"Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid."
This morning I woke early, a joy because I take this as a sign that Jesus is waiting to chat together. There was a lot of nose blowing (on my part), which made our tryst slightly less romantic, but I am a Miss Marcel with allergies, and as they don't stop me from enjoying life, I don't really mind them. Today, then, they and Jesus woke me, we took an allergy pill (me and my allergies), and then I settled down to be with Our Love. Soon enough (maybe from the get go) I was sleepy, and as I began to drift off, I imagined Jesus saying, "Everything you do pleases me. You can choose - go back to sleep or . . .
start a District Attorney's office in Atlanta."
What a choice! Reason told me, as it was losing its grip, "Definitely choose sleep; you clearly need it and we're halfway to dreamland already." But my sense of humor had taken hold. I can only repeat: what a choice! I was so amused, I had to write it down to share with you here. It amused me awake, after surprising me so: I thought my choice would be between sleeping and writing this post. Who knew my destiny might await in the Deep South?
Nothing new under the sun, as they say, and certainly not a new D.A. office in Georgia started by moi. Technically, the "they" who say there's nothing new under the sun are the Trinity, the same Who tell us that Jesus makes all things new (we read this both in Isaiah and in Revelation). Huh. Lots of recycling going on? Or maybe we can read it better and resolve the conflict (we're not huge fans of conflict here at MMM) by lettering it "Nothing new under the Son," because He sees and knows all, which doesn't prevent Him from making everything new - even though He's known the old and new already - for us, for whom each surprise from His hands is more surprising than the last. Or, in a broader and more Winnie-the-Pooh based interpretation, perhaps every book needs its Eeyore and, for the Bible, that would be Ecclesiastes!
More to the point, however, is this paradox (nothing new and all things new) as we find it in Jesus' admonition, counsel, advice, suggestion, frequently repeated and invariable wisdom: "Let not your hearts be troubled," aka, "Be not afraid." I love how Papa John Paul was telling us this truth constantly too, as if it were new - or rather, as if we weren't remembering. So true! We weren't and we aren't - or should I speak for myself? No, I think I speak for everyone on the planet this time. We're so bad at not worrying!
Can you imagine if there was an Olympic sport of worrying? You know why there isn't? They could never decide on just 3 winners! The judges would need medals in every possible metal, and then they'd have to start forging medals from other elements. "And the hydrogen medal goes to - Miss Marcel of the U.S.A.! We present it in this handy paper bag (California resident? that will be 10 cents, please) to facilitate recovery from her hyperventilating! Congratulations, Miss Marcel!"
No, please don't worry (I add my own refrain to Jesus'), I am not prone to hyperventilating as well as allergies. It was just an example - a made-up one - but I had you going, didn't I? Because my funny story is not far from the truth: really, we are so wonderfully good at worrying that the other reason they couldn't make it an Olympic sport is that so many of us are professionals. And yet, isn't it wonderful how Jesus never gives up on us?
I love Marcel and I love his Conversations because I know they are real. After 51 and a half years of carefully studying reality (I'm of the Aristotelian-Thomistic-John Holt school of thought that recognizes man's natural desire, ability, and just-can't-seem-to-stop addiction to knowing, and I'd say it begins at least as soon as we're out of the chute) - so after 51 and a half years of this learning and knowing, when I met Marcel and Jesus in him (and in his book), I recognized the Real Thing. As I was thrilled to hear again last Sunday (thank you, Kathleen G!), "Truth Himself speaks truly, or there's nothing true." St. Thomas Aquinas said it in Latin, Gerard Manley Hopkins rendered it in English, and it gets me every time. I love that resonant "Yes!" that echoes in the heart when Truth Himself speaks truly, whether it's in the voice of Aristotle, St. Thomas, John Holt, Snoopy, or Jason Bourne. Granted my last example is a little out there (have I welcomed you to my world lately? A warm welcome, absolutely!), but given everyone's propensity to shoot on sight in Bourneland, "We're blown!" rings as consistently true in that fictitious world as "Fear not" does in the real world, where Jesus loves us infinitely (and never shoots to kill, only to wound our hearts with Love).
Which brings me to something big. I started that last paragraph by saying I could tell from the get-go that Conversations was the real thing, and my conviction has only deepened in the two years of our acquaintance. I think Lionel Trilling said something about the book knowing the man as well as the man knowing the book. And then there's that quotable quote from Hazlitt:
"Books let us into the souls of men, and lay open to us the secrets of our own."
Yes, exactly. Conversations lets us into the secrets of the souls of Marcel, Jesus, Mary, and Therese. Some souls! And simultaneously (or a fraction of a second later), it lays open to us the secrets of our own souls. Like in this matter of worrying . . .
My "something big" relates to Jesus' heartfelt and oft-repeated efforts to get us to stop worrying, stop fearing, and trust Him (and our true Father and the Holy Spirit) to take care of everything. I'm not even going to begin quoting Scripture or this would be the longest blog post in recorded blog post history. Let's just say that we could meditate on certain passages from Isaiah, St. John, St. Paul's letters, take your pick, and never exhaust their beauty and gentleness, their truth and depth, their common theme which is repeated tirelessly by Jesus in Conversations (and, too, in the exhortations of St. John Paul II, starting on the balcony minutes after he accepted the daunting task of being Peter, Christ's vicar, our Holy Father). . . "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid."
Nothing new! And yet Jesus is always doing something new, and when He suggested I open a D.A.'s office in Atlanta (okay, it's not clear whose idea that was, and it might well have been my guardian angels' idea - of a joke!), I got it. I don't mean I got the idea that I should, and I don't exclude that I got the idea I was half dreaming already, so why not choose sleep, but primarily I mean that I got the message which is this:
As Jesus does not tire of reminding us not to worry (thank God He has the patience of Job!), neither does He tire of coming up with new ways to tell us the same old, same old: namely, not to worry, nor does he tire of finding new ways to make us laugh. He's God, so He's known this a very long time, but it occurred to me only this morning that it's hard to laugh and worry at the sa me time.
I'll grant you the nervous laugh seems an exception, but we're not speaking here of sad, wimpy, pathetic excuses for laughs, but rather of seriously hilarious, L.O.L, even R.O.T.F.L. (that's "rolling on the floor laughing"), side splitting, stomach aching, hiccup inducing, I-just-can't-stop,-So-sorry, tears rolling down the face laughs.
Like when I'm lying in bed trying to decide what to do next at 6 a.m., and Jesus (having broken me in via Marcel and his silliness, which competes with mine for the gold medal) suggests the Georgia lawyer thing as if its a viable alternative. Sometimes He has me going with His outrageous morning ideas that I think sound reasonable (let's just say my husband, the brains of the operation here, has to swat these ideas down like flies every few days, though he likes a truly good idea as much or more as the next guy), but this one - starting a District Attorneys' office in Atlanta - it just cracked me up!
And when one is cracking up, there's no more room for fear!
Sure, those around the cracker may be more than a little concerned (if you haven't seen Harvey lately, you have my permission to watch it right after you finish this post; it's one of Marcel's favorite movies!), but the one cavorting with invisible friends is usually having too much fun to worry even what those around him are thinking. What a blessed relief such friendship and resulting unconcern are from our usual state of low level paranoia!
What started this train of thought early in the a.m. (don't worry: not a heavy and serious freight train of thought; more like a brightly colored Duplo train of thought, complete with giraffe in the third car) was my seeing the Divine Mercy Image shining out at me as I tried to recover from my allergic waking. Don't worry (again; our theme!), it was neither an allergy-induced nor Heaven-sent-find-me-a-good-spiritual-director vision, but merely the framed picture hanging on the wall. Due to the morning light seeping through the blinds beside Him, Jesus-in-the-picture was illuminated beautifully, and I was sitting across from Him realizing just how wonderful He is.
Can you imagine what Love motivated Him to appear repeatedly to a Polish nun (only a few years before He began chit-chatting with Marcel) in order to provide us with the whole Divine Mercy package? Chaplet, Feast Day, but simplest of all - somewhat disappointing picture of Him (poor Faustina, so distraught over the unlikeness between Jesus' painted face and Jesus' real Face!) which - MOST BRILLIANT IDEA EVER, thank You, Jesus! - has "Jesus, I trust in You!" emblazoned across it so that just as we can't help but read the cereal box in front of our bleary eyes of a morning at breakfast, or the name tag of our best friend at a party (you know the person, you begin the greeting, but THERE! there's something to read on your friend's lapel, so your eyes drop and you read it before you finish your greeting, thus implying you couldn't quite remember the name of your best friend and needed the name tag!)......so in exactly the same way we can't help, bleary eyed and empty headed as we are, but read (and consequently pray, in some manner), "Jesus, I trust in You!"
When it comes to His conversations with Marcel, Jesus didn't request a painting, nor (in His Mother's style) a medal, nor a church to be built at the site of their gab-fests. He simply asked Marcel to write down everything they said to each other. Oh merciful Jesus, thank You! These words do me more good than the most beautiful paintings, medals, and cathedrals in the world! You know I love all those signs of Your love, but somehow in these words Marcel wrote for us, You share the eternal spring of Your Holy Spirit, the Living Water that begins at last to quench our thirst. Jesus, we love You a lot! Keep us close to You and Marcel forever!
And so, along these lines, I have been thinking lately of the many suggestions Jesus and Mary offer us, in Conversations, to help us stop worrying. It makes me smile (and even laugh!) to think that after all my thinking, this post is about the littlest way of all, the way of children, the way of laughter. Thank You, Jesus, for giving us Marcel to make us laugh!
And now, how to lightly and smoothly introduce some words from the boy himself? I think we'd best resort to the age-old custom of letting the Holy Spirit choose. Let's open the book at random and see what He has for us today . . .
Can I tell you a secret? I was a little worried (yes, worried! will I never learn? Probably not, but this is good because it will force Jesus to keep trying to teach me not to worry, and that will keep Him close) - I was a little worried about whether the Holy Spirit would come through this time with the random-page-as-His-choice maneuver. Ha! Silly me! This is the Holy Spirit we're talking about. Not a problem for God, and even in the hands of an amateur, Conversations is a bit of a trick deck - every page a Face card. First time out, then, our Love picked a winner; here it is, around (457) :
Marcel: This year, little Jesus, I am not going to serve Mass at the Carmel. I remember that last year I really felt like laughing and I said to myself: if I had succeeded in becoming a Carmelite, no one would have known that I was a man. In fact, last year I said the prayers with the sisters and my voice blended so well with theirs that no one knew that it was I who was reciting the prayers. That is why, after Mass, the brothers said to each other: "There was certainly a sister outside the grill, because the voice of a sister was heard clearly on the outside reciting the prayers." No one could guess; I was the only one who knew who was saying the prayers on the other side; and this question of my brothers made me want to laugh. It is only later that they learned the truth and they found it strange that my voice was so similar to the sisters. This year, little Jesus, my voice has broken, but if I imitated the voice of the sisters, no one would be able to tell.
Jesus: Like you, little brother, my experience was the same; the more I grew, the more, also, my voice changed too. But, concerning you, little brother, if you had entered Carmel I would certainly not have loved you as much as I love you now, since you would not have had the strength to put up with the austerities of the Carmel.
Marcel: So, I am very weak then?
Jesus: One could not be more so . . .
Marcel: However my sister Saint Therese who was able to put up with it [the austerities of Carmel], never stops saying that she is weak. What, then, can be said of my own weakness?
Jesus: Little brother, I have already spoken to you on that point, but you have a very short memory. Physically, your sister Therese was stronger than you; but spiritually, in regards to Love, who is not weak? It is true that physical strength can help with enduring sufferings with a little more joy; but my Love knows how to choose crosses which are suitable for each soul, because if I sent the same trials to all souls, I would certainly not have a single one as spouse. Do you understand, little brother?
[And here, if I may interject, is one of those times when I'm wondering: what will Marcel respond? Jesus has said something very beautiful. Do you understand, little brother? I won't mind if you say "no," for then Jesus will explain more. Let's see what you will say to our Love in reply to His explanation . . .]
Marcel: Little Jesus, at one time I really would have liked to enter Carmel, but one thing frightened me . . .
[Oh, so no direct response? Or perhaps you're leading up to that. Poor Marcel, what frightened you about Carmel? The mortifications? The austerities? The silence? Forgive me for interrupting; I will let you speak and tell us . . . ]
Marcel: One thing frightened me; it was to have to wear a brown habit. I do not at all like to wear clothes of that color. I remember when I was small, my mother, one day, made me a very nice pair of brown trousers that I went and tore up immediately; I only liked to wear white clothes and my mother had to bend to my whim.
[Marcel, you little imp! The brown habit was your fear? You are as bad as we are! And what a naughty little Peter Rabbit you were! But I'm interrupting, and you have more to say. Sorry, but you're too funny!]
Marcel: When I was still a postulant, Brother John Baptist gave me a brown shirt that I did not at all like; and because I was ashamed, I waited two or three weeks before daring to wear it. Afterwards my sister said to me to make me laugh; "Dear brother, you resemble me a lot. I also had to wear a brown habit; but now it is you too who must wear one. Truly, you resemble me a lot . . . Yes, evidently we must both resemble each other." That is all she said to me and I felt like laughing. I made an effort to wear that shirt sometimes and, once used to it, I no longer wished to change it for another and I continued to wear it until my entry into the novitiate. Actually, I do not know if it still exists. My sister Therese is very skillful at joking with me. It is enough for her to say something amusing to me to make me wish for things that I did not want.
+ + +
Fr. Boucher adds here: "I have witnessed this very simple fact."
+ + +
Jesus: Little one, you are already tired. That's enough, go and rest, I am giving you a kiss. Rest yourself, otherwise you will be too tired and our Mother will not be pleased.
[Ah, Holy Spirit - You think of everything! We are in our novena to Mary, so we must have a word about our Mother, and here is Jesus introducing her, and next Marcel speaking to her. Thank You!]
Marcel: My dear Mother Mary, today little Jesus has not given me any collation; and, a short time ago, He did not cease asking my forgiveness. I forgave Him gladly, without giving Him any penance. We only laughed together and expressed our love for each other. Our mutual relations could not be more attractive and, in my opinion, even if in heaven there were only little Jesus and me, that would be enough to make you joyful. What can be said, then, of your happiness since there will also be in heaven the true Father will all the saints. Dear Mother, I love you a lot . . .
* * *
Yes, dear Mother, we love you a lot! I have only one worry left now . . . In the Murillo painting of you that I so love, up at the top of this post, I find that although your lap is as capacious and welcoming as I remember, little Jesus is so very big that He's taking up most of the space! And He's standing! So we will ask you to have Him sit, and shrink please to make room for us (He must decrease so that we, His brothers and sisters joining Him on your lap, can increase!), and then could we watch a movie? (Marcel still wants Harvey, as a day-after-his-birthday treat.) And Mama, today we add to our intentions everyone who has to wear brown: all the Carmelites and the Franciscans, and any others whose habits or clothes are brown, and then the rest of the religious orders, for perhaps they have austerities of their own, and crosses to carry, and then too, dear Mother, please take tenderly into your care all those who are sick or suffering in any way - in body, mind, heart, or soul . . . You are our true Mother and know just what we need. Take care of us, and don't forget to make us laugh! We love you Mother Mary! Kiss Jesus for us, and Marcel, and Therese, and St. Benedict on his feastday, and all the Bens in the world, especially our own Ben, and Papa Ben (and Papa Frankie too, giving him a huge hug as well since he is our earthly Papa).
And with that, we only have to ask (before the movie starts): Is there popcorn?
Or should we go with Sugar Babies and Red Vines? (Marcel loves Sour Patch Kids, a popular choice at our house, too.) Whichever you choose, don't forget to turn the lights down and the volume up. Or maybe just the lights down if, like me, you woke early to Jesus' teasing. In His words, "Little one, you are already tired. That's enough, go and rest, I am giving you a kiss. Rest yourself, otherwise you will be too tired, and our Mother will not be pleased."
There it is - Truth Himself speaks truly, and as we all know, if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
Happiness to all the mamas, then, and rest to all the children, and if you fit both categories, don't choose, just laugh! And then, a final prayer before our droopy eyes close altogether (one more reason not to read these posts while driving) -
Draw me; we will run!
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