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."
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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!
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