"I have said everything! Everything is summed up in love and confidence." - Servant of God Marcel Van
When we read this quote, we may think we are hearing from the Little Flower - and we are, but this is Jesus' 2nd Little Flower, Marcel Van, little brother of the 1st Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux (also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face). Their message is the same, for Therese personally taught Marcel her Little Way, and in it everything is summed up in love and confidence!
And today, on the anniversary of Marcel's release from earthly life - the day that could become his official feast if, God willing, he is someday beatified and canonized - what a perfect opportunity for him to remind us of the importance of love and confidence.
The photo above shows Marcel in Hanoi, Vietnam, not long before the Communists arrested him on trumped up charges as he was returning to the Redemptorist house from the marketplace on May 7, 1955. This was only about eight months after Marcel had returned to North Vietnam from the safety of Saigon in the South. Ah, but he could never resist Jesus' call! Marcel had said, "I am going back so there is someone who loves God amid the Communists," and in God's mysterious providence, he had taken the last plane that went from the south to the north. The date was September 14, 1954, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Marcel was 26 years old, and as he wrote to his sister Anne Marie, "There was so much insistence in Jesus' voice! And that is why I willingly accept to die in order to give a little consolation to the Heart of my Beloved." He continued, "Pray a lot, little sister, to obtain for me the courage to bear everything right to the end."
We read in Marcel's Conversations that on many occasions Our Lady asked Marcel to pray for her little apostles who would come later. Marcel did so pray, and we were among those for whom he was praying! Let's take a moment now, then, to return the favor. We know Marcel did make it to the end with courage (the end that was the beginning of eternal life), but what joy to be part of the reason Jesus supplied that courage and the necessary abundance of faith, hope, and charity that sustained our little brother. Prayer is so powerful, and so here then is our prayer for Marcel:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence we fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, Our Mother. To thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer us. Amen.
Dear Blessed Mother, thank you for having Marcel pray for us. Hear and answer our prayers for him by presenting them to the Most Blessed Trinity. We thank you for your loving maternal gaze which sustained Marcel and sustains us - may we be united to him and Jesus forever through your loving embrace!
After Marcel's arrest he experienced great suffering but was also given the grace to bring consolation to many of the prisoners he lived with in the camps. A year after his arrest, he wrote to Fr. Paquette, his superior in Hanoi, "My Father, it is hardly a fortnight since they made me change camp. . . and I thank God with all my heart, since on arriving here, I had the good fortune to meet a good number of Catholics and live with them. Thanks to the divine protection, the majority of men and women detained with me are bearing up well . . ."
After asking for rosaries for all and a prayer book (and again later in the letter he asks for medals, rosaries, books of prayers, and even consecrated hosts because "we hunger for divine nourishment"), Marcel explains, "Concerning myself, since the day that I arrived at the camp of Mo-Chen, I am very busy as might be the little priest of a parish. Outside the hours of obligatory work, I have to welcome continuously people who come, one after the other, to seek comfort near me, whom they consider as someone who does not know fatigue. However, they see well that neither am I very strong."
But here is the most beautiful part. Marcel writes:
"I am very happy, for during these months of detention, my spiritual life has not suffered, and God Himself has made known to me that it is His will that I am accomplishing here. Many times have I asked Him the favour to die in this camp, but each time He has answered me: 'I am quite ready to follow your will as you always follow mine, but there are souls who still have need of you: without you, it would be impossible for Me to reach them. So what do you think, my child?' 'Lord, it is for You to think for me.' "
And still, Marcel begs prayers: "My Father, please pray still more for me, since in thinking of this life full of darkness and pitfalls, I tremble many times and fear takes joy away. However, I am always read to accomplish perfectly all God wishes of me."
Marcel our dear brother was very little just like us - in fact, Jesus in their Conversations identifies him as the littlest soul! - yet he was able to do what Jesus asked because Jesus supplied everything, even amidst fears. And yet always, always, Marcel would return to confidence and love - the lessons Jesus, Mary, and Therese had taught him and which they (with his help) want to teach us.
It was May 7, 1955 when Marcel was arrested, and his release - by Jesus, through that first real kiss He had promised, that breaking of the bonds of earthly life - was not until 4 years later on June 10 (today!) 1959 when Marcel breathed his last at noon. He had not been able to send out any clandestine messages for quite a long time, but we have our brother's final message from the end of his Autobiography:
"And now here is the last word that I am leaving to souls . . . I leave to them my love; with this love, small as it is, I hope to satisfy the souls who wish to make themselves very small to come to Jesus. That is something I would wish to describe, but, with my little talent, I do not have to words to do so . . . "
This little love is so pleasing to Jesus, this love which helps us make ourselves very small and come to Him and snuggle next to His Heart. Marcel does not here on this last page say more, but all through his Conversations, his Autobiography, his Correspondence, his Other Writings, he says plenty, and his sister (and ours), the eloquent Therese, certainly has many words in her own writings (and Marcel's) to spur us on to love in littleness also. I have often thought and suggested that we should take Therese's confidence - ask it of her as our inheritance since she is now seeing God face to Face and does not need her confidence any more. So too we can ask of Marcel what he has already freely offered: his love with which to love Jesus.
In another echo of his sister Therese, Marcel said, "From the heights of heaven I will look down on my little brothers and sisters, and just as much as I have loved them on earth, will I love them also in heaven."
Actually, Therese promised not only to watch over us and love us from heaven, but to come down. We can surely say she would have taught this one last lesson to Marcel when he arrived at her side in heaven, safe on Mary's lap with Jesus as He had promised. So Marcel, little brother, come down and bring us this love that filled your heart and made you, by God's grace, faithful to the end! On this your little feast, comfort all who suffer as you comforted those who suffered with you in the camps, obtain for us the Bread of Life as you so desired to obtain it for them, and teach us incessantly the Little Way which St. Therese taught to you, that we may turn to Jesus always with confidence and love!
Draw me, we will run!
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