I promised to tell you about John Wu today, and I promise, I will. But as you may have noticed, Therese gets top billing, and that's for 3 reasons. The first is - she demanded it! The second is (as I found out this morning) - she demanded it because she wanted Marcel to get top billing. If that sounds incomprehensible, I'm thinking again about how Jesus told Marcel he'd be a second Therese. Have I told you yet about my favorite movie line from the old Laurence Olivier/Merle Oberon Wuthering Heights? Beautiful Merle Oberon crying out with great pathos, "I AM Heathcliff!" Well Marcel is just as beautiful, crying out, "I am Therese!" We have to leave aside for the moment the theology that gets him out of that pickle (or we'll never get to the third reason Therese is up top), except to say, quickly, that love demands union, and union comes in many forms.
The third reason, though, follows directly on the second - Therese wants Marcel to come first today because, as I discovered anew in Conversations this morning, he's just the perfect interpreter, translator, megaphone if you will, for her little teeny tiny way.
I went to a party last night. It was really as lovely a party as I could have desired. Many wonderful people were invited, but most could not accept. The result was an intimate gathering of old and dear friends. (Old in the sense of having known each other long, but naturally, living in California as we all do, the women looked young and fresh as butterflies newly out of the chrysalis stage, the men strong as eagles and that sort of thing.) Nonetheless, despite the charming company, delicious treats, fine wine (or for those of us too young in palate to appreciate fine wines, sparkling Pellegrino), and pleasant conversation, I still woke up with a social hangover. You know the feeling, eyes bleary from staying up a titch too late, head swollen and unsettled thanks to the myriad moths of memories from the previous evening: Did I really say that? Was anyone offended? Did I speak too much? Too little? and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah, ad infinitum.
There is a remedy. It's not hair of the dog, exactly, but maybe not too far from it. Instead of trying to save one's self by oneself ("It was my interaction with people that did this; I'd best remain alone in my head for a while to recover"- surely a devil's ploy and quite ineffective, believe me), the best remedy I've found is to dive into conversation with the Saints. And just as Jeeves would provide the winning concoction to Bertie, both of them knowing that not just any hair of the dog will do, but some special combo of raw egg yolks and orange juice with a dash of Jeeves special secret ingredient, so in my book it's Marcel and Therese who combine for the ideal morning after, soul-settling concoction.
Take this morning for instance. After a brief bout of the "What-did-I-say"s in bed, I moved to a couch with my journal and Conversations. I wrote a few lines to Jesus about how little I felt, and how incapable of prayer: yesterday, today, and - well, not forever because hope springs eternal . . . but left to my own devices, I've nothing to offer. He knows this, but it was all I had, until I glanced to a sloppy box higher up on my journal page. There I found yesterday's imagined conversation with Him (which, needless to say, I'd forgotten completely, Marcelle that I am), and read: "Listen daughter, littlest one: to be with Marcel in Conversations is to be with Me. To hear My words to him is to hear My words to you. "
No time like the present, I thought, especially given my likelihood of forgetting this Word as soon as my eyes left the page. I opened Marcel, then, and here is what I found:
11 February 1946
Marcel: Jesus, there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that I recognize my weakness; in fact You already know the state of my soul. My confidence, however, is far from being weak. I know with certainty that only confidence is capable of attracting Your heart to me . . . Jesus, I am very wretched and, when I think of my weaknesses, this thought only leads me to discouragement. One thing comforts me, however: it is that by a simple glance thrown at Your love I can fascinate You, dazzle You. I cast my glance, therefore, on Your love, I confide myself to Your love. I am certain that Your love will never abandon me, that it will never be saddened by my weaknesses. Love knows me, Love understands my feelings thoroughly.
O Love, there is nothing but that. Sometimes, in thinking of my fate, I feel overwhelmed by fear and I do not know how to defend myself against these feelings. I have only one means which my sister Therese has pointed out to me and which consists in going to hide myself in Love's shadow, to confide everything to Love. Yes, yes, I continue to act in this way; I deliver myself to Love with the certitude that Love will never refuse to welcome the glance of a little weak soul like mine since it finds condensed in this glance all the love and all the confidence of which my heart is capable. So, therefore, dear Jesus, graciously accept this glance of my weakness. Little Jesus, is my trial going to end soon? Why do You make me wait so long?
+ + +
I don't dare turn the page of Conversations. I didn't this morning when I first read this passage, and Heaven knows that if I turn it now, we'll be lost - how can I resist giving you everything our little brother gives to me, and Jesus gives to us through him? The only solution is to be strong and resist temptation. We will rest with these two paragraphs. There's so much to say here that, as it is, I don't know what to put in and what to leave out. I was planning only to copy the first paragraph, but as happened this morning, I read on, and then how to deprive you of the rest? Besides, there is at least one little soul among you to whom Jesus is especially saying that second part . . . so open your beak, little bird, and let our dear Lord drop in the tender morsel of His Love.
I'll start with what hit me most forcefully this morning. It's that glance Marcel gives Jesus.
Did you know that if you've read this far, you've already said our prayer for Day 2 of the Big Novena? It was and is, to my joy and surprise, the very glance I mentioned yesterday - that is our prayer for today, as well as Marcel's words (if you want words to go with it).
Now I'm in a blessed conundrum. As I write this, I don't have access to what I wrote in yesterday's post, nor the previous St. Anthony post. I know, I know, this is like finding the little man behind the curtain instead of the Great Wizard of Oz. You'd pictured me, no doubt, surrounded by screens, a scene (to keep up the inestimably helpful Hollywood imagery) straight out of a room at Langley (sorry, hopelessly addicted to action movies over here - and why is the CIA always the bad guy? And how is it that they have instant access through ubiquitous invisible cameras to EVERY corner of the world 24/7?), surrounded by the latest technology with my finger on the pulse of the world.
Actually it's just me and my $150 netbook (that was quite a deal a couple summers ago) and no wifi at home . . . and I managed to save this nifty "new post" page (to write the new post on), along with some pictures I imported yesterday, but I ended up without my string of 40 open windows at the top of my browser, hence no access to my previous posts. Which means I don't know when I mentioned the glance as your one-stop faster-than-drive-through quick-novena-prayer. I know I gave 2 nine-word options for St. Anthony's day (and I really should write another post on the stories of previously experienced St. Anthony miracles a few of you have sent me - thank you!) . . . and then yesterday too I wrote about how you'd be included in this novena (starting in the previous post and ending when we get to the Day 9 post) whether you managed to read along through the duration or not (it's recently come to my attention that I use a lot of words, so no pressure on any of you to read them all: that's a personal decision) . . . I only know that somewhere in there I mentioned that you could just throw the quick glance to heaven. Whether it was in St. Anthony's post or Day 1, this Marcelle couldn't say. We're going for authenticity here, and you see my memory is authentically pathetic.
But back to this morning, today's post, and the prayer you've said already, wittingly or unwittingly. (Wits are optional here. I can hardly demand you have them when I can't locate mine.) Marcel wrote to Jesus for us:
"One thing comforts me, however: it is that by a simple glance thrown at Your love I can fascinate You, dazzle You. I cast my glance, therefore, on Your love, I confide myself to Your love."
Is it really that easy?
This is the Little Way.
Really the Way.
And lest you think Marcel is too good to be true, that a glance can hardly be considered a prayer, that there must be something you're missing, I'm thrilled to tell you that he has, on this particular point, a better authority than even St. Therese to go on. But let's not pass too quickly over her credentials. She's a Doctor of the Church (nothing to sneeze at!), and she was the one who said before we did (Marcel and I) that a glance was as good as a prayer, or rather, that a glance is a very good prayer. She's even quoted on this in the Church's official, universal Catechism.
I'll be honest, I was relieved to vaguely remember that the Catechism picked this up from her, because I'd be hard pressed to find where in her many writings (letters, memoir, last conversations, etc.) she said this bit about the glance. Easier to find it in the Catechism, which has a stellar index of the Saints' quotes you'll find therein. My stars, though, we don't even need the index for this one because Therese's quote is not hard to find: it's the one that our Holy Mother, the Church, offers at the very outset of the section on Prayer (a big section; one of the four pillars of any catechism worth its salt) following the large and bold-face question:
WHAT IS PRAYER?
To which the Church, in the words of Therese answers:
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple glance turned toward heaven;
it is a cry of recognition, and of love, embracing both trial and joy.
They even give the reference (Story of a Soul), but as I say, we have an even better authority to go on. Long before Therese said it, God Himself told us it was true that a glance is a very successful prayer, and you can find God's quote easily too, as I did this morning when I couldn't believe how familiar Marcel's words sounded - even more familiar than Therese-quoted-in-the-Catechism. You don't need to go looking or rack your memory or call a friend; you've got friends here, and on behalf of Therese (who I know knew this source) and her little brother Marcel (who surely learned it from Therese), I'll tell you where you can find this and every other important thing you want to know about prayer - in God's sweetest love letter, The Song of Solomon.
There, in 4:9, the Groom (Jesus) tells the Bride (your soul):
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes . . . "
Oh Marcel! How could we doubt you? Jesus Himself is your instructor. As Isaiah prophesied in chapter 30 of his book, "Your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
Marcel, don't let us fall off this Little Way, neither to the right nor to the left, but keep us close to you and your tutor, Therese.
And if this is true, which it must be, then I can't get over our power over Jesus. He's not giving us a moment between His power lunches with the Big Saints and His answering the calls of the Archangels. He is entirely with us, not only attending with interest, but being ravished by our briefest glance!
Oh Love! How can You love us so? And when will we be freed from the endless distractions that make up our life in this exile? Let us cry out with Marcel, "Little Jesus, is our trial going to end soon? Why do You make us wait so long?"
But alas, there are many who depend upon us, many whose trials would be much harder to bear without our company, much as we sometimes wonder if our company is quite the thing to cheer our fellow sojourners (when, say, we haven't eaten enough lunch and our banter tends to the irritable rather than the pleasant) . . . No, it's safe to say Jesus has our times and seasons arranged in the best manner for all concerned, and we don't need to rush Him into letting us out of our cramped economy class seats - we'll get there when we get there, though maybe we can cajole Him into letting us stop for ice cream more often. (I seem to be mixing my traveling metaphors here, but He is bigger than any single form of transportation, so why not ask Him to stop our flight so we can get swirl cones on the side of the road before we continue on this seemingly interminable flight to heaven?)
Yet with or without ice cream (and if you are in the market, my sources tell me there's a limited edition Haagen Dazs caramel chocolate truffle that is really worth trying), and despite those who rely on our smiles and hugs, I conclude that we must continue making things uncomfortable for Jesus so He'll take us in His arms once and for all and give us the Kiss to end all kisses. And how do we make Him uncomfortable? By ravishing His most sweet and Sacred Heart with one glance from our eyes. . .
Welcome to Day 2 of the novena to end all novenas!
I seem to have reduced our intentions to sudden death, so let's widen the nets again and bring back in all the fish we don't want to get away - the souls of those we love, that we may all be kissed rapturously by Jesus; the temporal needs that press heavily upon us or our dear ones; the health we beseech God to grant those who are suffering; and so on and so forth . . . Just every possible thing that crosses your mind and qualifies as a need during these next several days. (Limited edition caramel chocolate truffle ice cream included. This might be a Big Novena, but it's for little souls!)
And now we must answer one simple question before we close for today.
Who exactly is John C. H. Wu?
Your eyes might be tired from all this screen time, and your glance busy ravishing Jesus, so I'm going to give you pictures worth thousands of words.
John Wu is the man who wrote this:
in which book he introduced me to the man in the photo below:
And both of them, without doubt, led me to meet Marcel and write this blog.
Is that, for once, not enough information? I will add only that John Wu was a convert to the Catholic faith thanks to St. Therese, that he became a great Catholic thanks to the guidance of Fr. Nicholas Maestrini (pictured just above), and eventually was the first Chinese ambassador to the Holy See! Oh, and he wrote this little book on St. Therese called The Science of Love, which, thanks to the wonders of indie publishing, you can get HERE (for less than a dollar if you want the digital version). And finally, as you can see, he had a rather marvelous family, pictured below with their Holy Father Pius XII. So to conclude Day 2 of our novena: John Wu, pray for us! Pope Pius XII, pray for us! Fr. Maestrini, pray for us! Marcel and Therese, pray for us! And Jesus, our Love, come give us kisses - if not the real first Kiss of Heaven, then lots and lots of smaller ones and some ice cream!
But wait! Who is this pretty girl pictured at the tail end of our post? Just when I thought we were finished for today, here is lovely Maria Felicia (of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, no less) giving us a huge smile because she's going to be beatified on the last day of our novena. Did I know that when I started yesterday? I absolutely did not! But the news reached me yesterday afternoon from my beloved priest-who-knows-everything, with the words, "Today begins the novena leading up to her beatification!" Perfect timing - heavenly timing, really. So we conclude, at last: Dear about-to-be-Blessed Felicia, pray for us, and for all those dear to us too!
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