love . . . Does not fear lead to Justice (to strict justice such as it is portrayed for sinners, but not this Justice that Jesus will have toward those who love Him)? . . . Since we see the way, let us run together. Yes, I feel it, Jesus wills to give us the same graces, He wills to give us His heaven gratuitously.
"Oh, dear little Sister, if you do not understand me, it is because you are too great a soul . . . or rather it is because I am explaining myself poorly, for I am sure that God would not give you the desire to be possessed by Him, by His Merciful Love if He were not reserving this favor for you . . . or rather He has already given it to you, since you have given yourself to Him, since you desire to be consumed by Him, and since God never gives desires that He cannot realize . . . "
Perhaps if you, my two very dear friends (and you, dear reader), have stuck with me to this point, you are objecting yet again. "This is precisely what we don't enough desire: to be possessed by Him." To that I have one word: Baloney!
I know you, and you have loved Him for long and sacrificed many things for Him, as well as asking Him daily to draw you along the way of His will and to show you what pleases Him so that you may do it. You want to be Saints! That is just a simpler and more familiar expression for wanting to be possessed by Him!
But I am being argumentative, and there is a much faster way to go about convincing you. How much easier to simply repeat Therese's words: "Since we see the way, let us run together," and then, while you're feeling pinned to the ground, paralyzed, unable to move forward, I will pray (and you can join in or not, as you prefer):
Draw me, we will run!
+ + +
Which leaves only one remaining question.
What is the purpose (or porpoise!) of Saints?
I discovered it this morning at home, it was confirmed at Mass, and then a third dear friend said the same again at a special coffee date we had with a baby Jack. (As it happens in God's beautiful plan, this third "dear friend" was the first of three dear friends with whom I initially shared my Something New with St. Therese that is the subject of The Book that awaits publication, and which centers around a certain remarkable kiss of Jesus. The other two friends I initially shared it with are the ones I keep mentioning in this post And there are a a few more such dear friends, no doubt struggling even now to Go For It, but what can I say? Jesus is crazy).
So let's get to it. The answer to that question: What is the purpose of the Saints?
The purpose of the Saints is first (and this is how they become Saints) to let Jesus love and kiss them.
But secondly, on earth and from Heaven, their purpose is to convince us to let Jesus love and kiss us too.
Despite the fact that we have hard and daily evidence that we are not Saints. Or so we think.
When my "happy twin," my original dear friend Jackie, went to Heaven, I had to ask myself, "Why her? Why not me?"
It was a painful reality that Jesus took her and left me. My question then was:
What the hey???
We had fallen in love with Jesus together, we had pledged our lives to Him and the Church together, we had longed for Heaven (and total union with Him) together.
And she won.
And I was stuck in the 3rd or 4th mansion, where I remain to this day (there are great windows here, and I have an excellent view of the more interior mansions, but let no one delude themselves that I'm hanging out in the Center, # 7 mansion, with my holy mother Teresa who "wrote the book").
But again: Why?
Well one answer that consoles me is that Jackie always was a lot stronger than me, and just because we were called "the happy twins" doesn't mean I was ready for seriously excruciating physical suffering. (Sorry, but just something that needs to be said.)
I'm with Marie of the Sacred Heart, whom Therese had to reassure that to offer oneself as a victim of love is NOT to ask for suffering. Phew! An unwieldy sentence perhaps, but a very consoling truth.
Still the question remains.
Besides my great aversion to suffering (and I doubt Jackie liked that part either), why am I still here? And why is she there?
I asked myself if I would have said, "Yes," if Jesus asked me to go with Him to Heaven (and let me take lots of vicodin and percocet on the way), like Jackie said yes.
I mean yes, I would have said yes. And so would each of my very dear friends, including you, silent reader, who doesn't get a chance to yell "No! Not me!" and have me hear you as I write from my hermetically sealed booth (sorry, just watched Quiz Show! I think Jesus enjoyed it more than when we watched Jurassic Park, but maybe that was just me) . . .
I don't care what you say you'd say, I know you would say yes, and so would I, but (happily? sadly?) Jesus has not asked us.
Because we are for now supposed to fulfill our purpose as Saints-in-the-making from where we sit (or stand or recline) right now. Our only job until further notice is to let Jesus love and kiss us here, now. And to help each other let Him love and kiss us. Here. Now. While we make dinner, or eat take out, or watch silly movies, or T.V. shows in questionable taste, or listen to Sirius XM radio (not usually the classical channel), or whatever it is that we're supposed to do today (or that we are doing while we're avoiding doing what we're supposed to do).
Jackie and the rest of the Saints get to help us from Heaven. There they love Jesus perfectly now (which only Our Lady could do on earth), but even more importantly, they are loved perfectly by Jesus now, and so they want (as they wanted on earth when this was their home) to show us the way to let Him love us too - love us as perfectly as He desires, despite our very imperfect loving-Him-back.
As Jesus teaches us through Marcel, for our part we can say, simply, "Little Jesus, I love you a lot." And then, without thinking too hard, and certainly without a shred of devout recollection (if you are me, but if you are you, maybe with a shred or two), we can say, "O little Jesus, come with me."
I bet He will - not because we will be such great company according to our idea of great company for Him, but because He doesn't want to sit in church with us all the time while we say long prayers. In His own words, He wants only to chat with us, to take delight in us, and to joke with us. In a word, do everything with us. It's His idea, not mine, and He's wanting to do it with you as you are - not with you as you will be if you ditch your family and your silly T.V. shows and join a monastery. That would be a dereliction of duty, and not much fun for you or Jesus! (Not to mention the poor nuns or monks you'd be attempting to join!)
But enough words. Prayer is so much more powerful to effect Jesus' adorable purposes for us all:
Draw me, we will run . . . and oh, little Jesus, come with us!
Little Jesus is rolling His eyes . . . I think He can't believe how silly we are . . . which is quite astonishing (that He is the least surprised) after all His conversations with Marcel. But then look at Our Lady - she isn't letting His Divine childhood distress her at all. She's so serene and poised, so adoring of her darling Son and God, so grace-filled, as is fitting for her since she is the Mother of Divine Grace Himself.
And to my great delight, that is the very feast we are celebrating today - Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace, which falls on July 23rd every year for the Carmelites. And guess what I just found out? I was going to say "figured out" but that would give you a far higher estimate of my figuring powers than would be consonant with Truth. I found out, then, just a moment ago when looking for a suitable picture for this post, that the wonderful feast of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace, happily (and we may assume with Divine reason) concludes the Octave of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!
Before I forget, let me add that a sweet miracle marked the beginning of my awareness of this Feast today. I was leaving the house for the library (ah, the joys of life!) when I realized I needed a couple of holy cards to mark places in Conversations which I wanted to include in this post. Not that I had the places yet, but I was planning on finding them with the tried and true tactic of randomly opening the book while trusting in the Holy Spirit and my guardian angel to bring me to the passages Jesus had prepared.
Thankfully my garage is full of boxes of memorabilia, so I opened one to see what I could find. I pulled out, first thing, a lovely Fra Angelico Christmas card and equally lovely Fra Angelico holy card, both commemorating (one with an inscription from my own hand, the other from the memorial card designed by his family) a great saint (conformable to the Decree of Pope Urban VIII. the Editor declares that in this post and every other such post of Miss Marcel's Musings, the word "Saint" is employed in a purely human sense, and all intention of anticipating the judgment of the Church is utterly disclaimed, etc. etc., etc.) - namely Marcus Reno Berquist. I'll show you the images now. From left to right: Fra Angelico's Christmas card; a detail from his Last Judgement; and Mr. Berquist, who was using these images to remind me of something . . .
Mr. Berquist was a faithful Catholic, a philosopher, one of the founders of Thomas Aquinas College, a loving husband, father, and friend, but in my memories of him, he was most of all a teacher, because I was lucky enough to have him as my teacher.
Once when he was teaching more than I could learn (okay that was not unusual, but setting that aside), I interrupted him to ask, "Mr. Berquist, wasn't that a huge leap?" With a totally straight face he looked at me and replied that a huge leap for me was surely a small step for him. Too true! And then the gentle smile broke, lighting up his kind face. Can we ever thank God enough for our teachers?
Well, this morning Mr. Berquist was teaching me again. In the garage I'd been thinking - in my haphazard way - that surely this was some Carmelite feast and I ought to get my Proper to take and pray. With mementos in hand, the truth burst upon me: the Feast of the Mother of Divine Grace! The very feast on which I like to send greetings and love to Mr. Berquist's dear wife, founder of Mother of Divine Grace School!
Thank you, Mr. Berquist! And happy feast day, Laura! May Our Lady continue to bless you and your family, and the many families who are part of MODG! May she draw you ever closer to little Jesus, and make saints of us all!
Which brings me to the pith of today's post, although Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace, is surely enough for one day. Nonetheless, we must begin what we've started, and I did start this day with a desire to share a few thoughts, taken from Marcel's Conversations, on "How to Pray." Except then I thought I'd like to share a few thoughts on "How Not to Worry." (Yes, it was getting crowded up in my noggin. No doubt that's why I needed Mr. Berquist's help to remember the Feast). I decided to let Jesus decide which we'd share, and then before I had a chance to ask Him, I realized what I really, really wanted to mention was this little hint about How to Be a Saint. What a mess of thoughts (mine), and what abundant treasures to share (from Conversations).
As St. Therese has told us, for simple souls there must be no complicated ways. And so I opened the book of Conversations. And there Jesus split the difference (between my first two thoughts-for-posts) by offering the following passage from 5 May 1946 (which Marcel had laughingly re-named, with Therese's approval, 5 Mother 1946):
Marcel: But, little Jesus, why was I so ill at ease a moment ago? I adored the Blessed Sacrament for only a half-hour and I found it extremely long. I had only one desire, to come back as soon as possible. I do not understand why it was so. On the other hand, at the moment of returning, I regretted having not behaved well towards You. I beg You to forgive me. Pardon me, and allow my heart to return with You to the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, to stay there and love You unceasingly.
Jesus: Little brother, why do you concern yourself so? Do you think that I no longer understand? You had to make an effort to remain with Me; that is a greater sacrifice than if you had remained on your knees all day in My presence.
Marcel: So, little Jesus, do I still love you?
Jesus: Why not? And why do you ask Me this question? That's enough, little brother, remain in peace. I am always pleased with you.
Marcel: Little Jesus, I am so sad I do not know what to say.
Jesus: You know, at least, how to breathe and to look; so take your breaths and your glances and give them to Me. Is that not to speak to Me? Would you be afraid that I might not understand? Come, I understand you very well.
+ + +
I hate to add anything at all. Jesus and Marcel are so perfect together, and such good teachers, like Mr. Berquist. (Yes, properly speaking, Mr. Berquist and Marcel are good teachers like Jesus, but it's casual day today at MMM, and there is little Jesus already rolling His eyes up top, so we may as well enjoy teasing Him.)
But isn't it just like Him to give us exactly the food we need? And as much as we want? I wanted Jesus to decide today whether to teach us something about prayer or something about not worrying, and He with His everlasting solicitude has combined my two somethings in order to teach us about not worrying about our prayer!
Which leads me to what I realized this morning about How to be a Saint.
First, what is a Saint?
I was thinking it over, and I concluded that a Saint is someone so filled with the love of God that there's no room for anything else.
Which sounds good, but a problem can arise in understanding that phrase "the love of God."
I've found it's a common mistake (for me, as well as for others) to guess that "the love of God" in a Saint is the Saint's love for God.
But actually, the first love of God in a Saint, the important love of God that makes a person into a Saint, is not the Saint's love for God, but God's love for the Saint!
And once this all became luminously clear to me as I drove to the library (fortunately I was driving to the far away library rather than the near one), I had the answer to How to be(come) a Saint.
Happily, it's an answer that can allay our worries and provide our prayer with words (although I like Jesus' solution of breathing and glancing as prayers - these will do when words fail us ), and thus we can tie our whole post together with a simplicity that would please St. Therese.
I know it would please her, for our answer comes directly from her, and it's not just any of her many great answers, but her final word, her definitive act.
If a Saint is someone filled with God's love, then what we need is a sure fire way to be filled with God's love. We can't fill ourselves with God's love, but we can ask Him to fill us, and it really is that easy, because He who is the Truth said, "Ask and you shall receive." And I must add that since He is God, to say it is to effect it. (Remember "Let there be light?" He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.)
Perhaps our hesitation, our long experience telling us, "Surely it's more complicated than merely asking, for many a time have I asked and not received," is only the result of our asking for things that God couldn't give us (or not yet) because they weren't compatible with His infinite love for us . . . But without worrying about anything (especially about how we've prayed - He's so glad we have prayed that it's not worth worrying that our prayers were imperfect), let me tell you the simple solution.
We can become Saints by asking God to fill us with His love, and we can ask Him to fill us with His love by our praying with St. Therese and Marcel her "Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of God."
If you know this prayer, you'll be quite right to opt for Jesus' shorter versions of breathing and glancing. (In other places, He and Our Lady suggest sighing too. I love that prayer!) Because I must say that the full text of Therese's Act is quite long.
Enter our Mother, the Church.
She has, from the time her children asked her to put her stamp of approval on this prayer, selected for us the last few paragraphs of the Act as the most important part, and so, let's start with this last part, the Act Proper, we might call it.
We want to be Saints.
We will ask God to make us Saints by filling us with His love so that it drives out all unnecessary fear and everything else contrary to it . . . Isn't that the answer to everything?
For those subject to the time pressure problem, we'll start with our best and shortest words to Jesus, asking Him for absolutely everything for everyone:
Draw me, we will run!
And then (now) for a prayer to delight the Heart of God and make us Saints with our little Sister Therese and our brother Marcel Van, here are the words we can say to join them in asking Him to fill our hearts with Himself:
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a victim of holocaust to Your merciful love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!
+ + +
Gee whiz. Now that I've given you this easy little way to become a Saint, it occurs to me that you might be somewhat startled by the dramatic language. I guess I could've made it easier by just giving you the formula that came to my mind as a child - the natural thought of any child who hears the news that martyrdom can be as swift as one blow of the ax, the very thought that occurred to me when, as a young girl, I saw "Mary, Queen of Scots."
Want to become a Saint? Just go for martyrdom!
But as my holy mother St. Teresa will tell you (she set off as a child for martyrdom, but was caught by the grown-ups within a short while and long before she reached the Moors), and St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis Xavier, and so many others - martyrdom is not always had for the asking!
Therese has the answer for everything (she is a Doctor of the Church, and no slouch among Doctors), and she proposes a martyrdom of love, rather than of blood. This is within our reach, and she promised her sister Marie (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart in the Carmel), that to offer oneself as a martyr of love is absolutely NOT to ask for suffering. Suffering may come (I haven't found a way to avoid it yet, though I'll let you know a.s.a.p. if I come up with anything), but to pray the Act is definitely not to ask for more suffering. It's to ask for more Love.
Now I'm smiling (I can't laugh aloud because I'm in the library; shhh...) because it all seemed so simple and clear when I was driving, and now I imagine a hundred questions flying in from all quarters as you, dear reader, are assailed with doubts about my very simple solution. I'm such a bad teacher! No matter, though, there are plenty of good ones: Mr. Berquist and his wife, Therese and Marcel, and above every other, Jesus Himself.
When I think of Jesus the teacher, I think of the Gospels, but I also think of Conversations, where His words are directed to the littlest souls, those (including us) who are studying in the School of Therese alongside Marcel. Perhaps, then, I should have ended with His words to us for today, but no regrets! It's never too late for Love to remedy our little mishaps, and nothing in a blog post that a little copying and pasting can't fix, so let's try again:
Jesus: You know, at least, how to breathe and to look; so take your breaths and your glances and give them to Me. Is that not to speak to Me? Would you be afraid that I might not understand? Come, I understand you very well.
* * *
How comforting to hear our True Love tell us that He understands us well. With a breath and a glance, then, and our five favorite words, I wish you a very happy conclusion of the Octave, in the arms of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace, snuggling close to her with Jesus, our Love, to Whom we whisper:
Draw me, we will run!
P.S. You can find the full text of Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, as well as other beautiful prayers (words, words, words - very lovely words!) for the making of Saints, by clicking on PRAYERS at the top of the page. Or for those who want instant gratification (without any extra scrolling up), click HERE. Happy day!
I met Anna almost one year ago, and I would not have met her in the normal course of our lives, for Anna lived in England. One year ago yesterday, however, she departed this life for Real Life in Heaven, and since she and Marcel were already good friends (her grandfather had introduced them, I think), once she reached his place on Mary's lap, he had to introduce her to me right away. After all, with tubby and adorable little Jesus taking up so much room, those of us who plan to squish in there beside little Jesus, Therese, and Marcel (and now Anna too), will want to be good friends. How else could we be comfortable in such close quarters?
Even before July 20 became Anna's day, it was a big day for me as a Carmelite. Did you know that every religious order gets its own proper liturgical calendar to tack onto the great universal liturgical calendar of the Church? That way every order can celebrate their special days - the feasts of their founders, their saints, their Doctors, and so on. If everyone tried to celebrate everyone else's special days, the calendar would be too jam packed with parties for any of us to ever get anything done. I'm fine with that, actually, but alas, Jesus is such a task-Master! (Marcel is laughing now, knowing that I know that Jesus is the most gentle task-Master ever!) So anyhow, July 20th - for Carmelites - is a huge, huge day! It's the feast of St. Elijah. Yes, the Old Testament Elijah, because in him we find our roots and our exemplar. Look, here he is, photographed in a kind of time-lapse icon, first looking left, then looking right. He's at the mouth of the cave, waiting for God to show up . . .
Do you remember? After lots of noise and ruckus, God eventually came to Elijah in a gentle breeze. And that's just what happened to me yesterday (and continuing into today). I had asked Anna (since she feels nearer to me in some ways than Elijah - I mean that's how it feels to me!) for roses on their day, and soon it was a deluge - but of rose petals drifting softly down. And then, lest I had misunderstood that these were really from Anna's rose garden in Heaven (which she's been tending assiduously, I can tell, because my what a lot of roses fell from it yesterday!), she sent me two unexpected roses in my own garden today. They'd begun blooming yesterday, but I hadn't noticed, and when I saw and cut them this morning and put them near a picture of Anna (which is also near a picture of her grandfather, whom we both love, and near a statue of Our Lady, whom we both really, really love), her roses opened up even more. They're Fragrant Cloud roses, just like the ones in the picture up at the top of this post, except way more beautiful, and come to think of it, they're named perfectly for Our Lady (who rose for Elijah like a little white cloud). Thank you, Anna!
I wanted to write to tell you about the roses (the spiritual ones) that Anna sent yesterday, but having begun to count them, I'm afraid a strict recording of them would take us well into next week! So let me see if, with the Holy Spirit whom they say can do all things (but this may be a challenge even for God!), I can be orderly if not brief. I'll use numbers in a desperate attempt to help the Holy Spirit help me name the roses.
1. I woke early and had the chance to package up a copy of Marcel's Conversations with a long letter and his picture and a Therese prayer card in order to send them to a boy named Ethan who's suffering from cancer. I know Anna was behind this - she's a sweetheart and wanted to cheer up Ethan. Will you join us in praying for him? . . . Dear Mother Mary, Health of the Sick and Comforter of the Afflicted, Cause of our Joy and Our Lady of Joyful Surprises - please cheer Ethan and his family, bring them peace, and bring them all joy. Give Ethan renewed health - please surprise his doctors with Ethan's quick healing and miraculous complete recovery so that he may not only get to know Marcel and many other saints from his place on earth, but live a long life here, singing God's praises and making known His wonders. We ask this through little Jesus and the intercession of Marcel.
2. After my packaging, I got to go to Mass and say my special Divine Office prayers for the feast of St. Elijah. What a thrill when I found a homily of Pope St. Gregory on Ezekiel in which St. Greg contributes to our Theology of the Glance. Here is what he says (and thank you, Anna, for this rose!):
In Divine contemplation the spirit is often abstracted to such a degree that it is already granted the joy of partaking a little, in image as it were, of the eternal freedom which 'eye has not seen nor ear heard,' but then, hampered by the weight of its own mortality, it falls back into the depths and is held captive in penalty for its sins. It has glimpsed the delights of true freedom and longs to escape from its captivity but, since it cannot, it keeps its gaze fixed upon the imprisoning doors. This is why, when the Jews had been freed from slavery to Egypt, each of them stood adoring in the doorway of his tent when God spoke and the pillar of cloud was visible.
Wherever we direct our mental gaze, there we may be said to stand. That is why Elijah said, 'The Lord lives, in whose sight I stand.' He did indeed stand before God, for his heart was intent on God. . . This is why Elijah is described as standing at the mouth of his cave and veiling his face when he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him; for as soon as the voice of heavenly understanding enters the mind through the grace of contemplation, the whole man is no longer within the cave, for his soul is no longer taken up with matters of the flesh: intent on leaving the bounds of mortality, he stands at the cave's mouth.
But if a man stands at the mouth of the cave and hears the word of God with the heart's ear, he must veil his face. . .
+ + +
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (Miss Marcel here again, not Pope St. Gregory.)
It's just like a game of peek-a-boo! At least that's what it's like (our prayer) when Marcel leads us in conversation as he does in Conversations. We are those little children on Mary's lap, and doesn't she always wear the most beautiful veils? Even now I'm looking up at my Murillo Virgin of the Rosary (a copy, but rather fetching), and I've often wondered at how he (Murillo) so perfectly captured Our Lady's veil. Little Jesus has a couple of His dear fingers tucked under its edge, and I wonder if He taught Marcel to play peek-boo under this veil, or if He let Marcel teach Him (as if He didn't know!)
Anyhow, Anna and Elijah are with Pope St. Greg where they can see God face-to-Face now, no need to hide behind veils, or stand at the mouth of the cave. They are standing instead at the edge of Heaven, alongside Therese with her many buckets of roses . . . which leads us to:
3. Blessed Titus Brandsma's Carmelite Mysticism, Historical Sketches, which thanks to Anna, was my companion book yesterday. I've had it for years; it's thin, and from (published in) Darien, Illinois, of all places. Do you remember Darien? That's where I was a year ago on Our Lady's big feast, at the Museum of the National Shrine of St. Therese, in Darien, IL. Where the gift shop was closed, but apparently I had what I needed from Darien. So yesterday Anna made sure I actually read some of Titus' words - which I hadn't done for years and years, though I love this little book - and what do you think I found? So many roses! And even an explanation of roses!
There's so much jam-packed into this slim volume that you'd think Titus wrote it from his place on Mary's lap. And yet, knowing I can't transcribe it all here, and wanting to help the Holy Spirit fulfill my prayer to Him, let me just share three things from it. The first is about roses. The second pertains to Mary as the little cloud (as Jessica Powers presented her to us on July 16 and as my roses are now, I realize, named). And the third is best of all because it brings us to Marcel . . .
So first, from Titus (who was, by the way, a Dutch Carmelite martyr at Dachau in 1942, and his feast is this coming Friday, July 27) in a chapter on our sister:
"St. Therese of Lisieux has said that after death she would strew roses on earth. And of what else is a rose the symbol, if not of love of God, for Whom she wanted to be a rose, a rose shedding its petals on the road of God through the world? Carmel is the mountain of shrubbery and flowers. With full hands the children of Carmel strew those flowers over the earth. Such a picture of St. Therese is widely spread. The Saint scatters widely the flowers which she receives from the hand of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces."
Doesn't that remind you of our picture on Our Lady's feast? Oops - the feast that we are even now celebrating the Octave of (!), though I'd forgotten our Octave, what with so much else going on. We are just covered in roses here at Miss Marcel's Musings, and it's hard to remember what day it is (though we'll get to that soon), let alone what day came about 5 (days) ago . . .Thank goodness Our Lady is a mom, happy to celebrate with us even when we've forgotten what it is we're celebrating!
But back to Titus and his second beautiful passage:
"We read in the Carmelite Missal in the Preface for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel the significance of the little cloud which Elijah from Mount Carmel beheld appearing out of the sea: 'Who through the small cloud arising out of the sea didst foretell the Immaculate Virgin Mary to the Blessed Elijah the Prophet, and didst will that devotion be shown to her by the sons of the prophets.' Elijah beheld her and with him we all look up to her. She has her hands filled with flowers and she brings her Divine Son the source of all beauty and grace. On those who pray, the first drops of the redeeming rain descend, roses of divine grace. . . In our own times, St. Therese, the 'Little Flower,' is elected to make that rain more abundant than ever. May she give us from the hand of the Mother of Carmel, from the Holy Mountain, the roses we need for the garden of our soul."
She's certainly doing that - giving us the roses we need - and how lovely that she lets others help her in their distribution! Thank you again, Anna! Because now we get to the most wonderful rose of all - our dear Marcel. This is the third passage from Titus, and it would be mighty prophetic if he were to mention Marcel - for Titus wrote these sketches as a development of a lecture he gave in 1935 at Catholic U - yes, our Catholic U. in Washington, D.C.! Well, in 1935 Marcel was, like Titus, still running his earthly course. But our passage is actually a quote from St. Therese, and though she (even more so) wouldn't have known of Marcel during her lifetime (he wasn't born yet), she did speak prophetically. Titus quotes her telling about her life in the convent of Lisieux and how she'd yearned to go to a new foundation (a new convent) in -- Washington, D.C.? No, much better than that. In Hanoi!!!
She wrote (and Titus quotes), "Here I am loved, and this affection is very sweet to me. But that is just why I dream of a convent in which I should be unknown, in which I should have to bear the exile of the heart as well. I should like to go to Hanoi, to suffer much for the good Lord. I should like to go there to be lonely, to have no single consolation, no single joy on earth."
Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. Talk about being careful what you pray for! Therese's prayer was answered (to some extent) by Marcel at the end of his life, imprisoned in North Vietnam. Only somewhat answered, though, because where can a Saint go and not be loved? Marcel, the second Therese even if no one knew it but his dear bearded Jesus, was loved in the camps where he was imprisoned, where he was such a consolation to others and where he assuaged their loneliness and their fears.
Wow! But enough wondering over that rose - there are more to be displayed and to shed their sweet fragrance here today. Anna was busy on her first "feast"!
4. I asked her specifically for a rose to come regarding my manuscript on Therese. The rose came just as ordered, right into my inbox for me to find soon after I made the request. What this rose means is a mystery - no decision has been made as to whether the book will be published yet, but what a joy to have Anna reassure me that God has not forgotten, nor Therese, nor Marcel. They'll take care of everything, so no worries.
5. And speaking of seemingly unanswered (let's call them NYA - "not yet answered") prayer intentions, Anna gave me a rose from Conversations which we then decided we should share as a sign of God's love and promise that He will answer all our prayers - just maybe not all today.
At (445) Jesus says, "The flame of Love which envelops you completely, in the same way, envelops everything which is of you."
What spectacular and glorious news! This flame of Love is Jesus, and He is not only embracing us in His Heart, but all those we embrace in our hearts. Which means we might as well say our best-of-all prayers now, while we're on the subject: Draw me, we will run!
6. But there's more! The next rose to fall from Conversations was from (31), where Jesus says something that consoles me almost as much as a chocolate sundae.
Ha! I got ya, didn't I? But really, just joking because it consoles me more than a chocolate sundae!
Jesus says, "My little apostle, never allow yourself to be afraid by the effort that you must impose on yourself to write. Even if the words I am saying to you were useful only to a single soul, that would already be sufficient."
Oh my goodness, that is such truly wonderful news. Because aren't you, dear reader, reading this right now? And if any of this is useful to you (and I'm sure it is - heavenly roses are never wasted on little souls, who have just the right degree of awe and wonder and, well, littleness, to appreciate them), then I'm going to keep reminding myself never to fret or stress over any effort it takes me to write these posts. Not that it's hard work, but can you imagine how tiring this inventory of roses could get if you weren't here? Ah, but you are here, and for that I thank Jesus, and I thank Anna for showing me Jesus' words to invigorate me when my enthusiasm flags. (Which is where the chocolate sundae might help too, now that we've mentioned it!) And this brings me (not the sundae, but Jesus' words that "Even if the words I am saying to you were useful only to a single soul, that would already be sufficient") to the 7th of Anna's roses.
7. Okay, I'm cheating. This is not a rose, but a bunch, a full blown bouquet, and it's exquisite. Turns out Anna was having so much fun showering down roses that she didn't stop (no sleep necessary in Heaven, though for those of us who love sleep, I'm hoping it's still possible on occasion). So as I was setting up this post (importing pictures and spaces of writing whatever God wanted you to hear through me), I found and collected one rose after another that she was still strewing and showering (having definitely gotten the hang of it!) - and these roses are nothing other than the beautiful little flowers that sprung up in the footsteps of Therese and Marcel. Time and space and language barriers (especially language barriers) were obliterated as I looked for a photo of Marcel to put in this post. You won't find that picture - Marcel was just using it as a carrot to lead me forward to find the little flowers he and Anna were admiring along the Little Way.
First was Fr. Boucher. We know him already, but we don't know his friend Daniel-Angel, who wrote this, which I found in a google-translated bulletin of Les Amis de Van from 1996. Who knew such treasures were lurking in the world wide web!?!? I quote from the Bulletin quoting Daniel-Angel:
In the preface to Marie-Michel's book [which I think must be about Marcel], "Love Knows Me",
Daniel-Angel wrote on February 2, 1990, in the Presentation of the Lord :
Montreal, June 26, 1984.
En route to Mirabel Airport,
I have half an hour extra. I take this opportunity
to make a jump into a convent where a father had begged me to pass.
With emotion, he tells me about a young Vietnamese for whom he was the
Novice Master and the confidant. For 20 years, he had been watching
the opportunity to make him known and loved. Twenty minutes later, I
repaired for the airport, 700 typed pages in hand, or
rather the hand in that of a new friend, and what a friend! Treasury without
price that customs did not even suspect.
If they were interested in spiritual goods, they would have imposed an
exorbitant tax. On the plane - night time from Saturday to Sunday - praying
and watching for the signs of Dawn, I begin to devour these pages:
the dynamite of love (if the crew knew!) able to revolutionize an existence!...
Returned to my hermitage, I was tortured: how to make known
this child of God, this child of Fire? How to let it penetrate
in thousands of hearts?
How to allow this little Vietnamese to travel the whole earth,
to knock on the door of houses without number, to visit those
poor of goods and love, to wipe away their tears,
turning them into diamonds, to wake our West from its comatose state,
to shake us from our lethargy? So many poor
wait for a confidant, a friend like him! To walk in his
familiarity! That young people would find there the desire to love and
simply the taste of living. And - who knows? - perhaps to find even the strength to
give their life in turn...
Very concretely, how to put in the hands outstretched
from a thirsty crowd, as in the Gospels, these pages where pass, turn by
turn, each of the Beatitudes? Who will be able to realize this gigantic
job to write, select, classify these innumerable pages?
Van had to push me to a child in Carmel ... I got
so I turned to my beloved brother Marie-Michel with whom I
founded - this year 1984 - "Youth-Light," the school of
life, courage and love. Already overwhelmed by his ministry of
training and evangelism with so many young people to whom he listens and
for whom he writes, he accepted ... without suspecting, fortunately, the
fabulous amount of work that would require.
Marie-Michel, let me bless you for this great job! The name
of Van and Therese, on behalf of so many thousands of young people, especially, who
will be upset ... Thank you for not letting go and being gone
until the end. Faithfully, courageously. With joy! ...
Can you begin to enjoy with me the bouquet Anna dropped into my lap? I have not even begun to appreciate its delicate but robust fragrance (haha, like a fine wine, but I don't care for wine - just roses!). In this bouquet are all of those men and women who, like Daniel-Angel (the angel who transported Fr. Boucher's translated pages of Marcel to a confrere in France, I believe, one Pere Marie-Michel whom God had led along a thorny but familiar path in the 60s to a conversion in Fatima in the 70s so that he might eventually lead young people and found (I think) religious orders, one of whom my google translate is calling "Priestly Fraternity, Brothers of Marcel Van," or something of the sort. Don't ask me! I'm just the messenger and not only is my memory fragile, but my computer refuses to open up the page on which I've got the googly-eyed translation, saying with a sad face (my computer), "Not enough memory to open this page." Oh well!)
I've now impressed myself, even, with my ability to enjoy a parenthetical remark so much that I say both too much and too little ... but we have no time for regrets, we who run with the little flowers! So, as I was saying, and this time will say sans parentheses:
In this bouquet are all those men and women who, like Daniel-Angel yearned to do and actually succeeded in doing with the help of Marie-Michel, brought Marcel to the world, and in particular, to us. We might add, in the words of Daniel-Angel, "without suspecting, fortunately, the fabulous amount of work that would require."
Which is why, as I said, Fr. Boucher is one of these roses. And our newly discovered Daniel-Angel and Pere Marie-Michel. And the men and women of Les Amis de Van. And our own dear friend, Jack Keogan.
My plan is to cozy up to them, and you're so welcome to join me. Let's hide ourselves in this bouquet, hoping that "without suspecting the fabulous amount of work it will require," we'll be part of the veritable army of little flowers spreading Marcel and Therese's message, or really, to be quite simple, Jesus' message. And if you think that an "army of little flowers" brings to mind a hilarious image, I'm with you! Almost as good as something else google translated for me, from Marie-Michel's blog, in a few words about the Rosary - calling it "the weapon of the sweet!"
8. A moment ago (in the middle of that last paragraph) I was trying to be quite simple. This is good because it reminds me of our last rose of today. Do you remember when I asked you, some time ago, to remind me to tell you the story (someday) of St. Lawrence of Brindisi? If you've forgotten, welcome to my Marcel club of forgetful lovers! If you never saw it, well you've got some back reading to catch up on, now don't you? (As Jesus would say, This is not a criticism! But you know, why not fill your days with Marcel? Our archives are getting happily cozy and full, like Mary's lap!)
Well today is that someday, because it is St. Lawrence of Brindisi's feast! And here is what I wanted to tell you and why I brought it up in the first place (whenever that was, in the oh so distant recent past):
When we thank God for the time and work (but such happy work, I can assure you) that Fr. Boucher and Jack Keogan (and Les Amis de Van, and so many more) have given to bring us Marcel Van's writings - in whatever language we speak: Vietnamese, French, or English - part of our thanksgiving can include the realization that St. Therese and Marcel have been eager to share Jesus with us - so eager, so willing, so passionately concerned to do so! I'm sure it is most of all because of their love and persistence that we have Marcel's works to read and savor today - so many words of love from Jesus through him to us!
How do I know this? Why do I bring in Heaven? Isn't it enough to thank the earthly minions?
Well no. Because there are - or is, if L of B is our only example, but he's a good example - Doctors of the Church whose writings are still closed books to us, at least if we don't know our Latin super well, and even then, it sometimes can (did, in L of B's case) take centuries - even for the Latin to be available for our reading pleasure.
Here's the story, morning glory, and I tell it with no stress but great joy:
On the night that St. Therese was made a Doctor of the Church - October 19, 1997 - my husband and I hosted a party. We fell for the adorable, naive invitation of a dear priest friend who said, "I'm going to say a Mass in her honor tonight. How about we order pizza - I'll pay - and have the few students who attend the Mass over to your house afterward?" (We were at Christendom at the time.)
Sounded like a good plan, but I knew Therese and her charm, so I planned for more than a few.
Among our other preparations, we got out our wedding guest book, and let people sign it for this special celebration. And the total number?
There were 70 people who came!
And at the festivities, in the kitchen, I said to a beloved friend, big brother, lover of the Sacred Heart, and president of Christendom College, Tim O'Donnell, "So if St. Therese is a Doctor of the Church now, and that means the Church proposes her as our teacher, and she's the 33rd such Doctor so named and proposed to us - what about those among the other 32 whom I've never known anything about, let alone their teachings? Like what about Lawrence of Brindisi?"
Being of sound-ish mind and happy (but dull) memory, I don't remember what Tim said in response. I think he told me that Lawrence was a Franciscan and had written well on Our Lady . . .
Many years later, I got a copy (which I then gave away to someone who had to have it, but don't worry I got another copy) of a really magnificent book called The 33 Doctors of the Church. Incidentally, there are a handful more Doctors by now, but for those of us who can't finish learning what Therese (and her assistant Marcel) has to teach us, we leave those aside like so many extra steaks (suddenly we're at a fancy dinner and can't finish the Therese-steak, let alone start on the John-of-Avila-steak).
So who is St. Lawrence of Brindisi, and why did I want you to remind me to tell you about him someday (which is today)?
Since Jesus is our exemplar, let me start with a big smile (and nearly finish) by saying, as He once said to Marcel of St. John Eudes, but we'll change the names to protect the innocent:
"St. Lawrence of Brindisi is St. Lawrence of Brindisi!"
But to say just a little more . . . He was a super holy man who lived after the terrible rift in the Church caused by Luther in the 1500s. Father Lawrence was a Capuchin (a Franciscan) and a brilliant orator. He had a photographic memory and knew the whole Bible, and all the Biblical languages, and his sermons, which make up the bulk of his writings, contain 52,000 quotes from the Bible. Nonetheless, one of his favorite expressions was, "Ah, Simplicity!" and in true Franciscan fashion, he seemed to consider Simplicity a kind of sister whom he trusted and cherished.
Lawrence did so many cool things that I don't have time to tell you all of them, but suffice it to say that he was beloved, and yet had enemies - for he was a true follower of Christ, gentle yet strong, clear and loving and ready to lead those who surrounded him (or were under him, for he was a superior at times, or against him, for he fought bravely against error) closer to Our Lord and Our Lady.
And among the many cool things he did, one of the coolest in my book (since I'm a writer and a lover of the Church) was to write an apologetic work setting forth the truths of the Catholic Faith against the contradictions to it proposed by Luther and a particular follower of Luther's named Polycarp Laiser, a Lutheran theologian and preacher. Laiser had revised Luther's bible, and in July of 1607, this man (highly respected by his followers) preached two sermons from a window in the castle of the Catholic emperor of Prague.
St. Lawrence wasted no time in answering him. The day after Laiser's second sermon, Lawrence wrote a response in which he used Acts 13:10 as his opener, and he sent along with it copies of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, and Syro-Chaldaic, challenging Laiser to read them. Laiser didn't respond in turn, but left for home (Dresden) where he published his two Prague sermons in a pamphlet which he then circulated widely - and too, cheeky fellow, he sent an autographed copy of the pamphlet to St. Lawrence!
Lawrence responded in a sermon of his own, which became a pamphlet. Which pamphlet grew and grew (because Lawrence wanted to respond well to the arguments and errors against the Church) until it became a huge apologetic work called "The Image of Lutheranism" (Laiser's pamphlet was called "The Image of Martin Luther"). Lawrence's response ended up 1500 pages long! Now there's a man I can admire!
But here's the kicker (and I can appreciate this too) - Lawrence's handwriting was so hard to read, containing as it did his own personal shorthand and a speedily written style which I'm guessing limited legibility, that his Complete Works were not published until . . . 300+ years after he wrote them! Nothing was published in his lifetime (and that was mostly okay because again,the majority of his writings are sermons, so they were heard and achieved their effect in their day), but that means not even his apologetic work was published at the time it was so needed.
Finally, after many failed attempts to crack the code and get Lawrence's works transcribed and available, in 1926 a commission of Italian Capuchin priest scholars went at it again and voila! From 1928 to 1964, his Opera Omnia gradually saw the light of day, in 10 quarto volumes, no less.
And lest we think that battle was finally won, might I add they were published in their original languages, namely Latin and a smidge (or a volume or two) in German? So for those of us who would LOVE to read his 96 sermons on Mary (St. Lawrence is considered a premier Marian theologian and his theology was rivaled only by his love for Our Lady), we'd better polish up our Latin - not to mention search high and low for those quarto volumes . . .
The moral of the story is not about the need for more careful handwriting, nor for the great technological advance of self-publishing (would that we could write something 1/1000th of the value of St. Lawrence of Brinidi's sermons!), but rather . . . How lucky we are, how blessed, how utterly rose-covered to have Marcel's writings available to us these so few years (relatively speaking) after he wrote them!
Thank you, Fr. Boucher! Thank you, Jack Keogan! Thank You, dear Jesus! And thank you, little Therese, Doctor of the Church, for so freely sharing your wisdom with us through Marcel our sweet brother!
Thank you, too, Anna, for showering on us all these heavenly roses, and may St. Lawrence of Brindisi give you a huge hug for your heavy lifting (do heavenly roses weigh anything?).
One last thank you - to the artist who gave us such a lovely image of St. Lawrence with little Jesus. These good painters never seem to capture Jesus' beauty, but we won't mind that. Let's close our eyes and kiss the real little Jesus. He's waiting with open arms for us to tell Him, "Little Jesus, I love you a lot!" So how about it? Let's say it together, with all our hearts - "Little Jesus, we love you a lot!"
And now, for that chocolate sundae. . .
I wasn't planning on posting today, but do you ever have the feeling that we make Plan A is only so God can have something to replace with Plan B? Because how could I resist sharing with you the delightful passage that God surprised me with this morning? I couldn't!
The passage is from a book I got who-knows-when, who-knows-where, or perhaps I should say with reverent gratitude: Who-knows-when and Who-knows-where. I'd taken this pair of books (because actually it's a two volume little pair, like Therese and Marcel) off the shelf the other day in preparation for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and though I didn't end up using them for our novena posts the feast, you know how it can take books a while to find their way back home to the shelf. This morning, then, I opened one of this pair before returning it to its proper spot - well, that would have been a vain effort since either the books on that shelf multiplied in the last couple of days, or I had already crammed (I mean gently placed) other books where these had left a space. Sigh. So many books, and then so many more books! Thank You, Jesus!
Thank You, Jesus and Mary too, because opening this book before returning it to its erstwhile-but-now-non-existent space, I found what You sent to keep it off the shelf a little longer. Phew! And I couldn't believe what You sent!
My passage du jour is from an essay on a beautiful, holy priest I dare say you've never heard of (I sure hadn't, or if I had, I forgot), by name of Fr. Bartholomew Maria Xiberta, O.Carm (the O. Carm stands for Ancient Order of Carmelites, the branch of the Carmelite family that is not the reformed-by-Teresa-of-Avila Discalced Carmelites, though the O. Carms have had, through the centuries, reforms of their own). The essay on Fr. Bart X is written by another beautiful, holy priest who was his student, and this one I had heard of, namely Fr. Redemptus M. Valabek, O. Carm.
Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, I've just learned that Fr. Valabek went to meet Jesus and Mary (and so many more) on August 5, 2003. His teacher, Fr. Bart had gone earlier, on July 26, 1967, and it turns out that Fr. Redemptus' admiration for his teacher was well placed. Fr. Bart is a Servant of God, just like our Marcel!
Can you imagine the fun they are having in Heaven? All of the blessed, certainly, but these guys especially. Fr. Redemptus was very humble about my not using anything from his books for the Feast-post, but Fr. Xiberta (Fr. Bart, we must affectionately call him, because though he tries to be serious, he is now being tickled by Marcel - oh what an imp! I mean Marcel, not Fr. Bart), well he has no patience for fools. He's from Barcelona, and they are very affectionate but very direct there. Don't you think? (I'm kind of guessing, kind of going on instinct here.)
So anyhow, Fr. Bart is like, "What? Redemptus, don't be so everlastingly patient with the girl. She had your books in hand and you get NO billing on the Feast? This is crazy! Loco! Why she could even quote from me - I'm in the book too, and I said some true things! But to let her put us back on the shelf unread, this we cannot do. That way lies ignorance, which I cannot countenance. She might then never know how much we are doing for her and her readers from Heaven. We must tell them!"
Aha! It was clearly Fr. Bart who re-filled the bookshelf when I wasn't looking! But I'm ever so grateful, because I had no idea he was in the "Servant of God" category (with a cause in process), no idea he was such a good buddy of Marcel's, no idea that he had such amazing things to say about Heaven. I mean not just the ones I'm making up here, but the ones he actually said (or wrote) during his lifetime. Because that's what caught me and what prompted me to post today - this passage from Fr. Redemptus' article on Fr. BMX (doesn't that make him sound like a fancy stereo speaker? He is! He is a great speaker! Just listen!) - which I was immediately in love with (what he says, and now the man himself) because it sounds just like what we were saying the other day! It sounds like Marcel! It sounds like Our Lady! But you be the judge - here it is:
"The Feast of July 16 is not just any kind of feast; it is much more. It is the finest day of the year, the day closest to that one without sunset in heaven. It is the day when we experience what we will be doing in heaven: being close to Mary under her white mantle, contemplating the infinite beauty of God, of which the Blessed Mother's beauty is a reflection. To enjoy her, talking to her on a one-to-one basis and . . . listening."
Heaven indeed! It's impossible from the information I have at hand to figure out when Fr. Xiberta wrote this, but I'm guessing it was after 1959 - because don't you think Marcel whispered it to him from his place on Mary's lap??
Lest you have a scruple (oh gee. I wasn't going to mention this, but now that I've brought up scruples I can't help myself. Today I was in a neighboring town to mine and saw a hairdresser's establishment called "Scrupples." I am so hoping that is the name of the proprietor, Daisy Scrupple, and not just bad spelling. I must admit, either way I love it!) - but lest you have a scrupple about Fr. Xiberta naming July 16, our dear recent feast/solemnity, as "the finest day of the year," - and don't deny it because I know that you, dear reader, being well catechized are thinking, "Hey! What about Easter? Who is this bozo?!" - well you are not the first to want to question him. Fr. Redemptus admits (with a smile, I'm sure) earlier in his essay (of which this passage quoted from his teacher is the final paragraph), "As students we teasingly asked him was it right to celebrate July 16 with more solemnity than Easter itself. 'Listen,' he replied, 'you have to make distinctions . . . ' but he would never retreat from his statement that July 16 should be the unsurpassed Carmelite celebration."
Now don't have scupples that you're not a Carmelite!
Do you love Marcel? That makes you Carmelite in spirit!
And if you wear a scapular (cloth or medal, we make no distinctions here - garments of love sometimes come in wool, sometimes in cotton, sometimes in gold, and that's true of Our Lady's garment of love for us, the brown scapular, of which the Carmelites in Rome are the proprietors, if that's the word I'm looking for, and they've said as much in the official documentation so don't even get me started on this scrupple), well you're affiliated to the Carmelites right there!
I'm just tickled pink (and hoping Fr. Bart has escaped our Marcel's teasing, as well as he escaped his students') that we've gotten more confirmation on what Heaven will be like. Yowza, I can't wait! But don't worry, I will (wait) - because it's awfully fun to be here with you, yakking in anticipation! I also love that the longer we are in exile, the more of our brothers and sisters we meet - whether it's each other or those of us already (lucky dogs!) in heaven. As to those in purgatory, man oh man we keep emptying it daily, but then it fills again, just like my bookshelf! I guess that's good - it's the ante-room of Heaven, which we want to be packed beyond packed, and it gives us motivation to offer up those little frustrations that Jesus and Mary keep telling Marcel (and us) will save oodles of souls.
Oh, how good it is to be Catholic, to be in Marcel's camp (his tent, even), and to have Our Lady waiting for us! Let's give her a glance of love then, sure that it will bring her gaze to us if by chance she's been distracted (all those good souls crowding onto her lap, even though Jesus takes up so much room, and there in the midst of it, Marcel wanting to tickle everyone - it's got to be chaos for our dear Mother!), and let's not forget to call to Jesus (who's eating grapes, no less), sure to include the souls in purgatory in our "we" who will run . . . Ready? Deep breath, and -
Draw me, we will run!
There. That's awesome.
And as an afterthought-that-could've come first, I can't close without mentioning that today is not only part of Our Lady's octave, it's also the glorious feast of St. Camillus, particularly beloved because he's my dear sister's patron saint, so let's give him a shout too!
Camillus, hey up there, we're down here thinking of you! You had a pretty wild ride before your conversion, and if I remember rightly, a few slips even then. We're so glad Heaven won the battle, and thank you for all your love and care for the sick and the poor. Please bless all our sick and poor, and those of the whole world today, as well as our siblings and aunts and uncles and on and on, whether they're named for you or not. We're blowing you kisses, Cam - please give some to our own Father Cam, and to Marcel and Jesus for us, and Our dear Mother of Mount Carmel! Oh, and give Fr. Bart a hand, will you? He needs help - I think Marcel has started a water balloon fight, and Fr. Bart's getting soaked!
On a final note, did you find that piece of chocolate cake yesterday? I mean you, dear reader, not St. Camillus! I surprised myself by finding mine, and it was so delish! Now it's your turn - enjoy, and don't even think of counting calories. Feast day (and octave) cake is for fun and for free, so go at it and don't forget to pair it with a tall glass of cold milk - or a glass of red wine, a cup of tea, whatever floats your boat! Not to knock Heaven, but how consoling that even exile can be pretty good when we have Our Lady and the saints to celebrate!
Technically this isn't another party, but a continuation of the same . . .
I've been hearing from readers that yesterday's post in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was a big hit - the combination of poetry and a passage from Marcel's Conversations really touched hearts, so I hate to pre-empt that post with this one . . . but I can't help it - Marcel won't let this new day pass without my introducing you to some more of our friends, and so we're keeping up the celebration with another feast today. P-p-p-p-please, then (as Elmer Fudd would say), do scroll down to enjoy Our Lady's festivities from yesterday, and then let's prolong the party as the Octave unfolds.
You can see what I couldn't overlook by taking a gander at the photos that top my words here. Sorry to be so bossy - scroll down, no, scroll up! - but we're happy here at Miss Marcel's Musings, ecstatic really, at the joys and glories spilling over from God's goodness.
In the top photo we have a terrific view of the Martyrs of Compiegne, 16 Carmelites guillotined on this day in 1794. The cameraman (those guys are everywhere!) caught a lovely cross-section of heaven and earth: above, welcomed by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and little Jesus, are those sisters already in glory; below, those about to join them. The Mother Superior, Teresa of St. Augustine (I told you we weren't finished with the Carmelite Teresas - not by a long shot!) is the one standing furthest to the right; she was executed last, after seeing her little flock safely beheaded before her.
Do you know what was amazing about these nuns? About a dozen things, at least, but we'll start with the following shorter list:
1. They publicly renewed their vows immediately before their martyrdom, singing after their renewal the Veni Creator Spiritus, as was usual to the occasion (the occasion of their renewal, not the occasion of their martyrdom: that was unusual!).
2. They then sang the Salve Regina together as they singly mounted the scaffold, one voice after another cut short while the others continued singing.
3. Prior to their arrest in June, 1794, they'd offered themselves to God as a sacrifice to end the reign of terror. Sure enough, just days after their execution, the blood bath ended.
As if all that weren't enough, they've been celebrated "in story and song" many times since, and not just by any troubadours, but by several luminaries of the 20th century: the great German convert Gertrude von le Fort (in Song at the Scaffold), Georges Bernanos of Diary of a Country Priest fame, and Francois Poulenc, who wrote an opera about them: Dialogues of the Carmelites. More recent is a book called To Quell the Terror by William Bush, but hands down most thrilling is Dr. Warren Carroll's ode to their joy, The Guillotine and the Cross.
I don't want to say his book is the finest account of their history - it well might be, but I hate to compare poetry, prose, opera, and historical narrative and make a judgment on which one ranks highest. What I find most thrilling about Dr. Carroll's account is that it prepared him and Heaven for his own entry there!
For what do you think? If you scroll up again (yes, I know, your little fingers are getting tired, but if you want to see an even more fabulous photo than the one capturing the martyrs, look at the one just below it - and you won't have to scroll quite so far), you will see three of the greatest men of the late 20th century.
The giant in the middle is Dr. Ronald McArthur, founding president of Thomas Aquinas College (and dear friend). The giant to the left (but on the shorter side) is Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., the friar who wanted to be a missionary, but was destined instead to revive and renew (rebuild, like his holy father St. Francis) Franciscan University of Steubenville. But finally, the giant on the right is the one we're looking for. He's the convert, Catholic historian, and founding president of Christendom College, Dr. Warren Carroll, who wrote (in one of his many fabulous books) about the Martyrs of Compiegne, and then by the eternal designs of our all-loving God, died on this day, their feast, in 2011.
You can see, then, why we had to set Our Lady and her loving glance aside for a moment then. Except luckily for us, she is never far away, and her glance is about to draw us back under her mantle (if, heaven forbid, we've wandered from it in our musings here). Remember that song the martyrs sang on the way to their death? Modern scholars have been wondering, so says Wikipedia, whether it was the Salve Regina or the Laudate Dominium, that is, Psalm 116 which Carmelites sing at the foundation of a new monastery. Let's leave the scholars to debate; I'm going with the Salve because that's the song Carmelites sing at the end of a Marian event, and it also happens to be the song we'd sing at Christendom College (when we were privileged to be part of Dr. Carroll's "family" there for 14 years) at the end of big celebrations. I'm sure they sing it still! And do you know what we ask for in that song? Let's pray it in English to see, and since we're praying anyhow, let's ask for the glory of Christendom and the end of all reigns of terror threatening her well-being and peace:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
There it is again - Our Lady's glance! Yes, dear Mother Mary, look upon us who still stumble along in this Valley of Tears. Thank you for Therese and Marcel to lead the way, for martyrs and great men to inspire us, and for all those who continue to lead the institutions these great men left behind - bless us all with your gaze which encompasses Heaven and earth. Be a Mother to us and keep us close, snuggling on your lap next to little Jesus whom we long to see and kiss.
And what about Therese and Marcel? Surely they are rejoicing in this day too, for it was in some measure due to the long span of history which passed between the Compiegne Martyrs' death and their beatification that there was such a short blink of history between Therese's martyrdom of Love and her canonization. "Come again?" I hear you ask. Let's try that again, in longhand.
In 1896, a certain Monseigneur de Teil gave a talk in the parlour of the Lisieux Carmel and Thérèse was among the assembled nuns who heard him. Father de Teil was then postulator for the cause of the Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne, who had offered themselves for France and were guillotined 102 years before this little visit. These nuns had not yet been beatified, even, so when Father finished his talk, he said to Therese and her religious sisters, “Listen! If any of you ever plan on being canonized, please, have mercy on your poor postulator and work a lot of miracles!” Several years later Father de Teil found himself the vice-postulator of Thérèse’s cause and said, “She is a very obedient child!” because she did provide for him, as he’d ordered her when she was alive, plenty of miracles!
Marcel is the second Therese, so I'm sure he's working plenty of miracles too. Ask him for some! Call on our little brother and you will see how quickly he flies to your aid. If, however, he seems slow today, I'm sure it's only because he's busy soaking up the joy of the reunion between the 16 martyrs of Compiegne and their biographer and friend, Warren Carroll, on this their feast. "Trust exists! The Incarnation happened," Marcel is singing with the heavenly court.
I suggest we all have a big fat slice of chocolate cake in honor of our sisters and brothers in Heaven. Our Lady is with us, enfolding us in her mantle and her gaze. Let's try not to get crumbs on her lap!
Oh, almost forgot - one more prayer and then it's party time:
Draw me, we will run!
I was going to title this post "Last Call," because I've timed our novena to finish on the feast . . . which means you're welcome to toss in more intentions before our final prayer, and frankly, even after. I've got a feeling Our Lady would like us to keep asking her for things - look at all those roses she's holding out to Therese, and this is an old statue (no little brother standing next to our big sister), so imagine how many more she's actually got awaiting delivery from heaven!
A couple of the roses are here already, in the form of rhymes to delight us even as we pray. After I typed out Flos Carmeli the other day, what did I find in my email but an even better version (who doesn't want their prayers to sound like poetry?), and then I saw that same version given as the opening hymn in our Carmelite Proper last night for the vigil of this great Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Let's pray it together, then, this rhyming Flos Carmeli, asking Our Lady to hear and answer all our petitions, including those we've forgotten and those we haven't thought of yet, but which will no doubt crowd into our hearts as soon as we've finished.
Flower of Carmel
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Child-bearing, yet maiden,
None equals thee.
Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favors bestow,
Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might,
Under thy mantle,
Hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
You give to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
Dearest Mary, our Mother and our sister, obtain for us from little Jesus all the petitions of our hearts. We are so grateful for your maternal protection, for your loving mantle flung warmly over us, for your motherly intercession and tender compassion. Hear our prayers - all the prayers commended to us, all those we've taken on ourselves, and those we haven't properly formed or have forgotten - and be a true mother to us, staying near even as you assist us in every necessity.
You know, Mama, that I was trying to remember important prayers at Mass today, and here is my list.
Please grant us:
1. a deep and abiding gratitude, tinged and flecked and shot through with gladness, rising from a well of joy within us
2. a love of and refuge in your gifts of the Rosary and the Scapular
3. an intimacy with you closer than our wildest dreams and richer than that experienced by the greatest saints . . .
And Mama, don't forget to look with love upon the whole world!
And now, because it's a feast, we need more poetry! To start us off, something by Jessica Powers, who was really the Carmelite nun, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (1905 - 1988). No wonder she wrote such a fabulous poem to Our Lady in 1946! While the epitaph refers to a quote from Solomon, I think in the poem proper Jessica has on her mind "the little cloud like a man's hand" that Elijah had to send his servant - 7 times! - up to the top of Mt. Carmel to see (1 Kings 18).
The Cloud of Carmel
"The Lord promised that He would dwell in a cloud." --(2 Chronicles 6:1)
Symbol of star or lily of the snows,
rainbow or root or vine or fruit-filled tree:
these image the immaculate to me
less than a little cloud, a little light cloud rising
from Orient waters cleft by prophecy.
And as the Virgin in a most surprising
maternity bore God and our doomed race,
I who bear God in the mysteries of grace
beseech her: Cloud, encompass God and me.
Nothing defiled can touch the cloud of Mary.
God as a child willed to be safe in her,
and the Divine Indweller sets His throne
deep in a cloud in me, His sanctuary.
I pray, O wrap me, Cloud . . . light Cloud of Carmel
within whose purity my vows were sown
to lift their secrecies to God alone.
Say to my soul, the timorous and small
house of a Presence that it cannot see
and frightened acre of a Deity,
say in the fullness of your clemency:
I have enclosed you all.
You are in whiteness of a lighted lamb wool;
you are in softness of a summer wind lull.
O hut of God, deepen your faith anew.
Enfolded in this motherhood of mine,
all that is beautiful and all divine
is safe in you.
+ + +
I would like to end this post here, for what could we say to surpass such lovely and perfectly expressed sentiments? I suppose we could add Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry to Our Lady (do you know it?). I love "The May Magnificat," but especially, "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe," which Jessica's poem brought to my mind. But neither of these poems are what comes next. There's a certain Vietnamese boy, short of stature but jumping up and down with excitement, relentless in his desire to get a few words in today in honor of Our Lady.
Okay, Marcel, it's your turn!
What would you like to say?
Oh no, now I've embarrassed our little brother. He had a poem for Our Lady all lined up, but he's blushing because now that he's in heaven, he knows well Fr. Hopkins' poems, and it's as though I want to offer you a fresco Marcel painted in lieu of one by Fra Angelico.
Now Marcel. No one expects you to be another GMH, just as we didn't compare Celine's painting to one of Murillo's - although honestly, little brother, the heart knows nothing but what it loves, and I just might love Celine's Therese more than Murillo's Our Ladys, just as I might love your poem even more than I love Gerard's! So don't be bashful. You love Our Lady and it's right that we sing your song in her honor on her feast. Hide behind her veil until we're finished if you must, but I bet you'll get joy in singing it with us - how delightful that you have more to contribute to our "Theology of the Glance!" Hide then or sing, as you wish, but here we go, discovering Our Lady's glance as you so gratefully experienced it and gracefully express it. (And little brother, I'm especially grateful myself that this gaze is from the Mother of Perpetual Help, since I don't know her as well as you do. Thank you for adding to our repertoire of Our Ladies!)
The gaze of the Mother of Perpetual Succour
(by JMT Marcel C.Ss.R., 8 December 1948)
Oh Mother, why so much tenderness in your gaze?
When you lean forward and fix your gaze on me,
I see in your face a great goodness,
Your gaze is for me a tender caress.
O Mother, how engaging is your gaze
I believe I read there your ardent love,
Your deep compassion for my soul,
And for my life so full of suffering.
You look at me, you look at me unceasing,
As much in days of joy as of sadness,
And your gaze invites me to throw myself into your arms,
To be cuddled and cured of my wounds.
Your gaze is my comfort in my pain,
It is the joy and the peace of my heart.
If I take a false step and fall into sin,
Your gaze is a warning for my soul.
On the days when I am joyful, you also look at me with love,
So as to add still more to my joy, and in your goodness,
You do not forget to gaze at me in the trials of life,
So as to encourage me to remain patient.
Above all at times when I am exhausted,
You never neglect to look at me.
In unrest as in danger,
Your gaze is my comfort and support.
Oh! Mary I love you greatly!
A glance at your face is enough to reassure me;
A glance at your face is enough to melt my sadness;
A glance at your face is enough to regain my peace.
O dear Mother, what tenderness in your gaze!
Look at me until I arrive in paradise,
Until the moment when as if swallowed in the pupils of your eyes,
I will contemplate with you the God of infinite tenderness.
+ + +
Oh Marcel! Never be ashamed of your littleness! It is precisely that which makes you so near and dear to us, which inspires us to imitate you, rather than merely admire you as one who has attained heights not intended for us. Do you know, little brother, that after reading your poem I want to write one of my own? I want to ask all readers who come here, "Please, never be shy of expressing your love in poetry and songs. Let's imitate Marcel!"
You see, little brother, you give us courage to write little verses too, rhyming or un-rhyming as we are able, however we are inspired to sing our own hymns of love for Our Lady and for you. But now that you have so generously shared your poem with us, I know what you are urging me to type in conclusion. I have been thinking of it too, even before you began to whisper - the passage from our Mother about gazing at her, the power of our simplest glance upon her image. If you, brother, help me find the pages, I promise I will transcribe them here as you did so many years ago in Hanoi. Come Holy Spirit! Help, St. Anthony! Guardian angels, assist us to honor Our Lady of the Angels please . . .
* * *
Have you believed me that Our Lady is ready to shower her roses of love upon you? Let me share with you a miracle of unexpected proportions, so that you will believe in Love. I too, like Marcel, should be embarrassed, but not at my poetry, rather at my lack of faith. Why am I so surprised with each new and lovelier rose that falls into my lap? Ah, but confidence is different than expectation. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself!
For just this moment, after my prayers here in public with you (to Marcel, the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony and the angels), I took up Conversations, stuffed a (small) square of dark chocolate into my mouth for sustenance and courage, put on reading glasses, sat down in a comfy chair, and said another prayer. St. Anthony does not tire of these seemingly tiresome and certainly endless pleas to help us find things. So before opening my book, knowing this could take forever (two rules in life: never enter a used book store looking for one particular book, and never expect to re-find a specific conversation in Conversations on demand), I asked him again: Please, St. Anthony.
If I had a heart, I would be in tears.
For I opened the book.
Simply. Like that. To one page (or I suppose to facing pages, but I was only able to read one at a time, and I started on the left hand page).
Immediately my eyes fell on this passage, the very one I'd been sure I wouldn't find.
Oh me of little faith!
So here, from Conversations (426), thanks to Marcel and his big brother (and ours) St. Anthony, is Our Lady's contribution to our word-fest in her honor:
Mary: My dear little one. You have just been looking at me. It is not surprising therefore that I hasten to ask you this question. It is something really astounding. My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze.
So, what do you want and what is it that little Jesus has said to you? Are you very troubled? That is very unfortunate, my child. I am very sorry for you. Today, the recreation day, when you should be relaxing, all you do is worry yourself. It is very painful. But, my child, why trouble yourself in this way? I was once in the same situation as you. Although aware of the wonders that God was working in me, I had, nevertheless, to believe, since I had no conception of the graces that the divine Father was granting to me. If, at that time, I had not had the need to call on the virtue of faith, I would no longer have been a humble creature like you, my children. If, therefore, I still had need to believe, with much greater reason have you, my child . . .
My dear child, remain in peace, all right? Little Jesus has not scolded you; neither have I. Our sole intention, both of us, is to get rid of your troubles. Do not worry, I love you dearly. See, I have more pity for you than for little Jesus. In that case, it is He who should be sad; but you, what reason have you to be sad? Come, my child, I am kissing you, I am giving you twice as many as I am giving little Jesus, nevertheless, little Jesus is happy with that.
If little Jesus was like you, you would end up hitting each other seriously, both of you. But little Jesus loves you even more than I love you myself, since my love for you is the sign of the love that He has for you. So, in seeing me give you more kisses than I give to Him, He is not offended.
My dear little one, I am kissing you a lot and I love you dearly. That's enough. The time is almost up. My child I am placing you on my breast with little Jesus; and there, both of you, you will love each other. . .
+ + +
Draw me, we will run!
+ + +
And with that, our novena is complete. May Our Lady, so much more Mother than Queen, cover you with kisses - four times as many as she gives little Jesus, and twice as many as she gives Marcel! Our brother won't mind - he's safe at Home in her arms forever, and knows we need more pity than he, since we're still troubled here in exile. Let's do our part, though, and try not to be troubled - let's try to have faith. And when the worries pop up despite our feeble attempts to banish them, let's say, "Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice," and be at peace. Then when our peace is short-lived, let that serve as the reminder we need to look again at Our Lady so that we, like Marcel, may draw to ourselves her compassionate gaze, and with only a simple glance! What a deal, what a bargain, what a steal! Which sounds like poetry, almost, and reminds me, we have homework . . .
There could never be enough verses in honor of a Mother so tender and so true. If you feel inclined, then, the time has come to make up yours for her - I can hear Marcel urging you on, and Therese offering to teach you how to write poetry, just as she taught our little brother. Pen or pencil and paper, typewriter, computer, tablet or phone - the tools are practically endless, and they only await your creative touch. Good luck!
And don't forget to keep on the lookout for roses. We've got the octave of the Feast starting up just as our novena ends. I may not be as daily about my posting, but surely our sister and brother will continue to help Our Lady distribute her heavenly favors. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and may all your dreams, hopes, wishes, and prayers come true!
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