Way back in the dark ages when I started this blog, I had a lot of fun with a post I called "Why Miss Marcel?" The possibilities of what I might be asking amused me to no end, but finally I wasn't surprised at Miss Marcel's sudden appearance, nor was I asking her to explain why she'd done him in, but rather, I was simply exploring the reasons why I was calling the blog "Miss Marcel's Musings." In order to save space and time (you never know when they might suddenly run out is my thought), I will not recap my reasons (nor my amusement) here, but if you want to revisit them, you can go HERE.
Meanwhile, here today, and hopefully not gone tomorrow, I have titled our post "Why Marcel" with no punctuation, thus hoping to avoid repeating the Who's On First routine of that earlier essay. And, too, I don't have a big question mark in my head this time, so I don't need to muse and amuse by considering options. It's been ages since the "Why Miss Marcel?" post, and we've gained not only in blog post archives, but also in confidence. Which is good, because if we've been hanging out with Marcel and Therese (who go together even more predictably than salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, Abbott and Costello, and Calvin and Hobbes, so to be around one is to be around the other), and managed somehow not to increase in confidence, that would be bad.
Hooray for confidence, then, and for titles with question marks. I do so love titles with question marks; that's even how I once began reading the fiction of Mons. Robert Hugh Benson, namely thanks to a book that practically jumped off the library shelf into my arms (different library altogether from the one where John Wu repeated the attempt, and again from the one where Marcel did the same) thanks to its title. How could I resist Loneliness?? It only had one question mark at the end; the other is to end the question I'm asking in that last sentence, but here I go again, gawking at grammatical gifts. We shall leave the question mark (and our gratitude) for another day . . . just now my point was supposed to be that much as I admire the QM, we will dispense with her beauty today, opting for a more sure-footed title, namely and simply: Why Marcel. As in "I'll tell ya why, if you'll stop your yammerin and let me talk!" Or rather, if I can stop my yammering and get down to it. Come Holy Spirit!
You see, it occurred to me the time was ripe for revisiting why Marcel is such a big deal over here at Miss Marcel's Musings. Yes, yes, true enough, we could hardly call it MMM without some reference to the man behind the myth, but (not to rock your world) theoretically at least this blog could have been called Suzie's Random and Somewhat Stream of Consciousness Ramblings, thus engendering the acronym SRASSOCR. And yes, yes, true enough, that would have been too much for any of us to remember twice in a row, and how awfully annoying it would quickly become to have to repeat the whole string - either of words in the Full Name of the Blog or in the not-so-handy acronym. But then again, theoretically that is, we could've started with an acronym, say PEACHY and called the blog Pleasant, Earnest, and Catholic Happy Yammerings (or any of a large number of titles that go with that peachy acronym).
So let me say it once and set the record straight forever: theories are all well and good in their place, but the honest Injun truth is that there would be no blog here if there were no Marcel in my life. And to set out to explain "Why Marcel" is more than merely to restate the obvious, that I was forced into it after naming the blog Miss Marcel's Musings. After all, we could just have easily called it WWW and focused our discourses on world wide wrestling, though granted that would have taken more out of me in the execution of posts. More research on my part, and that sort of thing. Not to mention the confusion pictures of flowers and such would have caused the WWW community at large.
But finally, I repeat, the purpose of this blog is to write about Marcel, hence the name of the blog. And so, then, to assert "Why Marcel" (as opposed to querying, "Why Marcel?" as if I was searching for the answer) is to prepare to tell you in a kind of follow up post to The Purpose of the Saints, albeit with fewer words, God willing, The Purpose of Marcel. You know, in the big scheme of things.
I don't want you to have to scroll down and re-read that post (or even press a magic word here and be transported there by techno-marvels), so let's re-cap. At the tail end of that whale of a post, I finally got to the Big Reveal, namely:
"The purpose of the Saints is first (and this is how they become Saints) to let Jesus love and kiss them.
But secondly, on earth and from Heaven, their purpose is to convince us to let Jesus love and kiss us too."
Due to the unwieldy (if adorable) and unprecedented length of that post, I haven't gotten a lot of feedback except from the lady with a headache. Thankfully she came to the post with the headache as a pre-existing condition, so she's not suing me for pain and suffering, as far as I know. Plus she's not from my land-of-litigation, California, so perhaps she wouldn't even think of such a thing if I weren't mentioning it now. The obvious course would be for me to delete this paragraph (or at least the references to lawsuits), only she has already let me off the hook regarding deleting and shortening posts, with the apt acknowledgment that we here at MMM are not revisionists. Good. We are proof-readers (usually), so never fear that I'll hesitate to delete an extra word . . . but those are more in the manner of typos (the extra words I'll delete), and I did fix the ones I found in our marathon Purpose of Saints post.
All that remains, then, is to continue where we left off, and taking St. Junipero Serra as our model in this matter, repeat, "Always forward!" and never worry about what musings we've left behind.
Forward then, just for today, is this matter of narrowing down our description of the Purpose of Saints to fit Marcel like a well cut and generous soutane, if not like a glove. Granted, Marcel's purpose does seem awfully like "to let Jesus love and kiss him," and then "from Heaven to convince us to let Jesus love and kiss us too." But just as St. Therese made distinctions among the Saints in the first and last pages of Story of a Soul, so we must too. We might say that Jesus' kisses had different effects on the different Saints, and then the way they teach us to accept His kisses varies from one Saint to another. I am certain that St. Juan Diego, St. Padre Pio, and St. Josemaria Escriva, who were all canonized by St. John Paul II in 2002, have different missions in the Church, even if these 3 missions could all be summed up in our Purpose of the Saints Statement.
At the beginning of Story of a Soul, Therese distinguishes between Big Saints and little Saints, comparing them to the variety of flowers God has created. We know Marcel is a little Saint, like Therese, though paradoxically she ended up as the greatest Saint of modern times (according to Pope Saint Piux X, somewhat of an expert on the subject from the inside, you might say). We'll get back to this momentarily, this Big/little dichotomy, because it factors into Why Marcel. But first, let's see what Therese says at the end of Story of a Soul. Apparently her last pages are less well known than her first, and it would be a shame (perhaps a crime) to let you go another moment without knowing that in her distinction there, she's offering the Little Way to a variety of future Saints (this variety would be us) not distinguished by size, but rather by sin. She writes:
"I have only to cast a glance in the Gospels and immediately I breathe in the perfumes of Jesus' life, and I know on which side to run. I don't hasten to the first place but to the last; rather than advance like the Pharisee, I repeat, filled with confidence, the publican's humble prayer. Most of all I imitate the conduct of Magdalene; her astonishing or rather her loving audacity which charms the Heart of Jesus also attracts my own. Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus' arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him. It is not because God, in his anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love . . . "
Those are the last lines Therese penned, or rather penciled, in what became Story of a Soul. She penciled, rather than penned, because she was so ill that she no longer had the strength to hold a pen. The contrast between the weight of pens and pencils were not as negligible in her day, I think. Plus she would've had to dip her pen into ink, moving her arm (and pen) back and forth from the ink to the paper. So though the last words are faint (she didn't have the strength to press down much with even the pencil), that's how she finished her memoir.
Fortunately for us, she gave her sister Pauline, Mother Agnes, carte blanche to edit her writings. Many have criticized Mother Agnes' free hand, but not Miss Marcel! (That is, not that Miss Marcel is beyond criticism, but rather that she owes only eternal gratitude to Mother Agnes.) Because listen. People in those days (a hundred and twenty years ago, when Therese died and Mother Agnes prepared Story of a Soul for publication and distribution) had some sense and some decorum. So the idea that Mother Agnes could just publish Therese's recollections - written for her blood sisters and her Mother Superior in the convent - publish them without changes and without regard for those whose feelings might be hurt or what damage might be done . . . well that's not an idea that entered her pretty and charitable little head! Instead, Mother Agnes took full advantage of Therese's clear instructions: which were to use her discretion in editing, and then go ahead and make a book out of these writings (which originally had been written by Therese with no such object in view), but be quiet and quick about it, because the devil would want to gum up the works, suspicious as he was (and what a smart devil!) that this book would do tremendous good in bringing souls to God.
I mention this here, about Mother Agnes' work on "Histoire d'une Ame" because whenever I recommend Story of a Soul, I like to explain that there are two editions - Mother Agnes' edition, which was THE EDITION before the 1950's, and the critical (just as it came from Therese's hand, no deletions, no additions) edition which came out in 1957.
While it is natural to our critical age to assume without question or comment that the critical edition of Story of a Soul is best (and should never have been tampered with, as the critics call what Mother Agnes did), I beg to differ. And not just because I don't like conflict. I'm willing to fight over this one, actually.
I beg everyone to remember that it was the first edition of Story of a Soul (the one we owe to Mother Agnes' obedience to Therese's wishes) and translations of it that took the world by storm and ushered in what Pope Pius XI later called, fittingly, Therese's "Storm of Glory" - the miracles, the showers of roses, the quick beatification and canonization, the worldwide admiration and affection that were so spontaneous and universal, and in fact so immediate after the publication of Story of a Soul (which Mother Agnes pulled off only a year after Therese's death) that the Church worried her careful Process (never dispensed with, though the waiting period had been waived in this case) would be outrun by the faithful's devotion.
Anyhow, you may rest easy that this duplicity of beautiful books (or perhaps I mean to say duplication! but since others have worried over the "true" and the "false" edition, I'll let my word stand) causes no difficulty to me. Merely another instance of God's goodness and His continuous embarrassment of riches set out for us to enjoy (especially in the pages of books). For my part, I highly recommend the ICS edition of Story of a Soul, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D. Fr. Clarke did a remarkable job of translating Therese's works (he went to God, his reward, and to meet his sweet Therese before finishing the translations of the last two of her books: her poetry and her plays), and the delightful surprise in this Story of a Soul is the inclusion (following the 1973 authoritative French edition) of footnotes which include passages Mother Agnes had added to complete Therese's thoughts.
For instance (my point in bringing all this up), at the end of Story of a Soul, on this very last page from which we've quoted, there's a footnote to share a story Therese used to love to repeat (and which Mother Agnes had added after the paragraph Therese wrote last, which we quoted above). And just as I wouldn't want you to miss those final words Therese penciled in, so too I wouldn't want you to miss this marvelous story she loved from the Fathers of the Church (though she was too weak to write it herself here, so thank goodness Mother Agnes did). And no worries that Mother Agnes is just making stuff up, pretending she's Therese writing this. There were plenty of little secretaries in the Lisieux Carmel who'd been busy writing down everything Therese spoke for quite some time. So here is Therese's other last word on the subject of God's love and mercy, and her own imitation of Magdalene in the practice of loving audacity:
"No, there is no one who could frighten me, for I know too well what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. I know that this whole multitude of sins [those she would have committed if God had not prevented her; in fact, as she'd put it "all the sins that can be committed"] would be lost in the twinkling of an eye like a drop of water cast into a burning furnace. In the lives of the desert fathers, it is told how one of them converted a public sinner whose evil deeds were the scandal of the whole country. Touched by grace, the sinful woman followed the Saint into the desert to perform a rigorous penance. On the first night of the journey, before even reaching the place of her retreat, the vehemence of her love and sorrow broke the ties binding her to earth, and at the same moment the holy man saw her soul carried by angels to God's bosom. This is a striking illustration of what I want to say, but the reality itself is beyond the power of words to express."
Ah, Therese. You are wonderful! You see what we miss, that God does not give His love only to the innocent, nor is it only the innocent who can have confidence in His love. What would we do without you to explain these truths of the Little Way to us?
As to your purpose and mission, you were very clear. You told your sisters from your deathbed, "My mission is about to begin, my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to give my Little Way to souls. If God grants my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of time. Yes, I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth . . . I will return! I will come down!"
Which brings us back to that distinction you made at the outset of Story of a Soul, and brings us very near to Marcel. These were the pages which not only charmed his heart (as they have charmed the hearts of countless others), but also calmed his fears and filled him with peace. He could be a Saint, he learned from you, for there are such things as little Saints, just as there are little flowers. You wrote:
"I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don't receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw Him shower His extraordinary favors on saints who had offended Him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom He forced, so to speak, to accept His graces. When reading the lives of the saints, I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way when coming to Him, helping them with such favors that they were unable to soil the immaculate beauty of their baptismal robe. I wondered why poor savages died in great numbers without even having heard the name of God pronounced.
"Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
"And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.
"I understood, too, that Our Lord's love is revealed as perfectly in the most simple soul who resists His grace in nothing as in the most excellent soul; in fact, since the nature of love is to humble oneself, if all souls resembled those of the holy Doctors who illumined the Church with the clarity of their teachings, it seems God would not descend so low when coming to their heart. But He created the child who knows only how to make his feeble cries heard; He has created the poor savage who has nothing but the natural law to guide him. It is to their hearts that God deigns to lower Himself. These are the wild flowers whose simplicity attracts Him. When coming down in this way, God manifests His infinite grandeur. Just as the sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each little flower as though it were alone on the earth, so Our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as though there were no others like it. And just as in nature all the seasons are arranged in such a way as to make the humblest daisy bloom on a set day, in the same way, everything works out for the good of each soul. . .
" . . . It seems to me that if a little flower could speak, it would tell simply what God has done for it without trying to hide its blessings. It would not say, under the pretext of a false humility, it is not beautiful or without perfume, that the sun has taken away its splendor and the storm has broken its stem when it knows that all this is untrue. The flower about to tell her story rejoices at having to publish the totally gratuitous gifts of Jesus. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good in her."
Oh little Therese! You are identifying yourself with the little flower, and yet the Church has named you also one of the holy Doctors who illumine the Church! What are we to do? How are we to believe you. Are you little or big? You have taught your Little Way with clarity and conviction from your little place in your little convent in your little town. And yet libraries have been written to try and set forward your doctrine in its purity and beauty. Pope Pius XI called you the star of his pontificate, and said when he canonized you in 1925 (only 28 years after you died) that you enjoyed such knowledge of the things above, that you show everyone else the sure way of salvation. St. John Paul II said of your writings and teachings, when in 1997 he named you a Doctor among the great Doctors, the same words that St. Gregory the Great said of Holy Scripture!
Can you answer me one question, then, dear Therese? Here it is, and I dare you to provide some solution, for my perplexity is greater than Marcel's when he turned to Our Lady and compelled her to put the story of your soul into his hands to clear up his difficulties. Just one question, that's all I have:
Are you a little Saint or a big Saint?
(Gosh that sounds familiar. "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" To which Therese answers in the words of Dorothy, "I'm not a witch at all!" But she can't wriggle out of the little or big Saint question quite so easily).
Therese, all joking aside (for the length of this paragraph at least, if we can contain ourselves), your mission is to teach us to love God as you did, to teach us your Little Way. Might I say that this will be a much more convincing way if you are one of us? Not a teacher who preaches from the heights, but one who has walked the walk before you talked the talk. Otherwise what is your advantage over the many Saints who would teach us how to love God but along Big Ways? Where is your credibility now that you are shining among the brightest stars of the firmament, and if we may say so, as far as our eyes can see, outshining them all? (Our Lady and good St. Joseph excepted.)
I suppose I've answered my question by saying we want to know you walked the walk before you talked the talk. You did live like that obscure grain of sand while in exile, and it was only after death that this grain of sand became a shooting start. But still, it is so hard to appreciate your littleness now that you are so very, very, very (etc.) BIG!
I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again.
Enter Marcel, stage left.
It may already be too late to save us from too many words. If you, dear reader, have a headache, please take two Advil and continue reading in the morning. Or if it's the morning, come back in the afternoon. We'll still be here. But in the interests of brevity (ha! Brevity is a beloved friend, but an introvert who sits too quietly in the corner for us ever to remember her virtues or emulate her sweet ways!), we'll get to the point (and you with the headache, you can pick up later where you left off) and tell it like it is - that is, Why Marcel.
In five words or less, even.
Simply: he is the second Therese.
It is what Jesus called him, what Our Blessed Mother called him, and the name by which they said he would later be known.
His mission is hers, Therese's that is, only in a more credible fashion now that she's up and left us for stardom. Not that she dwells immovable in the highest of the Heights. She promised to return, to come down (she promised this more than once), and she has and does. Frankly I'm not sure I'm ready for her to come so close that she speaks to me in the same (audible?) way that she spoke to our little brother Marcel, but that's fine with her too. She knows I'm more a signature scent kind of girl, happy to occasionally breathe in an unexpected and delightful fragrance that lets me know she's near. (This has not happened frequently, but it has happened occasionally. My favorite was when, about two states and 3 houses ago, I smelled a horrible smell in the house in the middle of the night. A skunk? A dead rat in the walls? I don't know, but it was awful. I prayed to Therese to get rid of it, and then I did my part and went back to sleep. In the morning the smell was gone, and I am an experienced purveyor of smells, so don't tell me I'd imagined it or it was passing. It passed because my good sister took it away with her! Not quite the same as leaving behind the indefinable fragrance of some bouquet left by the heavenly FTD, but it made my day!)
So great, she comes down and gives us roses or even the scent of roses without the visible roses. Awesome. As I said, in fact, great! Except that is the problem. She's up there with St. Anthony and Padre Pio, batting 1000 when it comes to answering our prayers and letting us know she's answered them. (Thanks be to God for husbands, or at least mine. I had her batting 100 until I asked the baseball man what that meant. He said he hoped I was asking about batting 1000, which means always getting a hit. That would be more like it!)
Do we think of St. Anthony and Padre Pio as little Saints?
I don't think so!
I'd say enter Marcel, except that he's already here. The thing is, he's so little in every way that it's easy to overlook him. Which is why he makes the perfect mouthpiece for the Little Way. Or perhaps I should say the perfect scribe, for I'm not asking him to speak to me (audibly) either. Thanks to Fr. Boucher and Jack Keogan (with the mysterious Fr. Marie-Michel and the wonderful Amis de Van as intermediaries), I've got every word Jesus and Therese (and let's not forget our Blessed Mother) wanted him to write for us. Praise God, from whom every good and perfect gift comes.
And now, in the interest of giving you every word that He wants me to write for you today (and not one extra), we'll end here. Tomorrow is another day, and one in which, if we're lucky, we can say more about Why Marcel. Why, indeed! Meanwhile, not a word less than I'm supposed to give you, which means concluding together with our favorite prayer:
Draw me, we will run!
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