Day 9, or, SURPRISE?
Clearly my first task is to make good on yesterday's promises, and you'll be relieved to know I found the Brad Pitt quote. I've caught him with his rose colored shades, to the left, above, so you can see I was not being as accurate a reporter as the Internet's code of acceptable conduct requires (I had surmised he wore rose colored contacts under his shades; this photo proves he's simply wearing rose colored shades). You won't be surprised, then, to hear that I falsely quoted him too. My bad. Turns out he didn't say the lucky ones would find twue wuv 3 or 4 times per life, but I'm not as disappointed as I might have been at my shockingly inaccurate memory. As you know, it's company policy here to revel in our weaknesses, knowing as we do that they are a magnet for God's power. Secondly, a faulty memory is so very Marcel that we rejoice in the likeness to our alter ego (or is he an altar ego?). And finally, the truth is always so much better than what we make up that I'm never sad to discover The Real Thing. And here is what it turns out BP (aka "that maroon") said, according to reliable sources.
"How many times do you think real love comes to someone in a lifetime? If you're lucky, maybe two or three."
Not bad, Brad! We wish you the real thing, and two or three times over at least! Because when I think of some of the Real Loves that God has put into my life, I can see I've been more than lucky - I'd call it positively blessed. It's like blowing out birthday candles - take a deep breath before you count your blessings because each succeeding year, there are more to maneuver, especially if we're looking at the cake-of-our-life through Rose colored glasses - you know, the kind Therese promised to fit us up with. Think of her as a holy optician in the service of the Divine Physician. Try what frames we like, the lens is already prescribed, and it's none other than Marcel's prescription. If the world comes into focus with these glasses on - no, wait, I'm not sure if we want the world to come into focus! Let's say instead that if these glasses help us to see Real Life (and True Love) in better perspective, then we've found what we're looking for, and we can't expect our sight to be properly adjusted if we leave our new glasses on the nightstand and go back to missing out on the beauty that surrounds us. (I grew up in a family of ophthalmologists, so these wacky metaphors come naturally. Which is helpful because so much has been said about Therese that it's hard to be original, but I just may be the first to call her a holy optician. A holy optician to the stars, no less: that would be us, the future saints!)
But did someone say Birthday cake? Let's see if we can produce one in honor of the last day of our novena. Cakes are so very festive, and we have much to celebrate today.
Not to change the subject, but did you know that St. Therese was a blonde? It's absolutely true! This was a shock for me when I first came across it in some authoritative description of her (no, it wasn't Parade magazine, but something even more authoritative, if you can believe it!). Since Celine's photos of her are black and white, Therese's eyebrows look dark to me. Then there's the famous photo when she tried to look older to convince the bishop to let her enter Carmel right away (she was 14 going on 15): she put her hair up in an elegant do, and it looks dark. Lastly, there's a picture of her dressed as Joan of Arc for a convent recreation, and she's wearing a brunette wig (or so it looks in the photos), and dopey me, I always think that's her real hair!
I feel like a careful journalist, protecting my source, but you know me by now, and the truth is I can't remember the source. Nonetheless there is also photographic proof of Therese's natural hair color, proof to counter the pictures I've mentioned. Look again at the children in the birthday cake picture above. You know how you can identify the saints by their symbols? Don't you see the rose on the mug in front of the little girl at the right? And wouldn't you peg her for a blonde, no question? That is obviously Therese and she's clearly a blonde. Except that on closer inspection, we may want to call her a dishwater blonde. . .
Blast if I haven't forgotten why I wanted to prove she was blonde. Oh yes, now I remember. But oops, another circular argument (on the plus side, they never leave loose ends! A circle is so very satisfying and eternal) - I was going to prove that little girl was St. Therese because she was blonde. And had the rose. But you can't deny that roses and Therese go together, so I think we need not worry about our logic. I'll tell you sometime about how my talent for logic-at-parties got me into grad school, but we have no time for that now.
Marcel has been waiting patiently while I jabber, and funny enough, he's glad he didn't interrupt because Heaven knows I've worked myself into a tight spot, and he's enjoying it. Talk about a maroon! It turns out that I may be one of the few people on the planet who knows where St. Therese's shower of roses comes from, that is, where she got the idea. Okay, I may be one of thousands of people who know this, but are they all blogging this week? Are they doing a novena that zipped right through and past St. Aloysius' Day with barely a nod? Whew! We did nod at least, and that was enough to set Aloysius and Marcel into gales of laughter, knowing as they did that I'd come begging Al's pardon today.
But now I'm laughing with them, because I don't have my copy of Therese's Last Conversations at hand, so I looked on the internet for this connection between St. Therese and her roses, and St. Al's and his. I was relieved to find that someone DID know about the link, but it turned out to be me! I mention it in an article called 24 Reasons to Love St. Therese that Catholicmom.com published on her feast in October, 2015. Poor me back then. Not only did I fail to give the complete story of Therese and Aloysius (the problem with brevity! and by contrast, the joy of a blog!), but I left off reason 25, the biggest reason of all to love Therese, since I didn't know it yet. Simply put: Marcel!
Well, regardless of my continuing inability to tell a story straight, we greet you St. Aloysius. How very much gratitude we owe you for starting off the storm of glory that hit our world when Therese joined you in heaven, having first decided when she was still on earth, to imitate you in this matter of showering roses. Thank you, St. Al! The other day I did read that you died when you were 23. Don't let St. Therese lord it over you that she was 24! And then Marcel, the eldest among you at 28!
You have none of you a leg to stand on. You have all been outlived by two Miss Marcels, a little lover of Marcel, a new friend of Marcel (we hope), and the man who who knew just enough, so no more jostling for "oldest and brightest." It's the Little Way, remember? And in order to get to the point here - which is obviously: WHO IS BLOWING OUT THE CANDLES while Therese-Marcel looks on? - we'll need you to stop your ribbing up there and get ready to shower more roses.
It is Day 9 of our Novena of Joy. It is also June 23rd. We started on June 15th and went 9 days (including today) and that means June 23rd. It's customary to end a novena on a saint's day or other holy day. What shall we say about June 23rd? Was there a method to this Marcel Madness? And who exactly is Bugs calling a maroon? Brad Pitt is only allowed cameos here, but Bugs and Daffy are no fly-by-night characters. Tweety, or Wile E. Coyote with a little help from another ACME product, maybe, but not the rabbit and the duck.
Oh. I was about to say everyone knows rabbits and ducks can't fly.
No harm done, this blonde moment brings me to my point as effectively as anything could.
For it turns out that I am the maroon.
I thought I could pull a fast one on Miss Marcel East, but at the 11th hour, she called my bluff. Last night she emailed and wrote:
"I know I’m gonna sound like a total dope, but did you do this novena specifically so it would end on Jack's and my birthday? I didn’t realize it would end on our day until tonight! What a maroon!"
Ah, you only know the half of it, Miss Marcel East, but that half you have uncovered with the skill of a modern day Sherlock (or is it Watson I want here?). And who are you calling a maroon?! So I've been duped. I thought I could pull it off and you foiled me - but I have the hope that Jack will be surprised!
Who is this Jack? the gentle reader joining us may ask. Why none other than Jack Keogan, the man who brought Marcel to the English speaking world! That is, to us!!! Talk about men to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. And just as Miss Marcel East was the one who innocently suggested, "Why don't you start a blog?" some months past, so Jack recently and innocently mentioned (in a parenthetical remark, no less; as I like to say, great minds think alike, and someday I'll have to share with you the letter Belloc wrote Baring in which nearly the whole turned into a parenthetical remark, which the first B then deftly defended) - but as I was saying, Jack innocently remarked, "On June 23rd, if you wish to say a prayer for me, it's my birthday."
If I wish to say a prayer for you? Now we get to the crux of the matter, the hub, the essence, the nub, the rub, the very knot of my dilemma. (Do dilemmas have knots? If not, the knot at the heart of my skein of tangled yarn, let's say.)
Mr. Jack Keogan, the man who knew just enough . . .I can't say you knew too much, for if you'd known the extent of what Therese and Marcel were getting you into on that fateful day when you called Les Amis de Van to procure Marcel's Autobiography in English, how could you have had the courage to even make the call, let alone spontaneously (surprising even yourself) offer to do the translation yourself, when you found it didn't yet exist?
A long sentence, the meaning perhaps muddied, but hey, I'm not a great translator even of my own thoughts onto virtual paper! But you, dear Jack, well I'm sure you are a great translator, or what's even more important, a translator after Jesus' own Heart. Did you notice, amidst the many words so dear that you have rendered from the French into perfect English for us, the passage where Jesus explains to Marcel that someday you will come and work for them? I'll write it out here, so that not only you, but all the people I've inveigled and cajoled into praying for you, can read Jesus' loving description of you. And yes, you were the original "intention" of my novena, you and Miss Marcel East who shares your birthday today; both of you as true originals soon joined in my ever expanding intention list by a little lover of Marcel, the very one who loved him before she knew him, and a hopeful new friend of his, whose birthdays, so it happens, coincided on 15 June, precisely 9 days before yours.
Lest we forget to finish our novena, I will lead us in one last prayer, this one chosen by today's birthday girl and about which she said, "And I just adore: draw me and we shall run. Oh, it’s perfection. What more is there to say. It’s the prayer of a lifetime. " So let's do it!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Oh Blessed Trinity, draw me . . . we shall run!
And dear Father, thank you for Jack and MME. Thank you for the little lover of your beloved Marcel. Thank you for the girl of hope who fills the world with joy. Fill them, in this novena of their birthdays, with Your Spirit of Love and thus draw them, running, into the arms of little Jesus on the lap of Mary. Answer every prayer of their hearts, and every prayer that has been added to this novena, which we offer you with the confidence of Therese and the irresistible littleness of Marcel, through Jesus' name. Amen.
Now doesn't that feel right and just? Our novena is complete, except to read together the passage of Conversations that will give you a portrait, from Jesus Himself, of Marcel's two translators. If you want to see a more grown-up photo of these two great friends of Marcel (although the birthday child is quite charming and a good likeness, I imagine, of all 4 of our birthday kids), here it is:
Not that I'm sure the priest on the right is Fr. Boucher, Marcel's bearded Jesus, novice master, spiritual director, and the one who spent 20 years translating M's Vietnamese into perfect French. But he (the priest on the right) is a Redemptorist, so we'll let him fill in as Fr. Boucher - because he's also filling in for our Birthday Jack, the one who spent 20 years translating Fr. B's French translations of M into perfect English, and who I'm absolutely sure is as dear to Marcel as bearded Jesus!
As to the girl on the left, that is Te (Tay), whom the Redemptorists and Marcel her brother sometimes called "Marcelle." She is standing in for our Miss Marcel East, and the little lover of Marcel, and the girl of hope and joy. Isn't it a fine photo? It's worth a thousand words, unless the words come from the adorable mouth of Marcel's Jesus. His words, in any language, are worth more than all the photos, black, white, sepia, and color, ever taken! So let's read them together now, and with them, wish the Man who Knew Just Enough, good Jack Keogan, many happy returns of the day!
From the Jack Keogan translation of Marcel Van's Conversations (513):
(Jesus): Why do I have to choose many apostles for the expansion of the reign of my Love? Because it is necessary that there should be some for every category of person. You, for example, you must use a certain manner of speaking, while another will have to use a different one, which responds to the feelings of his audience. It is the same for crosses, for sufferings; I must choose different crosses for each soul to whom I send them, since, if I dealt with all souls in the same way, who would be able to walk along the path of perfection?
Often, however, translators do not act with enough prudence when they translate books destined for the use of all souls; indeed, having little experience, and not knowing the degree of perfection these souls have reached, they often translate only according to their own personal fervour . . . This is what I wish: for books useful for all souls, a person of experience is necessary to translate them who is aware of the degrees of perfection by which souls must pass, so as to translate for the ordinary soul and for the common good. By that, many souls will be able to understand what they must gain, or what is still lacking in their spiritual lives.
If the translator allows himself to be guided by his personal fervour, or that of someone he knows, he will often lead many souls away from the path by which I was conducting them. And they, believing themselves to be deceived, will commit themselves to a new way that is not meant for them and which they will abandon little by little, to their detriment . . .
Little brother, that's enough. You are tired, go and sleep. Today ask for permission to write to your little sister. I have been suggesting it for a long time already . . . You must give your sister a little happiness; nothing pleases her so much as to receive your letters.
* * *
Good Jack, lest you fear that you are that bad translator Jesus describes, remember that, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have no way to know how many have eaten of these four delectable puddings you've set before us, but this I do know without doubt: those of us who have so eaten, and I can count (give me a second, please), yes I can count an even dozen off the top of my head whose lives are even as we speak being radically changed by Conversations alone, which we wouldn't have without your translation. And rather than your work having prompted us in the wrong direction, to follow "a new way that is not meant for them . . ." thanks to you and your years of work for Jesus and Therese and Marcel, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the Little Way, that way of little Therese and littler Marcel, the way which has been offered to all the faithful as a sure way by Our Holy Fathers, the Way that is Jesus.
Do write your little sister Miss Marcel when you have a chance, and I will happily post here any greetings you'd like to send to your many fans, the many who have joined me in not only wishing to say a prayer on your birthday, but in offering you this spiritual bouquet of Theresian roses - our novena! May Therese be her usual lavish self, and with our brother Marcel shower you and yours with heavenly roses beyond counting, this day, this year, and forever.
But our battle cry, straight from Jesus, is "No more worrying, about anything, any more!" And in that spirit, do not worry dear Jack that you have not written enough to your little sister. You have many little sisters now, and we have all fulfilled Jesus' prophesy: "Nothing pleases her so much as to receive your letters." We want you to know that every page of Marcel translated by your able hands and your experienced heart is a letter to us that we enjoy again and again. I know it's true for this little sister and for Miss Marcel East: Nothing pleases us so much as receiving these pages from Marcel, Jesus, Fr. Boucher, and you! Thank you, kind Jack, and may God bless you.
And may He bless us all! May roses surround us beyond our wildest dreams, such that the whole world wonders along with us, and as He draws each of us, so those we love will run to Him too.
Many happy returns of the day to our 4 birthday honorees of June 15th and June 23rd, and thanks to all who have joined me in happily praying for these my intentions. Please know I have loved praying for yours!
Now wasn't that fun?
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