"God does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude."
--St. Therese, Story of a Soul
We have arrived! It is the feast of our dear Little Flower, the very littlest St. Therese who wants to shower us with roses today and every day until she helps us take that last step into Heaven. But first, before anything else, let's finish our novena to her.
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
ask God to grant us the favors
we now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help us always to believe as you did,
in God’s great love for us,
so that we may imitate your Little Way each day.
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If you are just joining us, welcome! If you have been praying each day, welcome! If you prayed on day 1 and then forgot - all the more welcome! I have been commending your intentions to our dear Sister each day, and I've asked our Guardian Angels to fill in all the particulars. St. Therese is so desirous of dropping down boatloads of roses that we don't want to leave anyone or any need out, and you can be sure that she who promised to come down has no "intention" of her own to forget you. Look for roses - she is near!
I have loved St. Therese for a very long time, but before that I was quite indifferent to her. There was a statue of her in the parish church I attended growing up, and this statue was right across from a statue of the Infant of Prague, both in the narrow entry you passed through walking into the church, both facing each other, and both kind of annoying to me. I had no idea who they were or what they wanted - and what a good joke on me that they were later to reveal their identities. They were Jesus and His dear Therese, and they wanted nothing more nor less than to draw me to Him through her!
One thing I love about Servant of God Marcel Van, for whom my blog and I are named, is that he, too, thought nothing of Therese when he first came across her. He picked up Story of a Soul, saw there were no pictures, and sighed, saying to himself here was another perfect saint who no doubt mortified herself a great deal, performed many miracles in her life, and died at a ripe old age. He started reading the book, was enthralled, and realized his own picture of her was completely wrong!
So I wonder today what you might be thinking of Therese, what you might have thought of her, and how things have changed. I wonder what she's done in your life, what she's doing now, and what she's planning to do. I can assure you that she's planning a lot, no matter what's gone on so far for you (and for you and her). And it is all good, it is all grace!
For Marcel, she taught him personally her Little Way of how to love God and be loved by Him. For me, after many other graces, she introduced me to Marcel so I too could learn from her, and especially from Jesus and Mary, through their hilarious, insightful, sometimes deep, sometimes silly, and utterly endearing chats in his Conversations. But what it always turns out that makes this book so wonderful for me is that I find in it a commentary on the Gospels and on St. Therese's writings (which are themselves a commentary on the Gospels). I am so dopey, goofy, forgetful, and Marcellian (for he was dopey, goofy, and quite forgetful too) that I need constant reminders of what Jesus desires of us, such as Therese explains in the quote with which I started this post: "God does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude."
Really? Surrender and gratitude? That's it? That's a plan I can at least aim for. We've lowered the bar to a place I can reach, because surrender means admitting I can't do it, and gratitude means admitting He can (and so often has). I like this program a lot.
The other day I was lucky enough to be praying before the Blessed Sacrament with Marcel at hand, and I flipped to a page in Convos where Jesus is speaking to him (and to us). After explaining to Marcel that humility consists in recognizing and following the truth, Our Lord adds:
"Nevertheless, I do not wish you to understand all the words that Love says to you because that is not necessary for you. All the same I have a means which can allow you to understand: this means consists in loving me and abandoning yourself to me in total confidence." (Conversations, 429)
Something about this passage, which I had read before more than once, suddenly rung a bell. This sounded a lot like, hmmm, like . . . something from St. Therese . . . from Story of a Soul, maybe?
Well, yes, as it turned out! In the middle section of Story of a Soul, the part written for her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart, Therese turns to Jesus and bursts out,
"O Jesus! why can't I tell all little souls how unspeakable is Your condescension? I feel that if You found a soul weaker and littler than mine, which is impossible, You would be pleased to grant it still greater favors, provided it abandoned itself with total confidence to Your Infinite Mercy. But why do I desire to communicate Your secrets of Love, O Jesus, for was it not You alone who taught them to me, and can You not reveal them to others? Yes, I know it, and I beg You to do it. I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls."
I don't know about you, but TOTAL confidence feels far beyond me. Nonetheless, as I've written in my book Something New with St. Therese: Her Eucharistic Miracle, we can't let a little thing like our weakness get in the way of what God wants to do in us. In this case, He wants us simply to acknowledge our weakness and let Him carry us! When we find ourselves struggling, like a toddler who is tired and doesn't want to be held, though that is what he most needs, I think the easiest way out of our restless failure to surrender is to ask St. Therese and Marcel to help us do what they did, what Jesus taught them to do, what He wants to teach us to do (or better yet, what He wants to do in us) - namely, to let go and let God. To surrender. To relax. To sleep or nap a while. To look upon Him as our Father who wants to give us everything and will take care of everything for us. It's all easy for Him - He is omnipotent, and even better, He loves us infinitely, just as we are!
A case in point - today's blog post. I wanted to share so much more with you, but the feasts are too short and too full for me to write everything I would, so I'm going to surrender and trust that Jesus is feeding you with what is already written. And better yet, I'm going to trust that He's given Therese and Marcel even more heavenly graces with which to shower us on this day and in the days ahead. May your minutes, your hours, your days and weeks and months and years be filled with the fragrance of her roses and her near presence, and I pray you enjoy the love of God to the full. As a friend once told me she did, let's ask God to NOT let us be surprised by how good He is when we get to Heaven! Let's learn now how much He loves us and snuggle closer to His merciful Sacred Heart. He has it all covered, everything we possibly need, and the same for those we love and those we don't even know yet - He is Love! So relax, have a cupcake (or your own delightful equivalent), and let's thank God for letting us know Him and His little dear daughter and son, our sister Therese and our brother Marcel. Thank You, Jesus! We love You! Come and stay with us! Remain in us as in a tabernacle, and never separate Yourself from Your little victims!
(And if that last line is unfamiliar to you, I highly recommend Something New with St. Therese, Her Eucharistic Miracle!)
Draw me, we will run!
Happy St. Padre Pio Day! This is the day on which he flew to Heaven, and it being his heavenly birthday, he has lots of gifts to give (being in no need of any himself, now that he has God completely in view). This is also the day our dear Padre launches us into our St. Therese novena, but first we must finish his! So gather your intentions - or simply offer your heart and mind which contain them all, some hazy, some clear as can be - and let's ask for what's needed and what's desired. I don't know about you, but the prayer requests coming my way throughout this novena have just gotten bigger and huger and almost overwhelming in their urgency. The good news is that nothing is too big for God, and His saints love to intercede for us. If you are just joining us now, don't worry, you've been included already, and you can finish with us before we start again!
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O Saint Padre Pio, holy bearer of the Wounds of Christ, accept us this day as your spiritual sons and daughters and keep us always on the Little Way by your intercession. And do thou, O our Spiritual Father, stay there at the Gates of Heaven until all of your spiritual children have entered through, even and including us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Dear Padre Pio, I recall your promise to the Lord, “Lord, I will stand at the gates of heaven until I see all my spiritual children have entered.” Encouraged by your gracious promise, I ask you to accept me as a spiritual child and to intercede for my prayer requests (Here state your petitions). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end, Amen.
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Ah, Padre Pio!
Do you know that he is one of the most warm-hearted and gentlest saints around? And yet, again this past week I heard another dear friend admit she couldn't help but be a bit scared of him, and I don't blame her (though I hoped to change her fear into affectionate confidence!). He just had that gruff demeanor sometimes, and the stories do get around. I hastened to reassure her that she would not be one to earn his anger - although maybe I would have earned a scold!
I could see myself, had I the good fortune to be in his presence, trying to cut off just a small relic from his habit! He had to bark at the Italian women who did so because otherwise he would have been quite a cost to the community, needing new robes once a week at least!
Then there were those who came into the confessional to trick him, to find out if he would know they hadn't committed the fake sins they were confessing, or perhaps do the opposite and leave out mortal sins they didn't want to give up! Then he would bark again, and when those who were approaching the confessional in total insincerity left, they had time to absorb what he had said and would very often return, finally repentant!
Lastly, there was the problem we can all pray to have: namely that the gentleness of Jesus, His compassion and mercy filled Padre Pio, and so Pio said to a confrere that he sometimes had to walk gruffly and seemingly uncaringly through the crowds waiting to speak to him because if he didn't hurry with his head down and a scowl on, he'd simply burst into tears with the sorrow he felt at all their sufferings!
So yes, again and again I defend my Padre, but alas, he did bark, he could be gruff, and so, hearing those stories, many are afraid of him. I've decided today that my best bet at erasing the image of angry Padre Pio (and I will repeat: he is not angry at you, dear reader!) is by sharing a couple wonderful pages I came across this morning in Patricia Treece's little book, Quiet Moments with Padre Pio.
She writes, "Padre Pio disarmed everyone with his affable simplicity, even those who had gone on purpose to see the supernatural in him and who wanted to see something of that extraordinary nature in him at all costs. One evening while he was going to the prayer stalls, he said to someone he knew intimately, 'Really, I don't feel like praying this evening, and I don't even have the excuse of good intentions, because I really don't want to.'"
Why that should delight me, I'm not exactly sure - except to show that our dear father understands us! He was human and felt the same ways we do! Don't feel like praying? I've felt this way lately, and we're in good company! Padre Pio, help us persevere, and gain for us the grace to love praying - at least sometimes!
In another account, Andre Mandato of New Jersey wrote:
"When I first started visiting Padre Pio, there wasn't much of a crowd, because it was hard for the people to get there. We could go into the little garden, where there were maybe ten people, and we visited with him. He was jovial, in good humor. He told jokes. When you were by yourself, you would say: 'He is a saint.' But when he talked with you, you didn't see the saint. You saw a human being like everybody else, smiling, joking. I could touch him. I'd talk with him just as I'd talk with anyone else."
I hope you can talk to him today, on this his feast, just like you'd talk with anyone else. I hope you can tell him, and be sure I am telling him for you, that you could use a good joke or two, some laughter to lighten the load, and definitely his friendship. And then, let him lead you on to his little sister and ours, St. Therese. As I mentioned in the last post, the one time I know that Padre Pio bilocated just for his own consolation was when he was seen at St. Therese's canonization, in Rome, even while he never left his monastery! And this morning I had more confirmation that he is sending us to her (and her to us) because the first page I opened in his book had the heading "A Little Flower." Padre Gerardo of Deliceto, who lived with Padre Pio for years, wrote:
"The sixteenth of October was the anniversary of my feast day. As always, I had gone to the office to work. I had not seen the Padre and therefore waited impatiently for 11 o'clock to greet him. That morning I didn't hear his rhythmic and dragging footsteps accompanied by loud coughs.
"I carried on with my work when, suddenly, it seemed to me that someone had stopped at my door and touched it delicately. Suspicious, I got up and opened the door. It was he, smiling and a bit embarrassed, like a child surprised by his mother while playing some trick.
"'Good wishes,' he said to me, and gave me a little flower that he had put in the keyhole."
All I can think is that our Padre is ready to introduce St. Therese! She is the Little Flower he has tried to put into a keyhole so she can see into the room of our hearts and gather up the intentions filling every nook and cranny. You know the whole "keep it if it brings you joy?" mantra that's become so popular? Well our dear sister, following our dear father, is ready to take away all that Doesn't bring us joy! She's great at decluttering our souls of these myriad intentions that turn into anxieties and weigh us down.
No need to worry any longer! We have two superhero saints who love nothing better than to come down and wrestle our troubles away from us to replace them with God's healing gifts! They know how much He loves us, they share in that love, and they are ready to lavish it on us.
Here we are, hoping just to remember to say the novena prayer to get their attention. Again, I say no worries! They are paying such close attention already! They're right outside the door, trying to push each other and many roses through that keyhole. Ha! Though Padre Pio survived on the Eucharist and only a tiny smackerel of food and drink (hardly anything, and he'd lose weight if they made him eat more!), he managed to be a good sized man, and I doubt St. Therese is going to be able to stuff him through the keyhole, so we'd better open the door!
Before I put your hand on the doorknob (which will turn with our novena prayer to little Therese), Marcel, Therese's little spiritual brother, has something to add. He wrote for us the words Jesus spoke to him for our benefit, and this particular passage (492 in their Conversations) does a great job reminding us that God is even more eager to give than we are to receive. Jesus says:
"Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats. Whatever I do to spoil you, I consider it all as being nothing. Little brother, do you understand?...You have no more reason to worry."
One of my intentions in this double novena - the one we've just finished to Padre Pio and the one we are beginning to St. Therese - is that we will all begin to understand God's infinite love and mercy waaaaaaaaaaay more! Jesus complains (at 412 in Conversations):
"Little brother, there is still too little confidence in my Love. Revive this confidence in my Love, this is the work you must accomplish . . . "
Yes, Marcel, as we pray to our sister St. Therese, get busy helping her answer. First get us more confidence in Jesus' love for us. And then, just in case she's sleeping for a change, tickle her! Wake her! Get Padre Pio to rouse her too. Or if she's busy somewhere else in the globe, draw her attention to our part of the world as well, that she might shower her roses on all those who stand in so much need of our prayers, and on us, also, who desperately need her affection and Little Way.
Are you, as you read this, ready for roses? Let's pile all our needs into the center of the room (we don't want to block the doorway!), and invite in Therese to set them on fire with God's love. She says we can trust Him to do her will now that she is in Heaven, since she always did His when she was on earth. I'm so relieved we have her help! She desires to let us know His Love as she did - so let's go for it and let her in!
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O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
ask God to grant us the favors
we now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help us always to believe as you did,
in God’s great love for us,
so that we may imitate your Little Way each day.
* * *
And now, a few last definitions and explanations . . .
1. A "Little Novena" is one where you forget to say it after day one, or miss a day here and there, or forget to name all your intentions, etc.
2. St. Therese is all about little, so a "little novena" in her honor works perfectly well!
3. In conclusion, let's not worry about getting this novena "right." And know that I'm including all your intentions in mine, so you're covered!
To make our prayers even more powerful, let's ask Padre Pio to pray our St. Therese novena with us. He has the advantage of being very near to her and able to poke her if she doesn't seem to be responding quickly enough! Thanks, Padre!
May God reveal to you His infinitely tender love on this feast of His and our dear Padre Pio, and may the roses begin to fall, showering you and yours with graces beyond measure, and beyond even what you dare to hope. I know that some of your intentions have been offered up to Him so many times that you begin to wonder if He's just decided it's just a "No."
I understand! But if you look ahead on the Little Way that St. Therese shows us, you'll see in the near distance the persistent widow who won't leave that unjust judge alone, but keeps pestering him until even he gives her what she asks and insists on! God, who told us this parable, is not unjust - far from it - and much more our Savior than our Judge - though St. Therese loved to consider His justice, because she knew that He understands our total weakness and frailty, so we can hope just as much from His justice as from His mercy!
In other words, keep hoping, and if your hope is wearing thin, let's add that to our intentions: Little Therese, gain us confidence like yours, that we may trust all our needs to God with the assurance that He will answer us. And then get us those answers we so desire, for the glory of His adorable name!
Draw me, we will run!
"Yes, Jesus is there with His cross! Privileged one of His love, He wills to make you like Him! Why be frightened at not being able to carry this cross without weakening?" -St. Therese, the Little Flower
Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and a more mysterious and confusing feast I have yet to come across! Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, left eternal bliss to ultimately be crucified and die to save us. And, as St. Therese explains, "Jesus has for us a love so incomprehensible, so delicate, that He does not want to do anything without associating us with Him. He wants us to participate with Him in the work of saving souls." Oh good Jesus, perhaps You are too good! But Your ignominy, Your suffering and humiliation conquered hatred, evil, and death, and opened the gates of Heaven wide for us, so that now we can say, "Hail Cross, our only hope!" What a mystery!
Further mysterious to me is the history of this feast, which manages to celebrate all sorts of things in one day. I've found the clearest, or at least the simplest, explanation at the Vatican website:
"On 13 September 335, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was dedicated. The following day, the cross that Empress Helena had discovered on 14 September 320, was venerated in a solemn ceremony. In 614, the Persian King, Chosroes II, waged war on the Romans. After conquering Jerusalem, he confiscated many treasures, among which was the Cross of Jesus. The Byzantine emperor Heraclius initiated peace negotiations, but was rejected. He then waged war and won near Nineveh, asking for the restitution of the Cross, which then returned to Jerusalem. Today, the cruelty of the Cross is not what is exalted, but the Love that God manifested to humanity by accepting death on the Cross."
I remember a dear friend asking why it was that God didn't choose another way than suffering to lead to Him - perhaps the way of beauty. For myself, I thought, yes, exactly, what about the way of joy? But one thing we can say about God is that He knows best, and so suffering it is, even if I relate most heartily to Marcel's position on the subject. As Jesus said to our little brother on April 26, 1946, so He seems to repeat to me often in 2022:
"What a pity! Marcel (Miss Marcel), you are truly very weak. Simply hearing the word suffering is almost enough to make you lose control."
Exactly! Ah, but then how can I fail to quote the rest of Jesus' words here . . .
"Little brother, before sending you any suffering, I want, first of all, to let you know how weak you are. You must realize that if you have not got the strength even to hear the word suffering uttered, still less do you have the strength to put up with suffering . . . Little brother, although this is so, you must accept suffering; but you cannot understand how much Love suffers even more than you, having to make you suffer. Oh Marcel! Although you are truly very weak, the sight of your weakness makes you more lovable in my eyes than any gestures of love that you show me would be able to . . ."
This last bit reminds me so much of the Heavenly Father's attitude toward His Beloved Son Jesus: "The sight of your weakness [on the cross] makes you more lovable in my eyes than any gestures of love that you show me would be able to . . ."
A mystery indeed!
And one who embraced this mystery, making it even more mysterious (if possible) is our own beloved Padre Pio - whose novena we must begin either today or tomorrow if we want to end just before or on his feast of September 23, when we will begin our novena to St. Therese, to end on October 1st! I love to tease Padre Pio that his feast is very memorable as the beginning of our novena to his sister St. Therese. I discovered a few years ago that the one time he seems to have bilocated for his own pleasure was when he was seen in Rome, at St. Peter's, at the canonization of St. Therese (though he never left his friary in San Giovanni Rotondo!)!
I like to start my novenas to end on the feast of the Saint whose intercession I am imploring, but it never hurts to start a little early in case we little ones accidentally skip a day! Anyhow, whether you start today or tomorrow or sometime next week (for a really little novena!), here is our prayer:
O Saint Padre Pio, holy bearer of the Wounds of Christ, accept us this day as your spiritual sons and daughters and keep us always on the narrow path by your intercession. And do thou, O our Spiritual Father, stay there at the Gates of Heaven until all of your spiritual children have entered through, even and including us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Dear Padre Pio, I recall your promise to the Lord, “Lord, I will stand at the gates of heaven until I see all my spiritual children have entered.” Encouraged by your gracious promise, I ask you to accept me as a spiritual child and to intercede for my prayer requests (Here state your petitions) Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
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Praise be Jesus Christ, our Beloved Spouse and Savior, Who chose the Holy Cross to exalt us with Him into the arms of the Heavenly Father!
Draw me, we will run!
Happy St. John Eudes Day!
This is a marvelously joyful day for lovers of Marcel (and welcome to our company!) because St. John Eudes is famous for not being St. Therese. Or, rather, for being St. John Eudes. And if that makes no sense to you, it's because I'm explaining myself quite badly but smiling all the while! Let's see if I can do better . . .
When our dear Marcel Van was a young novice with the Redemptorists, each New Year's he chose a slip of paper on which was written the name of a saint who would be his special patron for the next year. In his book of Conversations (with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese), Marcel writes on January 1, 1946 the following dialog he had with Jesus about his new saint for the year:
Jesus: Marcel, for the new year I wish you an abundance of everything: much love, much joy, much suffering. I wish that you eat a lot, that you have a lot of fun, that you sleep a lot, that you work a lot . . . in a word, I wish everything for you in abundance. Were you surprised yesterday to receive Saint John Eudes, of whom you had never heard, as your patron for the year? It's very strange is it not? Is that what has made you sad?
Marcel: Yes, little Jesus, I am very sad. After having asked You insistently, You have given me neither Your name nor that of Mary and You have not even left me that of my sister Therese. You always tell me that You give me all I ask; and yet, after having begged You so much, You have not given me what I desired. Truly, You do not keep Your word. I am very sad because of it, little Jesus.
Jesus: Come, come, Marcel, what did I say to you the other day? I told you that I would choose a very strange patron for you. So, how can you reproach me for not having kept my word? . . . it is necessary that you enlarge the circle of your relations with your brothers and sisters, the saints . . .
Marcel: So, Jesus, why have You not given me my father Saint Alphonsus? And who, therefore, is Saint John Eudes, little Jesus? I know absolutely nothing about him; I only heard of him for the first time yesterday.
* * * And here is the punchline! I never fail to enjoy Jesus' response here - see what you think:
Jesus: Saint John Eudes, Marcel, is Saint John Eudes, that's all. He is a saint who loved me a lot during his life, after his death he ascended to heaven with me and the the Church canonized him . . . And now, I want to give you him as your patron of the year. Marcel, you are so fussy; even if you know nothing of Saint John Eudes, that's of no consequence and I am not obliging you to know any more about him. The only thing that you must know is that I have chosen him for your patron of the year. And since I have chosen him for you, why would it not be as suitable as another. Do not be sad, Marcel. And even if you were sad, you would not be able to change is since you have already eaten some sweets in his honour; if you were going to change, all the saints would make fun of you and you would be very ashamed.
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Ah, how natural Jesus and Marcel are together, and this is exactly why Jesus asked Marcel to write down their conversations. He is inviting us, too, to be honest with Him, to tell Him what we want, to complain when we don't get it, and to listen as best we can to His Divine excuses, I mean reasons, for every carefully planned Providential detail He has prepared for us. In my case, the listening to Him part usually happens in nano-second intervals between the thousand and one absurd or seemingly urgent distracting gnat-like thoughts that flit around my Pooh-bear-brain, but Jesus is so gracious. He patiently explains, again and again - especially through my reading of Marcel - why it is good for us to be here with Him and how He has not forgotten us, not for the nano-second we attend to Him, nor for the remainder of time and eternity! In this particular conversation from January 1st, St. Therese enters in to explain more:
Marcel: My sister Therese, why did you not present yourself last night to be my patron for one more year? It is not that long.
Therese: My dear little brother, what has little Jesus just said to you? . . . You remain always my dear little brother and I, I continue to teach you to love Jesus. You do not have to worry about being abandoned by me. Be at peace. Remain joyful and smiling since seeing you sad makes me sadder. When it is time to be joyful, why be sad over nothing? When little Jesus decides something concerning you, is it not by love that He does it? Little Jesus loves you a lot. He never wishes to see you sad; and if you are sad, He no longer knows who to laugh with . . . Little brother, never be sad. Keep smiling so that little Jesus might be more joyful. I love you little brother, I am giving you a kiss; my only wish is that you remain always happy. That is something that I have repeated to you many times, little brother, do not forget it. And if you happen to forget it, I will remind you of it. So, little brother, smile, smile, come on, smile! Do you remember that time when I put my hand over my eye to make you laugh? It worked, didn't it? Dear little brother, I love you a great deal; my only wish is to see you always smiling . . .
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On this day of St. John Eudes, lover of Jesus and happy to be our patron too, we at Miss Marcel's Musings celebrate the wedding anniversary of an East Coast Miss Marcel and her Mister. Like in all marriages, just like in Marcel's choosing of a patron for the year 1946, Jesus has had many surprises in store for these dear friends of ours. What strikes me today is that in every single surprise Jesus is there, and His infinite love remains in control of the situation and the hearts involved. The glory of the saints is that now, in heaven with Him, they understand completely that His love has guided everything, healed and repaired everything, brought joys and sorrows alike with floods and oceans of grace on which to carry our frail selves - even when we have felt we were drowning! He sends Our Lady and the Church as our ship, our water-tight, never sinking vessel of mercy to carry us over the years, and He sends the saints we know and love and those we don't know and love but who know and love us! We are never alone, and we haven't even mentioned the company of the angels, beginning with our own singular companion who has traveled with us from birth and will stick to us more powerfully and effectively than super glue until the day we are brought (with our loved ones) to live in eternal bliss with God who is Love.
We've been hearing the words of Jesus, Marcel, and St. Therese. It seems only fair to let St. John Eudes say a word to us on his day, and here is what he has to tell us, an exhortation of love that is quite worthy of a saint, whose glory is none other than Jesus:
"He belongs to you, but more than that, He longs to be in you, living and ruling in you, as the head lives and rules in the body. He wants His breath to be in your breath, His heart in your heart, and His soul in your soul."
I've found a beautiful way to let Him live in me always, a way St. Therese revealed in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. I write about this new little way at length in Something New with St. Therese, and I hope you'll discover, as I did, this powerful Eucharistic Miracle that our sister wants to share with us.
Most importantly, let's heed St. Therese's reminder that Jesus never wishes to see us sad. I've been realizing more and more how much we depend on Jesus Himself to supply the joy He wishes to find in us, so I pray that He fill your heart with His peace and joy. Even amidst the suffering He allows us in order to keep us safely in His arms on the cross, I wish you, as He wishes us through His words to Marcel, "that you eat a lot, that you have a lot of fun, that you sleep a lot," and even "that you work a lot," with Our Lord providing the energy and satisfaction of a job well done. "In a word, I wish you everything in abundance," but especially the smiles Therese encourages us to offer to Jesus. And no worries, it's her job, and St. John Eudes', and our angels', to startle the smiles out of us by surprising us with the joy Jesus so desires for us.
Therese had her ways of making her friends laugh, and I have mine . . .
May St. John Eudes bring you joy this day and throughout the next year. It is our glory to count the saints among our closest collaborators, and so be brought by their unfailing efforts to the place where there is no more suffering but only joy. St. John Eudes, pray for us, and bring us laughter as well as smiles!
Draw me, we will run!
"I have said everything! Everything is summed up in love and confidence." - Servant of God Marcel Van
When we read this quote, we may think we are hearing from the Little Flower - and we are, but this is Jesus' 2nd Little Flower, Marcel Van, little brother of the 1st Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux (also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face). Their message is the same, for Therese personally taught Marcel her Little Way, and in it everything is summed up in love and confidence!
And today, on the anniversary of Marcel's release from earthly life - the day that could become his official feast if, God willing, he is someday beatified and canonized - what a perfect opportunity for him to remind us of the importance of love and confidence.
The photo above shows Marcel in Hanoi, Vietnam, not long before the Communists arrested him on trumped up charges as he was returning to the Redemptorist house from the marketplace on May 7, 1955. This was only about eight months after Marcel had returned to North Vietnam from the safety of Saigon in the South. Ah, but he could never resist Jesus' call! Marcel had said, "I am going back so there is someone who loves God amid the Communists," and in God's mysterious providence, he had taken the last plane that went from the south to the north. The date was September 14, 1954, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Marcel was 26 years old, and as he wrote to his sister Anne Marie, "There was so much insistence in Jesus' voice! And that is why I willingly accept to die in order to give a little consolation to the Heart of my Beloved." He continued, "Pray a lot, little sister, to obtain for me the courage to bear everything right to the end."
We read in Marcel's Conversations that on many occasions Our Lady asked Marcel to pray for her little apostles who would come later. Marcel did so pray, and we were among those for whom he was praying! Let's take a moment now, then, to return the favor. We know Marcel did make it to the end with courage (the end that was the beginning of eternal life), but what joy to be part of the reason Jesus supplied that courage and the necessary abundance of faith, hope, and charity that sustained our little brother. Prayer is so powerful, and so here then is our prayer for Marcel:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence we fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, Our Mother. To thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer us. Amen.
Dear Blessed Mother, thank you for having Marcel pray for us. Hear and answer our prayers for him by presenting them to the Most Blessed Trinity. We thank you for your loving maternal gaze which sustained Marcel and sustains us - may we be united to him and Jesus forever through your loving embrace!
After Marcel's arrest he experienced great suffering but was also given the grace to bring consolation to many of the prisoners he lived with in the camps. A year after his arrest, he wrote to Fr. Paquette, his superior in Hanoi, "My Father, it is hardly a fortnight since they made me change camp. . . and I thank God with all my heart, since on arriving here, I had the good fortune to meet a good number of Catholics and live with them. Thanks to the divine protection, the majority of men and women detained with me are bearing up well . . ."
After asking for rosaries for all and a prayer book (and again later in the letter he asks for medals, rosaries, books of prayers, and even consecrated hosts because "we hunger for divine nourishment"), Marcel explains, "Concerning myself, since the day that I arrived at the camp of Mo-Chen, I am very busy as might be the little priest of a parish. Outside the hours of obligatory work, I have to welcome continuously people who come, one after the other, to seek comfort near me, whom they consider as someone who does not know fatigue. However, they see well that neither am I very strong."
But here is the most beautiful part. Marcel writes:
"I am very happy, for during these months of detention, my spiritual life has not suffered, and God Himself has made known to me that it is His will that I am accomplishing here. Many times have I asked Him the favour to die in this camp, but each time He has answered me: 'I am quite ready to follow your will as you always follow mine, but there are souls who still have need of you: without you, it would be impossible for Me to reach them. So what do you think, my child?' 'Lord, it is for You to think for me.' "
And still, Marcel begs prayers: "My Father, please pray still more for me, since in thinking of this life full of darkness and pitfalls, I tremble many times and fear takes joy away. However, I am always read to accomplish perfectly all God wishes of me."
Marcel our dear brother was very little just like us - in fact, Jesus in their Conversations identifies him as the littlest soul! - yet he was able to do what Jesus asked because Jesus supplied everything, even amidst fears. And yet always, always, Marcel would return to confidence and love - the lessons Jesus, Mary, and Therese had taught him and which they (with his help) want to teach us.
It was May 7, 1955 when Marcel was arrested, and his release - by Jesus, through that first real kiss He had promised, that breaking of the bonds of earthly life - was not until 4 years later on June 10 (today!) 1959 when Marcel breathed his last at noon. He had not been able to send out any clandestine messages for quite a long time, but we have our brother's final message from the end of his Autobiography:
"And now here is the last word that I am leaving to souls . . . I leave to them my love; with this love, small as it is, I hope to satisfy the souls who wish to make themselves very small to come to Jesus. That is something I would wish to describe, but, with my little talent, I do not have to words to do so . . . "
This little love is so pleasing to Jesus, this love which helps us make ourselves very small and come to Him and snuggle next to His Heart. Marcel does not here on this last page say more, but all through his Conversations, his Autobiography, his Correspondence, his Other Writings, he says plenty, and his sister (and ours), the eloquent Therese, certainly has many words in her own writings (and Marcel's) to spur us on to love in littleness also. I have often thought and suggested that we should take Therese's confidence - ask it of her as our inheritance since she is now seeing God face to Face and does not need her confidence any more. So too we can ask of Marcel what he has already freely offered: his love with which to love Jesus.
In another echo of his sister Therese, Marcel said, "From the heights of heaven I will look down on my little brothers and sisters, and just as much as I have loved them on earth, will I love them also in heaven."
Actually, Therese promised not only to watch over us and love us from heaven, but to come down. We can surely say she would have taught this one last lesson to Marcel when he arrived at her side in heaven, safe on Mary's lap with Jesus as He had promised. So Marcel, little brother, come down and bring us this love that filled your heart and made you, by God's grace, faithful to the end! On this your little feast, comfort all who suffer as you comforted those who suffered with you in the camps, obtain for us the Bread of Life as you so desired to obtain it for them, and teach us incessantly the Little Way which St. Therese taught to you, that we may turn to Jesus always with confidence and love!
Draw me, we will run!
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Just when the feasts following Easter seem to have come to an abrupt end, Jesus rescues us with perhaps the most beautiful of them all: the Feast of His Most Sacred Heart. He is so good to us and can’t stand the thought of leaving us alone, so after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, and His 40 days among us; after the Ascension when He bids us rejoice that He goes to the Father that the Advocate may come to us; after Pentecost with His outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us; and after He brings us back to the Father as well as the Holy Spirit on Trinity Sunday with the great mystery of the Three-in-One; and finally after Jesus bids us regard the outpouring of His Love in the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi . . . well then it would be natural to suppose He has come to the end of His revelations of tender and solicitous compassion, His revelations of infinite love. Ah, but that is the ticket: Infinite Love never can exhaust itself and must always find a new outlet by which to reach and win us!
Thank Heaven, then, for Jesus’ gift of His Sacred Heart, and the Church’s gift of this Feast. And as we at Miss Marcel’s Musings ponder how Jesus has rescued us from feastlessness, it dawns on us that this is the perfect way for Him to conclude the annual series of Easter festivities. What better image and reality to leave with us, what better object for our own love throughout the coming months than His love and His Heart which He bids us imitate in meekness, gentleness, and humility. As always, His Heart’s Feast will be followed by a day in honor of His dear Mother’s Immaculate Heart. But this year, as a friend happily pointed out to me, we also have had the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist the day before the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart Solemnity! I’m thrilled that St. John couldn’t be forgotten, for though his usual day is June 24, this year the 24th is overtaken by Jesus’ Feast . . . so what do you think our Holy Mother Church did but move this birthday just one day forward to prevent our missing out on John’s great Feast! A triduum of joy, from St. John the Baptist to Jesus to Mary!
For lovers of Marcel, the Nativity of St. John falling on the 23rd accomplished a triple feast, for two other birthdays fall on June 23rd – that of Miss Marcel East, a tried and true friend of our little brother, and that of Jack Keogan, intrepid translator of the words of Marcel into English, and the one who thus made possible the English copies of Conversations and Marcel’s other writings which have charmed our hearts and changed our lives. Praise to You, Heavenly Father, Eternal Son, and Loving Holy Spirit, for giving us so much of Your mercy through Marcel. Bless these your children, and reward them for their goodness and intimacy with your second little flower, dear Marcel Van!
My heart is always captured by the liturgical antiphons of the great feasts, and the Sacred Heart is no exception. Evening prayer begins, “God has loved us with an everlasting love; therefore, when He was lifted up from the earth, in His mercy He drew us to His Heart.” And in the Mass, we hear at the outset: “The designs of His Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”
How good He is! He will not leave us alone, hungry, cast down far from His embrace, and on the verge of death (or feeling like it). He will rescue us and draw us to His Heart!
I have loved this Heart and its images for many years, but I’ve been woefully ignorant – or perhaps simply forgetful like my brother Marcel – regarding the particulars of Jesus’ revelation to St. Margaret Mary, His chosen instrument for spreading devotion to His Heart. How about you? Are you ready for a short refresher?
Delightfully, long before He spoke to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus - Who can be terrible at keeping a secret - had already revealed much about His Sacred Heart to Saints Gertrude and Mechtilde, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis de Sales, founder of St. Margaret Mary’s Visitation Order, and to St. John Eudes.
But what did He say about this Heart to Margaret Mary? She knew nothing of these previous revelations, being kept in the dark by the Holy Spirit, kept free by Our Lord to receive the revelation of His Heart directly from Himself. When He could wait no longer to reveal this mystery to his beloved daughter, here is what He said to her:
“My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able any longer to restrain within it the flames of its ardent charity, it must spread them everywhere through your means, and manifest itself to men that they may be enriched with its precious treasures.”
Margaret Mary explained, “He revealed to me, moreover, that His great desire to be perfectly loved by men had given Him the plan of disclosing His Heart to them, thereby opening to them all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which that Heart encloses, so that all who, according to their best power, wish to show Him all possible love and honor, or to procure this from others, should be enriched exceedingly with the divine treasures whose source is this Sacred Heart.”
Our Lord further told her that “He is pleased especially to be honored under the appearance of this corporeal Heart, and He desired that the picture of this should be publicly exposed for veneration in order to touch by this sight the unfeeling hearts of men. He promised that He would pour forth in richest abundance all the gifts of grace wherewith His Heart is filled upon the hearts of those who would how Him this honor, and that this picture should draw down blessings of every kind in all places where it is exposed for veneration.”
Ah, but then Jesus showed Margaret Mary His glorious love:
“He was brilliant with glory. His five wounds shone like five suns. Flames darted forth from all parts of His sacred humanity, but especially from His adorable breast, which resembled a furnace, and which, opening, displayed to me His loving and amiable Heart, the living source of these flames.”
And yet, Jesus explained that in return for His excess of love, men had shown Him ingratitude and forgetfulness which had pained Him more than the sufferings of His passion, but as He said, “If they rendered Me some return of love, I should esteem all I have done for them as but little, and, were it possible, would do still more for them. But they have nothing but coldness and rebuffs for all my eagerness to do them good.”
Jesus asked Margaret Mary to make up for this neglect by herself receiving Holy Communion in reparation on the First Friday of every month, as well as uniting herself with His Agony in the Garden every Thursday from eleven to midnight – and from these the Church drew forth for us the Nine First Fridays and our custom of Holy Hours. But the most famous words of Our Lord to Margaret Mary came in His fourth or “Great Apparition” in the Octave of Corpus Christi, 1675. She was before the Blessed Sacrament and Jesus showed her His Heart, saying:
“Behold the Heart which has so loved men, which has spared nothing, even to being exhausted and consumed, in order to testify to them its love. And the greater number of them make Me no other return than ingratitude, by their coldness and their forgetfulness of Me in the Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to Me is that it is hearts who are consecrated to Me who use Me thus.
“It is because of this that I ask you to have the First Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi kept as a special feast in honor of My Heart, by receiving Communion on that day and offering it as a reparation of honor for all the insults offered to My Heart during the time that it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart will pour out in abundance the powerful effects of its influence on all those who will render it this honor and who will procure that others shall render it also.”
While I have long loved this Feast for the Love of Our Lord it pours forth in such visible fashion, I admit I wasn’t aware that Jesus asked of us a Holy Communion of reparation on this day! If you have missed out, perhaps you can go to Holy Communion on the special day of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, or at least you will certainly be at Mass on Sunday, when you can offer your Holy Communion in reparation and adoration, and Jesus will surely understand! He is waiting for us to return love for Love, and though we do it poorly, He understands us. His justice and mercy fuse into one compassionate gaze because He rejoices to know that His littlest ones desire to love Him for the love He has given, and even as our offerings are pitiful, so He, who knows we are but dust, raises us to the heights of His own love by giving us His Heart with which to love Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
I must add, too, that this reparation Jesus desires is, for us who have met Therese and strive to follow her Little Way, perfectly fulfilled by our sister’s Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, wherein we ask Jesus to pour into and onto us all the love in His Heart that is rejected by others. May His infinite tenderness find a place in our souls and may our kisses console Him even as His console us!
In Marcel’s Conversations there is a hilarious New Year’s exchange we have mused over in the past: the Redemptorist novices, of which Marcel was one, were given a saint for the New Year to be their special patron. Marcel had previously drawn the name of St. Therese, which pleased him to no end, and he requested Therese again when speaking with Jesus about the upcoming saint-draw for 1946. Our Lord had a surprise in store and gave to Marcel the great St. John Eudes, but when Marcel, knowing nothing about him, asked Jesus who St. John Eudes was (in great exasperation that he had not drawn Therese again), Jesus replied:
“Saint John Eudes, Marcel, is Saint John Eudes, that’s all. He is a saint who loved me a lot during his life, after his death he ascended to heaven with me and then the Church canonized him . . . And now, I want to give you him as your patron for the year. Marcel, you are too fussy; even if you know nothing of Saint John Eudes, that’s of no consequence and I am not obliging you to know any more about him. The only thing that you must know is that I have chosen him for your patron of the year. And since I have chosen him for you, why would it not be as suitable as another. Do not be sad, Marcel. And even if you were sad, you would not be able to change it since you have already eaten some sweets in his honour; if you were going to change, all the saints would make fun of you and you would be very ashamed.” (229)
Leave it to Jesus to bring sweets into it!
But now Marcel knows and wants to share with us a little more from this great St. John Eudes, for his patron was, like St. Margaret Mary, a great champion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and he has left us a prayer, “Colloquy of a holy soul, in solitude, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” which we can pray together in honor of this great feast and in thanksgiving for so much love Jesus pours into our hearts from His.
We can begin by asking Marcel and Therese to pray with us, along with our guardian angels and all lovers of the Sacred Heart, in heaven and on earth. And then, bringing to our minds this Heart which has so loved us, we can pray in the words of St. John Eudes:
O Lord, how delectable is the odor of Thy fragrance! It is my hope that henceforth its sweet delight will make me entirely forget the false pleasures and the vain delights of the world. May Thy sweetness draw me after Thee and in Thee so that, having abandoned all that binds me to earth, I shall follow Thee, run to Thee, flee to Thee and take up my abode in Thy loving Heart.
That divine Heart is a port of safety, where the soul is sheltered from the winds and storms of the sea of this world. In that adorable Heart there is a calm which fears neither thunder nor storm. Therein one tastes delight that knows no bitterness. One finds a peace that never brooks any trouble or discord. There one meets with a joy that knows no sadness. In that Heart one possesses perfect felicity, a gentle charm, and unclouded serenity and happiness unthinkable. That Heart is the first principle of all good, and the initial source of al the joys and delights of paradise.
Most Sweet Jesus, from Thy divine Heart, as from the inexhaustible source, all felicity, all sweetness, serenity, security, repose, peace, joy, contentment, charm and happiness flow into the hearts of the children of God. What good can there be, or how can there be any good thing, that does not proceed from Thee, my Jesus, who art essentially good, the real good, the sovereign good, the only good?
What a joy to drink from this divine spring! What happiness to be refreshed by the delicious waters of this fountain of holiness, which issues forth from itself like a torrent of delight and contentment! Ah, delightful a thousand times is the fragrant perfume of Thy heavenly virtues, whose fragrance is so delectable as to entice all men to Thy loving Heart. It invites them, it strongly attracts them and leads them into the sanctuary of that divine Heart. It never disappoints their hopes. On the contrary, it so fortifies and confirms them that they will never again depart, having found in that most kindly Heart, as on a bed of repose, the end of all their toils.
O Thou God of love, let the sweet fragrance of Thy divine perfumes, which are the wonderful virtues of Thy holy Heart, flow abundantly into the depths of my heart! Let that fragrance penetrate all the faculties of my soul, O one and only source of all happiness, so that being enticed by the sweetness emanating from Thee, it may become detached from self and perfectly united to Thee, that it may make its abode in Thy loving Heart, there to die to itself and no longer to live but in Thee and for Thee! Amen.
Draw me; we will run!
May this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus bring you deep into His Heart, now and forever!
Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen as He said!
Happy Easter! We are just barely out of the Easter Octave, the Easter Day that lasts 8 days and yet is one day. We are now in the shadow of the Divine Mercy, and what graces the Lord pours out upon us from His wounded side!
But then after yesterday's feast of St. Mark, we have today the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. What an embarrassment of riches! She has a delightful history and is overjoyed to continue that history here and now in our lives. She wants nothing more (nor less) than to share the Good Counsel that Divine Wisdom, her dear Son now risen but once a little babe in her arms, has for us.
We have once again traversed Lent and Holy Week. Whether we were extra zealous or extra sleepy, those beautiful days fulfilled their promise and have brought us into Eastertide, and what a marvelous time to spend with Our Lady. After she witnessed Our Lord's Passion, formally received us as her children and held her dead beloved Son in her arms on Good Friday, after she waited through the long hours of Holy Saturday, after she received (as tradition tells us) the first Resurrection Visit of Jesus early Easter morning - ah, now she waits only to share all her compassion and fulfilled hope with us, her littlest children.
Here is what she says, as we gaze upon her lovely, delicate features:
"My dear little one. You have just been looking at me . . . My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze." (Marcel Van's Conversations, 426) What power we have: simply by gazing upon her we draw her compassionate gaze upon ourselves!
The story of the original Our Lady of Good Counsel image in Genezzano is marvelous! Here is an account from the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, whose special patroness she is:
* * *
Devotion to the Mother of Good Counsel is associated with the story of a miraculous icon. The sacred image is found in a church in Genazzano, a beautiful town thirty miles south-east of Rome. The church dedicated to the Mother of Good Counsel was built there in the fourth century. In 1356 the church was given over to the Augustinians. Restoration started in 1467, when a widow, Petruccia, sold all her belongings to help finance the project. However, funds ran out before the task was completed.
That same year, all the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody coming from heaven. As they looked up, they saw a white, shining cloud that descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The cloud gradually vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. Immediately, Mary began to cure the sick and grant countless graces.
The news spread throughout the country. Two Albanians from Scutari appeared in the town with a curious tale. They had fled from their homeland to escape the invading Turks. Before fleeing, they had stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture until they could see the towers of Rome, when it suddenly disappeared. The mysterious icon of Genezzano was identical to the one in the church in Scutari.
The amazing news reached Rome. Pope Paul II sent two bishops to investigate the story. The prelates reported that 171 miracles were recorded in the months following the icon’s appearance. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. An icon that had been venerated there for centuries was, indeed, missing.
The image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived the subsequent centuries through the tumult of several earthquakes and withstood the bombing during World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the explosion, remained intact.
In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV established the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel to promote devotion to Mary under this title. Pope Leo XIII added the title Mother of Good Counsel to the Litany of Loreto. Pope Pius XII dedicated his term of office to Our Lady of Good Counsel. And Pope John XXIII visited her shrine to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council.
The icon at Genazzano is about a foot wide and eighteen inches high. It depicts a mother figure that is half turned toward her son and half toward the viewer, reflecting Mary’s concern for both Jesus and his Church.
If Our Blessed Mother is willing to ask her Son to work miracles to let us know of her motherly concern, Our Lady of Good Counsel is certainly willing to speak words of advice and instruction to help us over the hurdles of our daily lives.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!
* * *
Two more things I love about this picture in Genezzano:
First, the eggshell thin image is actually not attached to the wall! It miraculously hangs in the air a short distance away from the wall!
Second, when Our Lady and little Jesus are saying yes to a request, ready to grant a miracle, their images become rosy cheeked!
How they love us., and how they want us to ask for favors. They will pour out their love upon us no matter what, but when we ask, they are thrilled to respond with even more graces. Do you have any special requests? I know I have a growing pile of intentions in my heart, and I commend these - and your needs - to our dear Mother of Good Counsel and Divine Wisdom in her arms. She says to us, "My dear child, remain in peace, all right? Little Jesus has not scolded you; neither have I. Our sole intention, both of us, is to get rid of your troubles. Do not worry. I love you dearly." (Conversations, 426)
As for her good counsel pertaining to our particular needs - it is time to snuggle close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and listen. They will tell us what it is we are in such desperate straits to hear, the advice we need. Our job is to quiet ourselves, cozy up, and listen. Oh, and throw in a "Jesus, I trust in You!" or two for good measure!
May your Easter be replete with love, joy, and peace, as well as answered prayers. And may Our Lady, Our dearest Mother, whisper into your heart every needed good counsel!
Draw me, we will run!
As we enter the heart of Lent, Jesus is so very near to us! And to make sure we stay awake a little longer, in these days the Church puts on Our Lord's lips some of the most beautiful words of Scripture, including the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah. These started on Monday and continue through Good Friday because Our Holy Mother knows we are getting tired, and she imitates our Savior in pulling out all the stops. In a liturgical repetition that is quite rare, in both the Mass and the Divine Office today we find Jesus telling us what His Father has done:
"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." (from Isaiah 50)
Our beloved and adorable Jesus will not shield Himself, but is there any way we can shield Him? And what is this word He speaks to us who are weary?
His words are ever ancient, ever new, and He invites us once again into His Most Sacred Heart. He has said to us:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:28-30)
Then this morning as I opened Marcel's Conversations, I found some wonderful advice about what to do once we are in His Heart. Jesus does not leave us without a plan, but says to us through His words to Marcel:
"You asked to be buried in my heart. It is good. I agree to it most gladly and even if you did not ask for it I would not neglect to bury you in it anyway . . . Come on Marcel, say after me: 'Jesus, I love you.' Little Marcel, why do you not say a word of love to me? Yes, why? Is it that you have already forgotten the word Love so that I must urge you to say it? In order to prove to me your love, you have only two things to do: to say to me: 'Dear Jesus, I love you a lot.' Then look at me."
Yes, just when we wonder if we can take another step, or perhaps when some of us are eager to do so but want to know where to plant our feet, Jesus gives us perfect advice, only two things we need to do. He wants to hear of our love that He may be consoled in His agony and sustained on His journey to Calvary. He continues:
"When you enjoy my conversation, you must say to me, 'Dear Jesus, I love you greatly.' This will be one way of answering me. As for looking at me, you will do so at the times when your heart feels bitterness and is unable to say a word to me. You will use this glance to give me a sign of your love. But you must make use of it only when I am not speaking to you. When I speak to you, don't just be content to remain there, leaning forward open-mouthed listening to me speaking without deigning to reply to me . . . " (193)
We will be hearing more of His words this week from the Scriptures and liturgy and in the remembrance of all He did for us in His Passion. Let us respond with these simple words: "Dear Jesus, I love You a lot! Dear Jesus, I love You greatly!" But then too, if our hearts are dried up and His voice seems far away, if we are not hearing Him so clearly, let us look at Him. I've put Therese's sister Celine's image of the Holy Face (which she painted on her knees while looking at the first negative image of the Shroud of Turin) atop this post so we have Jesus before us. Let us look at Him and love Him!
But what about shielding Him from the innumerable blows that will rain down upon Him in His Passion? In a passage we have quoted before from Passion Sunday 1946, Our Lady gives us this sweet suggestion:
"My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . ."
Surely there will be plenty of inconveniences to accept cheerfully this week! Let us do our best to offer Jesus (and those around us) a smile when we are tempted to something quite different. What an amazing thing that we are invited to protect Jesus in this way!
But Jesus Himself has yet more advice about how He would like to be shielded, saying in that same Passion Sunday conversation:
"The sighs of love that souls cause to rise towards me are capable of stopping the enormous stones which are thrown at my Love; these sighs divert the arrows of sinners which target my heart . . . Oh! Marcel, the weak sighs of men prevent me from dying, suffocated on this earth. From where does such power come? From the love within them. What happiness for me to be able to frolic in the midst of these sighs! I feel very much at ease and completely at peace, no longer fearing being seen by my enemies, or of being pierced by their arrows . . ." (387)
Certainly His words are mysterious when read this week! The Church will accompany Jesus through His Passion and death, and frolicking seems quite foreign to anything we will witness in Holy Week. Ah, but we are children, and He speaks to us of what we can understand. Our love for Him, enclosed in our sighs, can comfort Him and His Heart will be that much less sad . . .
I was delighted to discover in the earlier passage I opened to this morning a further commentary from Jesus on these sighs of love. Jesus is the greatest Teacher, as well as the beloved Spouse of our Souls, and He does not leave us vague on how to sigh! He explains:
"Marcel, I am going to teach you now how 'to sigh with love' for me. Dear Marcel! To sigh with love for me consists in wrapping each of your sighs in all the love of which you are capable in order to then offer them to me. These sighs, flying towards me, release a sweet perfume which intoxicates and attracts me. I then look for the place from where these sighs come to me and when I have found it, I turn in that direction in order to enjoy the fragrance which draws me more and more towards it. Having arrived close, I see the flower with the sweet fragrance. I hurry to gather it joyfully and I take it away to please myself. When it has pleased me long enough I lock it in the bottom of my heart so that this flower will have to stay there in peace throughout eternity. Dear Marcel, look how the simple sighs of love have the power to draw my heart and to place me as it were outside myself . . . Little Marcel, if only I could find many flowers exhaling such a fragrance!" (194)
Let us be such flowers for Jesus this week, wafting sweet scents of love to Him through our little sighs, distracting Him from the pain and cruelty inflicted upon Him by those who hate Him, reminding Him that we love Him and are grateful for all He has done. Let us take Him out of Himself, so He may forget a little and be filled with the fragrance of love!
It seems a tall order, but He has instructed us well and our marching orders are sweet and clear:
We tell Him we love Him a lot - that is, a lot of times we can tell Him we love Him very much! And we look at Him. And we wrap each of our sighs in all the love of which we are capable and offer them to Him.
He knows ahead of time how badly we will do these things, and says to us as He said to our brother, "My little Marcel, you get younger every day, so much so that I must begin again to teach you even the first words that I have already taught you. Why do you forget so quickly? However, don't be sad because you have such a short memory. Even if you forget, you please me nevertheless, on condition that you do not worry about it." (193)
Our sister St. Therese said that children fall often, but they don't get hurt because they are so close to the ground! Let us offer our many falls in union with Jesus' falls on the Way of the Cross, and then let's dust ourselves off and tell Him again, "Jesus, I love You a lot!" Then look at Him. And give Him our smile. And sigh with love. Oh! And then let's not forget to kiss Him, and as Therese taught us, let's kiss Him on His adorable Face.
As we enter these Holiest Days, you are in my prayers. May Jesus' love transform you, and may your love bring consolation and joy into His Sacred Heart, which so treasures the perfume of your sighs.
Draw me, we will run!!!
April Fools Day and a Friday in Lent - what an odd conjunction, and how unfitting, we might think. Yet it takes none other than our little Sister St. Therese to open our eyes to the very perfect fittingness of God's timing. Because, after all, she advocates our being fools for Our Lord as He has been a fool for us! Or rather she explains how He is the fool, and try as we might, nothing we do for Him can match the folly of what He has done for us.
Here are her words to the first sweet echo of her soul, her sister Celine, in a letter from August 1894:
"We have only the short moment of this life to give to God . . . and He is already preparing to say, 'Now, My turn . . .' What a joy to suffer for Him who loves us unto folly and to pass as fools in the eyes of the world. We judge others as we judge ourselves, and since the world is senseless, it naturally thinks we are the ones who are senseless! . . . But, after all, we are not the first; the only crime with which Jesus was reproached by Herod was that of being foolish, and I think like him! . . . Yes, it was folly to seek out the poor little hearts of mortals to make them His thrones, He, the King of Glory, who is seated above the Cherubim . . . He, whom the heavens cannot contain . . . He was foolish, our Beloved, to come to earth in search of sinners in order to make them His friends, His intimates, His equals, He who was perfectly happy with the two adorable Persons of the Trinity! . . . We shall never be able to carry out the follies He carried out for us, and our actions will never merit this name, for they are only very rational acts and much below what our love would like to accomplish. It is the world, then, that is senseless since it does not know what Jesus has done to save it, it is the world which is a monopolizer, which seduces souls, and which leads them to springs without water . . .
"We are not idlers, squanderers, either. Jesus has defended us in the person of the Magdalene. He was at table, Martha was serving, Lazarus was eating with Him and His disciples. As for Mary, she was not thinking of taking any food but of pleasing Him whom she loved, so she took a jar filled with an ointment of great price and poured it on the head of Jesus, after breaking the jar, and the whole house was scented with the ointment, but the APOSTLES complained against Magdalene . . . It is really the same for us; the most fervent Christians, priests, find that we are exaggerated, that we should serve with Martha instead of consecrating to Jesus the vessels of our lives, with the ointments enclosed within them. . . And nevertheless what does it matter if our vessels be broken since Jesus is consoled and since, in spite of itself, the world is obliged to smell the perfumes that are exhaled and serve to purify the empoisoned air the world never ceases to breathe in."
* * *
Therese was encouraging Celine in her plan to enter Carmel and live a comtemplative life. She encourages us, too, in our plan to sit with Jesus, to be near Him, to make the greatest moments of our lives those in which we remain with Him and He remains with us . . . even as we (and Therese and Celine) do have practical tasks that occupy us in between our contemplative interludes.
And yet which shall we treasure more? It's so easy to hear the voices within and without us that say we are wasting our time unless we are visibly productive. No, says Therese, we are being little Magdalenes when we take time for prayer, when we live a quiet, hidden life, when we prefer Jesus to all else, this Jesus whom so many do not yet know. We are filling the Church and the world with the perfume of our love, and most especially His Love, and we have confident hope that these mingled perfumes will draw many to His Loving Heart.
In a recent post we quoted Therese's words to her little brother Marcel Van, in Conversations, when she explained to him that if his prayer time was dry, he shouldn't worry. This is a gift to Jesus and nothing displeasing to Him.
Wouldn't you know that Mary, our loving Mother, says the same? In Conversations (282) she also takes pains to make sure we understand that our folly in spending time with Jesus is always a precious and worthwhile foolishness, even when we don't feel it to be so . . . She says:
"My dear child, if you do not feel the fervour of your love, do not worry about it. Indeed, what has your sister Therese taught you and what have I repeated to you on this subject? Remain at peace, your good will is enough. The sufferings you are now bearing are the best proof of your love for Jesus. And if you do not feel this love, it is because you have offered it entirely to little Jesus. It is the same in regards to me; I am not reproaching you in any way if you do not feel any fervour in loving me. Feelings of fervour and love are two different things. When you feel joy in loving, supposing that you are capable of expressing your love, certainly you would do it as much as is possible. This is what one calls the fervour of love. On the other hand if, in loving, you only feel distaste and sadness, without feeling anything of the fervour of your love but that, nevertheless, you keep in your heart the desire to love, come what may, even were it necessary to die of it, that is to love with all your heart, with all your strength.
"My child, for the moment, offer to little Jesus all the love of your heart, offer him equally, the fervour which you formerly enjoyed. In that way, whatever the fervour of your love might be, Jesus will accept all and you will not cease loving with all your heart and with all your strength. . . . My child, do not forget what I have just reminded you of, retain it with care. And if you feel yourself incapable of expressing your love to little Jesus, do not worry about it unduly, accept this trial and in doing so you will give to Him double evidence of your love. And I, in seeing you so unhappy, how would I be able not to love you more? Therefore stay peaceful; it is sufficient that you have the will to love Jesus. Regarding your relations with little Jesus, in all that you have done until now, allow me to concern myself with it in your place. It is sufficient for you to accept this trial with a joyful heart."
Ah, what a Mother! She will not let us fall into the error of worrying about how we feel at prayer as if that were a sign of how Jesus feels when we are at prayer. Remember, He was a fool first for us - He came to dwell with us when He had been perfectly happy in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity, and this was and is His delight - to be with the children of men! So too it is His delight when we choose to be with Him, however poorly we feel it or attend, however foolish the world (and sometimes we ourselves) deem our quiet time.
Our Lady has one more word for us here, and it is a doozy. That contradiction Christ brought, that mystery that St. Paul tells the Corinthians "is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Yes, the dreaded cross, but let us not focus on the dread, let us be fools and focus on the union with the One who first made that Cross our salvation, who clung to it in Love, who shares it only out of Love. What Mary tells us is simple:
"Your only occupation should be to love in joy. You can cry when you are sad and laugh when you are joyful, but your heart must love little Jesus always in joy . . ." and again, "I want you to love little Jesus in peace and joy. I love you, I feel compassion for you, I am smothering you with kisses, I am wrapping you in my cloak. So, remain peaceful, I will hide your sadness so that little Jesus does not see it . . ."
How wonderful to have such a mom to do for us what we can't do for ourselves! She'll hide our sorrow, but meanwhile let us try to show our joy. The apostolate of the smile! Or in the eyes of the world, the apostolate of foolishness, wherein Christ Our Lord is all to us, and we give our all to Him.
The joy of Marcel for us at Miss Marcel's Musings is always his utter simplicity. He is direct with Jesus, whether it is about a too-tight soutane (outfit), sandals that ooze black gunk, or bananas and their deliciousness! Let us not be afraid to be ourselves with Jesus, and no doubt that will many times mean being foolish or silly. All the better, to imitate our Master as well as our little brother!
Jesus, we thank You for being a fool for us! Happy April Fools Day, and may all our days be full of foolishness for You!
Draw me, we will run!
Are you ready for the feast of St. Joseph?
You may have been praying away, preparing by a traditional novena, or you may have made it a little novena, forgetting some days, or you may be saying "oops!" right now. That last especially would make you ready to dive into our novena, but you're more than welcome to pray it in addition to yours even if you've been very together! Here at MIss Marcel's Musings, we like to end novenas on the actual feast day, and we LOVE St. Joseph. Consequently we've been praying to him for days and days and it's unlikely we'll stop after today - and all your intentions are included! We find it easy as pie because God our Heavenly Father wants to give us so many things, and He loves to give them through the request of dear St. Joseph who was His stand-in on earth.
So come on down! Let's importune St. Joseph and get those graces showering upon all our near and dear ones, all who have commended themselves to our prayers, all who are in need of our prayers (whether we're aware of their needs or not) and all for whom we've promised to pray. Whew, that's quite a list! Good thing our guardian angels are with us to keep track - we don't need to name every name (in fact we couldn't, come to think of it), but just trust. And as always, we can fortify our small supply of trust by drawing on the HUGE confidence of our sister St. Therese. Now that she sees Our Lord face to Face, she has no need of her trust and is happy to give it to us!
I'm not aware of our dear Marcel Van having written on St. Joseph, but I do love what Jesus told him in Conversations about the Heavenly Father's love for us, and I'm certain these words apply to good St. Joseph in his capacity as our father too. Jesus said:
"Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats." (492)
St. Joseph must have felt exactly this way regarding the Treasures the Heavenly Father confided into his care: Jesus, and Mary, his spouse, when they lived on earth, and the whole universal Church now. I'm sure St. Joseph wants to indulge us just as he would have wanted to indulge Mary and little Jesus in everything! And I've been thinking about how Mary and Jesus must have felt about him too. I imagine that St. Joseph was such a tremendous comfort to Our Lady and Jesus. He was both strong and gentle, prudent and loving, faithful, devoted, always near and ever ready to help in any task that arose in their little household. And when trials came - the first intimations of the cross in the flight to Egypt, their exile, and later the three day loss of the boy Jesus when He remained in the temple - St. Joseph was no doubt a refuge for Our Lady and a reminder of the faithfulness of the Father who would never abandon them.
I have a favorite St. Joseph novena prayer that I've been saying a lot recently, and you'll be glad to hear it works! In his kindness and knowing my timorous heart, St. Joseph answered one of my lead-off petitions before I finished the novena, and I'm so grateful. What a way to show us that our confidence is well placed! He would never neglect us, his children, and he is even now working out the answers to as many needs as we present to him.
One reason I love this particular prayer - okay, besides that it has been the means of obtaining many favors and graces over the years - is that it's replete with hope and childlike dependence, plus a lot of great reminders about how reliable St. Joseph is, how responsive, how quick to hear and answer.
Full disclosure: Some of my petitions have been trotted out again and again, and I know that doesn't sound like "quick to hear and answer" on St. Joseph's part. Rest assured that many others were answered by him pronto, and I know he would take care of every intention that way except that he wants to be as obedient to God as God always was to him! Are some of your petitions like some of mine, and you find yourself commending to him the same needs that have been with you for more than one or two of his feasts? I suspect I'm not alone in this, but I have a story to boost your perseverance.
In the beautiful Year of St. Joseph which unfortunately ended last December (I would have liked a decade of St. Joseph or maybe a century!), I was able to assist my two earthly fathers, that is my dad and my father-in-law, in their passages Home to God. They both were blessed with holy deaths, and for my father-in-law this was particularly marvelous because we had been praying for his return to the sacraments for decades! God knew and waited. St. Joseph heard and persisted in reminding the Father. We just kept praying and trusting and trusting and praying - and voila! Wonderfully, two weeks before he left this life for Eternal Life, my father-in-law cheerfully consented to receive the sacraments and did! The prayers of his parents from long ago, of his wife of 62 years, of his children from their childhoods, of his grandchildren and eventually great grandchildren, these were answered at last in one fell swoop of grace and mercy at the perfect moment God had in mind from all eternity.
Don't worry, then, if some of your prayers are still unanswered. God's timing is always perfect, and He loves that you continue to turn to Him with these persistent requests. And when you go to Him through St. Joseph, you are bringing in one who has great power over God's heart! We have much power over His Heart too, He loves us so much, but with St. Joseph there is that added business of obedience, since the Heavenly Father made St. Joseph the earthly father for Jesus Who was perfect in obedience as in everything else. As Marcel's father in the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus, explains: "Just as Jesus Christ wanted to be subject to Joseph on earth, so He does everything the saint asks of Him in Heaven."
So what do you say? Shall we pray together? Let's honor St. Joseph with our filial confidence and take refuge in him as our Blessed Mother and little Jesus did. And the bigger your needs, the more challenging your requests, the better! This will give Jesus a chance to thank St. Joseph for the years of tender care he provided, and since God will never be outdone in generosity, He is delighted to have the opportunity to provide the tender care St. Joseph now asks on our behalf. May St. Joseph win the day and obtain God's answer to your petitions as swiftly as he obeyed the angels' messages when he was caring for Our Lord and Our Lady!
Marcel and Therese and I (and St. Andre Bessette) wish you the happiest of feasts. May St. Joseph spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to more than answer all your deepest desires and petitions. And we pray he throws in a cupcake, or something equally sweet and fun, just to seal the deal!
As for that prayer I can never get enough of, here it is. I gladly pray it again, with you and for you, asking our angels fill in the blanks:
With childlike confidence I present myself before you, O holy Joseph, faithful foster father of Jesus! I beg your compassionate intercession and support in this, my present necessity. . .(and I pray too for all those who have asked my prayers, all those who need my prayers, and all those for whom I have promised to pray).
I firmly believe that you are most powerful near the throne of God, who chose you for the foster father of His well-beloved son, Jesus Christ. O blessed Saint, who saved that treasure of heaven, with His virginal mother, from the fury of His enemies, who with untiring industry supplied His earthly wants and with paternal care accompanied and protected Him in all the journeys of His childhood, take me also, for the love of Jesus, as your child. Assist me in my present difficulty . . . with your prayers before God. The infinite goodness of Our Savior, who loved and honored you as His father upon earth, cannot refuse you any request now in heaven.
How many pious souls have sought help from you in their needs and have experienced, to their joy, how good, how ready you are to assist. How quickly you turn to those who call upon you with confidence! How powerful you are in bringing help and restoring joy to anxious and dejected hearts! Therefore, do I fly to you, O most worthy father of Jesus, most chaste spouse of Mary! Good St. Joseph, I pray you by the burning love you had for Jesus and Mary upon earth, console me in my distress and present my petitions . . . through Jesus and Mary, before the throne of God! One word from you will move Him to assist my afflicted soul. Then most joyfully shall I praise Him and you, and most earnest shall be my thanksgiving!
Draw me, we will run!
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