Like a shepherd He will gather the lambs in His arms and carry them close to His heart, alleluia.
Recently my dear friend John posted on his blog, Bacon from Acorns, a lovely and loving reflection called “Remembering Miscarried Children.” Speaking of the five beloved children he and his beautiful wife have lost to miscarriage, John writes, “I know not for sure precisely where they are. I trust that God, their Heavenly Father, holds them in his hands, in some special way.”
I feel myself in a privileged position. Not only am I blessed with the public revelation of the Church, but I have, in addition, what very few have been given: namely, the extra insights and example of adorable intimacy with Jesus found in the four volumes of the writings of Servant of God Marcel Van.
Consequently, when I read of John and and his wife’s love for their departed children, I want to share something from Marcel which I didn’t intend to share until much later. Like maybe years after I’d convinced everyone of the impeccable Truth I find in Marcel’s writings. To be frank, I don’t know if the world is ready to hear the following conversation between Jesus and Marcel, but knowing as I do now that my friends may need to hear these words today, it seems right and just to let the world worry about its own troubles, while we take consolation in the remarkable vistas Jesus opens to us through Marcel.
In the following passage, Marcel and Jesus speak of “children not yet baptized” – I am confident their words embrace children both born and unborn, and it is marvelous to hear with what love Jesus regards them and the plans He has for them. Not only that, but (my favorite part in all Marcel’s writings – except I’ve said that before of other passages and I’m sure to say it again) what could be more delightful than Marcel chiding Jesus for (seemingly) “scorning St. Thomas”? Ah, Marcel, you are cheeky and real. Thank you for your deference to the Angelic Doctor, and for your eternal ability to make me laugh!
Without further introduction, then, from Appendix 2 of Marcel Van’s Conversations, I give you “Excerpts from a letter to Father Boucher,” written in Saigon, 21 March 1950. (This letter can be found in full in Correspondence, but here at the end of Conversations is where I found it first.)
During prayer this evening, while meditating once again on the goodness of Jesus towards children, I remembered the words that Jesus spoke to me concerning children not yet baptized . . . But I was very worried, asking myself if that was really the case or quite simply a figment of my imagination. So, Jesus came to me immediately to free me from this concern, saying clearly to me:
‘That is not a figment of your imagination but a true doctrine which, as I wish it, must be recognized as true by the Church. Yes, I want the Church, as a good and kind mother, to open her arms to welcome these little ones and admit them to the number of its children, like many others who have had the happiness of receiving baptism. If, because of circumstances, they were not able to receive baptism like the others, they have, however, the right to receive it.
‘Further, it is original sin that prevents them from enjoying sanctifying grace. Now, by virtue of my merits, original sin has been largely atoned for. On the other hand, I have given the Church the power to retain and remit sin. So why would the Church not have sufficient power to remit the original sin of these children, even if, because of circumstances, they cannot receive baptism like other children?
‘If the Church wishes it, these children are purified immediately, since the Church alone on earth possesses this power. Consequently, in this domain, no spiritual power can oppose her authority, even if non-religious parents did not wish their children to enjoy the grace of Redemption, since in this case, the parents’ will would be unjust in regard to an innocent child who does not yet have the use of reason. That is why the Church can freely exercise its authority and nothing can oppose it.
‘Little brother, remain in peace. What I have communicated to you is not something that should trouble you, but really a point of doctrine which I wish to make known to my venerable Spouse, the Church.’
Marcel: So, why have the holy Doctors, like Saint Thomas, held a contrary opinion?
Jesus: An opinion and a revelation are two different things.
Marcel: So, do you intend to scorn Saint Thomas for having held an erroneous opinion?
Jesus: Not at all, little brother. I am not saying that it was an erroneous opinion, but clearly a truth which was not yet known. That is why I wish to reveal it so that the Church may publicly recognize it. Do not be troubled. I am the Truth. Continue to follow me, without fear of ever being lost.
Marcel: Yes, but is there no extraordinary sign to make these things known, then . . .
Jesus: Remember, little brother, what I said to my apostles: ‘Let the little children come to Me, since the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.’ Did these words, said on that day, concern only those children who were then present, or all the others to come? The extraordinary sign, which surpasses all imagination, is the infinite goodness of God in three Persons.
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Marcel concludes by asking Fr. Boucher, “My Father, what do you think of that? What Jesus repeated to me in this way, I am hurrying to communicate to you, and I beg you to give me a response so that I know what to hold on to . . . ”
I love that Marcel’s attentiveness to Jesus is subordinated to his obedience to the Church (here represented by Fr. Boucher, his spiritual director). We can do no better than follow Marcel’s example. The Church has not yet officially spoken on this matter, but we have the endorsements of three Cardinals and an Archbishop in their introductions to Marcel Van’s collected works, not to mention that one of these Cardinals and the first postulator of Marcel’s Cause, Cardinal Francis-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, is himself now a Venerable.
We cannot give to private revelations, even those heartily approved by the Church, the assent of faith properly so called, which is the assent due to the public Revelation of the Church. We give, instead, “an assent of human faith, in keeping with the requirements of prudence, which puts them before us as probable and credible to piety.” (Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, future Pope Benedict XIV, from his classic treatise which became normative for beatifications and canonizations.)
And again, as Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) stated, “Private revelation is a help to faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation” (Theological Commentary on the third part of the Secret of Fatima).
Reading and re-reading Jesus’ words to Marcel (taken in conjunction with Marcel’s words to Jesus), I find prudence satisfied, piety increased, faith helped, and my heart and mind led back to the definitive public Revelation. What is more central and essential, after all, to the definitive public Revelation than “the infinite goodness of God in three Persons”?
And not for the first time, I find myself echoing Jesus’ sentiments: “I give praise to You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, You have revealed them to the little ones” (Matthew 11: 25-26).
Although – or perhaps because – my pregnancies have been only two, leading twice to sons who are (28 and and 15 years later) still with me in exile, my heart goes out to those who have been given children only to have them quickly “taken away.” I have heard many friends repeat Job’s words, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” but for all who have lost children, whether you repeat these words yet or not, may God bless you. And in particular, may Jesus, our Good Shepherd who gathers the lambs with care, console you through His words to Marcel.