In the previous post (which you can find just below this one), we got a good start on Why Marcel. The Reader's Digest Condensed Version is that he's the second Therese, and we need another Therese because her Little Way has been such a crowd pleaser that she's become a celeb. You know, a celebrity, and that means while her stock has gone up, her credibility has somewhat gone down. Sort of like if Donald Trump promoted the Little Way (wouldn't that be fun?) - impressive, but then we'd wonder if he was really living the dream (of obscurity, littleness, weakness, powerlessness, and absolute surrender to God).
One thing about having a blonde soul - I feel like I'm the author of many firsts. I'm not sure anyone else has compared Therese to Donald Trump! Well God bless him, may he discover and live the Little Way too. But that prayer having been said, we must get to Marcel and see exactly why Marcel too. Not just why we need a second Therese, but why Marcel is the one to be that second Therese.
As I've been thinking about the great littleness of Marcel and the beauty of his mission, I've felt a nudge (from the Holy Spirit? my guardian angel? Hamlet the poodle?) toward his Autobiography. Yes, it was definitely the Holy Spirit and my guardian angel (the dog does nudge, but usually toward his food or water or the door to The Great Outdoors With The Squirrel), because when I opened to my favorite pages of the Autobiography - where Therese first speaks to Marcel - there I found Therese saying straight off what I've been beating around the bush to say for a few days now. Here is the passage:
"Van! My dear little brother! . . . Yes, it is really your sister Saint Therese who is here . . . From this moment I will let you know all my beautiful thoughts on love, that which has occurred in my life and has transformed me in the infinite Love of God. Do you know why we are meeting today? It is God Himself who has arranged this meeting. He wished that the lessons of love which He has taught me in the secret of my soul are perpetuated in this world, and, for that, He has deigned to choose you as a little secretary to carry out the work He wishes to entrust to you" (Autobiography, 590).
Therese then explains that God is allowing them to meet so she can be the one to reveal to Marcel his beautiful mission of being God's little secretary.
It was some time after this conversation (nearly 3 years, I think) when Jesus told Marcel the same thing in His own words. In the first entry of Conversations, He says, "I want you to serve as an intermediary of My love . . ." and tells Marcel to do the same work as Sister Benigna Consolata.
Sister Benigna was a Visitation nun (like Therese's sister Leonie) whom Jesus had chosen as His little secretary in the early 1900's. The novices in Marcel's Redemptorist house knew of her and were enthusiastic about her writings, full of messages which Jesus had dictated. So when Jesus told Marcel he would be another little secretary like Benigna (though I am so grateful He also said, "I do not wish you to cause yourself as much pain as Sister Benigna), Marcel knew what Jesus meant. (And I don't know how much pain Benigna experienced; I'm only happy Jesus did not wish as much for our little brother!)
I love Marcel's reply to Jesus' commission, a reply reminiscent of Moses explaining to God that surely He could find a better spokesman. Since Moses stutters, he tells God that he's n-n-not the man for the job. God smiles, and agrees to cut a deal. Aaron can help.
Marcel's reply to Jesus, along the same lines, is equally adorable and equally futile: "My Jesus, my handwriting is terrible."
Ah, Marcel, you have made Jesus (and me) smile! No worries, He will trust Fr. Boucher (Aaron to your Moses?) to decipher your terrible handwriting when the time comes. The important thing is that you are completely natural and sincere, along with being entirely weak, forgetful, and easily distracted. Hence you are the perfect one to show us that these are the very things in us that draw Jesus as a moth to a flame. Here, in His own words, is why He wants and needs you to be His little secretary (rather than someone who has perfected the Palmer, Spencerian, or Italic handwriting method):
"In asking you to be the intermediary of My love with your compatriots, My intention was that you write not only the words that I dictate to you, but also those that you speak to Me. Since there are many who only listen to what I say without daring to converse quite frankly with Me as children, under the pretext that it is not proper . . . tell them that I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love Me . . . "(Conversations, 6).
Really? This seems too good to be true. We know that especially for half of the human race (can you guess which half?), simple ordinary conversation flows like floodwater after a deluge! I was looking for a sweet and mild simile, something about a dear babbling brook or the like, but let's be honest here - we women can talk! I've known my share of men, too, who can hold their own when it comes to filibustering, so if this is all Jesus is asking, we've got it made. Can it really be this simple? (Spoiler: Yes, it can be. Yes, we've got it made in the shade.)
The great thing is that Jesus always means what He says. And even more wonderfully, He knows how slow we are to believe, so He keeps repeating Himself, ad infinitum, you might say.
At her first meeting with Marcel, Therese had explained at length this same surprising truth Jesus is so insistent upon: "I gladly listen to ordinary conversations, even the simplest ones, and I take pleasure in hearing them. There, that is all I expect from souls who love Me."
She explained it to Van in these words:
"When you speak to the good God, do so quite naturally as if you were talking to those around you. You can speak to Him of anything you wish: of your game of marbles, of climbing the mountain, the teasing of your friends, and if you become angry with anyone, tell it also to the good God in all honesty. God takes pleasure in listening to you; in fact, He thirsts to hear these little stories which people are too sparing with Him. They can spend long hours telling these amusing stories to their friends but when it's a question of the good God who longs to hear such stories to the point of being able to shed tears, there is no one to tell Him about them. From now on, little brother, don't be miserly with your stories to the good God. All right?" (Autobiography, 601).
And then . . . Therese laughed!
Marcel, although he so often complains of not understanding, is nonetheless smarter than he sometimes looks, acts, and sounds (what a twin soul!). He was well catechized, and he was not going to just take this crazy advice without being sure. In recounting this first amazing conversation, he admits a few pages later, "There were many words that I did not yet understand. So at my request she had to break off often to explain clearly to me the meaning of each sentence. Furthermore, I am quite analytical. I thought that on many points Therese would have been justified in getting angry, since I did not cease from reasoning forcibly. But how could she be annoyed with her unruly little brother? Knowing full well that his stubbornness was restricted only to the time of discussion, but once he had understood, it was over, and he would have been ready to defend the contentious point even at the cost of his life" (608).
Yes, but first he must be convinced, and we know by experience that sometimes good things are hard to believe, even if our teacher explains it every which way.
Here, for instance, in this question of how to talk to God (how to pray, really), after Therese has told Marcel that he should tell God, his loving Father, all his little stories, however mundane and seemingly trivial (though actually of great interest to Marcel himself), our little brother asks, quite logically, "But, holy sister, God already knows absolutely all of these things. Is it still necessary to tell them to Him?"
Listen to Therese's answer and you will see why she's a Doctor of the Church. So smart!!!
"It is true, little brother, that God knows everything completely. All is present to Him from all eternity. From all eternity, also, God knows, absolutely, all of that so nobody has any need to speak of it to Him. However, to 'give' and to 'receive' love He must lower Himself to the level of a man like you, and He does it as if He's completely forgotten that He is God who knows everything, in the hope of hearing an intimate word springing from your heart. God acts in this way because He loves you; He wishes by that to fill you with precious graces, to let you know of all the good desires and all the delights that one tastes in His love" (602).
If I had a shred of editorial sense, I'd stop here and comment, or move on with the rest of this post. But ah, any amount of editorial sense (and let's pretend my sense is tremendous, just for the sake of argument) is positively dwarfed by the overwhelming sense of gratitude at what Therese will say next. Hang on to your hats! This is the Little Way at its finest and most beautiful. Therese further explains:
"I want to make use of an example here. When a daddy wishes to give his little child a kiss, of course he cannot remain standing up straight and lazily demand that his child heaves himself up to his lips to receive this kiss on his cheek. Could such a kiss be called an affectionate kiss? Evidently not! To give a kiss to his little one, it is understood that the daddy must bend down a lot, right to within reach of his face, or again, take the child in his arms. In both cases he must bend down.
"Have you understood, little brother? God is our loving Father. In order to show us His love, and to receive the love which we offer to Him, He has really wished to lower Himself to our level. For love, there is no difficulty in lowering oneself in this manner. The only problem, before which God appears to be powerless, is to notice our lack of love and confidence in Him. He sees Himself rejected in a totally unfair manner, yet He never rejects us."
Again, this passage calls for, if not a commentary, then utter, grateful silence. So please, feel free to pause and soak in that image, that utter truth, that knowledge of God's infinitely condescending love.
I, on the other hand, must keep typing! We little secretaries can't pause until Jesus says "Time!"
And He is not saying time's up yet; rather, He's wanting me to tell you how wonderful it is, this teaching of Therese, so wonderful that He, too, will soon enough (after Therese has said this) tell Marcel the same thing. Jesus and Therese are tag-team-teaching! As I mentioned a moment ago, Our Lord does not tire of repeating His lessons. So after sending Therese to Marcel, He will Himself teach to him (and to us through Him), again and again and again, what she is trying to make our little brother understand. Divine patience! How lovely this virtue of God!
And now Jesus is saying, "Time!"
He's given us so much to think over that I'm saving the rest of this post . . . Why Marcel, Part 3, is on the docket, and meanwhile, although I said we had it made in the shade, even in the shade you must be feeling His love, after all these words He's had me transcribe. . . So please kick back and bask in this lesson that the only thing He asks of you is to tell Him your little stories, let Him share in your everyday life, and let Him come down to your level and kiss you. How sweet He is! And how very little we are . . . and how well He knows that and caters to it. For so long we've been thinking we need to do something big, even if that's only to talk to Him like we know what we're talking about. Forget it, let go - we had it wrong. We can talk to Him in any words that come easily, and if we are too tired to talk, we can just look at Him, or merely sigh. Ah, but that's a lesson for another day - tomorrow I hope . . .
For now, in closing, let's pray together our little prayer that accomplishes everything, and then let's rest. Our work is done for today, and we need to gather strength to be ready for His kisses tomorrow.
Draw me, we will run!
Oh, and little Jesus, we love you a lot!
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