On September 7, 1946, on the vigil of his profession as a Redemptorist, Marcel wrote in Conversations:
"Mary, tomorrow is the feast of your birthday. How happy for you! . . . Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my sister Therese's profession. Ah! What happiness! It is not only the day of my little Mother, but also that of my little older sister. Is it not clever on little Jesus' part in having chosen this day to join Himself to me? What happiness, dear Mother! Beginning tomorrow, each year I will celebrate on this day a triple anniversary: that of your Birthday, that of the religious profession of my sister little Therese and finally that of my own profession, which will make three anniversaries on the same day. Ah! Little Jesus really has a talent for choosing . . . "
As with everything Marcel says in this most delightful book of Conversations, I could not agree more. Little Jesus really does have a talent for choosing, and it is wonderful how He manages to pile miracle upon miracle and mystery upon mystery such that a single day can encompass so many anniversaries, and a single feast contain so much meaning.
Take the Feast of Epiphany, for instance. Each year I'm thrilled to find this antiphon in the Church's Divine Office:
"Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation."
Somehow we celebrate on Epiphany not only the visit of the Three Kings to little Jesus, which marks God's revelation of His Incarnate goodness to the nations, but also the Trinitarian manifestation at His baptism in the Jordan, when the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove over Jesus' head, and the Father's voice thundered, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." But two is never enough when there could be three, so we celebrate also that day the epiphany of Christ's Divinity when He worked His first public miracle for the newly married couple at Cana, in response to His Mother's simple request, "They have no wine," and again her words to the stewards, "Do whatever He tells you." And thankfully, His telling is so simple. He doesn't make us turn water into wine, but only asks us to fill the jars.
Talk about a feast and an anniversary! Every year from then on, that married couple celebrated not only their wedding anniversary, but on the same day year after year they celebrated Jesus' turning water into wine for them, a prefigurement of the Eucharist when He turns wine (and a drop of water) into His precious blood for us, and in every drop makes available to us "the best wine," namely His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - Himself for our food and drink!
With September 8, too, He couldn't resist adding even more layers of meaning and more anniversaries. I bet you'll never guess the other anniversary, the September 8, 1948 event (see, I'm even giving you a hint as to what year He added it and still you'll never guess!) that brought yet another manifestation of Jesus and Mary to the world. Don't worry, you're not alone. I didn't know it myself, this other lovely anniversary, until yesterday, when the following tender manifestation of God's infinitely solicitous love took place.
I woke early enough to go to Holy Mass. Well yes, that was a miracle, but it wasn't September 8 yesterday (let alone 1948), so that isn't the miracle I want to tell you about. Hang on, I promise we're getting to it, and not just one miracle (though it is simply one more anniversary I'll point out to you), because I've decided that the heart of childhood is miracles, and as little Miss and Mr. Marcels here at MMM, we're all children, so we need lots of miracles. Just yesterday morning, in the Church's Divine Office, we prayed to Jesus, "You became a little child and lay in a manger, renew in us the simplicity of little children." And I've realized since then that the heart of a child is a heart that needs miracles, and so it confidently anticipates miracles, it recognizes miracles, and then it revels in miracles. Hear, then, the sweet miracle that took place at Mass - I mean beyond the usual insane miracle of transubstantiation and Holy Communion with Our Lord!
On my way into Mass, I asked Jesus to give me a little gift. The church I was entering has a table in the back foyer, and on that table are often small trinkets that parishioners have received in the mail from Padre Pio groups, St. Anthony groups, and St. Therese groups - do you know what I mean? On Christmas morning I found there, left by some kind soul who wanted to share the love, a small, beautiful cardboard triptych of St. Padre Pio. In the Octave of Christmas I found one day a "blessed golden rosary of St. Therese" left for me with a small cardboard presentation of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. So, naturally, yesterday I was curious to see what God would give me, but I foolishly entered church by a different back door, and too late discovered I had bypassed the Table of Treasures.
This was a good thing, because I was already late for Mass and so I hastened to a pew and hid my disappointment, which was soon forgotten in the joy of receiving the ultimate gift of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. But just because I forgot didn't mean Jesus forgot!
After Mass, I had the further joy of speaking to Fr. O'Shea, one of my and Jesus' favorite priests. As we exited by the side door and Father was descending the few steps there to the parking lot, an Indian man approached us and explained that he and his wife were returning home after having come here for the burial of their 24 year old son who died a month ago. (And yes, please join me in praying for Khain that he may already be eternally happy with Jesus in Heaven, and for his parents and his dear brother's consolation). But this kind man wasn't asking for sympathy; he was trying to give us something.
As Fr. O'Shea was hastening to a waiting car and its driver, he gave us a blessing, but didn't receive the man's little something, which then by default (but really by Divine Providence's careful plan) was given to me! It turned out this sweet man wanted to share with us and thus spread a special devotion he had brought from home, none other than the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, called in his country (and others, I know), "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour," and according to the little booklet he gave me, called in the island of Crete (near Greece) where the image at the top of our post was first venerated, "Our Lady of the Angels." Little did he know that in missing Fr. O'Shea and hitting me, he was passing his beautiful devotion into the hands of Miss Marcel! I gave him in return a little picture of Marcel on which I scrawled the site of our musings here, so perhaps he'll soon know what a conflagration his spark has begun, but honestly, I'm in awe of God's kindness through the generosity and love of a bereaved but smiling father.
But back to our additional September 8th anniversary . . .
Since getting to know Marcel, I've discovered that Our Lady of Perpetual Help was bequeathed to his (and his spiritual father St Alphonsus') order, the Redemptorists, by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1866. What I didn't know until yesterday was that "In the year 1948, Fr. Edward Placidus Fernandes, returning to India from a trip to Europe, and seeing the wonderful devotion to our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Belfast, Ireland, brought with him a picture touched to the original Picture at Rome. On the 8th of September, 1948, the Birthday of our Lady [and the 2nd anniversary of Marcel's religious profession and the 58th anniversary of his little older sister Therese's profession] - which happened to be a Wednesday that year [and incidentally yesterday was Wednesday too] - after a triduum of preparation [and we have just celebrated a triduum since Epiphany!] by the Redemptorist Fathers, the First Novena services were held in the Church of St. Michaels' Mahim, in Bombay, India, of which Fr. Frenandes was the vicar. Only two services were held every Wednesday, and it took three months before the devotion could take deep roots among the people. It was a very modest beginning without any pretence to citywide publicity or patronage." So says my precious booklet straight from Bombay and the kind gift of Jesus through Khain's father in answer to my little wish for a miracle yesterday morning . . .
And what has been the result of Fr. Edward's September 8 manifestation of the Mother of God and her little Divine Son flanked by the two angels holding the instruments of our salvation?
Now every Wednesday of the year - all year round - thousands of the faithful of India flock to the church of St. Michael's Mahim in Bombay (also called Mumbai). They arrive early since devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour begin at 6:00 in the morning, but then more pilgrims continue arriving in an uninterrupted stream throughout the day, since devotions are renewed hourly or so in various languages until the 16 services are over at 10:30 at night!
St. Therese loved to adapt the Scriptures and other beautiful words for her purposes when quoting them for family, friends, her adopted spiritual brothers, and her little novices, and so I'm in good company presenting you with this (slightly adapted for our use) prayer to Our Lady of the Angels, of Perpetual Help, of Perpetual Succour, from my new tiny booklet. Won't you join me in a little lunge into the arms of Mary, into the place she's saving for us to snuggle with Little Jesus, Marcel, and Therese (and thousands upon thousands of devoted Indians who set us such a good example of love)? We don't have to wait till next Wednesday, and by Wednesday we'd likely forget to say this special prayer anyhow, so for at least one heartfelt recital together, here is our prayer lunge into Mary's arms:
O Mother of Perpetual Succour, dear Mother of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of the Angels,
behold us, your little children, at your feet. We have recourse to you and put our trust in you.
O Mother of Mercy, have pity on us. We hear you called by all the refuge and the hope of sinners;
be then our refuge and our hope. Help us for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth your hand to us, poor little ones who recommend and dedicate ourselves to you as your perpetual children.
We bless and thank God for having in His infinitely solicitous mercy given us a new confidence in you, a new pledge of eternal salvation and eternal happiness, a foretaste of Heaven and a vision of our place in your arms with little Jesus. Alas, too often in the past we have forgotten to trust you, forgotten to turn to you, but we know that with your help we can begin again to trust and hope anew. We know that with your help we will conquer the enemy and our fears. We know that our littleness and weakness, our failures and forgetfulness only attract Jesus to us more, He who has come to save us, we who are so much in need of His salvation and love. We know that you will help us if we recommend ourselves to you, and so we ask you to preserve us from forgetting you and Jesus, we beg you to preserve us from ceasing to give you and little Jesus our glances, our sighs, our love and our trust. This, then, is the grace we seek from you and beg of you with our whole hearts: obtain for us always to have recourse to you and to say to you, O Mary help us, Mother of Perpetual Help, and keep us close to Jesus in your arms, never let us separate ourselves from Him or you, and take from us the fear of that separation for ourselves and our loved ones, since we know He will never fail us, He who is our little Jesus of limitless love.
+ + +
Now isn't that the best? You may not remember, but our very first post at Miss Marcel's Musings was topped by our very first photo (all the way back in December of 2017, practically centuries ago) which was of none other than Our Lady of Perpetual Help! And at last here we are discovering why the Holy Spirit inspired us to begin exactly that way. You see, you just have to wait, and wait, and wait, and don't be afraid to cry out, to repeatedly ask, to keep glancing and begging and getting all your friends to beg too, for that miracle you are awaiting! Jesus will hear us eventually and then He will give us the miracles we await so impatiently . . . but this picture gives us the clue as to why the wait: Jesus is a bit distracted, what with angels holding interesting objects and his dear little sandal falling off too! Ah, the sandals! You see, Marcel, you weren't the first to have sandal troubles!
I don't know precisely what it is you're praying for this minute (and don't worry, your desire is your prayer even when you aren't saying words to ask for it), but I feel safe in guessing you still have a few miracles you're waiting and hoping for (however weak that hope may feel), miracles that Jesus hasn't quite released from His loving hands. You can see in our icon that He's clutching Mary's hand, so that would explain why He hasn't let go of those miracles and dropped them into our laps yet. He probably needs us to climb up next to Him and take her hand in ours, thus freeing His! It's at least nice to know what the hold up is, don't you agree?
For yes, I'm in the same boat, waiting for a few special miracles that look like they're bigger than the miracle of the gift of my booklet yesterday, the holy trinket desired by my childish heart and provided by the so sweet Heart of our Father in Heaven, the One who knows how many hairs are on our dear-to-Him heads, the One who is lovingly aware of all us frequently falling little sparrows on the face of this beautiful planet.
The good news is that in every storm, Jesus is very near.
Just like the Church offers us little Jesus and big Jesus in the triple mystery of Epiphany (what with the mysteries of His Baptism and the Wedding Feast of Cana superimposed on the visit of the Wise Men from the East), so in these days after Epiphany, and yesterday in particular, the Church offers us Jesus calming all our fears as we sweat it out in the boat which seems perpetually tossing in an endless storm. Listen to Him as He approaches, saying as He said to His first apostles when He saw they were tossed about while rowing (for the wind was against them) - and saying this really, really late, in the 4th watch of the night (doesn't that sound late?), after coming toward them walking on the sea. Mark tells us Jesus planned to pass by them, but ah, not really - You can never resist our weakness, good and adorable Savior! And when we, like the apostles, cry out (because we're idiots and think maybe we're seeing a ghost!) - when we see You but in our blind desperation we are terrified (and I'm just quoting the gospel from yesterday here, which aligns so perfectly with our long experience!), then You, Love, at once speak to us as You spoke to them - oh, do speak to us today, and every today until the eternal today! - saying the words we long to hear, the words You perpetually repeat to our timid hearts:
"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!"
The gospel then says, "He got into the boat with them and the wind died down." And this makes perfect sense, and this is what He will do for us too, because as St. John the Beloved Apostle - one who had been terrified in the boat in the storm when Jesus appeared before them on the water and spoke these words of love - as St. John told us yesterday in the first reading at Mass:
"God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . ."
May we revel in His love! May we allow Jesus, Who is Love Incarnate, cast out all our fears! And may we, like the children we are, continue to hope for and expect and find miracles each day!
I could write forever, but then I wouldn't have a chance to go into this day where miracles await, and you'd be stuck here with me, reading these endless musings! Let's go, then, let's run and jump into Mary's arms. Let's pray for each other there, pray for Jesus to grant the miracles we need and those we just want - He's Limitless Love, so let's ask and receive! God bless you on your little way, and meanwhile, let's begin our prayer with Therese's simple formula that asks for everything:
Draw me, Jesus, we will run!
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