"Was it not in prayer that St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis, St. Dominic, and so many other famous Friends of God have drawn out this divine science which delights the greatest geniuses? A scholar has said: Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I will lift the world. What Archimedes was not able to obtain, for his request was not directed by God and was only made from a material viewpoint, the saints have obtained in all its fullness. The Almighty has given them as fulcrum: HIMSELF ALONE; as lever: PRAYER which burns with a fire of love. And it is in this way that they have lifted the world; it is in this way that the saints still militant lift it, and that, until the end of time, the saints to come will lift it." -St. Therese, final page of Story of a Soul
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I can't remember how many times I've heard friends going through great trials say, "I feel the prayers. They are carrying us through."
I know usually I can't remember because I'm Miss Marcel, and Marcels don't remember anything! But this time I remember well the reality, but merely can't remember the number of times it's happened, because it has happened so many, many times. And now, I rejoice to say, it is happening to me.
If you are reading very carefully (between the lines), you might immediately see what I saw just now while writing this (between the lines). If I'm rejoicing that this is happening to me (and God is so good that I must rejoice, not merely to say it but to live this experience of being buoyed up and carried along by prayer), that means I, too, must be going through a great trial. And rejoicing?
Before we get carried away, let me say that someone dear to me is going through a great trial, and so don't worry that I'm suddenly a big fan of suffering! But the amazing thing is that what I have seen and felt in the last 24 hours is an outpouring of grace that rivals the crossing of the Red Sea.
Okay, the image seems wrong - the parting of the Red Sea was not an outpouring but a holding back of waters . . . Those were salty tearful waters of a bitter, harsh sea, and these are floodwaters of grace, like rain during a drought or, better still, like the water Therese and Marcel are pouring on the little flower pots in the photo above. But in both cases, the result is the same: the irresistible urge to sing a new song in praise of God's mercy.
My father-in-law Paul is in great need of prayer. He had surgery a few months ago, and has been in a kind of decline of health and energy since then. In fact, to put his name in a sentence that includes the word "energy" is so unfitting that I'll say instead that my wonderful and good father-in-law has been utterly exhausted and weak, and thus in increasing stages of being cared for.
To speak for myself, I just love being cared for! I discovered this when I was pregnant with our first son. It was so natural for me to ask others to do for me what I could have done for myself. Just give me an easy chair and a good book, and I'm ready to stay there indefinitely, if you would just please bring me a glass of cold water, yes with ice please, but not too much. Oh, and a butterscotch sucker from See's. We don't have one in the house? Would you mind going to get me one? They'll even give you one as your free sample if you ask . . .
As another MIss Marcel told me recently, some of us are born princesses (think the Princess and the Pea).
And then there are the Pauls of this world. You know, those with gumption who don't want to be waited on hand and foot. Go figure!
But truth be told, it cannot be fun to have all your power and self-control, all your surroundings and even when you can get out of bed or back into it, and most of all when you can go home (ah, even in exile, a home is so dear and basic to happiness) dictated by others. And for me to say "it cannot be fun" is even to add too much humor to the situation. Humor is not added by the recognition of this great suffering, but only - odd as it sounds - by prayer.
Yes, we're back to prayer! Yesterday morning (or perhaps it was the night before) I sent out a prayer request for Paul. I sent it to friends near and far, and God bless the Internet! In a short time (which was all the time I had free because we are now near Paul for a week, and every moment is full), I had sent out my pleading request to four groups of friends. Can you guess what happened next?
My friends prayed.
Some of them are dear friends I've known for decades, friends I grew up with, you might say. Others are friends I'm still trying to grow up with, but God seems to prefer me little, and they kindly put up with me as I am these days. Some I haven't seen in far too long, others I've never met face to face . . . and yet the replies to my request poured in as my friends' kindness poured out. Just like the water Therese and Marcel are pouring out above - and how cute! I just took a closer look at the photo topping this post and Therese has a watering can, but what in the world is Marcel using? He always makes me laugh!
Meanwhile, the prayers. How mysterious. They've poured out grace on Paul and his situation and those of us who so love him and are trying to figure out what comes next, even as these same prayers have flown to heaven, carried by the angels - really, I know it's true because I recently read this in a quote from one of the saints, and not just any saint, but Marcel's (and therefore our) dear spiritual father, St. Alphonsus de Ligouri (and wow, he knew a thing or two about prayer)!
St. Alphonsus says: “Our prayers are so dear to God, that He has appointed the angels to present them to Him as soon as they come forth from our mouths.”
Let me tell you from my experience of the last 24 hours - not only is what St. Alphonsus says true, but also what St. Thomas says: the angels can act immediately (being pure spirits and not slowed down, like Paul has been so much lately, by these silly bodies of ours). That means our prayers don't take any time at all to waft to God! Even besides the good news that He's holding us in His arms close to Himself so that our prayers go quickly from our mouths to His ears and our hearts to His, those angels make sure there's not a second's delay.
I know this because the effect of my friends' prayers (oh my goodness, I am so very, very grateful!) has been as visible as the smiles on the faces of the many kind people who have been helping Paul (and us) where he's currently staying.
To get down to particulars, in the last 24 hours these prayers have brought for Paul a resurgence of health. These prayers have brought for us the gift of counsel and a clarity regarding what comes next. And what comes next is (by God's goodness, the power of prayer, and the kindness of friends) what Paul was been asking for repeatedly - for a very tired man, quite tirelessly, I might add! - namely that he COME HOME!
If I might trouble you who are now reading this - or rather if I might entice you - to join this dear crowd of friends and cloud of witnesses who are praying for Paul and us: will you please say a prayer too that we now find the right home health aide to assist us when, hopefully quite soon, we bring Paul home? It is a bewildering array of possibilities that await our novice attempt to choose among them!
Marcel's favorite prayers were of the simplest nature. After our sister Therese and our mother Mary taught him, and Jesus taught him too, Marcel loved the prayer of the sigh, the prayer of the glance, the prayer of the smile. You might try any of these! The sigh which sometimes starts out as a regular old sigh can become a sigh of love! The glance, which happens to fall on a picture of Mary or Jesus, or someone else you love, becomes a glance of love! And the smile? Ah, the smile is spectacular, and while we're on the subject, I have to tell you about a smile of exquisite beauty, and another little prayer request.
On our visits to Paul in his beautiful (but not home!) room at the rehab place, we keep passing another room with an open door. Just inside the door is a bed, and in the bed is a kind looking blonde woman with a smile that lights up the place. Every time we walk by, there she is, confined to bed, but smiling at us when she sees us. I'm not talking a kind of fake, sad smile, but a real, genuine, friendly and contagious smile!
Each time our eyes met, I wanted to stop in and say hello, but I know myself, and I knew if I stopped in to talk with the smiling lady, I might never leave. You can see, then, the power of a smile! I'd forget to rejoin the others in Paul's room, which was, after all, why we were here . . .
But just like my mother-in-law accidentally turned into Dunkin Donuts the other day (that was a rewarding accident!), so I accidentally turned into Jean's room (for yes, her name is Jean!) two days ago, not looking where I was going and thinking it was the place where they have the coffee maker and such.
I had turned and just about stepped over the threshold of her room, when I looked up and laughed. There I was, Miss Marcel, right where Marcel himself wanted me to be! And Jean didn't miss a beat, but said, "You're from California, aren't you?"
What a great opening line!
I told her yes, though we all wondered later how she knew.
I think it must just be obvious, for although it's a big state, many people when they think of California immediately think of Hollywood, and then Valley Girls are just a step away: ditzy, air-headed, and oh so happy - Yep, I'm from California! How did you guess???
I told her, with a smile matching her own, that I had to go but would love to stop in soon.
And so last night I finally had the chance. I got to stop in and visit, and I got to ask Jean why she was in rehab (my brilliant opening line), and she told me.
Jean is in rehab while she waits for a new hip. Her old one is gone. I mean really gone: she only has one hip. And yesterday they told her that after her 6-8 weeks of antibiotics are up, the insurance won't pay for her to stay the 2 more weeks before she gets a new hip. So, as it turns out, she's supposed to go home in another few weeks alone, with no medical help, and without a hip.
I'm not very medically savvy, but I picked up that the hip is the thing you need two of so you can do things like stand and walk! But do you know what? Jean was still able to smile, though she had a worry crease over her brow and admitted she had asked God earlier that day what in the world He was thinking!
I figure sometimes God likes to pretend He needs us to help Him think.
There He is, running the universe, and perfectly I might add, but somehow it doesn't look that way from our perspective. So we have the opportunity to tell Him how He can do better, and that's what we call prayer. Like this:
"Dear God, I know You love Jean. How could You not? She's so lovely and so full of love, smiling like that from her bed, even when all this time she has only one hip! You would love her tons even if You weren't God! But You are. So how about shortening that two week gap between the end of rehab facility and her hip surgery? Jean would be so grateful, and if You could let her know soon that everything will be okay, that would be really kind. Though if You want her to trust in You while this scary thing looms, then please give her the confidence and joy and peace to know You're on it. Though just for the record, and because You're so good and indulgent, I'll say frankly that I think You ought to fix this soon. I love You!"
See? He just needed me to tell Him what to do!
And getting back to Paul in his bed in rehab, since that's why I'm here, I'll tell you what happened next.
It looked like he was stuck in that bed. The best we could do was move him to another bed in another room that wasn't home, in another place that wasn't home . . .
And I asked for prayers. And friends prayed. Their generosity in itself was enough to pour balm into our hearts - we received so many emails with so many reports of loving prayers for Paul and us from all over the country and the world!
How could God resist? He doesn't even want to resist, and then when we turn to Him - wow! Therese is so right! The saints of these days are doing infinitely more than you might suspect! And the bar is so low - just a sigh, a glance, a smile! But then there were chaplets and rosaries and Masses and Communions and hours of adoration! If you have only a sigh or a glance at your disposal, don't feel it doesn't count beside those rosaries and Communions - every smallest movement toward Him delights His Heart beyond measure!
So by last night, the whole scene had changed.
We went to visit Paul, and we all told jokes and laughed!
Because thanks to an afternoon visit with his case worker, the wonderful Cecilia, it looks like he will be coming home!
He's still in need of loving care, and that's where our next prayer comes in, that we might find the right home-health-aides to help care for him at home. But to go from complete confusion and looming depression to a clear vision of what is next, with joy and hope - that is the power of prayer!
Our deepest, widest, highest prayers have yet to be answered. Isn't that always the way? Always another need, another hope, another important request to the Man Upstairs. But I'm okay with letting God take His sweet time, since His timing is always perfect. When Therese and Marcel had their first conversation (as recorded in his Autobiography), she assured him that God has it down pat: not a moment too soon, not a moment too late, that's how His timing works.
Since I don't have that passage (and that book) at hand, I will offer another passage from another book - my very favorite book, Marcel's Conversations - because I can't close without giving back a gift in thanks for all the graces that are coming our way, thanks to the prayers of the saints, on earth and in heaven.
I love this passage because it sums up my life, and contains such good advice too! These are words of St. Therese to Marcel and us, and though I can't remember what his question was, if we substitute any of our own recent questions, the answer fits like a glove! Our sister St. Therese says:
"My dear little brother, your question does not really make any sense. You must admit, first of all, that you demonstrate a profound ignorance. If you are incapable of making a judgment on something so minuscule, then what are you capable of? However, little brother, the greater your ignorance and the more you give that impression in the eyes of your brothers and sisters (the saints in heaven), the more it will be given to you to understand clearly and with certitude. Supposing even that you know something or other, pretend to know nothing so as to understand more clearly." (218)
When it comes to most things, I don't have to pretend to know nothing! So I thank you most sincerely for joining your prayers to mine, and know that I'll be joining mine to yours so your intentions and needs are covered too. We're so lucky to be able to pour God's limitless love over one another, and I'm so grateful for the floods of it that have been poured out around us these last 24 hours!
Almighty Father, Little Jesus, Holy Spirit of Love:
Draw me, we will run!!!
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