Thankful for this Cloud of Witnesses!
I'm so excited that I'm not quite sure where to begin, but I don't think I can go wrong beginning with Happy Thanksgiving!!!
And while we're at it, Happy St. Cecilia's Day! She's the first of our cloud of witnesses, up above with an angel in the upper left corner of our foursome (fivesome if we count the angel) of holy ones. She's the patroness of beautiful music and musicians, and without going into her whole story here (because naturally I've forgotten it!), I'll simply say that you can't go wrong celebrating her day.
I wish you music with your Thanksgiving Feast today, that it may be a feast for the soul as well as the body! And I want to thank Jesus for giving us a lovely Saint to intercede for us in the realm of joyful noise . . .
Lately I've felt closer than ever to St. Cecilia because of the glorious concert hall recently dedicated to her at Thomas Aquinas College, but I must say I've loved her since our days at Christendom College when we enjoyed a night of great music in her honor on a yearly basis. Thank you, amazing Fedoryka family, for that crowning moment of Mozart's Divertimento in D. It crowned my family's first St. Cecilia's night, and it initiated us into the heavenly beauty of music. I like to think it crowned your own childhood, dear Feds, and Tony and I have always been so grateful for that night!
But enough of my love for and commendation of St. Cecilia . . . Do you know who else loved her (and likely even remembered her story)? None other than little Therese of Lisieux!
Wonderfully enough, Therese met Cecilia when they were in Rome together. Okay, I'm not that bad - I do know they weren't contemporaries, but here is what Therese wrote about their friendship in Story of a Soul (just so we get her side of the Story!) :
"The Catacombs, too, left a deep impression on me. They were exactly as I had imagined them when reading the lives of the martyrs. After having spent part of the afternoon in them, it seemed to me we were there for only a few moments, so sacred did the atmosphere appear to me. We had to carry off some souvenir from the Catacombs; having allowed the procession to pass on a little, Celine and Therese slipped down together to the bottom of the ancient tomb of St. Cecilia and took some earth which was sanctified by her presence. Before my trip to Rome I didn't have any special devotion to this saint, but when I visited her house transformed into a church, the site of her martyrdom, when learning that she was proclaimed patroness of music not because of her beautiful voice or her talent for music, but in memory of the virginal song she sang to her heavenly Spouse hidden in the depths of her heart, I felt more than devotion for her; it was the real tenderness of a friend. She became my saint of predilection, my intimate confidante. Everything in her thrilled me, especially her abandonment, her limitless confidence that made her capable of virginizing souls who had never desired any other joys but those of the present life. St. Cecilia is like the bride in the Canticle; in her I see 'a choir in an armed camp.' Her life was nothing else but a melodious song in the midst of the greatest trials, and this does not surprise me because 'the Gospel rested on her heart,' and in her heart reposed the Spouse of Virgins!"
Wow! Isn't that magnificent? I'd like to interject that I'm sure the guides and guards at the Catacombs said in Therese's day as they say in our own: "Please do not take any dirt or stones from this holy place!" So do let that be a lesson to you - if you have to ignore the rules once in a while, it will give you a good story for your memoir, and it won't interfere a bit with your journey along the Little Way to great sanctity! (Yes, you, go ahead and have that second piece of pumpkin pie!)
Incidentally, when I quote our sister Therese and fill the passage with italics, I'm only following her lead. It's a custom to translate her underlinings into italics - she was that excited when she wrote (gee, that reminds me of someone!!) that she was constantly underlining words and phrases. Those who publish her books had to come up with a way to express her enthusiasm, which has grades (officially? known as: excited, very excited, super excited, super duper excited, haha!) which are retained by the use of first, italics (to represent one underlining), then small capitals (for two underlinings), then larger capitals (for three underlinings), then REALLY LARGE CAPS with a footnote to tell you just how many time our inspired sister underlined that phrase!!! (and this business of italics and caps I'm not joking about! Critical editions are serious business :)
Returning to the passage above, we see that Therese wanted to highlight that she felt "more than devotion" for St. Cecilia. Rather, she says, "It was the real tenderness of a friend."
Please don't think this is because Therese was already a great saint. No, it was because Cecilia was a great saint! At that point Therese was just a 14 year old girl on a pilgrimage with her father and older sister. Her father LOVED pilgrimages, and like my father did when I was a girl, he would sometimes take the opportunity of his own travels to bring a daughter or two along for the graces.
Sure, Therese was a special 14 year old girl, but honestly, what 14 year old girl isn't special???
And so, what fun to see that she "met" St. Cecilia in the same way we might meet a Saint that becomes for us, too, a real friend for whom we feel great tenderness, a saint of predilection, an intimate confidante. We might find one when we are in different circumstances than Therese - perhaps not so much on a real pilgrimage to real Rome, but maybe simply on the Internet, on a virtual pilgrimage of sorts to lift our hearts and encourage us in our endeavors, like on Thanksgiving when we wonder if we really should have gone back for thirds . . .
Therese was hoping to enter the Carmel at 15 and went to Rome to plead with the Pope Leo XIII for permission! IF she could get to him - which she did in an audience where the pilgrims in her tour group each got to kneel and kiss his ring. "No talking to the Pope!" they were firmly told. That didn't stop Therese! Oh, I wish I could tell you all that happened, but fortunately she does in her Story of a Soul. For now, I must rush headlong into the reason for the post, because believe me, our own story here gets even better!
You know all about my Saints of predilection, my intimate confidantes - at least the ones whose head shots top this post: St. Therese and our little brother, Servant of God Marcel Van. But there are always more Saints clamoring for our attention. You'd think they'd be quite busy with the Beatific Vision, but Therese has, I'm sure, thrown heaven into a tizzy since her arrival there. It's become all the fashion to keep one eye on God and the other on us, one hand in His, the other dropping roses on unsuspecting and hopeful (and sometimes seemingly hopeless) victims alike. So just listen to the latest in my little world of Saints and the rest of us . . .
Do you remember Sesame Street (or perhaps it was Electric Company) and the thrill of "Which one of these is not like the others?" We're playing that sort of game today here, and if you were to look up at those four pictures - they're today's Cloud of Witnesses and bright shining starts in the firmament of Heaven - well if you were to exert some energy and scroll up (but you don't have to! You're exhausted after all that tryptophan and I'm happy to tell you everything right here), you might notice that one of them is not like the others. You may not have been able to read the quote (hard to find proper lighting at a feast) to read the quote in our odd-man-out's box, but the quartet up there were St. Cecilia, St. Therese, little Marcel, and . . . some man with a tiny quote. Here is what he's saying, and if you are amazed that his words fit right in, well yes, but clearly he's different, not like the others, because:
a. He has a quote in his box
b. You've likely never heard of him . . .
Or at least let's say his fame is lagging far behind that of Cecilia and Therese, and if you're at Miss Marcel's Musings (and unless we've gone viral in some quite unexpected way, I believe you're reading this at MMM), then you certainly are acquainted with Marcel. But the guy with the quote? Let's get to him and name him, claim him, and enjoy the story he's got for us today!
He's none other than St. Raphael Kalinowski, a Polish Discalced Carmelite priest and, in fact, the first male Discalced Carmelite to be canonized since St. John of the Cross! St. John Paul II canonized Raphael (I think he beatified this wonderful Carmelite too), and his feast is celebrated November 19th - not on the universal Church calendar, but definitely on the Carmelite calendar. But wait! November 19th!? That's merely a triduum prior to St. Cecilia's feast, today!
So as it happened, just last Monday I was singing his praises with my little Carmelite prayer book (while I waited in line for returns at Walmart), and reading about him in a small book telling me of his life and words. He said some marvelous things about Mary, and as I stood in line, I thought I should later quote them here, but alas, there was more shopping to do and it never happened. The day ended, and we were moving right along. Raphael wouldn't, however, be left behind. He had a message for us, and it is SO FUNNY!!! (underline that three times!)
Here's what he did . . .
Last night I was staying up to go online (yes, outside my neighbor's house, but it's okay, they knew) to buy an Instant Pot (or two) on a Black Friday sale at Kohl's - without it being Friday and without my having to go anywhere with other shoppers. Leaving aside what madness possessed me, or rather reassuring you that God had it all in His tenderly solicitous plan, you will be glad to know that while I stayed awake, I had good reading material. (Oh, and I did get the Instant Pots for an incredible price.) I'd bought on my kindle the 99 cent French version of Story of a Soul - not the fancy new critical edition, but an old, old version which came with the early approbations that "first responders" sent to the Lisieux Carmel. These appear at the front of the book and I adore them! I've seen them before, but they aren't in any English editions I know of. In cases like this, I pretend I know French, and the "translate" feature on my kindle helps a lot! God bless Jeff Bezos (and Steve Jobs while we're at it) and may the Saints who find us through these modern techno devices find their founders, inventors, and salesmen too, and drag them to Heaven along with those of us benefiting from their gizmos.
Anyhow, there I was whiling away the time until midnight, and I skipped forward from these "blurbs" sent to the Carmel in 1899 to my very favorite part of the early editions of Story of a Soul - the "Shower of Roses" at the end of the book, wherein, in editions ranging from maybe 1905 to 1922, the Carmel attached testimonies of a different kind - letters they'd received attesting to miraculous graces and favors Therese had showered upon her first devotees. (Who were quite numerous already. As we mentioned recently, one February day in 1918, the Carmel received 500 letters! And that was just the high point of the week . . . letters were pouring into the Lisieux Carmel from the four corners of the earth every day, just as quickly as our sister was pouring down roses from heaven).
So . . . here is the first "Rose" I read in the Shower of Roses (or "Pluie de Roses") section of my 99 cent French kindle book (I will translate as we go, haha):
From the Monastery of Discalced Carmelites, Wadourie, Austriche (Austria). 9 October 1902.
Very Reverend Mother,
The inscription placed on the head of this letter [reparation] indicates my need to repair a fault committed by me against your little saint, Therese of the Infant Jesus.
Two or three years ago, when I was presented the manuscript with the translation into the Polish language of the life of this little flower of Carmel, I let myself remark that our language [Polish] didn't lend itself to the style of the original, and that the reading of it [Story of a Soul] caused only disgust. [For those who are fans of Marcel, you will like to know that the word here is 'degout'.]
My remark amounted to putting a brake on the apostolate of God's chosen one. She had to take this to heart. Nonetheless, not only was she able to act in such a way that the said translation was updated, but in addition, she was busy with me directly and personally.
A week ago, I went to my cell, a wreak of a man, my soul tossed by the waves of a stormy sea of inner turmoil and confused thoughts, not knowing where to find refuge or shelter. That's when my eye fell on the French book of the life of the vengeful sister. I opened it and I fell upon a poem: Vivre d'amour (To Live by Love).
Suddenly, the storm subsided, calm returned, something ineffable invaded my whole being and transformed me from top to bottom. This song was for me the rescue boat; the lovable sister offering herself to me as pilot. So I have to state today that her promise, 'I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth . . . After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses,' is realized in truth."
* * *
Isn't that awesome?
Oh, but wait, I forgot to add the signature . . .
Fr. Raphael of St.-Joseph, Discalced Carmelite, Vicar-Provincial.
I thought, "Oh, how marvelous, a Vicar-Provincial (or is it Provincial Vicar?) wrote of this lovely favor to the Lisieux Carmel in 1902, only 5 years after Therese died. Already all this happened only 4 years after the first French edition of Story of a Soul was distributed! How truly wonderful that our little sister was touching big people as well as little ones, and so quickly, and so personally! And she is 'vengeful!' Or more likely, full of mischief! How fabulous!"
And then I read the parenthetical remark that followed the signature, which though it was in French, reads like this in English:
(The Reverend Father Raphael Kalinowski died in the odor of sanctity, in the year 1907. His cause for beatification is being submitted to Holy Church.)
It's a good thing I was sitting down. What a bolt from the blue! St. Raphael was determined to make his way into our blog, by hook or by crook! [When relating all this to my husband this morning, he said, "He's a little vengeful himself, isn't he?" Ah Raphael - welcome to our mischievous world - you fit right in! Who would have known? But Marcel has won over heaven, so why should we be surprised at the antics going on among y'all up there?]
But back to our story . . . Shortly after Raphael alerted me to his deepest desire (I mean after you've got God right there, face to Face, what's left? A cameo on Marcel's blog, of course!), I found myself outside my friend's house in the middle of the night, purportedly to order Insta-Pots (and that did happen, thanks be to God, and at a remarkable savings!), but really and truly so that I could set up this post, complete with pictures of our Saints de jour. Including, to my continued amazement and amusement, a quotable quote from St. Raphael, who surely wants us to know that he too could be a Saint of predilection, he too would love to be our confidante.
He too has known the vicissitudes we experience daily: saying something unkind, regretting it but to what purpose since the damage is done, feeling inner turmoil, not knowing where to find comfort or rest, and being rescued when we least expect it by the one we least expect - the littlest Saint in heaven. For Therese was littlest then, until Marcel came to join her in 1959.
Now we get to be rescued by the very littlest one, but I'm confident Raphael was among the first to greet Therese's protege when he made it through the pearly gates. For how wonderfully Marcel lived the advice Raphael gives us today in his quote. And come to think of it, we now know Raphael was walking the walk as well as talking the talk - he surely was repentant, as you'll see from his lesson learned. Ready for his quote? Here it is, the wisdom he wants to share with us now, but in slightly larger print than we found above (since we've aged since we started this post!) -
"God refuses only the person who does not admit his own weakness; He sends away only the unhappy proud person. You must 'hold Him' well and strongly, with a poor spirit, with a poor heart, with a life entirely poor."
I think he learned his lesson well! This sounds like the Little Way to me!
Oh good Jesus, what are You doing? I'm supposed to be cooking up a storm, not reveling in Raphael's interior turmoil and Therese's rescue of him! Ah, but the days are long, and why not do both? St. Raphael, if you want to make sure this week doesn't pass without your cameo here, I'm happy to make it "realizee en verite" just like (or even as another instance of) Therese's promise.
One last thing . . . In the spirit of thanksgiving that characterizes this day, whether we're celebrating Thanksgiving, St. Cecilia's Day, or the visit of an unexpected guest from Heaven (and you're welcome anytime, St. Raphael K!), I must say THANK YOU, HEAVENLY FATHER for this vast communion of Saints. Most of all thank You for books - real and virtual, old and new, French, Polish, or my very favorite, English (and thank You for Jack K!) - in which we discover that the Saints who are with You now were with us then, as it were, walking this earth like us, finding friends among those who went before them, never suspecting they'd return the favor when they came to live before You on Mary's lap . . .
But how I treasure above all these moments of reading about our greatest heroes when they were simply human, only on their way to divinization (not there yet!) and meanwhile feeling degout in their day just like we feel in ours. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for showing us these consoling truths. And thank You, Jesus, for being the Truth, so near and dear to us, which shines forth from the little hearts of all these great Saints who, after all, were once little too and always will be, in the Light of Your Face!
Praying that the Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit spills down in Therese's (and Marcel's, and Raphael's, etc, etc, etc) showers of roses onto YOU today, and onto the whole world!
Draw me, we will run!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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