A sweet rose of Jesus whispered to me the other day that this ought to be the time of our annual novena, or double novena, or triple novena, wasn't that right?
Without going to the trouble of researching, I consulted my angel and Voila! Suddenly I remembered that we had, about this time one year ago, had a blast with our triple novena of love. We started in time to finish the first novena on today's feast, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. We began the second novena on tomorrow's special day in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows in order to finish on St. Padre Pio's feast. And then we did like the swimmers do when they flip over and head back from the other side of the pool all in one graceful movement, and we immediately began our St. Therese novena which ended on her feast, October 1st. Wow! Good for us! I am truly impressed!
The good news is that another year older has made us another year more Marcel. Did you know that means more forgetful? I'm not making this up, I'm getting it straight from Jesus Himself in Marcel's Conversations with Him (387) when Our Lord says:
"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?"
Sure enough, I'd have forgotten everything too, if that little flower hadn't reminded me . . . and as it is, I'm only galvanizing the troops in time for a double novena this time around. Still, with Jesus I say, "And it is also so much the better!" Who knows, perhaps a triple novena would have intimidated you, but a double novena, that's manageable, right?
Plus if I had been really together (and thus not very much like Marcel), I might have come up with a quadruple novena this year - so we're going with double as half the trouble . . . and certainly twice the fun as a single novena because we get to rope Padre Pio as well as St. Therese into our inner circle of advocates above. And wow, do I feel like I could use the good Padre this year!
Although I don't like to contradict Jesus, I think He might be teasing when He says, "What happiness can be compared to yours?" I've actually been rather sad lately, because in His guise as Divine Thief, Jesus came and stole away my dear sister-in-law Alicia to Heaven. Wasn't that a questionable trick for Him to play just now, when Alicia leaves behind her husband (my brother) and their 7 children until such time as He swoops them up into Eternal Life too?
And yet all the more reason to start our double novena today on this mysterious feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I can never get a grip on suffering, never cheer it on, never look for it with anything but dread, never accept it with anything but sorrow, even though Marcel's mission was to turn suffering into joy. (Thankfully he had his hesitations about suffering too, to say the least, so we don't need to worry that he's completely unlike the likes of us!)
St. Therese teaches a lot about this - our attitude to suffering - and makes me feel loads better when she explains to her sisters that if we felt happy while we suffered, then it wouldn't be suffering. Quite a relief to know that if Jesus has some Divine and miraculous way to bring us joy with the cross, it is highly unlikely to be a felt joy. Maybe more like a deep peace in accepting His and the Father's will, even while we hate the weight of the cross and our particular suffering as it threatens to drag us down . . .
I only know that I'm glad our first novena leads us to Padre Pio's feast day. First off, he did promise that he wouldn't enter Heaven until all his spiritual children entered before him, and secondly, to my everlasting consolation, he also promised that if we become his spiritual children, that automatically enrolls those dear to us as well. I don't know if my sister-in-law ever fell in love with our good Padre herself (though I remember well when she fell in love with Jesus and Our Lady), but I do know she's enlisted as one of his spiritual children because she's my dear sis, and I'm his obstinate daughter. Try as he might to shake me, I'm stuck to Pio till the end, and if I keep him out of Heaven longer than he otherwise would've been (waiting for me to make it through the pearly gates), well he just should've thought of that before he started making rash promises!
You see, my plan is to keep gathering to my heart any stragglers I run across in my little way toward Paradise. Some might not even be straggling, but just lonely - I think of my 7 beloved nieces and nephews now without their earthly mom - and my plan is to pull them in close and keep them safe in Padre Pio's extended care for the duration. That way we can all enter Heaven together and then rejoice together eternally with all those we love and Those Who love us infinitely!
Technically our double novena starts tomorrow, but I think I'll get us rolling today so we have an extra prayer under our belts and can sidestep any anxiety if we forget a day (or two?) somewhere in the middle. Plus, we're here now, so why not turn to Mary a.s.a.p. with a prayer that captures everything we can desire.
Because St. Padre Pio called Mary his "little mama," I'm sure he'd approve of our using the days leading to his feast as opportunities to turn to her ourselves and, as small children who depend on Mom for all our needs, pour out our hearts in confidence as we snuggle close on her lap.
Here's a favorite prayer you may not know yet (or may remember from previous novenas here). The great part is that you and those you love are included in our novena whether you start today and say it all, or immediately forget (Marcel style) - because like our dear spiritual father, St. Pio, we've got your back!
Oh, and finally, because another little Miss Marcel happened to be reading the EXACT same wonderful passage I've been reading lately - though we were each struck by a different line and then reveled in each other's discoveries - and also because it's good to have some food for the journey as we begin the next 9 days of our novena and then almost 9 more, here (before our promised Marian novena prayer) is another passage from Conversations, this time from St. Therese at (127). I'm finding her sisterly counsel quite valuable, and I hope you'll take her wisdom for yourself too:
"My dear little brother, when you feel trouble in your heart, remind yourself to have recourse to the love of Jesus and do not neglect to speak to me also so that I can help you with my advice. Do not forget either that your worries are only about unfounded things. I am kissing you dear little brother, be happy always in the love of Jesus. Little brother remain peaceful. Formerly I also was inclined to worry, like you, but I regained my peace by obeying my director . . ."
I recently read the words of a wise Carmelite friar who I'm sure has been spiritual director to many. He reminded us that we are surrounded by spiritual directors if we need them: we have the writings of the Saints! And, I would add, the writings of Marcel which include constant reassuring guidance from Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese. And then there are the simple but brilliant words of St. Padre Pio, a father who has guided thousands as if each were his only child:
"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer."
An Old French Prayer for Friends
(for our new double novena)
Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
St. Padre Pio, pray for us!
St. Therese, pray for us!
Little Marcel, pray for us!
Adorable Jesus, draw me, we will run!
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