I was going to title this post "Last Call," because I've timed our novena to finish on the feast . . . which means you're welcome to toss in more intentions before our final prayer, and frankly, even after. I've got a feeling Our Lady would like us to keep asking her for things - look at all those roses she's holding out to Therese, and this is an old statue (no little brother standing next to our big sister), so imagine how many more she's actually got awaiting delivery from heaven!
A couple of the roses are here already, in the form of rhymes to delight us even as we pray. After I typed out Flos Carmeli the other day, what did I find in my email but an even better version (who doesn't want their prayers to sound like poetry?), and then I saw that same version given as the opening hymn in our Carmelite Proper last night for the vigil of this great Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Let's pray it together, then, this rhyming Flos Carmeli, asking Our Lady to hear and answer all our petitions, including those we've forgotten and those we haven't thought of yet, but which will no doubt crowd into our hearts as soon as we've finished.
Flower of Carmel
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Child-bearing, yet maiden,
None equals thee.
Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favors bestow,
Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might,
Under thy mantle,
Hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
You give to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
Dearest Mary, our Mother and our sister, obtain for us from little Jesus all the petitions of our hearts. We are so grateful for your maternal protection, for your loving mantle flung warmly over us, for your motherly intercession and tender compassion. Hear our prayers - all the prayers commended to us, all those we've taken on ourselves, and those we haven't properly formed or have forgotten - and be a true mother to us, staying near even as you assist us in every necessity.
You know, Mama, that I was trying to remember important prayers at Mass today, and here is my list.
Please grant us:
1. a deep and abiding gratitude, tinged and flecked and shot through with gladness, rising from a well of joy within us
2. a love of and refuge in your gifts of the Rosary and the Scapular
3. an intimacy with you closer than our wildest dreams and richer than that experienced by the greatest saints . . .
And Mama, don't forget to look with love upon the whole world!
And now, because it's a feast, we need more poetry! To start us off, something by Jessica Powers, who was really the Carmelite nun, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (1905 - 1988). No wonder she wrote such a fabulous poem to Our Lady in 1946! While the epitaph refers to a quote from Solomon, I think in the poem proper Jessica has on her mind "the little cloud like a man's hand" that Elijah had to send his servant - 7 times! - up to the top of Mt. Carmel to see (1 Kings 18).
The Cloud of Carmel
"The Lord promised that He would dwell in a cloud." --(2 Chronicles 6:1)
Symbol of star or lily of the snows,
rainbow or root or vine or fruit-filled tree:
these image the immaculate to me
less than a little cloud, a little light cloud rising
from Orient waters cleft by prophecy.
And as the Virgin in a most surprising
maternity bore God and our doomed race,
I who bear God in the mysteries of grace
beseech her: Cloud, encompass God and me.
Nothing defiled can touch the cloud of Mary.
God as a child willed to be safe in her,
and the Divine Indweller sets His throne
deep in a cloud in me, His sanctuary.
I pray, O wrap me, Cloud . . . light Cloud of Carmel
within whose purity my vows were sown
to lift their secrecies to God alone.
Say to my soul, the timorous and small
house of a Presence that it cannot see
and frightened acre of a Deity,
say in the fullness of your clemency:
I have enclosed you all.
You are in whiteness of a lighted lamb wool;
you are in softness of a summer wind lull.
O hut of God, deepen your faith anew.
Enfolded in this motherhood of mine,
all that is beautiful and all divine
is safe in you.
+ + +
I would like to end this post here, for what could we say to surpass such lovely and perfectly expressed sentiments? I suppose we could add Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry to Our Lady (do you know it?). I love "The May Magnificat," but especially, "The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe," which Jessica's poem brought to my mind. But neither of these poems are what comes next. There's a certain Vietnamese boy, short of stature but jumping up and down with excitement, relentless in his desire to get a few words in today in honor of Our Lady.
Okay, Marcel, it's your turn!
What would you like to say?
Oh no, now I've embarrassed our little brother. He had a poem for Our Lady all lined up, but he's blushing because now that he's in heaven, he knows well Fr. Hopkins' poems, and it's as though I want to offer you a fresco Marcel painted in lieu of one by Fra Angelico.
Now Marcel. No one expects you to be another GMH, just as we didn't compare Celine's painting to one of Murillo's - although honestly, little brother, the heart knows nothing but what it loves, and I just might love Celine's Therese more than Murillo's Our Ladys, just as I might love your poem even more than I love Gerard's! So don't be bashful. You love Our Lady and it's right that we sing your song in her honor on her feast. Hide behind her veil until we're finished if you must, but I bet you'll get joy in singing it with us - how delightful that you have more to contribute to our "Theology of the Glance!" Hide then or sing, as you wish, but here we go, discovering Our Lady's glance as you so gratefully experienced it and gracefully express it. (And little brother, I'm especially grateful myself that this gaze is from the Mother of Perpetual Help, since I don't know her as well as you do. Thank you for adding to our repertoire of Our Ladies!)
The gaze of the Mother of Perpetual Succour
(by JMT Marcel C.Ss.R., 8 December 1948)
Oh Mother, why so much tenderness in your gaze?
When you lean forward and fix your gaze on me,
I see in your face a great goodness,
Your gaze is for me a tender caress.
O Mother, how engaging is your gaze
I believe I read there your ardent love,
Your deep compassion for my soul,
And for my life so full of suffering.
You look at me, you look at me unceasing,
As much in days of joy as of sadness,
And your gaze invites me to throw myself into your arms,
To be cuddled and cured of my wounds.
Your gaze is my comfort in my pain,
It is the joy and the peace of my heart.
If I take a false step and fall into sin,
Your gaze is a warning for my soul.
On the days when I am joyful, you also look at me with love,
So as to add still more to my joy, and in your goodness,
You do not forget to gaze at me in the trials of life,
So as to encourage me to remain patient.
Above all at times when I am exhausted,
You never neglect to look at me.
In unrest as in danger,
Your gaze is my comfort and support.
Oh! Mary I love you greatly!
A glance at your face is enough to reassure me;
A glance at your face is enough to melt my sadness;
A glance at your face is enough to regain my peace.
O dear Mother, what tenderness in your gaze!
Look at me until I arrive in paradise,
Until the moment when as if swallowed in the pupils of your eyes,
I will contemplate with you the God of infinite tenderness.
+ + +
Oh Marcel! Never be ashamed of your littleness! It is precisely that which makes you so near and dear to us, which inspires us to imitate you, rather than merely admire you as one who has attained heights not intended for us. Do you know, little brother, that after reading your poem I want to write one of my own? I want to ask all readers who come here, "Please, never be shy of expressing your love in poetry and songs. Let's imitate Marcel!"
You see, little brother, you give us courage to write little verses too, rhyming or un-rhyming as we are able, however we are inspired to sing our own hymns of love for Our Lady and for you. But now that you have so generously shared your poem with us, I know what you are urging me to type in conclusion. I have been thinking of it too, even before you began to whisper - the passage from our Mother about gazing at her, the power of our simplest glance upon her image. If you, brother, help me find the pages, I promise I will transcribe them here as you did so many years ago in Hanoi. Come Holy Spirit! Help, St. Anthony! Guardian angels, assist us to honor Our Lady of the Angels please . . .
* * *
Have you believed me that Our Lady is ready to shower her roses of love upon you? Let me share with you a miracle of unexpected proportions, so that you will believe in Love. I too, like Marcel, should be embarrassed, but not at my poetry, rather at my lack of faith. Why am I so surprised with each new and lovelier rose that falls into my lap? Ah, but confidence is different than expectation. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself!
For just this moment, after my prayers here in public with you (to Marcel, the Holy Spirit, St. Anthony and the angels), I took up Conversations, stuffed a (small) square of dark chocolate into my mouth for sustenance and courage, put on reading glasses, sat down in a comfy chair, and said another prayer. St. Anthony does not tire of these seemingly tiresome and certainly endless pleas to help us find things. So before opening my book, knowing this could take forever (two rules in life: never enter a used book store looking for one particular book, and never expect to re-find a specific conversation in Conversations on demand), I asked him again: Please, St. Anthony.
If I had a heart, I would be in tears.
For I opened the book.
Simply. Like that. To one page (or I suppose to facing pages, but I was only able to read one at a time, and I started on the left hand page).
Immediately my eyes fell on this passage, the very one I'd been sure I wouldn't find.
Oh me of little faith!
So here, from Conversations (426), thanks to Marcel and his big brother (and ours) St. Anthony, is Our Lady's contribution to our word-fest in her honor:
Mary: My dear little one. You have just been looking at me. It is not surprising therefore that I hasten to ask you this question. It is something really astounding. My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze.
So, what do you want and what is it that little Jesus has said to you? Are you very troubled? That is very unfortunate, my child. I am very sorry for you. Today, the recreation day, when you should be relaxing, all you do is worry yourself. It is very painful. But, my child, why trouble yourself in this way? I was once in the same situation as you. Although aware of the wonders that God was working in me, I had, nevertheless, to believe, since I had no conception of the graces that the divine Father was granting to me. If, at that time, I had not had the need to call on the virtue of faith, I would no longer have been a humble creature like you, my children. If, therefore, I still had need to believe, with much greater reason have you, my child . . .
My dear child, remain in peace, all right? Little Jesus has not scolded you; neither have I. Our sole intention, both of us, is to get rid of your troubles. Do not worry, I love you dearly. See, I have more pity for you than for little Jesus. In that case, it is He who should be sad; but you, what reason have you to be sad? Come, my child, I am kissing you, I am giving you twice as many as I am giving little Jesus, nevertheless, little Jesus is happy with that.
If little Jesus was like you, you would end up hitting each other seriously, both of you. But little Jesus loves you even more than I love you myself, since my love for you is the sign of the love that He has for you. So, in seeing me give you more kisses than I give to Him, He is not offended.
My dear little one, I am kissing you a lot and I love you dearly. That's enough. The time is almost up. My child I am placing you on my breast with little Jesus; and there, both of you, you will love each other. . .
+ + +
Draw me, we will run!
+ + +
And with that, our novena is complete. May Our Lady, so much more Mother than Queen, cover you with kisses - four times as many as she gives little Jesus, and twice as many as she gives Marcel! Our brother won't mind - he's safe at Home in her arms forever, and knows we need more pity than he, since we're still troubled here in exile. Let's do our part, though, and try not to be troubled - let's try to have faith. And when the worries pop up despite our feeble attempts to banish them, let's say, "Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice," and be at peace. Then when our peace is short-lived, let that serve as the reminder we need to look again at Our Lady so that we, like Marcel, may draw to ourselves her compassionate gaze, and with only a simple glance! What a deal, what a bargain, what a steal! Which sounds like poetry, almost, and reminds me, we have homework . . .
There could never be enough verses in honor of a Mother so tender and so true. If you feel inclined, then, the time has come to make up yours for her - I can hear Marcel urging you on, and Therese offering to teach you how to write poetry, just as she taught our little brother. Pen or pencil and paper, typewriter, computer, tablet or phone - the tools are practically endless, and they only await your creative touch. Good luck!
And don't forget to keep on the lookout for roses. We've got the octave of the Feast starting up just as our novena ends. I may not be as daily about my posting, but surely our sister and brother will continue to help Our Lady distribute her heavenly favors. Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and may all your dreams, hopes, wishes, and prayers come true!
I've written books and articles and even a novel. Now it's time to try a blog! For more about me personally, go to the home page and you'll get the whole scoop! If you want to send me an email, feel free to click "Contact Me" below. To receive new posts, enter your email and click "Subscribe" below.