If you think it is very mischievous of Marcel to disguise himself as Padre Pio, I can only say that IF Marcel did so, that WOULD be quite mischievous! But no, although Marcel's recent mischief relates to Padre Pio, I don't think he'd get very far trying to be Padre Pio. Although . . .
Recently I've been realizing that the two - Marcel and Pio - are not as different from each other as they appear at first sight. Certainly Padre Pio has a wonderful beard and the stigmata, while Marcel is a clean shaven young man who complains of pains much closer to ours than bearing the wounds of Christ would be . . . But lately I've found 3 similarities between them (besides their wondrous love of Jesus and Mary) that are at once interesting and imitable. Well, two of the similarities are imitable anyhow.
The first and less imitable similarity is that both Pio and Marcel entered religious life when they were 16. For those of us who are slightly older than even 17, this is no longer an option, but I like knowing that both Pio and Marcel, when they were Francesco and Van, not only loved Jesus from an early age, but also wanted to give their lives to Him from childhood - and did so at the identical age of sweet 16, Francesco entering the Capuchins in Italy where he was renamed Pio; Van entering the Redemptorists in Vietnam, where he became Marcel.
The second trait they share, this one completely imitable, is that both Pio and Marcel are quite taken with Jesus' kisses. I love this!
In Marcel's case, it is Jesus Himself who often speaks in the most affectionate terms. In the Conversations, He says, "I am kissing you without stopping; I respond to each of your glances with a kiss" (187) and again:
"Marcel, I love you very much. I do not cease giving you kisses and embracing you in my arms. I look at you all the time and I smile on you and I am always pleased with you. So, therefore, because of the single fact that you always recognize your weakness, you receive from me perpetual support. That is enough. You are very tired Marcel, very tired. I am giving you a kiss and I hold my lips close to your cheek for all eternity." (237)
In the following passage from 31 October 1945, Jesus explains what these kisses require on His part:
"My little child, when I wish to give you a kiss, I must, first of all, contain my love before daring to give it to you. Because, if I give you a kiss putting into it all my love, in the wink of an eye your love for me would lose itself entirely in the depths of my love so that you would no longer be able to sit here to write the words that I am addressing to souls. When I do give you this kiss it will be the last. And this will happen only on the day when it will please me to unite your love to mine forever in a single love. The last kiss will, in truth, be the first kiss given to my spouse when I come to look for her . . . Still a little longer and this kiss will be given to you, my little child." (41)
Oh, but Jesus cannot entirely wait to give His kisses, and on Palm Sunday of 1946 (just to take one more example), He says, "I am kissing you and I do not cease to hold you tightly in my arms . . ." (441)
Understandably, Jesus as a true lover is not limited to kisses but must hold us tightly too. Padre Pio knew this just like Marcel did, and experienced Jesus' affection especially in Holy Communion. From a small book called Padre Pio's Mass:
Padre Pio was asked: "What is Holy Communion?"
"It is all an internal and external mercy. An embrace. Ask Jesus to make Himself felt sensibly."
"Where does Jesus kiss you?"
"When Jesus comes does He visit only the soul?"
"The whole being."
"What does Jesus do at Communion?"
"He finds delight in His creature."
An embrace . . . Jesus' kisses . . . delight -- this leads directly to the third thing that Padre Pio and Marcel have in common. Let's hear it first from Jesus. Telling Marcel what to report back to his director, Jesus says:
"Marcel, you will add this: my Father, little Jesus loves me a great deal. He is very pleased with me, He often gives me kisses, and laughs often with me . . ." (180)
Jesus laughing? How can He help it, face to face with the likes of us! It doesn't hurt our cause that He is Kindness and Gentleness, and how can we doubt that He has not only an exquisite sense of humor (if He is like us in all things but sin, and He is), but that He also has the simple joy of a child relishing and rejoicing in His Heavenly Father's creation? And what is laughter but the bubbling up and overflowing of joy? This joy starts in the Heart of our true Heavenly Father, of whom Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the Kingdom" (Luke 12: 32). Jesus in His turn finds His delight in the children of men -- especially in Marcel!
To take a random sample of their laughter, and to show it is not all on Marcel's initiative, listen to what he tells Mary on April 13, 1946. This was the day before Palm Sunday - just like today, the day on which I write! Marcel says:
"Dear Mother, this is what little Jesus said to me: 'Marcel, try to prick yourself a little with this needle to see if it hurts.' I was then busy darning socks. In spite of Jesus' words, I did not do anything for fear of hurting myself too much. I was a little sad at that particular moment and little Jesus said that to me to make me laugh." (439)
No wonder Marcel is mischievous -- he wants to be just like Jesus, and Jesus is mischievous first!
I was planning to tell you here that Jesus laughed often with Pio too, but alas, when I searched out my proof in the little book "Send Me Your Guardian Angel" (which was the advice Padre Pio gave his spiritual children), I found only the Blessed Mother and Pio's guardian angel laughing with him. In this particular ecstasy that Fr. Allesio Parente witnessed, Jesus was there, but we don't know from Pio's words that He laughed along with the others . . .
For now I'll simply say that Marcel and Pio both loved to laugh, and furthermore I'm confident that they still love to laugh. I mean I'm absolutely sure of it, and with more proof than a book could give. You see, just the other day Padre Pio's relics came to a chapel near me (at Thomas Aquinas College), and I brought Marcel along to pay the great Saint a visit. You can bet that was a mistake! Or rather it would have been if I didn't love to laugh just as much as those two imps!
It began innocently enough. I arrived quite early, and as I was praying in the empty church, I noticed that the lady setting up the relic display had lots to do, and I felt inspired to offer my help.
"Excuse me," I said to her after I'd left my pew and snuck up behind her. "I'm sure you've done this many times, but would you like some help?"
She sized me up in about a tenth of a second and politely but firmly refused. "Thank you, but I don't need any help at this point." End of conversation. Back to work for her, back to the pew for me.
As I knelt again, I realized it had been a set up. I couldn't quite hear their laughter, but I was suddenly and completely certain that Padre Pio and Marcel had conspired to "inspire" me because they knew exactly what this woman would think (I saw it too, despite her poker face), and they thought it was hilarious. What she had conveyed along with her words was something like, "Ah, yes, I've been doing this a long time, and I know your type. You offer to help so you can be near the relics, but we both know you'll cut a chunk out of Padre Pio's cape the minute my back is turned!"
Boy, she had my number! And weren't Pio and Marcel laughing like crazy! I'm surprised I wasn't kicked out of the place, although, as I mentioned already, you couldn't actually hear them. They must have been covering their mouths with their hands!
I settled into my seat, smiling at the trouble makers but refusing to actually laugh out loud in church. Clearly I would have to be the grown up, so I simply changed the subject by picking up Conversations and opening it to where I'd earlier stuck in a new Divine Mercy holy card. I began to read and was delighted by what Jesus in His mercy had chosen for me. Thérèse was speaking to Marcel (and me) and she said:
"It pleases little Jesus more to receive your weaknesses than it would to accept your extraordinary mortifications. Why is that? Because if you are weak, little Jesus constantly holds you close to Him and holds you tightly in His arms . . . Marcel, thanks to your weaknesses, you can save a great number of souls. Little Jesus wants you to reveal all your weaknesses so that men will know of the mercy of their true Father in heaven towards the world. So therefore, my dear little brother, all little Jesus does to spoil you, far from being harmful is, on the contrary, useful for you and by it you can save a great number of sinners." (614)
I thought this was so beautiful that I began copying it into the journal I'd brought with me. I was a little secretary too, writing the same words Marcel had written, words from our big sister that were extremely consoling. And they mentioned God's mercy - no wonder St. Faustina and Jesus had chosen this page for their holy card; it was full of mercy and Jesus' embrace.
Except there was more . . .
Later, after the Mass in honor of Padre Pio was over, I was ready to continue copying, and so I read on into the next paragraph. Now it was Marcel speaking:
"My sister Thérèse, it is said that eating peanuts makes one cough a lot. So, I don't know why bearded Jesus makes me eat them. Perhaps he doesn't know that. Is that so, my sister?"
It didn't help that I thought he was asking why Jesus made him eat them (I misread "Jesus" for "bearded Jesus," Marcel's spiritual director) - didn't Jesus know they might cause him to cough? Once again I had to work hard to be appropriately devout in my pew. I wanted to crack up! The famous peanut passage! And so soon after our recent joke here at Miss Marcel's Musings about the man walking into a bar. Oh, Marcel! You are hilarious!
Somewhere within and among all these urges to laugh, we (the congregation) were invited to come forward and venerate Padre Pio's relics. The Italian man in charge explained that, according to Canon Law, by touching any holy thing we had to the relics, we would instantly have a third class relic of our own to take home. Bingo! Conversations came with me to the front of the church, I touched it to the reliquary containing Padre Pio's bloodied glove, and voila! As I re-entered my pew, I was again overcome by the urge to laugh. I held it in, but silently explained to my little brother, "Marcel, I know we haven't made you a Saint or even a Blessed yet, but guess what? You are now a 3rd class relic!"
The chapel, which is large, was teeming with joy. I sensed that Padre Pio had brought his own fun, and his brother (and ours) Marcel had upped the ante. The two of them were full of mischief! Pio certainly is the elder brother: he's the more dignified and venerable one, and he was the one who drew the crowds. I think Marcel has him beat in the silly category, but then we must remember that every saint has his own mission. There is Padre Pio, world famous, full of extraordinary charisms and miracles, his relics on tour, for Heaven's sake! And then here is Marcel, whose inestimable greatness is the direct consequence of his inestimable weakness. His relics are, I imagine, unobtainable because they reside somewhere (perhaps unknown?) in North Vietnam. And his fame? Compared to Padre Pio's, it is nothing. And yet . . .
Here we have another instance of Marcel's mischief that I've been meaning to tell you about. When I first met him a year and a half ago at St. Bernadine's Library at Thomas Aquinas College, he sidled up to me like a homeless stray kitten. I'm not a cat person generally, being allergic, but I do love Asian cats and so this particular Vietnamese kitten had me at a disadvantage. Full of compassion and curiosity, I took him home and instantly fell in love. Some part of that love (on my side) was thinking he was otherwise friendless. Come to think of it, maybe that's how he saw me too!
But lo and behold, in the last few weeks I've heard some information that makes me question Marcel's stray cat strut. A friend in France wrote to me that Marcel is far from unknown there, in the country Jesus so often commended to his prayers. Quite the contrary of unknown - Marcel is beloved there by religious, seminarians, priests, and even bishops, and many are surprised to discover he's not yet beatified or canonized (they don't know about his third class relic status either, but that is quite recent). And, said my friend, Marcel is even on the list of saintly people taught to children in Sunday school!
As if that isn't reputation enough, my friend in Texas told me she'd spoken to her pastor, who is Vietnamese, about Marcel. He said that although the communists in Vietnam do all they can to obstruct Marcel, still he is known by many in his home country also!
You can see why I'm thinking it was just another instance of his mischief, this pulling the wool over my eyes regarding his popularity vs. homeless status, but it gets even better. Last week I discovered (again, thanks to my friend in France) that there are not only religious there who know of Marcel, but there is even a religious order of sorts, Missionnaires de l'Amour de Jésus, whose charism is based on the Little Way of Thérèse and Marcel!
Oh mischievous Marcel! When will we truly know you? Since you are one with Jesus, your mystery has become infinite like His. I don't mind; I love your mischievous ways, and I'm grateful you found me and pretended to let me find you. Now let us find more kind hearts to adopt you into their homes, as many more as there are tricks left up your sleeve. I bet that's a nearly uncountable number! I'm sure you have a capacity for friendship to rival Padre Pio's - he who continuously invited people to become his spiritual children. In you we have a brother rather than a father, but wouldn't it be in keeping with your mischief, little Marcel, for you to become a patriarch too? With smiles, laughter, kisses, and a snuggle next to the merciful Heart of Jesus, I pray that your family grows more numerous than the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky!
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