Le blog de la Bergerie                         Sharing the faith . . . in English . . . et en français!
I just finished the book on Mother Teresa's
private writings and I am a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of her dedication
and her abnegation but I am also much inspired to deepen my own love and obedience
to Jesus. Because it is all about love and obedience and fidelity, that is the
main conclusion that I drew from her writings, and from the very wise commentaries
by Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk who wove the whole tapestry of her letters together.
Her letters and notes are extremely Christocentric. And the fruits of Mother Teresa's
faithful and complete obedience to Jesus are absolutely amazing!
Here is a woman of faith, a simple but fervent and faithful nun, who got the call to dedicate herself to the poorest of the poor in India in 1946 and who spent the next 50 years living out that call in the most loyal and courageous manner you could imagine! She used every fiber of her being and every ounce of her will every day of her life to answer Jesus' request. Her exemple of charity-in-action touched so many people that the order she founded kept expending worldwide, like a burning fire spreading the light of Christ in the world. The sheer statistics of her centers of Charity are stunning. Started in India, the centers of Missionaries of Charity can now be found in hundreds of places, all over the world, in every continent! Half a century later there are other branches that have sprung forth from the original one of the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity; first the Sick and Suffering Co-workers in mid-fifties, then the Brothers in 1963; the Contemplative branch in 1976, the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests in 1981, the Lay Missionaries of Charity in 1984.
Even while struggling herself with a painful sense of being separated from God in her soul, even with years of desolation (after the initial flood of consolation) she forged ahead and loved him in the poor, in every challenge she faced and she radiated joy and peace and kindness in the process. What a life! What an adventure. What a lesson.
Some of the things she said keep me wondering... For instance, I am fascinated by her ability to empty herself of her own wants and needs in an effort to bring God to others; she said: "I must be able to give only Jesus to the world. People are hungry for God. What a terrible meeting it would be with our neighbour if we give them only ourselves." (p. 281). This is all along the lines of what John the Baptist said (I must decrease so He can increase) but by linking it with today's hunger for God, she added a sense of contemporary urgency. I also hear a call to my own need for humility in her wording: in everyone I encounter, my neighbor can meet God in me - or can meet me, and which one sounds better? Ah! It makes me cringe a bit... But I sure get the message.
And that brings me to another element in her that I find fascinating and that is the combination of great strength and great gentleness. She certainly displayed a wonderful humility during her whole life, she constantly wanted to re-direct people's attention to God rather than to herself and she was profoundly aware that "the work" (as she called it) came from God and that she was his (struggling but willing) instrument. I assume that this humility is a key element of why so many people (believers and non-believers alike) were drawn to her, they were not drawn to her "ego", they were drawn to her achievements and they wanted to get close to her because they could sense a special force within her which was bigger than her and which blessed whomever came in contact with her. She knew exactly what was the source of that strength and it was the love of Christ expressed in his great thirst for us. She just offered her hands - and her feet because she sure traveled a lot! - and she formed more and more Missionaries of Charity to be the hands and feet needed. So we have, on one hand, a very humble woman who is obedient to her superiors and constantly practices self effacement. But we also have on the other hand a very strong woman with great strength and determination, a real manager with surprising and creative organization skills, a bold leader of people, extremely practical and efficient in everyday affairs and this combination of great force and great docility is a fascinating paradox. And it is obvious that no one could try to imitate her superficially without going straight to the very source of her strength which was in her heart and soul, where her love for Christ, her complete dedication to serving him, allowed him to work through her.
While reading the book, I kept thinking of the beatitudes: "Bless are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth" which has always been one of the difficult
beatitudes for me (the first one being another perplexing one). But I think that
Mother Teresa just allowed me to grasp it better.
Another thing that startled me is the fact that not only she wanted to be a saint but she wanted to give God many saints! I had never thought of such a thing! My first reaction was that right then and there was the proof of the depth and maturity of her faith. She was just much farther along the spiritual journey that most of us, that is for sure. I understand the call for holiness (and I only understood it recently for that matter) and I am struggling with it since there are many days when I conclude that it's just not me and that is also not counting the days where I just plain forget about itů But to want to "offer God many saints"? Wow! That is such a beautiful aim. Absolutely amazing. I sometime think that life is a marathon and I am struggling and fumbling in the back of the pack, often tempted to just plop myself on the side of the road and give up but Mother Teresa, who is in the leading group, forging ahead even under great duress, inspired me greatly and gave me very practical advice along the way. Simple and profound things, such as the merit of meekness and the global value of building peace through service and especially she encouraged me to keep opening the door to the love of God and the love of neighbor one inch more today than yesterday.
Read the book: "Mother Teresa, come be my light", I highly recommend it. It is
a very "technical" book in many ways, it is about the love of God and the spiritual
journey (and specifically the one expressed in Catholic spirituality) and if you
are not familiar with prayer, with the Bible and with the Church, if you have
no inkling of the meaning of faith and grace and redemption, feelings vs the will,
or why we need to exercise our souls in the first place, then I suspect that it
is possible you might miss some aspect of this book, as some journalists did.
But for anyone else open to prayer and charity, anyone interested in sharing a journey of faith, then this book is for you.
A couple of months ago, before I had even read her book, I had already written something about Mother Teresa. I had called it: "Of rolling fog and driving faith and Mother Teresa" because I wrote it during one of our summer fog-filled days and it got me to think of the virtues of a faith driven life. See my notes here.
For more information on her, check this site dedicated
to her here
"By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic
nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely
to the Heart of Jesus."
And the most ressourceful place is the official site of the MC, with many interviews so yo can hear her own voice here