"Read Marcel! Call on Pio!"
Don't worry, I'm not getting bossy here with the post title. I'm just repeating the words I've been hearing from Our Lord these days, and wow, are they helping me, so I couldn't help but share them in the hopes they might help you too!
Do you ever have one of those mornings when you wake unrested, or at least aware that you could use a couple more days in bed? If you've ever suffered really down times, these types of mornings can scare you into worrying you're falling back into a long term bummer of a time, but even if you've never been sad for long, there is that constant tendency I find in the human species to project whatever we're feeling into eternity.
"I'm going to feel this way forever," we muse - and that refrain repeats itself worryingly, no matter how old and experienced we get, wisdom still evading us, as well as the reality that if you can count on anything, it's that our feelings are forever changing rather than forever staying the same!
Well to get to the point - there is a solution! It's a twofold solution, and the books under the twofold advice from Jesus I've quoted above, say it all:
"Read Marcel! Call on Pio!"
Never one to call when I can read, I've been reading Pio as well as Marcel, but first, let me tell you why Jesus has me reading Marcel, and what He's been telling me there.
"There" is, of course, in Conversations. That's where Jesus has me reading and I'm so grateful.
Forgive my rudeness, though. In our family, we try not to say "of course," because it can sound rude, but I say it now because I have such a love-love-love relationship with this book, that it seems a matter of course to me that when Jesus says, "Read Marcel!", He means read Conversations, kind of like when he says, "I'm going to kiss you now," to Marcel or me, He means a kiss, not a slap! In Mother Teresa's language, Jesus' kiss can be suffering - and perhaps that's universal, but there are exceptions, and Marcel and I hold little Jesus to kissing when He mentions kissing! So, too, when Jesus says, "Read Marcel!" - well, there are other Marcel books, but for me and Marcel, there's Conversations first and foremost (middle and most-of-all, finally and fabulously!) and that's where we find Jesus' instructions and His kisses.
So what has He been instructing us lately? I was delighted to find that when I woke up worrying about a week ago and Jesus said, "Read Marcel!", I opened to a favorite passage that never gets old. As St. Paul tells us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and as Jesus tells Marcel, we never have to fear that these words (to Marcel and us through him) are untrue. As Truth Himself explained on 22 October 1945:
"Never doubt the veracity of my words. Pay a lot of attention to what I am saying. I am repeating for you once again: if the words that I am saying to you were not true, how could I ever allow a soul who loves me and confides himself to me without reservation to fall into error? Furthermore, be really convinced of this and never forget it."
But the words that have been my consolation this past week are from a later date, and a date that happens to be my birthday! On April 7, Jesus told Marcel quite a few reasons why he and we should not be worrying - anymore, ever, about anything! In our pictures above, I showed both available editions of Conversations, but if you don't yet have one (or both), or even if you don't have them (or one) at hand, or even if the problem is simply that you don't have your copy opened already to April 7, well no worries is our message! I'm going to copy out the whole wonderful speech of Jesus-our-Love for you here. Just keep reading, and re-read as often as necessary. That's what I've been doing, and I can't recommend such reading enough. From April 7, 1946, then, at (385), as transcribed by Marcel for us in his Conversations with Jesus, Mary, and Therese of the Child Jesus:
JESUS: How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed; and you still have this defect. Come, little brother, since you do not wish to cause me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you? I tell you that I am happy with all that you do; why do you not believe what I say? All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to me already. All that is my property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . . Little brother, remain tranquil. I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother. Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard has he not said these very true words to you: "Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Little brother, if after that you still trouble yourself, it is certain that Mary will be very hurt. Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me, but since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness? Marcel, there is in you only this tendency to worry which makes me fear for the future. So remain peaceful. All that you do belongs to me. You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you . . .
Little Marcel, are you at peace now? . . . Very good. From now on never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand? It is sufficient for you to love me. We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . . Do not worry, Mary is happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, Marcel, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
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? . . .Little Marcel, love me a lot.
* * *
Do you love these words like I do? I hope so! But do you fear that they may not be intended for you? Perhaps you haven't yet adopted the name Marcel into your own, and you fear these words are addressed to our little brother, but not to us . . . Not to be rude again, but you're wrong if that's what you think! I must be direct, for we can't let all that work Marcel did (writing down Jesus' words) go to waste!
Here, in fact, is Jesus' response to the possible suspicion that His words are not for us entirely. When Marcel asked Him on 4 November 1945, "Jesus, is it to me alone that you are speaking, without speaking to other souls?", Our dear Lord responded, "My child, listen. I am going to speak clearly to you so that you understand. All of the words that I have spoken to you from the beginning until the last one I speak to you in the future - know that it is not to you alone that I am speaking, but to all souls."
Read Marcel, then, and read his words - really HIS words - to us again!
If you find that despite your best intentions, you are still worrying, you should know so you won't worry about your incapacity to stop worrying, and so you don't fear your inability to quell every little perturbing thought and feeling, that our dear Mother Mary adds later, very helpfully, "Each time that you are troubled, even if only for the span of a breath, say this: 'Little Jesus, I offer you this worry as a sacrifice.' Then, remain in peace." (596)
But don't worry, either, when that peace is short lived. You can do what I do, and keep reading, over and over as I've been doing this past week, the bold words above, and then try to stifle those worries by Jesus' dozen or so reasons. I think I counted a dozen . . . you can see how many reasons you find!
And then, after I offer my latest worry or anxiety as a sacrifice to little Jesus and try to remain at peace in Mary's arms, then when the worry sneaks back into my thoughts yet again (!), then I call on Padre Pio!
I have friends who are otherwise very reasonable people, but who have got into their heads the very unreasonable and seemingly unbudgeable idea that Padre Pio is a big meanie. Well, I've decided that, averse to confrontation though I am, I will fight to my dying breath to show these dear friends and yes, the whole world, how very sweet, kind, gentle, paternal and maternal, loving and lovable our dear Padre Pio is!
Who else promised to stand outside Paradise until he brought in every one of his spiritual children before him? And who else is so gallant, so gracious, so generous in accepting every one of us who asks to become one of these favored spiritual children? Why, this dear Father even promised that all those close to anyone who is his spiritual child will also be his spiritual children too! And lest you think being Padre Pio's spiritual child is thus weakened in its effects (sharing your father with so many), here are his own words: "I have never lost a single one of my spiritual children. I follow them all with my prayers." Man oh man, however you might reckon heavenly time, that's a lot of waiting outside the pearly gates, all on account of this spiritual father's sweet love for us! Sounds like Jesus, if you ask me! And as in the case of our dear little brother Marcel, so in the case of Padre Pio, their union with Jesus is the key to their charm and their power over the Heavenly Father's heart.
As I mentioned, Jesus seemed to tell me to call on Pio, so I started by bolstering my confidence in the famous Padre by reading anecdotes about him from two marvelous books compiled by Diane Allen called (in one of his helpful sayings) Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry. Or perhaps a more accurate chronology of the events is that I found myself reading these books, and then read between the lines Jesus' message to me: Call on Pio! If you would like your confidence bolstered but don't have these books on your shelf yet, you can start by reading similar true and moving accounts at padrepiodevotions.org - I think some of the stories may even be told in both places.
I never tire of reading stories of the Saints, in particular, stories of the Saints in their kind attention to us, which is one of the reasons I love both St. Therese and St. Padre Pio so much. Similar to what St. Therese promised, Padre Pio said before he died, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." Neither of them ever tires of paying attention to us, and so there are seemingly endless stories, ranging from the short-short story to the epic life adventures (which can read like novellas) of those who have been friends and recipients of Therese's and Pio's attentive intercession. Sometimes these stories are contemporary with our Saints' lives on earth, and other times the favors were granted after the Saint's entry into Heaven.
(By the way - and this is more parenthetical than usual but I just can't resist sharing this fun new information! - I recently read that several priests reported seeing Padro Pio at the canonization of St. Therese - he must've bilocated there, since it was in the 1920's after he was already living permanently at San Giovanni Rotondo. Isn't that delightful?)
Because the Holy Spirit filled Padre Pio with such a range of miraculous charisms, some of the anecdotes about Pio's kindness and merciful love tell of events which happened during his life on earth, and yet involve favors he gained for people who prayed to him even then (while he was living at the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo), just as though he were already in Heaven! I guess in a way he was, given his intimate union with the Trinity even while he remained in exile . . .
Since, however, long experience has shown me that I can blather on and on about how nice Padre Pio is and make just about no headway whatsoever in convincing my deluded friends that he is, indeed, gentle and friendly, I'd better get to it and tell you one of these stories now. Let the adorable facts speak for themselves!
As I'm wondering which story to tell, one pops into my dizzy head - the story that made me laugh aloud the other night and interrupt my husband's own reading (or was he praying - oops!). I couldn't resist sharing the fun with him, and I can't resist sharing the fun with you! Because yes, kindness, gentleness, sweetness and all that sort of thing cling to our Padre like he clings to Mary, our Mother, but without fun, where would we be? Marcel has proven, if nothing else, that Jesus appreciates impishness as much as anyone, so I'll tell this favorite story of Marcel's and mine . . . It really took me by surprise!
There was a man in Italy, Laurino Costa, who had a family to support, but he had been out of work for some time with no prospects. He was given a photo of Padre Pio and it made a huge impression on him. Laurino looked at the photo a lot, and even began to have dreams of Padre Pio, so he decided to write and ask Padre Pio to pray for him to get a job. From Chapter 25 of Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry (Book 1): "Right away, Laurino received an answer to his letter. Padre Pio wanted Laurino to come to San Giovanni Rotondo at once."
Laurino had no money to make the trip, but he felt a strong and growing desire to do as Padre Pio said, so one day he hitchhiked to the train station - though without money to buy a ticket once there! He ran into a friend at the station, and, when asked, in telling the friend of his hope and intention to get to Padre Pio's place - but also explaining that he had no money for the ticket - Laurino was overheard by another man standing nearby. This stranger volunteered to take him to San Giovanni Rotondo, as that was his own destination and he would be driving there. This thoughtful stranger was Dr. Giuseppe Gusso, the doctor who ran Padre Pio's Home for the Relief of Suffering, and a good friend of the Padre's!
Laurino's first problem solved, off he went to see Padre Pio. As most did when they got to the monastery, Laurino attended Padre Pio's early morning Mass. Afterward, Padre Pio motioned to him to approach, and again, like most people to whom this happened, Laurino thought, "He must not be beckoning me. He doesn't know who I am."
A word of advice. If you ever see Padre Pio beckoning you, set aside your first reaction that he can't be beckoning you. Even if he is beckoning the guy behind you, hey, why not step forward and see what you might get? I promise it won't be a slap, but a kiss!
Here's what happened to Laurino. First Padre Pio had to tell him, "Laurino, come here at once!" and then, while Laurino trembled in astonishment (and fear, let's admit it!), Padre Pio simply instructed him, "Go over to the hospital and prepare the food for my sick."
Then ensued the best conversation ever. Laurino objected that this wouldn't work, as he had no idea how to cook! Padre Pio repeated his invitation/command. He insisted, so that Laurino, although filled with fear at the very thought of such a plan, asked, "If I go to the hospital kitchen and try to cook, will you help me?" Padre Pio - who so far has seemed to justify my obstinate friends' resistance to his sweetness! - came through with flying colors, for now he promised, "Yes, I will be there with you and I will assist you."
Have I ever told you of my fear of cooking for an institution? It's amazing the fears one can dream up! Since my husband has been working for Catholic colleges (two of them, sequentially) for the last hundred years or so, I had the opportunity once, at the beginning of the school year, to place a whole heart-load full of misplaced empathy on the head cook at one of these wonderful places. I simply woke up at the beginning of the students' return, and thought in a panic, "How can she do it? How can she manage? How will she cook for all these returning people?" It was a terrifically absurd fear, because the woman I was fearing for had been doing this for years and years and had no fear of it at all! But Laurino? Now he was afraid, and rightly so! For himself! Because he'd never cooked for his own family, let alone a hospital full of sick people and their large medical staff! The story continues:
"Laurino walked out of the church and across the plaza to Padre Pio's hospital. The year was 1958. As soon as he entered the hospital, he was introduced to one of the nuns who was employed there. 'You must be the new cook for the hospital!' the nun exclaimed. 'We have been waiting for you anxiously and are so glad that you have arrived!'"
Laurino was shocked! But it got worse! He went into the hospital kitchen and found the kitchen workers standing and instantly staring at him, waiting for his orders for the day's cooking! Surrounding him were massive institutional ovens, stoves, fridges, and sinks. Even the pots and pans were enormous, and this wasn't a nightmare - it was real, though his fears increased and he had that familiar nightmare feeling!! But then . . .
"As Laurino continued to look around the kitchen, his fears began to subside. Suddenly, everything seemed strangely familiar to him, as though he had always been a cook. He felt confident that he could do what was required of him. He then proceeded to give the instructions to the kitchen staff. That first day on the job, Laurino cooked for 450 people."
He'd only planned to stay a day or two at the monastery, but Laurino now had a job and a steady income! He was, bizarrely, the head cook for the Home for the Relief of Suffering, and a fine cook at that! Despite his thought that his family would hate to move there, Laurino followed Padre Pio's instructions to move them to this new place, and sure enough, everything worked out beautifully! Laurino was the head cook for many years, and always aware of the deep affection in which Padre Pio held him.
I love this story because it has the typical Padre Pio affection and humor, but also the assistance that came in his not only getting Laurino a job, but a job near him where his family could live in a good place, and also - best of all in some ways - a job which on his own Laurino was totally unfit for, but which Padre Pio miraculously helped him to accomplish with confidence and - I am guessing - joy!
Okay, this is not the sappy, sentimental story I had intended to tell. There are so many of these too - romantic stories of spouses Padre Pio brought together, marriages his intercession repaired and strengthened, children he healed, and on and on, often with such gentleness - especially when the people involved were afraid of him! I've read story after story of those who were waiting in line for confession, and suddenly were seized with fear and started to leave. One way or another, whether it was a shove from the person behind, or Padre Pio leaning out of the confessional and calling the fearful one in to confess, when the encounter with Padre Pio occurred, far from being a frightening experience, it brought tremendous peace.
Often people would be so scared in his confessional that they couldn't get any words out, whether they had come with a well prepared confession, or had promised a neighbor they would ask Padre Pio's prayers for a sick child. Over and over again, Padre Pio would gently do all the talking, leading the person through the confession by a list of the sins that had been committed. This unexpected litany, far from increasing fear, would bring awe but also a realization of being loved, being known and loved, being embraced by mercy and the infinite forgiveness of God as poured through a priest one with Him, apparently in omniscience as well as limitless love.
It is tempting to transcribe story after story from Padre Pio's treasury of spiritual fatherhood, and even his spiritual motherhood! Being a Miss Marcel, I can't remember where it was in the two books I've been reading that I found this, but I do remember seeing how some wanted to call him Mama as well as Papa, because Padre Pio's love for souls was so tender and maternal. This follows almost inevitably from his own experience of Mother Mary's care. He said of Our Blessed Mother, "She treats me as if I were her only child on the face of the earth. Her loving care toward me cannot be described in words." This is how Mary treats each of us - as she and Jesus often assure us through their words in Marcel's Conversations, and so too this is the tender care Padre Pio lavishes upon us, whether we yet recognize it or not.
There was a man named Bill Martin who came from Brooklyn, New York. He visited Padre Pio in the monastery in Italy, and he was quite sad to leave, so happy was he in Padre Pio's presence. The day Bill was leaving for home, he was surprised and thrilled to have Padre Pio send a message to him to stay! Sure enough, Bill stayed and became Brother Joseph Pius Martin, and after Padre Pio's death, he became Fr. Joseph Pius Martin! Here are some simple words from this wonderful American son of his saintly Italian father: "To meet Padre Pio even after his death is to find heaven, because that is where he will lead you."
* * *
Having written most of the above post yesterday, I reflected this morning on how far short of my desires these paragraphs fall. But how wonderful! If my poverty and weakness are so apparent even to me, how much more will Jesus see and recognize that He alone must work miracles in your heart and life! My power is that of an inchworm; He is almighty God!
It did occur to me that I could do my little inching part, however, in helping His grace flow more freely into your heart by offering again the words (His words) that inspired me to write in the first place. My own problem in reading is that I often gulp the words, rather than savor them, because there are so many lovely words ahead that I don't want to miss. This can have the effect of turning a leisurely feast into something less nourishing . . . or to radically change our metaphor, my rush forward turns the words into machine gun blasts, which is a sorry change from the beautiful flowers they are in themselves. Such loving words from Jesus are meant to fall from Heaven like light raindrops, or dew from above, as Scripture would have it, and I apologize if I have turned them into rapid fire! And so, to close, we will do a repeat of the best words in this post - Jesus' words to us through Marcel - but this time, I will place them at a little distance from each other, allowing you to soak them in like sunshine, or watch them waft about you like bubbles from a bubble wand, or best of all, feel their caress like the delicate and gentle hand of a mother soothing her beloved child.
In the words of our own adorable Jesus, spoken to us yesterday, but meant for us forever:
How many times have I told you not to get so perturbed . . . Come, little one, since you do not wish to cause me any pain in anything, what is there to trouble you?
I tell you that I am happy with all that you do . . .
All your actions, all your sighs, all the feelings of your heart, you have offered them to me already.
All that is my property and no longer yours, so why trouble yourself? . . .
Little one, remain tranquil.
I am giving you a kiss and another to our Mother.
Regarding Jesus with the ginger beard, has he not said these very true words to you:
"Since you have Mary for your real Mother, you should never disconcert yourself."
Your weaknesses, not being sins, can in no way sadden me . . . but since you are a poor little soul, how can you avoid weakness?
There is in you only this tendency to worry which makes me fear for the future.
So remain peaceful . . . All that you do belongs to me.
You must not trouble yourself about it since it does not concern you.
Little one, are you at peace now? . . .
From now on never allow yourself to become troubled, do you understand?
It is sufficient for you to love me.
We are still both in Mary's arms, you must not, therefore, fear that we will ever be separated from each other . . .
Do not worry, Mary is happy with us both.
Your weaknesses, far from reducing my value of you, only make it increase further, since they are, for you, grounds for much greater confidence in me, which makes our union firmer still . . .
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? . . .Little one, love me a lot.
* * *
Jesus, we do love You a lot!
Draw me, we will run!
Mother Mary, hold us in your arms beside Jesus and Marcel!
Little Therese, pray for us!
Padre Pio, be our spiritual father, and teach us the gentleness of Our Lord through the ever-present solicitude of your kindness and your prayers.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
P.S. Word has reached us from across the pond that our dear friend and benefactor Jack Keogan (translator of Marcel and conduit of all that is good) is rather under the weather. Please join me in praying for him and his dear wife, that he may soon be up to snuff! Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Comfort of the Afflicted, pray for us, and especially for Jack!
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