To Be Friends with a Saint
The girl sporting the floral wreath above is Marie of the Trinity, a novice under the direction of St. Therese (who is standing behind her) in the Lisieux Carmel. One of my favorite books is about the two of them: Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity by Father Pierre Descouvemont, and one of my favorite moments in the book is when Father D tells us that from the time she was a child, Marie had wanted to sometime in her life be friends with a Saint. Not just the way we are friends with the Saints because we, on earth, love and depend on those who are in Heaven and vice versa. No, Marie was a child after Therese's own heart, and she had a much bolder aspiration. She wanted to actually live with a Saint, and not only that, but for the Saint (uncanonized as yet because still alive) to be her very good friend, and then later for that very good friend, when gone on to Heaven, to be so recognized by the Church as a Saint.
I may have forgotten to mention it here lately, but as Therese so clearly illustrates (and as Jesus so clearly tells Marcel), we are to be demanding, importunate, entitled, unquestioningly confident, and ridiculously bold with God - in other words, as Jesus says in the Gospel, just like little children.
Not to change the subject, but my husband and I were in a Tesla showroom yesterday (let's just say it's his 30th wedding anniversary too, and if we can peruse bookstores, why not showrooms?). Well to my great delight, the Tesla people have actually named one of their fanciest model's features "Ludicrous Mode" - that's their version of Star Wars' Lightspeed and it takes you from 0 - 60 in a record 2.4 seconds. (Who knew? I was the blonde who asked "Where's the engine?") Well the point is, Marie of the Trinity prayed in ludicrous mode, and we should too, because as Therese teaches, "God is so mighty and so merciful; we obtain from Him as much as we hope for." Look at the results of Marie's prayer - she was one of Therese's best friends for the few years they knew each other on earth. God does not hesitate to give us the very coolest gifts. Never mind a Tesla (sorry, honey, out of our price range), but the very best gifts, like real friendship with real saints . . .
I was thinking of this friendship between Marie and Therese because last night I had my prayer answered. Not the one about being friends with a saint (I'll tell you about that one later), but the prayer about watching the Marcel Movies. (If you click on "Marcel," you'll go to the one I started watching last night; if you click on "Movies," you'll be whisked to the other of the two, which I hope to watch today.)
Near our home there's a wonderful movie theater that has Dollar Night every Tuesday. Too often there is not a single movie (of the 7 or so playing there) that is worth a dollar. We found this out the first time we said, "Let's just watch anything - it must be worth a dollar each!" Well no, actually, it wasn't, but it was free to walk out, so we didn't lose too much. Recently, however, we went to see "Paul, Apostle of Christ," and then the next week, "I Can Only Imagine," both of which were excellent films about faith, hope, love, and our adorable Jesus who loves and saves us. (I would mention that both of them have very intense scenes of suffering, so please look them up online by clicking their titles here, and read about them before you decide to see them yourself, and "I Can Only Imagine" is not suitable for children.)
I mention the theater and the satisfying movies I've seen lately because I find it such a pleasure to watch a good movie - a pleasure and a rare treat. Even with religious movies, it's the rare one that delivers what I'm hoping for, and here God has been showering down good movies upon my head as if they were the heavenly roses I've been boldly requesting. I'll take what I can get and keep praying in ludicrous mode! But since you likely don't have a dollar theater near you, and even if you did, you would often run up against the usual slate of movies unworthy of your gorgeous soul, please do consider spending the price of two normal-movie-theater tickets (and a small popcorn) on one of Marcel's Movies. Because WOW - you are in for a treat!
Here's the deal - on the first one, "Turning Suffering Into Joy," besides the movie itself, one of the special features is an 11 minute clip of an interview with Fr. Antonio Boucher, Marcel's "Bearded Jesus." (You can see his picture on the right at the top of this post.) The interview was done 15 days before Fr. Boucher went to join Marcel in heaven, and it is awesome. I only watched a few minutes of it last night before I had to pause the DVD so I could write down a quote . . . And now - hold onto your hat - the second movie, "The Beatification Process of Marcel Van," includes the full 55 minutes of that interview!
If you can't wait to hear Fr. Boucher on Marcel, you don't actually have to . . . Thanks to Marcel's good friend Jack Keogan, there's yet a third Marcel Movie, and this one available for free online (at Jack's site: marcelvanassociation.com). It's called "Hidden Apostle of Love," and it too has an excerpt of that poignant and powerful interview with Bearded Jesus, Marcel's novice master, spiritual director, and best-earthly-friend and spiritual father.
What got me thinking about Marie and Therese was the unavoidable fact that Fr. Boucher is, in the interview, a very old man reflecting on someone (namely Marcel Van) who was his very good friend on earth, but whom he knows to be now in heaven. Not long before he died, having spent the 20 previous years translating Marcel's writings from Vietnamese into French, Fr. Boucher succeeded in convincing the Church to open Marcel's Cause. Not surprisingly, then, his story reminded me of Marie of the Trinity's. What would life be like if you were close friends with a future Saint? Taking Fr. Boucher's and Marie's lives as examples, we can see that after your Saint friend left you for Jesus-in-Heaven, you'd spend the rest of your own life pondering their messages, writing down what you remembered (if writing is your thing), and praising God for this insanely wonderful gift He'd given you. Oh, and furthering the Cause if there was one, or perhaps working to start a Cause if there wasn't. Or, because a Cause is really, like most everything in the life of a Saint, begun on God's initiative, maybe you'd just go on living your life, but always with the precious memories and inspiration of this friendship which, now that your friend has run the race and reached your common Goal, lights your way to get there too.
But on the other hand, maybe you'd forget about the friend entirely. Until the promoters of the Cause contacted you to give your witness before the official tribunal. Wouldn't that be awkward? What would you say? How about, "I don't know what you're talking about. Who?"
That is, in fact, what one of Marcel's dearest friends, Brother Andrew as he was called in their novitiate days together, said when he was contacted. Wonderfully enough it all made sense eventually, as Brother Andrew (or rather Fr. Joseph as he is now) explains in the foreword at the outset of Marcel's Volume 4, "Other Writings."
It turns out that Brother Andrew and Marcel were such best buds that Brother Andrew prayed, "Jesus, I'm afraid I may love Marcel more than I love You. If that is a danger, please separate us and make me forget Marcel entirely." Doesn't it sound like Brother Andrew was a saint-in-the-making too? This is like praying for humility or suffering, and I urge you: PLEASE DON'T. For myself, I'm more likely to pray, "Jesus, please give me friends who are so good and holy that I'm in danger of loving them more than You!" I am confident He'll make sure He's still my Truest Love, but oh how consoling it is to have another Jesus on this earth to be a friend in exile, just like Marcel had Fr. Boucher (and Fr. Boucher had Marcel).
But alas, Brother Andrew prayed his prayer, and God who is so mighty and so merciful answered it to the letter. So that many decades later, the people in France who contacted Father Joseph (the former Brother Andrew) had to send him the magnificent correspondence between himself and Marcel Van (from many decades before) and even Marcel's other writings too, before Fr. Joseph remembered that yes, he had in fact been a very close friend, a best friend, of Marcel Van's, now that you mention it!
And now I'm going to mention briefly a third way one might react to having been friends with a Saint. If you were me, for instance, and you had the privilege of knowing a Saint in his last years, and being his very good friend, exchanging scads of letters and having miracles happen due to prayers the Saint said for you (while both of you were still on earth), well as I say if you were me in this situation, you'd occasionally remember that you had a best friend ever who was now a Saint, and most of the time you'd just go on forgetting.
Which is why, last night when I realized that I always forget which day is Marcel's feast, his death-in-exile and birth-in-Heaven day, and when I remembered that it is July 15th (I think - if I'm getting it right this time!), and then I remembered too that July 15th was the day (in 2006) that my dear Fr. Nicholas Maestrini, P.I.M.E. (Italian missionary extraordinaire and lover of St. Therese from the time he served as an altar boy at the Papal Masses for her beatification and canonization in the early 1920s) with whom I had the privilege to be friends from his 93rd to his 98th year (thank God for longevity!) left this earthly exile for Heaven . . . well, I was floored.
In these two and a half years since I've met and become close friends with Marcel, I've often thought that Fr. Maestrini was orchestrating the whole thing from heaven, right there with St. Therese, making sure Marcel and I became BFFs. Thank you, Father, and forgive me for being (when I'm not remembering) so very forgetful. But then, that's the beauty of Jesus' words to us in Conversations. He's forever telling us through Marcel that forgetting is no problem - it only allows Him to remind us again of the many things we've forgotten!
Thank You, Jesus, for friendship with the Saints: those on earth and those in Heaven. Help us to remember our friends, those who have gone before us to You and those from whom we are separated in this life. Most of all, help us to become Saints so that our memories of each other, even if never called upon as testimony in Causes (!!!), will fortify us, cheer us, move us to tears of joy and awe, and finally bring us to You in Heaven, where we'll live together with each other forever, never to be separated again!
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P.S. Well no, I didn't get it right this time, and the Phil Collins song "I Missed Again" is running through my head . . . I just now looked up Marcel's death-in-exile, birth-in-heaven day and Nope, it's not July 15th as I stated above, nor is it June 10th (the date I thought it was a couple of days ago), but are you ready? It was, is, and ever shall be July 10th (1959). Not that I'll remember, but you might, and do feel free to hit the Contact Me button in the sidebar to let me know next time I flub it here.
Marcel's got nothin' on me - I'm as forgetful as he ever was, and then some! But I have the advantage of his Conversations to remind me that Jesus doesn't mind a single bit. And as a bonus, this little addendum gives me the chance to say Happy Pentecost! Whatever day it is when you read this post, may the Holy Spirit fill your life with friendship and the Saints. As to Fr. Maestrini, his birth into heaven actually was July 15, 2016, and I'm adding a link HERE to introduce you to him and let you know I got that right at least!
P.P.S. I said it was two and a half years since I met Marcel. Actually, no, it's only been one and a half. Time flies when you're having fun, but the flip side is: How could there possibly have been a time I didn't know Marcel? Either way you look at it, reality and truth triumph here in my corner of the Internet, so let it be known that it's been merely a year and a half of Miss Marcel musing (pre- and post-blog). Ad multos annos!!!
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