A Little Novena of Gratitude
By some miracle of grace, I've managed to remember that in our last post we quoted St. Therese's marvelous explanation of how to get more out of the good God. You might think no tricks or stratagems are needed, that God our loving Father is ready to give us everything without our clever ploys. You'd certainly be right to think so, but I'm afraid that after all, after the Fall in fact, it's unlikely we've remembered, with full confidence, that God's infinite love means He'll take care of every detail and give us every good thing.
So if you're not yet at the heroic-virtue-take-me-now-I'm-ready-to-go, -fully-perfected,-I-see-all-reality-with-total-clarity-and-no-more-fear-since-Love's-totally-cast-it-out stage of your existence, welcome to the club! We're big proponents of the Little Way here precisely because we need every Lift we can get - and our preferred Lift is Jesus' arms taking us straight to heaven by His power, not ours. We're the children not quite able to reach that first step yet, though we're willing to keep raising our foot (unless we get tired, in which case we simply rest in a heap at the foot of the stairs) while we cry out for Mama and Papa.
Which is right where Therese and Marcel's tricks and stratagems come in handy. If we're going to be like children (because we are children), why not be adorable and irresistible children? And what's more charming, adorable, and irresistible than gratitude? A little gratitude goes such a long way, and who knows how long our way will be? We could find ourselves in Heaven before the week is out, or we might be stuck here for years and years. No use telling each other how time passes quickly - yes, the years fly by, but the hours sometimes crawl. So however you calculate it, and whatever God's plan - whether the way is short or long - let's make the trek more comfortable by climbing into Jesus' arms and letting Him carry us. We have plenty to whisper in His ear while He holds us close, and no time to lose.
Because . . . did you know that if we make haste, we can manage a novena that includes Marcel's birthday-into-heaven? My latest research indicates that he left this exile at mid-day on July 10, 1959. Next year, in 2019, that will be 60 years ago, which is a cool round number. But in just a short while, this year, it will be precisely 59 years ago that he was born into Real Life. Do you know what that means?
By my calculations, we're heading at breakneck speed for our little brother's Golden Birthday into Heaven! The year he left this exile -'59 - is matched by the number of years from that July 10th to the July 10th we'll shortly be in: 1959 to 2018 is 59 years! Now don't think you've had a faulty education if you've never heard of a Golden Birthday into Heaven before; I just made it up! So much to celebrate, and we have to name it to claim it! (Yes, I made that up too; isn't it good? The angels are egging me on, they're so excited about Marcel and his upcoming feast.)
In a trice, then, we'll be rejoicing with all Marcel's brothers and sisters at his entrance into Heaven on July 10, and only four days after that it will be time to join him in praying for France.
Without doing a ton of research on this one, I'm pretty sure July 14 is "Bastille Day." As I mentioned in the last post, we're co-opting that day for the glorious wedding of L & R, two beautiful Catholics about to become one, and on the very anniversary of (slight correction here) the groom's great-grandparents' wedding day. So much to be grateful for, and also the perfect day to pray for France. We can't congratulate the eldest daughter of the Church for her rejection of Mom (the Church) and Dad (our Heavenly Father), but what a perfect day to join Marcel in praying for our big sister's homeland, the country she and Jesus were always commending to his love and prayers.
Ultimately, though, as far as novenas are concerned, soon after the 14th is July 16th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. And if we start now (the day on which I'm writing, July 8th), we've got exactly nine days to go to get to what, for my husband and I and the whole Carmelite Order, is not merely a feast, but a Solemnity! A big feast of Our Lady, a solemnity for the Carmelites, a day of joy for all who love the scapular, and a day dear to the heart of Therese (and therefore to Marcel) - the perfect opportunity to gather our gratitude and our petitions and surrender everything without reserve.
My goodness we have a lot to celebrate, but there's actually much more than I've let on, and this is where Therese's gratitude will serve us well. In case you missed the last post, or if you're like Marcel and me (forgetful), here again is the spectacular advice our big little sister Therese, a Doctor of the Church, has for her novices, among whom we're happy to count ourselves:
"What most draws down graces from our dear Lord is gratitude, for if we thank Him for a gift, He is touched and hastens to give us ten more, and if we thank Him again with the same sincerity, what an incalculable multiplication of graces! I have experienced this, try it and you will see. My gratitude for all He has given me is boundless, and I prove this to Him in a thousand ways."
I don't know about the thousand ways, that sounds exhausting, but in our own little tiny way on our novice mistress' Little Way, we can thank Jesus for the graces He's showered down during our last novenas by trusting Him with the intentions of our next novena.
We recently hosted a novena of posts here at Miss Marcel's Musings in order to pray for each others' intentions, including several birthday intentions which culminated in Jack Keogan's and Miss Marcel East's "many happy returns of the day" Day. It was tons of fun, and we're never exclusive here - you're welcome to be part of that novena now too, even if you weren't at the time. Thanks to the wonders of the Eternal Internet, not only can you find things you'd like to buy online that are being sold at the perfect price, only in 2012, but you can also find our Big Novena posts (July 15 - July 23) which should continue to be available until the last trumpet sounds or the world wide web goes kablooey, whichever comes first.
My own techno-wonders being less than optimal (or perhaps exactly optimal, but less than impressive), I recently resorted to googling word chains that produced over there (on Google) the entries that brought me here to see those old posts in the 'hood, since scrolling down you'll only glimpse the newest post and the 9 before it . . . but hopefully you're smarter than I and could find it without leaving our little asylum (what kind of asylum it's not for me to say!). Or, come to think of it, we can quickly transport you to our "say it with flowers" summary of the Novena-of-the-Stars, HERE.
But as well as that ultimate novena we prayed together, you may not know (can't remember if I mentioned it here, but think I didn't, in which case you wouldn't, so no worries - never any worries, in fact, any more, ever) that prior to that group novena, I was storming heaven from mid-April to mid-May with three consecutive novenas to St. Therese. A veritable trinity of novenas, even if that wasn't the original plan - once I started, I just couldn't stop! And you'll be glad to know that the result was the answer to so many prayers I can't even begin to relate them all . . .
Or actually, I can begin - it's finishing that's a problem! And I must begin because the important thing here is what reminded me of that triple novena, a novena which began in desperation for some special intentions, and grew, and grew, and grew, both in intentions (as my novenas always do: why not pray for the whole world?) and in length, successively culminating on Therese's beatification day, St. Joseph's Day, and Pentecost. I was reminded of it by the sudden realization that the answer to one of the original desperate primary intentions of that almost-entirely-answered novena silently and finally floated down like a rose petal from Heaven the day before yesterday. God can be so quiet in His giving!
To mark this unexpected miracle, the long-awaited answer to prayer and the peace, freedom, and joy that this heavenly rose petal signaled, we had hugely high temps in our area, which led to a symbolic but very real second miracle in my backyard.
On this day of answered prayer, our thermometer registered 113 degrees at its highest (right around the Hour of Mercy, 3 p.m.), and later my son told me that somewhere near our vicinity was the hottest spot on the whole planet for July 6, 2018. Yowza! What a grace and kindness, then, that my guardian angel took me out of the relatively cool indoors (with our a/c set to 75, we managed to keep it at 79 degrees) into the weltering world of my (or rather Therese's) four rose bushes behind the house. There, waiting for my solicitude, I found many new buds (yay!) looking just like Bugs Bunny on his way through the Sahara (not so yay) . . . They were beyond gasping and panting for water; they were bent double on floppy stems, ready to give up their little ghosts! It was so very sad.
Before you weep, though, let me assure you that God's goodness saved the day. Frequent trips outside to move the hose gave me a real appreciation for the relative cool inside, and more importantly encouraged the buds to raise their heads again and hope for a more natural end to their little rose lives. This morning I made a tally - although three are still in critical condition, the total is 27 promising buds (I include the guys in ICU; "Never Give Up" is one of our mottos here at MMM).
27! That's the number of days I prayed for my countless intentions in the triple novena that preceded our recent birthday novena . . . 27 revived roses to remind me to be grateful, to encourage me to hope, and to share them with the world once they bloom, because there's nothing like a rose to say God is not only Love, but He is Love who loves us!
And then, because rose petals do tend to fall like autumn leaves once they've started falling, last night I heard about another of the primary intentions of that triple novena (an intention added later, but so important it crowded in on the originals and took top billing in the latter days) and how it, too, was recently answered - though once again, this favor came silent as a rose petal touching the ground at the recipient's feet.
The original remaining primary intentions of that novena (which, like every novena I pray, collects additional intentions like barnacles till they're practically uncountable) were two, and they also have had rose petals in their honor.
Truth in advertising, however, requires me to acknowledge at this point why I'm announcing a shower of rose petals instead of the more popular image of whole roses (no thorns, please) as Therese's signal of Heaven's answer to our prayers . . .
I'm not blaming the Big Guy Upstairs, but the problem is that, as occurred to me after my most recent reflections, each of these intentions/requests has been answered to about half of its potential. If we think of our novena(s) as one of those ginormous thermometers measuring donations to a pledge drive or annual appeal, the generous gifts of our Major Donors (God and the Saints) have brought the red line to only about the half way mark. Not that we're complaining, but it may be time to bring out the dancing bears (I never actually watched a Jerry Lewis Telethon, God rest his sweet soul) or start playing Andrea Boccelli. In other words, more tricks and stratagems to get those phones ringing and that red line up to 100%!
The funny thing about both the most-recently-answered prayer requests is that they've been fervently prayed for more than a decade - maybe even two decades! When I think of prayers God has taken His time answering, I think of the conception and birth of St. John the Baptist, but in this case, unlike Zechariah seeming to forget about his and Elizabeth's youthful prayers for a child, the recipients of these new graces have prayed (and had others of us praying) for years, right up to the moment of God finally answering our heartfelt petitions this past week. Yet even with all this consciousness and continuous prayer, the answers - which are unmistakable - will remain largely hidden from the rest of the world, just as the petitions and needs were long hidden.
This is the Little Way, and I thank God for this little blog in which to catalog His huge love and mercy. We could never tell the fullness of His infinitely solicitous love for us, but it makes us happy to try. And so, though I can't even relate the particulars of these oh-so-marvelous and long awaited miracles in the lives of very dear friends (you know, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and all that sort of thing), still, I can start another novena in celebration of so many good gifts, and in petition for their complete fulfillment. A novena of gratitude, but while we're at it, a novena of confident pleading for more cake and ice cream, please.
I'm starting out with these two intentions, then, plus two more that are left over from that triple novena - I can tell Jesus wants us to keep praying, because He's answered all four to some extent, but none to the super-eminent degree that would signify it's time to move on to worrying - I mean trusting Him - about what's next on our to-do list.
But since Scripture tells us and experience proves that Jesus does love to do new things, I'm adding in one more request - something I've been hesitant to ask, and yet now with these special feasts coming up, the time seems right. Won't you join me? Do you have prayers you've been saying for what seems like forever, prayers that you know God wants to grant, but He's waiting for - who knows what? Maybe He's waiting for us to ask together, and with Marcel and Therese asking for us too.
And what about something more, something for which you haven't dared to ask? I think we've gotta go with Marcel on this one. He said he'd spend Heaven asking the Heavenly Father for all sorts of things, because that's what delights a Father's heart - the opportunity to spoil His child. Let's not be shy. Let's feel free to add whatever petitions come our way during the next nine days, and let's remind God that He promised, over and over, to give us all we ask in His name.
God willing, let's make this a novena in honor of Marcel's love for Our Lady, and hers for him (and us). Let's not worry if we miss a day or two - the very definition of a little novena! - but let's fill our petitions with gratitude: gratitude for the miracles God will work for us, gratitude for those He's worked already, and gratitude that we're among the lucky ones chosen to pray on behalf of those who don't know how.
We'll start with these lovely words of Marcel from Conversations, from a page marked in my book with the same picture that tops this post, an image of Therese painted by her sister Celine. I'll tell you more about this painting tomorrow; for now, here's what Marcel and Our Lady wanted us to find to begin our little novena to them:
"Mary, my Mother, since I am still allowed to chat with you at this time, I am going to speak with you, if you want to. Will you listen to me, dear Mother? Even if you did not wish to listen to me, you must, nevertheless, hear me, because in hearing me whispering in your ear unceasingly, even if you did not wish to answer me, at least you would have to resign yourself to listening to me.
"But Mother, what foolishness I have just said there! How could it ever happen that you were not happy to listen to me? I know very well that my true Father and my true Mother are always ready to listen to all my stories in all their detail." (348)
Dear Blessed Mother, give us Marcel's confidence in you, the confidence Therese taught him and you nurtured by your loving attention to him. Give us the confidence to tell you our stories and to pour out our hearts to you these next nine days. You know how little we are, which is all the more reason for us to snuggle next to your loving Immaculate Heart, a Heart that knows only how to love us. We have so many petitions - some we may have forgotten before we've properly begun, but you are a true Mother who anticipates all our needs. Bless our families and our nations, bless those we love and those who need our love. Give Marcel a kiss for us, and little Jesus too! And Marcel, kiss Mary and Jesus for us, and our sister Therese, and Celine also. Kiss all those we love who've gone to God before us, and enlist them in our novena - the angels too! May we fill Heaven with gratitude, and may Heaven fill us with peace and joy. We ask this through little Jesus, our Lord, Amen.
Oh, and one last prayer for a beginning -
Draw me, we shall run!
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