Do you recognize that slightly smiling man on the left? You may not, because in real life his smile was much bigger, but that's one of Marcel's brothers - or fathers, really - in the Redemptorist order! He's Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, originally from Bavaria but ordained a Redemptorist priest in the USA where he then - until and including today! - loved his flock and worked many miracles. And guess what? His feast day is October 5th, the same day as St. Faustina's and the day we began our triple novena (#2)! Which means he's our father now too!!!
Then on the right you see a more smiling man. He's chuckling about what is about to happen in a few days. He's the wonderful Cardinal John Henry Newman, now Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, and soon to be Saint JH Newman! When will this exciting elevation take place? This coming Sunday, October 13th....yes, precisely 9 days after our novena started, and thus the day phase one is completed! And his special day is also the 102nd anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima!
Cardinal Newman's feast will continue to be celebrated on October 9, anniversary of his reception into the Catholic Church by Fr. Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist priest. Oh, forgive me, I mean Blessed Dominic Barberi!! Way to go Dominic and John Henry!!! But I'm musing today on how marvelous it is that while good St. John Henry (this is my oldest brother's name, so I can't get enough of the new status of bro's heavenly patron) is associated with someone on his level, like Blessed Dominic, he's also linked forever - or will be after October 13th this year - with the tiny shepherds of Fatima, the ones who begged and obtained from Our Lady on that day a miracle witnessed by 70,000 people, believers and atheists alike! The Little Way does sure keep rising up to meet our feet as we plod along in exile! Thank Heaven!
As I write (in my blue office, which is a 2012 Prius :), I am listening for the first time in forever to an old favorite recording of John Michael Talbot, and I just heard him sing - and in my heart I sang too - "I was young, so young, but now I'm older . . . I have never seen the just one forsaken . . . "
Like much of JMT's music, this song is from the Psalms, and this one, Psalm 37, appears frequently in the Divine Office - how I love the praise of God which we are invited to sing!
"The humble one shall be raised up and know the fullness of God . . . " comes into it too. Yes, we see this in our own lives as well as the lives of our loved ones, and above all in the lives of the Saints.
Take St. Faustina, for instance, the gal who started us off on this second triple novena (second triple novena sounds like a fancy dive, doesn't it? Just add a twist!). She was not only hidden and invisible to the eyes of the world in her own lifetime in exile, but she remained so, long after her death, despite Our Lord's promises and pleadings that she do huge things like start a universal feast for the Church, spread His image and "Jesus I trust in You" everywhere, institute perhaps the most famous novena of the modern age, and so on . . . .
But then the Holy Spirit did this crazy thing and put a Polish priest on the papal throne, which the new Pope soon turned into a Pope-mobile so he could kiss and hug and pat his sheep, and bless everyone in the whole wide world. And this Pope helped it all to happen - everything that seemed so unlikely and impossible for Faustina, including her becoming a Saint! And what a wonderful little Saint she is!
I love how she tells us in her Diary that one day she decided to do something about the drought that was ruining the crops. She started saying the Divine Mercy chaplet Jesus had taught her. She just said it over and over because He said it could gain any grace - and it did! After a few hours, the heavens opened and the rain fell!
But there's another episode in Faustina's life that I love even more. It's not only one of my favorites, but one of Marcel's too! Not that he knew of Faustina and her Diary in his life (not that I know of) but rather now that they're in heaven, he and she attend monthly meetings on the first Saturday (or is it the second?) for all Jesus' (and Mary's) little secretaries. It's kind of like a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, with popcorn (though heavenly popcorn doesn't get stuck in your throat or teeth), jelly beans, and ice cream, don't you think? (Okay, Snoopy put out toast, not ice cream, but this is Heaven we're talking about!!)
Anyhow, in our MBC 9.0 we had to skim past the awesome dream Therese had (which she recounts in Chapter 9 of Story of a Soul) due to time constraints. -- Boy, I can't wait till we get to Heaven and eternity too, where time doesn't run out!! -- But Marcel won't rush past a Saint's dream of a Saint (Therese had dreamed of Venerable Anne of Jesus, who showed her such love that Therese understood even more than before how the Saints care for us, even those we don't particularly know, like St. John Eudes!). And so, he wants us to tell you about St. Faustina's dream of . . . St. Therese!
Yes, I would make this up if I had to, it's so cool - but no, I'm not making it up, because I don't have to! It really happened! St. Therese had been canonized - raised, as they say, to the canons of the altar - in 1925, a mere 28 years after she died (which means she would have been 52 at her canonization had she lived, but then that would've been an odd situation indeed!). In 1925, Faustina was 20, having been born just 8 years after Sister Therese of the Lisieux Carmel died.
Oh, and Story of a Soul, which came out from the Carmel in 1898, a year after Therese skipped off to heaven from earth, was translated into Polish in 1902 by the Carmelite priest Raphael Kalinowski in amends to Therese because he'd scoffed at the book, then received a favor from her one day when he was feeling desperate, and so . . . well there are many morals here, but the funniest part is that Fr. Raphael is now Saint Raphael Kalinowski. Which just goes to show that if you ever have the chance to translate Story of a Soul into some new language (pig Latin may be all that's left that it's not in already, which is about my level, so let's race!), well you definitely should!
But getting back to Faustina's dream, here it is in her own words in her Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul (#150):
"I want to write down a dream that I had about Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I was still a novice at the time and was going through some difficulties which I did not know how to overcome. They were interior difficulties connected with exterior ones. I made novenas to various saints, but the situation grew more and more difficult. The sufferings it caused me were so great that I did not know how to go on living, but suddenly the thought occurred to me that I should pray to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. I started a novena to this Saint, because before entering the convent I had had a great devotion to her. Lately I had somewhat neglected this devotion, but in my need I began again to pray with great fervor.
"On the fifth day of the novena, I dreamed of Saint Therese, but it was as if she were still living on earth. She hid from me the fact that she was a saint and began to comfort me, saying that I should not be worried about this matter, but should trust more in God. She said, "I suffered greatly, too," but I did not quite believe her and said, "It seems to me that you have not suffered at all." But Saint Therese answered me in a convincing manner that she had suffered very much indeed and said to me, "Sister, know that in three days the difficulty will come to a happy conclusion." When I was not very willing to believe her, she revealed to me that she was a saint. At that moment, a great joy filled my soul, and I said to her, "You are a saint?" "Yes," she answered, "I am a saint. Trust that this matter will be resolved in three days:" And I said, "Dear sweet Therese, tell me, shall I go to heaven?" And she answered, "Yes, you will go to heaven, Sister." "And will I be a saint?" To which she replied, "Yes, you will be a saint." "But, little Therese, shall I be a saint as you are, raised to the altar?" And she answered, "Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus." I then asked her if my mother and father would go to heaven, will . . . And she replied that they would. I further asked, "And will my brothers and sisters go to heaven?" She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer.
"This was a dream. And as the proverb goes, dreams are phantoms; God is faith. Nevertheless, three days later the difficulty was solved very easily, just as she had said. And everything in this affair turned out exactly as she said it would. It was a dream, but it had its significance."
I should say it had its significance!
Except do me a favor, please, and don't get stuck on that "She told me to pray hard for them, but gave me no definite answer. I understood that they were in need of much prayer."
It's so easy to get scared, especially since the devil works on it day and night! But think about it this way: If Therese just kept saying yes about everyone going to heaven, don't you think we'd all decide to forget prayer and just watch more TV? (or write and read more blog posts, etc!) . . . And yet aren't we all in need of much prayer? Absolutely!
Which brings us back to our triple novena.
I've had so much trouble getting online to post here that I'm afraid I left you with one tiny prayer and then . . . nothing! So I hope you remember our rules:
First, just praying the prayer once means you're in this triple novena for good, and I'm banking on someone out there (not you, don't worry!) actually being faithful to our one little prayer each day. I almost think I have been, though to be quite honest I may have missed a day.
But second, just hearing about this novena means your in! And you can throw in all your intentions pell-mell, and we are all in this together, praying or not praying, dreaming of Saints or not getting enough sleep, and so on, and BEST OF ALL -
Third, we've got praying for us St. Faustina and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, SAINT John Henry Newman (soon to be, if you're reading this before October 13, 2019 or already, if after), and St. Raphael Kalinowski (because don't you think that to tell a funny story about a Saint is to invoke him?), and we haven't even gotten to those darling little shepherds whose whole job was to pray, pray, pray, to keep the rest of us out of hell! Thank you, Saints Jacinta and Francisco, and Lucia!
And then there's St. John Paul II, thoroughly mixed up in the whole business, because he not only was a saint, but had the super duper fun job of beatifying and/or canonizing Faustina, Seelos, Raphael, and Jacinta and Francisco! We'll be praying the second phase of our novena starting October 14 and up to October 22, the day dear Karol became our Holy Father! And then - hold onto your hats or your socks - the last part of this novena takes us to the Vigil of All Saints - which means we've got the whole company of heaven (we'll ask the angels to join in too) praying for us to the Lamb upon the Throne, and our Heavenly Father and the Spirit of Love, our adorable Blessed Trinity! WOW!
Okay, then, to do our little part while we're here, let's get some encouragement from one of those "All Saints" who isn't beatified or canonized yet, but is an awesome role model and said something wonderful about prayer that he made sure I stumbled upon today. This is Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., whom you may remember as the college president who brought back Franciscan University of Steubenville into a great saint-making place again. And Fr. Mike quotes good authority when he tells us:
"The best way I can express how I pray today is to quote Pope John Paul II from Crossing the Threshold of Hope: 'The pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray.'
"I find that the Holy Spirit opens and closes doors to prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who anoints in power certain directions in prayer, and it is the Holy Spirit who blocks other avenues. Although I must start prayer, prayer once started is not my own. As my prayer changes, so does my life. The Holy Spirit reshapes my life through prayer."
I love this! Thank you Father Scanlan, dear Holy Father JPII, and Holy Spirit of Love! This was just what I needed, and I hope it encourages you too. Let's trust God ("Jesus, I trust in You!") EVEN in our prayer! What a concept!
So, on the subject of prayer, and now that our fear is banished (let's hope), here's our prayer for the novena so far, a truly miraculous prayer about which Jesus (who taught it to Faustina) said, "If you say this prayer with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give that soul the grace of conversion." So here goes:
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a font of mercy for us, I trust in You!
And then, in honor of Cardinal Newman's impending canonization, I thought we might add the prayer of his that Mother Teresa - excuse me, Saint Mother Teresa! - loved so much that she had and still has her sisters, her Missionaries of Charity, say it every day! We'll say it once now, if you're up for it, and feel free to come back and say it again, but feel free not to, also. You see, it's a little longer than our previous prayer, and you may need to rest or eat - I've learned from Jesus' compassion for Marcel in Conversations that we're allowed to stop talking to Him to eat and sleep, or even just rest!
So here it is, our extra prayer (we'll become saints yet, at this rate!) -
Dear Jesus, help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly
that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through us and be so in us
that every soul we come in contact with
may feel Your presence in our souls.
Let them look up, and see no longer us, but only Jesus!
Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be ours.
It will be You, shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise You in the way You love best,
by shining on those around us.
Let us preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for You. Amen.
--Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman
What an awesome prayer! What slays me is that it is so Mother Teresa - and yet so Cardinal Newman too! I hope it reminds you that St. John Henry, St. JH I like to call him, is on our team, now, too, and our Little Way suits him perfectly! He was such an innovator that he was even walking it (come to think of it, like all the Saints before him too) before Therese gave it a name!
And now it really is almost time to eat and rest. It's been beyond lovely to visit with you here, though I didn't even get to tell you all the lovely things I planned to. About relics that have been entering my life like roses in the mailbox (where Therese said we'd find her!) . . . about pilgrimages, retreats, Saturday Padre Pio meetings, and other sublime activities some other Marcelites have reaped as fruits of our novena . . . OH, not to mention (which I didn't, due to the shortage of space on the internet) the many, many places all over the world where people are praying with us, praying for us, and praying for my father-in-law Paul!
But how about just one instance of the kind of grace that's been floating down from heaven these days like beautiful orange leaves from a maple tree. This shower fell in Scotland, where our sister Therese's relics have been touring recently. A new friend wrote the best story ever, and I think there's a lot we can learn from it (much to our advantage). My friend writes:
"So, this past weekend I had a great, big, wonderful, frustrating, tiring weekend with family...
"Car ride home Sunday I was tired, messy, grumpy. My faith was really flagging. I said to Saint Therese, "Please send me some flowers. If it's real find a way to send me roses. I don't care how you do it- get me some roses in the next day or so".
"Yesterday, as I was leaving the house, a delivery man came. Big box from Marks and Spencer's shop. I had a chuckle, wouldn't it be funny if it was My roses? Didn't really think it was. Box strange shape not like flowers. I opened it. Staring me in the face - a dozen pink roses. And a bottle of prosecco and box of chocolates. My heart just stopped. I couldn't BELIEVE it.
"What do you think!!!!??? I literally said, "In some way, shape or form send me your flowers, Therese ". Next morning, unexpected, 12 pink roses. I can't seem to grasp it. I want to believe it. I want to "feel" it."
* * *
Full disclosure, it was in fact said friend's birthday, and dear friends had sent the box. But before you go dismissing the Therese Connection, oh ye of little faith, let me ask you this: When is the last time you received a dozen roses, prosecco, and a box of chocolates for your birthday? From friends at a distance. From a cool department store. ???? I rest her case!
I haven't had time yet to write much about our pilgrimage to Lisieux in May, and the way this life hurtles along - what with people getting cancer and children involved in stage plays, and new friends and new saints (new heavenly friends and new earthly saints!) - I have to admit it may never happen (my telling of those pilgrimage graces). But I totally get what happened in Scotland with Therese and the gift she sent our Miss Marcel there (for this friend is one I made through Marcel, and she was as excited as a person should be when getting his collected ouevre in the mail a month ago!).
What happened was that Therese was asked for roses.
She sent roses, sparkling wine, and CHOCOLATES!
That's the Therese I met in France. She was a revelation. And can I admit something silly?
I have loved her so long, and yet I always suspect she might be just a little harsh.
But Guess What?
She is not. Not even a little harsh. Therese is the most loving sister you can imagine, and she even goes so far as to reassure us in Marcel's Conversations, "I'm not angry with you! Nor have I ever been! Nor could I ever be!"
Far from it, she's only a little peeved sometimes that we make our requests so puny. Or maybe not. Maybe she's happy we didn't think to ask for prosecco and chocolates along with the roses. This way she gets to surprise us!
My special prayer for you as we continue with our second unfailing triple novena of love is that you will begin to suspect how much God loves you. Just a little, so you don't keel over dead of joy, which could be rather disconcerting to those around you!
Because if St. Therese loves us this much - and I know Marcel loves us even more! - it's mind boggling how much God must love us.
Little Jesus, draw me, we will RUN!!!!!!!!!
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