Marcel's Book Club 7.0
This is the Little Jesus of Therese, also known as the "Rose Child Jesus" on account of his rose colored tunic. Our adorable Savior is in the Lisieux Carmel, but no, I didn't take this picture - He's in the cloister, where we weren't allowed!
Today we get back to our monthly book club reading, our little paradise project, our one chapter-a-month of St. Therese's Story of a Soul, and with her, since it's July and we're on Chapter 7, we finally get into that coveted Carmelite cloister! Marcel and I thought it fitting, then, to begin with this darling Little Jesus cameo - and do you know that I'm wearing practically a replica of Him on my wrist as we speak? A dear Miss Marcel couldn't resist His loving demeanor on a faux silver charm, and so now He goes with me everywhere. God is so good!
If you wonder what place this particular Little Jesus had in Therese's life, you'll find out in our July reading that He was the first to greet her in the cloister after she received the Carmelite habit - and He was surrounded by snow, which He, her divine bridegroom, had provided per Therese's desire!
But there's another lovely part this statue played in Therese's Carmelite life. I just read in a Lisieuxian book (i.e. one I got in Lisieux) that our sister loved to "fleurir" - to adorn with flowers - this Little Jesus.
How do you like that? French is such a wonderful and romantic language that it has a verb for "adorning with flowers!" I like that very much and it encourages me to keep learning the language, even if my progress is simply one beautiful word at a time!
But now, let's see what else we can find in Chapter 7 of Story of a Soul.
Several things struck Marcel and me as we did our reading, and we have to start first with an acknowledgment of our gratitude to Mother Agnes, Therese's sister Pauline, to whom Therese gave the task of editing her writings. Mother Agnes did a marvelous job - so marvelous that even after much laborious work by others in the 1950's, work restoring Therese's original manuscripts for Story of a Soul (taking out all Mother Agnes' changes and additions), later scholars, editors, and publishers have felt the need to add copious footnotes in order to restore all of the anecdotes Mother Agnes had originally inserted! If you're reading the ICS edition, you'll see what I mean; if not, you're most likely reading the Mother Agnes-ified version, so you've got it all in the text. Hooray for Mother Agnes!
Secondly, we want to thank our Heavenly Father and my husband Tony for providing such a happy visit to Lisieux earlier this summer. Thanks too to the Holy Spirit's inspiration, our pilgrimage there has made so much of this chapter come alive for me. I love to encourage readers of Miss Marcel's Musings to get a copy of Marcel's Conversations (or a second copy if you possess only one so far!), but I'd like to add the suggestion that you also go on a trip to Lisieux! Until you do, please believe me that Les Buissonnets, to which Therese says good-bye in the opening paragraphs of Chapter 7, and the Carmel, to which she says hello in the subsequent action of our Story, and the main altar of St. Pierre's, which she notes her father donated - all of these are there still in Lisieux, testifying to the existence of St. Therese and validating the particulars of her memoir. And they are all so exquisite!
Then there's the crazy secret which Marcel and I feel privileged to know, and which we'll gladly share with you.
In Chapter 7, Therese receives her Carmelite habit, as we mentioned above. She writes, "At the termination of the ceremony the Bishop intoned the Te Deum. One of the priests remarked to him that this hymn of thanksgiving was usually sung only at Professions, but, once begun, it was continued to the end. And indeed it was fitting that the feast be thus completed since in it were united all the others."
Well Marcel and I read that and scratched our respective heads. (Please rid your interior landscape of the image of Marcel and I scratching each other's heads, like two little monkeys!) It rang a bell; we'd heard something like it somewhere before . . .
Aha! It was in that favorite tome, Fr. Thomas Taylor's "Green Book" - the early English language edition of Story of a Soul that includes the story of her beatification and canonization, and so much more. Opening it up, we found a description of Therese's beatification by Pope Pius XI (April 29, 1923), and this fun fact: "No one who took part in the ceremony could forget the enthusiasm of the multitude, or the great Te Deum, reserved solely for a Canonization, and intoned on this occasion by a happy mistake."
Yes, God is good indeed! And He loves to pour out His goodness on little us! How delightful that there's something about our sister Therese that evokes not only our gratitude, but His glory, even when not scripted or expected. We shouldn't be surprised, it's her very refrain, sung boldly and taught to Marcel to teach us: How littleness sets in relief Infinite Greatness, how weakness is a foil for unlimited Strength, how utmost poverty provides the perfect setting for Limitless Mercy and Love!
But beyond our feelings of gratitude, Marcel and I felt great interest in the comments St. Therese makes in this chapter about peace and about suffering.
Regarding peace, she tells us that after her desires were accomplished (of entering Carmel and giving her life to God), "My soul experienced a PEACE so sweet, so deep, it would be impossible to express it. For seven years and a half [from her entrance to her writing these pages] that inner peace has remained my lot, and has not abandoned me in the midst of the greatest trials."
One might regret that even amid the peace, Therese had trials. And yet we prefer to consider, as Therese put it, that even amid the trials, she had peace.
Just this morning I read Jesus explaining to us in His Conversations with Marcel, "As you still remain on this transient earth, you will still have to suffer many times; but do not worry: I remain always with you, yes, always, always. It is impossible for me to leave you, even for half a second" (404).
But what shall we say about these trials that Therese experienced?
Marcel and I loved that when Therese speaks of suffering in this chapter, she always connects it with desire. This seems strange - Marcel didn't desire suffering in his little life, and neither do we! But at least it reassures us that Jesus wasn't pulling a fast one on our spiritual sister. She had no complaints, as we shall see.
Therese tells us that when she entered Carmel, she could already articulate her purpose: she had come to save souls, and especially to pray for priests. This is right in line with the Carmelite vocation, the reason St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila had reformed Carmel three hundred years earlier: to save souls, and especially to pray for priests, as well as being a good friend to Jesus who is too often abandoned by His erstwhile friends. But little Therese continues, "When one wishes to attain a goal, one must use the means: Jesus made me understand that it was through suffering that He wanted to give me souls, and my attraction to suffering grew in proportion to its increase."
A few pages later, speaking of her love for Jesus' adorable Face, she writes, "Ah! I desired that, like the Face of Jesus, 'my face be truly hidden, that to no one on earth would know me.' I thirsted after suffering and I longed to be forgotten." And then she adds, "How merciful is the way God has guided me. Never has He given me the desire for anything which He has not given me, and even His bitter chalice seemed delightful to me."
A little later, when Therese is recounting the great suffering she and her sisters experienced at the illness of their beloved father, she explains, "My desire for suffering was answered, and yet my attraction for it did not diminish."
This last statement ought to have been enough to frighten the daylights out of me and Marcel, but thankfully, we kept reading. For then, Therese hands us the key to understanding her seemingly odd appreciation for suffering: "I was still the happiest of creatures since all my desires had been satisfied."
We apologize if we've scared the living daylights out of you! Before we go any further, Marcel and I must admit - we aren't suggesting that every Mr. and Miss Marcel should hanker after suffering!
Au contraire! We aren't hankering after suffering - at least I'm not! - but we were somehow reassured because we noted the connection for Therese between suffering and the desire Jesus gave her for it.
Let's be honest, suffering is in itself an evil (and no fun!), so it wouldn't be natural to desire it or love it. Rather, Jesus must give the soul a desire and gratitude for it - which gift is not natural but supernatural - if He wants the soul to love suffering.
Speaking for myself, as I think I mentioned about a paragraph ago, I still have absolutely no desire or love - natural or supernatural! - for suffering. And I take great consolation from Marcel's similar attitude, as recorded in every other page (if not every single page) of Conversations. I can't say I know his attitude has stayed the same - presumably the Beatific Vision does things to a soul, and I don't begrudge our dear brother the insights and increased charity the Vision of our Beloved has given him.
No, but I do cherish his constant and reassuring disgust and aversion to suffering as expressed in his Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese. "Me too!" I often scribble in the margins. Down with suffering! Down with bitter chocolate! Up with happiness! Up with treats and sugared sweets!
What Marcel and I both love, though, about Therese's comments on suffering in this chapter is that she repeatedly insists that God is doing no more nor less than granting her desires. He was the One who, mysteriously, gave her a desire to suffer in order to save souls, and He was the one who satisfied her desire by then giving her the suffering she desired.
As for those of us who have not this desire for suffering, I offer the good news that Jesus constantly insists on to Marcel - and thus to us through him - that JOY is what He asks, what pleases Him in us, whether amidst consolation (YAY!) or suffering (boo and boo hoo, but still, that He wants us to be joyful even here is something I love).
And now that we've mentioned consolation (it's right up there before the parenthetical "YAY!"), Marcel and I would like to note another part of Chapter 7 that we loved beyond measure: Therese says the coolest thing ever about our consolations in this life!
I've often had the feeling that our attitude toward consolation ought to be: "Thank You Jesus, but I know this won't last. I'm going to cling to it while I can, but wow, I'm not looking forward to what comes next."
Far from being such a Debby Downer, our sister Therese has the opposite to say: she can't wait for what comes next, because after this life comes Heaven, and our consolations here are just a tiny taste of the Feast our Heavenly Father has prepared for us there.
"The Bishop came into the cloister after the ceremony [of her clothing with the Carmelite habit] and was very kind to me. I believe he was very proud I had succeeded and told everyone I was 'his little girl.' He was always kind to me on his return trips to the Carmel. I remember especially his visit on the occasion of our Father St. John of the Cross's Centenary. He took my head in his hands and gave me a thousand caresses; never was I so honored! At the same time, God reminded me of the caresses He will bestow on me in the presence of the angels and saints, and now He was giving me only a faint image of this. The consolation I experienced at this thought was very great indeed!"
Isn't that wonderful?
I've never had a Bishop make much of me, but I do remember way, way back into my almost pre-history when a loving Great Uncle Paul held my young face in his hands and stroked my hair, repeating in sweet accents, "Leenda, leenda!" - that is, "Linda, linda!" which in Spanish means, "Beautiful, beautiful!" I felt so loved - I was so loved - and according to Therese's understanding, those caresses I felt, the love they expressed and the way I felt so loved - all of it was just the tiniest reflection and anticipation of the love the Father will bestow on each of us, His beloved children, in Heaven. Isn't that awesome? And the same is true of all our experiences of love on this earth - just shadows of the Luminous Love to come!
Finally, there's one last thing Marcel and I would like to mention from this dear Chapter 7 (which we hope you'll read soon if you haven't yet).
Therese mentions in a parenthetical aside:
"(At the beginning of my spiritual life when I was thirteen or fourteen, I used to ask myself what I would have to strive for later on because I believed it was quite impossible for me to understand perfection better. I learned very quickly since then that the more one advances, the more one sees the goal is still far off. And now I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect and in this I find my joy.)"
That last line slays us!
"I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect and in this I find my joy."
Isn't this the essence of Therese's Little Way? We think so! And, too, the essence of Jesus' message in Conversations, where He forever reminds Marcel (and us) that it's our very weakness and imperfection that calls to Him, and obtains for us His merciful Love in abundance.
As Jesus said to our brother (and us) on April 7, 1946:
"Your weaknesses, Marcel, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in me, which makes our union firmer still . . . " (386).
And knowing this very weakness includes a hefty dose of forgetfulness, Our Lord kindly repeats Himself on May 10, 1946 (as in the gospels He never tires of reminding us not to be afraid):
"Nevertheless, little brother, your weakness has not disappeared for all that; it will remain in you until the time when you receive from me the first kiss of your life . . . Little brother, always remember that you are a truly poor and destitute soul. Do not worry about your weaknesses, as your sister Therese has told you, and as I, myself, have told you many times. It is in knowing your nothingness that your confidence in me will be truly firm" (652).
I don't think we could take away anything more valuable than this from our reading of St. Therese! And yet, our post cannot finish without a random invocation of the Te Deum - it's just too sweet that the Holy Spirit and our angels helped us make the connection between Therese's clothing and her beatification - the one preparatory to her profession, the other to her canonization, and yet both first steps proving perfect occasions for singing this glorious hymn of the Church.
In my Divine Office, before the Te Deum itself, there is a small note: "For Sundays, solemnities, and feasts . . . " Exactly! Oh, and also days on which we meet with Marcel and Therese - for these become feasts de facto, in virtue of the great grace of our being together!
Ready, then? Here goes, our hymn of gratitude and praise:
You are God: we praise You.
You are the Lord: we acclaim You;
You are the eternal Father: all creation worships You.
To You all angels, all the powers of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim,
sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise You.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise You.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise You.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims You:
Father of majesty unbounded,
Your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.
You, Christ, are the King of glory,
the Eternal Son of the Father.
When You became man to set us free
You did not spurn the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death,
and opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory,
We believe that You will come, and be our judge.
Come, then, Lord, and help Your people,
bought with the price of Your own blood,
and bring us with Your saints
to glory everlasting.
Save Your people, Lord, and bless Your inheritance.
- Govern and uphold them now and always.
Day by day we bless You.
- We praise Your name forever.
Keep us today, Lord, from all sin.
- Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us Your love and mercy;
- For we put our trust in You.
In You, Lord, is our hope:
- And we shall never hope in vain.
+ + +
Marcel and I may not be little monkeys exactly, but I do feel like a monkey's uncle (as in, "Well I'll be . . . ")! I'm not so great with long prayers, since my mind fades around the third line, but here I've been revived at the ending - so Theresian that one can see how God had to invoke this hymn every time He could, not only for her to honor Him, but as if to honor her Little Way to Him. The only thing possibly missing is an exclamation point, or three, so we'll add those, and voila, the essence of the Good News:
"In You, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain!!!"
And now, to close before the month does, let's say together with confidence unbounded:
Draw me, Little Jesus; we will run!!!
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