"Let not your heart be troubled . . . Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You have heard Me say, 'I go away and I am coming to you.'" (Jn 14)
I'm having a little debate with myself. It is 3 a.m., an excellent time for a debate, except that usually no one else is awake, so one must have these debates interiorly, quietly, alone.
For me these debates, or conversations if you will, start with a discussion about whether or not we (the royal "we") will go back to sleep. I always think this is a good idea, but often some part of me (the other component of the "we") disagrees. I try not to allow argument over the point, and the other part of me agrees. "Let's just get up!" she says. And so, here we are.
Actually it was about 2:40 a.m. when we woke tonight (or this morning, I guess I should say). After the initial little tete a tete about whether we were sleeping or waking - and you know how that ended - we had a conversation about upcoming events, our to-do list, and what we should read. After a short tussle with a kindle, Marcel won. Praise God!
Which leads me to my current debate, the one that started just before I began writing, and just after I realized that Jesus in Conversations was saying the same thing He'd said in St. John's Gospel. Or was He?
Before I give you the impression that this interior debate is a pitched battle, let me say that my question is both friendly and happy. I'm sure that in Conversations Jesus is saying at least the same thing as He said in St. John's Gospel, but I'm wondering if He's returning to us through Marcel in order simply to expand what He said, or to add more to it.
In particular, I'm thinking of the conversation He had with the apostles at the Last Supper, and the conversation He had with Marcel on April 7, 1946, Passion Sunday that year, the Sunday before Palm Sunday in the liturgical calendar of the time. And as I pose the question whether Jesus is merely repeating Himself to Marcel (with slight embellishments) or taking the opportunity to cover more ground, I love that my question follows hard on the heels of the statement (just made in the last paragraph), "I'm sure that in Conversations Jesus is saying at least the same thing as He said in St. John's Gospel." What a gift, for Jesus to repeat Himself to us through the priceless treasure of His words to Marcel
I ran across the most interesting conjunction a couple of days ago. I have a little google elf (or several - they all look alike so it's hard to tell whether he is one or they are many) who spends a good portion of his time scouring the internet for references to me or my books and reports back to my inbox with "Google alerts." On Friday I got one such alert that referred me to a Catholic column at the website of an esteemed Catholic newspaper, which column recommended blog posts around the internet that the author deemed worthy of the readers' attention.
Interestingly, it wasn't Miss Marcel's Musings that brought my name into that column, but rather my August 9th article on Edith Stein at Catholic Exchange. What a lovely thing to have that noted and recommended. Thank You, Jesus! (No, He didn't write the column, but He and the Father must've sent the Holy Spirit to alert the author who recommended my article. The google elves are clever, but not that clever.)
What was of even more interest to me, however, since I'd already read my article, was another recommended article, a recent column by Peter Kwasniewski (fellow alum of Thomas Aquinas College, philosopher, author, and teacher whom I've never met, but have heard of repeatedly for he always seems to be up to very good things) about Angelico Press' new multi-volume edition of Anne Catherine Emmerich's revelations, and in particular the volume on the Blessed Sacrament.
While his quotations from this book were awe inspiring (and prompted me to go to Mass on Friday not only to receive Jesus in Communion, but also so I could offer the Mass to the Heavenly Father), what especially fascinated me were Peter's comments on private revelation. Apparently there had been heated comments in response to a previous post of his, comments which began, perhaps, as cautions against erroneous and false purported revelations, but which progressed to disrespectful dismissal of seemingly all private revelations. Peter, God bless him, began the piece that I read with a defense of the Church's rich tradition of mysticism and private revelation (and mentioned, in passing, that in Jesus' appearances to St. Gertrude the Great, He'd put many rings on her fingers, a fact previously unknown to me but one which brought me great pleasure, since I love jewelry and its symbolic meaning, and lately, especially, rings).
Naturally I was quite grateful to Peter K. for his passionate and thoughtful (if brief) defense of private revelation, because I find myself rather smitten with a certain private revelation (or revelations, depending on whether you count them in a group or singly) to our little brother, the Servant of God Marcel Van.
And it got me thinking about how one knows the authenticity (or inauthenticity) of a private revelation. Which question is not worrying me at 3 a.m. because I have two really good answers right off the top of my oddly brunette head (though I'm about to sound smart, so I guess that's more appropriate than that my blonde soul should shine through).
The first and most reliable way to know the authenticity or inauthenticity of a private revelation is to listen to the voice of Christ speaking through His Church.
Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave a wonderful explanation of private revelation (what it is, how it works, what it should do, what it does not do, etc.) in the beginning of his Theological Commentary on the third secret of Fatima, which commentary I have in a truly marvelous book called The Last Secret of Fatima (the very book which led me to fall in love with, one after another, Lucia, Jacinta, Francisco, and Our Lady of Fatima herself), but you can find the commentary HERE. (Click HERE to be magically transported to the Vatican website. Scroll half way down the webpage to get to the theological commentary - though it's all interesting. Talk about excitement and adventure!)
The second way to know whether a private revelation is the real thing or a bunch of hooey is to call upon your sixth sense, your sensus fidei, perk up your little lamb ears, and see if you recognize the Good Shepherd's voice.
In the case of our little brother Marcel's Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese, you'll be happy (and I hope unsurprised) to hear that Marcel and his Heavenly visitors pass both tests with flying colors.
I have often recalled the wise counsel, regarding discernment of vocations, that one needs not only an interior conviction of having heard Christ's call, but an exterior confirmation that comes more directly from the Church. So if, for instance, one felt called to enter a particular religious order, the acceptance by a community would be necessary in addition to one's own desire to join. Similarly, I remember when in October of 1987 I felt the strong interior conviction that I was supposed to marry the handsome and tall Tony Andres, I also felt strongly that I needed some exterior confirmation - namely his matching conviction that he was supposed to marry me!
So, too, in this question of the authenticity of private revelation, I'd say that our own discernment and recognition of Christ's (or Mary's, or a Saint's) voice is important, but certainly trumped - sealed and ratified or discounted and rectified - by the Church's recognition of her Divine Bridegroom's voice (or, contrarily, her identification of an impostor).
When it comes to Marcel's Conversations, I don't know which I love more: Marcel's title of Servant of God and his letter of introduction to us by a Prince of the Church, Cardinal Schonborn, or the familiar and beloved voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, ringing out from page after page.
Actually, I know which I love more: I love, love, love Jesus' voice most of all . . . but I cannot separate His voice from the voice of His Bride, the Church, and so I love (and need) too her commendations of Marcel and his writings.
Resting safe and secure in these commendations, I feel like a bride myself, the bride in the Song of Songs:
"I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil. I heard my lover knocking: 'Open to me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one!"
Well, okay, I don't usually feel like the perfect one, but I do hear Jesus knocking. Sometimes I think that's what wakes me up around 2:40 a.m., and thankfully I have an easier time finding Him than the bride in the Song who has to rise, put on her robe, undo the lock, open the door only to discover He's already gone, then seek Him without finding Him, call Him without hearing a response, go out into the city, and wrassle with the watchmen! Phew! She has a very rough time of it.
God knows I am a little soul, and He is merciful.
For me, finding Jesus is as simple as opening the door (or cover) to Marcel's Conversations, and there is my Beloved, every time, right there waiting for me.
Take this morning, for instance.
I woke, couldn't return to sleep, began to be troubled, heard that familiar knocking, and opened Conversations, from the pages of which Jesus began to speak to me silently but so truly at (385), saying to me (and to you, I have no doubt) these words He said first to Marcel:
How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed; and you still have this defect. Come, little brother, since you do not wish to cause Me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you? I tell you that I am happy with all that you do; why do you not believe what I say? All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to Me already. All that is My property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . . Little brother, remain tranquil. I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother. Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard, has he not said these very true words to you: "Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Little brother, if after that you will trouble yourself, it is certain that Mary will be very hurt. Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me. But since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness? Marcel, there is in you only this tendency to worry, which makes Me fear for the future. So, remain peaceful. All that you do belongs to Me. You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you.
Little Marcel, are you at peace now? . . . Very good. From now on, never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand? It is sufficient for you to love Me. We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . . you and I are both but one together. Do not worry, Mary is very happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, Marcel, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in Me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
What did your sister Therese teach you? You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours? . . . Little Marcel, love Me a lot.
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 being pierced by their arrows . . .
Alas, little Marcel, they are still very rare on this earth, the places where I can rest. Today, little Marcel, pray for the expansion of the reign of My Love throughout the world; it is necessary that you bring to it your full attention. The summer holidays are coming. I want to have many well-ventilated villas to go and rest in them. So, Marcel look for a large number of villas for Me. And we, both of us, will be able to enjoy then; you have nothing to lose there . . .
However, Marcel, our main villa is the very heart of Mary where we will find all consolations; nevertheless, many other houses are necessary for us, so we may get more rest.
+ + +
How bold Jesus is to talk about rest when He has awakened me and kept me awake (though I'm beginning to feel sleepy again) until what's now 4:45 a.m.! Ah, but I would not prefer sleep to this colloquy with Him and you, dear reader. How good He is, how ineffably sweet, refusing to let us worry, insistent on repeating again and again the message He gave us at the Last Supper . . . Did you hear His familiar voice speaking so personally to you?
When He tells us through Marcel that we must not be troubled or afraid, the words resound in my heart with a familiar ring.
"Do not let your heart be troubled . . . Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid," He says to us through His words to the apostles in the 14th chapter of John's incomparable gospel. And then, directly after these words, "You have heard Me say, 'I go away, and I am coming to you.'"
Yes, Jesus! You have come back to us! You have returned to us when You visited Marcel and gave him those many words to write down on page after page so that his bearded Jesus, Fr. Boucher, could collect them, copy them, treasure them, guard them, send them ahead of himself from Vietnam to Canada for safekeeping, follow them, and slowly, carefully, painstakingly translate them into perfect French, and begin to disseminate them . . . so that Jack Keogan could, unaccountably but by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit of Love, offer to translate these pages upon pages from French into English before he had even set eyes upon them!
Oh Love, You stop at nothing to reassure us, in the middle of the night as in the noon of midday, through the writing of Your little apostle Marcel as through the writing of Your beloved apostle John. Your words are the same:
"Do not let your heart be troubled,"
"From now on, never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand?"
And when we forget and are re-troubled only 15 seconds (on a good day) after You last told us we must not trouble ourselves, You pretend to despair, gently teasing us, cheering us as You remind us, as often as we need to hear it, that there is nothing to fear:
"You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew."
Indeed, Jesus, what happiness can be compared to ours? You are so kind to us. You are truly our Good Shepherd, and oh, how we love to hear Your gentle voice! Thank You for speaking to us in the Gospels. Thank You for repeating Yourself endlessly to us in Your words to Marcel. Oh Jesus, let our sighs comfort You. We are capable of so little, but we are good at sighing! Thank You for making it so easy for us to love and console You. Let us be Your little villas. Let us rest with You and Marcel in the main villa of Mary's Immaculate Heart where we will find, with You, all consolations, but then, so that you can get more rest, let us be other villas for You and Marcel.
And now, allowing bygones to be bygones and forgetting the questions and debates of the wee hours, I think I'll go back to sleep, God willing. It is enough for me to know, just for a moment, just for an hour, that Jesus doesn't want me to worry. Nor you, either!
Despite my lamentable lack of confidence in most areas, I am fully confident that I will forget, quite soon, that He doesn't want me to worry (and I suspect you may resemble me and Marcel in this regard) . . . No matter. It is even so much the better, since what we have forgotten, Jesus is always here to remind us of and thus we can continually learn the lesson anew. Let us love Him a lot, and let's join Marcel in praying for the expansion of His reign of Love throughout the world. For simple souls, there must be no complicated ways, so as His little spouses, we can simply pray together:
Draw me; we will run!
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