As usual, I have so much to say, I don't know quite where to begin. Even coming up with a title for this post was tricky. So many truths, so little time! And what to focus on when God's blessings have been so bountiful?
Like our sister St. Therese, Marcel and I hope to spend eternity singing the mercies of the Lord. Actually, to be quite literal, Marcel is already in that blessed eternity singing away like a little songbird with full throated joy. But for those of us who are his younger and weaker siblings still in exile, I write this post to make his ecstatic song, Therese's, and ours ring out over the earth. May God be praised for never forgetting the little ones. He never forgets - quite to the contrary, He lifts us onto His lap (when He can pry us off Mother Mary's knees!) and carries us in His arms. I have new evidence of this Love beyond telling, and I'm so very grateful for the chance to sing His Mercies for you!
We are meeting in this post to continue our year long journey through Story of a Soul. May, called by the French "Mai" and called by Marcel "Mother" (in honor of Our Lady, whose month it is!), is the fifth month of the year in any language, and that means for us Chapter Five of our little sister's autobiography. Hooray!
Before we open our sister's book, however, we must take a peek into our brother's pages. Not his Autobiography, splendid as that is, but rather his Conversations, our book of choice at Miss Marcel's Musings.
A couple of weeks ago on May 7th (but a few years back, in 1946), Marcel transcribed a conversation he had with Jesus in which, after Jesus reported having been to France for a short time, Marcel replies:
"So, little Jesus, why did you not take me with you? I wished to go to France to see my sister Therese's room and also the Buissonnets. I regret very much that you did not take me with you."
Later in the conversation, Therese gets involved and promises Marcel, "In a short while I will take you to France, so that you may enjoy the countryside at your leisure" (Conversations, 633).
Marcel, not having been born yesterday (he was almost 16 in May of 1946), asks pointedly:
"But, my sister, when will that happen?"
To which Therese responds cagily: "That will happen later, no other time."
Our little brother, savvy teen, catches her out:
"Later, that surely means when I am in heaven, not anything else. But when I am in heaven, even if you do not take me there, I will go to France nevertheless to see if the children are well behaved."
Can you guess the sequel?
I really don't know if Therese ever took Marcel to France once he got to heaven. But I didn't want to take chances regarding the fullness of his eternal bliss, so I took him myself this month! To France! Really and truly!
Which means that when we read Chapter Five of Story of a Soul for this month's Book Club (and anytime I re-read it here-on-after), Marcel and I can assure you that THESE PLACES REALLY EXIST because we've been to them!
Therese tells us in this chapter about her wonderful Christmas conversion. Marcel has loved this moment ever since he first read about it, for he saw reflected in his own life a parallel Christmas conversion, and it sealed the deal of his love for Therese to know that God had dealt with them in the same miraculous way on the same Miraculous Night. But now Marcel not only knows it from Therese's writings, from his conversations with her, from the Beatific Vision, but also from GOING TO FRANCE at last, to Les Buissonnets, Therese's childhood home where the fireplace that witnessed her conversion can be seen and touched (and was!) by the likes of us in 2019!
My guess is that the Midnight Mass she attended that Christmas Eve was at her parish church (a 13th century Gothic cathedral), St. Pierre. We went there too!
The staircase she climbed up to her room - we climbed up it too!
She writes also in this chapter about her prayers for the murderer Pranzini's conversion. He was, as she later referred to him, her "first-born," and as she used to say when having Masses said for him (to shorten his purgatory, no doubt), "He was very naughty!"
Marcel and I saw the crucifix (a small black standing crucifix) before which Therese prayed for her naughty son! And we even saw a recent edition of "La Croix," the newspaper in which she read of Pranzini's last-second grasping and kissing of the chaplain's crucifix as he took his final steps to the guillotine and eternal life!
I think Marcel was paying more attention than I was at Les Buissonnets, but after we left, I realized I'd forgotten to look for "the Belvedere" - the upper room where Celine and Therese had their spiritual conversations and rivaled St. Augustine and St. Monica in their mystical delight and ecstasy at the Creator's marvels. So . . . of course we had to go back for a second visit! There, way up high, were the windows out of which Celine and Therese had looked, "with enraptured gaze" beholding "the white moon rising quietly behind the tall trees, the silvery rays it was casting upon sleeping nature, the bright stars twinkling in the skies, the light breath of the evening breeze making the snowy clouds float easily along." As she tells us, all this raised their souls to heaven, "that beautiful heaven whose 'obverse side' alone we were able to contemplate."
Marcel and I couldn't go out late at night (the sun set so very late there this time of year - at nearly 10 pm!), but we saw those tall trees upon which Therese and Celine gazed, and we were under that same French moon and twinkling stars, felt that same evening breeze, saw the snowy clouds in Lisieux skies . . . and we (Marcel and I - and my husband, who came along too) will never be the same!
Therese chose the feast of Pentecost as the day to break the news of her vocation - her very early-to-the-monastery-vocation - to her beloved Papa. Pentecost was on May 29 in that year of 1887 (Marcel's Pentecost of 1946 will be the same day as ours this year). So it was in this darling month of Mother (May, Mai) that our sister "found the opportunity to speak" to her "dear little Father." She tells us in this wondrous Chapter Five that "He was seated by the well, contemplating the marvels of nature with his hands joined." Marcel and I know the very spot! We too contemplated the marvels of nature there, in the lovely backyard of Les Bouissonnets. There we stood by the beautiful statues of the little Queen and her beloved King that mark the exact place where Therese gained her father's poignant blessing.
Finally, although Marcel and I (and my good husband) didn't travel, as Therese did, to Bayeux to see the Bishop, we did trace her footsteps "as soon as we arrived at Lisieux . . . looking for consolation at Carmel." Yes, we were there too, at the Carmel where Therese did in fact manage, by God's loving mercy, to enter at 15!
We can never thank God enough for this inestimable grace to discover our sister's Little Way firsthand, up close and personal. Thank You, Jesus! Draw me, and we will RUN! -- I wish for you too, dear reader, a trip to Lisieux, but meanwhile, know that we brought you with us. You were prayed for at all of Therese's holy places, before her relics, and in the Basilica that bears her name. There I discovered that everything she says is absolutely true (though a bit understated), and there I found that long before she was declared a Doctor of the Church, our Holy Mother had presented Therese as a teacher for the whole world. Hooray again! Nothing like the Truth to draw us to Love, and both were in abundance in Lisieux.
As for the children in France, they were extremely well-behaved! We happened to visit Lisieux during the week when the Catholic school children of Paris make their annual pilgrimage en masse to our sister's town, to her Carmel, and to her Basilica for a Mass with the Bishop - the whole works! And they were marvelously good! They set such a good example, in fact, that we've decided to call this simply our own first annual pilgrimage, so we'll see you next year about this time in Lisieux!
And for those wondering about the picture that tops this post: it captures the statue and mosaic behind the main altar in the Crypt of the Basilica of St. Therese in Lisieux. Unfortunately, it doesn't capture the three exclamation points that complete Therese's last words in exile, but believe us, they are there!!!
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