Blessed Mother of those whose names you can read in my heart, watch over them with every care. Make their way easy and their labors fruitful. Dry their tears if they weep; sanctify their joys; raise their courage if they weaken; restore their hope if they lose heart, their health if they be ill, truth if they err, and repentance if they fall. Amen.
Welcome to the last phase of our second triple novena! I'm afraid - which is bad, after making you recite with me, "Be not afraid," nine days in a row! - okay, so I'm not deeply scared, but simply a little concerned that I might be confusing newcomers (and even friends of long years) with this seemingly endless sequence of novenas . . . Or perhaps I might be worrying newcomers (or you old standbys) with the thought that you're too late to fully partake of our double (because we've had two) triple (because each consists of three back to back nine day sessions) feast of novenas.
Therefore, let me repeat, before we get any further in, or any further out (of our minds), our triple novena story.
I love novenas - i.e. nine consecutive days of prayer to a saint or for a particular intention - because I'm pretty good at counting to nine. (Start with thumb of left hand, proceed through five digits of that hand, switch over to thumb of right hand, stop at ring finger - don't count pinky!)
Furthermore I have a short attention span, so during Mass I have lately amused myself with this holy trick of counting (silently!) on my fingers up to nine, while naming the days starting with some particular feast or day near where I sit and seeing where the nine count gets me. But "us" is so much more fun than just "me," especially because "me" is already "we" (Marcel, Therese, moi - not Miss Piggy, but Miss Marcel) . . . so when I found out that we could, for instance, start on September 6 and in nine days (a novena) reach the Feast of the Holy Cross, then start on Our Lady of Sorrows (the next day) and count nine - another novena - to reach St. Padre Pio, and then start on Padre Pio's day, and with a final novena (this would be the third in a row) reach St. Therese's feast - well, our first triple novena was born, and it was "ours" because I invited everyone within earshot or eyeshot or any kind of shot, really (root beer, anyone?), to join me in this newfound joy!
That first triple novena was so much fun, and went so well, and yet so many prayers had still to be answered - and if you were listening this past Sunday at Mass, you know that Jesus counsels persistence in prayer, even to the point of calling His Dad an unjust judge, or at least likening Him to one, though He's the justest, sweetest, best Papa ever - well the next thing we knew, I'd counted out another 27 or so days and whoosh, we were involved in a second triple novena. This one started October 5, which turned out to be not only St. Faustina's feast, but also the feast of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos (and yes, my memory is so famously like Marcel's, namely forgetful, that I had to pull out his relic-card just now, after a long and fruitless brain-search, to merely remember Blessed FX's name! Wow! That's bad, but funny!).
From October 5 it was a quick nine days to the canonization of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman (which so cool to say, after all these years of his being merely Cardinal Newman, impressive as that was too) which was also the 102nd anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. Nine more days brought us to the feast of St. John Paul II on October 22. And now, in the home stretch, we're heading for nothing less than the Vigil of All Saints! Nothing like roping in all the holy ones to intercede for us and our every need!
So what prayers have we been saying for this double triple novena? We've tried a variety of prayers, some longer, some shorter, and we're ending now in this last nine days with the prayer that started the whole shebang. It's called "An Old French Prayer for Friends," it's addressed to our Blessed Mother, and knowingly or not, you've said it already, if you started reading this post at the top!
But before you try to think that far back (or worse yet, scroll up), let me repeat what I've enjoyed emphasizing in this novena, what I even wrote about at Catholic Exchange HERE (click the HERE and you'll be there!), namely, two special rules that make our triple novenas not only unique but also breathtakingly freeing (which is hard to say aloud, but true!):
1. You don't have to say any or every prayer we suggest on every day of the novena, because these are little novenas in the spirit of St. Therese's Little Way. We're trying to remember that it isn't our perfection that attracts God - He's already got that! - it's our littleness, our weakness, and the blind hope we have in His infinite Mercy! So it's okay to miss a day, or two, or . . .
2. In fact, to make this a foolproof non-threatening, anxiety-reducing (rather than stress increasing) novena (or triple novena, or double triple novena), you don't even have to say ANY of the novena prayers to be included, to be part of the plan, to have your intentions and the intentions of all those you love included here!
After all, haven't you ever prayed before, even a single Hail Mary, for someone who had no suspicion what mischief you were up to? And don't you think they were prayed for even if they knew nothing about it?
Our novena-fest is kind of like that - with the bonus that if you know we're praying for you, and you want to be part of the praying, and yet perhaps you forget to re-pray the prayers each day, or you get distracted and walk away from the prayer in the middle (am I the only one who does that?) - well these sweet happenstances can hardly disqualify you from our prayers! Especially when you're happy to be prayed for and even wish to join in too (but your weakness or busy schedule prevent you).
I've had a few wonderful souls write to me and ask if they can join in though the novena seems to have already started (or has it finished?), but what prayer should they say, please? Or are they too late?
Darling little souls! You're so very welcome here, and you are never too late! If anyone is reading this in 2024 (which sounds really bizarre and yet is only 5 years away from where I sit as I write) and if the month is July, yet here you are nonetheless - by all means read away, pray away, and know you have been in this novena from its outset, because God is outside of time, and after all, here you are before Him, enjoying His Saints and depending on Him for the solution of all your troubles (and the troubles of those you love). Isn't this fun?
You may have trouble believing me, though, that it's our littleness, our weakness, and the blind hope we have in His infinitely Merciful Love that attract God to us. I know I have trouble believing it (or remembering it) myself! But we've got all the time in the world to absorb this life-changing truth, and you'll be glad to know you have not only my word for it, but proof from our favorite little Doctor of the Church. She's quite a prodigy, for all her youth; the Doogie Howser of the spiritual life; a general practitioner, an internist, a brilliant psychiatrist and psychologist, and a specialist in hearts, no less.
Doctor Therese wrote about exactly this question of our weakness when she responded to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (and here you see how important it is that Therese is a heart specialist!) in my favorite of her many wonderful letters, Letter 197. Marie had complained, sounding just like we might, that Therese's desires (for martyrdom, to preach to the ends of the earth, even simply to love Jesus as He had never before been loved) were awesome but rather intimidating. Since Marie didn't have those same desires (just like we might not), how could she, like Therese, delight the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
Therese responded without hesitation. She literally picked up a pen and wrote back asap to disabuse Marie of her error. Isn't that a great word, "disabuse"? It's the opposite of abuse! It is what a Saint does to help heal her sister - and all who come after - from the abuse of the accuser, that liar, the devil. And here to disabuse us too is the plain truth, spoken as directly as only a Saint can speak it:
"Ah! I feel that it is not this (my desires) at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy...That is my only treasure, dear one, why would this treasure not be yours?"
And she explains:
"Oh, dear Sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love....The desire alone to be a victim suffices..."
We must interrupt here, Marcel and I, to explain that Therese is talking about the desire to be a victim OF LOVE - to invite God's infinite tenderness to flow into our souls, so that He won't be so sad anymore about how He longs only to set us aflame with Love, Love, Love, and yet He is rejected on every side. What can we do? Even if we want to console Him and receive His love, what must we be to worthily invite God to lavish this infinitely lovable Love upon us? Therese continues:
"We must consent to remain always poor and without strength...Ah! Let us love our littleness, let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be, He will transform us in flames of love...Oh! How I would like to be able to make you understand what I feel!....It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love....Since we see the way, let us run together. Yes, I feel it, Jesus wills to give us the same graces, He wills to give us His heaven gratuitously."
Ah, how our divinely inspired sister is filled with the Word of God! Just yesterday, in the distant past of 24 October 2019, I heard the most beautiful words from the Gospel at Mass, words which echo - or rather foreshadow - the words of Therese.
How do you like that? A new take on Scripture studies: The Old Testament foreshadows Christ, and then Christ Himself foreshadows Therese! Given the amazing words He spoke, that we would do greater works than He did, there may be some startling and odd truth here (or I may be a material heretic, which means not on purpose, so I do submit my every thought, word, and action to the judgment of the Church, and gladly admit I'm a little silly!).
But getting back to this gospel reading from St. Luke, our dear Lord is speaking, and He says:
"I have come to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already enkindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:49-50)
These words remind me of something else St. Therese said, or rather something she asked of her adopted spiritual brother, Fr. Adolphe Roulland. I don't know if I've mentioned Fr. Roulland here before, but he was a practice brother (and a real priest and missionary) whom God used to get Therese ready to be a big sister to little Marcel some fifty years later, just as He did with her other spiritual brother, the seminarian Maurice Belliere.
St. Therese had asked the soon-to-be-Father Roulland to pray for her at his first Mass, and then every day after that. She later realized he might think he could stop praying for her after she died and entered eternal life, so she made sure to carefully instruct him. Was she asking for prayers to exit purgatory later (or sooner rather than later)?
Not at all! She was firm in her conviction that "for those who love, there is no purgatory," even while she loved to have Masses said for those who had died, because the Church's treasury is so promising and abundant. Also like her holy mother and ours, St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila, Therese wasn't worried about spending time in purgatory, believing as we like to say nowadays, "It's all good."
No, what Therese really wanted was to ensure God would let her spend her heaven doing good on earth, so she asked Fr. Roulland to pray this prayer not only during her life-in-exile, but once she entered the Presence of God. Here is the prayer, from her LT (letter) 220:
"Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle my sister with Your Spirit of Love and to grant her the favor of making You loved very much."
She explains to her first spiritual brother, "You have promised to pray for me throughout your life; no doubt your life will be longer than mine, and it is not permitted you to sing like me: 'I have the hope that my exile will be short!...' but neither are you permitted to forget your promise. If the Lord takes me soon with Him, I ask you to continue each day the same prayer, for I shall desire in heaven the same thing as I do on earth: To love Jesus and to make Him loved."
Ah, wonderful Therese! She continues, "You must think I am very strange; perhaps you are sorry to have a sister who seems to want to go and enjoy eternal repose and leave you working alone...But rest assured, the only thing I desire is God's will, and I admit that if in heaven I were no longer able to work for His glory, I would prefer exile to the homeland."
Can you beat that? I thought her having Fr. Roulland continue to pray for her was brilliant. I didn't start to think she was a little crazy until she said she doesn't want to rest in heaven! What??? I love rest!!! But admit I also love what REALLY makes our sister crazy - her love for Jesus that desires only and forever to love the Beloved and to make Him loved - even by the likes of us! Keep trying, Souer Therese, and don't give up!
What do you think? Doesn't her prayer and desire remind you of Jesus' prayer and desire? To fill the earth with the fire of love! And so, I had a thought, an extra prayer idea. Why not pray Therese's prayer for ALL THE SAINTS in heaven and on earth?! Granted here on earth some of us are more saints-in-potentia, but isn't this a wonderful prayer to pray for everyone ever? And if we're going to finish off our double triple novena, we might as well have a magical sort of grand finale like in the fireworks shows on 4th of July and every single night in the land of Disney!
So here is our other prayer, which we can say at least once as we read it now, and who knows, perhaps daily - maybe even for the rest of our lives! Greater miracles have happened. Oh, and sillier ones too! I must tell you, before we get to our modified Theresian, ultimate, cover-it-all, grand finale prayer, the latest report on Brother Marcel's and Blessed Seelos' Vietnamese prank which they recently pulled off in the land of Tennessee.
Marcel's brother and ours, P.C., shared the story of Marcel's antics with his marvelous Padre Pio Prayer Group. Note how the great Papa Pio keeps showing up here! He was a jokester too, as well as madly in love with Jesus our Love, and he can't help sharing Marcel's laughter, and retelling his little brother's joke. Brother P.C. writes:
"For the last few weeks, I have been reading the book, Marcel Van Complete Works 2 - Conversations, and you wouldn't believe this! We had several prayer cards of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos on our altar and they are all in English. They were next to the picture of Bro Marcel Van. One of the Fr. Seelos prayer cards turned Vietnamese. I don't think I have a Fr. Seelos prayer card that is Vietnamese?? I think Bro Marcel greeted me. Fr. Seelos and Bro Marcel are both Redemptorists. I flipped through all our Blessed Seelos prayer cards and checked all my drawers and I cannot find a single Vietnamese Blessed Seelos prayer card. On the Feast Day of St. JP 2, October 22nd, 2019, Fr. Seelos and Bro Marcel played a trick on me. This is too funny! It won't be difficult to remember this date."
Thank you so much, Bro P.C., for sharing the joy and laughter and immense love of the saints! I really have to smile when I think of some of our readers here asking, "But wait. Who is Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos?" Ah, a good question, and a perfect imitation of our Bro Marcel with his own query to Jesus, "Who is St. John Eudes?"
If you scroll down, you may be able to find where we recently wrote about Blessed Seelos in one of our musings, but suffice it to say he is yet another great lover of Jesus, and another who loves, like Therese and Marcel, to "come down" and work miracles! So invoke him for your hardest cases, challenge him to become your friend, and you will discover that you are dearly loved by Blessed Seelos already!
We're getting close to our Grand Finale Prayer, but I have this niggling feeling I may not yet have convinced you (or maybe it's me I haven't yet convinced) that our weakness is Jesus' delight. I happened to be thinking about this yesterday because, my weakness being always with me, it's something of an obsession to remind myself of Marcel's message - or to speak more properly, Jesus' message to us through Marcel - along these lines. So in case you're in the same leaky boat, here's what Jesus spoke to me, thanks to Marcel's writing in that same book Bro P.C. is reading these days, Conversations:
"My child" says Jesus, "the smaller your love is for me, the more mine will envelop you with its intimacy."
Okay, that wasn't the passage I was about to transcribe for you, but we little secretaries have to take our dictation as it comes! That was from (122) in Conversations. Let's see if we can get Jesus to tell us more, and if possible from the place I read yesterday . . .
Ha! I just looked back down at the page in order to turn it to the proper place, and what do I accidentally read below the bold quote above? Marcel writes (123-1), "This [what we just quoted] is what Jesus said to me yesterday."
Little brother, you are very good! And I love that we are so completely one that it's as if He said to me yesterday what He said to you yesterday! This union would make sense, too of how I often experience every word and every page of your Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese as meant exactly for me at every moment of my life! But if you and Padre Pio and Blessed Seelos will stop teasing for a moment, let's see if we can find the passage I hoped to share with these other little souls who have found us here at MMM, and to whom, also, these words are very personally directed!
Ah, not quite yet. Now St. Joseph and Little Jesus (on a bookmark) are giving us (235), another word Jesus wants us to hear before anything else is written:
"Yes, Marcel [insert your name here!] . . . you are very weak. I have never seen a soul weaker than yours. However, this must not discourage you. It means little that you are weak. After having put everything into my hands, why would you be afraid of your weakness? All that remains for you to do is to love me. As for the rest, I will take it upon myself. Indeed, what can little children know? To love: there you have it, their sole occupation."
I would add (not to correct Jesus, but to extrapolate on how we love) that little children know how too, in their love, to dance! When I was a little girl, I loved to dance and swirl and pretend to be a ballerina to Swan Lake before the sweet, gentle, adoring gaze of my Uncle Edmond (my godfather). I don't know if either of us ever had a better time in our whole lives! Well, that goes for me, at least. Uncle Edmond, having had a holy death assisted by our Mother, the Church, is probably having a better time in his life now, watching Therese dance and shower roses upon us. Though I do suspect he enjoys her so much because she reminds him of a little goddaughter from years past . . .
Still, there is that passage from my own yesterday that I'd like to share with you - the one I was looking for and which I've found at last! If heaven was less indulgent, there would be Saints and Angels shaking their heads right now, because I did quote this fairly recently in our musings. Happily, heaven is more indulgent, never less, and I'm confident the whole Heavenly Court highly approves of our reminding each other of the words of Love that Jesus speaks to us. Here and now, then, from Marcel's Conversations (82), Jesus tells us:
"You, my child, you know that I always call you by the name of little flower. You, therefore, belong to the category of my little flowers and, in fact, you are a very fragile little flower; the slightest breath of wind is enough to make you fall at my feet. That is why I dare not depart from you. Is that not to your advantage? It is precisely because of your weakness that you are, on my part, the object of a greater love and that my lips are always ready to cover you with kisses. But you are very weak, so weak that you cannot even put up with my kisses. My little flower, remember always that you must never be sad because of your weakness. And no matter how great your weakness may be, be tranquil always, believing that my love would never have the heart to separate itself from you, my little flower."
Is there anything more to say?
I must have the easiest and best job in the world. I get to re-type the words our brother Marcel wrote on his pages for Jesus, pages which his bearded Jesus, Fr. Boucher, re-wrote to keep safe, and later translated from Vietnamese into French. (What would we do without missionaries???) These pages were later translated by our brother Jack Keogan from French into English (thank you, Jack, again and again and forever!). And my job, similar to Fr. Boucher's first job, is to simply re-write them to make sure these adorable words from Jesus are not lost. Then I translate them into some pidgin version of Valley-Girl Thomistic Silly (a language all my own, but which more people speak than we might imagine . . . ).
In other happy news, I have a holy hour today, and since we all have the thrill of praying whenever we want for whomever we want, I'm going to offer my holy hour for everyone in our triple novena! That means you!!! Consider yourself prayed for, since by the time I post this, I will be just about in or already out of the comforting Real Presence of Jesus on the altar in the monstrance . . .
But first, our fireworks prayer. This is the one we can say now by reading it, and forever after according to our desires and our angels' promptings. I think even once is fabulous, though, so no worries! Here we go:
Merciful Father, in the name of our gentle Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, I beg You to enkindle all my sisters and brothers with Your Spirit of Love and to grant them the favor of making You loved very much.
And lest we forget Who is behind all our prayers, the Wind beneath our wings so to speak, let's conclude with our signature prayer, the one that encapsulates every single one of the others, up to and including our Grand Finale Prayer, into 5 short words. Because after all, as St. Therese liked to say and then proved by her life: It only takes a small spark to start a huge fire!
Draw me, we will run!!!
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