"Take with you words, and return to the Lord." (Hosea)
I'm asking the Holy Spirit to give wings to my fingers today so they can fly across the keyboard. I want Him to use me to tell you about the best miracle of all, and We just can't wait!
Yesterday we spoke of purple trees (miracles!), gardenias (more miracles!), the Saints who line up to love us from heaven (more like stars than flowers), and a Rose whose earthly bloom has been restored, thanks to God's mercy and His kind reception of the intercession of the Saints (thank You, Heavenly Father!).
Speaking of a Rose in bloom reminds me of the abundance of earthly roses (signifying heavenly ones, no doubt, but very earthly to begin with) that surround me in my house, my yard, my neighborhood, my town, my county, my state, my country - even my world, which I know is your world as well (unless you're an alien reading this - In which case: Does your planet have roses too?), and all this talk of roses reminds me to remind you to keep your eyes out for them!
We're in a novena here, and your intentions are included, and on the off chance you don't yet know what that means, I'm adding to our intentions that you find out before another day passes! God is sending His messengers out constantly to show you signs of His love, and little Therese and the second Therese, our own dear Marcel, are lining up the buckets of roses and rose petals right along the line of Saints (so many Saints already, and more to come) who want to help shower them down. It would be a shame if we kept our eyes closed (except for a solid eight to ten hours a night and possibly a few power naps during the day) and missed His glory in our midst!
Now that you're ready then, or at least you've been warned - and don't be afraid, just thank God His little Therese chose roses and not bricks! - it's time to get to the heart of the matter, the Heart of Love, the best miracle of all, the One I can finally express in a single word, because it is the Word. Or rather He is the Word (Incarnate for us), and the Word, the best miracle is:
You know by now that my joy is to multiply words, and Jesus is no exception! He is multiplied here in Jesus-Marcel and Marcel-Jesus, and we'll get to that in a moment, but first, a multiplication of Jesus words from a trio of Carmelites is in order. First, because we're in a novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, loving mother of all Carmelites and herself the one who teaches them to know no other Word than Jesus. Second, because it is too funny that every other Carmelite seems to be named Teresa - it will take Heaven to sort them all out because honestly I'm only giving you a smidgen of them in this post. And third, because it's our second Teresa's feast today, so it's only fair to let her give a speech . . .
First then, Jesus words from our holy mother (who so happily took a seat under the Holy Mother whom Jesus gave us from the cross), St. Teresa of Jesus, that is, of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites, lover of Our Lord in the 1500's, so sad that the Protestants had left the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord that she begged others to join her in being His best friends, hoping with her huge heart to make up for those who in seeking Him, left Him. Here are her words, the words from her many words (oh mother of mine, how I love to follow you in following Jesus, our Love!) which the Church has chosen for her signature passage in the Office of Readings recited by all priests and religious and third order members (of every Order) on her feast of October 15th each year.
From St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography, The Book of Her Life:
Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent a leader as is Jesus Christ can endure all things. Christ helps us and strengthens us and never fails; He is a true friend. And I see clearly that God desires that if we are going to please Him and receive His great favors this must come about through the most sacred humanity of Christ, in whom He takes His delight.
Many, many times have I perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we desire His sovereign Majesty to show us great secrets. A person should desire no other path, even if He be at the summit of contemplation; on this road he walks safely. This Lord of ours is the one through whom all blessings come to us. He will teach us these things. In beholding His life we find that He is the best example.
What more do we desire from such a good friend at our side, who will not abandon us in our labors and tribulations, as friends in the world do? Blessed is the one who truly loves Him and always keeps Him near. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul: it didn't seem that any other name fell from His lips than that of Jesus, as coming from one who kept the Lord close to his heart. Once I had come to understand this truth, I carefully considered the lives of some of the saints, the great contemplatives, and found that they hadn't taken any other path: Francis, Anthony of Padua, Bernard, Catherine of Sienna. A person must walk along this path in freedom, placing himself in God's hands. If His Majesty should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares His secrets, we ought to accept gladly.
As often as we think of Christ we should recall the love with which He bestowed on us so many favors, and the great things God showed in giving us a pledge like this of His love; for love begets love. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to waken ourselves to love. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the favor of impressing this love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall carry out our tasks quickly and without much effort.
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Hooray for quickly and without much effort!
Hooray for walking this path in freedom!
Hooray for little Jesus who is Himself our little Way!
But we must make haste, for there are two more Teresas waiting to speak to us!
Next up is another St. Teresa of Jesus, but this one "of the Andes," and much nearer our own time. Today is her birthday on earth, for she was born July 13, 1900 in Santiago, Chile, and named Juanita. She grew up loving to swim, play tennis and ride horses, joke around with her siblings and friends, and most of all, loving to love Jesus. Her dream of intimacy with Him brought her to enter the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites when she was 18. There she was given the name of our holy mother, Teresa of Jesus, and there she gave herself so completely to Jesus our Love that He couldn't help but take her to Himself even more quickly than He takes your average saintly Carmelite nun (there's a trend in saintly Carmelite nuns to die young) - she was only 19, dying a mere 11 months after her entrance. Wow! Talk about making haste!
Here is what Teresa of Jesus of the Andes has to tell us in the Church's choice for her Office of Readings on her feast (which is today) - you'll see that she was rightly named after the first Teresa of Jesus! Oh, and if you wonder why you haven't heard of her before (if you haven't), it's because she isn't on the universal Church calendar - those days fill up so fast! - and, too, because Jesus wanted to give me the pleasure of introducing you to her. Or rather, our little brother is tugging on my sleeve to remind me to tell the truth - so that Marcel and I would have the pleasure of introducing you to her! So without further ado, from the Carmelite Proper to the LIturgy of the Hours, St. Teresa of Jesus' words on our True Love:
Jesus alone is beautiful; He is my only joy. I call for Him, I cry after Him, I search for Him within my heart. I long for Jesus to grind me interiorly so that I may become a pure host where He can find His rest. I want to be athirst with love so that other souls may possess this love. I would die to creatures and to myself, so that He may live in me.
Is there anything good, beautiful, or true that we can think of that would not be in Jesus? Wisdom, from which nothing would be secret. Power, for which nothing would be impossible. Justice, which made Him take on flesh in order to make satisfaction for sin. Providence, which always watches over and sustains us. Mercy, which never ceases to pardon. Goodness, which forgets the offenses of His creatures. Love, which unites all the tendernesses of a mother, of a brother, of a spouse, and which, drawing Him out of the abyss of His greatness, binds Him closely to His creatures. Beauty which enraptures . . . what can you think of that would not be found in this Man-God?
Are you perhaps afraid that the abyss of the greatness of God and that of your nothingness cannot be united? There is love in Him. His passionate love made Him take flesh in order that by seeing a Man-God, we would not be afraid to draw near Him. This passionate love made Him become bread in order to assimilate our nothingness and make it disappear into His infinite being. This passionate love made Him give His life by dying on the cross.
Are you perhaps afraid to draw near Him? Look at Him, surrounded by little children. He caresses them, He presses them to His heart. Look at Him in the midst of His faithful flock, bearing the faithless lamb on His shoulders. Look at Him at the tomb of Lazarus. And listen to what He says of the Magdalene: "Much has been forgiven her, because she has loved much." What do you discover in these flashes from the Gospel except a heart that is good, gentle, tender, compassionate; in other words, the heart of God?
He is our unending wealth, our bliss, our heaven.
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One is tempted to never speak again, unless to repeat the words of the Saints! They are the ones, truly, who have fulfilled the words of Our Lord in today's gospel: "Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of Your Father who is speaking through you."
How can we doubt it when each of the Saints speaks, one after another, only the one Word spoken by the Father, the Word whose Beauty has eternally brought forth the Spirit of Love? Ah Love, is there any other word that captures our hearts? Only Jesus, who is Love!
Jesus who is Love, He is the best miracle, but as we never tire of repeating here, He, Love, delights in making all things new, and so in a sense we can say He makes Himself ever new for us, or perhaps we could say He makes our union with Him ever new in an unceasing succession of miracles, each of which seems to outshine the last in Best-ness.
Which brings us to the third Therese, by name Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux, "little Therese" (the name she asked to be called), and "The Little Flower."
Chronologically, she's the second of the three we're hearing from today (and when we bring in Marcel, for he won't be left out, she's really the second of the four), but I'm letting her speak in third place so she can act as as a bridge between all other Teresas, bar none, and Marcel.
Which is funny and deserves an explanation, because Teresa of the Andes, like Elizabeth of the Trinity and every other Carmelite who came after Therese, no matter how barely "after" (Elizabeth was born before Therese died), knew of Therese through the immediate and nearly immediately universal distribution of Therese's accidental autobiography, Story of a Soul. Yet it was Marcel alone who has been given the gift of not only learning from and following Therese through her writings, but being so united with her and her Little Way (Jesus), that he is called by both Jesus and Mary, "The second little Therese."
I can hide it no longer then - finally, the best miracle I've seen yet (it ties with another Something New that Jesus is planning to make known, but we will leave that equally adorable miracle in silence until He deigns to reveal it). As I've said already, nothing other than Jesus Himself, but this time as Jesus-Marcel, or in other words to express His other self, Marcel-Jesus.
Who? How? Why? What???!!!!!
It starts with little St. Therese the first (though third today - we are experts at making the simplest complex here at Miss Marcel's Musings) - the discoverer and promoter of The Little Way of Spiritual Childhood which is the way the Holy Spirit taught her to live in order to please Jesus and go to Heaven to be with Him forever.
This passage comes from Manuscript C of Story of a Soul, the part written last, written for Mother Marie de Gonzague and presented in recent editions as Chapter X and following (in earlier editions it's Chapter IX and following). As I pinpoint the passage I want to give you (Marcel and Therese and Jesus want to give you), I'm again tempted to speak only the words of the Saints - and this time ALL the words! But no, be still my beating heart and refrain from transcribing the entirety of Story of a Soul. Let's limit ourselves to what we have time for and what will make our point best. Come Holy Spirit!
O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the lives of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God? It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said in Isaiah: "Tell the just man ALL is well." Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother.
You know, Mother, I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealizable desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, and so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.
We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs, for, in the homes of the rich, an elevator has replaced these very successfully. I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched, then, in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires, and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: "Whoever is a LITTLE ONE, let him come to me." And so I succeeded. I felt I had found what I was looking for. But wanting to know, O my God, what You would do to the very little one who answered Your call, I continued my search and this is what I discovered in Isaiah: "As one whom a mother caresses, so will I comfort you; you shall be carried at the breasts, and upon the knees they shall caress you." Ah! never did words more tender and more melodious come to give joy to my soul. The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.
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This is the Little Way. This is the way that is ever ancient as well as eternally new, and we heard about it today at Mass in the first reading from Hosea: "Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them."
We are - each one of us - such a jumble of sinner and just, wise and foolish, prudent and blank of knowledge as a newborn babe. What shall we do, then, to ensure that we make it to the end of this path, this way? Therese tells us what Isaiah told us centuries ago: Climb into the arms of the Good Shepherd! He is certain to hold on tight and will carry us where our wandering, faltering steps might take us, but the ride in His arms is so much less lonely, so much more cozy! He will not only carry us but clasp us close to His Sacred Heart. He will caress us and comfort our little souls like a mother caresses and comforts her tiny baby at her breast. Ah, what love! It was not enough for God to be our Father, He had to find a way to tell us He is a mother too, the most tender of lovers, the bestest of friends, the kindest of brothers, and on and on! Let's not waste any more time trying to walk by our own pathetic powers. He's reaching down even now to scoop us up - let's reach up to let Him!
I don't want you to think I'm making things too easy. I'm not.
That is Marcel's job!
Because here is our fourth Teresa, our second little Therese, the one to whom it's been given to convince the skeptics that the Little Way is the only way worth traveling.
Forget for a second the roses, it hit me recently like a ton of bricks! This is our best miracle, this appearance of Marcel-Jesus in our lives, up close and personally ready to teach us his version of the Little Teeny-Tiny Way.
I have known, loved, and tried to follow St. Therese and her Little Way for (let me count back, hold on, almost have it) - well since October 7, 1983 (so you can do the math if you must have a number, but it keeps increasing, the time lapse between now and then!). I have climbed on and fell off and climbed back onto the Little Way innumerable times, always glad to get my feet back on the path, always relieved to have my big little sister take my hand again and lead me on to Jesus.
Then on October 19, 2016, Conversations arrived in my mailbox, a rose in answer to a prayer to Therese (whether Marcel's or mine is hard to say, not to mention Fr. Maestrini's prayer - I'd say it was all of them that stormed heaven, and Therese had been waiting, Marcel-rose in hand).
Since then, Jesus has been teaching me the Little Way, the Way that is Himself, through His conversations with Marcel. And why did He wait so long? I'm going to do it - I'm going to do the math: It was 33 years and 12 days from the time I first met Therese and her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood (in a holy hour where I sat with Jesus and read from a book called Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese) until the day I met Marcel, and the Little Way began to hold me like a strong magnet holds an iron filing. What will we say about this 33 years (enough time to live Jesus' whole life with Him)?
Here is what we can (and can't) say. I am Miss Marcel, which I call myself because as Therese is to Marcel, so Marcel is to me. If by force of persistent asking (or simply by using the name) I can make Jesus and Mary call me the second Marcel, as they called him the second Therese, I'll be happy. (Of course I'll still likely hanker after a white Mustang convertible, another chance to hear James Taylor in concert, and a s'more or two before I depart this exile for Heaven, but those are small fries - oh, yes, and a small order of hot, fresh, salty fries, please - compared to my Real Desires.)
But if we go with it and grant me my title (and don't forget a tiara and a bouquet of roses too!), then what Therese (and Jesus and Mary) said to Marcel is said to me, too.
We already know Jesus meant His words to Marcel for us all - He said toward the outset of their Conversations, on November 4, 1945:
"All 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."
You will recognize the truth, too, of Therese's words at her first meeting with Marcel, and how they are equally meant for us (in answer, prophetically, to my question above re. "Why So Long?" before we met Marcel), as Marcel recorded in his Autobiography (592). Therese said:
Yesterday you criticized yourself for having disdained me; in reality it was nothing of the sort, since to feel love or scorn for anyone, it is necessary first of all to know them. Not yet knowing Therese, how can you say you disdained her? You grumbled again, saying, "I wish I'd known you a bit sooner! And then from how many illusory fears my life would have been liberated, how much more would I have tasted the charms of love!" But no, little brother; the dispositions of Providence are realized, necessarily, at a very precise moment which is not brought forward, even for a second, nor does it allow an instant's delay.
Who knows? If you had known me an hour sooner, perhaps you would not have found yesterday the source of grace which filled you with happiness. That is a mystery, and we can only believe in the mercy of God our Father who, in His wisdom, rules in the slightest detail the lives of each one of us. You don't have to complain any more, since Therese has always been your Therese and you, Van, have been equally the little brother of Therese since the moment when we existed, both of us, in the thought of God.
The ardour of your desires until now has led the good God to lead you to the truth. He experiences a great joy in seeing that you look only to follow Him and to learn the means of pleasing Him. Try to imagine if there is any happiness for a father comparable to that of seeing his small child follow him everywhere, offering him everything he can collect, and finally to have complete freedom to carry him in his arms, and to caress him whenever he wishes. Yes, try to imagine with what love this child will be loved by his father. Can he want or ask for anything that his father will not give him, often even more than he asks for? And although he is only a little guileless child, what wonderful reward has his father not already prepared for him in the future?
This infant I have just described is your soul. You have run after Jesus, seeking only to please Him. Sanctity consists precisely in that. You have practiced this holiness until this day, but without well and truly understanding its real nature. Thanks to the sincerity of your heart, this error was not intentional on your part; it only came from a lack of guidance.
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I met Marcel first in his Autobiography, but immediately craved his Conversations, confident that there I would get much more of the guidance in the Little Way that St. Therese promised Van (and us through him). You can imagine my joyful chagrin when I realized, soon after I held Conversations in my hot little hands and began reading, that of course when a soul's interlocutors are St. Therese, Jesus' Mother Mary, and Jesus Himself, the one to attend to, the one to provide the most Divine guidance, the one who will delight and charm as if there's no competition (because there isn't!) will be Jesus!
I have always loved books, as long as I can remember. From Dr. Seuss to Beverly Cleary to Louisa May Alcott, from Great Books to The Good Book (without rival) to good books to silly books sparkling with fun, books have been my companions since childhood, and I can justly call them, too, the Little Way that Jesus touches my heart and teaches me things. And in my ongoing quest for the latest book-as-best-friend, I have long desired, underneath every other desire, most of all to find a book-as-best-friend-forever.
As St. Therese told us (and she is only repeating the words of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross), "God cannot inspire unrealizable desires." Then, too, He loves nothing more than fulfilling our wildest dreams. And so He gave me, after my seemingly endless wait (but I'm not complaining! I agree that His timing is always perfect!), my ultimate best-friend-forever-book, Conversations. And if I had to distinguish, I'd say it's on account first of Jesus-Marcel whom I've met in its pages, and then on account of Marcel-Jesus, that this book is my favorite ever. But taken together (and they certainly would, neither of them, consent to be separated for a nano-second), they are the Best Miracle yet, thanks be to God who is Love.
Which brings me to the end of this post, only it wouldn't be right to end without noting another Saint waiting to join us in our prayers of thanksgiving and petition in this novena. Today is also the feast of St. Henry, and that is the name of my dad, to whom I used to run when I was a little girl and he came home from work, and who showed the greatest delight in scooping me up and hugging me close, thus preparing me to understand the love of God so poetically and truly described by Therese. Thanks, dad! May St. Henry and his wife, also blessed, continue to intercede for you and mom until the day you both meet them both in Heaven! And while they're at it, may they intercede for all parents of all readers here, and for us who are parents too, and for our children. Though they were childless in exile, that's only one more reason they'll be glad in Heaven to take us on as spiritual children and lead us safely Home to our true Father, who awaits us, His arms open.
But no, He's not waiting. I see Him leaning way, way, way down to earth to scoop us into His arms before another minute is wasted apart. May He cuddle you close, and may you snuggle close to His Heart full of every blessing and all Divine Love. And from your safe place in Love's arms, why not join me in a final prayer?
Draw me, we will run!
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