Well how's that for a spiffy title? I just had to cram it all in there, lest I forget the many things I want to tell you. So first off, Happy St. Andrew's Day! I realized this morning that not only is it my brother and his wife's wedding anniversary (may God bless them abundantly!), but also in a way it's my family's patronal feast.
You see, we're Andres, which comes from Andrew, no matter what language you start in . . . which is good because we've been mistaken for Mexican, Spanish, French, and maybe even German (Germany being the actual origin of our name and Andres ancestors). So Happy St. Andrew Day, and a big hearty thanks to dear St. Andrew for watching over my little flock (and the rams and ewes and lambs who came before us) without even minding that we never remember to invoke him! Which really should change, because here's something marvelous I noticed in his liturgical proper today:
St. Andrew is referred to twice as Our Lord's friend!
This is delightful for those of us who have learned from Therese and Marcel that heaven is a place of abundant friendship. Jesus brought that to earth when He came down to live among us, and He started with Andrew. The first antiphon for morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours sets the stage:
"Two men followed the Lord from the beginning; one of these was Andrew the brother of Simon Peter."
And then in the second antiphon from morning prayer, the Church proclaims:
"The Lord loved Andrew and cherished his friendship."
Isn't that the best?
And just to make sure we didn't miss it, this gift of friendship Our Lord gave to Andrew, today's Collect, the prayer that opens the liturgy of the Mass and closes the liturgy of the hours, reads as follows:
"Lord, in Your kindness hear our petitions. You called Andrew the apostle to preach the Gospel and guide Your Church in faith. May he always be our friend in Your presence to help us with his prayers."
I guess it makes sense - if you learn friendship by being friends with the Master, you're set to be a great friend to others too. Maybe that's why Marcel is such a good friend to us, and why Therese was such a good friend to him - having learned friendship from Heaven, they're ready to spread the joy! May St. Andrew be a friend to us and teach us the lessons He learned from Jesus, and may we relish his friendship until we all meet in Heaven!
Next up, then, (according to our title, "St. Andrew, 9 Days of Prayer for you, & Another Our Lady"), is that 9 days of prayer. I was going to call it a novena (clever of me, huh?) but I didn't want you to think I was foisting more prayer on you. Well I am foisting more prayer on you, now that you mention it, but don't panic: it's my prayer for you more than prayers I want to strong arm you into saying . . .
I realized this morning we're just a novena away from Our Lady's Feast of the Immaculate Conception and our Marian consecration. Yikes! So, knowing by heart one novena (to Little Therese, handily enough), that's the one I've started for you, and I'll say it for the next 9 days, God willing (willing that I don't totally forget, that is). How exciting! You are covered! I've got your back, as well as your front, your top, your toes, your sides, and the whole of you, just like Mary soon will! Actually I'm pretty sure she's already got you completely too, but she'll have you in a new (or renewed) special way in 9 days, and in case you (like me) wonder if you'll be ready, well I'll be praying that you are. And as to being ready - how funny is that? Be ready to have the greatest Mom in the world (who is tender, discreet, delicate, loving, sweet, merciful, compassionate, gentle, kind, and totally unobtrusive while taking care of your every need) be more your Mom than ever. I think we'll be "ready"!
In case you need a reminder, though, about how perfectly she is all those nice adjectives I just mentioned (and so much more), I have another Our Lady for you.
Yes, I know they're really all the same Our Lady, but I get my Our Ladies joke from none other than Lucia Santos, the oldest (and most long lived by far) seer of Fatima. She was one of the shepherd children who saw Mary in 1917, and she lived to be a child of - gosh, I forget exactly how old, but she didn't get to leave this earth and go to Heaven until 2005, just a month before her friend Pope John Paul II.
Well JPII had previously sent his friend and colleague Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to talk to Sister Lucia in the Carmel of Coimbria where Lucia had been a cloistered nun for decades. Interestingly, she'd started out as a Sister of St. Dorothy after the apparitions, but later realized she wanted to be a Carmelite. It was decades before that permission was granted! Wow! But then her dream came true - isn't that just like Marcel? Wanting to be a Carmelite against all odds, though in his case, God and Therese showed him that he was meant to be a Redemptorist, and since that was the order in which he met Fr. Boucher, his bearded Jesus, and Jesus Himself, I don't think Marcel minded.
Anyhow, when Cardinal Bertone was talking to Sister Lucia, he told her about how he spoke about Our Lady of Fatima in a homily he gave at Lourdes. I think he was trying to show her how much he loved Our Lady of Fatima, but without missing a beat, Sister Lucia corrected him. "Oh no, you should never do that," she said. "Our Ladies are very jealous of their turf!"
How do you like that?
I love it!
And I'm crossing my fingers that Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima (not to mention Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Good Success, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Confidence and - oh yeah! Our Lady of Joyful Surprises - yes, I really had to look up who was the latest Our Lady I'd introduced here because all Marcel-like, I'd forgotten, only knowing there must be some reason I called this "Another Our Lady"!) won't mind a bit if I bring in Another Our Lady!
Phew, we're out of that perplexing parenthetical litany, and before I get into more trouble, I'd better get to the heart of the matter, which in this case is none other than . . . (drum roll please) . . .
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal!
It was her feast this week (November 27) just before St. Catherine Laboure's special day (November 28) and I asked for and received a grace that made me so happy I could just spit!
Wow, that's a really unfortunate image.
What can I say? I'm an American, and we can be so uncouth.
But the truth is that I was over the moon with joy - and I must share my joy with you here, unfortunate idioms or no.
The story is simply this:
I'm lucky enough to know a lovely Catholic woman, a wife and mama of 8 (how do moms do it? I'm a mom of 2 and find it exhausting! great fun, but exhausting), a musician too, and most happily of all a little daughter of Mary who wrote a beautiful article a few years ago called, "St. Catherine Laboure, the Miraculous Medal, and Me." (No, not me, but Hope, the lady I'm talking about!)
I read Hope's article on August 14 a while back (two years ago maybe) and since then I've wanted to share her story with the whole world. So this week, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I did! I contacted Michael L,, our hero at Catholic Exchange, and he was a brick and put up the article (in two parts, since as one it was twice as long as a regular CE article) on two consecutive days, yesterday and the day before. In this way we managed to coincide the articles with the traditional feast of St. Catherine Laboure and the day after, which is not the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal because that came the day before, but I'm not as miraculous as Our Lady so I'd sent the piece to Michael just a smidge late for a double miracle. Which is fine with me, because Ah, joy and rapture, the articles did finally make it out to a wider audience, where I will dream (which is like a prayer) of them being read by absolutely everyone in the world.
And now it's my pleasure to share Hope's article with you here. Yippee skippee! as my bestest childhood friend Julia and I used to say. I will give you the links, and then we'll say our prayer and close so you can zip over and read these articles that are going to introduce you to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (whom you probably already know) in a way that will show you how very much she loves you and wants you to rest in her loving care. No more worrying anymore ever, as we like to say here at MMM! (Which, just for today, might stand for Miraculous Medal Musings, with a little help from our friend Hope.)
Okay. Ready? Why don't we pray first.
Oh little Jesus, thank You for EVERYTHING!
Draw me, we will run!
And now, here are the links - just click on the titles and you'll be there! And don't forget after reading the first to make sure and read the second, which is my favorite, though I love the first too.
St. Catherine Laboure, Saint of the Miraculous Medal
St. Catherine Laboure, the Miraculous Medal, and Me
Along with St. Andrew, may Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and her little Catherine become household names and your dear friends! With thanks to Hope, blessings upon her brood, and a kiss from Jesus to seal the deal.
Each morning when we say our morning offering (or in the late afternoon, if it's that kind of day), my son and I add a couple invocations to Our Lady and the Saints. Yes, it used to be a more numerous litany, but there's something unnerving about wondering if your prayer partner will ever finish. No, I wasn't worried that Dom would never finish - I was the problem! Until one day (or two) when he turned the tables and started dealing up "Our Lady of ____" (to which I would respond "Pray for us!") and added "Saint ____" (to which I'd respond "Pray for us!"), and continued with Our Ladies and Saints until I had a taste of the seemingly unending prayer I'd been inflicting on him. We quickly reached a more suitable arrangement in which we each get to invoke one Our Lady and one Saint.
Which leads straight to Our Lady of Joyful Surprises.
We made her acquaintance through the same lovely friend who told us that if you start a 54 day Rosary Novena on Our Lady's Assumption (August 15), you'll end on Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7). This friend is clearly a treasure trove of useful and heartening information, but seeing as we've passed that particular Rosary Novena window (and yes, I can hear your sigh of relief, but here we call them all sighs of love!), we'll have to make do for now with Our Lady of Joyful Surprises.
Did I just say we'd "make do" with this new Our Lady? I must be losing my marbles! The truth is that Our Lady of Joyful Surprises is full of not only surprises, but joyful ones, and if any of us need convincing that such unexpected delights are anything less than What We at Miss Marcel's Musings absolutely Live For....Well, I don't even know how to finish that sentence!
The long and short of it (or rather the Alpha and Omega of it) is that Jesus LOVES to make all things new. And we love having all things made new for us! It's a marriage made in Heaven, and Our Lady of Joyful Surprises is always happy to be part of our espousals.
Take yesterday and today, for instance. When Dom's turn came to invoke Our Blessed Mother, sure enough, he called on Our Lady of Joyful Surprises. This thrilled me. What might happen next? It was anyone's guess just what joyful surprises Our Lady would bring, but there was no question she'd answer our call.
Well what do you know? I heard unexpectedly from a few dear friends on email (even got a prized note in my inbox from Jack K, our British correspondent), spoke to another darling friend on the phone, managed to catch up on bill paying AND send out the various Carmelite emails that were on my docket for the day. All of which might sound quite mundane, but it was lots of unexpected delight (and relief) for this little Miss Marcel! (Not to mention the happiness that is hearing from friends, and if they're writing about Marcel and Therese - utter bliss!)
Today, though, when Dom invoked Our Lady of Joyful Surprises again, I knew we were in for it. Sure enough, besides assorted and sundry other happy "you're kidding!"s that I will refrain from cataloging here, the Big Surprise came when I popped over to amazon.com and discovered that my favorite book was back in stock. Not that I have the money just now to order copies, but one likes to know they're available at a moment's notice.
You see, about 2 or 3 weeks ago I went on a binge and ordered 3 copies of Marcel's Conversations. Two were gifts (and another joyful surprise for both me and the recipient: I managed to finally get one of those in the mail today to a Redemptorist priest - I hope he will be joyfully surprised!), and the third was because I just couldn't resist getting myself a spare copy in case anything happened to my original. (Pathetic, I know. Soon I'll be building a barn like that guy in the Gospel!)
To my utter chagrin, however, my shopping spree had unintended consequences. I seemed to have bought out all the "in stock" copies of Convos! And then right about this time Catholic Exchange published my article, "Marcel Van: The Littlest Redemptorist," which was a joyful surprise except for the less than joyful surprise in store for any readers who clicked the link that led to a copy of Conversations for sale, because it didn't seem there were any (copies for sale, that is).
Imagine then, and in fact please enter into with me, the joyful surprise I got today when I found that not merely one but two editions of Marcel's Conversations are back in stock at amazon.com! Woohoo! The world can now go on turning. Our little brother is ready and waiting to fly to mailboxes throughout our fair land, and with 2 day free prime shipping (or free and fast shipping even without prime membership) for all who need his words in more profusion than I can offer them here.
Both editions are under $30, which is also a coup. The Les Amis de Van edition, pictured above, is only $25 with the free fast shipping (may God bless Marcel's faithful French friends), and the original Gracewing edition is only a couple of dollars more. (This latter is quite a bargain since the list price is $40.)
Not to change the subject, but have I ever told you about my family's library? Not a room in the house, as in, "The Library, the Billiard room, the Lounge, the Observatory," and so on, but more like a collection of books that requires space in every room.
My mom recently visited and her reaction to our books was awfully cute. She started in the Living Room (the room you enter from the front door) with, "Oh, and here are your books," as she regarded our four quite large bookshelves and one smaller one front and center. As we went from room to room, she began to muse (I must get it from her), or maybe it was bemuse. For she concluded, entering yet another room with yet more bookshelves (all full of books, thus fulfilling their God-given purpose), "You have too many books!"
You might think I would've been hurt, or angry, or otherwise unhappy with her comment. But what could I feel but complete agreement when she was so absolutely right! For out of all those books, only one copy (at that time, and it wasn't even on a shelf, holding, as it did, pride of place at my bedside or whatever other side is next to me from one hour to the next) was Marcel's Conversations. What a lot of extra and seemingly unnecessary books there are around here, is all I can say! (Okay, full disclosure: there are, amongst the endless tomes, also Marcel's 3 other volumes. Though not quite Conversations, these 3 are equally necessary to my happiness.)
Anyhow, I mention these many superfluous books, nearly our entire library, because as I gaze upon their friendly spines (gaze from my place on the couch, for I'm writing in the living room, opposite those four grand bookshelves that first arrested my mom's attention), I remember the fun I had collecting said superfluous books, and the fun I had in the circulation that used to be a more regular part of our collection. I would get books, and then sometimes I would get rid of books. How else to get more books?
For there is, you must know, eventually a limit to everything, whether it's reached sooner or later.
I am blessed to be married. This means (at least in my case, for my caro sposo is a very sensible man) that there is a limit to the books allowed in. And I have not yet received spousal permission or a city permit to build a barn, so that definitely puts the kibosh on endless in-flow without any out-flow.
And so, in the golden days of yore (mostly in Virginia, as it happened), I would regularly bring books home from the second-hand sellers (and what glorious bookstores I frequented!), but then I would just as regularly bring books to the second-hand sellers from home.
Until one day I realized there was a certain binge-purge cycle going on that needed to stop, so with God's grace, it did.
And now, here I am, surrounded by books as usual, only too happy to have given up the selling of them (it was always such a sorry, unworthily low price one could get for such riches), but smiling quietly over the thought that I am the merchant in the Gospel (phew! I didn't feel quite safe as the barn builder) who has found the Pearl of Great Price. Because I'd gladly exchange all I have for the beauty contained in that one perfect pearl of Conversations - but thankfully, it's not necessary to exchange anything. My husband would be rather surprised (and I'm guessing not too joyfully) were he to come home late tonight (he has an evening class) to find all our books gone and replaced by a few more random copies of Conversations. (He is a man of simple material needs - merely a handful of typewriters and he's happy - but then he does end up reading many of these other books . . .)
(Which reminds me, come to think of it, that we already have 3 copies of Conversations, truth be told. First there's my original, and then there's the one I gave my good husband for his very own, and third is my recent spare. Which just goes to show that only God satisfies, because here I'm thinking that 3 copies is hardly enough for one household, my older son and his copy being in Denver these days.)
And yet I read something the other day that made me feel rather content with my absurd enthusiasm over this wondrous book. It was something Our Lord said to Marcel on the Feast of Christ the King and which I left out of our Feast day post, but it makes sense to transcribe it now in order to console myself for what might otherwise seem an excessive love. (Don't worry, we are not going to have any criticism here of too much love or too much happiness. In these cases, too much is just barely enough.)
From Conversations (30):
Jesus: My little apostle, never allow yourself to be afraid by the effort that you must impose on yourself to write. Even if the words I am saying to you were useful only to a single soul, that would already be sufficient.
* * *
When I first read this, I was thinking of you, dear reader, and hoping my words here (and more importantly, my quotations here of Jesus' words to Marcel) are useful to you. In which case, according to Truth Himself, that would already be sufficient!
But there's another reading that consoles me even more.
The words Jesus says to Marcel have been, quite truly, more than useful to me, and it is a joyful surprise to see that I can be (as you can, too) that single soul that makes our little brother's efforts and exertion, his writing amidst degout and fatigue, well worth the trouble. We are that special to Jesus - we are each that one soul for which He'd leave the 99, but not having to find us far afield today (since He finds us, instead, sitting at His feet with Marcel, drinking in His words), He can use us to comfort our little brother.
You see, dear Marcel, it was worth it! We are so grateful and we thank you from the bottom of our little hearts! Thank you for writing down what Jesus said, and thank you Fr. Boucher for preserving these precious relics. Thank you, too, dear bearded Jesus, for translating them into French, so that Jack Keogan could translate them into English for us! (And thank you, dear Jack! We promise the labour was worth it, and we will cherish every word!)
And now, one more joyful surprise, which in other words might be called a mind-boggling mystery.
Two days ago I pulled out the French mini-book on Marcel by Fr. Pierre Descouvemont (a previous joyful surprise hailing originally from France, sent by way of England courtesy of the endless kindness of Jack K., and arriving as a rose in my mailbox precisely on Therese's feast this past October 1st).
This day I looked into the mini-book was the Feast of Christ the King, and our own wise Fr. Buckley had told us that morning at church that we should be very honest with Jesus. I felt like his 93 years (Fr. B's, not Jesus'!) were almost as good as a thorough acquaintance with Marcel, for what could be more childlike and right and just than perfect honesty and familiarity with Jesus? You can trust Fr. B!
Suffice it to say, then, that later that day I didn't pretend to Jesus that I knew French, but when I came upon a passage I wanted to read in a more familiar language, in all honesty I breathed a sigh of love/relief that Fr. Descouvemont happened to be quoting from Marcel's writings. I pulled out Volume 4 of our little brother's works, his "Other Writings," and turned to the reference.
Need I tell you that I got the reference wrong? No problem, it was the page written for me to find and read at the moment, and that's what mattered. What I found was in Marcel's Notebook 2 (in Other Writings), in which he wrote these words on August 31, 1952:
"During the retreat, I heard a sermon on death and judgment and I wish ardently for them."
This isn't at all the part of Marcel's retreat notes that I wish to highlight, but oh, little souls, hear our little brother and heave out another sigh of love and relief! Death and judgment?? Nothing to worry about - only to wish ardently for!
As our sister Therese has taught us, "For those who love, there is no purgatory," and better yet, "What a sweet joy it is to think that God is Just, i.e. that He takes into account our weakness, that He is perfectly aware of our fragile nature. What should I fear then? Ah! must not the infinitely just God, who deigns to pardon the faults of the prodigal son with so much kindness, be just also toward me who 'am with Him always'?" (From Story of a Soul)
But on to my joyful surprise (they seem to keep coming but they are from Our Lady and, as I told you, her gifts are abundant). Marcel continues:
"Oh! If it were given to me to die, how happy I would be! I thirst for death, not so much because I have kept my innocence, as to have the happiness of loving my divine Friend with a more ardent and more pure love, to teach the world to know God better and to love Him more. I am a petal fallen from the flower, the little Therese. I am going to fly to the outer limits of the world, so that the earth, intoxicated by the perfume of love, may go looking for the divine Friend.
"Jesus! I am the humble petal of the flower, my sister Saint Therese, having to accomplish the same mission as she, to make You known and loved throughout the world.
"This mission, at the same time stupendous and mysterious, most would assume it gladly, but they are not very numerous who sincerely wish for it, since, in this world, it is necessary to live within the confines of a hidden life, it is necessary to forgo pomp and fine appearance. Now, I ask myself, how many are there who wish for the world to consider them as nothing?!" (Other Writings, 51)
And here is the mystery before which I should be silent, but I'm a girl, and I like to talk. Or maybe it's enough to say that I don't want you to hurt yourself trying to read my mind, so let me tell you what I think.
I think that Marcel is absolutely right. It would be a great honor to have Therese's mission (and his) to make God more loved, to help His love be known so that everyone will love Him in return. I hope God has given me this mission, but I'm bold enough (following our little sister Therese) to take it as my mission even if I'm not sure, at least until such time as God makes it clear I'm supposed to be doing something else. It is a stupendous mission, and as Marcel says, I assume it gladly.
Ah, but what a mystery, what a paradox. Even as I wish for everyone in the whole world to read Miss Marcel's Musings so that, for fun and for free (even cheaper than their own copy of Conversations), they can know of Jesus' tremendous love for us, His Limitless Love, yet "in this world, it is necessary to live within the confines of a hidden life, it is necessary to forgo pomp and fine appearance." And with Marcel, "Now, I ask myself, how many are there who wish for the world to consider them as nothing?"
Have you noticed that the little St. Therese is, now that she's in Heaven and glorified, in some ways quite big? When I think of which Saints I want to call upon to help me in an urgent necessity, I think of St. Anthony, and I think of St. Therese. I also think of St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio, but they only serve to confirm my point: St. Therese is shoulder to shoulder with the Giants among the Saints! (No, not the football team, but the Really Holy Ones, the dazzling stars of His Firmament). How amazing!
She wrote in the beginning of Story of a Soul about how it takes all kinds of Saints to make a Heaven, or even an earth for that matter (this was the passage that solved our Marcel's painful perplexity about wanting to be a Saint, and his reading of which began their awesome friendship). And yet in the end, she is a towering Saint with the cedars, even after having been a tiny violet during her sojourn in exile.
Surely Marcel is right that in this life, one must be hidden, be considered as nothing, to truly imitate our sister Therese and carry on her mission. But what about in the next life?
I think part of Marcel's brilliance at carrying out his sister's mission is precisely in his staying hidden, in his being considered as nothing, even now that he is in Heaven. For when we read his Conversations, we who can never thank God enough for having discovered this priceless pearl, we can believe every word he says.
Does he appear to us as the weakest of souls? Yes!
Does he make the least of us feel at home? He certainly does!
And there is no universal fame, no ecclesial glorification, no millions of holy cards and statues, no dozens of Societies founded in his name and under his patronage, no long list of accolades attesting to his greatness even in his littleness. Nope. He's simply little. Which is perhaps the most beautiful part of our second St. Therese and what makes a second St. Therese so necessary.
It would be a lot easier to spread the word of Marcel's words (and Jesus' to him) if we could introduce our little brother as "Saint Marcel" or even "Blessed Marcel" or at least "Venerable Marcel."
And yet how joyful and surprising that we can only say, over and over, "No, he is not a Saint yet. No, he is not Blessed. So far, he is simply a Servant of God who has a cause in process. No, his heroic virtues have not been recognized. But the heroic virtues of the first postulator of his cause have been recognized! And Cardinals wrote his Introductions!"
Do you know what Celine said during Therese's process? That the only reason she wanted Therese proclaimed a Saint was so that her Little Way could be glorified with her. And this has happened beyond Celine's wildest dreams! And now, I will rejoice at every step forward in Marcel's cause. But I will not worry a single instant about what rank he achieves, for his Little Way (the Little Way of his sister Therese) has been vindicated. And the greatest gift Marcel gives me, the little way he proves the Little Way, is by his perduring littleness, even in Heaven.
I am smiling and even laughing, in love with good Jesus who never fails to keep His word. What did He promise this time? Again and again He promises that whatever we ask the Father in His name, He will give us. Marcel wanted to be just like his sister Therese, and Jesus has given him her mission. Including the part it is now so hard for her to fulfill - to convince us that it is really the least and weakest who are most delightful to God. And, too, Marcel wanted to play in Heaven. I think that must be what he's doing! How marvelous of him to invite us into his games!
Do you doubt it? Read Conversations (it can be had for practically a song HERE), or read my silly pages - for here, too, you will find Jesus' words to us through Marcel. And Jesus' words are always full of love and reassurance. No need to worry anymore about anything ever. We have Mary as our Mother, Jesus as our Spouse and Savior, and the most surprising joy of any I can imagine: Marcel as our little brother.
Let's help him carry out our sister Therese's mission: To show others how very much God loves us, everyone, and in doing so, to invite everyone to love Him in return, more than ever before. We are very little, very weak, very small, but it takes only a single prayer and a sigh of love:
Draw me, we will run!
On the Feast of Christ the King in 1945, Marcel said to Our Lord:
"Jesus, today on the feast of Your universal kingship, I ask that You reign in the hearts of all men. Does that please You? That's all I know how to say. I cannot find anything better" (Conversations, 30).
Our Lord didn't object to Marcel's prayer, but since He knows the very best thing to say, He responded to our little brother with the proposal that he repeat throughout today's feast:
"Jesus, King of love, may the reign of Your love be deeply rooted in the hearts of priests."
What a marvelous prayer! Let's say it, too, in union with Marcel, at least once today (or we'll call it twice, since reading it a moment ago was praying it a first time).
Jesus, King of love, may the reign of Your love be deeply rooted in the hearts of priests!
You know how Jesus is with Marcel (and us), though. It's one indulgence after another, so instead of the formal prayer being the beginning and end of their conversation, Jesus goes on to say to Marcel (and to us) something even more marvelous. He talks about Mary and proposes the attitude we are to have toward her! Just when I was worrying that by sticking closer to Conversations than to 33 Days, I'm shortchanging us in our preparation for Marian consecration, Jesus rushes to our rescue. He's always Prince of Peace as well as King of kings, and here is what He says:
"The behavior of my spouses in their relationship with me must also be the same in their relations with my Mother. Mary, being my Mother, and my spouses being but one with me, it follows that my Mother is equally the Mother of my spouses. . . Little friend, listen carefully to what I am going to say to you; do not let yourself be distracted. It is thanks to Mary that my spouses can unite themselves to my love in an intimate and lasting fashion. My little friend, never forget it: you must love my Mother just as I love her myself."
Though this is much shorter than my usual musings, I almost think it's already enough for one day, even for such a great feast as today's: We've got a glorious picture of Jesus, King of Love and our Good Shepherd above. We have a prayer dictated by Our Lord Himself. And we've got what we've been thirsting for lately: God's own wishes as to how we should treat His (and our) Mother Mary, including His Divine Reason showing us little ones the "why."
Ah, but a feast means much more than just enough, so our sweet little brother Marcel has iced the cake, topped it with a cherry (or was that the sundae? Let's go for both!), and poured out another sweet thought to fill our cup to overflowing. Though he says regarding what comes before, "My Father, that's all Jesus has said to me today," he then goes on to offer a conversation he and Jesus seem to have had in a holy hour about 10 days prior. And here Marcel reports the following wondrous exchange:
Marcel: Jesus, are You sad sometimes because of me?
Jesus: My child, if that ever happens it is only when I see you sad. When you are happy, how could I be sad? So, be happy always. A single one of your joys suffices to console me very much.
+ + +
And there you have it! Not only why we should love Mary (because we are one with Jesus, and she's His Mommy, and therefore ours too), but also why we should be happy. Always! Because a single one of our joys suffices to console Jesus very much, and what could be a more fitting and agreeable task for jesters such as ourselves than to have our smiles, our jokes, our joys lighten the King's burdens, cheer His Heart, and bring a smile of Love to His face in return? Oh Jesus, You are the gentlest King, as well as the most victorious, and best of all, the most lovable!
May You reign in the hearts of all men!
Jesus, King of love, may the reign of Your love be deeply rooted in the hearts of priests!
and last, but not least:
Draw me, we shall run!
You know me well enough (or you will soon enough) to know that a word from me on hearts would never suffice. So Truth in advertising might have inspired the title, "THE Word on Hearts," rather than "A Word on Hearts," but then we might have led you to believe we were saying the very last word on Hearts. And while it's true that The Word, that is Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, our Spouse and Best Friend, is the Alpha and Omega, so in truth He is the very last Word (as well as the first) - on Hearts as on everything else . . . still, we want to leave room for more words on Hearts because the Holy Spirit is always afoot (or better yet, awing, that is, a-wing, as well as awe-ing) and God is Limitless Love, so I suspect there will always be more to be said (at least by the likes of us) on Hearts.
If you didn't follow that, don't worry, I'm not sure I did either! We are in Marcel-Land, and here much goes over our heads. Nonetheless, I've titled this post "A Word on Hearts," because I have for you both "a word" in the sense of something to say, and also Jesus' word (and He also is the Word), on - you guessed it - Hearts! And in particular on three hearts: ours, Jesus', and Mary's.
First though, I need to complete some unfinished business. Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day, and I forgot to tell you what St. Therese said about thanksgiving! Not that she commented on the American Feast (that I know of), but she sure was a big fan of gratitude. I have for you today, then, two of my favorites among her sayings:
"Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude."
She wrote that in Story of a Soul, and it works as one of St. Alphonsus' "all you need is a single holy maxim to think about, and you too can shoot to heaven like a pebble flying out of a slingshot in the hands of an 8 year old boy!"
But there's a slightly longer reflection on gratitude that our sister Therese gave to her sister Celine, and I love it even more, if possible. I'm actually glad I forgot to tell you yesterday because today is more of a "buy one get one free" day, except that since it's Black Friday (i.e. the day the stores in the US entice customers with dramatically phrased ads for items with dramatically slashed prices), it's more like "buy one, get ten free" day. You'll see that Therese's next words fit right in with this type of abundance. As Celine wrote in her own memoir ("My Sister, Saint Therese"), Therese had taught her:
"It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God's grace, for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than He hastens to send us ten additional favors in return. Then, when we show our gratitude for these new gifts, He multiplies His benedictions to such a degree that there seems to be a constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way.
"This has been my own personal experience; try it out for yourself and see. For all that Our Lord is constantly giving me, my gratitude is boundless, and I try to prove it to Him in a thousand different ways."
* * *
I, too, urge you to try this out for yourself. I've found it miraculously true!
In today's reading from 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Gaitley talks about how, once we're consecrated to Mary, the graces are going to pour out upon us in a newly splendiferous abundance. That's what we're talking about and that's what Therese is talking about. By consecrating ourselves to Mary, we're giving everything to Jesus through her, and that's nothing more nor less than acknowledging with love and gratitude (and surrender and abandonment) that all we have comes from God and we're happy to return it to Him. Especially ourselves!
You might wonder where Hearts come in, so here's what's on my mind:
Yesterday Fr. Gaitley talked about Mother Teresa's emphasis on Mary's Immaculate Heart, and he promised to say more tomorrow. After reading what they (Fr. G and Mother T) had to say yesterday, I was wondering, too, where Hearts come in - in Marcel, that is.
Something (I like to think it was Someone, actually, and namely the Holy Spirit) prompted me to begin reading St. Francis de Sales "Treatise On the Love of God" this morning. Don't worry, I'm bound to stall right around the Introduction, but the good news is that in the Introduction the Holy Spirit showed me what I was supposed to read. (And if you're new here and wondering why you would worry about my reading the whole book, well that would make me a Miss Francis instead of a Miss Marcel, and then who would write this blog for your continuing wholesome entertainment? But no worries there, I promise!)
That last parenthetical remark reminds me of something St. F de S said in his Intro (not the thing I can't wait but am waiting to tell you, but two other things, in fact) which cheered me immensely. First, he said, "The kindness of the reader makes his reading sweet and profitable."
So there! If you're enjoying my musings here, be assured it's because you're so kind! And then, too, I do try to make it easy for you by making you laugh. For St. Francis says next: "I have taken into consideration as I should do, the state of the minds of this age: it much imports to remember in what age we are writing." Which makes me feel so much better about importing Beatles' songs and suchlike into our reflections here at MMM!
But now for the word on Hearts. This too is from St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to his Treatise on the Love of God, and it comes in an explanation he gives of which version of the Bible he'll be using. He writes:
"I cite Scripture sometimes in other terms than those of the ordinary edition (the ordinary edition being the Vulgate, that is the Latin edition from the pen of St. Jerome). For God's sake, my dear reader, do me not therefore the wrong to think that I wish to depart from that edition. Ah no! For I know that the Holy Spirit has authorized it by the sacred Council of Trent, and that therefore all of us ought to keep to it: on the contrary I only use the other versions for the service of this, when they explain and confirm its true sense."
I love that St. Francis loved the Church so much and was grateful for all she gave him, that in this question of the Word of God, he's concerned to stick to the advice and authorization of His Holy Mother. And yet, he's concerned to squeeze every drop of honey from the Holy Scriptures, and so he'll make use of various translations as they serve to help him harvest all sweetness from the honeycomb. Little Therese had said she'd happily have learned the original languages of the Bible in order to read the Word of God in the very words in which He revealed them. I've spoken before of my limitations with languages, and I'm tremendously grateful that St. Francis de Sales (and others) provide me with more than I can absorb to help me take in these holy love letters from God.
Here then is where Hearts come in. St. Francis wants to show what he means about using other versions to complete or deepen his knowledge of the Word contained in the Vulgate. He writes:
"For example what the Heavenly Spouse says to His spouse: Thou hast wounded my heart, is greatly illustrated by the other version: Thou hast taken away my heart, or, Thou hast snatched away and ravished my heart."
Speaking of hearts, that sure set mine beating! St. Francis is quoting from chapter 4 of the Song of Songs, and here is what my Revised Standard Version/Catholic Edition (i.e. Ignatius Bible) gives for this verse he quoted and following:
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
how much better is your love than wine.
Well how about that!
If we start from the end, Jesus (for let's be honest and call a spade a spade, or in this case, a lover The Lover) is speaking to us here the exact same words He put in our mouths to say to Him at the opening of the Song of Songs (right before the words we repeat at the end of each post: Draw me, we will run!). We, the soul, the beloved, the little ones honored to call Him our Spouse, say:
O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!
For your love is better than wine . . .
Jesus, how wonderful You are! Raising us up to Your level, loving us as we love You, but only after You've made sure we've loved You (or spoken words of love to You) worthy of Limitless Love!
But what really slayed me were these words (the ones St. Francis is using, thanks to the Holy Spirit, and our need for what He inspires this loving Saint to tell us almost exactly 200 years after his words were published in 1616):
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
We know from our recent careful examination of Marcel's Conversations that a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is a sigh, and let's add that a glance is simply a glance. Really, all we have to do is to look at Jesus and we ravish His Heart! But let's take advantage of St. Francis' example to understand better what it is to ravish Jesus' Heart. It is also translated, he explains, as:
Thou hast taken away my heart, or,
Thou hast snatched away and ravished my heart.
Which leads me straight to what Jesus-Marcel, Marcel-Jesus, Mary Immaculate, and Miss Marcel are so thrilled to tell you today about Hearts (His, Hers, and ours), especially on our minds now that Fr. Gaitley's pages are full of Hearts these days. Fr. G tells us that St. Mother Teresa loved to pray: "Mary, lend me your Heart," and "Keep me in your most pure Heart."
He has beautiful things to say about the meaning of these two prayers, but here is what Marcel and I think (to simplify and get to the heart of it, hehe):
We know, thanks to the Holy Spirit's leading us to St. Francis de Sales example, which really means thanks to what God has written to us in His love letter, the Song of Songs, that with one simple glance at Jesus, we have already stolen His Heart! We've taken it, we've snatched it from Him, and that means we're currently in big trouble. I'm not initially concerned, as Mother Teresa was, with borrowing Mary's Heart too - I'm already in charge of the most precious relic in existence - Jesus' Heart! The problem is: How will I love Him rightly in return? I feel like the borrowing of Mary's Heart would only complicate things, putting me in possession of 3 Hearts! One entirely Sacred, one entirely Immaculate, and one that is interested in Black Friday sales, having fun (not a problem) but ever in danger of turning His House of Prayer (His Heart?) into a den of thieves! What a mess!
Let's never forget that Jesus loves our fun (as He tells Marcel, "A single one of your joys serves to console me very much"), and so I think it's safe to say He's amused by our shopping and other distractions, but it might concern us to know that here we are walking around with His Heart and (speaking for myself) so very forgetful that He is with us. So . . . .we need a solution, quickly, and thankfully Fr. Gaitley has provided it in that second prayer of Mother Teresa's to Our Blessed Mother.
"Mother Mary, keep us in your own pure Heart."
Yes, Mother Mary, please do keep us always in your own pure Heart. That way, no matter how distracted we are in between our simple glances at darling Jesus in your arms, we'll have Him covered - covered with kisses, namely yours, if not ours too!
I was lucky enough to get to Mass this morning, and there I found another great set of feasts. In order of appearance today we have St. Clement I, St. Columban (God bless all missionaries and their missions), and Blessed Miguel Pro ("Viva Christo Rey!") At Mass our priest chose to feature St. Clement, and in his homily told us that Clement was pope in the very first century (I think right after Peter, since the Roman Canon prays: Peter, Clement, Callistus, etc., but I wasn't listening carefully enough to catch that, so you may want to check my facts).
Father told us that Clement wrote a very famous letter, and in it he said, "The great need the small, and the small need the great." Father went on to tell us that we are each necessary and valuable and we need to know that. Marvelous! And then he said that we should be grateful for our talents, however small, as well as those of others, however great (or small too). Beautiful!
You can imagine that "The great need the small" caught my attention and brought me joy. Jesus, the Great, needs us, the small. For one reason, if no other, because we've got His Heart! But also we (the small) need Mary (the great), so she can love Jesus in us, for us, through us. Which makes me think I'd better not abandon Mother Teresa's "Lend me your heart" prayer just yet, although I really prefer the "Keep me in your heart" prayer since I'd rather we were all cozy there together.
And there, too, in Mary's most Pure Heart, when Jesus and each soul which calls Him Spouse look at each other, thus ravishing each other's hearts, it won't matter whose heart is where because all hearts will be in hers!
I'll be honest with you. I'm feeling very Marcel this time around with the 33 Days and Fr. Gaitley's wonderful insights. I frequently don't understand much, my mind wanders when I read the daily pages, and I wonder what is wrong with me.
But upon consideration, I have to think this temporary (or typical) insanity is good because it reminds me what a gift Conversations (and my love for it) is. I open Marcel's book and read the Word, the words that He sends (and Marcel so kindly wrote down) that ravish my heart and teach me the Little Way.
We saw with St. Francis de Sales how helpful one tiny example could be. In imitation of him, I offer this example of Jesus' advice to us through Marcel. See if it doesn't ease (and maybe even ravish) your heart and mind too. It's from Conversations (122), Jesus speaking to Marcel (and as always, to us through our little brother). I may have quoted it in a previous post (just the other day?), but (no surprise) I've forgotten! And if you remember, I'm sure you won't mind my quoting it again, Jesus' words to us are so consoling:
"My child, the smaller your love is for me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy. Let us suppose that the little one does not even know how to say to its mother the few words that I gave to him earlier and that he can only fix his gaze on her, be assured that he would receive from her marks of a love even more tender . . . My dear child, my love envelops yours and will last until the time when your love loses itself entirely in mine . . . 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 . . . and 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."
Well how do you like that? Jesus is happy to have us ravish His Heart and He's determined to ravish ours too! He lets us steal His Heart, but He also refuses to leave us ours! And yet none of this old-fashioned exchange of Hearts such as some of the great Saints experienced. No, Jesus is always doing something new, and for the littlest souls (that would be us), what would be the use of His Heart instead of ours? We're too small to know what to do with it except to run to Mary and take our heartless selves and Jesus' most Sacred Heart to live in her most Pure Heart. Which is not a bad idea at that! But to my simple mind it almost sounds like we're taking Jesus' Heart with us into Mary's, and leaving Jesus Himself somewhere else! (Simple minded, I know).
I say why not live in Mary's Heart, on Mary's lap, together with Jesus and Marcel and Therese, singing and playing, laughing and praying, glancing and kissing, sighing and sleeping? We are completely free, and our lives - even and especially our spiritual lives - should be "for fun and for free." Think about it: Jesus has already done everything. Our big task in this life is to get to Heaven, yet He has promised us that His love will never be separated from us - so it's Heaven now and Heaven later, as far as I can tell.
He says, "Without end and in every way, you will only receive marks of my love for you."
I'm not going to qualify that. He is Limitless Love, for Heaven's sake! He's not going to let us slip away, and we might as well get used to the joy of His embrace.
Hearts and more hearts. His in us, ours in Mary's, or to paraphrase Phil Collins, three hearts that beat as one . . . And I've decided it's time to stop worrying about what I don't understand and what is over my head, what I don't attend to as I read, it and what is left behind as my mind wanders hither and yon. Not to mention what I forget and have forgotten!
Jesus and Mary understand and remember. St. Louis, St. Max, St. Mother Teresa, and St. JPII understand and remember. Fr. Gaitley gets it and is trying (through his terrific book) to give it to us. I hope you're getting it, but in case you're not, please don't worry. Marcel is here to put everything (including Marian consecration) into one syllable words for us and it goes like this:
Sigh. Glance. Kiss. Love. Spouse. Hearts.
Then when we're ready to graduate to two syllable words:
Jesus, Mary, Therese.
And finally, at the Masters level, we have the ultimate summary of the Little Way, which includes one 3-syllable word:
Don't worry about anything any more ever.
We may be little souls, but we've got this! Jesus has made it easy in Marcel, and for that I thank Him. Not that I'm asking for 10 more Marcels - one is more than enough! But since Therese promised He'd multiply His gifts once we thanked Him, how about I thank Him for you, dear reader.
I don't mean thank Him on your behalf (though I'm happy to do that too), but actually thank Him for the gift of you, in all your beauty and littleness. I pray you know you are necessary and valuable, and yes, LOVED! and then I hope that for every one of you (every reader of Marcel), Jesus gives 10 more. Marcel for world domination! (Okay, am I the only one who just got a mental image of Calvin faced with his evil clone? Forgive my levity!) Really and truly, may Marcel conquer every heart and teach every soul how to ravish Jesus' Heart with a single glance, a single sigh, or even a single one of our joys.
Let's enjoy our little brother's relative anonymity while we can. We're on the ground floor of Marcel Mania, and what a happy place to be: in Mary's Heart, on her lap (before it gets super crowded), with little Jesus, St. Therese, and the one who teaches us everything we know: Marcel himself in all his glorious weakness. Ah, how good God is to us!
And now, will you join me in praying that our Tremendous Lover's Heart is ravished and taken away by every beating heart on this earth? He is thirsting for love. Let's pray that we will love Him, and all others in our train.
Draw me, we will run!
We love you little Jesus, a lot and so much!
Help us to give ourselves to Mary like You did, and meet us in her Heart with Therese and Marcel.
And finally, Jesus, thank You for EVERYTHING, especially the delight of knowing Marcel and through him, Your Limitless Love. But when You give us ten more favors in return for our thanks, please don't let them be as awesome as our little brother and his Conversations or we'll die of fun far too soon!
I'm so excited that I'm not quite sure where to begin, but I don't think I can go wrong beginning with Happy Thanksgiving!!!
And while we're at it, Happy St. Cecilia's Day! She's the first of our cloud of witnesses, up above with an angel in the upper left corner of our foursome (fivesome if we count the angel) of holy ones. She's the patroness of beautiful music and musicians, and without going into her whole story here (because naturally I've forgotten it!), I'll simply say that you can't go wrong celebrating her day.
I wish you music with your Thanksgiving Feast today, that it may be a feast for the soul as well as the body! And I want to thank Jesus for giving us a lovely Saint to intercede for us in the realm of joyful noise . . .
Lately I've felt closer than ever to St. Cecilia because of the glorious concert hall recently dedicated to her at Thomas Aquinas College, but I must say I've loved her since our days at Christendom College when we enjoyed a night of great music in her honor on a yearly basis. Thank you, amazing Fedoryka family, for that crowning moment of Mozart's Divertimento in D. It crowned my family's first St. Cecilia's night, and it initiated us into the heavenly beauty of music. I like to think it crowned your own childhood, dear Feds, and Tony and I have always been so grateful for that night!
But enough of my love for and commendation of St. Cecilia . . . Do you know who else loved her (and likely even remembered her story)? None other than little Therese of Lisieux!
Wonderfully enough, Therese met Cecilia when they were in Rome together. Okay, I'm not that bad - I do know they weren't contemporaries, but here is what Therese wrote about their friendship in Story of a Soul (just so we get her side of the Story!) :
"The Catacombs, too, left a deep impression on me. They were exactly as I had imagined them when reading the lives of the martyrs. After having spent part of the afternoon in them, it seemed to me we were there for only a few moments, so sacred did the atmosphere appear to me. We had to carry off some souvenir from the Catacombs; having allowed the procession to pass on a little, Celine and Therese slipped down together to the bottom of the ancient tomb of St. Cecilia and took some earth which was sanctified by her presence. Before my trip to Rome I didn't have any special devotion to this saint, but when I visited her house transformed into a church, the site of her martyrdom, when learning that she was proclaimed patroness of music not because of her beautiful voice or her talent for music, but in memory of the virginal song she sang to her heavenly Spouse hidden in the depths of her heart, I felt more than devotion for her; it was the real tenderness of a friend. She became my saint of predilection, my intimate confidante. Everything in her thrilled me, especially her abandonment, her limitless confidence that made her capable of virginizing souls who had never desired any other joys but those of the present life. St. Cecilia is like the bride in the Canticle; in her I see 'a choir in an armed camp.' Her life was nothing else but a melodious song in the midst of the greatest trials, and this does not surprise me because 'the Gospel rested on her heart,' and in her heart reposed the Spouse of Virgins!"
Wow! Isn't that magnificent? I'd like to interject that I'm sure the guides and guards at the Catacombs said in Therese's day as they say in our own: "Please do not take any dirt or stones from this holy place!" So do let that be a lesson to you - if you have to ignore the rules once in a while, it will give you a good story for your memoir, and it won't interfere a bit with your journey along the Little Way to great sanctity! (Yes, you, go ahead and have that second piece of pumpkin pie!)
Incidentally, when I quote our sister Therese and fill the passage with italics, I'm only following her lead. It's a custom to translate her underlinings into italics - she was that excited when she wrote (gee, that reminds me of someone!!) that she was constantly underlining words and phrases. Those who publish her books had to come up with a way to express her enthusiasm, which has grades (officially? known as: excited, very excited, super excited, super duper excited, haha!) which are retained by the use of first, italics (to represent one underlining), then small capitals (for two underlinings), then larger capitals (for three underlinings), then REALLY LARGE CAPS with a footnote to tell you just how many time our inspired sister underlined that phrase!!! (and this business of italics and caps I'm not joking about! Critical editions are serious business :)
Returning to the passage above, we see that Therese wanted to highlight that she felt "more than devotion" for St. Cecilia. Rather, she says, "It was the real tenderness of a friend."
Please don't think this is because Therese was already a great saint. No, it was because Cecilia was a great saint! At that point Therese was just a 14 year old girl on a pilgrimage with her father and older sister. Her father LOVED pilgrimages, and like my father did when I was a girl, he would sometimes take the opportunity of his own travels to bring a daughter or two along for the graces.
Sure, Therese was a special 14 year old girl, but honestly, what 14 year old girl isn't special???
And so, what fun to see that she "met" St. Cecilia in the same way we might meet a Saint that becomes for us, too, a real friend for whom we feel great tenderness, a saint of predilection, an intimate confidante. We might find one when we are in different circumstances than Therese - perhaps not so much on a real pilgrimage to real Rome, but maybe simply on the Internet, on a virtual pilgrimage of sorts to lift our hearts and encourage us in our endeavors, like on Thanksgiving when we wonder if we really should have gone back for thirds . . .
Therese was hoping to enter the Carmel at 15 and went to Rome to plead with the Pope Leo XIII for permission! IF she could get to him - which she did in an audience where the pilgrims in her tour group each got to kneel and kiss his ring. "No talking to the Pope!" they were firmly told. That didn't stop Therese! Oh, I wish I could tell you all that happened, but fortunately she does in her Story of a Soul. For now, I must rush headlong into the reason for the post, because believe me, our own story here gets even better!
You know all about my Saints of predilection, my intimate confidantes - at least the ones whose head shots top this post: St. Therese and our little brother, Servant of God Marcel Van. But there are always more Saints clamoring for our attention. You'd think they'd be quite busy with the Beatific Vision, but Therese has, I'm sure, thrown heaven into a tizzy since her arrival there. It's become all the fashion to keep one eye on God and the other on us, one hand in His, the other dropping roses on unsuspecting and hopeful (and sometimes seemingly hopeless) victims alike. So just listen to the latest in my little world of Saints and the rest of us . . .
Do you remember Sesame Street (or perhaps it was Electric Company) and the thrill of "Which one of these is not like the others?" We're playing that sort of game today here, and if you were to look up at those four pictures - they're today's Cloud of Witnesses and bright shining starts in the firmament of Heaven - well if you were to exert some energy and scroll up (but you don't have to! You're exhausted after all that tryptophan and I'm happy to tell you everything right here), you might notice that one of them is not like the others. You may not have been able to read the quote (hard to find proper lighting at a feast) to read the quote in our odd-man-out's box, but the quartet up there were St. Cecilia, St. Therese, little Marcel, and . . . some man with a tiny quote. Here is what he's saying, and if you are amazed that his words fit right in, well yes, but clearly he's different, not like the others, because:
a. He has a quote in his box
b. You've likely never heard of him . . .
Or at least let's say his fame is lagging far behind that of Cecilia and Therese, and if you're at Miss Marcel's Musings (and unless we've gone viral in some quite unexpected way, I believe you're reading this at MMM), then you certainly are acquainted with Marcel. But the guy with the quote? Let's get to him and name him, claim him, and enjoy the story he's got for us today!
He's none other than St. Raphael Kalinowski, a Polish Discalced Carmelite priest and, in fact, the first male Discalced Carmelite to be canonized since St. John of the Cross! St. John Paul II canonized Raphael (I think he beatified this wonderful Carmelite too), and his feast is celebrated November 19th - not on the universal Church calendar, but definitely on the Carmelite calendar. But wait! November 19th!? That's merely a triduum prior to St. Cecilia's feast, today!
So as it happened, just last Monday I was singing his praises with my little Carmelite prayer book (while I waited in line for returns at Walmart), and reading about him in a small book telling me of his life and words. He said some marvelous things about Mary, and as I stood in line, I thought I should later quote them here, but alas, there was more shopping to do and it never happened. The day ended, and we were moving right along. Raphael wouldn't, however, be left behind. He had a message for us, and it is SO FUNNY!!! (underline that three times!)
Here's what he did . . .
Last night I was staying up to go online (yes, outside my neighbor's house, but it's okay, they knew) to buy an Instant Pot (or two) on a Black Friday sale at Kohl's - without it being Friday and without my having to go anywhere with other shoppers. Leaving aside what madness possessed me, or rather reassuring you that God had it all in His tenderly solicitous plan, you will be glad to know that while I stayed awake, I had good reading material. (Oh, and I did get the Instant Pots for an incredible price.) I'd bought on my kindle the 99 cent French version of Story of a Soul - not the fancy new critical edition, but an old, old version which came with the early approbations that "first responders" sent to the Lisieux Carmel. These appear at the front of the book and I adore them! I've seen them before, but they aren't in any English editions I know of. In cases like this, I pretend I know French, and the "translate" feature on my kindle helps a lot! God bless Jeff Bezos (and Steve Jobs while we're at it) and may the Saints who find us through these modern techno devices find their founders, inventors, and salesmen too, and drag them to Heaven along with those of us benefiting from their gizmos.
Anyhow, there I was whiling away the time until midnight, and I skipped forward from these "blurbs" sent to the Carmel in 1899 to my very favorite part of the early editions of Story of a Soul - the "Shower of Roses" at the end of the book, wherein, in editions ranging from maybe 1905 to 1922, the Carmel attached testimonies of a different kind - letters they'd received attesting to miraculous graces and favors Therese had showered upon her first devotees. (Who were quite numerous already. As we mentioned recently, one February day in 1918, the Carmel received 500 letters! And that was just the high point of the week . . . letters were pouring into the Lisieux Carmel from the four corners of the earth every day, just as quickly as our sister was pouring down roses from heaven).
So . . . here is the first "Rose" I read in the Shower of Roses (or "Pluie de Roses") section of my 99 cent French kindle book (I will translate as we go, haha):
From the Monastery of Discalced Carmelites, Wadourie, Austriche (Austria). 9 October 1902.
Very Reverend Mother,
The inscription placed on the head of this letter [reparation] indicates my need to repair a fault committed by me against your little saint, Therese of the Infant Jesus.
Two or three years ago, when I was presented the manuscript with the translation into the Polish language of the life of this little flower of Carmel, I let myself remark that our language [Polish] didn't lend itself to the style of the original, and that the reading of it [Story of a Soul] caused only disgust. [For those who are fans of Marcel, you will like to know that the word here is 'degout'.]
My remark amounted to putting a brake on the apostolate of God's chosen one. She had to take this to heart. Nonetheless, not only was she able to act in such a way that the said translation was updated, but in addition, she was busy with me directly and personally.
A week ago, I went to my cell, a wreak of a man, my soul tossed by the waves of a stormy sea of inner turmoil and confused thoughts, not knowing where to find refuge or shelter. That's when my eye fell on the French book of the life of the vengeful sister. I opened it and I fell upon a poem: Vivre d'amour (To Live by Love).
Suddenly, the storm subsided, calm returned, something ineffable invaded my whole being and transformed me from top to bottom. This song was for me the rescue boat; the lovable sister offering herself to me as pilot. So I have to state today that her promise, 'I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth . . . After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses,' is realized in truth."
* * *
Isn't that awesome?
Oh, but wait, I forgot to add the signature . . .
Fr. Raphael of St.-Joseph, Discalced Carmelite, Vicar-Provincial.
I thought, "Oh, how marvelous, a Vicar-Provincial (or is it Provincial Vicar?) wrote of this lovely favor to the Lisieux Carmel in 1902, only 5 years after Therese died. Already all this happened only 4 years after the first French edition of Story of a Soul was distributed! How truly wonderful that our little sister was touching big people as well as little ones, and so quickly, and so personally! And she is 'vengeful!' Or more likely, full of mischief! How fabulous!"
And then I read the parenthetical remark that followed the signature, which though it was in French, reads like this in English:
(The Reverend Father Raphael Kalinowski died in the odor of sanctity, in the year 1907. His cause for beatification is being submitted to Holy Church.)
It's a good thing I was sitting down. What a bolt from the blue! St. Raphael was determined to make his way into our blog, by hook or by crook! [When relating all this to my husband this morning, he said, "He's a little vengeful himself, isn't he?" Ah Raphael - welcome to our mischievous world - you fit right in! Who would have known? But Marcel has won over heaven, so why should we be surprised at the antics going on among y'all up there?]
But back to our story . . . Shortly after Raphael alerted me to his deepest desire (I mean after you've got God right there, face to Face, what's left? A cameo on Marcel's blog, of course!), I found myself outside my friend's house in the middle of the night, purportedly to order Insta-Pots (and that did happen, thanks be to God, and at a remarkable savings!), but really and truly so that I could set up this post, complete with pictures of our Saints de jour. Including, to my continued amazement and amusement, a quotable quote from St. Raphael, who surely wants us to know that he too could be a Saint of predilection, he too would love to be our confidante.
He too has known the vicissitudes we experience daily: saying something unkind, regretting it but to what purpose since the damage is done, feeling inner turmoil, not knowing where to find comfort or rest, and being rescued when we least expect it by the one we least expect - the littlest Saint in heaven. For Therese was littlest then, until Marcel came to join her in 1959.
Now we get to be rescued by the very littlest one, but I'm confident Raphael was among the first to greet Therese's protege when he made it through the pearly gates. For how wonderfully Marcel lived the advice Raphael gives us today in his quote. And come to think of it, we now know Raphael was walking the walk as well as talking the talk - he surely was repentant, as you'll see from his lesson learned. Ready for his quote? Here it is, the wisdom he wants to share with us now, but in slightly larger print than we found above (since we've aged since we started this post!) -
"God refuses only the person who does not admit his own weakness; He sends away only the unhappy proud person. You must 'hold Him' well and strongly, with a poor spirit, with a poor heart, with a life entirely poor."
I think he learned his lesson well! This sounds like the Little Way to me!
Oh good Jesus, what are You doing? I'm supposed to be cooking up a storm, not reveling in Raphael's interior turmoil and Therese's rescue of him! Ah, but the days are long, and why not do both? St. Raphael, if you want to make sure this week doesn't pass without your cameo here, I'm happy to make it "realizee en verite" just like (or even as another instance of) Therese's promise.
One last thing . . . In the spirit of thanksgiving that characterizes this day, whether we're celebrating Thanksgiving, St. Cecilia's Day, or the visit of an unexpected guest from Heaven (and you're welcome anytime, St. Raphael K!), I must say THANK YOU, HEAVENLY FATHER for this vast communion of Saints. Most of all thank You for books - real and virtual, old and new, French, Polish, or my very favorite, English (and thank You for Jack K!) - in which we discover that the Saints who are with You now were with us then, as it were, walking this earth like us, finding friends among those who went before them, never suspecting they'd return the favor when they came to live before You on Mary's lap . . .
But how I treasure above all these moments of reading about our greatest heroes when they were simply human, only on their way to divinization (not there yet!) and meanwhile feeling degout in their day just like we feel in ours. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for showing us these consoling truths. And thank You, Jesus, for being the Truth, so near and dear to us, which shines forth from the little hearts of all these great Saints who, after all, were once little too and always will be, in the Light of Your Face!
Praying that the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit spills down in Therese's (and Marcel's, and Raphael's, etc, etc, etc) showers of roses onto YOU today, and onto the whole world!
Draw me, we will run!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Recently when we happened to muse upon Jesus' kisses here, I made sure to be clear that in Marcel's vocabulary, kisses are kisses. This might sound obvious to you - what else would they be? - but I wanted to distinguish the Jesus/Marcel kiss that is a kiss from the Jesus/Mother Teresa kiss that is suffering. And just in time, as Providence would have it! For sure enough, right at the beginning of week 3 in our 33 Days, at almost the first possible opportunity to talk about Mother Teresa, yesterday Fr. Gaitley quoted the famous incident she often related of her conversation with the suffering woman who, upon hearing that her suffering was the kiss of Jesus, asked Mother Teresa to ask Jesus to stop kissing her!
It's a great story, but it forces me to sound like a broken record because, come suffering or sweet consolation, I want to make sure it's known that for Marcel and Jesus, kisses are kisses.
This morning I was on a train headed for Los Angeles (don't worry, thanks to God's mercy I'm already home again, our errand in the City of the Angels having been speedily accomplished) and found myself sadly without my handy copy of Conversations. I wasn't wholly bereft, however, having recently purchased Story of a Soul for my e-reader, and having my e-reader in hand as we hurtled forward.
You might think it was a very romantic train ride when I tell you that I was thinking about kisses. It was romantic because my husband was beside me, but it wasn't romantic because it was about 6 a.m. and we were surrounded by commuters (very kind commuters, but we'll get to that soon enough). And I was thinking about kisses because I was reading the Bible (also on my e-reader - thank You, Jesus). And in particular, I had begun that gorgeous book of kisses, The Song of Songs. Romantic with Divine Romance, it begins, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth," or in another translation, "Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth."
Since the Bible is God's love letter to us, and this book above any other sounds like a love letter, it behooves us to know just what kisses it is we're asking for here. Also with Fr. Gatiley's Mother-Teresa's-suffering-is-Jesus'-kiss story fresh in my mind from yesterday, it was imperative that as a second little Marcel, I explain to Jesus just what kisses I wasn't asking for here.
I'd been struck even at that early hour - or perhaps especially at that early hour - by the kindness of the people we'd met thus far on our journey. It seemed to me that each of their acts of mercy and consideration toward us (and already these were piling up) was like a kiss from Jesus. How wonderful! When I prayed "Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth," I had to acknowledge that Jesus had been doing nothing else but kissing us all morning. And then I wondered what Marcel would say about my thought, about kisses, about everything.
The first Marcel being safely asleep at home, I turned to his sister Therese, always available in a pinch, a sort of ever accessible emergency contact. And since I had the digital version of her memoir with me, it was but the work of a moment to search "kiss" in those delightful pages.
Since Marcel loves being exactly like his sister and following her in everything, I knew that her doctrine on kisses, especially as found in his favorite book, Story of a Soul, would be his too. Did she have any kisses recorded there? I know Marcel and Jesus (and Mary and Therese) speak frequently of kisses in Conversations - asking for them, reporting them given, and generally making sure we readers know kisses are an important part of a healthy diet of love - but what about Therese in her autobiography? Had she known much about kisses before her little brother showed up in such need of them?
Absolutely! And the progression of Therese's kisses in Story of a Soul is a marvelous mirror of the progression of her love of (and from) Jesus. There are no less than 16 mentions of earthly kisses of affection within her family in the first pages of her Story - and that's just to get us to the place where she talks about Jesus' first kiss to her!
Since we're talking especially about Jesus' kisses and wondering what they mean and signify, let's go directly to that 17th mention of a kiss. Let's see what Marcel learned about Jesus' kisses when he read Story of a Soul, and what we can learn along with him.
Therese is talking about her First Holy Communion. She's been describing the day, setting the scene, sharing many particulars with us, but then she writes:
"I don't want to enter into detail here. There are certain things that lose their perfume as soon as they are exposed to the air; there are deep spiritual thoughts which cannot be expressed in human language without losing their intimate and heavenly meaning; they are similar to ' . . . the white stone I will give to him who conquers, with a name written on the stone which no one KNOWS except HIM who receives it.'"
I must comment here on one difference between Therese and Marcel. They both wrote under obedience to their immediate God-given superior (Therese to her sister and mother superior, Mother Agnes; Marcel to his "bearded Jesus" and novice master, Fr. Boucher), but Marcel is also writing in very direct obedience to Jesus, Who has told him to write down everything (and, most importantly, bearded Jesus has given his Church-sanctioned stamp of approval to this plan). I love that Marcel is not concerned to save any perfume! He's another Magdalene, breaking his alabaster flask of spiritual nard at Jesus' feet, and ours.
Therese has been a touch misleading, though, if she's made us think she's stingy with details, despite her observation about the beauty of reticence. She too is a Magdalene and must spill the beauty of her love and the story of her Lover's kiss. For she writes in plain language for us:
"Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said: 'I love You, and I give myself to You forever!' There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices; for a long time now Jesus and poor little Therese had looked at and understood each other. That day, it was no longer simply a look, it was a fusion; they were no longer two, Therese had vanished as a drop of water is lost in the immensity of the ocean."
That's what we, little Marcels, are asking for when we ask Jesus to kiss us! That is what Jesus-of-Marcel (or better yet and more precisely, Jesus-Marcel) is offering us when He promises us His kisses. Ah, that He may be everything for us; that we may give Him everything forever (which is what we're preparing to do these 33 days), and may we repeat with Therese what every lover feels when kissed by her beloved:
"There were no demands made, no struggles, no sacrifices . . . "
Believe me, I know that struggles and sacrifices and that other awful "S" word, suffering, will come. That's how things work in this valley of tears, but that doesn't mean there's no honeymoon, no foretaste of Heaven, no Jesus. And even though it may well be Jesus Himself who asks us to offer our suffering as a way to show Him our love, let's not worry that this is the meaning of a kiss. Marcel (and Jesus through Marcel) writes for the very littlest ones, and let there be no mistake: for a little one, a kiss is a kiss! Not to mention that a sigh is a sigh, and yet so much more, both of them being our ways of saying to Jesus: I love You, and I give myself to You forever.
Therese touches on this bit of Heaven contained in His kisses when she tells, in further pages of her memoir, of the times she and Celine spent in holy conversation when they were a bit older. She writes:
"I don't know if I'm mistaken, but it seems to me the outpourings of our souls were similar to those of St. Monica with her son when, at the port of Ostia, they were lost in ecstasy at the sight of the Creator's marvels! It appears we were receiving graces like those granted to the great saints. As the Imitation says, God communicates Himself at times in the midst of great splendor or 'gently veiled, under shadows and figures.' It was in this way He deigned to manifest Himself to our souls, but how light and transparent the veil was that hid Jesus from our gaze! Doubt was impossible, faith and hope were unnecessary, and Love made us find on earth the One whom we were seeking. 'Having found us alone, He gave us His kiss, in order that in the future no one could despise us.'"
I know how Therese feels. I've been blessed more than once over the years with the glorious grace of a heaven-sent conversation about spiritual things, and it does lift one up into the cloud of witnesses and near to Jesus' kisses. Being Goodness Incarnate, He will kiss us!
Can I tell you which heaven-sent conversations bring me Jesus' kisses these days?
I am smiling, imagining it's not hard for you to guess!
I feel Jesus' kisses most abundantly when I read Marcel's Conversations . . . when like Marcel did, I read Story of a Soul . . . when I speak to you here of our brother's and our sister's words . . . and finally and most wonderfully, when I tell you about Jesus' words and kisses that I've found in the pages of their lives. Then, like Therese felt with Celine, I feel like we too can say "How light and transparent the veil that hides Jesus from our gaze! Doubt is impossible, faith and hope are unnecessary, Love makes us find on earth the One whom we are seeking!"
Can you believe how lucky we are?!
We will all suffer, and I pray that we will all find Jesus in our suffering as we find Him in our consolations. But His kisses are not reserved only for such times of suffering, not for souls as little as ours. Jesus told Marcel again and again that it was Marcel's weakness and littleness, his great and desperate need for Jesus that brought Him near, so near that He promises they will never be separated!
Speaking of herself in the third person, St. Therese wrote about her First Communion in these words (just after the words I quoted above): "She felt so feeble and fragile that she wanted to be united forever to the divine Strength!"
And again, following her description of the holy conversations she shared with Celine, she wrote:
"When a gardener carefully tends a fruit he wants to ripen before its time, it's not to leave it hanging on a tree but to set it on his table. It was with such an intention that Jesus showered His graces so lavishly upon His little flower, He, who cried out in His mortal life: 'I thank thee, Father, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to infants,' willed to have His mercy shine out in me. Because I was little and weak He lowered Himself to me, and He instructed me secretly in the things of His love. Ah! had the learned who spent their life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection's secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit!"
After reading these words of his sister, no wonder Marcel could say in his Autobiography:
"The book, Story of a Soul, had become my dearest friend. It followed me everywhere and I did not cease reading or re-reading it without ever getting weary of it. There was nothing in this volume which did not conform to my thoughts, and what enthused me still more in the course of my reading was to see clearly that the spiritual life of Therese was identical to mine. Her thoughts, even her 'yes' and her 'no' were in harmony with my own thoughts and the little events of my life . . . .Truly, never in my life have I met a book which was so well adapted to my thinking and feelings as is The Story of a Soul. I can confess that the story of Therese's soul is the story of my soul, and that Therese's soul is my very own." (578)
Oh little brother! Did you ever imagine that you too would someday have a little sibling who would say exactly the same of your book and your soul? That would be me, for one, but I know I'm not the only one! I have had to resist reading your pages sometimes because I'm afraid the many kisses Jesus has reserved for us there will make me swoon! And then your sister's pages are no better, for you are peeking out from behind them, you who read and loved those pages so, and where your charming little face is, there are Jesus' kisses again! You are truly the worthy brother of your sister Therese who, even on her deathbed, invited kisses from those who visited her, begging for "A kiss that makes lots of noise!"
I don't want to leave you, dear reader of the beautiful pages of Fr. Gaitley, to fret for another second over the beautiful meaning of Jesus' kisses. Mother Teresa is a truly great Saint, a gift to our times, a friend who teaches us so much about loving Jesus and giving ourselves to Him through our Blessed Mother Mary, but we, disciples of Marcel, can take what we like, and leave the rest in this matter of the meaning of kisses. So letting our brother at last speak for himself, let me show you what is in my heart, what I like, what I mean, what I discover when I flip open Conversations to find you a passage on kisses:
Marcel: Little Jesus, I have some time now and I feel less tired; after more than an hour of recreation, how could I not be rested. You spoil me a lot, little Jesus. A moment ago there was no electricity; I asked You for it and You gave it to me immediately. The only drawback is that You amuse Yourself a little in not ceasing to make my light blink instead of leaving it steady. So, little Jesus, speak. You suffer from the defect of giving me too many kisses. Before I have even finished saying; 'Jesus, I love You' and from the moment that I appear a little joyful, You do not cease to cover me with kisses as if You have never given one to anybody. (237)
This morning when we were heading out to catch the train to L.A., we found our tiny freeway closed. Just for us, it seemed! We took the detour, prayed a Memorare, and hoped for the best. We were nearly at the train station with only a few minutes to spare, when our last remaining intersection shone at us a light that was red. Just for us! The other drivers, those going straight, had a green light, but in order to turn left we had to wait for our green arrow, and you know how that is. We'd have to wait through the whole cycle, letting everyone else go in every direction before we could expect to be allowed, finally, to go left. Perhaps too late to catch the train! Perhaps to be left to drive our car all the way into downtown Los Angeles! Yikes!
"Let's say a Hail Mary," I suggested.
We did, and for the first time in the history of the electric stoplight, or at least the first time in our history with electric stoplights, before another moment, let alone another cycle, had passed, our left arrow agreeably shone forth green. It was our own little miracle, and so I can appreciate Marcel's gratitude and joy when he writes, "You spoil me a lot, little Jesus. A moment ago there was no electricity; I asked You for it and You gave it to me immediately." Thank you, too, Blessed Mother! We asked you for a green arrow, and you gave it to us immediately!
What will Jesus and Mary do for you next? I'm so excited for you to find out! When you discover yourself in need (and if you're anything like Marcel and me, that's constantly), don't stand on ceremony, but ask so that you can receive. Then tell Jesus you love Him and get ready for the onslaught - of kisses! He will give them to you as if He's never given them to anyone else.
And what will He say when He's finished (for the moment) covering you with His kisses? We know what He'll say because He said it to Marcel, and in His infinitely tender love, He has promised that what He said to Marcel, He says to us. Here is how He replied to Marcel's happy accusations and how He replies to us too:
"Marcel, be happy. You have spoken long enough, it is now my turn. Really, Marcel, I indulge you in everything and I love you dearly. My only wish is to converse with you, to take delight in you and to joke with you, in a word, to do everything with you. Marcel, does this thought not please you? You always receive my kisses and my smiles; to each of your sighs I respond with marks of my love . . . Marcel! If you did not love me, whom would you love instead of me, your little Jesus? Marcel, think only about loving me; love me with all the love of your heart since only love is eternal. In heaven only the love to love me will remain in you, as your sister Therese has taught you." (238)
If Jesus' directives ("think only about loving me; love me with all the love of your heart") seem slightly daunting and above our pay grade, don't worry a single bit. If there's one thing Jesus is big on besides kisses, it's reminding us not to worry. He knows far better than we that only He can make our dreams (and His) come true.
Our sister Therese has just now taught us that she too felt feeble and fragile and thus had to depend entirely on the Divine Strength. Toward the end of Story of a Soul she explains the secret of Charity, the secret of loving: it is Jesus loving in us. If we are wondering who in us will love Jesus (for it seems unfair to give Jesus only His own Love), don't forget about the Holy Spirit! The Blessed Trinity to the rescue, I say, and that most Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' Mama (and ours) too. Let's ask them to love Jesus in us, and we'll be all set.
For the rest, let's say our prayer and call it a post. Jesus' kisses can be exhausting, and we don't want to use up our entire store of energy: we'll need some reserves for laughter, which is a given when our little brother is near at hand. How do we know he's near? Where Jesus' kisses are, there is Marcel! So pray with me, and then we'll give everything to Mary and worry no more.
Draw me, we will run!
We give ourselves to you through Mary, but one more thing:
Little Jesus, please kiss us with the kisses of Your mouth - in Holy Communion, in the kindness of others to us, in our kindness to them, and always, always, in joy and laughter!
I grew up listening to popular music, as well as classical. In college I came into contact with sacred music, and there's no question that my very, very favorite music is polyphony, but life is sometimes long and music wide, so I'm grateful for all sorts of songs.
I mention this now because a month or two ago I heard an old familiar song that reminded me of Mary, and I was going to post about it here, but what with one wonderful thing and another, I posted about some one of those other wonderful things instead. Yesterday I heard the song on the radio (again) and was thus reminded (just like that time a month or two ago) of Mary, and I knew that the song's time to be mused over had come. So here it is!
And I Love Her
I give her all my love
That's all I do
And if you saw my love
You'd love her too
I love her.
She gives me everything
The kiss my lover brings
She brings to me
And I love her.
A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have you near me.
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her.
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her.
* * *
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote it - may God rest John's soul and draw Paul closer to him every day. They had me at that first stanza: "I give her all my love, that's all I do. And if you saw my love, you'd love her too."
I remember hearing that Chesterton and Belloc having an ongoing debate. Was it better to be a convert, or a cradle Catholic? Who could better appreciate the riches of the Faith: the one who’d found them after a long search, or the one who’d known them from the nursery?
I think the answer must be both! For truly the riches of the Faith are immeasurable and their discovery ongoing. Chesterton once said that those who leave the Church have often (or always?) merely failed to know her. I’m bungling this quote, so please feel free to Contact Me and set me straight if you have a better rendition of the thought I’m trying to express, and an assurance that it was GKC who said it!
But the thought behind the quote brings us back to the Fab Four (God bless them all, come to think of it) and this lovely song. Because doesn’t it seem that whether we’re speaking of Holy Mother Church or Holy Mother Mary, it’s indubitable: “And if you saw my love, you’d love her too”?
The previous lines of the song, though, are the ones that really capture my heart:
“I give her all my love, that’s all I do.”
This is Marcel to the core! And it captures perfectly the simplest possible version of Marian Consecration.
I've been realizing lately how much Marcel has changed me, simplifying my spiritual life, delighting me with his (and his heavenly interlocutors') words, teaching me, just as St. Therese taught him, every sweet and easy step along the Little Way. Well maybe not every single step, but many of them. These two, Marcel and Therese, always have more to show me, just as there are always more steps along this Way to walk, but it’s pure joy, for as St. Catherine of Siena so rightly taught, "All the Way to Heaven is Heaven because He said 'I am the Way.'"
The sequel to my having picked up Marcel's Autobiography (and then his Conversations), and then once having finished his Autobiography, my being unable to ever definitively finish (or put down) Conversations, is that no other book reads quite the same again. Or maybe a better way to put it is that every other book - and song as well - does read quite exactly the same. Quite exactly the same as Marcel's books, speaking to me the same message, reminding me of favorite passages, and so on and so forth.
My experiences, too, only serve to reinforce the Truth in Marcel's Conversations. He (the Truth, Jesus) has overtaken my mind and heart in a new and deeper way since the Advent of Marcel. A new and deeper Little Way, to be sure, but ‘new’ and ‘deep’ only barely begin to express Jesus-Marcel’s effect on the Little Way.
It's as if I’d been groping along, bumbling and stumbling behind our sister Therese, calling out to her "Wait up!" as she seemed forever just beyond my reach and sight, around the next bend in the dark forest through which our Little Way wound. Suddenly I came out into a clearing and light streamed from the Heavens to show me it was not night at all, but mid-day, and the Way was so clear. Clear of brambles, clear of darkness. And there was a diminutive Vietnamese boy standing beside our sister St. Therese, holding her hand.
"He's our brother, Marcel, but you can call him Therese, too," our heroine told me, and then the three of us burst into laughter. We couldn't help it! The day was so fine, the sky so cloudless, the Way before us leading - we could see some of them - to glorious places with lovely vistas. But most remarkably, the boy holding Therese’s hand had an expression on his young face. How can I describe it? Earnest yet full of mischief; sincere, yet full of fun; inviting, daring, and at the same time, with that inscrutable Asian je ne sais quoi, both simple and wise. In a word: charming! (Or better yet, charmant!)
The upshot? I haven’t been the same since, and as I mentioned, neither has anything I see or hear (or read) – or rather, it’s very much the same, Marcel’s adorable face shining with the light of Christ right through it.
Getting back to the first two lines of our song, I’ll show you what I mean.
“I give her all my love
That’s all I do.”
At (235) of Conversations, Jesus tells Marcel (and us through him):
“Yes . . . you are very weak. I have never seen a soul weaker than yours. However, Marcel, this must not discourage you. It means little that you are weak. After having put everything into my hands, why would you be afraid of your weakness? All that remains for you to do is to love me. As for the rest, I will take it upon myself. Indeed, what can little children know? To love: there you have it, their sole occupation.”
And again (or previously, I should say) at (122) Jesus explains:
“My child, the smaller your love is for me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy. Let us suppose that the little one does not even know how to say to its mother the few words that I gave to him earlier and that he can only fix his gaze on her, be assured that he would receive from her marks of a love even more tender . . . My dear child, my love envelops yours and will last until the time when your love loses itself entirely in mine . . . 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.“
While Jesus is teaching us about how our love for Him, however small that love is, suffices to draw His love to us (and His love more than suffices!), He is also teaching us about the love of a mother and child. God’s own mother is the Mother par excellence, and we can rest assured she finds us doing enough when we simply fix our gaze on her. There’s another passage in Conversations where she says just that – when we gaze on her, she can’t help but respond before we’ve done anything else; to look on her is to call her; to behold her is enough.
And what does she do in response? How does Our Lady reply to the call of our smallest glance?
“She gives me everything
The kiss my lover brings
She brings to me
And I love her.”
Just as Mary is famous for bringing Jesus to the world at Christmas (and oh! The Madonna and Child stamps are available at the U.S. post office again! There is Jesus’ Mother holding Him and offering Him to us and the recipient of every letter we send!), so too that’s the central thing she’s been concerned to do every moment of every day of every single year since that first year of Our Savior’s birth. She wants to protect us and guide us, teach us and snuggle with us, heal our hurts and cheer our sadness, yes, everything a mother does Mary wants to do for us, but just as you could sum up a mother’s tasks in the brief statement, “She wants to give every good thing to her child,” so in our song we see that Mary actually does that, and so sweetly: “She gives me everything, and tenderly.”
But she who is so pure of heart, exceptionally single-hearted, she is able more than anyone else to give us what God gave her: Everything in one adorable package: Jesus! The Truth is simple, whether told in the books of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church or in the rapt looks of the smallest tot beholding a nativity scene in our commercialized world: Mary is the one to give us Jesus.
“The kiss my lover brings, she brings to me.”
She is so good to us! What else can we do but love her?
And yet in God’s goodness, there is more:
“Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her.”
The stars are the Saints – and they are so very bright! But the sky is also dark: the world in which we live, the nights through which we pass: dark, dark, dark! Ah, but we have nothing to fear. This love of ours will never die because it is enveloped in Jesus’ love. And His love? Enveloped in Mary’s and vice versa – just look at the new stamps, or any lovely image of the Madonna and Child.
But best and most truly of all we can say:
“A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have you near me.”
We do have Mary near us, and she will not allow this love to die, this love between ourselves and Love, that is Jesus Who is God (Who is Love). Remember how we said a mom wants to give everything to her child? Ultimately, that would be God (whether the mom knows it or not) – in Whom is every good, from Whom is every good. You can bet your bottom dollar that Mary is a mom who knows that, no question! And she won’t settle for giving us anything (or anyone) less. She’s got us covered, which is why the image (and reality) of her mantle is so lovely. Warm, safe, all-enveloping, like Jesus’ love.
If there be any doubt about whether God wants us to have the close relationship with Mary that our Marian Consecration (and our song-of-the-day) implies, we can let Jesus settle the matter. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He spoke with authority when He walked on earth, and He speaks with authority now. Like the sheep we are, we can hear His voice when He speaks to us through Marcel, and here is the passage in which He tells us what attitude to have to His Mother Mary. He was speaking on Good Friday (Conversations, 480):
“Remember today is the anniversary of the day when I gave you to my Mother Mary so that you might be her true child; it is also the day when I gave Mary to you to be your true Mother. Finding myself in the presence of my Mother, I suffered with joy. At that moment, when all the creatures of the world seemed to have abandoned me, only my Mother remained to comfort me. Even God the Father seemed to wish no longer to look at me; but my Mother Mary did not cease to look at me until the time when I escaped from suffering. Oh! Little brother, Mary is your real Mother as well as mine. When she sees you suffer, she is closer to you to console you, for all time until you, too, will have escaped all suffering. Mary, you are the true Mother of Marcel, the real Mother of all souls, never be far from your children . . . Mary is your true Mother, and you are really her child. Always think of her; she understands you better than you understand yourself. She knows your sufferings, she is always close to you, carrying you unceasingly in her arms and covering you with kisses . . . “
Oh Jesus! Oh Mary! How astonishing is the attention and tender, solicitous love you give to us! Never stop kissing us! Keep us close in your arms! And if we wriggle free, call us back to your lap, Mary, where we can play and visit with little Jesus and Therese and little Marcel.
The problem I run into is that I find Jesus’ words to us in Marcel’s books to be such beautiful words of Love and Truth that I’m somewhat bored by other books. (Not that this is a real problem since I haven’t nearly begun to mine the treasures from Conversations.) But perhaps this poverty in other books is why God has given me more music lately. Music is the food of love they say, and music has been feeding my love for Him.
Despite my disclaimer at the outset, lest you think I have only the Beatles’ music to fill my loving cup to overflowing (miracle-filled as their songs can be), I’ve got a surprise which will draw us to a higher level of art.
Last night I got to hear – for the first time in my 53 years – a performance of the entirety of Handel’s Messiah. God bless George Frideric Handel!!! And if you don’t mind a shameless plug (and so that I don’t sound partisan, I’ll recommend three products!) – if you love music, and if you want to go to college, do come to Thomas Aquinas College in sunny Southern California, where the student produced music is tremendously gorgeous, under the direction of Dan Grimm, (or for another great option, try Christendom College, where first under Fr. Robert Skeris, God love him, and now under the direction of Kurt Poterack, students have been making lovely music for decades). You might just find yourself, as I did last night, in Heaven, or at least looking into Heaven. Or even looking down from Heaven, onto the panoply of salvation history. Spectacular!
To complete my trilogy of college product placement, I’ll add that I recently heard from a wonderful young lady who is in her first year at Thomas More College. There she’s meeting in the chapel each day with fellow students (her own set of dear friends, becoming dearer by the day I’m certain) reading 33 Days to Morning Glory and together preparing for their Marian consecration (or re-consecration). That would be a great place to go too, if you’re looking for a good college!
But back to last night’s miracle of The Messiah. While I’ve loved many of the airs (arias) for many years and have loved playing them seasonally in renditions by Kiri te Kanawa and Kathleen Battle, last night I appreciated more than ever the choruses – it was like hearing the angelic choir, and then the saints’ voices in heaven mingling with them. This will be us!
I wasn’t the only one to wish I had a voice as lovely as an angel’s or as lovely as some of the saintly voices we heard in the performance. I’m thrilled to announce that in heaven we’ll all have such miraculously glorious voices! One more reason to hurry there! And yet, miracle of miracles, each voice was so different from the others, each so uniquely beautiful. Unlike in a recorded performance of The Messiah, this concert featured different soloists singing the different airs, so there were 3 bass soloists, 5 sopranos, 4 altos, 3 tenors, as well as a mezzo-soprano I’ve been lucky enough to know since her childhood. My good Jesus, what are You trying to do? Kill me with beauty before I hit 55? I’m ready!
I was so enraptured by the different voices. To realize that “soprano” or “tenor,” “bass” or “alto” is just a general description, and to begin to appreciate the range and variety of sound and personality within each of those categories was an awakening. It reminds me, in fact, of the angels, properly known within their 3 hierarchies of three choirs each (so 9 choirs total), and yet each angel a species unto himself!
The biggest lesson I learned, though, and the Marcel moment I took away, had not much to do with the music, but more to do with my part in the evening. Wanting to get myself and my husband and my son (and four of my son’s own dear friends who were with us for the afternoon) to the concert on time – or early, really – I managed to get us there about 10 minutes late! And I was going to meet another dear friend (very, very dear!) so that we might sit together, and I managed to make her late too!
To top it off, once we were there, entering on tiptoes so as not to disturb the on-time audience already seated in the new and magnificent St. Cecelia Hall, we found ourselves looking down from a side balcony and scanning for the very few vacant seats (that weren’t way below us in the front rows). To my joy, I found two aisle seats near us, pointed them out to my husband, and saying a hurried good-bye to our son, I led the way.
The very little way. For not only were the seats near us, but as soon as I found myself sitting in the lower of the two (they were one above the other and my husband was in the seat just behind me), I was horrified to realize what I’d done, and thus in reparation (of nothing!) I began to worry (about nothing, but we’ll get to that soon enough).
I’d abandoned our son to stand for an hour and a half of musical delight or, much more likely for anyone, I thought, extreme boredom. I hate standing! And I’d done so very little to prepare him for the concert. When he’d asked about The Messiah before we left home, I was in such a hurry to get us out the door that our teachable moment comprised my throwing a handful of disjointed and uncertain “facts” his way. Once there, I hadn’t even encouraged him to move forward along the balcony, past the others standing there, to where he could have a good view of the stage. So I sat in my own prized seat, unable to turn around to see him (I was raised with good Church manners and good concert hall manners too, though sometimes, like last night, I regret them!), and definitely unable to return to him to explain his options.
Yes, he is 16, but what better time to learn to love (or hate) high culture?!
I knew I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable (or even comfortable in any measure) before Intermission when we’d all be set free. Meanwhile I tried to remind myself not to worry, but in vain. Eventually I remembered that in the Little Way, failure is the new success, so I tried to assure myself that making everyone late and abandoning my son to an ignorant, view-less, standing fate was perhaps in some Little Way a good thing . . . and I remembered, to my chagrin if not to my consolation, that St. Therese had told Marcel (in a passage she’d brought to my attention yesterday morning, a passage in which Marcel tells us what she said this very week in November of 1945):
“Your worries are only about unfounded things.”
If only it were true!
And of course, it was.
After some time on the rack, I allowed my eyes to wander to the opposite balcony. There was my tall son, standing in a line-up of his friends, a group of good-natured teen boys leaning over a railing to watch the performers and the audience, occasionally whispering to each other, but for the most part looking completely comfortable standing, watching, and listening.
“Your worries are only about unfounded things.”
I think this statement is meant to cover every possible worry. I could switch over to worrying about the state of the world, the state of the Church, the state of our souls. But how unfounded those worries would be too, what with God governing the universe and Jesus taking care of everything.
In fact, returning to this passage from Therese (and it's a miracle that I’ve easily found every quote I’ve needed for this post, but that’s another story), let me supply for you the parts I didn’t remember last night. I won’t apologize for my forgetting them; as Jesus says, that’s just the happy opportunity for Him to remind me! He asked Marcel to write these things down because the words are meant for us too. In this case, our sister says to us in her words to Marcel:
“My dear little brother, when you feel trouble in your heart, remind yourself to have recourse to the love of Jesus and do not neglect to speak to me also so that I can help you with my advice. Do not forget either that your worries are only about unfounded things. I am kissing you dear little brother, be happy always in the love of Jesus. Little brother, remain peaceful. Formerly I also was inclined to worry, like you, but I regained my peace by obeying my director.” (Conversations, 127)
Therese didn’t always have a director, and not always one director, and the director she chose (Fr. Pichon) was often unavailable, having gone to far-away Canada for missionary work. But she found directors wherever Jesus provided them, and in her worst unfounded worries, the intense scruples she experienced as a girl, her sister Marie was the very helpful director Jesus provided. Praise God that when Marie went into the convent, Therese was inspired to seek a miracle straight from heaven. She turned to her two little sisters and two little brothers who had preceded her there, and begged them to obtain her cure. They did, and she became herself a great director for those, including her cousin Marie Guerin who became Sister Marie of the Eucharist, who suffered scruples too.
I know I’m not the only one to have found a helpful (and Heaven sent) director in books and tapes by the Catholic psychiatrist Conrad Baars (God rest his soul), as well as in the writings and friendship of St. Frances de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, and other Saints, and in various priests whose paths I’ve crossed, if only for one short confession or conversation (though sometimes, blessedly, for several, and in a few cases, for providential years’ worth). Finally, though, Jesus’ words to Marcel have been His latest and greatest direction for me. This book bears for me that inimitable mark of the Holy Spirit – the gentle Wisdom which frees my soul and at the same time fills me with a peace and joy beyond anything natural or earthly. Straight from Heaven!
Thank you, once again, Jack Keogan! Where would I be without your English translation of Marcel’s works? May our little sister fulfill her many promises by staying near you, showering you with heavenly roses, and making you love God as she does! (And this prayer is for all those you love, too!)
Speaking of Jack K., I don’t think he’ll mind if I tell you that he was inspired with a lovely plan for these 33 days. He selected, at random, 33 passages of Mary speaking to Marcel in Conversations, one for each day in preparation for her feast on December 8. I would say I wish I’d thought of it first, but then I can’t imagine the havoc this would wreak on my daily life. Each day reading something more marvelous than the day before, feeling compelled to share them with you, dear reader, in spite of every time constraint and shred of common sense. No, I think it’s better that I lead the way through Fr. Gaitley’s 33 Days of Morning Glory – the Little Way, as usual, in which we enjoy Beatles’ songs and Handel’s miraculous Messiah as we go forward, and forget to say much of anything about Fr. G’s daily insights.
Ah, but if I worried about what I said here, we’d never get anywhere. So instead, I will keep repeating my refrain. I’ve forgotten it as soon as it’s come off my fingers onto the virtual page, so let me repeat it for us again:
When you feel trouble in your heart, remind yourself to have recourse to the love of Jesus and do not neglect to speak to our sister Therese also so that she can help you with her advice. Do not forget either that your worries are only about unfounded things. Be happy always in the love of Jesus and remain peaceful.
As for what else there is to do . . .I can only tell you what works for me (and Marcel) –
I give her all my love
That's all I do
And if you saw my love
You'd love her too.
Although living in the modern world can be frustrating (to say the least), we do have access to the latest in blog technology, which means I can give you our picture of Mary again down here to save you the trouble of scrolling up (ah, instant Marian gratification!) . . . Then you can see my love and you’ll love her too!
First, to the One she is giving us to, and giving to us, we say:
Draw me, we will run!
Little Jesus, we love you a lot!
Thank You, little Jesus, for giving us Your Mother to be our Mother too!
And now, here she is, darling in her Immaculate beauty, and holding Beauty Incarnate, giving Him (and thus Everything) to us, and His kisses too – oh so tenderly!
p.s. I know I'm supposed to have Mary's picture right here, but hold your horses, that's coming just a smidge below because I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today is St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s feast day. This is important to us because she is one of those bright shining stars we (and John L. and Paul McC.) mentioned above, illuminating the dark sky. And guess what I found out by reading the blurb on her in Magnificat? She is the proto-Therese! Like our sister Therese, it’s said of Elizabeth that “she was a prodigy of charity . . . she died at the age of twenty-four.” But best of all, the hallmark of a real Therese: Once when confronted by her angry husband (for bringing their bread out to feed the hungry, and in his defense, perhaps he was hungry too), “she opened her apron and a bunch of red roses tumbled out.” Ah, that familiar but ever abundant shower of roses! And just think - this particular shower tumbled down in the 13th century! I was tempted to call Elizabeth “the first Therese” until I realized how complicated things could become – Therese would have to be the 2nd Therese, and Marcel the 3rd. . . So the proto-Therese it is! St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us, and help Therese and Marcel shower us with roses too! And now, for Our Lovely Lady:
I've had an experience in the last few days that shows me, once again, how very interested Heaven is in all that concerns us. And when I say "Heaven" is interested, I mean our Loving True Father, our adorable little Jesus, the Holy Spirit of Love, Our dearest Blessed Mother and her beloved spouse, St. Joseph, all of the angels, and every single one of our brothers and sisters, the Saints. That last category would include our littlest brother and sister, Marcel and Therese, and they perhaps more than any other delight in showering us with rose petals, if not always whole roses.
I've been dipping into Therese's Story of a Soul (the ICS edition translated by Father John Clarke, O.C.D - that's Order of Carmelites Discalced! - from Therese's original manuscripts, and published by the Institute of Carmelite Studies in Washington, D.C.), and wow, the front and back matter have been so much fun! After reading the first bit of the actual Story - the part that hooked Van from page one - I went to the various introductions, reading backwards on my kindle. I was walking on a treadmill while reading backwards, but don't worry, I wasn't walking backwards. Talk about "Don't try this at home!" And I wasn't even reading word-for-word backwards, just kind of paragraph by paragraph backwards. I think I first learned this trick when I was holding one of my own books in my hands for the first time after it had been newly published. I'd read it front to back a zillion times in manuscript in the many drafts and then proofs and page proofs, etc., but I still loved the book so much that I decided the next obvious way to approach it was from the back page to the front!
But leaving aside my backward ways, I then skipped forward to the back matter, the stuff that comes after the book proper. I started with the Epilogue, and unlike the Epilogue written by Mother Agnes for the originally published edition (I think that's who wrote it, and it is marvelous!), this newer one is a relatively recent addition (from the 1970's as opposed to 1898; one more proof of God's existence even in the 1970's: The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory re-aired yearly on network TV in the US, and the centenary edition of St. Therese's writings . . . how reassuring to realize God was with us even in the lean years!).
You'll appreciate how much I appreciated the Epilogue, and how obvious it is that Heaven is attending to us, when I tell you that there I read this saying from Therese: "I am not breaking my head over the writing of my 'little life.' It is like fishing with a line; I write whatever comes to the end of my pen."
I feel so much better about my own writing when I think that the pioneer of the Little Way, the very one in whose tiny footprints we're stepping as we venture forward, had precisely the same attitude that I do! Or to set aside my reverse order once again, I should say that I have the same attitude as our fearless leader.
But it gets better, better by far. Soon the author of the Epilogue, after telling us that Therese entrusted the publication of her writings to Mother Agnes, continues regarding our sister:
"She had a presentiment that her activity after her death would extend far beyond the influence of a book, that it would be worldwide. 'How unhappy I shall be in heaven if I cannot do little favors for those whom I love.' She began to multiply mysterious promises: 'I will return!' 'I will come down!' Then on July 17, she made her now famous prediction: 'I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making others love God as I love Him, my mission of teaching my little way to souls. If God answers my requests, my heaven will be spent on earth up until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.'"
Our sister is in complete earnest, and her prophecies have come true beyond anything even she imagined. Her sister Celine later said as much, and Therese herself had predicted this too (the mystery of God's magnificent benevolence, through her, exceeding every possible expectation - for He is Infinite Mercy, Limitless Love). And yet, amidst all this gravity, there remains Therese who is the sister of Marcel, and therefore, eminently silly.
And so I read in the Epilogue, "There was not the least bit of sadness in the atmosphere of the infirmary. Sister Marie of the Eucharist, Marie Guerin [Therese's cousin] wrote a note to her parents in which she said: 'As far as her morale is concerned, it is always the same: cheerfulness itself. She is always making those who come to visit her laugh. There are times when one would pay to be near her. I believe she will die laughing, she is so happy!'"
Ah, delightful Author of the Epilogue, I salute you! For what comes next but a catalog of Therese's tools of the mischievous trade:
"Therese was in possession of a large repertoire that expressed the depth of her character: puns, tricks, mimickings, jokes about herself and the doctor's inability to help."
How consoling to think that the very humor which appears to show a soul's superficiality could eventually be interpreted as the expression of depth of character! Of course, it helps if the humor and unrelenting cheerfulness persist through extreme physical suffering. I admit I'm okay with being considered superficial till the Judgment Day if that's the opinion I'll get in exchange for avoidance of physical (and any other kind of) suffering!
To tell you the truth, though, this post has gotten away from me. Like Therese, I'm stuck with whatever attaches itself to the end of my line, and today while I set out to feature the sentence I'm going to quote next from this Epilogue to Story of a Soul, I haven't quite prepared you to understand what I'm talking about. I've been sidetracked once again by the beauty of the Saints, which, if we're going to wander off, is a great path to take. Still, I have to try and get us back on course or (self knowledge is key) I'll meander and muse till the cows come home without getting to the point.
And the point is, as the title above indicates (nah, don't scroll up, it was simply "The Littlest Therese"), a consideration of Therese and Marcel and a resolution of that burning question: which one is least? Possibly, thus, greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, but for now we'll just tackle their status while on earth. Having written last week about Marcel Van: the Littlest Redemptorist at Catholic Exchange (and yes, if you somehow missed that reflection, you can click HERE), this week I was gobsmacked by a sentence from the Epilogue of Story of a Soul, a sentence which brought home to me the answer to above said burning question. But after all I've said in the preceding paragraphs, you can hardly be impressed if I now trot out evidence in favor of the striking claim that Marcel (and NOT Therese) is the littlest Therese. After I've shown how very impressive Therese was in her illness (staying cheerful, even amidst, though I hate to mention it, her trial of faith) and the predictions she made about her heavenly glory, I've conspired to make her look awfully big, so naturally Marcel will be the littler of the two. (Plus, if you look at their pictures up at the top, you can see Marcel is the littlest! Though yeah, I know, it could be an optical illusion. In actuality he was the smaller of the two, but we're talking about poverty of spirit and that sort of thing, not poverty of height.)
Okay, so if you're wondering what in the world I'm talking about, putting Therese and Marcel in competition for a title that seems to pertain only to those named Therese (this is about "The Littlest Therese" not "The Littlest Saint," though these amount to the same thing), let me remind you that Jesus and Mary refer to Marcel as "The Second St. Therese." Given, then, that there are two little Thereses, again we ask: which is the littlest?
We already suspect it is Marcel, but here is the proof, as well as the argument. The sentence that thrilled me to the core was this one (again, from the Epilogue to Story of a Soul) which described St. Therese toward the very end of her life:
"She had become perfectly simple."
The author then quotes our sister as saying, "Everyone will see that everything comes from God. Any glory that I shall have will be a gratuitous gift from God and will not belong to me. Everybody will see this clearly."
Sadly this seems to be one of her prophecies which is no longer true. I think it came true at the beginning of her life in heaven and the beginning of her glorification when, to the utter shock of her sisters in the convent (not her blood sisters there, necessarily, but the others who had lived with her as religious sisters), this hidden nun about whom it was said (and she even overheard them saying it!), "What will we have to write about her after she dies?" was bringing hundreds of letters a day to their mailbox. Letters about her worldwide appearances, consolations, "little favors" and big to the near and the far. I was looking in the Posthumous Chronology this Story of a Soul provides and wondering what would be said (if anything) for 1918 - 100 years ago. Here is the one entry I found:
"1918: February 9: The Carmel received 512 letters that day."
My husband has been wondering when anyone will mention that this Veteran's Day (the day before yesterday) marked exactly 100 years since the Armistice was signed to end World War I - called at the time The Great War because of the rampant devastation, the unprecedented death toll from so many countries . . . Hi honey! I know you won't be reading this, but I'll tell you later tonight: I did! I mentioned it! Because it was in this same horrible war, when paper was short, tempers and time and lives were short, that 512 letters arrived in one day (February 9) at the Lisieux Carmel testifying to St. Therese's presence in the lives of those who had found time, spirit, and energy to write those letters, and money to post them! Keep in mind these weren't the only letters received that month - this was just the high water mark. Usually there were only 500 or so! A day!! Testifying to Therese's having come down and touched these lives!
The nuns were scratching their heads under their wimples! Or perhaps by then they'd gotten used to the deluge in the mailbox. But the point is, they would have seen, having lived with little Therese, having been her contemporaries, that it was all God's doing . . .
But we seem to have wandered away from Marcel again, and that won't do at all (Jesus never did, Therese never did, and we must strive to do so much less than we do)!
So here is the deal: while Therese became perfectly simple at the end of her short life, Marcel didn't ever have to become perfectly simple, because he always was perfectly simple!
Isn't that wonderful? It's taken me all day to say it, but it was worth it! I started writing this post this morning, was interrupted by Life, returned to it this evening, and phew! At last I've gotten out what I have been wanting to say.
Do you demand more proof? If you doubt Marcel's simplicity, I dare you to give him a test. Get out your copy of Conversations (and if you don't have one yet, I encourage you to save your shekels and get one asap) and open to any page . . . Simplicity personified! The quintessence of simplicity! The second little Therese without a doubt, living the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood from the truly innocent heart of an eternal child.
Okay, I must give you one quote. Let's see what the Holy Spirit sends us . . .
Ah! The passage I was too lazy to quote recently, but that's okay, since according to Marcel, Jesus is lazy too! At (589), our little brother is talking to Mary about cleaning his room. It reads like a Marx brothers' exchange, because Mary is concerned about the room of Marcel's soul, and he is concerned about his physical room that must be cleaned . . . And the Holy Spirit has given us the perfect Marian passage to help us see just how dependent we are on Our Lady, even before our consecration! How much sense it makes to continue our 33 days in preparation of giving all to that lazy and adorable Jesus through our darling Mother. Just listen!
Marcel: Mary, little Jesus is very lazy. He shares the same room with me but He never takes the trouble to sweep the floor. I have to do it each week. I am asking you to mention it to Him in my place, since if I speak to Him about it, I am not sure He will listen to me. This bedroom is full of spiders' webs; if it continues like this, perhaps, in a little while, I will not even have a path to get out. The Zealator has already blamed me twice but I haven't got enough time to sweep. As for little Jesus, He spends all day playing, but He does not take the time to sweep. He has obviously decided to allow me to suffocate in this room. . . Ah, I've found the answer! You must allow me to make, as appropriate, a division of labour. Without that it will be very difficult for me. Little Jesus will sweep instead of me, my sister Therese will wipe the table and make everything tidy and you, Mother, will make my bed. And, as I am very small, I will go and play. Mother, do you agree? It is fair that I divide the work in this way, otherwise, I will continue worrying.
Mary: Marcel, who has told you to worry? Up till now you have not had to worry at all about the room of your soul.
Marcel: But Mother, I am talking about the room I live in.
Mary: My child, just listen to me a little. Your soul is really a living room; and in this room, what dust and untidiness . . . It is I who must sweep it and make everything tidy; it is I who must make sure to open and close the door so that you may breathe easily and be comfortable. In short, it is impossible for me to favour you more than I do. I am like your servant. After having freed you from your scruples, I save you from occasions of sin . . . And yet, my child, you complain about having the most difficult work? Whether or not you divide up the work, I still must do everything, whereas you have no other job but to play. Would playing be a very difficult task for you? So, change jobs with me. My child, you see that I wish to have fun so you may be happy. Truly, if I confided to you the care of the room of your soul, you would not know how to find a means of getting out; you would certainly have a body tangled up in spiders' webs.
Marcel: But, Mother, little Jesus and my sister Therese are, then, doing nothing?
Mary: You are, all three of you, busy playing, what more can you want? If little Jesus and your sister Therese were busy like me, who would play with you?
Marcel: Mother, must you really give yourself so much trouble? The room of my soul is certainly very small, so that, in my opinion, your work ought not to consist of anything tiresome.
Mary: There is only one job I find tiresome. I have even asked little Jesus and your sister Therese to help me in this, but it seems that we have not yet fully succeeded. Do you know what it is a question of? Bearded Jesus, himself, has not been able to bring it to a close; I mean that he has not succeeded in ridding you of anxieties. This spider's web is very difficult to remove, but I have the firm hope that one day you will be relieved of it. I know that this spider's web, in which consist your troubles, makes breathing very difficult for you. However, remain in peace. I am going to do the chores for you and so you will be very happy.
Marcel: But Mother, this room I am living in is very dirty, so what can be done?
* * *
Let me leave you with the assurance that Mary does give Marcel a solution to his physical room's cleaning too! It will happen the next Thursday, and 15 minutes will be enough time for Marcel to make a quick job of it. But do you see what I mean? The simplicity, the naturalness, the familiarity! This is why God has given us Marcel. He gave Therese to Marcel to teach him to do what came naturally - to speak to Him on intimate terms with no self-consciousness . . . and He gave us Marcel to show us in his every conversation just how very intimate and familiar God desires us, too, to be with Him!
And with that, I will pray with you in utmost simplicity to the dear Father who wants to give us (and everyone) every good thing - let's not wait any longer to sigh to Him our yes!
Draw me, we will run!
p.s. And now I will post this with more simplicity than I feel entirely comfortable with, but forgive me for this time it's not laziness. My computer is almost out of battery! I have not yet proofread to the degree that perfection demands, so let's rest in littleness tonight - even though Marcel has already won that race!
I've titled this post "One More Thing" because our main focus will be one more (very main) thing, but before we get to that, can I just say how much I LOVE (love, love, love, love, love, ad infinitum, which means it goes on forever and I sure hope it does) writing about Marcel? Oh I do, I do, I do, I do, I do! Et cetera! So we take this moment to thank our sponsor, Almighty God, for creating us (that would be me and Marcel, and you, dear reader) and for letting us (me and Marcel) write about Him to our heart's content so that you (that clearly is simply you!) can get to know us (and especially Marcel and Jesus) better. What a gift! What a joy! What a foretaste of Heaven!
I have this awkward habit of introducing people to each other. I mean people who already know each other. I did it again today, visiting the campus of Thomas Aquinas College where my husband teaches and where I first fell in love with Jesus when we were students (my husband and I, not Jesus!). There we were at lunch and I was sitting between a freshmen girl and a senior girl, and I asked if they knew each other, wanting to introduce them. They did know each other, so once again I was unneeded in my capacity as cruise director, but I like that better than failing to introduce people who don't know each other. I tell you this because when I say that this joy of writing about Marcel is a foretaste of Heaven, it occurs to me that Heaven will be hilarious - me constantly interrupting the Beatific Vision to make sure and introduce everyone to Marcel and Marcel to everyone! But we'll all know each other then, so I guess I'll be the only one there still dependent on my guardian angel, who will be forever trying to calm me down (and get me to stop introducing Marcel).
Speaking of introducing Marcel, I was delighted to receive 2 emails from women who have happily just met Marcel thanks to the piece on Catholic Exchange the other day. Woohoo! I bet there were at least 2 or even 4 more who met Marcel there and didn't have the time or courage to write me about it. This is the Little Way at its finest! I had to laugh that the title of the piece (and I'll make this clickable in case you haven't seen it yet) became: Marcel Van, the Littlest Redemptorist. I had titled it merely The Littlest Redemptorist, thinking that this would arouse curiosity and get more readers. The editor is much brighter than I am and knew that if he added Marcel Van to the heading, although readers wouldn't have to dive in to know who the littlest Redemptorist is, they could also, at a later date, find the article by googling Marcel Van. Brilliant! My hope is that those who already know Marcel, those who are just meeting him for the first time, and those who may want to learn more in the future will be thrilled that I keep introducing him!
But now, for one more thing. The one more thing, that is. The main thing, really, and the reason for the title of this post. No more preliminaries, except those that lead directly to it . . .
I've mentioned before on this blog that I've written a book on St. Therese (as of today, unpublished; feel free to say a prayer that it finds its publisher and brings great spiritual joy to many), and I may have mentioned too that the book is about St. Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love.
We've been talking here lately about Fr. Michael Gaitley's book 33 Days to Morning Glory, because this is the preparation time for making a Marian consecration on December 8. Did you know that he has another book called 33 Days to Merciful Love? This second book is about making Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. St. Therese had offered herself as a victim to God's Merciful Love on June 9, 1895 (Trinity Sunday), and again along with her sister Celine (Sister Genevieve) two days later on June 11, 1895. She then invited their sister Marie of the Sacred Heart to make the offering, and eventually invited the novice Marie of the Trinity to make it too.
Why am I bringing this up now? Because as we prepare to offer ourselves, all we are and all we have, to Jesus through Mary, we have to reconcile ourselves to giving her all our merits. (For those of us who've been traveling this Little Way for a long time, we may have no problem giving Mary all our merits, and all our baggage too when it comes down to it, since we know that the former is a light burden and the latter a heavy one!) I sent you in the last post to an article I'd written on Catholic Exchange on Giving Everything to Mary (you can click the title and read it now if you missed it yesterday), and then I added in that previous post a couple more ideas on why this giving absolutely everything to Mary is such a good idea.
Well, wouldn't you know I forgot something? It's related to giving Mary everything, and it's related to Therese and the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, and it's related to Marcel! I can't imagine anything more pertinent to our musings, so now that I'm remembering, we'll give it a go (the one more thing, and my telling it to you).
It's like this: Speaking to God, St. Therese explains in the second paragraph of her Act of Oblation:
"Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness . . ."
It struck me that we'd be mighty silly to worry about hanging on to our own piddly, measly merits when we, too, having Jesus as our Spouse, possess all His infinite merits!
Imagine you have 50 cents in your pocket (or 1 Euro). You're walking down the street with your mom, and she sees someone she knows getting on a bus. The person is fumbling for the fare, can't find it, looks to be worried about being thrown off the bus, and your mom asks you, "Can I have your money, dear?" She's going to give it to the person on the bus, and take care of that pesky fare.
Oh! I forgot to mention that in the bank you have billions of dollars. If you're a child, let's say you inherited it from a rich uncle. If you're an adult, let's say you're married to a billionaire and naturally (since your spouse is a really nice billionaire) you have a joint bank account.
Besides being the kind thing to do even if you weren't wealthy, now that we know you are wealthy, doesn't it only make sense that you'd surrender your 50 cents to Mom without the least sigh of regret? Thanks to your mom's perception of her friend's dilemma and need, and her knowledge of your 50 cents, you've been able to do a very sweet act of mercy, even though that 50 cents (or 1 Euro) wasn't your widow's mite after all.
I'm sure you know what I'm getting at, but let me spell it out.
Since we, like Therese, can claim Jesus as our Spouse, His infinite merits are ours! We too can offer these gladly to the Father (my goodness! That's a little more merits than even we need!), and then why should we cling to our own small store of merits when they, in their turn, can be useful to Our Lady and her clients worldwide?
If we skip a bunch of paragraphs of the Act of Oblation (which include some of my favorite paragraphs, but we'll let that go for now), we find Therese teaching us to add the following words to our conversation with God:
"In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our Justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!"
My stars, what inspiration possessed our dear sister when she composed these words? How magnificent that she thought of everything, put it all into one prayer, and we can just repeat after her. The part that especially wins my admiration now? "I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself."
I don't really know what is left to say except, "Here they are, Mary! All my merits, past, present, and future. Help yourself! I won't be needing them, I'm planning to be clothed in Jesus!"
He is truly everything to Therese, and to us too. Which makes it a touch ironic that I'm referring to Jesus as "one more thing," but hey, He's meek and humble; I'm sure He won't mind this familiarity in our talk about Him as long as we don't forget to talk about Him!
Speaking of forgetting always reminds me of Marcel, and he's been waiting eagerly for me to get to the part of this post where I talk about his contribution.
I may have mentioned here before that in a stunningly tender manifestation of Divine Love, the day I got my first copy of Marcel's Conversations in the mailbox was the very day I'd finished my Therese book about her Act of Oblation (and in particular, about one specific petition in her Act, a petition that has the power to change the world, one soul and one tabernacle at a time).
As the two years have passed since that happy day, as I've immersed myself repeatedly in Conversations, I've seen more and more passages that reflect beautifully on Therese's Act of Oblation. Marcel wasn't sure how to make this Act, so he asked his sister Therese to make it for him. Since she invented it, as it were, she was the perfect one to make sure he made it and made it right, but without any undue labor on his part, thus leaving no room for him to worry about doing it correctly. This is the Little Way, after all!
In one of my favorite passages (okay, sure, one of about 77 favorite passages, but still, it counts), Marcel asks Jesus what it is to be a Victim of Love.
Jesus says: "They are victims who, through love, offer themselves to Love. These victims leave to Love complete liberty to accomplish His desires in them but of themselves, they do nothing to expend themselves; it is Love, that is to say the Holy Spirit who acts spontaneously in them . . . " (565)
At other times, Jesus reminds Marcel that he's already given Him everything. When did Marcel give Jesus everything? As we give everything to Him through Mary when we consecrate ourselves to her, so too Marcel and Therese gave everything to Him when they consecrated themselves to Divine Mercy, or in other words, offered themselves to Merciful Love.
Time and time again, Jesus refers to bits and pieces of the Act of Oblation, and His words carry the Divine Authority that is His special charism. In another of my 77 favorite passages, Marcel wants to know if every soul can claim Jesus as its Spouse. Our Lord is very clear. The short answer is YES!
If you'd like to acquaint yourself with Therese's Act of Oblation, you can click HERE and find it at the bottom of my Favorite Prayers page (you'll need to scroll down, and good luck getting past all the favorite prayers that come before it! They're lovely, though not as lovely as the pictures gracing the right side of the page). What's fabulous about this Act is that Therese begged Jesus to cast His Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls, and she begged Him to choose a legion of little Victims for His Love. At her canonization, Pope Pius XI repeated this prayer to Jesus. For the record, I must add that I have every hope that you - yes, you, reading this now! - are among that number!
But whether or not you've seen the Act before, formally made it, or understood what it contains, I'm confident that the infinite treasures of Jesus' merits is already yours. You are His Spouse, little soul! Which is one more reason to give your own merits to Mary. You've got enough to do to offer Jesus' to the Father. What an embarrassment of riches!
These are a lot of big thoughts for such little souls as we are. Let's end with a prayer, and trust everything to Jesus through Mary. But first, a gratitude list.
Thanks, little Therese, for your Act.
Thanks, little Marcel, for your great idea that we ask Therese to make it for us!
And thank You, Heavenly Father, for creating us to delight Your Beloved Son!
Draw me, we will run!
Little Jesus, come with us!
Little Jesus, we love you a lot!
Before anything else, I wish a huge Happy Founding Day to all Redemptorists, in heaven and on earth! In honor of their day, the littlest Redemptorist and I have paid a celebratory visit to Catholic Exchange today, where you can read the thoughts of not only Miss Marcel, not only Marcel himself, but - yes, I'm not kidding - even the words of the postulator of Marcel's cause, the French Benedictine, Father Olivier de Roulhac, O.S.B.! Shall I send you away to read it? I can't resist giving you the link now, though I hope you'll come back to read the rest of our musings here after you've read our musings there. Or stick around and I'll give the link to the CE article again at the end of this post. If you just can't wait (we're very little here and thus into immediate gratification like a babe ready for Mama's milk), you can zip over to Fr. Roulhac's (and my) comments HERE.
Oh! But I should add, if you're visiting this page (Miss Marcel's Musings) for the first time, having discovered us over there at CE, we extend a hearty welcome!! Yes, I know there's a whole other page for welcoming you to this website (you can click to it above, on the far left), but this blog is our intimate corner of Mary's lap where we spend time with little Jesus, St. Therese, and our brother Marcel (and of course Mary) - so welcome to Our Lady's lap! We're glad you've found us, and feel free to roam around the posts at your pleasure. There are 10 posts per page, and then at the bottom of the pages you can follow the arrows back to previous posts. The blog began at the end of December 2017, so you have nearly a year of Marcel musings to catch up on. Enjoy! We're so glad to have you with us for the ride!
We've been talking these days about consecrating ourselves to Mary, and in Fr. Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory, we're smack in the middle of some pages (3 days worth) of reflecting on Giving Everything to Mary. Oooooooh, did you notice the shimmer on Giving Everything to Mary? I recently saw a little girl's shirt that said (very sparkly-like) "My favorite color is glitter," and I know just how that little girl feels! Shimmer works for me too, and the truth is, it's link city here today. I have a confession to make that explains why, from a gal who only links to Conversations, I'm suddenly sending you other places: I got to provide the links for my (and Fr. Roulhac's) article at CE, and there's something so addictve about providing links!
Well it's more than just an addiction, it's really a way of life. No, not providing shimmery links like magic carpets to send you whizzing around the Internet to excellent articles, but rather Giving Everything to Mary. Oh yikes, I did it again. But that's mainly (besides the addiction) because I've said most of what I want to say to reassure you about giving everything to Mary over at an article, again at CE, that I wrote already. Why re-invent the Marian wheel? Though I have thought of just a couple tiny other things I'd like to add to what I said there . . .
1. Fr. Gaitley, following St. Louis Marie de Montfort, is talking about giving all our good deeds, merits, etc. to Mary to dispense. It occurred to me just this morning that one of the best ways we have of praying for others is having Masses said for them. I'm sure Mary is a big fan of this approach to mercy, and this is an infinite gift that goes straight from our hearts to the priest to God. Not that I'm trying to exclude Mary's being an intermediary! I'm sure she will sprinkle her version of shimmery, sparkly, glitter (i.e. grace!) on our offering as the angels (of whom she's the Queen) wing it to God. But this is an offering (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) that we don't want to forget we can always (when we're in funds and have a few pesos for alms) use to help others in their needs. Even to the end of her life, St. Therese loved, when she could, to have a Mass said for Pranzini, her eldest convert, a truly needy soul whom she'd refer to with laughter (confident in God's mercy for him), saying, "Yes, he is my first-born. He was very naughty!"
2. But along these same lines of offering our prayers for others, and especially that most powerful prayer of Jesus Himself in the Mass, I've realized that by giving everything to Mary, we also avoid the opposite problem of not being able to dispense our gracious gifts by ourselves. I have a priest friend who once told my family, "Be sure to always have an intention for your Mass and your Holy Communion! Otherwise it is practically wasted!" I know what he meant - it's such a fabulous privilege to be able to offer our prayers for specific people, needs, and hurting souls. In giving everything to Mary we are, in one sense, rescinding that gift, but on the other hand, it prevents us from ever "wasting" our graces! If we forget (hey, this is Marcel-land here, kind of like the poppy field in The Wizard of Oz - lots of forgetting going on! not to mention tiredness and sleeping!) No worries! If we've forgotten to offer our prayers (and since Jesus and Mary tell us through Marcel, in no uncertain terms, that our every sigh, glance, and breath can be a prayer, that's a lot of prayers to remember to tag with "To/From" cards), we can relax because Mary's taking care of everything.
Which reminds me of the last thing I really must say before signing off and letting you read Fr. Olivier's wonderful remarks on Marcel and my own reflections on Mary's maternal love:
For this past week, ever since I decided not to re-do the prep and consecration to Mary (and write about it here) and then Our Lady decided that I would re-do the prep and consecration to her (and write about it here), I've been keenly aware of giving all my projects into her very capable hands. And guess what? Miracles have been happening! If you don't mind my telling you a secret (which, hey, could go viral any minute, since Marcel-land is in blog-land which is in Internet-land), it was only two days ago that I received Fr. Olivier's request to get his words on Marcel out and about for the happy consumption of the English speaking world. Fr. Olivier's request reached me through the kind mediation of our hero Jack Keogan, and if you're new here, or in case you're a Miss or Mr. Marcel and have forgotten, Jack is the retired British gent who so generously and mercifully translated Marcel's entire oeuvre (that's French for work, which everyone connected with Marcel seems to do a lot of, except me! I just play and it is delightful!) into English for us.
It's always an honor (or rather, an honour) to get an email from Jack, but one in which he relays a message from the postulator of Marcel's cause? You coulda knocked me over with a feather! I was in awe and even kind of impressed with myself for a second, until I remembered that I'm just the girl Mary and Therese and Marcel (and our adorable Jesus) picked out to blab in English - the only language I'm any good at - about our little brother. Since we know from Scripture, history, and Marcel's inimitable Conversations that Jesus and Mary always choose the weakest and littlest ones to do their work, laughter was my subsequent reaction to receiving such a wonderful request.
Anyhow, that was just 2 days ago. As Therese tells Marcel when they first meet and speak to each other, God's timing is always perfect, neither pushed forward nor held back for a single second! Thus yesterday I found out that today was this glorious anniversary for Marcel's spiritual father St. Alphonsus, for his bearded Jesus, Fr. Antonio Boucher (another of our big heroes here), and indeed for Marcel himself and all Redemptorists. It was but a moment's work (on Mary's part) to give me the idea to write something for Catholic Exchange in celebration of the day. Something by a Carmelite (me) which could include the reflections of a Benedictine (Fr. Olivier) about the littlest Redemptorist (our own Marcel). How very ecumenical of us!! And a big thank you goes out to Michael Lichens, editor of Catholic Exchange, kind friend, and the man who brought the article to the light of day this morning - and in perpetuum, as the Internet does tend to keep things around forever! God bless you, Michael! May Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the angels and all the Saints (especially the Redemptorists, where the last and least shall become first) pray for you and shower you with heavenly graces!
And the same wish goes for you too, who are reading this now. Many happy returns of the day, and for your clicking pleasure, here are the links again:
Marcel Van: The Littlest Redemptorist
Giving Everything to Mary
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a holy hour to cover. Yes, I'll be praying for you! So no worries, anymore or ever! If you want to pray with me, we'll start now:
Draw me, we will run!
We love You, little Jesus, oh so much!
Thank you, Mary, for taking care of absolutely everything!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below. To receive new posts, enter your email and click "Subscribe" below.