"It is confidence, and nothing but confidence, that must lead us to LOVE!"
- Marcel's sister St. Therese
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle all my sisters and brothers with Your Spirit of Love and to grant them the favor of making You loved very much.
So here we are, in the last few days, the final triduum, of our second Triple Novena of Love. We are just past St. Jude (pray for us!) and his compadre, St. Simon (pray for us too!) and sneaking up on the Vigil of All Saints, our last day of prayer. Ever? No way, Torme! (We're big Mel Torme fans over here, so I thought I'd change that up a little!)
I'm thinking maybe one way God ensures we'll keep praying is by not answering all our prayers at once. But I do hope you're seeing answers to some of your prayers! I think the way it happens in my life is that God answers prayers constantly - some for me, some for others - but then new needs crop up so quickly that I hardly have time to thank Him for those He has satisfied before I find myself asking for more. And just for the record, I don't think He minds at all. As St. Therese used to tell her novice Marie of the Trinity: To restrain our hopes, desires, and prayers would be to put a limit on God's Limitless Love, Goodness, and Omnipotence! So ask away!
This week I'm very grateful because my husband and I are in the midst of a miracle, even though the miracle sits amidst an ongoing unanswered prayer request. Our miracle is the great grace to spend time with Tony's family even while my father-in-law Paul is very ill - terminal cancer and the latest complication, pneumonia - but we're hopeful Paul will be home from the hospital soon, and we're so happy we can spend some days with him wherever he is! My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are the ones holding the fort, and what a mightily heroic job they're both doing! I know that even with the help of their good angels, these dear women are exhausted, so I ask your prayers that our presence will lighten their load.
Meanwhile, your intentions are included in our prayers as well! We've got them all in our big bucket of prayer requests which correspond to St. Therese's buckets of roses. She's planning to share them (the intentions and the roses) with the other Saints this week - may every Saint be involved, and may every rose be dropped down to a needy heart and home! You qualify I'm sure, so look for roses!!!
And then, along with our other graces and miracles, we are here together! And just in time to have a meeting of Marcel's Book Club for October! Yes, we already had one earlier this month, but that was really last month's overdue . . . like last month's was the month's before, better late than never. Never give up, though, because miracles happen and we're getting back on track before our year of reading Story of a Soul comes to a close. We're not done (or undone!) yet! So if you've got a copy of our sister's autobiography handy, you can read it before or after you read this post, but I hope you do read it - Chapter 10 in particular, which is where we are for our 10th month's installment. I'm sure I'm going to glide over (or skip altogether) many pages, and those might be the very pages she wrote for your heart, so think of this as an appetizer, rather than the whole feast!
Chapter 10 of Story of a Soul (in John Clarke's edition, but really every edition is good) picks up Therese's religious life where she left off in her writings for Mother Agnes, her sister Pauline, who (prompted by their sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) had requested Therese's childhood memories. Those formed Manuscript A, the opening chapters of the book.
Now Therese is writing for Mother Genevieve, the mother superior who received her into Carmel and oversaw her first steps there, and is now mother again (following the three years when Pauline became Mother Agnes and was superior). This portion of the book is referred to as Manuscript C, and is the third part of what Therese wrote that was gathered, after her death, into what the world now knows as her "Story of a Soul."
As Marcel and I dive in, we find ourselves skimming until the third page of Chapter 10, when we are, together, arrested by this paragraph:
"O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the lives of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God?"
Therese has a ready answer, but I have another question . . .
She says, "It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said: 'Tell the just man ALL is well.' Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother."
Ah, yes, all that is well and good, but here is my question:
"Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to me?"
And my ready answer is, always, the Saint who leaves books for me to read!
It is a constant source of wonder to me that God has chosen books as the way to reach my soul. Time and again books have changed my life, to the point that you might ask, "How much changing can one life afford?"
Oh, plenty, I assure you! And I know God has many ways of changing lives, even without books (perish the thought, but then again, His ways are not always ours!!). Did you know, for instance, that the good Carmelite known as Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, which has changed many a life) was himself changed and converted by seeing a tree without its leaves when the seasons changed? I appreciate this and have looked at trees admiringly and wonderingly, hoping something miraculous would happen to me too, but give me a book any day (which I suppose we can think of as a tree in another form) and I am happier and more changed by far!
Take Story of a Soul, say, and let's pick up where we left off a moment ago, because here is a passage with great life changing potential! Therese writes:
"You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by."
Marcel and I interrupt merely to say, "Amen, sister!" And then back to Therese:
"Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires."
Did you know this is one of the great truths of all the Saints and the spiritual life?
Therese got it from St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as well as from the Scriptures. But just yesterday I found it in an article on Mother Teresa written by my dear friend Maura HERE. Maura quotes a letter Mother Teresa wrote to Malcolm Muggeridge, and when I saw Mother Teresa's words, I almost fell off my chair!!
St. Mother Teresa says (in words reminiscent of her namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux), "“I don’t know why, but very often in my heart a desire has come to be with you in England when you make your first Holy Communion with Jesus. I don’t know—but Jesus never gives desires which He does not mean to fulfill.”
Poor Malcolm had no idea he would make his first Holy Communion ever - but sure enough, the grace of God and His love through the saints brought dear Malcolm into the Church ten years later, and he received Jesus in his First Holy Communion, and many, many more thereafter.
Talk about miracles! If we have had the grace to receive Holy Communion even once in our triple novenas, we can be sure miracles are happening! And I love that Maura's article appeared on Mother Teresa's feast, September 5th, the day before we set out on our Road of Triple Novenas!
What goes around comes around, as they say, and how lovely that we are still here (or here again) to petition Mother Teresa, Malcolm Muggeridge, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Brother Marcel Van and so many more on this upcoming feast of All the Saints. God is so good, and our Communion of Saints - and our communion with the saints in Holy Communion - is yet another miracle of His grace and His Love in which we can rejoice, even while we don't let up petitioning Him for all we need and haven't yet received.
But what about Therese and her lack of discouragement? I, for one, and Marcel for another (as he tells in his own writings), have certainly felt some discouragement when seeing the difference between ourselves and the saints. What is Therese's solution? What saved her from a like feeling?
She knows, and we must learn, that God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. This is a perfect lesson for our prayers, too! If yours aren't answered when this triple novena ends, do not be discouraged! Keep knocking, and the door will open! Keep asking and you will receive! Here is what Therese says she understood next:
"Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections."
Wow! Did you expect this answer to our prayers? An answer to the plague of perfectionism! How marvelous!
A dear new friend and brother recently sent me two stones, precious relics from the Cave of St. Michael that Padre Pio used to frequent (as did many other Saints, and Popes too). St. Michael had appeared at this cave, said it was holy, and promised those who came to the cave would be healed of the ravages of the plague - and even those to whom stones from the cave were brought! This must be the gift I was given recently: to be healed from this plague of perfectionism! But I hate to hoard relics, so please accept them (spiritually at least) from me as little pebbles from our sister Therese and our brother Marcel, in the name of St. Michael. What are these little pebbles? They are our saints' healing words, and they sound like this:
"I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections."
So far, so good! And then?
"But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new."
Aha! We are little, we cannot be other than we are (try as we might, for years, for decades even!), so we too need a little way to get to heaven! Lucky for us, our sister explains:
"We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs, for, in the houses of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection."
Me too! Marcel too! You too? Let's read on!
"I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: "Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me."
"And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for. But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what I discovered: 'As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you.'
"Ah! Never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul. The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more."
This gets better and better! Therese has already given us permission to stay little. Now she says it is even better to become littler and littler! This is not just a cure for perfectionism, it is a whole new way: the way of the child who abandons himself in his father's or mother's arms!
And next comes something to make me smile. I brought back many holy cards from Lisieux (and sent out one of the last extras today!), and some were in French. I delighted in pretending to know French so I could translate them, and one of my favorite quotes I translated as, "O my God, You have exceeded all my expectations!"
Knowing that Therese's hopes and expectations were so very great, I love that she says He not only met them, but exceeded them. I like to think about how St. Monica prayed for years that her son Augustine would get baptized before he died, so he could slip into heaven. God far exceeded that mom's expectations! He went so far as to make Augustine one of the greatest Doctors of the Church (right up there with our sister Therese, haha!)!!
And here it is, the line I love:
"O my God," Therese writes next, "You surpassed all my expectation. I want only to sing Your mercies. "You have taught me from my youth, O God, and until now I will declare Your wonderful works. And until old age and gray hairs, O God, forsake me not.' What will this old age be for me? It seems this could be right now, for two thousand years are not more in the Lord's eyes than are twenty years, than even a single day."
I love, love, love that Therese took God at His Word. She never hesitates to remind those around her (and the rest of us, who have inherited her words) that God promised and explained, over and over in the Scriptures, that it is not years alone that bring wisdom. In fact, as she and Marcel and I love to quote, and as I heard again today at Mass because the Church loves to use this as the Alleluia verse,:
"Jesus full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what You were pleased to do."
Marcel and I are skipping to the next page, because Therese says it so much better than we can:
"Mother, you know that those souls are rare who don't measure the divine power according to their own narrow minds; people want exceptions everywhere on earth, but God alone hasn't the right to make any exceptions! For a very long time, I have known that this way of measuring experience according to years is practiced among human beings. For instance, the holy King David has sung to the Lord: 'I am YOUNG and despised.' And in the same Psalm 118, he does not hesitate to add: 'I have had understanding above old men, because I have sought your will. Your word is a lamp to my feet. I am prepared to carry out your commandments and I am TROUBLED ABOUT NOTHING.'"
* * *
I find myself in a great dilemma at this juncture. It seems absolutely wrong to write more. There is so much here already to fill our hearts and minds, that writing more for you to read is like inviting you to be a glutton!
At the same time there is so much left in this chapter that is beautiful, that would nourish our souls, that seems a waste to leave in the book and not bring out onto the table.
And yet I cannot go on. I think my dilemma is solved by the simple solution of what Fr. Thomas Dubay (God rest his darling soul!) used to call "The Time Pressure Problem." I need to go make dinner (or discover it in the fridge!), and you? You may have things to do, people to love, prayers to say, something to eat, or sleep to enjoy.
But most of all, I hear Marcel saying, "Enough! I want to stop where Therese talks about very few years bringing great wisdom, and especially where she finishes with our being TROUBLED ABOUT NOTHING!"
Yes, Marcel, it's your book club, so you get the last word. How about one I remembered in the middle of the night, which brought me as much consolation as any of the magnificent sentences we read in Story of a Soul? Granted, this word is from Jesus, but it does appear as you wrote it for us in your Conversations. Thanks be to God for the miracle of books, and especially this book-of-my-heart! And so I quote (for once from memory!) these words of Truth Himself to our hearts:
"The smaller your love for Me, the more mine will envelop you in its intimacy."
Now there's a reason to get littler and littler!
May your dinner be delicious, and your sleep even more so! I ask Our Lady to send angels to watch over you, and may God answer your prayers, every one, though He take His sweet time in doing so, until the day we sing, with little Therese and Marcel, "O my God, You have surpassed all my expectations!"
Draw me, we will run!!!
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Welcome to the last phase of our second triple novena! I'm afraid - which is bad, after making you recite with me, "Be not afraid," nine days in a row! - okay, so I'm not deeply scared, but simply a little concerned that I might be confusing newcomers (and even friends of long years) with this seemingly endless sequence of novenas . . . Or perhaps I might be worrying newcomers (or you old standbys) with the thought that you're too late to fully partake of our double (because we've had two) triple (because each consists of three back to back nine day sessions) feast of novenas.
Therefore, let me repeat, before we get any further in, or any further out (of our minds), our triple novena story.
I love novenas - i.e. nine consecutive days of prayer to a saint or for a particular intention - because I'm pretty good at counting to nine. (Start with thumb of left hand, proceed through five digits of that hand, switch over to thumb of right hand, stop at ring finger - don't count pinky!)
Furthermore I have a short attention span, so during Mass I have lately amused myself with this holy trick of counting (silently!) on my fingers up to nine, while naming the days starting with some particular feast or day near where I sit and seeing where the nine count gets me. But "us" is so much more fun than just "me," especially because "me" is already "we" (Marcel, Therese, moi - not Miss Piggy, but Miss Marcel) . . . so when I found out that we could, for instance, start on September 6 and in nine days (a novena) reach the Feast of the Holy Cross, then start on Our Lady of Sorrows (the next day) and count nine - another novena - to reach St. Padre Pio, and then start on Padre Pio's day, and with a final novena (this would be the third in a row) reach St. Therese's feast - well, our first triple novena was born, and it was "ours" because I invited everyone within earshot or eyeshot or any kind of shot, really (root beer, anyone?), to join me in this newfound joy!
That first triple novena was so much fun, and went so well, and yet so many prayers had still to be answered - and if you were listening this past Sunday at Mass, you know that Jesus counsels persistence in prayer, even to the point of calling His Dad an unjust judge, or at least likening Him to one, though He's the justest, sweetest, best Papa ever - well the next thing we knew, I'd counted out another 27 or so days and whoosh, we were involved in a second triple novena. This one started October 5, which turned out to be not only St. Faustina's feast, but also the feast of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (and yes, my memory is so famously like Marcel's, namely forgetful, that I had to pull out his relic-card just now, after a long and fruitless brain-search, to merely remember Blessed FX's name! Wow! That's bad, but funny!).
From October 5 it was a quick nine days to the canonization of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman (which so cool to say, after all these years of his being merely Cardinal Newman, impressive as that was too) which was also the 102nd anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Nine more days brought us to the feast of St. John Paul II on October 22. And now, in the home stretch, we're heading for nothing less than the Vigil of All Saints! Nothing like roping in all the holy ones to intercede for us and our every need!
So what prayers have we been saying for this double triple novena? We've tried a variety of prayers, some longer, some shorter, and we're ending now in this last nine days with the prayer that started the whole shebang. It's called "An Old French Prayer for Friends," it's addressed to our Blessed Mother, and knowingly or not, you've said it already, if you started reading this post at the top!
But before you try to think that far back (or worse yet, scroll up), let me repeat what I've enjoyed emphasizing in this novena, what I even wrote about at Catholic Exchange HERE (click the HERE and you'll be there!), namely, two special rules that make our triple novenas not only unique but also breathtakingly freeing (which is hard to say aloud, but true!):
1. You don't have to say any or every prayer we suggest on every day of the novena, because these are little novenas in the spirit of St. Therese's Little Way. We're trying to remember that it isn't our perfection that attracts God - He's already got that! - it's our littleness, our weakness, and the blind hope we have in His infinite Mercy! So it's okay to miss a day, or two, or . . .
2. In fact, to make this a foolproof non-threatening, anxiety-reducing (rather than stress increasing) novena (or triple novena, or double triple novena), you don't even have to say ANY of the novena prayers to be included, to be part of the plan, to have your intentions and the intentions of all those you love included here!
After all, haven't you ever prayed before, even a single Hail Mary, for someone who had no suspicion what mischief you were up to? And don't you think they were prayed for even if they knew nothing about it?
Our novena-fest is kind of like that - with the bonus that if you know we're praying for you, and you want to be part of the praying, and yet perhaps you forget to re-pray the prayers each day, or you get distracted and walk away from the prayer in the middle (am I the only one who does that?) - well these sweet happenstances can hardly disqualify you from our prayers! Especially when you're happy to be prayed for and even wish to join in too (but your weakness or busy schedule prevent you).
I've had a few wonderful souls write to me and ask if they can join in though the novena seems to have already started (or has it finished?), but what prayer should they say, please? Or are they too late?
Darling little souls! You're so very welcome here, and you are never too late! If anyone is reading this in 2024 (which sounds really bizarre and yet is only 5 years away from where I sit as I write) and if the month is July, yet here you are nonetheless - by all means read away, pray away, and know you have been in this novena from its outset, because God is outside of time, and after all, here you are before Him, enjoying His Saints and depending on Him for the solution of all your troubles (and the troubles of those you love). Isn't this fun?
You may have trouble believing me, though, that it's our littleness, our weakness, and the blind hope we have in His infinitely Merciful Love that attract God to us. I know I have trouble believing it (or remembering it) myself! But we've got all the time in the world to absorb this life-changing truth, and you'll be glad to know you have not only my word for it, but proof from our favorite little Doctor of the Church. She's quite a prodigy, for all her youth; the Doogie Howser of the spiritual life; a general practitioner, an internist, a brilliant psychiatrist and psychologist, and a specialist in hearts, no less.
Doctor Therese wrote about exactly this question of our weakness when she responded to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (and here you see how important it is that Therese is a heart specialist!) in my favorite of her many wonderful letters, Letter 197. Marie had complained, sounding just like we might, that Therese's desires (for martyrdom, to preach to the ends of the earth, even simply to love Jesus as He had never before been loved) were awesome but rather intimidating. Since Marie didn't have those same desires (just like we might not), how could she, like Therese, delight the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Therese responded without hesitation. She literally picked up a pen and wrote back asap to disabuse Marie of her error. Isn't that a great word, "disabuse"? It's the opposite of abuse! It is what a Saint does to help heal her sister - and all who come after - from the abuse of the accuser, that liar, the devil. And here to disabuse us too is the plain truth, spoken as directly as only a Saint can speak it:
"Ah! I feel that it is not this (my desires) 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...That is my only treasure, dear one, why would this treasure not be yours?"
And she explains:
"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..."
We must interrupt here, Marcel and I, to explain that Therese is talking about the desire to be a victim OF LOVE - to invite God's infinite tenderness to flow into our souls, so that He won't be so sad anymore about how He longs only to set us aflame with Love, Love, Love, and yet He is rejected on every side. What can we do? Even if we want to console Him and receive His love, what must we be to worthily invite God to lavish this infinitely lovable Love upon us? Therese continues:
"We must consent to remain always poor and without strength...Ah! Let us love our littleness, 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....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."
Ah, how our divinely inspired sister is filled with the Word of God! Just yesterday, in the distant past of 24 October 2019, I heard the most beautiful words from the Gospel at Mass, words which echo - or rather foreshadow - the words of Therese.
How do you like that? A new take on Scripture studies: The Old Testament foreshadows Christ, and then Christ Himself foreshadows Therese! Given the amazing words He spoke, that we would do greater works than He did, there may be some startling and odd truth here (or I may be a material heretic, which means not on purpose, so I do submit my every thought, word, and action to the judgment of the Church, and gladly admit I'm a little silly!).
But getting back to this gospel reading from St. Luke, our dear Lord is speaking, and He says:
"I have come to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already enkindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:49-50)
These words remind me of something else St. Therese said, or rather something she asked of her adopted spiritual brother, Fr. Adolphe Roulland. I don't know if I've mentioned Fr. Roulland here before, but he was a practice brother (and a real priest and missionary) whom God used to get Therese ready to be a big sister to little Marcel some fifty years later, just as He did with her other spiritual brother, the seminarian Maurice Belliere.
St. Therese had asked the soon-to-be-Father Roulland to pray for her at his first Mass, and then every day after that. She later realized he might think he could stop praying for her after she died and entered eternal life, so she made sure to carefully instruct him. Was she asking for prayers to exit purgatory later (or sooner rather than later)?
Not at all! She was firm in her conviction that "for those who love, there is no purgatory," even while she loved to have Masses said for those who had died, because the Church's treasury is so promising and abundant. Also like her holy mother and ours, St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila, Therese wasn't worried about spending time in purgatory, believing as we like to say nowadays, "It's all good."
No, what Therese really wanted was to ensure God would let her spend her heaven doing good on earth, so she asked Fr. Roulland to pray this prayer not only during her life-in-exile, but once she entered the Presence of God. Here is the prayer, from her LT (letter) 220:
"Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle my sister with Your Spirit of Love and to grant her the favor of making You loved very much."
She explains to her first spiritual brother, "You have promised to pray for me throughout your life; no doubt your life will be longer than mine, and it is not permitted you to sing like me: 'I have the hope that my exile will be short!...' but neither are you permitted to forget your promise. If the Lord takes me soon with Him, I ask you to continue each day the same prayer, for I shall desire in heaven the same thing as I do on earth: To love Jesus and to make Him loved."
Ah, wonderful Therese! She continues, "You must think I am very strange; perhaps you are sorry to have a sister who seems to want to go and enjoy eternal repose and leave you working alone...But rest assured, the only thing I desire is God's will, and I admit that if in heaven I were no longer able to work for His glory, I would prefer exile to the homeland."
Can you beat that? I thought her having Fr. Roulland continue to pray for her was brilliant. I didn't start to think she was a little crazy until she said she doesn't want to rest in heaven! What??? I love rest!!! But admit I also love what REALLY makes our sister crazy - her love for Jesus that desires only and forever to love the Beloved and to make Him loved - even by the likes of us! Keep trying, Souer Therese, and don't give up!
What do you think? Doesn't her prayer and desire remind you of Jesus' prayer and desire? To fill the earth with the fire of love! And so, I had a thought, an extra prayer idea. Why not pray Therese's prayer for ALL THE SAINTS in heaven and on earth?! Granted here on earth some of us are more saints-in-potentia, but isn't this a wonderful prayer to pray for everyone ever? And if we're going to finish off our double triple novena, we might as well have a magical sort of grand finale like in the fireworks shows on 4th of July and every single night in the land of Disney!
So here is our other prayer, which we can say at least once as we read it now, and who knows, perhaps daily - maybe even for the rest of our lives! Greater miracles have happened. Oh, and sillier ones too! I must tell you, before we get to our modified Theresian, ultimate, cover-it-all, grand finale prayer, the latest report on Brother Marcel's and Blessed Seelos' Vietnamese prank which they recently pulled off in the land of Tennessee.
Marcel's brother and ours, P.C., shared the story of Marcel's antics with his marvelous Padre Pio Prayer Group. Note how the great Papa Pio keeps showing up here! He was a jokester too, as well as madly in love with Jesus our Love, and he can't help sharing Marcel's laughter, and retelling his little brother's joke. Brother P.C. writes:
"For the last few weeks, I have been reading the book, Marcel Van Complete Works 2 - Conversations, and you wouldn't believe this! We had several prayer cards of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos on our altar and they are all in English. They were next to the picture of Bro Marcel Van. One of the Fr. Seelos prayer cards turned Vietnamese. I don't think I have a Fr. Seelos prayer card that is Vietnamese?? I think Bro Marcel greeted me. Fr. Seelos and Bro Marcel are both Redemptorists. I flipped through all our Blessed Seelos prayer cards and checked all my drawers and I cannot find a single Vietnamese Blessed Seelos prayer card. On the Feast Day of St. JP 2, October 22nd, 2019, Fr. Seelos and Bro Marcel played a trick on me. This is too funny! It won't be difficult to remember this date."
Thank you so much, Bro P.C., for sharing the joy and laughter and immense love of the saints! I really have to smile when I think of some of our readers here asking, "But wait. Who is Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos?" Ah, a good question, and a perfect imitation of our Bro Marcel with his own query to Jesus, "Who is St. John Eudes?"
If you scroll down, you may be able to find where we recently wrote about Blessed Seelos in one of our musings, but suffice it to say he is yet another great lover of Jesus, and another who loves, like Therese and Marcel, to "come down" and work miracles! So invoke him for your hardest cases, challenge him to become your friend, and you will discover that you are dearly loved by Blessed Seelos already!
We're getting close to our Grand Finale Prayer, but I have this niggling feeling I may not yet have convinced you (or maybe it's me I haven't yet convinced) that our weakness is Jesus' delight. I happened to be thinking about this yesterday because, my weakness being always with me, it's something of an obsession to remind myself of Marcel's message - or to speak more properly, Jesus' message to us through Marcel - along these lines. So in case you're in the same leaky boat, here's what Jesus spoke to me, thanks to Marcel's writing in that same book Bro P.C. is reading these days, Conversations:
"My child" says Jesus, "the smaller your love is for me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy."
Okay, that wasn't the passage I was about to transcribe for you, but we little secretaries have to take our dictation as it comes! That was from (122) in Conversations. Let's see if we can get Jesus to tell us more, and if possible from the place I read yesterday . . .
Ha! I just looked back down at the page in order to turn it to the proper place, and what do I accidentally read below the bold quote above? Marcel writes (123-1), "This [what we just quoted] is what Jesus said to me yesterday."
Little brother, you are very good! And I love that we are so completely one that it's as if He said to me yesterday what He said to you yesterday! This union would make sense, too of how I often experience every word and every page of your Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese as meant exactly for me at every moment of my life! But if you and Padre Pio and Blessed Seelos will stop teasing for a moment, let's see if we can find the passage I hoped to share with these other little souls who have found us here at MMM, and to whom, also, these words are very personally directed!
Ah, not quite yet. Now St. Joseph and Little Jesus (on a bookmark) are giving us (235), another word Jesus wants us to hear before anything else is written:
"Yes, Marcel [insert your name here!] . . . you are very weak. I have never seen a soul weaker than yours. However, 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."
I would add (not to correct Jesus, but to extrapolate on how we love) that little children know how too, in their love, to dance! When I was a little girl, I loved to dance and swirl and pretend to be a ballerina to Swan Lake before the sweet, gentle, adoring gaze of my Uncle Edmond (my godfather). I don't know if either of us ever had a better time in our whole lives! Well, that goes for me, at least. Uncle Edmond, having had a holy death assisted by our Mother, the Church, is probably having a better time in his life now, watching Therese dance and shower roses upon us. Though I do suspect he enjoys her so much because she reminds him of a little goddaughter from years past . . .
Still, there is that passage from my own yesterday that I'd like to share with you - the one I was looking for and which I've found at last! If heaven was less indulgent, there would be Saints and Angels shaking their heads right now, because I did quote this fairly recently in our musings. Happily, heaven is more indulgent, never less, and I'm confident the whole Heavenly Court highly approves of our reminding each other of the words of Love that Jesus speaks to us. Here and now, then, from Marcel's Conversations (82), Jesus tells us:
"You, my child, you know that I always call you by the name of little flower. You, therefore, belong to the category of my little flowers and, in fact, you are a very fragile little flower; the slightest breath of wind is enough to make you fall at my feet. That is why I dare not depart from you. Is that not to your advantage? It is precisely because of your weakness that you are, on my part, the object of a greater love and that my lips are always ready to cover you with kisses. But you are very weak, so weak that you cannot even put up with my kisses. My little flower, remember always that you must never be sad because of your weakness. And no matter how great your weakness may be, be tranquil always, believing that my love would never have the heart to separate itself from you, my little flower."
Is there anything more to say?
I must have the easiest and best job in the world. I get to re-type the words our brother Marcel wrote on his pages for Jesus, pages which his bearded Jesus, Fr. Boucher, re-wrote to keep safe, and later translated from Vietnamese into French. (What would we do without missionaries???) These pages were later translated by our brother Jack Keogan from French into English (thank you, Jack, again and again and forever!). And my job, similar to Fr. Boucher's first job, is to simply re-write them to make sure these adorable words from Jesus are not lost. Then I translate them into some pidgin version of Valley-Girl Thomistic Silly (a language all my own, but which more people speak than we might imagine . . . ).
In other happy news, I have a holy hour today, and since we all have the thrill of praying whenever we want for whomever we want, I'm going to offer my holy hour for everyone in our triple novena! That means you!!! Consider yourself prayed for, since by the time I post this, I will be just about in or already out of the comforting Real Presence of Jesus on the altar in the monstrance . . .
But first, our fireworks prayer. This is the one we can say now by reading it, and forever after according to our desires and our angels' promptings. I think even once is fabulous, though, so no worries! Here we go:
Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle all my sisters and brothers with Your Spirit of Love and to grant them the favor of making You loved very much.
And lest we forget Who is behind all our prayers, the Wind beneath our wings so to speak, let's conclude with our signature prayer, the one that encapsulates every single one of the others, up to and including our Grand Finale Prayer, into 5 short words. Because after all, as St. Therese liked to say and then proved by her life: It only takes a small spark to start a huge fire!
Draw me, we will run!!!
I'm delighted to be wishing you a happy JPII day! I had hoped to write early and often today, but the Holy Spirit had other plans. I pray your day has been blessed!
Mine began early with some "work" on translating French into English to finish off a wonderful book on St. Therese that I've had the privilege to write. I put "work" in quote marks because it's not clear to any of us (me, Therese, Marcel, John Paul II, my guardian angel, and so on to the whole cloud of witnesses) that I can translate more than escargot (no thank you) and croissant (yes, please)! But I had to laugh when I saw a post it note I'd put on the French page last time I attempted this process. It was apparently a message from St. Therese who was teasing me, saying, "You're the only person I know who gets infused knowledge and then uses a dictionary!."
I remember! I had prayed for infused knowledge of French so I could read this important page which had been sent to me from France (in the real mail!) after our visit to Lisieux. That particular morning, I felt the gift had been given! I whooshed through the passage and understood - and my goodness was it a miracle: not only that I understood, but what I understood! If I am being cryptic, all will be made clear soon when the book is available. Thanks to a terrific priest we met in Lisieux, a real lover of Therese and an encouraging soul if ever there was one, the book will be available much sooner than I had hoped - or so I hope now! But meeting Fr. Ken was only the first of the final steps in the book's development. Another important step was reading this page's confirmation of my thesis, in French no less!
You can understand (do take my side, not hers, will you?) that it was only natural I should check my infused knowledge with a dictionary!! I'm not entirely used to living on the supernatural plane, so basic reference works continue to be a crutch. Also, my infused knowledge was short-lived, so the dictionary is a necessity once again. Ah, for more faith and union of love with my guardian angel! I'm praying for that, for sure!
Meanwhile, after messing about with French this morning, I was ecstatic to receive an email from good Jack Keogan, a man who does know French, enough to have translated Marcel's works from that language into our English. The man, in other words, to whom I owe an eternal debt of gratitude! Jack was telling me that he is still involved in various translation projects, and I told him it was high time he called on Marcel, who anticipated (in his Conversations) that he would himself know French once he was in heaven. He also is the second Therese and wanted to be like his big sister in everything, so I think it's fair to expect him to spend his heaven doing good on earth. Why not put him to work helping Jack help him? (Of course I'm assuming Marcel now knows English too. But then of course he does! As Therese spoke Vietnamese beautifully, once she spoke to Marcel from Heaven, so Marcel speaks English beautifully too - you only have to read the Conversations in English to see that!)
No sooner had I finished and sent my email to Jack, then I received an email from a beautiful couple in Nashville, members of the Padre Pio Prayer Group there, with whom I've been trading Saints. I sent them Marcel, they sent me Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos! And guess what they reported Marcel had been up to today? Nothing more nor less than teaching Blessed Seelos some Vietnamese!!! Here is what P.C. wrote to me:
"Hi Sis Suzie,
You wouldn't believe this. I had several prayer cards of Fr. Seelos. I put them by accident next to Brother Marcel. One of the Fr. Seelos prayer cards turned Vietnamese. I don't think I have a Fr. Seelos prayer card that is Vietnamese?"
Well actually, P.C., I do believe it! And I think you DO have a Fr. Seelos prayer card that is now, thanks to Marcel's antics, quite Vietnamese indeed! Here is the proof, from the photo P.C. sent:
I know this prayer card well, since P.C. sent me several to share, but I also know this card didn't used to be in Vietnamese - so I can't think of a lovelier rose to share with you on St. John Paul II's feast today then a miraculous holy card from one of his beata!
I have been thinking of all he gave us, our dear St. John Paul the Great. The Catechism and the Code of Canon Law. A renewed love of Fatima, taking a bullet for us, beatifying the little shepherds, revealing the third secret. He gave us Our Lady of Guadalupe, declaring himself a Mexican in Mexico, a true son of Our Lady, to whom he said, and taught us to say: Totus Tuus! He gave us his love of Our Lady and the Rosary, even going so far as to give us a new set of 5 luminous mysteries!
He knocked down Communism, this fearless leader on the world stage. He led us into the 3rd milllenium, he visited the whole world, he instituted World Youth Day and inspired countless vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He blessed innumerable married couples, and I'm just thinking of the ones I know personally!!!
This brilliant Polish pontiff who belonged to us all gave us St. Faustina and the Feast of Divine Mercy, the chaplet of Divine Mercy, the image of Divine Mercy, and the prayer to solve all our difficulties: Jesus, I trust in You! And as if all that weren't enough, alongside his own example of selfless dedication and sanctity, he gave us 483 Saints and 1,340 Blesseds - Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos among them!!
But if you think I'm forgetting something, I'll tell you what is on my heart today so you know I have not forgotten. Far from it, I've been rejoicing since early this morning, thinking, "I know he did other things, but they escape me at the moment, because dear St. John Paul II did one thing I can't wait to hug and kiss him for. He recognized and proclaimed St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face the 33rd and youngest DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH!!!"
Ah, the glorious communion of Saints! We are in the thick of them now, celebrating their feasts (even their canonizations, as in the case of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman!) in our triple novenas and they surround us so lovingly that we have hardly enough time to mention them all, let alone do them justice.
Now St. John Paul II is one of their number, a brightly shining star in the firmament of heaven, yet close enough to hear every one of our prayers. And he knows what we need. He knew it long before he went home to the Father's house. He told us, from the very beginning, these words we have been repeating (or at least intended to repeat, or at the very least can say now) through this second part of the second of our triple novenas: the very words of Jesus we so badly needed - and still need - to hear, the very message that Therese and Marcel (or Jesus and Therese through Marcel) continue to give us:
Be Not Afraid!
Jesus, I trust in You!
Thank you, St. John Paul II! We love you!!
I will be honest with you. I'm really very super duper extremely excited about beginning the last 9 days of our second triple novena, because finally we can acknowledge all those we never remember to acknowledge: the whole kit n caboodle, the glorious communion of saints, in toto! (Not the dog, but the entirety!!).
And I have to admit that I'm ready, now that I had shaved our prayers down to a minimum, to spend these next 9 days in a little tiny bit more prayer, because I've missed having something a little longer to say. Turns out a short attention span is not cured by a short prayer! Not that any of us needs curing, precisely.
Jesus has convinced me, through His Conversations with Marcel (which He promises are for us too, every word!) that we are delightful to Him in our weakness, just as He assured St. Paul told us long ago, and as St. John Paul II confirmed in graduating Therese with her doctorate. We are the perfect vessels - misshapen, cracked, and worn as we are! - for God's ultimate gift of Himself, perfect, all-powerful, Limitless Love!
I hope you don't mind if we go back to the beginning, to the prayer that began this love fest of triple novenas. I can't get enough of the way this "Old French Prayer for Friends" covers all our bases, and I'm confident it will help us hit the novena ball out of the park straight into heaven where it will roll to Jesus' feet. He, then, will notice how the ball's in His court so to speak (a slight change in metaphor, but still sporting!), and what can He do?
Nothing but answer our prayers, as He loves to do. He was just waiting for the whole cloud of witnesses to cry out in one voice with our petitions! What a deafening roar! How can He refuse us a single thing we need?
Know, then, that your prayers are my prayers, and all of our prayers are the Blessed Mother's prayers. He cannot refuse her, and she loves to intercede for us, so let's call on her again, for these next 9 days and the rest of our lives in earth and in heaven, to be the loving mother she is.
Here, then, is our novena prayer to begin tomorrow (but no problem getting a running start!) and lead us to the Feast of All Saints:
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Draw me, Jesus, we will run!!!
May your days be full of saints, your nights be watched o'er by angels, your languages be infused, and your prayers be answered, every one!
Our rules still hold - just to have heard about our triple novena is to be included, along with all your loved ones, so no more worrying, any more, ever! We've got enough confidence here for your intentions and then some, so have a cupcake or a glass of wine, and feast in the glory of our Risen Lord and His love for you!
Blessed be God, in His Angels and in His Saints!
"O my God, would that I could convert as many sinners as the sands of the sea and of the earth, as the leaves of the trees and of the fields, as the atoms of air, stars of the sky, rays of the sun and the moon, and all the creatures of the earth." --St. Gerard Majella
Today we begin Part 2 of our 2nd Triple Novena. Hooray!
We're praying our way to the Feast of St. John Paul II now, and so above we have an image of him holding a small child. Do you know why you can't see the little one's face? Because that little one is you! Our dear Holy Father is offering your littleness to the Heavenly Father! And you can see that he is not alone . . . the good smiling Padre on the left is Padre Pio who offers you too! Somehow, since his feast during our last triple novena, he just can't stay away!
A few years ago, as St. John Paul II's feast was approaching, I asked him to obtain for me his love of Our Lady and her Rosary. He not only came through, he told me (or showed me) that I needed more help than he alone could (or wanted) to give. My experience has shown me that the Saints love to work together, and in this case, St. John Paul II pointed to St. Padre Pio and said, "If you want to love Our Lady and the Rosary, he's your man!"
No, I don't hear voices (well sometimes those of my family, but only if I'm not reading or writing when, for some reason, I conveniently go semi-deaf), but I'm sure JPII and Pio were in cahoots because on October 22nd (JP's feast) in that year of my request, I received in the mail my enrollment in Padre Pio's "spiritual child" program. I had sent $5 for a Mass stipend, along with my name to be enrolled somewhere official. As I think I've mentioned here before, you can ask the good Padre to be your spiritual father, and he will happily and instantly take you on, and all those you love too! So I had no doubts that I was his spiritual daughter, but a friend who is even crazier for him than I am had given me this form I could send in, so I thought, "Why not?"
I am now in a position to tell you why not. At least for me. It was a perfect invitation for the good Padre (drawn into the situation by his friend Karol W.) to play a huge joke on me! On the Holy Father's feast, then, back into my mailbox came the form with something postal and rejecting stamped on the envelope. I think it said "No such address" though I had tried to copy the info carefully. And our postal service in the U.S. is so excellent, that even if you get an address a smidge wrong, they usually manage to get your mail to the right person . . . unless the saints and angels are playing tricks!
Just to keep the fun going, the two of them (PP and JP) then sent me on to St. Anthony to tell me that "Il Santo" was the REAL deal . . . and now, as if in honor of our Triple Novena x 2, the 3 amigos are back! Because you know how St. Anthony will always help you find things? (If you don't know, try him. He's so good about this!) Well, this month he's been collaborating with the Padre and our Holy Papa to actually hide something in order to get me back on track. What is he hiding? What did he want me to do for him? It goes like this:
I've been getting Magnificat (the monthly missal) for years. For the first time ever, a few months back I didn't get my issue. I was able to get a replacement, though heaven knows whether it was really them or me who lost the original. Still it had never happened before. and I hoped it wouldn't happen again . . . and then this month, with that "one more time all over again" feeling the French have a fancy name for, I couldn't find my issue (of the missal! other issues are plentiful and obvious!) - only this time I was fairly certain I'd received it but misplaced it, so I prayed to St. Anthony (as I had done the first time) and just waited.
We are, I'm beginning to realize, a good chunk of the way into or through October. Still no Magnificat turning up, so I've been bringing last month's copy (with my favorite prayer cards tucked inside) with me to Mass. Yesterday I wondered while at church, "What is in this September issue that I'm supposed to be paying attention to, reading, allowing to be a conduit of grace?"
Bingo! It was the meditation for Septermber 23, St. Padre Pio's feast! I had read it at the time and loved it, but hesitated to share it here because perhaps you too had already read it. But yesterday I realized it is a magnificent sum of what Jesus forever tells us - through Marcel, and also through John Paul II. And I realized that this passage from St. Pio's letters (the one quoted in last month's Magnificat) is just what all Heaven wants me to covey to you, and it even provides our novena prayer!
This morning I came across a short quote from Padre Pio, one I'd never seen before but which struck me as a potential motto, it so exactly suits Marcel and Miss Marcel. Here it is:
"Love cannot manage without words."
At least my love can't, and it seems Jesus' love can't either!
When you think of the Blessed Trinity giving us, over the centuries and even the millenia, the entire love letter of the Bible! And then when you consider the many words Jesus left us, His "most precious relics on earth" as He said to St. Gertrude the Great. And then, Marcel's Conversations!! Not to mention the many words of His love through the other Saints to us! Woohoo - that's clearly a whole lotta love God needs to give us! The sheer volume of words tells the story!
And yet, it is all so simple. Here is how Padre Pio sums it up in the passage Jesus so earnestly wants us to hear that He's willing to tie St. Anthony's hands and refuse to let him find my Magnificat for October. And when you read what Jesus says to us through our father Pio, you will know how this fits perfectly with His beloved Vicar, John Paul II . . . Padre Pio's words of love to a spiritual child:
What should I say to you in the name of this most sweet God become Man? I repeat, a thousand times and I will always repeat what I have always said to you:
Do not fear. Jesus is with you. He is working within you and is pleased with you, and you are entirely and always in Him.
This is the entire and only truth.
* * *
There is more, and it is eminently worth sharing too, but I wanted to make sure you had that first part, that main part, that simple "entire and only truth" part before I added the rest. St. Pio continues:
You are right to complain at finding yourself more often than not in darkness. You seek your God, you sigh for Him, you call Him and cannot always find Him. Then it seems to you that God hides Himself, that He has abandoned you! But I repeat,
Do not fear. Jesus is with you and you are with Him.
In darkness, times of tribulation and spiritual anxiety, Jesus is with you. In that state, you see nothing but darkness in your spirit, but I assure you on behalf of God, that the light of the Lord invades and surrounds your entire spirit. You see yourself in tribulations and God repeats to you through the mouth of His prophet and that of authority: I am with the troubled soul. You see yourself in a state of abandonment, but I assure you that Jesus holds you more tightly than ever to His divine Heart. Even our Lord on the cross complained of the Father's abandonment. But did the Father ever and could He ever abandon His Son, the object of all His divine pleasure?
These are the trials of the spirit. Jesus wants it so. Fiat! Pronounce this fiat and do not fear. By all means complain to Jesus as you like: Pray to Him as you wish, but adhere firmly to the words of him who speaks to you in the name of God.
+ + +
It is with good reason that our blog is called "Miss Marcel's Musings" - not only because here I muse, but because Marcel is our muse! Or rather, Jesus to Marcel is our foundation and pinnacle. And so when I opened Conversations this morning in prayer, I was delighted to find Our Lord telling us the same thing Pio just did! And John Paul II? He couldn't start without saying, very first off, "Be not afraid!" and he, like Jesus whose voice he was, could never repeat it enough.
Here, then, is Jesus speaking to Marcel, more words of love because, as St. Pio put it simply and truly, "Love cannot manage without words," This passage is from November 15, 1945, in Conversations (122):
My child, the smaller your love is for me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy . . . my dear child, following the example of the little one, be happy to gaze on me and I will penetrate the depths of your heart more even than the mother penetrates that of her child; and throughout eternity, my love will never be separated from you. On the contrary, it will only make your love grow eternally . . .
My child! Without end and in every way, you will only receive marks of my love for you . . . My dear little one, my love will never depart from you . . . Oh loving child of my heart, look at me covering you now with kisses. My child, even if you looked for a means of divesting yourself of my love, you would never succeed because, already, you are wrapped and shrouded deeply in my love. My child, my dear child, it is no longer possible for you to escape from my love.
* * *
And so what shall we pray for these next 9 days?
I can think of no better words than these: first the words of Jesus, Pio, and John Paul II, and then the words Our Savior and Spouse put on our lips through the writings and witness of His little girl who started us off on this Triple Novena fest, St. Faustina. And because we are big fans of the Little Way around here, you've already prayed these once today - when you read the title of this post! But here, for the record, are these wondrous words again:
Do not be afraid!
Jesus I trust in You!
These words have been the clarion call for centuries of Saints, including the one we celebrate today, October 14, Pope St. Callistus; the one we rejoice to fete tomorrow, October 15, with our little sister Therese and our little brother Marcel - their Madre and ours, St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila!!; and then just to keep the party going, the very next day, October 16, Marcel's special Redemptorist patron of lay brothers (and patron of expectant moms and babies in utero), St. Gerard Majella, along with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, lover of the Sacred Heart!
Letting these Saints help us see Jesus' love more clearly should keep us busy for a while, and the best way I can think to keep ourselves from complete dissolution (ah, our foretaste of Heaven: here, one feast after another; there, one endless feast!), is this formula - let's try to hear Jesus' words to us daily, perhaps hourly:
Do not be afraid!
And let's respond just as often in the words He delights in hearing from us:
Jesus, I trust in You!
Remember not to worry - that's what Jesus is telling us - and that includes not worrying about how well you're doing in or on our Triple Novena #2. Believe me, you're doing fabulous! Aren't you here now? What a gift and grace! What joy to be together, united in prayer with little souls all over the world, saying in the words Therese cherished from the Song of Songs (because they expressed everything):
Draw me, we will run!!!
You and all your intentions and all your loved ones and all their intentions? Covered! As in His kisses and His Limitless Love, as well as the sweet embrace of our Mother Mary. who folds her mantle around us and tucks us in safe, close to Jesus on her heart.
No more worrying, about anything, anymore, ever! Or, in the words of Our Lord and His servants:
Be not afraid!
Jesus, I trust in You!!!
Do you recognize that slightly smiling man on the left? You may not, because in real life his smile was much bigger, but that's one of Marcel's brothers - or fathers, really - in the Redemptorist order! He's Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, originally from Bavaria but ordained a Redemptorist priest in the USA where he then - until and including today! - loved his flock and worked many miracles. And guess what? His feast day is October 5th, the same day as St. Faustina's and the day we began our triple novena (#2)! Which means he's our father now too!!!
Then on the right you see a more smiling man. He's chuckling about what is about to happen in a few days. He's the wonderful Cardinal John Henry Newman, now Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, and soon to be Saint JH Newman! When will this exciting elevation take place? This coming Sunday, October 13th....yes, precisely 9 days after our novena started, and thus the day phase one is completed! And his special day is also the 102nd anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima!
Cardinal Newman's feast will continue to be celebrated on October 9, anniversary of his reception into the Catholic Church by Fr. Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist priest. Oh, forgive me, I mean Blessed Dominic Barberi!! Way to go Dominic and John Henry!!! But I'm musing today on how marvelous it is that while good St. John Henry (this is my oldest brother's name, so I can't get enough of the new status of bro's heavenly patron) is associated with someone on his level, like Blessed Dominic, he's also linked forever - or will be after October 13th this year - with the tiny shepherds of Fatima, the ones who begged and obtained from Our Lady on that day a miracle witnessed by 70,000 people, believers and atheists alike! The Little Way does sure keep rising up to meet our feet as we plod along in exile! Thank Heaven!
As I write (in my blue office, which is a 2012 Prius :), I am listening for the first time in forever to an old favorite recording of John Michael Talbot, and I just heard him sing - and in my heart I sang too - "I was young, so young, but now I'm older . . . I have never seen the just one forsaken . . . "
Like much of JMT's music, this song is from the Psalms, and this one, Psalm 37, appears frequently in the Divine Office - how I love the praise of God which we are invited to sing!
"The humble one shall be raised up and know the fullness of God . . . " comes into it too. Yes, we see this in our own lives as well as the lives of our loved ones, and above all in the lives of the Saints.
Take St. Faustina, for instance, the gal who started us off on this second triple novena (second triple novena sounds like a fancy dive, doesn't it? Just add a twist!). She was not only hidden and invisible to the eyes of the world in her own lifetime in exile, but she remained so, long after her death, despite Our Lord's promises and pleadings that she do huge things like start a universal feast for the Church, spread His image and "Jesus I trust in You" everywhere, institute perhaps the most famous novena of the modern age, and so on . . . .
But then the Holy Spirit did this crazy thing and put a Polish priest on the papal throne, which the new Pope soon turned into a Pope-mobile so he could kiss and hug and pat his sheep, and bless everyone in the whole wide world. And this Pope helped it all to happen - everything that seemed so unlikely and impossible for Faustina, including her becoming a Saint! And what a wonderful little Saint she is!
I love how she tells us in her Diary that one day she decided to do something about the drought that was ruining the crops. She started saying the Divine Mercy chaplet Jesus had taught her. She just said it over and over because He said it could gain any grace - and it did! After a few hours, the heavens opened and the rain fell!
But there's another episode in Faustina's life that I love even more. It's not only one of my favorites, but one of Marcel's too! Not that he knew of Faustina and her Diary in his life (not that I know of) but rather now that they're in heaven, he and she attend monthly meetings on the first Saturday (or is it the second?) for all Jesus' (and Mary's) little secretaries. It's kind of like a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, with popcorn (though heavenly popcorn doesn't get stuck in your throat or teeth), jelly beans, and ice cream, don't you think? (Okay, Snoopy put out toast, not ice cream, but this is Heaven we're talking about!!)
Anyhow, in our MBC 9.0 we had to skim past the awesome dream Therese had (which she recounts in Chapter 9 of Story of a Soul) due to time constraints. -- Boy, I can't wait till we get to Heaven and eternity too, where time doesn't run out!! -- But Marcel won't rush past a Saint's dream of a Saint (Therese had dreamed of Venerable Anne of Jesus, who showed her such love that Therese understood even more than before how the Saints care for us, even those we don't particularly know, like St. John Eudes!). And so, he wants us to tell you about St. Faustina's dream of . . . St. Therese!
Yes, I would make this up if I had to, it's so cool - but no, I'm not making it up, because I don't have to! It really happened! St. Therese had been canonized - raised, as they say, to the canons of the altar - in 1925, a mere 28 years after she died (which means she would have been 52 at her canonization had she lived, but then that would've been an odd situation indeed!). In 1925, Faustina was 20, having been born just 8 years after Sister Therese of the Lisieux Carmel died.
Oh, and Story of a Soul, which came out from the Carmel in 1898, a year after Therese skipped off to heaven from earth, was translated into Polish in 1902 by the Carmelite priest Raphael Kalinowski in amends to Therese because he'd scoffed at the book, then received a favor from her one day when he was feeling desperate, and so . . . well there are many morals here, but the funniest part is that Fr. Raphael is now Saint Raphael Kalinowski. Which just goes to show that if you ever have the chance to translate Story of a Soul into some new language (pig Latin may be all that's left that it's not in already, which is about my level, so let's race!), well you definitely should!
But getting back to Faustina's dream, here it is in her own words in her Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul (#150):
"I want to write down a dream that I had about Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I was still a novice at the time and was going through some difficulties which I did not know how to overcome. They were interior difficulties connected with exterior ones. I made novenas to various saints, but the situation grew more and more difficult. The sufferings it caused me were so great that I did not know how to go on living, but suddenly the thought occurred to me that I should pray to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I started a novena to this Saint, because before entering the convent I had had a great devotion to her. Lately I had somewhat neglected this devotion, but in my need I began again to pray with great fervor.
"On the fifth day of the novena, I dreamed of Saint Therese, but it was as if she were still living on earth. She hid from me the fact that she was a saint and began to comfort me, saying that I should not be worried about this matter, but should trust more in God. She said, "I suffered greatly, too," but I did not quite believe her and said, "It seems to me that you have not suffered at all." But Saint Therese answered me in a convincing manner that she had suffered very much indeed and said to me, "Sister, know that in three days the difficulty will come to a happy conclusion." When I was not very willing to believe her, she revealed to me that she was a saint. At that moment, a great joy filled my soul, and I said to her, "You are a saint?" "Yes," she answered, "I am a saint. Trust that this matter will be resolved in three days:" And I said, "Dear sweet Therese, tell me, shall I go to heaven?" And she answered, "Yes, you will go to heaven, Sister." "And will I be a saint?" To which she replied, "Yes, you will be a saint." "But, little Therese, shall I be a saint as you are, raised to the altar?" And she answered, "Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus." I then asked her if my mother and father would go to heaven, will . . . And she replied that they would. I further asked, "And will my brothers and sisters go to heaven?" She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer.
"This was a dream. And as the proverb goes, dreams are phantoms; God is faith. Nevertheless, three days later the difficulty was solved very easily, just as she had said. And everything in this affair turned out exactly as she said it would. It was a dream, but it had its significance."
I should say it had its significance!
Except do me a favor, please, and don't get stuck on that "She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer."
It's so easy to get scared, especially since the devil works on it day and night! But think about it this way: If Therese just kept saying yes about everyone going to heaven, don't you think we'd all decide to forget prayer and just watch more TV? (or write and read more blog posts, etc!) . . . And yet aren't we all in need of much prayer? Absolutely!
Which brings us back to our triple novena.
I've had so much trouble getting online to post here that I'm afraid I left you with one tiny prayer and then . . . nothing! So I hope you remember our rules:
First, just praying the prayer once means you're in this triple novena for good, and I'm banking on someone out there (not you, don't worry!) actually being faithful to our one little prayer each day. I almost think I have been, though to be quite honest I may have missed a day.
But second, just hearing about this novena means your in! And you can throw in all your intentions pell-mell, and we are all in this together, praying or not praying, dreaming of Saints or not getting enough sleep, and so on, and BEST OF ALL -
Third, we've got praying for us St. Faustina and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, SAINT John Henry Newman (soon to be, if you're reading this before October 13, 2019 or already, if after), and St. Raphael Kalinowski (because don't you think that to tell a funny story about a Saint is to invoke him?), and we haven't even gotten to those darling little shepherds whose whole job was to pray, pray, pray, to keep the rest of us out of hell! Thank you, Saints Jacinta and Francisco, and Lucia!
And then there's St. John Paul II, thoroughly mixed up in the whole business, because he not only was a saint, but had the super duper fun job of beatifying and/or canonizing Faustina, Seelos, Raphael, and Jacinta and Francisco! We'll be praying the second phase of our novena starting October 14 and up to October 22, the day dear Karol became our Holy Father! And then - hold onto your hats or your socks - the last part of this novena takes us to the Vigil of All Saints - which means we've got the whole company of heaven (we'll ask the angels to join in too) praying for us to the Lamb upon the Throne, and our Heavenly Father and the Spirit of Love, our adorable Blessed Trinity! WOW!
Okay, then, to do our little part while we're here, let's get some encouragement from one of those "All Saints" who isn't beatified or canonized yet, but is an awesome role model and said something wonderful about prayer that he made sure I stumbled upon today. This is Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., whom you may remember as the college president who brought back Franciscan University of Steubenville into a great saint-making place again. And Fr. Mike quotes good authority when he tells us:
"The best way I can express how I pray today is to quote Pope John Paul II from Crossing the Threshold of Hope: 'The pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray.'
"I find that the Holy Spirit opens and closes doors to prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who anoints in power certain directions in prayer, and it is the Holy Spirit who blocks other avenues. Although I must start prayer, prayer once started is not my own. As my prayer changes, so does my life. The Holy Spirit reshapes my life through prayer."
I love this! Thank you Father Scanlan, dear Holy Father JPII, and Holy Spirit of Love! This was just what I needed, and I hope it encourages you too. Let's trust God ("Jesus, I trust in You!") EVEN in our prayer! What a concept!
So, on the subject of prayer, and now that our fear is banished (let's hope), here's our prayer for the novena so far, a truly miraculous prayer about which Jesus (who taught it to Faustina) said, "If you say this prayer with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give that soul the grace of conversion." So here goes:
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a font of mercy for us, I trust in You!
And then, in honor of Cardinal Newman's impending canonization, I thought we might add the prayer of his that Mother Teresa - excuse me, Saint Mother Teresa! - loved so much that she had and still has her sisters, her Missionaries of Charity, say it every day! We'll say it once now, if you're up for it, and feel free to come back and say it again, but feel free not to, also. You see, it's a little longer than our previous prayer, and you may need to rest or eat - I've learned from Jesus' compassion for Marcel in Conversations that we're allowed to stop talking to Him to eat and sleep, or even just rest!
So here it is, our extra prayer (we'll become saints yet, at this rate!) -
Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly
that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through us and be so in us
that every soul we come in contact with
may feel Your presence in our souls.
Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!
Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours.
It will be You, shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise You in the way You love best,
by shining on those around us.
Let us preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for You. Amen.
--Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman
What an awesome prayer! What slays me is that it is so Mother Teresa - and yet so Cardinal Newman too! I hope it reminds you that St. John Henry, St. JH I like to call him, is on our team, now, too, and our Little Way suits him perfectly! He was such an innovator that he was even walking it (come to think of it, like all the Saints before him too) before Therese gave it a name!
And now it really is almost time to eat and rest. It's been beyond lovely to visit with you here, though I didn't even get to tell you all the lovely things I planned to. About relics that have been entering my life like roses in the mailbox (where Therese said we'd find her!) . . . about pilgrimages, retreats, Saturday Padre Pio meetings, and other sublime activities some other Marcelites have reaped as fruits of our novena . . . OH, not to mention (which I didn't, due to the shortage of space on the internet) the many, many places all over the world where people are praying with us, praying for us, and praying for my father-in-law Paul!
But how about just one instance of the kind of grace that's been floating down from heaven these days like beautiful orange leaves from a maple tree. This shower fell in Scotland, where our sister Therese's relics have been touring recently. A new friend wrote the best story ever, and I think there's a lot we can learn from it (much to our advantage). My friend writes:
"So, this past weekend I had a great, big, wonderful, frustrating, tiring weekend with family...
"Car ride home Sunday I was tired, messy, grumpy. My faith was really flagging. I said to Saint Therese, "Please send me some flowers. If it's real find a way to send me roses. I don't care how you do it- get me some roses in the next day or so".
"Yesterday, as I was leaving the house, a delivery man came. Big box from Marks and Spencer's shop. I had a chuckle, wouldn't it be funny if it was My roses? Didn't really think it was. Box strange shape not like flowers. I opened it. Staring me in the face - a dozen pink roses. And a bottle of prosecco and box of chocolates. My heart just stopped. I couldn't BELIEVE it.
"What do you think!!!!??? I literally said, "In some way, shape or form send me your flowers, Therese ". Next morning, unexpected, 12 pink roses. I can't seem to grasp it. I want to believe it. I want to "feel" it."
* * *
Full disclosure, it was in fact said friend's birthday, and dear friends had sent the box. But before you go dismissing the Therese Connection, oh ye of little faith, let me ask you this: When is the last time you received a dozen roses, prosecco, and a box of chocolates for your birthday? From friends at a distance. From a cool department store. ???? I rest her case!
I haven't had time yet to write much about our pilgrimage to Lisieux in May, and the way this life hurtles along - what with people getting cancer and children involved in stage plays, and new friends and new saints (new heavenly friends and new earthly saints!) - I have to admit it may never happen (my telling of those pilgrimage graces). But I totally get what happened in Scotland with Therese and the gift she sent our Miss Marcel there (for this friend is one I made through Marcel, and she was as excited as a person should be when getting his collected ouevre in the mail a month ago!).
What happened was that Therese was asked for roses.
She sent roses, sparkling wine, and CHOCOLATES!
That's the Therese I met in France. She was a revelation. And can I admit something silly?
I have loved her so long, and yet I always suspect she might be just a little harsh.
But Guess What?
She is not. Not even a little harsh. Therese is the most loving sister you can imagine, and she even goes so far as to reassure us in Marcel's Conversations, "I'm not angry with you! Nor have I ever been! Nor could I ever be!"
Far from it, she's only a little peeved sometimes that we make our requests so puny. Or maybe not. Maybe she's happy we didn't think to ask for prosecco and chocolates along with the roses. This way she gets to surprise us!
My special prayer for you as we continue with our second unfailing triple novena of love is that you will begin to suspect how much God loves you. Just a little, so you don't keel over dead of joy, which could be rather disconcerting to those around you!
Because if St. Therese loves us this much - and I know Marcel loves us even more! - it's mind boggling how much God must love us.
Little Jesus, draw me, we will RUN!!!!!!!!!
That's a lot of visuals to take in at one go, but we need to see what's coming down the pike (sofar as we can - which is not very far, I admit!), and what's coming is so lovely that we have four thousand words today before I've even started typing. You know, a picture is worth a thousand?
It turns out there are two VERY true things in my life at this juncture. Well, okay, three.
1. I have many friends who really need our prayers.
2. I'm practically a superhero when it comes to counting to 9.
3. The Saints are loving our attention, and now that they know what kind of fun we have with Marcel and Therese, they're all about getting in on the action!
So let's go in order here.
First, there are two lovely women who I am blessed to count as dear friends, and who are both so beaten down by suffering right now that they don't know which way to turn. I'm eternally grateful that I was in the right place at the right time, and so to some extent I've convinced them to turn to me! They both have children who are suffering, and come to think of it, that reminds me of a third friend, a man, who is also watching one of his children suffer these days, which is about the hardest thing a person can do. But as I say, God allowed our paths to cross, and so I'm thrilled and honored to spearhead more prayers to ease their hearts and obtain the miracles they and their children need. And if you who are reading this are neither of these 3 people or their children, that means you are yet another friend who just may have some unanswered prayers left in your outbox!
Second, there's this gift for counting to nine which has become almost a super power with me.
You see, I have no attention span for praying lately (yes, maybe my whole life, but that hardly concerns us here), which means I have a lot of free time during Mass on Sundays. And that, in turn, means I need to amuse myself, but with something approaching the sacred so I don't go home feeling too awful. (Ha! I do not go home feeling awful at all, because I have decided scrupples are for not for the likes of little souls!)
What I can do, though, that I find tremendously entertaining and seems, if not holy, at least not impious, is to count on my fingers to nine. Did you know that if you start with the thumb of your left hand (at least that's where I start) and count to your pinky and then start on your right hand (though if you started right, you next go left), if you stop before your pinky, you've counted nine? It is absolutely true, and very convenient!
Very convenient because it allows a person to quietly count out nine days in particular. like this:
October 5, St. Faustina, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, October 10, October 11, October 12, and BINGO October 13 (ring finger of right hand).
This is an amazing super power because 9 is a great holy number (3 of 3's) and a novena to boot. Which means that if I can go from October 5, St. Faustina, and get to October 13, 102nd anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima, and hence a kind of Fatima feast (though I can't remember if it's official and I'm too lazy to look it up) - well that's exciting right there, isn't it?
We could start a novena on October 5, St. Faustina, and go straight into Fatima-day! How cool is that?!
But you know what else? Triple novenas are totally addictive! And impressive! You trot out those numbers, and people think you're some kind of liturgical expert rather than just a super girl with this one crazy super power of counting to 9 (and a really short attention span, and, happily, ten fingers)!
Because what comes next is this:
Starting on October 14 (just after finishing our first novena), if we count 9 days, we get to October 22 - the feast of our beloved Pope St. John Paul the second! And then - get ready, because we've got something even better coming next - if we count nine more days (doing a third novena, hence "triple novena"), we arrive at the Vigil of All Saints!!!
So what do you say? Do you begin to see where we're going with this?
I've received many wonderful responses to our first triple novena, including a request to re-post an interview I did with Michael Lichens (God bless him and his bride Sophia!) at Catholic Exchange. The re-post happened after I talked to my agent (ha!), and it happened at this truly spectacular website of the Padre Pio Prayer Group of Nashville.
And guess what? Those people in Nashville are something! You just connect them with the love and prayers of St. Padre Pio and kablooey! We're talking major miracles, and what's more, a whole group of saints who want in on the action! I hope you'll enjoy roaming around on their website which is HERE. (Not here as in on my blog, but HERE where the big letters are, both times!) Enjoy their amazing and edifying and completely inspiring faith-driven site, and if you scroll down a little, you'll see me and Marcel and Therese! Thrilling news for us little ones!
Meanwhile, a new friend of ours in Minnesota went to see St. Padre Pio's relics on guardian angel day, and while there, he prayed for everyone in our first triple novena!
Not to mention our Rome correspondent praying for us (she prayed for me, and my intentions, which of course include all of yours, especially since we've started this triple novena club) at a Carmelite church in Rome on St. Therese's feast day . . .
And then I'm expecting, thanks to the immense kindness of our friends in Nashville, 3rd class miracle working relics (well it is God who will work the miracles, thanks to the Saints' intercession, but these Saints are so much closer to us thanks to physical objects which have touched their holy bones!) - and they are slated to arrive if not tomorrow, on St. Faustina's day, just as we begin our next triple novena, at least very, very soon!
I think God couldn't be any kinder than He is!
As St. Therese explained, He is in fact much kinder than we imagine, and satisfied with a glance or sigh of love . . . Which means our prayers will be very simple for this triple novena, like they were for the last one. And if you don't get the prayers said every day - if you don't manage one day's prayer - know you are still covered, as if by a warm blanket that is really Our Lady's mantle, because you are in our hearts and we are all in this together!
First, then, from October 5, St. Faustina's day, up to October 13, Fatima day, let's say this prayer which Jesus taught Faustina. He told her that if said with confidence, it will convert a sinner! Isn't that great news? And if you don't feel much confidence, just do what I do and borrow St. Therese's confidence because she doesn't need it anymore, now that she sees Love face to Face! Here we go then, and if you want to say this prayer at 3 p.m., that's perfect. But if you want to say it when it occurs to you, go for that time too! Or if you simply say it now, how wonderful is that!?
"O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a font of mercy for us, I trust in You!"
And now, let's conclude with our secret handshake prayer, the one that entrusts the whole world to Jesus in five simple words:
Draw me, we will run!!!
This is a picture of one of the roses St. Therese had me deliver for her feast. A new friend took the photo because she was the recipient of the rose and was in awe of its beauty and heavenly fragrance. I was too, and I'm grateful she captured its loveliness so we could share it with you.
How was your St. Therese day? Or perhaps I should ask, how were they? Because thanks to the two calendars of the Church (the one we use with the Novus Ordo or "New Mass" and the one that preceded it but is again in use with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass), not only was it little Therese's feast on October 1st, but again on October 3rd! I can only thank the good Lord who knew that for little souls, one Little Flower feast is not enough! And until Marcel, the second Little Flower, gets his own feast, he's super happy to share with his big sister Therese.
My guardian angel was such an angel on the second Therese feast that he woke me and my husband early. This meant we could go to the early Mass in the extraordinary form and thus celebrate Therese's feast all over again!
The Mass was said by the same good priest who said Mass mid-day on her first feast two days before, and again, after Mass, he blessed us with a relic of St. Therese and invited us to come to the altar rail to honor our little sister. For the second time in three days, then, I knelt and had the joy of kissing dear Therese on her feast! I wondered if the priest would remember that I had done this recently . . . but then so had he, and I couldn't imagine he would recall every upturned face.
To my delight, after I kissed the relic Father stopped (rather than moving on to the next upturned face), looked straight at me, and said as if reading my mind, "That's twice now!" I had a hard time not laughing, but I avoided Marcel's gaze and made it back to my pew. Really, just when you least expect it, a kiss, a glance, a smile!
I feel like “That’s twice now” might be my motto lately.
Two lovely little Miss Marcels in Michigan sent me the most beautiful rosary I’ve ever seen – for keeps! – and it arrived just in time for her first feast. Being me, I immediately loved it and rejoiced in it, and then lost it! (I bet you two dear Miss M’s are reading this! But don’t give up on me – I have friends in high places and I promise it all turns out all right!) Several prayers, and friends praying too, to St. Anthony later, and voila! It was once more in my appreciative possession. It was, actually, another kind of “That’s twice, now!” Nothing like losing something, if only for a few hours, to help one appreciate it more!
Another very dear friend gave me a French holy card on the second Therese feast day - it would take a long time to tell how much this holy card means to me (and why), but the amazing "That's twice now!" miracle comes in when I found the same holy card - only in English - in a library book (still at the library!) of St. Therese's Letters. I was putting a post it note into the book to mark Letter 197 (which I'll say more about below), when I found - marking Letter 197!! - the double of the holy card I'd been given. Wow! I realized later that this was a sign from the previous owner of the holy card - not my friend who gave it to me, but a dear friend of us both who is now in Heaven, if you ask me, and conspiring with Therese and Marcel to get us all to look at and love Letter 197!!!
And then there’s the “That’s twice now!” that I somehow thought I could avoid, but alas and alack, we’re in October already (else how could we have so much fun feasting over Therese) and I might as well admit this is twice now that I've missed our Marcel Book Club meeting in its proper month!
We are plodding along, however and thankfully, the Little Way. And we are approaching, late though we are, the chapter that is hands down my favorite in Story of a Soul. What a gift in this week of feasts! What a conclusion to our unfailing triple novena of love!
There remains, then, nothing to do but take a look, at long last, at Chapter 9 of Story of a Soul (Manuscript B), which is Therese's letter to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, written in answer to Marie's request that she recount her dream and her little doctrine.
Have you ever had the experience of wanting to tell someone the funny thing you read, or the clever thing a friend wrote to you, and found yourself saying, "Wait, wait," and pulling out their words to read exactly so you won't mess up the well-said original you’re trying to convey?
I feel like that now.
For while Marcel preferred the early chapters of Story of a Soul - and I get that because he was a child when he read our sister's memoirs, and he found so much in her childhood that matched his own and encouraged him – I myself find in Therese's letter to Marie (which ended up as Chapter 9), and her “Letter 197,” which we'll glean from too, the sublime expression of Therese’s teaching on spiritual childhood. I hope you get a chance to read the whole thing soon (this Chapter 9, and you can find Letter 197 on the internet if you don't have it handy), but meanwhile, let's Book Club it. And I hope you don’t mind if I do that quoting thing, since I could never express this half as good, even though I’d surely use twice as many words. As in, “That’s twice now!” So here we go! And forgive whatever is lacking in my commentary - I want to get this meeting going so we can try to fit in MBC 10 in October too! (But hey, no promises! We'll just say "God willing!")
* * *
Marcel's Book Club - 9.0 - Chapter 9 of Story of a Soul – in the words of our sister St. Therese:
"Without showing Himself, without making His voice heard, Jesus teaches me in secret; it is not by means of books, for I do not understand what I am reading. Sometimes a word comes to console me, such as this one which I received at the end of prayer (after having remained in science and aridity): "Here is the teacher whom I am giving you; he will teach you everything that you must do. I want to make you read in the book of life, wherein is contained the science of LOVE." [From a book on St. Margaret Mary and Jesus’ words to her.] The science of Love, ah, yes this word resounds sweetly in the ear of my soul, and I desire only this science. Having given all my riches for it, I esteem it as having given nothing as did the bride in the sacred Canticles. I understand well that it is only love that makes us acceptable to God, that this love is the only good I ambition. Jesus deigned to show me the road that leads to this Divine Furnace, and this road is the surrender of the little child who sleeps without fear in its Father's arms. "Whoever is a little one, let him come to me." So speaks the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Solomon. This same Spirit of Love also says, "For to him that is little, mercy will be shown." The Prophet Isaiah reveals in His name that on the last day: "God shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather together the lambs with His arm, and shall take them up in His bosom." As though these promises were not sufficient, this same prophet whose gaze was already plunged into the eternal depths cried out in the Lord's name: "As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees they will caress you."
"After having listened to words such as these, there is nothing to do but to be silent and to weep with gratitude and love. Ah! if all weak and imperfect souls felt what the least of souls feels, that is, the soul of your little Therese, not one would despair of reaching the summit of the mount of love. Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude." . . . .
"See then all that Jesus lays claim to from us: He has no need of our works but only of our love, for the same God who declares He has no need to tell us when He is hungry did not fear to beg a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty. But when He said, "Give me to drink," it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for He meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among His disciples in the world, and among His own disciples, alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love."
I (Miss Marcel) must interject here. What I love about this last sentence - this last part of this last sentence, to be more specific - is the reality that underlies our sister's words. She says, "He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservation," and we may think, "Oh no! This is me! I do not surrender to Him without reservation!" But wait! There's more! She immediately adds that there are few hearts who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love.
The beauty of Conversations is that in it Jesus, through His little secretary Marcel, expresses the real tenderness of His infinite Love so that more hearts (namely ours) can then surrender to Him without reservation.
Think about it. You don't need to blame yourself for not surrendering entirely to God. You don't yet understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love, so you are scared to trust Him completely! But that is what Marcel and Therese were sent on this earth to do - to show us how very trustworthy He is, to lead us by the hand to meet the real Jesus who so gladly shows us, through their words (and His to Marcel), the real tenderness of His infinite Love.
If you haven't yet fully surrendered to Him without reservations, I say it's because you haven't yet understood the real tenderness of His infinite Love. And I have a prescription for you! Read Conversations tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day! Read it from front to back, or back to front! Read it with one sentence following another, or skip around and dip in here and there. What will you find? The real tenderness of Jesus' infinite Love!
Therese says, not much further on, this other bit which thrills me to the core. She says, "I feel how powerless I am to express in human language the secrets of heaven, and after writing page upon page I find that I have not yet begun. There are so many different horizons, so many nuances of infinite variety that only the palette of the Celestial Painter will be able to furnish me after the night of this life with the colors capable of depicting the marvels He reveals to the eye of my soul."
This means that she looked forward to now! Now she can begin to show us the marvels she has to revealed to her, and she does that with a double feast, a double holy card, and roses galore! She does it with the scent of a rose - did I tell you that our rose at the top had a heavenly scent? Well I forgot to tell you that it, out of the dozen I bought together, was the one that exuded a fragrance that filled the kitchen of my new friend, while its mates at my house sat and just looked pretty! That was Therese letting us know she is alive and well and ready to reveal much more of His love than ever before!
Marie wanted Therese to tell her of a dream Therese had . . . you must read about this dream, but suffice it to say Therese learned from it that THE SAINTS LOVE US SO MUCH!!!
She goes on to tell of the martyrdom of her desires to be all things in the Church, and the Holy Spirit's solution for her that she will be Love in the Heart of the Church . . .
Ah, and then Therese says to Jesus, "O luminous Beacon of Love, I know how to reach You, I have found the secret of possessing Your flame. I am only a child, powerless and weak, and yet it is my weakness that gives me the boldness of offering myself as victim of Your Love, O Jesus! In times past, victims, pure and spotless, were the only ones accepted by the Strong and Powerful God. To satisfy Divine Justice, perfect victims were necessary, but the law of Love has succeeded to the law of fear, and Love has chosen me as a holocaust, me, a weak and imperfect creature. Is not this choice worthy of Love? Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that It lower Itself, and that it lower Itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire."
Do you know what? There is way, way more in this chapter! But here is how Therese ends, my favorite part of all, and also loved by Pope Pius XI so much (he who called her his guiding star!) that he quoted it to end his homily at her canonization:
"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!"
But then here's where things get really good. Marie (Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, St. Therese's eldest blood sister and her godmother) received what she requested - this letter from Therese to her - and promptly felt . . . . something kind of akin to despair! She was thrilled that her sister was so amazing, sad that her sister was likely going to be snatched up to Heaven by God (and away from those who loved her on earth - or so they thought, though Therese reassured them later that she would "come down" and did find ways, still finds ways, to do so), but most of all somewhat discouraged that she would never be like this little victim of love with such great desires and passion.
So Marie wrote back to Therese expressing her gratitude, her joy and sorrow, and her last question: "I would like you to tell your little godmother, in writing, if she can love Jesus as you do."
Therese wrote back in the letter now identified as Letter (LT) i97, and here is what she said:
I am not embarrassed in answering you. How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him? . . . My desires for martyrdom are nothing, they are not what give me the unlimited confidence that I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust, when one rests in them with complacence and when one believes they are something great...These desires are a consolation that Jesus grants at times to weak souls like mine (and these souls are numerous), but when He does not give this consolation, it is a grace of privilege. Recall those words of Father: "The martyrs suffered with joy, and the King of Martyrs suffered with sadness." Yes Jesus said: "Father, let this chalice pass away from me." Dear Sister, how can you say after this 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...That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why would this treasure not be yours?...
....."O 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 remain then very far from all that sparkles, let us love our littleness, 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....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."
Therese says, "Nine o'clock is ringing, and I am obliged to leave you. Ah, how I would like to tell you things, but Jesus is going to make you feel all that I cannot write."
Me too! Eight o'clock is ringing, and I am obliged to leave you, but I am confident with the confidence of Therese that Jesus is going to make you feel all that we cannot write.
As for Marcel, he has written a lot more than Therese and I - or perhaps I should say he's written a lot more of Jesus' words, which we highly recommend! As always we suggest you start with Conversations. And enjoy!
I'm so grateful to have been able to share some of Therese's feast(s) with you, and now, one last "That's twice now" before we adjourn . . .
I've been hearing from a lot of people who enjoyed the triple novena. So... Let's do it again! Details coming soon since it starts tomorrow on Faustina's day, October 5 (but join in any time!)..If anyone wonders why we're doing another triple novena, well there are lots of reasons - as many reasons as prayer requests that still need answering! Sure, I know that God always answers prayers, and that sometimes He just says "maybe" or "later" or even (gasp) "no." Or so they say! But I'm taking Jesus at His word. Call Him the unjust judge (haha - it was His parable, not mine!) but I think if we keep pestering Him, poor widows that we are, He will have to keep His word and say YES to everything!
And now, before I get into trouble (or laugh to hard to finish), let's pray together and trust Jesus for everything!
Draw me, we will run!!!
My day was full of joy, and I pray yours was too....but keep in mind this is just the beginning of our sister's triduum, so I'll meet you here tomorrow, God willing, and we'll talk Therese, Marcel, and roses!!!
Wishing you a happy feast - the one that was so far today, and the one that we will celebrate tomorrow: Guardian Angel day! Just a little break before the old calendar (extraordinary form) brings Therese back on Thursday!
Meanwhile, may you find roses everywhere you look!
Oh Little Therese, we could never celebrate your great Love, Jesus, in just one day. Bring us safely to tomorrow when we may join you in loving Him again, and rejoice with you in the angels God has given each of us . . . and bless all those in our triple novena. Shower us with the roses you promised, and kiss little Jesus for us. And that Marcel, the second little Flower, the second Therese? Please give him our love too - and invite him to help you scatter your rose petals and roses all over the world. Watch over all missionaries tonight; bless our Holy Father and our Bishops; keep our priests close to Mary and Jesus; and our religious, bless them too! As for the many, many lay people who have turned to you today - or who have never heard of you! - roses, roses, roses!
draw me, we will run!!!
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