Happy Feast Day, little Therese!
God has too much respect for men and women to make them live in this state of high tension, which cannot be supported without damaging natural life. So He proceeds with delicate and strong touches to let us feel the violence of His love." -- Jean LaFrance, My Vocation is Love
"Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats. Whatever I do to spoil you, I consider it all as being nothing." Jesus to Marcel (Conversations, 492)
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I hope you like the flowers I've brought you for St. Therese's birthday-into-heaven, her feast, the day we're expecting lots of roses. You'll find some in the picture at the top - they're being blessed by little Jesus before Therese showers them down upon us today and in these next days of her octave. Then there are the pretty little daisy-type-flowers that kind of look like asterisks, right above this paragraph. Finally, as far as visible roses go, if you're hungry you'll be glad to see that I'm sending you edible roses at the bottom of the post. We can have our roses and eat them too - those beautiful roses are actually decorations atop a cake! No, I didn't bake and carefully (very artistically!) decorate it - actually, the likelihood of my tasting such roses today is as small as yours (we must recognize our limits here), but we can be like little children having a tea party and pretend to eat them together!
As to the roses Therese has showered down upon me so far today (besides being able to write to you, which is a huge bouquet of roses in itself, for me for sure, and I'm praying for you too - that is, I'm praying for you, and I'm praying that this post will be a huge bouquet for you!), well, the quote at the very top of the page is from a book I've been reading about St. Therese's Little Way, and it, or rather they (the quote, the book, the Little Way, and Therese herself) are quite a gorgeous shower of roses awakening in me wonder, awe, and gratitude, and it's only breakfast time as I write!
Naturally, since a feast is about enjoying the meal together, I'll share the line that has delighted me and been a special rose this morning, a bit of new information that surprised me at the same time that it fulfilled my latest, most heartfelt conviction. Don't worry if you read this quotation and it means nothing (or not much) to you, at least at first. We can play like we're Jesus and Marcel in Conversations. (You don't mind if I'm Jesus for a minute, do you? Marcel is pretty adorable too, and you get to be him.) I'll say something (this quote), and you can say, "I don't understand!" and I'll say, "So much the better! I will understand for you!" But since we don't have a mutual bearded Jesus around to clear up any confusion, I'll ask the Holy Spirit to let me (not Jesus anymore, but back to my regular self, Miss Marcel) help you understand. We'll see how that goes!
The quote I want to share is from Jean LaFrance in My Vocation is Love (and by the way, I'm sure his vocation is love too, but I think the title is as if said by St. Therese!). Oh, and the "he" that Jean refers to in the quote is Monsignor Andre Combes (accent over the "e" in Andre), a French theologian who fell in love with Therese and had a lot to do with getting her letters published (and much more) in a resurgence of interest (or had it ever waned?) in her teaching in the mid-20th century (1950's and 1960's). Jean is here talking about a study by Monsignor Combes called "My Vocation is Love" (hey! sounds like an inspiration for Jean's own book) which was a talk Andre gave on May 30, 1965 (just a month and a half after I was born! Like a birthday present!). The French title is "Ma vocation, c'est l'amour" and Fr. LaFrance (for yes, he is a priest too) highly recommends it. He says he can't summarize the whole talk here, but the important point Jean gives us, like a beautiful rose, is this:
"He goes on to develop a thesis that he never ceased defending, which places the Act of Offering to Merciful Love at the center of Theresian spirituality."
Have I told you that I'm just crazy in love with Therese's Act of Offering? It's actually one of the main reasons I started Miss Marcel's Musings, in a roundabout way, anyhow. (Not that I started MMM in a roundabout way, but that the Act started it, sort of, that is, in a roundabout way was responsible for it. Heavens to Murgatroyd, I'm not going to worry about whether that made sense. You see I am not quite little Jesus - He says things that make sense, and Marcel and his proteges are often at a loss to understand them. I say things that don't make sense, which explains why you shouldn't worry about not understanding them!)
But to explain what does make sense and what I hope I can explain, let's go back to this time of year in 2016. I wrote a book then - well it's still a manuscript since it hasn't been published yet - and it's about a particular part of Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. My thesis is that she's quite eager to have us all make this Act, although I must admit that she's taking her time about getting the message out there (that is, published). Which is good, because besides being God's will (always so good!), the delay has allowed me to improve the manuscript, write a new beginning, fill in some answers to objections, and such like.
But what thrills me is to hear that Abbe Combes (for such is the name, with an accent on the "e" in Abbe, that I've always called him in my mind, as that's how older books refer to him) was just as excited as I am about Therese's Act. I owe him an apology too, because I've not been quick to accept his friendship, despite all he's done for me by making Therese's writings more readily available. I repent, dear Andre! I love you!
Well to explain a little more . . . just before the sentence I've quoted, Fr. LaFrance tells us, "The author [Abbe Combes] asks us to make 'a vigorous mental effort to examine closely this veritable mystery' [that is, the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love]."
My stars, I did try to think as I wrote that book examining closely this veritable mystery. Nothing short of a vigorous mental effort went into it.
Or is that quite right?
When I think of how much fun I had writing my Therese book and with what determination she kept pushing me to keep writing, quickly, before I forgot what I was trying to say (what she wanted me to say), it's hard to remember vigorous mental effort being a big part of the experience. Still, I think I must have been thinking, because it came out just fine. Or was Therese thinking really hard? Anyhow, someone was!
Well, if we go back even further than 2016 in the annals of history, all the way to the days when St. Therese's sisters, Marie, Pauline, and Celine remained living and praying and working in the Carmel of Lisieux, we find that it was common for authors of books on Therese to submit their manuscripts to her sisters to make sure the fruit of the authors' labors reflected the authentic thought of the Little Flower. (If fruit can reflect the thought of a flower!)
Often have I read with joy and peace an endorsement from these holy sisters, so close to their Very Holy sister, and then proceeded to enjoy some book or other about little Therese. Since Celine (the last to leave exile) didn't zip to heaven until 1959, this means there were decades in which authors could get that reassuring "imprimatur" from the Lisieux Carmel, and more particularly, from those who knew Therese's doctrines first hand.
When I finished my manuscript, I thought about those endorsements, and I asked Therese and her sisters to send me one to let me know I'd written well and truly about the Act and Therese's hopes for it and for us. Sure enough, here is what I have written on the inside of my copy of Marcel's Conversations:
October 19, 2016 19th anniversary of Therese's doctorate:
This book came in answer to my "Will you send it today to thank me for our book and show me it is true?"
And then, there it is in black ink (okay, granted I wrote what follows, but that seemed more practical than waiting for an angel or Therese's sisters to materialize in my living room): "Yes, you have written well!" --Carmel of Lisieux
In other words, I took Marcel's arrival in my mailbox as a rose from Therese approving of the book I'd just finished (I'd sent Something New with St. Therese off to its first reader, a Carmelite friar, that very day).
One thing about finishing a book is that you miss it. Or I do, that is! I miss the obsession and the passion that goes into writing, I miss what I've been writing about, I missed (in this case) Therese's daily encouragement, her presence at my side as I wrote.
The best solution I have found to this "book is done" malaise is to plunge yourself (in this case, myself) into another project. That's how I wrote The Paradise Project after A Little Way of Homeschooling had been published. And that's how I ended up immersing myself in Conversations after I finished Something New.
I had found Marcel's Autobiography on the library shelf when researching for Something New. I began reading mid-way through the book where our little brother met Therese for the first time. I know myself and I wasn't about to waste my short attention span on his earliest memories and then set the book aside before our heroine entered its pages!
One thing led to another, in this case the Autobiography to Conversations. I just had to get my hands on more conversations between Therese and Marcel! Here was my novice mistress instructing another dopey protege in her Little Way - I needed those instructions! Thanks to Jack Keogan, translator extraordinaire, and barnesandnoble.com (who had Conversations at a slightly lower price than their competitor), I was able to order the book I HAD TO HAVE and all that was left was to wait forever while it was shipped by slow boat through China (or so I assume for it did seem to take forever to arrive). Fortunately I was putting last touches on my manuscript, so I could distract myself from the wait.
But then the day arrived. If you don't ever finish a manuscript, you can't ask Jesus to get it published. As I've since learned, if you do finish a manuscript, you can ask Jesus to get it published and you might still have to wait a while, but that's no matter. My part being done, I sent off my book and I was free - free to play with Marcel, if only he'd ever show up in my mailbox.
Hence my prayer on October 19, 2016.
And there he was, the answer, right there in the mailbox: the rose I'd requested!
Little did I know, but often have I since reflected, that in Marcel's Conversations, the book Therese sent to seal my work with a heavenly kiss, Jesus is constantly instructing our little brother on the meaning of the Offering to Merciful Love. Wow!
A year and two months after Marcel showed up, in December of 2017 I started Miss Marcel's Musings at the suggestion of a friend. I owed that friend an act of obedience, because she had bought Conversations at my suggestion some months before. I don't know which of our acts of compliance stunned heaven more, or perhaps the question is: Which act - my friend buying Conversations, or my starting this blog on Marcel - had Heaven laughing harder? They were both life changing acts!
It is absolutely my privilege to bring Marcel to a wider audience than he knew before I started rambling here. I have no illusions (well, that's not strictly true, but I try to have no illusions!) about how much wider that audience is - this is the Little Way, and that means we aren't going viral anytime soon. Thank heavens! For all the time since we've known what viruses are, and long before we named them, we've rightly feared them: they wreak havoc and sometimes death! So let's stay small and safe in the arms of Jesus and Mary, and rejoice that on this feast of little Therese, we can thank God for not only her life and roses, but the life and roses of "the second Therese," her spiritual brother Marcel Van. You are here today reading about Marcel and Therese, and that is a wide enough audience to make all my efforts (and Jesus', and Jack Keogan's, and Marcel's Fr. Boucher's, etc.) well worth while!
As to asking for the rose of Conversations to show up in your mailbox (if you haven't yet petitioned heaven and an online bookseller to send it), I must tell you of the miracle in publishing that's happened in 2018. Thanks to Les Amis de Van, the French group of holy souls who LOVE Marcel and work for his cause of beatification (and do much more besides, such as supporting Vietnamese seminarians), these days you can order Conversations from amazon.com for only $25 (it used to cost $40!) and receive it in almost no time flat, which in plainer language means in just a few days, and the shipping is free for everyone!
Now how about that. I was fretting and stressing about what roses I could offer you today, and here I am doing a commercial for Marcel's Conversations! Well, I must say I'm an American, and what else do you expect? I've often thought I'd happily go on T.V. to endorse Bounty paper towels (they've just made that much of a difference in my life!), but this seems much more worthy.
Yet what's a commercial without a sample of the product? I've opened Marcel's book and found - just like that - a real rose (not just an ad for one!) to offer you for our sister's feast. These are words of Jesus to Marcel (472):
"Little brother, you will be submerged eternally in the ocean of Love, where you will carry in your wake a great number of souls. What a joy for you, Marcel! Little Therese calls you her little brother with good reason and I recognize that it is right to call you so."
Isn't that lovely? And have no doubt - you are one of those little souls in the great number being carried in Marcel's wake!
But now we need a word from Therese herself, one more rose in the bouquet, something I found this morning in her Last Conversations which just goes to show that Marcel is not only her brother because they both carry us to Heaven in their wake, nor because they both have books with "Conversations" in the title!
No, what about this possibility? Therese and Marcel are siblings because just like Therese and her sisters, they have so much fun together! Talk about a couple of sillies! Here is what Therese, dying slowly, said to her sister Pauline (Mother Agnes) who watched at her bedside in the infirmary:
"When the saints have closed the gates of heaven on me, they will sing:
At last, we have you,
Little gray mouse,
At last, we have you
And we won't let you go!"
Pauline comments, "This was a little childhood song that had come back into her mind:
Enfin nous te tenons,
Petite souris grise,
Enfin nous te tenons
Et nous te garderons!"
I have my handy French translating dictionary out, and "garderons" seems to me the key word here - for how could the Saints possibly "not let go" the one who said she'd come down to those left on earth!?
You'll be glad to learn that while the first meaning of the verb "garder" is "to keep, to take care of, to preserve" - which I imagine is what his delighted captors did to the little gray mouse - the next meanings are "to attend, to attend to, to look after, to heed, to watch." Now that's more like it! I imagine the other saints are learning a lot from watching Therese with her buckets and baskets and whole heavenly mansions full of roses and her work scattering them down and then even coming down to deliver them personally.
Mark my words - no doubt on the last day, when Jesus is handing out awards, He'll have one for Therese that acknowledges her good citizenship example! Talk about innovative new programs! This rose business (though she got it from St. Aloysius, she's made it her own through and through) is the real thing, and I for one am happy to believe she's an inspiration to the other Saints who not only cannot hold her in heaven, but want to follow her example of following up on our every petition.
Leaving aside our other brothers and sisters, however, I need to tell you about one more rose from Therese. I came upon it as I was looking for the mouse poem to transcribe it here - and that's the thing about Therese's roses - once you've begun to notice them, they seem to multiply and bloom in profusion. This is a rose fit to end our post (just before our closing prayer of gratitude and ongoing petition) because it's straight from the heart of Therese, and also provides a more essential connection between Therese and Marcel than their silliness (if that's possible). What could be more essential than silliness? Why love, silly! Our brother and sister are both immersed in God's love, and they want to share that love with us - in fact, they insist! And this rose proves it:
We read in Last Conversations that Therese said to Pauline just a month before she went to Heaven (and I'm absolutely sure she says it to us again today):
"Ah, if you love me, how I love you also!"
I pray that you may love her like Marcel does! And may she be your sister too! May her love surround you today and always! As she assures Marcel, even when she's quiet, she hasn't forgotten us and is just as near as when she's chattering away. May she and Marcel absolutely cover you and your dear ones with roses beyond counting!
For our final spiritual roses then, here are some we can offer to Jesus. Then don't forget our tea party eating pretend sugar roses at the end!
Ahn-train mwa, noo koo-roe(n) ah tah sweet!
or for those of us more comfortable with English:
Draw me, little Jesus, and we will run (all of us, to You!)!
And for those who would like to take a dive into the deep end, or even dip in one toe and then another until, aah, fully submerged, here is St. Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. She told her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart that to say this prayer was NOT to ask for suffering, but for love. And she told her novice Marie of the Trinity that the only thing necessary to prepare one to make this Act was to know oneself unworthy to do so. I can't see any other big obstacles - we want love and Love wants us. We know we are too little to climb up to Love ourselves, so let's invite Love to come down, in overflowing torrents of infinite tenderness! Take my hand and Therese's, and let's run!
Act of Oblation to the Merciful Love of the Good God
O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make you Loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.
I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my Dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You.
Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the says of His mortal life: "Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give it to you!" I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful? Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.
I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of you to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.
I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the scepter of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion.
After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love Alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.
In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.
I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!
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