"I have said everything! Everything is summed up in love and confidence." - Servant of God Marcel Van
When we read this quote, we may think we are hearing from the Little Flower - and we are, but this is Jesus' 2nd Little Flower, Marcel Van, little brother of the 1st Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux (also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face). Their message is the same, for Therese personally taught Marcel her Little Way, and in it everything is summed up in love and confidence!
And today, on the anniversary of Marcel's release from earthly life - the day that could become his official feast if, God willing, he is someday beatified and canonized - what a perfect opportunity for him to remind us of the importance of love and confidence.
The photo above shows Marcel in Hanoi, Vietnam, not long before the Communists arrested him on trumped up charges as he was returning to the Redemptorist house from the marketplace on May 7, 1955. This was only about eight months after Marcel had returned to North Vietnam from the safety of Saigon in the South. Ah, but he could never resist Jesus' call! Marcel had said, "I am going back so there is someone who loves God amid the Communists," and in God's mysterious providence, he had taken the last plane that went from the south to the north. The date was September 14, 1954, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Marcel was 26 years old, and as he wrote to his sister Anne Marie, "There was so much insistence in Jesus' voice! And that is why I willingly accept to die in order to give a little consolation to the Heart of my Beloved." He continued, "Pray a lot, little sister, to obtain for me the courage to bear everything right to the end."
We read in Marcel's Conversations that on many occasions Our Lady asked Marcel to pray for her little apostles who would come later. Marcel did so pray, and we were among those for whom he was praying! Let's take a moment now, then, to return the favor. We know Marcel did make it to the end with courage (the end that was the beginning of eternal life), but what joy to be part of the reason Jesus supplied that courage and the necessary abundance of faith, hope, and charity that sustained our little brother. Prayer is so powerful, and so here then is our prayer for Marcel:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence we fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, Our Mother. To thee do we come, before thee we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer us. Amen.
Dear Blessed Mother, thank you for having Marcel pray for us. Hear and answer our prayers for him by presenting them to the Most Blessed Trinity. We thank you for your loving maternal gaze which sustained Marcel and sustains us - may we be united to him and Jesus forever through your loving embrace!
After Marcel's arrest he experienced great suffering but was also given the grace to bring consolation to many of the prisoners he lived with in the camps. A year after his arrest, he wrote to Fr. Paquette, his superior in Hanoi, "My Father, it is hardly a fortnight since they made me change camp. . . and I thank God with all my heart, since on arriving here, I had the good fortune to meet a good number of Catholics and live with them. Thanks to the divine protection, the majority of men and women detained with me are bearing up well . . ."
After asking for rosaries for all and a prayer book (and again later in the letter he asks for medals, rosaries, books of prayers, and even consecrated hosts because "we hunger for divine nourishment"), Marcel explains, "Concerning myself, since the day that I arrived at the camp of Mo-Chen, I am very busy as might be the little priest of a parish. Outside the hours of obligatory work, I have to welcome continuously people who come, one after the other, to seek comfort near me, whom they consider as someone who does not know fatigue. However, they see well that neither am I very strong."
But here is the most beautiful part. Marcel writes:
"I am very happy, for during these months of detention, my spiritual life has not suffered, and God Himself has made known to me that it is His will that I am accomplishing here. Many times have I asked Him the favour to die in this camp, but each time He has answered me: 'I am quite ready to follow your will as you always follow mine, but there are souls who still have need of you: without you, it would be impossible for Me to reach them. So what do you think, my child?' 'Lord, it is for You to think for me.' "
And still, Marcel begs prayers: "My Father, please pray still more for me, since in thinking of this life full of darkness and pitfalls, I tremble many times and fear takes joy away. However, I am always read to accomplish perfectly all God wishes of me."
Marcel our dear brother was very little just like us - in fact, Jesus in their Conversations identifies him as the littlest soul! - yet he was able to do what Jesus asked because Jesus supplied everything, even amidst fears. And yet always, always, Marcel would return to confidence and love - the lessons Jesus, Mary, and Therese had taught him and which they (with his help) want to teach us.
It was May 7, 1955 when Marcel was arrested, and his release - by Jesus, through that first real kiss He had promised, that breaking of the bonds of earthly life - was not until 4 years later on June 10 (today!) 1959 when Marcel breathed his last at noon. He had not been able to send out any clandestine messages for quite a long time, but we have our brother's final message from the end of his Autobiography:
"And now here is the last word that I am leaving to souls . . . I leave to them my love; with this love, small as it is, I hope to satisfy the souls who wish to make themselves very small to come to Jesus. That is something I would wish to describe, but, with my little talent, I do not have to words to do so . . . "
This little love is so pleasing to Jesus, this love which helps us make ourselves very small and come to Him and snuggle next to His Heart. Marcel does not here on this last page say more, but all through his Conversations, his Autobiography, his Correspondence, his Other Writings, he says plenty, and his sister (and ours), the eloquent Therese, certainly has many words in her own writings (and Marcel's) to spur us on to love in littleness also. I have often thought and suggested that we should take Therese's confidence - ask it of her as our inheritance since she is now seeing God face to Face and does not need her confidence any more. So too we can ask of Marcel what he has already freely offered: his love with which to love Jesus.
In another echo of his sister Therese, Marcel said, "From the heights of heaven I will look down on my little brothers and sisters, and just as much as I have loved them on earth, will I love them also in heaven."
Actually, Therese promised not only to watch over us and love us from heaven, but to come down. We can surely say she would have taught this one last lesson to Marcel when he arrived at her side in heaven, safe on Mary's lap with Jesus as He had promised. So Marcel, little brother, come down and bring us this love that filled your heart and made you, by God's grace, faithful to the end! On this your little feast, comfort all who suffer as you comforted those who suffered with you in the camps, obtain for us the Bread of Life as you so desired to obtain it for them, and teach us incessantly the Little Way which St. Therese taught to you, that we may turn to Jesus always with confidence and love!
Draw me, we will run!
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Just when the feasts following Easter seem to have come to an abrupt end, Jesus rescues us with perhaps the most beautiful of them all: the Feast of His Most Sacred Heart. He is so good to us and can’t stand the thought of leaving us alone, so after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, and His 40 days among us; after the Ascension when He bids us rejoice that He goes to the Father that the Advocate may come to us; after Pentecost with His outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us; and after He brings us back to the Father as well as the Holy Spirit on Trinity Sunday with the great mystery of the Three-in-One; and finally after Jesus bids us regard the outpouring of His Love in the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi . . . well then it would be natural to suppose He has come to the end of His revelations of tender and solicitous compassion, His revelations of infinite love. Ah, but that is the ticket: Infinite Love never can exhaust itself and must always find a new outlet by which to reach and win us!
Thank Heaven, then, for Jesus’ gift of His Sacred Heart, and the Church’s gift of this Feast. And as we at Miss Marcel’s Musings ponder how Jesus has rescued us from feastlessness, it dawns on us that this is the perfect way for Him to conclude the annual series of Easter festivities. What better image and reality to leave with us, what better object for our own love throughout the coming months than His love and His Heart which He bids us imitate in meekness, gentleness, and humility. As always, His Heart’s Feast will be followed by a day in honor of His dear Mother’s Immaculate Heart. But this year, as a friend happily pointed out to me, we also have had the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist the day before the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart Solemnity! I’m thrilled that St. John couldn’t be forgotten, for though his usual day is June 24, this year the 24th is overtaken by Jesus’ Feast . . . so what do you think our Holy Mother Church did but move this birthday just one day forward to prevent our missing out on John’s great Feast! A triduum of joy, from St. John the Baptist to Jesus to Mary!
For lovers of Marcel, the Nativity of St. John falling on the 23rd accomplished a triple feast, for two other birthdays fall on June 23rd – that of Miss Marcel East, a tried and true friend of our little brother, and that of Jack Keogan, intrepid translator of the words of Marcel into English, and the one who thus made possible the English copies of Conversations and Marcel’s other writings which have charmed our hearts and changed our lives. Praise to You, Heavenly Father, Eternal Son, and Loving Holy Spirit, for giving us so much of Your mercy through Marcel. Bless these your children, and reward them for their goodness and intimacy with your second little flower, dear Marcel Van!
My heart is always captured by the liturgical antiphons of the great feasts, and the Sacred Heart is no exception. Evening prayer begins, “God has loved us with an everlasting love; therefore, when He was lifted up from the earth, in His mercy He drew us to His Heart.” And in the Mass, we hear at the outset: “The designs of His Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”
How good He is! He will not leave us alone, hungry, cast down far from His embrace, and on the verge of death (or feeling like it). He will rescue us and draw us to His Heart!
I have loved this Heart and its images for many years, but I’ve been woefully ignorant – or perhaps simply forgetful like my brother Marcel – regarding the particulars of Jesus’ revelation to St. Margaret Mary, His chosen instrument for spreading devotion to His Heart. How about you? Are you ready for a short refresher?
Delightfully, long before He spoke to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus - Who can be terrible at keeping a secret - had already revealed much about His Sacred Heart to Saints Gertrude and Mechtilde, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis de Sales, founder of St. Margaret Mary’s Visitation Order, and to St. John Eudes.
But what did He say about this Heart to Margaret Mary? She knew nothing of these previous revelations, being kept in the dark by the Holy Spirit, kept free by Our Lord to receive the revelation of His Heart directly from Himself. When He could wait no longer to reveal this mystery to his beloved daughter, here is what He said to her:
“My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able any longer to restrain within it the flames of its ardent charity, it must spread them everywhere through your means, and manifest itself to men that they may be enriched with its precious treasures.”
Margaret Mary explained, “He revealed to me, moreover, that His great desire to be perfectly loved by men had given Him the plan of disclosing His Heart to them, thereby opening to them all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which that Heart encloses, so that all who, according to their best power, wish to show Him all possible love and honor, or to procure this from others, should be enriched exceedingly with the divine treasures whose source is this Sacred Heart.”
Our Lord further told her that “He is pleased especially to be honored under the appearance of this corporeal Heart, and He desired that the picture of this should be publicly exposed for veneration in order to touch by this sight the unfeeling hearts of men. He promised that He would pour forth in richest abundance all the gifts of grace wherewith His Heart is filled upon the hearts of those who would how Him this honor, and that this picture should draw down blessings of every kind in all places where it is exposed for veneration.”
Ah, but then Jesus showed Margaret Mary His glorious love:
“He was brilliant with glory. His five wounds shone like five suns. Flames darted forth from all parts of His sacred humanity, but especially from His adorable breast, which resembled a furnace, and which, opening, displayed to me His loving and amiable Heart, the living source of these flames.”
And yet, Jesus explained that in return for His excess of love, men had shown Him ingratitude and forgetfulness which had pained Him more than the sufferings of His passion, but as He said, “If they rendered Me some return of love, I should esteem all I have done for them as but little, and, were it possible, would do still more for them. But they have nothing but coldness and rebuffs for all my eagerness to do them good.”
Jesus asked Margaret Mary to make up for this neglect by herself receiving Holy Communion in reparation on the First Friday of every month, as well as uniting herself with His Agony in the Garden every Thursday from eleven to midnight – and from these the Church drew forth for us the Nine First Fridays and our custom of Holy Hours. But the most famous words of Our Lord to Margaret Mary came in His fourth or “Great Apparition” in the Octave of Corpus Christi, 1675. She was before the Blessed Sacrament and Jesus showed her His Heart, saying:
“Behold the Heart which has so loved men, which has spared nothing, even to being exhausted and consumed, in order to testify to them its love. And the greater number of them make Me no other return than ingratitude, by their coldness and their forgetfulness of Me in the Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to Me is that it is hearts who are consecrated to Me who use Me thus.
“It is because of this that I ask you to have the First Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi kept as a special feast in honor of My Heart, by receiving Communion on that day and offering it as a reparation of honor for all the insults offered to My Heart during the time that it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart will pour out in abundance the powerful effects of its influence on all those who will render it this honor and who will procure that others shall render it also.”
While I have long loved this Feast for the Love of Our Lord it pours forth in such visible fashion, I admit I wasn’t aware that Jesus asked of us a Holy Communion of reparation on this day! If you have missed out, perhaps you can go to Holy Communion on the special day of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, or at least you will certainly be at Mass on Sunday, when you can offer your Holy Communion in reparation and adoration, and Jesus will surely understand! He is waiting for us to return love for Love, and though we do it poorly, He understands us. His justice and mercy fuse into one compassionate gaze because He rejoices to know that His littlest ones desire to love Him for the love He has given, and even as our offerings are pitiful, so He, who knows we are but dust, raises us to the heights of His own love by giving us His Heart with which to love Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
I must add, too, that this reparation Jesus desires is, for us who have met Therese and strive to follow her Little Way, perfectly fulfilled by our sister’s Act of Oblation to Merciful Love, wherein we ask Jesus to pour into and onto us all the love in His Heart that is rejected by others. May His infinite tenderness find a place in our souls and may our kisses console Him even as His console us!
In Marcel’s Conversations there is a hilarious New Year’s exchange we have mused over in the past: the Redemptorist novices, of which Marcel was one, were given a saint for the New Year to be their special patron. Marcel had previously drawn the name of St. Therese, which pleased him to no end, and he requested Therese again when speaking with Jesus about the upcoming saint-draw for 1946. Our Lord had a surprise in store and gave to Marcel the great St. John Eudes, but when Marcel, knowing nothing about him, asked Jesus who St. John Eudes was (in great exasperation that he had not drawn Therese again), Jesus replied:
“Saint John Eudes, Marcel, is Saint John Eudes, that’s all. He is a saint who loved me a lot during his life, after his death he ascended to heaven with me and then the Church canonized him . . . And now, I want to give you him as your patron for the year. Marcel, you are too fussy; even if you know nothing of Saint John Eudes, that’s of no consequence and I am not obliging you to know any more about him. The only thing that you must know is that I have chosen him for your patron of the year. And since I have chosen him for you, why would it not be as suitable as another. Do not be sad, Marcel. And even if you were sad, you would not be able to change it since you have already eaten some sweets in his honour; if you were going to change, all the saints would make fun of you and you would be very ashamed.” (229)
Leave it to Jesus to bring sweets into it!
But now Marcel knows and wants to share with us a little more from this great St. John Eudes, for his patron was, like St. Margaret Mary, a great champion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and he has left us a prayer, “Colloquy of a holy soul, in solitude, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” which we can pray together in honor of this great feast and in thanksgiving for so much love Jesus pours into our hearts from His.
We can begin by asking Marcel and Therese to pray with us, along with our guardian angels and all lovers of the Sacred Heart, in heaven and on earth. And then, bringing to our minds this Heart which has so loved us, we can pray in the words of St. John Eudes:
O Lord, how delectable is the odor of Thy fragrance! It is my hope that henceforth its sweet delight will make me entirely forget the false pleasures and the vain delights of the world. May Thy sweetness draw me after Thee and in Thee so that, having abandoned all that binds me to earth, I shall follow Thee, run to Thee, flee to Thee and take up my abode in Thy loving Heart.
That divine Heart is a port of safety, where the soul is sheltered from the winds and storms of the sea of this world. In that adorable Heart there is a calm which fears neither thunder nor storm. Therein one tastes delight that knows no bitterness. One finds a peace that never brooks any trouble or discord. There one meets with a joy that knows no sadness. In that Heart one possesses perfect felicity, a gentle charm, and unclouded serenity and happiness unthinkable. That Heart is the first principle of all good, and the initial source of al the joys and delights of paradise.
Most Sweet Jesus, from Thy divine Heart, as from the inexhaustible source, all felicity, all sweetness, serenity, security, repose, peace, joy, contentment, charm and happiness flow into the hearts of the children of God. What good can there be, or how can there be any good thing, that does not proceed from Thee, my Jesus, who art essentially good, the real good, the sovereign good, the only good?
What a joy to drink from this divine spring! What happiness to be refreshed by the delicious waters of this fountain of holiness, which issues forth from itself like a torrent of delight and contentment! Ah, delightful a thousand times is the fragrant perfume of Thy heavenly virtues, whose fragrance is so delectable as to entice all men to Thy loving Heart. It invites them, it strongly attracts them and leads them into the sanctuary of that divine Heart. It never disappoints their hopes. On the contrary, it so fortifies and confirms them that they will never again depart, having found in that most kindly Heart, as on a bed of repose, the end of all their toils.
O Thou God of love, let the sweet fragrance of Thy divine perfumes, which are the wonderful virtues of Thy holy Heart, flow abundantly into the depths of my heart! Let that fragrance penetrate all the faculties of my soul, O one and only source of all happiness, so that being enticed by the sweetness emanating from Thee, it may become detached from self and perfectly united to Thee, that it may make its abode in Thy loving Heart, there to die to itself and no longer to live but in Thee and for Thee! Amen.
Draw me; we will run!
May this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus bring you deep into His Heart, now and forever!
Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen as He said!
Happy Easter! We are just barely out of the Easter Octave, the Easter Day that lasts 8 days and yet is one day. We are now in the shadow of the Divine Mercy, and what graces the Lord pours out upon us from His wounded side!
But then after yesterday's feast of St. Mark, we have today the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. What an embarrassment of riches! She has a delightful history and is overjoyed to continue that history here and now in our lives. She wants nothing more (nor less) than to share the Good Counsel that Divine Wisdom, her dear Son now risen but once a little babe in her arms, has for us.
We have once again traversed Lent and Holy Week. Whether we were extra zealous or extra sleepy, those beautiful days fulfilled their promise and have brought us into Eastertide, and what a marvelous time to spend with Our Lady. After she witnessed Our Lord's Passion, formally received us as her children and held her dead beloved Son in her arms on Good Friday, after she waited through the long hours of Holy Saturday, after she received (as tradition tells us) the first Resurrection Visit of Jesus early Easter morning - ah, now she waits only to share all her compassion and fulfilled hope with us, her littlest children.
Here is what she says, as we gaze upon her lovely, delicate features:
"My dear little one. You have just been looking at me . . . My child, by a simple glance you have drawn to yourself my compassionate gaze." (Marcel Van's Conversations, 426) What power we have: simply by gazing upon her we draw her compassionate gaze upon ourselves!
The story of the original Our Lady of Good Counsel image in Genezzano is marvelous! Here is an account from the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, whose special patroness she is:
* * *
Devotion to the Mother of Good Counsel is associated with the story of a miraculous icon. The sacred image is found in a church in Genazzano, a beautiful town thirty miles south-east of Rome. The church dedicated to the Mother of Good Counsel was built there in the fourth century. In 1356 the church was given over to the Augustinians. Restoration started in 1467, when a widow, Petruccia, sold all her belongings to help finance the project. However, funds ran out before the task was completed.
That same year, all the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody coming from heaven. As they looked up, they saw a white, shining cloud that descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The cloud gradually vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. Immediately, Mary began to cure the sick and grant countless graces.
The news spread throughout the country. Two Albanians from Scutari appeared in the town with a curious tale. They had fled from their homeland to escape the invading Turks. Before fleeing, they had stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture until they could see the towers of Rome, when it suddenly disappeared. The mysterious icon of Genezzano was identical to the one in the church in Scutari.
The amazing news reached Rome. Pope Paul II sent two bishops to investigate the story. The prelates reported that 171 miracles were recorded in the months following the icon’s appearance. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. An icon that had been venerated there for centuries was, indeed, missing.
The image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived the subsequent centuries through the tumult of several earthquakes and withstood the bombing during World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the explosion, remained intact.
In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV established the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel to promote devotion to Mary under this title. Pope Leo XIII added the title Mother of Good Counsel to the Litany of Loreto. Pope Pius XII dedicated his term of office to Our Lady of Good Counsel. And Pope John XXIII visited her shrine to pray for the success of the Second Vatican Council.
The icon at Genazzano is about a foot wide and eighteen inches high. It depicts a mother figure that is half turned toward her son and half toward the viewer, reflecting Mary’s concern for both Jesus and his Church.
If Our Blessed Mother is willing to ask her Son to work miracles to let us know of her motherly concern, Our Lady of Good Counsel is certainly willing to speak words of advice and instruction to help us over the hurdles of our daily lives.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!
* * *
Two more things I love about this picture in Genezzano:
First, the eggshell thin image is actually not attached to the wall! It miraculously hangs in the air a short distance away from the wall!
Second, when Our Lady and little Jesus are saying yes to a request, ready to grant a miracle, their images become rosy cheeked!
How they love us., and how they want us to ask for favors. They will pour out their love upon us no matter what, but when we ask, they are thrilled to respond with even more graces. Do you have any special requests? I know I have a growing pile of intentions in my heart, and I commend these - and your needs - to our dear Mother of Good Counsel and Divine Wisdom in her arms. She says to us, "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." (Conversations, 426)
As for her good counsel pertaining to our particular needs - it is time to snuggle close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and listen. They will tell us what it is we are in such desperate straits to hear, the advice we need. Our job is to quiet ourselves, cozy up, and listen. Oh, and throw in a "Jesus, I trust in You!" or two for good measure!
May your Easter be replete with love, joy, and peace, as well as answered prayers. And may Our Lady, Our dearest Mother, whisper into your heart every needed good counsel!
Draw me, we will run!
As we enter the heart of Lent, Jesus is so very near to us! And to make sure we stay awake a little longer, in these days the Church puts on Our Lord's lips some of the most beautiful words of Scripture, including the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah. These started on Monday and continue through Good Friday because Our Holy Mother knows we are getting tired, and she imitates our Savior in pulling out all the stops. In a liturgical repetition that is quite rare, in both the Mass and the Divine Office today we find Jesus telling us what His Father has done:
"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." (from Isaiah 50)
Our beloved and adorable Jesus will not shield Himself, but is there any way we can shield Him? And what is this word He speaks to us who are weary?
His words are ever ancient, ever new, and He invites us once again into His Most Sacred Heart. He has said to us:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:28-30)
Then this morning as I opened Marcel's Conversations, I found some wonderful advice about what to do once we are in His Heart. Jesus does not leave us without a plan, but says to us through His words to Marcel:
"You asked to be buried in my heart. It is good. I agree to it most gladly and even if you did not ask for it I would not neglect to bury you in it anyway . . . Come on Marcel, say after me: 'Jesus, I love you.' Little Marcel, why do you not say a word of love to me? Yes, why? Is it that you have already forgotten the word Love so that I must urge you to say it? In order to prove to me your love, you have only two things to do: to say to me: 'Dear Jesus, I love you a lot.' Then look at me."
Yes, just when we wonder if we can take another step, or perhaps when some of us are eager to do so but want to know where to plant our feet, Jesus gives us perfect advice, only two things we need to do. He wants to hear of our love that He may be consoled in His agony and sustained on His journey to Calvary. He continues:
"When you enjoy my conversation, you must say to me, 'Dear Jesus, I love you greatly.' This will be one way of answering me. As for looking at me, you will do so at the times when your heart feels bitterness and is unable to say a word to me. You will use this glance to give me a sign of your love. But you must make use of it only when I am not speaking to you. When I speak to you, don't just be content to remain there, leaning forward open-mouthed listening to me speaking without deigning to reply to me . . . " (193)
We will be hearing more of His words this week from the Scriptures and liturgy and in the remembrance of all He did for us in His Passion. Let us respond with these simple words: "Dear Jesus, I love You a lot! Dear Jesus, I love You greatly!" But then too, if our hearts are dried up and His voice seems far away, if we are not hearing Him so clearly, let us look at Him. I've put Therese's sister Celine's image of the Holy Face (which she painted on her knees while looking at the first negative image of the Shroud of Turin) atop this post so we have Jesus before us. Let us look at Him and love Him!
But what about shielding Him from the innumerable blows that will rain down upon Him in His Passion? In a passage we have quoted before from Passion Sunday 1946, Our Lady gives us this sweet suggestion:
"My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . ."
Surely there will be plenty of inconveniences to accept cheerfully this week! Let us do our best to offer Jesus (and those around us) a smile when we are tempted to something quite different. What an amazing thing that we are invited to protect Jesus in this way!
But Jesus Himself has yet more advice about how He would like to be shielded, saying in that same Passion Sunday conversation:
"The sighs of love that souls cause to rise towards me are capable of stopping the enormous stones which are thrown at my Love; these sighs divert the arrows of sinners which target my heart . . . Oh! Marcel, the weak sighs of men prevent me from dying, suffocated on this earth. From where does such power come? From the love within them. What happiness for me to be able to frolic in the midst of these sighs! I feel very much at ease and completely at peace, no longer fearing being seen by my enemies, or of being pierced by their arrows . . ." (387)
Certainly His words are mysterious when read this week! The Church will accompany Jesus through His Passion and death, and frolicking seems quite foreign to anything we will witness in Holy Week. Ah, but we are children, and He speaks to us of what we can understand. Our love for Him, enclosed in our sighs, can comfort Him and His Heart will be that much less sad . . .
I was delighted to discover in the earlier passage I opened to this morning a further commentary from Jesus on these sighs of love. Jesus is the greatest Teacher, as well as the beloved Spouse of our Souls, and He does not leave us vague on how to sigh! He explains:
"Marcel, I am going to teach you now how 'to sigh with love' for me. Dear Marcel! To sigh with love for me consists in wrapping each of your sighs in all the love of which you are capable in order to then offer them to me. These sighs, flying towards me, release a sweet perfume which intoxicates and attracts me. I then look for the place from where these sighs come to me and when I have found it, I turn in that direction in order to enjoy the fragrance which draws me more and more towards it. Having arrived close, I see the flower with the sweet fragrance. I hurry to gather it joyfully and I take it away to please myself. When it has pleased me long enough I lock it in the bottom of my heart so that this flower will have to stay there in peace throughout eternity. Dear Marcel, look how the simple sighs of love have the power to draw my heart and to place me as it were outside myself . . . Little Marcel, if only I could find many flowers exhaling such a fragrance!" (194)
Let us be such flowers for Jesus this week, wafting sweet scents of love to Him through our little sighs, distracting Him from the pain and cruelty inflicted upon Him by those who hate Him, reminding Him that we love Him and are grateful for all He has done. Let us take Him out of Himself, so He may forget a little and be filled with the fragrance of love!
It seems a tall order, but He has instructed us well and our marching orders are sweet and clear:
We tell Him we love Him a lot - that is, a lot of times we can tell Him we love Him very much! And we look at Him. And we wrap each of our sighs in all the love of which we are capable and offer them to Him.
He knows ahead of time how badly we will do these things, and says to us as He said to our brother, "My little Marcel, you get younger every day, so much so that I must begin again to teach you even the first words that I have already taught you. Why do you forget so quickly? However, don't be sad because you have such a short memory. Even if you forget, you please me nevertheless, on condition that you do not worry about it." (193)
Our sister St. Therese said that children fall often, but they don't get hurt because they are so close to the ground! Let us offer our many falls in union with Jesus' falls on the Way of the Cross, and then let's dust ourselves off and tell Him again, "Jesus, I love You a lot!" Then look at Him. And give Him our smile. And sigh with love. Oh! And then let's not forget to kiss Him, and as Therese taught us, let's kiss Him on His adorable Face.
As we enter these Holiest Days, you are in my prayers. May Jesus' love transform you, and may your love bring consolation and joy into His Sacred Heart, which so treasures the perfume of your sighs.
Draw me, we will run!!!
April Fools Day and a Friday in Lent - what an odd conjunction, and how unfitting, we might think. Yet it takes none other than our little Sister St. Therese to open our eyes to the very perfect fittingness of God's timing. Because, after all, she advocates our being fools for Our Lord as He has been a fool for us! Or rather she explains how He is the fool, and try as we might, nothing we do for Him can match the folly of what He has done for us.
Here are her words to the first sweet echo of her soul, her sister Celine, in a letter from August 1894:
"We have only the short moment of this life to give to God . . . and He is already preparing to say, 'Now, My turn . . .' What a joy to suffer for Him who loves us unto folly and to pass as fools in the eyes of the world. We judge others as we judge ourselves, and since the world is senseless, it naturally thinks we are the ones who are senseless! . . . But, after all, we are not the first; the only crime with which Jesus was reproached by Herod was that of being foolish, and I think like him! . . . Yes, it was folly to seek out the poor little hearts of mortals to make them His thrones, He, the King of Glory, who is seated above the Cherubim . . . He, whom the heavens cannot contain . . . He was foolish, our Beloved, to come to earth in search of sinners in order to make them His friends, His intimates, His equals, He who was perfectly happy with the two adorable Persons of the Trinity! . . . We shall never be able to carry out the follies He carried out for us, and our actions will never merit this name, for they are only very rational acts and much below what our love would like to accomplish. It is the world, then, that is senseless since it does not know what Jesus has done to save it, it is the world which is a monopolizer, which seduces souls, and which leads them to springs without water . . .
"We are not idlers, squanderers, either. Jesus has defended us in the person of the Magdalene. He was at table, Martha was serving, Lazarus was eating with Him and His disciples. As for Mary, she was not thinking of taking any food but of pleasing Him whom she loved, so she took a jar filled with an ointment of great price and poured it on the head of Jesus, after breaking the jar, and the whole house was scented with the ointment, but the APOSTLES complained against Magdalene . . . It is really the same for us; the most fervent Christians, priests, find that we are exaggerated, that we should serve with Martha instead of consecrating to Jesus the vessels of our lives, with the ointments enclosed within them. . . And nevertheless what does it matter if our vessels be broken since Jesus is consoled and since, in spite of itself, the world is obliged to smell the perfumes that are exhaled and serve to purify the empoisoned air the world never ceases to breathe in."
* * *
Therese was encouraging Celine in her plan to enter Carmel and live a comtemplative life. She encourages us, too, in our plan to sit with Jesus, to be near Him, to make the greatest moments of our lives those in which we remain with Him and He remains with us . . . even as we (and Therese and Celine) do have practical tasks that occupy us in between our contemplative interludes.
And yet which shall we treasure more? It's so easy to hear the voices within and without us that say we are wasting our time unless we are visibly productive. No, says Therese, we are being little Magdalenes when we take time for prayer, when we live a quiet, hidden life, when we prefer Jesus to all else, this Jesus whom so many do not yet know. We are filling the Church and the world with the perfume of our love, and most especially His Love, and we have confident hope that these mingled perfumes will draw many to His Loving Heart.
In a recent post we quoted Therese's words to her little brother Marcel Van, in Conversations, when she explained to him that if his prayer time was dry, he shouldn't worry. This is a gift to Jesus and nothing displeasing to Him.
Wouldn't you know that Mary, our loving Mother, says the same? In Conversations (282) she also takes pains to make sure we understand that our folly in spending time with Jesus is always a precious and worthwhile foolishness, even when we don't feel it to be so . . . She says:
"My dear child, if you do not feel the fervour of your love, do not worry about it. Indeed, what has your sister Therese taught you and what have I repeated to you on this subject? Remain at peace, your good will is enough. The sufferings you are now bearing are the best proof of your love for Jesus. And if you do not feel this love, it is because you have offered it entirely to little Jesus. It is the same in regards to me; I am not reproaching you in any way if you do not feel any fervour in loving me. Feelings of fervour and love are two different things. When you feel joy in loving, supposing that you are capable of expressing your love, certainly you would do it as much as is possible. This is what one calls the fervour of love. On the other hand if, in loving, you only feel distaste and sadness, without feeling anything of the fervour of your love but that, nevertheless, you keep in your heart the desire to love, come what may, even were it necessary to die of it, that is to love with all your heart, with all your strength.
"My child, for the moment, offer to little Jesus all the love of your heart, offer him equally, the fervour which you formerly enjoyed. In that way, whatever the fervour of your love might be, Jesus will accept all and you will not cease loving with all your heart and with all your strength. . . . My child, do not forget what I have just reminded you of, retain it with care. And if you feel yourself incapable of expressing your love to little Jesus, do not worry about it unduly, accept this trial and in doing so you will give to Him double evidence of your love. And I, in seeing you so unhappy, how would I be able not to love you more? Therefore stay peaceful; it is sufficient that you have the will to love Jesus. Regarding your relations with little Jesus, in all that you have done until now, allow me to concern myself with it in your place. It is sufficient for you to accept this trial with a joyful heart."
Ah, what a Mother! She will not let us fall into the error of worrying about how we feel at prayer as if that were a sign of how Jesus feels when we are at prayer. Remember, He was a fool first for us - He came to dwell with us when He had been perfectly happy in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity, and this was and is His delight - to be with the children of men! So too it is His delight when we choose to be with Him, however poorly we feel it or attend, however foolish the world (and sometimes we ourselves) deem our quiet time.
Our Lady has one more word for us here, and it is a doozy. That contradiction Christ brought, that mystery that St. Paul tells the Corinthians "is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Yes, the dreaded cross, but let us not focus on the dread, let us be fools and focus on the union with the One who first made that Cross our salvation, who clung to it in Love, who shares it only out of Love. What Mary tells us is simple:
"Your only occupation should be to love in joy. You can cry when you are sad and laugh when you are joyful, but your heart must love little Jesus always in joy . . ." and again, "I want you to love little Jesus in peace and joy. I love you, I feel compassion for you, I am smothering you with kisses, I am wrapping you in my cloak. So, remain peaceful, I will hide your sadness so that little Jesus does not see it . . ."
How wonderful to have such a mom to do for us what we can't do for ourselves! She'll hide our sorrow, but meanwhile let us try to show our joy. The apostolate of the smile! Or in the eyes of the world, the apostolate of foolishness, wherein Christ Our Lord is all to us, and we give our all to Him.
The joy of Marcel for us at Miss Marcel's Musings is always his utter simplicity. He is direct with Jesus, whether it is about a too-tight soutane (outfit), sandals that ooze black gunk, or bananas and their deliciousness! Let us not be afraid to be ourselves with Jesus, and no doubt that will many times mean being foolish or silly. All the better, to imitate our Master as well as our little brother!
Jesus, we thank You for being a fool for us! Happy April Fools Day, and may all our days be full of foolishness for You!
Draw me, we will run!
Are you ready for the feast of St. Joseph?
You may have been praying away, preparing by a traditional novena, or you may have made it a little novena, forgetting some days, or you may be saying "oops!" right now. That last especially would make you ready to dive into our novena, but you're more than welcome to pray it in addition to yours even if you've been very together! Here at MIss Marcel's Musings, we like to end novenas on the actual feast day, and we LOVE St. Joseph. Consequently we've been praying to him for days and days and it's unlikely we'll stop after today - and all your intentions are included! We find it easy as pie because God our Heavenly Father wants to give us so many things, and He loves to give them through the request of dear St. Joseph who was His stand-in on earth.
So come on down! Let's importune St. Joseph and get those graces showering upon all our near and dear ones, all who have commended themselves to our prayers, all who are in need of our prayers (whether we're aware of their needs or not) and all for whom we've promised to pray. Whew, that's quite a list! Good thing our guardian angels are with us to keep track - we don't need to name every name (in fact we couldn't, come to think of it), but just trust. And as always, we can fortify our small supply of trust by drawing on the HUGE confidence of our sister St. Therese. Now that she sees Our Lord face to Face, she has no need of her trust and is happy to give it to us!
I'm not aware of our dear Marcel Van having written on St. Joseph, but I do love what Jesus told him in Conversations about the Heavenly Father's love for us, and I'm certain these words apply to good St. Joseph in his capacity as our father too. Jesus said:
"Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats." (492)
St. Joseph must have felt exactly this way regarding the Treasures the Heavenly Father confided into his care: Jesus, and Mary, his spouse, when they lived on earth, and the whole universal Church now. I'm sure St. Joseph wants to indulge us just as he would have wanted to indulge Mary and little Jesus in everything! And I've been thinking about how Mary and Jesus must have felt about him too. I imagine that St. Joseph was such a tremendous comfort to Our Lady and Jesus. He was both strong and gentle, prudent and loving, faithful, devoted, always near and ever ready to help in any task that arose in their little household. And when trials came - the first intimations of the cross in the flight to Egypt, their exile, and later the three day loss of the boy Jesus when He remained in the temple - St. Joseph was no doubt a refuge for Our Lady and a reminder of the faithfulness of the Father who would never abandon them.
I have a favorite St. Joseph novena prayer that I've been saying a lot recently, and you'll be glad to hear it works! In his kindness and knowing my timorous heart, St. Joseph answered one of my lead-off petitions before I finished the novena, and I'm so grateful. What a way to show us that our confidence is well placed! He would never neglect us, his children, and he is even now working out the answers to as many needs as we present to him.
One reason I love this particular prayer - okay, besides that it has been the means of obtaining many favors and graces over the years - is that it's replete with hope and childlike dependence, plus a lot of great reminders about how reliable St. Joseph is, how responsive, how quick to hear and answer.
Full disclosure: Some of my petitions have been trotted out again and again, and I know that doesn't sound like "quick to hear and answer" on St. Joseph's part. Rest assured that many others were answered by him pronto, and I know he would take care of every intention that way except that he wants to be as obedient to God as God always was to him! Are some of your petitions like some of mine, and you find yourself commending to him the same needs that have been with you for more than one or two of his feasts? I suspect I'm not alone in this, but I have a story to boost your perseverance.
In the beautiful Year of St. Joseph which unfortunately ended last December (I would have liked a decade of St. Joseph or maybe a century!), I was able to assist my two earthly fathers, that is my dad and my father-in-law, in their passages Home to God. They both were blessed with holy deaths, and for my father-in-law this was particularly marvelous because we had been praying for his return to the sacraments for decades! God knew and waited. St. Joseph heard and persisted in reminding the Father. We just kept praying and trusting and trusting and praying - and voila! Wonderfully, two weeks before he left this life for Eternal Life, my father-in-law cheerfully consented to receive the sacraments and did! The prayers of his parents from long ago, of his wife of 62 years, of his children from their childhoods, of his grandchildren and eventually great grandchildren, these were answered at last in one fell swoop of grace and mercy at the perfect moment God had in mind from all eternity.
Don't worry, then, if some of your prayers are still unanswered. God's timing is always perfect, and He loves that you continue to turn to Him with these persistent requests. And when you go to Him through St. Joseph, you are bringing in one who has great power over God's heart! We have much power over His Heart too, He loves us so much, but with St. Joseph there is that added business of obedience, since the Heavenly Father made St. Joseph the earthly father for Jesus Who was perfect in obedience as in everything else. As Marcel's father in the Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus, explains: "Just as Jesus Christ wanted to be subject to Joseph on earth, so He does everything the saint asks of Him in Heaven."
So what do you say? Shall we pray together? Let's honor St. Joseph with our filial confidence and take refuge in him as our Blessed Mother and little Jesus did. And the bigger your needs, the more challenging your requests, the better! This will give Jesus a chance to thank St. Joseph for the years of tender care he provided, and since God will never be outdone in generosity, He is delighted to have the opportunity to provide the tender care St. Joseph now asks on our behalf. May St. Joseph win the day and obtain God's answer to your petitions as swiftly as he obeyed the angels' messages when he was caring for Our Lord and Our Lady!
Marcel and Therese and I (and St. Andre Bessette) wish you the happiest of feasts. May St. Joseph spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to more than answer all your deepest desires and petitions. And we pray he throws in a cupcake, or something equally sweet and fun, just to seal the deal!
As for that prayer I can never get enough of, here it is. I gladly pray it again, with you and for you, asking our angels fill in the blanks:
With childlike confidence I present myself before you, O holy Joseph, faithful foster father of Jesus! I beg your compassionate intercession and support in this, my present necessity. . .(and I pray too for all those who have asked my prayers, all those who need my prayers, and all those for whom I have promised to pray).
I firmly believe that you are most powerful near the throne of God, who chose you for the foster father of His well-beloved son, Jesus Christ. O blessed Saint, who saved that treasure of heaven, with His virginal mother, from the fury of His enemies, who with untiring industry supplied His earthly wants and with paternal care accompanied and protected Him in all the journeys of His childhood, take me also, for the love of Jesus, as your child. Assist me in my present difficulty . . . with your prayers before God. The infinite goodness of Our Savior, who loved and honored you as His father upon earth, cannot refuse you any request now in heaven.
How many pious souls have sought help from you in their needs and have experienced, to their joy, how good, how ready you are to assist. How quickly you turn to those who call upon you with confidence! How powerful you are in bringing help and restoring joy to anxious and dejected hearts! Therefore, do I fly to you, O most worthy father of Jesus, most chaste spouse of Mary! Good St. Joseph, I pray you by the burning love you had for Jesus and Mary upon earth, console me in my distress and present my petitions . . . through Jesus and Mary, before the throne of God! One word from you will move Him to assist my afflicted soul. Then most joyfully shall I praise Him and you, and most earnest shall be my thanksgiving!
Draw me, we will run!
Are you hungry?
I can't help but ask because it is now officially the season of penance and one does tend to get a bit hungry! I remember a priest saying in an Ash Wednesday homily that he never ate breakfast, never felt the need, always waited until lunch to eat - except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday he would wake up ravenous! Isn't that just the way with us?
I was delighted to open Marcel's Conversations this morning and stumble upon a word from Our Blessed Mother that puts everything in a wonderful divine perspective. She wants us to know that none of our little sacrifices are lost, and in fact they gain much more than we might expect! My fasting is not impressive, but that doesn't matter - in the eyes of God and enhanced by the limitless love He bears for us and all souls, so much is accomplished by Him with the very smallest of our sacrifices. Here is what Mary told Marcel in Holy Week of 1946, and as with all the words in Conversations, these are meant for us too:
"A short while ago little Jesus did not give you any collation; are you hungry now? Try to be patient until Easter; I will then tell little Jesus to compensate you. It is very hard for you to be hungry and not be able to eat. But, my dear little one, it is the Love of Jesus who sends you this sacrifice, and by that you have done two things pleasing to His Heart: first you have accepted this sacrifice because it is Jesus' will, then you have actually deprived yourself of food. Thanks to this sacrifice, how many souls have you gained for Jesus! On their part, these souls will certainly not forget you; in return, each one of them will obtain for you from me many consolations, so that your sufferings will be changed into a deep joy." (Conversations, 461)
Mary tells Marcel, and so she tells us too, that by skipping one small snack we save many souls! How marvelous! My guess is that if we dare to imagine what good we can do in collaboration with Our Lord, we figure our part will be saving a tenth of a soul by one good deed. Perhaps once we've done ten good deeds, we've helped Jesus to save a soul. Not so! God is so much bigger than we imagine, His love so much huger - infinite! Limitless! And His condescension to us is immeasurable: He, the eternal Triune God wanting so much to be near us that He becomes one of us, lives among us, stays with us in the Blessed Sacrament, at this point not even appearing to us in His form and nature of man, but under the disguise of bread and wine!
When Lent arrives, there are many who take on big projects, plan for large sacrifices, set out to say long prayers. These are magnificent acts, along with giving alms as we are able, but don't be discouraged if your Lenten agenda looks small. God is pleased with whatever you offer, and He will multiply the fruits. He will use your obedience on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to save many, many souls, and He will do the same for every day in between.
St. Paul proposes a beautiful Lenten agenda in his letter to the Colossians:
"Christ's peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace. Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs. Whatever you do. whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:15-17)
One of the main threads running through the tapestry of Marcel's Conversations is Jesus' desire for us not to worry about anything, ever. St. Paul expresses this so pithily and wonderfully:
"Christ's peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace."
Are you feeling peaceful, as well as possibly hungry? Marcel, Therese, and I pray you are! Peaceful, that is. Because clearly this is God's desire for you, His little child. He is taking care of everything, and He doesn't want you to worry about any of it! This is the Little Way that St. Therese takes so much trouble to teach us through Marcel - as if the Gospels with Our Lord's teaching and her own Story of a Soul and century-plus of roses showered down are not enough. Well, they're not! We are forgetful little ones like Marcel, and we need the reminders. As Jesus says so aptly to Marcel and us:
"What did your sister Therese teach you? You have forgotten everything already; it's hopeless! And it is also so much the better, since what you have forgotten, I am always there to remind you of and thus you can continually learn the lesson anew. What happiness can be compared to yours? . . . love me a lot." (Conversations, 387)
On a practical note, Mary comes again to help us learn how Christ's peace can reign in our hearts. She says, simply: "My dear child, if you wish to please little Jesus, accept cheerfully things which inconvenience you slightly; by that you will be able to stop the stones that sinners, today, throw at Jesus . . . Little Jesus is your true friend; if you love Him, try to protect Him by your sighs of love."
We are bound to have inconveniences coming our way these next 40 days, like they have the last 400, even 4000 days. Let's not lose a single one! These are the sacrifices we don't seek out, and I love that Our Mother Mary gives us two excellent methods for using them profitably. We can accept them cheerfully - I like to smile ruefully and go with it as a "slight inconvenience," knowing I'm pleasing little Jesus, but when I'm caught off guard or taking my time in thanking Him, how wonderful to know that my sighs - of love! - can equally please Him!
St. Paul's advice about dedicating ourselves to thankfulness also helps. We are so blessed! Our usual plentiful food and drink, our comfy beds, our ability to read a blog post - we are surrounded with an abundance of material gifts. But even more, Our Lord's love for us has been so eternally consistent, and now as He finds another apostle in Marcel, He continues to speak to us words of love and peace to draw us to His Heart where He wants us to rest. He has so much more to tell us!
St. John of the Cross, the holy father in Carmel of our sister St. Therese (and I'm thinking that makes him our father too, since he's our sister's dad!), tells us in his Spiritual Canticle, in a passage used liturgically on his feast:
"However numerous are the mysteries and marvels which holy doctors have discovered and saintly souls understood in this earthly life, all the more is yet to be said and understood. There is much to fathom in Christ, for He is like an abundant mine with many recesses of treasures, so that however deep men go they never reach the end or bottom, but rather in every recess find new veins and new riches everywhere."
And what is Jesus wanting to reveal to us today? What would He have us discover this Lent? Beyond His counsel to let His peace pervade our being, He has so much to tell us! Sometimes when I've gone on a big trip, I've thought before I left, "I won't be the same person when I return." This is true for our Lenten journey because Jesus wants to use these forty days to whisper to us many truths of His Love. He wants us to start at the goal, leaning our head on His Sacred Heart like St. John the Beloved Apostle did at the Last Supper, so that He may instruct us in the endless secrets of His unending compassion for us.
We have such a limit on our little hearts and our poor compassion, but how wonderful that Jesus and Mary (and I must add St. Joseph too), each have a human heart, and yet have no such limits. They care for us all with a superabundance of compassion, not only in our big woes, but in our small struggles and even our slight inconveniences. Jesus' willingness to be pleased when we accept such slight inconveniences cheerfully just goes to show that He is paying attention to every pebble in our shoe, every piece of toast we accidentally burn, every bitter chocolate that comes our way. Not to mention red lights, car warranty renewal phone calls, and cold weather when we hoped for warm, to name a few! Oh, but Jesus and Mary and Joseph do care! And they are accompanying us as we forge ahead by necessity into the next liturgical season our wise Holy Mother Church bids us enter.
So what would Jesus have us know today? For all of Marcel's littleness, our dear brother is bold, like our sister Therese. No wonder he is called the second Therese and the second Little Flower! That he dared to write what Jesus told him is proof of his crazy love and willingness to give all for his Beloved, and the same is true for Fr. Antonio Boucher, "bearded Jesus," in his translation of Conversations from Vietnamese into French (for which work his confreres mocked him), and the same is true again of our good Jack Keogan's translating Convos from French into English for us. Hooray for the boldness of the child who throws himself into the arms of his father! Thank You, Jesus, for Marcel, for Antonio, for Jack!
And why do I say they are bold to write out Jesus' words? You will see when I give you the passage Jesus and Marcel gave me this morning to share with you. I feel bold myself typing out these stunning words, and I hope you will let the Holy Spirit fill your sails to move forward boldly in joy too when you read them.
If you don't yet have a Lenten resolution that has filled you with confident joy, you can adopt mine: to read Marcel every day, and in particular to read Conversations. If you don't have a copy, you can get it without too much trouble or expense HERE (click on the HERE!) and it will arrive quickly, which is good, since (thanks be to God) Lent will be over and Easter will be here before we know it.
But now, before another moment passes, here are the words Jesus is giving us today. He spoke them to Marcel in Lent of 1946, and He speaks them to us now:
"Little Marcel, my life has been one of suffering; but I have never been sad at having to suffer. So, my life must be called a painful life but not an unhappy life. If I had been sad about my suffering, how could I now exhort you to be joyful when you encounter suffering? Marcel, you must never believe that I was sad at having to suffer. Do not be troubled if you hear such a thing said. Listen carefully to what I am saying to you. If I was sad about my sufferings, does it not seem that I would have shown less joy in sacrificing myself for souls than these souls have shown in making sacrifices for me? . . . Never have I been sad; on the contrary, I have always been as joyful as a child who is delighted with consolations. If, at that time, I had been sad because of my suffering, I would be even more so in the sacrament of the Eucharist . . . No, little Marcel, it is not like that. The more I sacrificed myself for souls, the more I wished to sacrifice myself, more and more. And, in fact, that is something that Love alone is capable of understanding. You, little Marcel, you are not able to understand it." (369)
As Miss Marcel muses over here, she can't understand it either, but it sure sounds like a wonderful mystery upon which to meditate (or if meditation sounds like a lot, let's just say wonder on) during these days of Lent. Do you see the shining and glorious boldness in this Little Way?
Whatever you are able to do and however much you are not able to do in these days ahead, know that Jesus asks of you only one thing: your heart. Snuggle up to His and tell Him you love Him. Thank Him that you know Him and sigh into His ear, a sigh of Love, a sigh of thanksgiving, a sigh of petition for the many intentions that need our prayers. You don't have to name them all unless you want to. . . He knows them, and He is happy to oblige, happy to answer our least sigh with His great Mercy.
And our prayer can be so simple, our prayer to share with the whole world this Limitless Love we are so privileged to experience:
Draw me, we will run!!!
Although we at Miss Marcel's Musings have been musing silently for some time, the words of Jesus to Marcel have continued to captivate and enlighten us from one day to the next. What love Our Lord pours out to us through this humble Vietnamese brother! How dearly the Little Flower Therese also loves us through him! And so we are drawn again to share with you the impossibly tender mercy of God as offered to us through Marcel Van, so that by discovering how beloved you are and how important a part you play in Jesus' plans, you too might rejoice His Heart, even as He rejoices yours. But enough of generalities - I want to tell you about Jesus' latest scheme.
Yesterday in my morning time with Him, I came across a passage in Conversations (Marcel's book of chats with Jesus, Mary and Therese) that I had forgotten but which provides a marvelous example of Jesus' tremendous kindness and insatiable thirst for souls to love. I was delighted to find that as usual, He is in such a hurry to save souls that He finds ways to make it easy for us to help Him. And the very little way He offers us now is sweetly simple and completely within our very limited powers. As long as He helps us, of course, which He is ever ready to do!
Here is the passage I found, from a conversation with Jesus which Marcel wrote down on 14 November 1945:
Marcel: Why did You not give me more kisses this evening, dear Jesus? I am really sad. I have never felt anything like this. There must certainly be something that has hurt You . . . Ah! I forgot the advice that my sister Therese gave me yesterday. Sad as I was, I am now happy . . .
[The day before, Therese had told Marcel: "When on your return to work you notice that Jesus is sad, you must try to please Him. Go close to Him and ask Him a little question of this kind and, certainly, His sadness will disappear and He will give you a beautiful smile. You will say to Him: 'My Jesus, why do You look so sad? What news then have You received today? I dearly love You Jesus.' And if you notice that He continues to be sad, repeat these words unceasingly: 'You are the only one I love, Jesus.' He is sad because there are too few who love Him. Finally, if you see that His sadness still persists, call me immediately and both of us, together, will speak of love . . . And, come what may, Jesus will be forced to smile. . . One more word of advice. If at certain times Jesus is sad, it is because, more than ever, His love is trampled underfoot. There you have it, the sole cause of His sadness . . . When, therefore, you see that He is sad, do not be sad because that will make Him only sadder still. All there is to do is to seek to make Him forget His sadness." As Jesus Himself had told Marcel, "A single one of your joys suffices to console me very much."]
And so Marcel, following Therese's advice, continues on November 14:
Forgive me Jesus and tell me why You are so sad. I love You so much. I invite the whole of paradise to come down here to love You. I am even making use of Your love to love You. Yes, dear Jesus, I love You a great deal . . . There, without having had need to call my sister Therese I have succeeded in making You smile. Truly, You have a very charming smile. Now, allow me to ask You a question. Why were You sad just now? Tell me. If I am unable to comfort You, I can at least say again that I love You always and that I love You dearly.
Jesus: My little flower, when you see that I am sad, follow the advice of your sister and do not stop being happy; that is the only way to bring joy to me . . . My dear child, what saddens me is to see huge amounts of clay enclosing magnificent pearls, which are very dear to me, pile up, condemning me to look at them from afar while no one thinks to offer them to me. Nevertheless, my child, if someone placed, if only for a moment, these clods of clay in my hand, they would become as many precious pearls in my eyes . . . My dear child, do you understand the meaning of these words? Let me explain.
The clods of clay designate sinners. They allowed all the love I have given them to be lost in profane love and this profane love envelops them, making them similar to clods of earth . . . My dear child, do you love these lumps of clay? If you love them, try to think of them always and offer them to me. These simple words: "Jesus, I offer them to You" or any other loving words said with the intention of offering them to me is sufficient for me to receive them in my hand and there, my child, I will transform these ugly lumps of clay into many pearls as precious as diamonds.
* * *
Jesus has given so much to us - even Himself, Who is God, and all of Himself! We have the Blessed Sacrament in which He is really and completely present, and He comes to us that we may be entirely one with Him! Yet how many have been given this gift and have somehow let it slip away? That we have not ourselves been lost in profane love is only due to Jesus' ceaseless guardianship, protection, and untiring grasp on our poor hearts. We are allowed to live in close communion with Him, and He even instructs Marcel, "Tell them that I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love me." He merely wants our childlike honesty and spontaneity with Him, and how can we then, like Him, want anything else but that we may convert the whole world to such intimacy with its Creator and Savior?
Thanks be to God, He makes it so easy. Let us think of those who have wandered from Him, and those who have rejected His advances in whatever form they came; those who are distracted, confused, and ultimately profoundly unhappy because they are separated from the Source of all joy and goodness. Let us, as Jesus asks, think of them and offer them to Him.
Jesus, we offer them to You! Now may You transform these ugly lumps of clay into so many pearls as precious as diamonds! We cannot always distinguish clay from pearls, but we trust You to turn the one into the other as we offer to You all souls, especially those who have wandered far from You. Jesus, we offer them to You!
I am reminded of another passage, this one from the life-changing book I Believe in Love. In it Fr. D'Elbee goes to great lengths to assure of us Jesus' infinite love for us, and he explains at the end of the first chapter:
"I assure you, we are bathed in love and mercy. We each have a Father, a Brother, a Friend, a Spouse of our soul, Center and King of our hearts, Redeemer and Savior, bent down over us, over our weakness and our impotence, like that of little children, with an inexpressible gentleness, watching over us like the apple of His eye, who said, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the just, but sinners' (Mt 9:13), a Jesus haunted by the desire to save us by all means, who has opened heaven under our feet. And we live, too often, like orphans, like abandoned children, as if it were hell which had opened under our feet. We are men of little faith!"
Ah, but as the years go on, He shows us glimpses and sometimes long glances of this inexpressible gentleness. How can we forget the mercy of His sacraments given to the dying, to those who perhaps had ignored or run from Him for long years and even decades? He hears our prayers, and we can put all our trust in Him. Truly it is not hell that He's opened under our feet and the feet of those we love, but His heaven! That is why He came to live among us, suffered, died, and rose again - to open Heaven and show us the way!
Since He is the Way, let us accompany Him and rejoice in the prayers He suggests to us. Ah, Jesus, You are so good! You know our nothingness and invite us into Your all-powerful saving work, asking only that we smile at You if we can, even through our tears in this valley You know so well. Help us to use the simple words You have given us. Yes, darling Jesus, yes! We offer to You all souls, especially those covered with the clay of the world - and we trust You to transform all into pearls as precious as diamonds!
Draw me, we will run!
"Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just;
for praise is fitting for loyal hearts." - Psalm 33
"This grace has been given to me: to proclaim to the nations the infinite riches of Christ." - antiphon from evening prayer for St. Luke
* * *
On this beautiful day in 1997, a hundred years after St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, entered eternal life, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed her the 33rd Doctor of the Universal Church.
And on this lovely day in 2016, almost 20 years later, our sister Therese changed my life forever by sending me a rose that is still blooming, a rose beyond any I could have imagined, and one that continues to charm me with its ever fresh color and fragrance which enchant me on a daily basis.
Five years ago I had been writing about Therese in a manuscript that has since become the book Something New with St Therese, Her Eucharistic Miracle. I finished the first draft on October 19 and asked her to give me a sign showing me that what I'd written pleased her. Never one to skimp on signs, and, more importantly, always eager to show forth God's infinite love for us, she came through with what could only be called, now that I think about it, a torrent of roses, rather than simply a shower, let alone a single rose.
For that day (or rather this day) five years ago, her little brother's book showed up in my mailbox. Therese had promised her sisters that after her death they would "find her in the mailbox," and her prophetic words continue to ring true. Servant of God Marcel Van's Conversations (with Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese) entered my life via my mailbox, and I haven't been the same since!
I had read, some years before, of this Vietnamese boy with whom St. Therese chatted from heaven during the 1940s, and I had hoped he'd written down her words. He had, but they were originally in Vietnamese, then much later translated into French by Marcel's spiritual director, and unavailable in English until the wonderful translation of Jack Keogan was published in 2008. They then took eight years to find me, but when they did - POW! Not only did they knock my socks off, they sent me reeling barefoot for joy like Snoopy doing a happy dance!
For in the book of Marcel's Conversations, I found - and have continued to find - the pure doctrine of the gospels as brought into focus by St. Therese, and then spelled out by Jesus and Marcel in primer fashion for the very little ones who need constant instructions because they (or rather we) are bears of little brain and keep forgetting everything. No worries, Jesus assures us, and even all the better, for He can remind us again and again of the truth of His love for us and the confidence and abandonment He wants from us in return.
He asked Marcel, when He began their conversations in 1945, to write down everything - not just what Jesus Himself said (and Mary and Therese), but what Marcel said too. Our Lord explained that while His usual method was to have mystics write down only His words, in the case of Marcel he should write down his own part in the conversation too - that way we could see just how typical our own littleness is, and how much He loves that in us as He loved it in Marcel!
This is Therese's Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. God is not far away, He is not disinterested in us, nor is He waiting for us to impress Him. No, He loves us in our littleness! If you think about it, He has plenty of bigness already!
The book that brought Therese's little doctrine to the world was her Story of a Soul, and it continues to captivate readers and bring hearts to Christ with a freshness and intimacy that will never fade. Conversations does the same, and it is remarkable to me in how many ways it repeats and then expands on all she taught.
To take one example, Therese concluded her memoir in 1897 with an explanation of her confidence in God's mercy. She wrote:
"Most of all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene; her astonishing or rather her loving audacity which charms the Heart of Jesus also attracts my own. Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus' arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him. It is not because God, in His anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love . . . "
In Conversations, on May 9, 1946, Jesus explained to Marcel:
"Little brother, you do not know that I know man's extreme weakness. Even if men offend me deliberately and as gravely as you can imagine, their sin is nothing in comparison with a hint of Love . . . Love is infinite and infinite, repeat it to men; yes infinite and infinite. Have confidence in me and never, eternally never, will you be separated from me. Even the devil must despair of a soul in which the word 'confidence' is found."
Or as Therese wrote to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart in 1896: "It is confidence, and nothing but confidence, that must lead us to Love!"
Lately I've been enjoying the simple descriptions of prayer, the simple ways to pray that Jesus, Therese, and Mary teach Marcel (and us) in Conversations. On May 5, 1946, Marcel tells Mary:
"I wanted to have many rifles and aeroplanes to fight the communists and prevent them from reigning over Vietnam, my country. Mother, I even asked little Jesus to grant me what I wanted, but He was content to answer me: 'The best weapon for safeguarding the interests of your country and to snatch it from the hands of the communists is prayer. Do not stop looking towards Me, little brother, and that will be enough. Each of your glances with this intention is enough to make me understand the situation of Vietnam, your country.' My sister told me the same thing as well."
Our Blessed Mother replies:
"And I, my child, I tell you the same thing also. The only way to save your country from communism is prayer. This is very easy; it requires neither cunning nor rifles, nor ammunition. A glance, or a smile, or a sigh toward little Jesus is enough; it is like a game within reach of everyone."
These passages echo the teaching Therese left us as quoted in the Catholic Catechism:
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2558.
Finally, what thrills me to the marrow is the way that Conversations shines a light on Therese's Act of Oblation to Merciful Love. Therese helped Marcel make this Act of Oblation, and Jesus explains it to him on numerous occasions, helping him (and us) to understand its pervasive beauty and power over His Heart.
On this day of anniversaries, I pray that Conversations will bring Therese's little doctrine to you too!
Draw me, we will run!
"We can never have too much confidence in the good God. He is so mighty and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for." --Little Therese following St. John of the Cross
"After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses." --St. Therese of Lisieux
Have you been holding out on little St. Therese?
Is there a desire of your heart you have forgotten, neglected, or been shy of presenting to her? Maybe something you've almost given up on, or not even almost?
Well today is your day!
Dig deep, and speak to her openly (even if in secret) because today is our sister's feast, and she wants to show you how much God loves you!
We're finishing our novena, but that's just the beginning. Therese has roses from heaven to let fall around your ears and into your lap, roses beyond counting! So without further ado. let's summon up all our intercessions and ask for hers:
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me an abundance of roses from the heavenly garden
and send them to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
please ask God to grant the favors
I now place with confidence in your hands . . . those I have been sharing with you and those I have been forgetful of, those commended to my prayers and those hidden deep in my heart and known only to God.
St. Therese, help us to always believe as you did,
in God’s great love for us,
so that we may imitate your “Little Way” each day.
* * *
If you haven't experienced it before, I pray that today and in the upcoming days you feel the sweet attentions of our sister Therese pouring out God's love and roses on you. And if you have experienced this exquisite mercy in the past, I pray that you are bowled over by it again far beyond your hopes and expectations!
One of the the most beautiful roses that Therese always has available for the asking is her little doctrine, the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. I've been marveling lately at how perfectly she expresses this Way in a letter she wrote to her sister Marie of the Sacred Heart. Our gift to you today is from this letter, and I pray it speaks to your heart and imbues you with His peace beyond understanding.
Marie had asked Therese to explain her little doctrine, and Therese had responded with what became the center section of her memoir Story of a Soul. Marie loved her sister's words, but feared they excluded her from loving God as Therese did because Therese's aspirations and desires to love Him were so great, whereas Marie constantly felt her own littleness and weakness. So she wrote to Therese again (they lived in the same monastery but passing notes is always so much more intimate than whispering in the hallway! Besides, Marie wanted to make sure Therese knew her request was important), this time asking quite specifically if it was at all possible for her to follow Therese's way of loving God.
What a great question! Can we, little Therese, follow you on the path you bushwhack for us? Our machetes are dull, our arms are weak, but you forge ahead. Does it make sense for us to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even while we feel we are losing ground and almost losing sight of you?
Here is Therese's answer:
LT 197 From Thérèse to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart
Jesus September 17, 1896
Dear Sister, I am not embarrassed in answering you… How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him?...
If you had understood the story of my little bird, you would not have asked me this question. My desires of martyrdom are nothing; they are not what give me the unlimited confidence that I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust, when one rests in them with complacence and when one believes they are something great. ... These desires are a consolation that Jesus grants at times to weak souls like mine (and these souls are numerous), but when He does not give this consolation, it is a grace of privilege. Recall those words of Father: "The martyrs suffered with joy, and the King of Martyrs suffered with sadness." Yes, Jesus said: "Father, let this chalice pass away from me." Dear Sister, how can you say after this that my desires are the sign of my love?... Ah! I really feel that it is not this 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 Godmother, why would this treasure not be yours?...
Are you not ready to suffer all that God will desire? I really know that you are ready; therefore, if you want to feel joy, to have an attraction for suffering, it is your consolation that you are seeking, since when we love a thing the pain disappears. I assure you, if we were to go to martyrdom together in the dispositions we are in now, you would have great merit, and I would have none at all, unless Jesus was pleased to change my dispositions.
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, but we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, and this is the difficulty, for: "The truly poor in spirit, where do we find him? You must look for him from afar," said the psalmist. ... He does not say that you must look for him among great souls, but "from afar," that is to say in lowliness, in nothingness.... Ah! let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, 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.... Does not fear lead to Justice (1)?... 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.
Oh, dear little Sister, if you do not understand me, it is because you are too great a soul.. .or rather it is because I am explaining myself poorly, for I am sure that God would not give you the desire to be POSSESSED by Him, by His Merciful Love if He were not reserving this favor for you.. .or rather He has already given it to you, since you have given yourself to Him, since you desire to be consumed by Him, and since God never gives desires that He cannot realize. ...
Nine o'clock is ringing, and I am obliged to leave you.' Ah, how I would like to tell you things, but Jesus is going to make you feel all that I cannot write....
I love you with all the tenderness of my GRATEFUL little childlike heart.
Thérèse of the Child Jesus rel. carm. ind.
(1) To strict justice such as it is portrayed for sinners, but no this Justice that Jesus will have toward those who love Him.
* * *
That's a lot to digest! But here are the morsels and drops that feed and water my hungry dry soul again and again:
"Ah! I really feel that it is not this 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 . . . why would this treasure not be yours?"
"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. ... "
"Ah! let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, 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...."
"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. "
These last two paragraphs especially provide endless surprises. St. Therese is assuring us that God wants to love us the way He has loved her! He wants to give Himself to us completely, freely, beyond our imaginings. And He wants us to trust Him - Jesus, we trust in You! - to accomplish this even in the midst of, even thanks to, our utter poverty. He is rich, we are poor - it is a match made in Heaven! He will supply for all we lack! He will even give us His love with which to love Him! And finally we will be able to love Him enough!
"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..."
I can't help but pray that today you feel a little something! Namely the truth of Therese's words and the love of God she desires so much to share with you. But if you feel nothing, don't despair! This is precisely a fitting condition for ones as little, as blind and deaf, as we are. And far from sending God away, this poverty will attract the Fatherly Love that dominates His Merciful Heart!
May the ever ancient and ever new doctrine of the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood be yours! May Therese shower you and those you love (and the whole world!) with roses on her feast and in the days and years to come. And may your littleness never keep you from the lap of God, but draw you closer and closer into His loving arms!
Draw me, we will run!
P.S. If all goes as planned, I will be a guest on Johnette Benkovic Williams' live Women of Grace show today on EWTN (via skype). If you've missed the 1pm ET airing, it will be rebroadcast at 11 p.m. ET. Then tomorrow, feast of the guardian angels, I'll be (pre-taped) talking to the Catholic Click and Clack, the amazing Tom and Dan (or is it Dan and Tom?) on their 13th Apostle show which airs in Boston on Catholic radio. You can listen "live" at 11:30 a.m. ET when it broadcasts Saturday (and the next episode the following Saturday) HERE at WQPH Catholic Radio, or later find it there as an archived show. May the angels guide us to meadows full of roses!
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