Monday, September 5, 2016

Saint Teresa of Kolkata

In Rome this morning, our beloved Pope Francis is canonizing another beloved person Mother Teresa, as a saint.  The experience of Christ's suddenly turning with a powerful new word of life and discipleship described in today's gospel was one that was “pivotal” in her life.  She was born in August of 1910 in the Albanian city of Skopje into a devout Catholic family.  At the age of 18, Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu entered the Sisters of Loretto in Ireland and took the religious name Teresa after St. Therese of  Lisieux whose interior life she was to be called by God to imitate in ways that the novice Sr. Teresa could not have imagined.  As the Book of Wisdom said this morning, “Who can know God's counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends.” After the year-long novitiate she went to India to the Loretto convent school in Calcutta (now called Kolkata.) In 1937 she made solemn profession and became, in her own words, “the spouse of Jesus for all eternity.”  As a solemnly professed Sister Teresa was now called Mother Teresa. The Loretto convent was a beautiful monastery with a fine school that served the children of the wealthy.  Nevertheless, Mother found great happiness in her self-sacrificing work as the school's principal and in her religious life of consecration to Jesus in a dedicated and loving community of sisters. Her twenty years at Loretto were profoundly happy and filled with consoling prayer, even mystical prayer, as well as demanding service to the young. She was a faithful follower of the Lord.  She was, indeed, like the great crowds we just heard about, traveling with Jesus. 

Then, beginning on a train ride to her annual retreat in 1946, Jesus suddenly pivoted.  He turned to her by means of interior locutions and visions and spoke to her heart filling it with Jesus' own thirst for love and for souls, particularly the most neglected and unloved.  He revealed to her that he sought out “victims of love” like her who would “radiate his love on souls.”  “Come be my light” was his call to her—she would describe it as her “call within a call.”  As we all know, she did truly become His Light. She and her thousands of Missionaries of Charity became a Light of Compassion and Mercy to the whole world, religious and secular. 

The Vatican website biography of Mother Teresa says that: “The whole of her life and labor bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship with God...But...hidden from all eyes...was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with and ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, 'the darkness.'  The 'painful night' of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led her to an ever more profound union with God.  Through the darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in His painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior desolation of the poor.” (unquote)  Again, who can know God's counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?  I believe that she took so seriously her commission from the Lord that the Lord himself chose to reveal Himself to her no longer in prayer (although she remained faithful to it) but only through the faces of those she met, especially the poorest of the poor.  

On May 21, 1976 Mother Teresa went out of her way from her full schedule at Holy Cross College and elsewhere to come here to the Abbey and have tea with us and then pray with us in choir at the office of None. Fr. Marius had written inviting her but never heard back. The visit, therefore, came rather spontaneously when she realized her opportunity: there was a Jesuit priest who would drive her here.  At our tea party with Mother Teresa, Br. Edmund asked her what she thought we should be doing.  She answered: “Continuing faithfully to live out your Trappist vocation.” Br. Jude saved her tea cup, never washing it.

In the Eucharist we will encounter the most important Person we will meet today. If we do this with the spirit of  Saint Mother Teresa, every  person we meet today will be the most important person we meet today!

Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily.