We're in the Octave of Pentecost, having celebrated that great Feast on Sunday . . . the next day was the new feast (thank you, Pope Francis!) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church . . . and then on Tuesday came the happy celebration of St. Barnabas, Apostle . . . and yesterday was the Vigil of today: ST. ANTHONY'S DAY!!!!!
You can see, then, why we needed a special color for our blog, but lest you think I'm clever, I must admit it's actually a moment of un-cleverness. I wanted to quote from a great friend of a friend, Fr. Willie Doyle (he's the one I'm quoting from), and his words came in a red font (through my friend, Fr. V), so given my techno-challenge, our whole post today will be in red, in honor of our Best Friend, our Consoler and Comforter, our Advocate, our Counsel, God's greatest Gift to us: LOVE, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity! In a word (or two) The Holy Spirit! Hooray for the Holy Spirit, who makes Saints of the likes of us! Without further ado, then, here are the words of Fr. Willie Doyle, a heroic chaplain and priest-delighting-the-Heart-of-God around World War I, and an early devotee of little Sister Therese. He writes:
"A devotion which does not consist in any special form of prayer nor in doing anything in particular more than to listen to inspirations, is devotion to the Holy Spirit of God . . . For, as the work of Creation belongs preeminently to the Father and that of the Redemption to the Son, so the work of our Sanctification and Perfection is the work of the Holy Ghost. We honour Him when we listen to His inspirations. He is ever whispering what we ought to do and what we ought not to do. . . So let us often say: Come, O Holy Ghost, into my heart and make me holy so that I may be generous with God and become a saint."
Well how do you like that? Here I was going to ask how you liked that (what Fr. Willie had to say) and then suddenly I was back in black. (If you're wondering if I really just said that, apparently I did!)
What I especially liked were the first words (of Fr. Willie's) and the last. I'm a big fan of a devotion which doesn't consist in anything in particular more than listening to inspirations - this is the very devotion I have to Marcel and his Best Friend Jesus in their Conversations! And then I'm a huge fan of short prayers, and I love this one: "Come, O Holy Ghost, into my heart and make me holy so that I may be generous with God and become a saint!" (It only needed an exclamation point to make it perfect!)
Letting that suffice for our Pentecost reflection, you might think we're ready to jump into today and St. Anthony. But before we get to Il Santo, I must tell you about what happened between Pentecost and his Feast. No, not everything that happened between the original Pentecost and 1195 when our Saint was born! In keeping with our littleness, I thought I'd simply start with last Monday and work my way to today, though a tiny bit of backstory is involved . . .
For some years now I've been annually perplexed on the Monday after Pentecost. What in the world does one do when Easter comes to an abrupt end and the Church thrusts us back into "ordinary time"? It helps me to remember that "ordinary" here comes from "ordinal." We are counting weeks of the year, and they aren't in any special season - and this can be good, because if every day is a feast, how can one ever say (for instance) the basic four week psalter of the Divine Office? And how can one prepare to be festive if one is always feasting? How, to get to the nub, can one even survive?
Those are the questions I should be asking, at least, the theory being that one can't feast continually in this valley of tears. But being a girl who loves a good feast over a famine (or even fasting) any day of the week, I almost wish I had the chance to test it out by celebrating a feast every day, or always being in a particular liturgical season (and since I'm inventing my own liturgical calendar here, why not make the seasons Christmas and Easter, leaving aside Advent and Lent?!) Ah, but before we change everything, I must admit that my stamina does run low in situations of prolonged festivity. Yes, we're made for Heaven, but long, long ago our constitutions were shot when a certain apple didn't agree with us. . .
Enter Holy Mother Church and Ordinary Time.
Still, Mary is such a perfect mother that when we keep tugging on her sleeve, eventually she bends down and comes to our aid, and it turns out this is what I've been doing for years on the Monday after Pentecost (the tugging), and Mom has finally had a moment to attend to my whining. She's so good! Here's how the story goes . . .
In the early part of the pontificate of John Paul II, the amazing St. Josemaria Escriva came up with the excellent idea of inviting university students from around the world to gather at the Vatican after Easter. They did (it's now an annual event, as such things tend to be, once you get them rolling), and one of the students - bright lad - noticed and complained to the Holy Father, "Hey, there are 162 images of Saints around St. Peter's Square, but none of them are of Mary!"
John Paul II, being The Great, responded kindly, "Well, then, let's finish St. Peter's Square!"
Blessed Monsignor Portillo (Josemaria's second in command and later his successor) got right on it, and an architect came up with the perfect solution. He chose a window which could be seen from every point in the square! He designed to fit over it a mosaic of Mary, Mother of the Church (a title used by St. Ambrose ages ago, then by the Second Vatican Council, and gladly taken up by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II), he stuck the words "Totus Tuus" in the mosaic, designed it to read "Mater Ecclesiae" underneath, and Voila! (as we who know a solid 20 words in French like to say), in the words of St. John Paul II when the mosaic was finished, "We have placed the last stone in St. Peter's!"
What a great and marvelous Church we belong to! Please, never bother with or fret over "the latest news." Even in these sometimes seemingly dark and depressing days (hey, I live in Southern California where the politics are abysmal, but thanks be to God the sunshine is awesome, so I simply avoid news outlets!), there are SUCH GOOD THINGS going on!
Take February 11, 2018, for instance. Pope Francis, our fearless leader, signed into reality his wonderful plan to make the Monday after Pentecost a new feast for the whole world: The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church!
Which means that this past Monday, for the second time (of perhaps thousands of times upcoming), we celebrated Our Blessed Mother's role as "Mater Ecclesiae," and this made me realize that in centuries to come, when all the vicissitudes of the present day are long forgotten, Pope Francis will be known as The Pope Who Gave Us the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church! Good job, Pope Francis, our sweet Christ on earth!
As if that weren't enough, that night (last Monday) the sun set, and the next morning it rose again. (Nature is awfully terrific!) It was Tuesday, June 11, which meant the feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle. After years of vaguely remembering this was a super special day, finally I went back to Raissa Maritain's splendid memoir, We Have Been Friends Together.
(You'll understand if I never write a memoir. All the best titles have been taken. Add to Raissa's first title, her second: Adventures in Grace, then consider the dual volumes of Sir Alec Guinness: Blessings in Disguise, and My Name Escapes Me, and finally, our beloved Ralph McInerny's I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You - which comes from the book of Job - and I'm almost left speechless! I've still got Betwinkled in mind, but somehow it's not quite on a par . . . )
Raissa writes in We Have Been Friends Together:
"Suddenly our decision was made. Purely for reasons of convenience - I had a journey to take - we chose the 11th of June for the baptism of all three of us."
The three of them were Raissa, her husband Jacques, and her sister Vera. A year before they had been entirely without faith, but searching desperately. They had written to Leon Bloy, he had befriended them, and the sequel was about to take place. Raissa quotes his letter to another friend, written on June 9th (of this year of 1906).
"The object of this letter is to inform you that Jacques Maritain, his charming wife Raissa, and the latter's sister Vera, will be baptized at Montmartre on Monday, the 11th, the Feast of St. Barnabas. My wife, Veronique, and I will be the godparents. You are among those who can understand the deeply hidden greatness and splendour of such an event.
"It is something to think that when I die, I shall leave, kneeling beside me and weeping from love, people who knew nothing of such an attitude before they met me.
"I would like on this occasion to tell you something of St. Barnabas, the apostle thus canonized by the Holy Spirit: Erat vir bonus, et plenus Spiritu Sancto et fide. [He was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith.] When for the first time I read in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 19, the surprising fact that the Lycaonians, hearing with amazement the preaching of St. Paul and his companion St. Barnabas and taking them for gods in human form, called Barnabas Jupiter and Paul Mercury, I was very much impressed. It seemed very evident to me that this Barnabas, hebraice filius consolatione, who was mistaken by the pagans for the King of the gods, must have been an infinitely mysterious and venerable personage.
"I decided then to venerate him and to pray to him in a very special way, and in this I was not deceived. Saint Barnabas has done great things for me, and each year I await his feast with loving impatience. On the 11th of last June, the day ended without any sign of his great protection, and I was saddened. But something more wonderful happened. As the 11th of June fell, in 1905, on the Feast of Pentecost, St. Barnabas' day had to be postponed to June 20 [because of the Octave of Pentecost], and this was the very day I received the first letter from the Maritains, who were then unknown to me. This year you see what happens! Perhaps other things will happen too. I know what I asked.
"I beg of you, my dear friend, to pay attention to these concordances. Each of us is at the center of infinite and marvelous combinations. If God gave it to us to see them, we would enter Paradise in a swoon of pain and delight. Yours, Leon Bloy."
Raissa then continues the narrative in her own voice:
"On June 11th, unconscious of the significance of this date for our godfather, all three of us took ourselves to the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Montmartre. I was in a state of absolute dryness, and could no longer remember any of the reasons for my being there. One single thing remained clear in my mind: either Baptism would give me Faith, and I would believe and I would belong to the Church altogether; or I would go away unchanged, an unbeliever forever. Jacques had almost the same thoughts.
'What do you ask of the Church of God?'
"We were baptized at 11 o'clock in the morning, Leon Bloy being our godfather; his wife was godmother for Jacques and Vera, his daughter Veronique for me. An immense peace descended upon us, bringing with it the treasures of Faith. There were no more questions, no more anguish, no more trials - there was only the infinite answer of God. The Church kept her promises. And it was she whom we first loved. It is through her that we have known Christ.
"I think now that faith - a weak faith, impossible to formulate consciously - already existed in the most hidden depths of our souls. But we did not know this. It was the Sacrament which revealed it to us, and it was sanctifying grace which strengthened it in us.
"We passed a heavenly day with the Bloys, our godfather's heart bursting with joy."
* * *
Jacques Maritain went on to become a faithful son of the Church and devoted disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas. Raissa, too, was a devoted daughter and disciple of St. Thomas, dedicating her life to contemplative prayer while Jacques dedicated his to Catholic philosophy. Vera was the faithful Martha of their household, though in a Marian sort of way.
And in a sense, all of this happened because one very poor and very romantic Frenchman was inspired to venerate and invoke the friendship of a New Testament apostle and saint whom most of the rest of us have overlooked.
Don't regret your disregard for a moment! Life is far too short to spend it in regrets - we don't want to take a nano-second away from our gratitude! Let's just take to heart Leon's advice and insight:
I beg of you, my dear friend, to pay attention to these concordances. Each of us is at the center of infinite and marvelous combinations. If God gave it to us to see them, we would enter Paradise in a swoon of pain and delight.
Take us, now, here at Miss Marcel's Musings (and oddly enough, you are here, now, reading this, so feel free to count yourself within the embrace of our royal "we"). We may, none of us, have had a special devotion to St. Barnabas. For myself, I read that account by Raissa some years ago, and promised to properly honor St. Barnabas from then on. This has evolved into a happy but vague recollection each year on his Feast that it is also the Feast of the Baptism of the Maritains. The Holy Spirit has His ways, and we are not all meant to be equally devoted to every Saint!
Yet we here have found a kind of mirror image of St. Barnabas, a hero of our own, though he has much more often provoked us to laughter than to veneration!
Ah, Marcel! I feel safe betting that no one ever mistook you for Jupiter (or Zeus, as I think of that mythical father of the gods), and yet you were One with Jesus Himself, God Incarnate!
I love that there is a Saint - or better yet, many Saints - for each one of us. Someone to be a special friend to us, to watch over us with the tender solicitude of Christ, and to share with us the Limitless Love of God. Personally! In bonds of friendship only hinted at by the likes of David and Jonathan!
For me, and for some of you, that saint (we'll leave his title uncapped for now, to indicate his lacking the official title) watching over us is Marcel. No wonder, since he is the second Therese, and she said, "I am your little sister in Heaven. I will never cease watching over you!"
But most of us have known Marcel only a relatively short time, and before our little brother entered, stage left, there were others who took care of us in a sometimes nearly visible way. We each have our lists of besties!
Listen to what our dear St. Anthony of Padua (and Lisbon!) says on this score, for believe it or not, we've made it at last to June 13th, feast of feasts for the lovers of The Saint (and for those who have ever lost anything). St. Anto, Doctor of the Church (like our little Therese!) preached in a sermon:
"Each saint in Heaven rejoices over the glorification of the others, and each saint's love overflows to the others . . .
"The same joy will fill all the blessed, for I shall rejoice over your well-being as though it were my own, and you will rejoice over mine as though it were yours . . .
"To use an example: See, we are standing together, and I have a rose in my hand. The rose is mine, and yet you no less than I rejoice in its beauty and its perfume. So shall it be in eternal life: My glory shall be your consolation and exultation, and yours shall be mine."
Isn't that wonderful? And SO TRUE! Not to mention the rose example! Prophetic, I'd say!
And just as I was counseling you earlier in this post not to fret over the troubles of our day, so two sayings of our holy father St. John of the Cross come to mind now:
"See that you are not suddenly saddened by the adversities of this world, for you do not know the good they bring, being ordained in the judgments of God for the everlasting joy of the elect."
For what could be more to the everlasting joy of the elect than the friendship of the Saints? Hence St. John's other word, his first "Saying of Light and Love":
"The Lord has always revealed to men the treasures of His Wisdom and His Spirit, but now that the face of evil more and more bares itself, so does the Lord bare His treasures the more."
I have always taken "His treasures" in this sentence to be equivalent to "His Saints," to the point that I've (mis)quoted it that way for years! St. Therese wanted to be imitable in everything, and I rejoice to imitate her in my free quotation of whatever suits my fancy and raises my heart! (She would tweak her quotes too, to make sure her audience understood how personally the Holy Spirit meant all Truth for each of us.)
Which would explain - I mean St. John of the Cross' quote, as well as my interpretation explain - why we are allowed to be among the few, the little, the poor in spirit blessed to know our petit frere (our little brother!) Marcel Van. It took some time for God to craft someone as weak and tiny as our dear brother, and only now in this time of seemingly unprecedented evil does He reveal the face of His little brother and spouse.
Jesus chose Marcel as a little secretary, a little apostle (you see, the mirror of St. Barnabas!) of His Love because, as He frequently explains in Conversations, His infinite Love cannot reveal itself all at once to any of us (or all of us) lest we die too soon.
Jesus is so smart! He had Marcel write down both sides of their conversations - Marcel's words, as well as His own - so that we would interrupt our swoons of love with smiles, and giggles, and chortles and full-fledged fits of laughter! These keep us on earth a bit longer, and Mary doesn't have to chide little Jesus for filling up Heaven too fast, before she'd gotten all our Divine Beds made!
+ + +
I can't conclude this post without doing a touch of housekeeping myself by mentioning two or three things that want explaining . . .
First, while I urge you to rejoice in St. Anthony's friendship today, I'd like to ask a favor. A dear sister encouraged me to pray to him these past nine days (a novena!), and she has been invoking him faithfully. Yesterday, he gave her the interesting gift of losing her job! I'm sure this is because he has a better one he wants to find for her, but will you join me in praying that he find her wonderful new job (and give it to her) very quickly? Her faith and trust is so edifying, but man can't live on faith and trust alone - he (and she) need daily bread too! It's long been our practice to offer something for "St. Anthony's Bread," a gift for the poor in thanks (before or after) for his help. Perhaps you can offer a Hail Mary for his poor, or an alms of any kind, even a smile to someone who needs one, and ask him in return to bless Miss Marcel's momentarily unemployed dear one . . .
Second, I'd like to extend an apology for my posts coming so few and far between lately, but being Miss Marcel, I'll apologize Marcel style:
It's all Little Jesus' fault, and I can explain!
Yesterday, I re-read these consoling words of Jesus from Conversations (20):
"Little apostle of my love, be for me like a pencil for my own use. One that I may wish to write with or leave to one side, it is all the same to it; that I use it in such or such a manner when I wish to write a word, it must follow the movement of my hand. To that extent, what have you got to be proud about? Be, therefore, this docile pencil for me . . . "
It's true - He's been leaving me to one side lately when it comes to writing His messages of love for you. . .
To my delight (and later chagrin), when we returned home from Lisieux, there was a note waiting for me from a reader of this blog. The note had blown to the side of our front porch, but God had put an enormous spider's web (and spider) in the porch, so that when I looked for a stick with which to whisk them away and free our path into the house, I found the note.
In it, a lovely young woman of my acquaintance thanked me for sharing the Little Way and encouraged me to keep writing. Though with all my heart I wanted to obey her suggestion (and I do hope to continue writing here for a very long time to come), to my chagrin I have been Jesus' pencil left on a side table. In fact, I think I rolled off and under the couch where I settled in with the dust bunnies and Jesus forgot I'm here for His use!
Clearly He hasn't forgotten me completely, though, because if you're reading it, this post is up, and we're together again! St. Anthony to the rescue, but it was a close one!
I can only say that, like all of us, I'm at His disposal, so when I fail to write, if you miss these musings, feel free to ask Him to pick me up! He told us through Marcel that a single one of our joys consoles Him very much, and this forces me to (almost) conclude that He's a glutton for punishment - my great joy (and thus His great consolation) is to write out His love for you, and yet He will leave this stubby pencil to one side . . .
So if you'd like to read more of Miss Marcel's musings, importune Him to reach under the couch and retrieve me. Or, since you might have other important importunings that take precedence, you could always read some of the archived posts (by clicking on previous months in the sidebar to the right).
Finally, I've heard from a few who would be happy to read more here about our recent pilgrimage to Lisieux . . . and as we're in the Octave of Pentecost, I will ask the Holy Spirit of Love for help with this:
First, that He may arrange to take the whole world to Lisieux! It was that wonderful, and I hate to hog it for myself alone!
Second, that He might arrange for me to write more about Therese and what she showed us in her hometown. She's more than a great Saint, and more than merely another great friend in Heaven - she wants to be one of those best-friend-saints, and I'd love to be an instrument to help insert her into your heart of hearts. I'd like to help make her your best friend, alongside her little brother and ours, Marcel.
I know, I know . . . there are two camps out there - those who can't imagine why we'd need Marcel as well as Therese (perish the thought!), and those who can't understand why we need Therese when we have Marcel. I've gained new insights on the Therese-Marcel connection and why we need them both, but that's a post for another day, God willing.
Meanwhile, happy St. Anthony Day, and may he do more than let you share in the joy of his heavenly rose - may he delight the Heart of God by joining his sister St. Therese and his brother Marcel in showering you with an abundance of roses beyond your wildest dreams! And now, in closing, a photo from Lisieux! This is the statue of St. Anthony and Little Jesus in the Cathedral of St. Pierre, Therese's parish church when she was a girl. I like to think she venerated St. Anthony here and fell more in love with Jesus when she saw Him, so adorable, in Anthony's arms! Let's repeat with her our prayer to Him:
Draw me, we will run!
And like Marco Polo, I'll say Anto, you respond Padua - it's the Nigerian way to honor and invoke our big brother, finder of lost things and So Much More! Ready?
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