The Mother Teresa moment
September 6, 2016 (HLI) -- God is so good! He gives us just what we need even as He calls us to more complete communion with Him, so that He can give us more.
Amidst the fire and smoke of the attack on life and family, an ascendant Culture of Death entrenched in almost all major social institutions, daily news of violence and corruption…
A moment of peace.
Isn’t that like Mother Teresa? I never had the pleasure of meeting her in person. I wish I could have. As more and more testimonies are published we are reminded of how she allowed God to use her for His glory.
Story after story speak of the transformative experience of meeting the tiny religious sister from Calcutta. Recent testimonies from pro-life doctor John Bruchalski, human rights campaigner Reggie Littlejohn, and so many others in our movement recall the profound peace she left with those who met her. They speak of the depth and compassion in her eyes as she took time to speak to each person regardless of their station in life. They speak of being overwhelmed as she held their hands in hers and how she seemed to have time for everyone. Just the right amount of time, even in her incredible busyness.
HLI’s Founder, Father Paul Marx, met Mother Teresa on more than one occasion, and she was very supportive of HLI’s mission. Many of us in the office have a copy of a handwritten letter from Mother to Fr. Marx encouraging him to persevere. We draw strength from her example as well.
We are reminded again of the strength of her public speeches at Harvard and in front of the Clintons at the National Prayer Breakfast, where she spoke the truth to power in love. At these and other talks, her script didn’t come from a panel of sophisticated advisors, but from a heart broken and pouring out. She earned tremendous respect without superficial appeals to sophistication and “nuance”, by speaking the truth and living with integrity.
The distinctive robes of the order she started, the Missionaries of Charity, point to an authentically Catholic approach to what the Church calls authentic, integral human development that takes into consideration every person and the whole person. This is the real seamless garment: Mother’s self-donation to all in the name of Christ was a true effort of solidarity and subsidiarity, a personal encounter with her Savior in the poor. That’s how she saw it. There was absolutely no contradiction between her devotion to the poor and marginalized and her constant and passionate denunciation of abortion as the biggest destroyer of peace.
She knew that high level peace efforts were doomed to fail if they allowed or enabled the continuing assault against the most vulnerable in the womb. She knew that contraception was terrible for women and the family. Her tireless work with some of the most destitute families in the world helped her to understand that such extreme poverty can constitute what the Church calls a grave reason to postpone pregnancy in many cases, so she devised a simple way of teaching natural family planning to women, which was effective and more in line with their freedom and dignity as persons made in God’s image than the present secular “solution” of contraceptives and abortion.
Hers was clearly a life lived “on the margins.” The compassion she had for the dying man her sisters found in the gutter in Calcutta was the same she had for a woman who had aborted her child. She saw and deeply felt the pain of being abandoned, and would not let that stand while she had strength, because she would not let Christ be abandoned.
Mother Teresa knew that Our Lord Jesus was truly God with us, the Principle of our unity as a Church, and the only true principle of unity the world will ever know. This is why she would never dream of accepting support that would require her setting the Gospel aside in order to do “good work.” The idea was incomprehensible to her. Whenever she opened a new home for her missionaries she always asked the local bishop for permission to install a tabernacle so that her sisters would have Christ present in His Body, Soul and Divinity. Only by putting Christ first, Mother knew, could her sisters have the strength to put into effect His radical love for those who are most vulnerable, most rejected by society.
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Few deny that hers was a life that transformed the world for the better. Of course, she has critics, mostly atheists confounded by the notion that she and her missionaries saw the person in his temporal and eternal dimension, and saw Christ in them. Although Mother did open medical facilities and bring healing to places where it was most needed, she always saw her primary role as comforting the person right where he was rather than preserving his life at all costs. She brought many doctors to places where they could save lives, but her sisters, lacking medical training, often just comforted those at the end of life, accompanying them at the end of their journey. The Missionaries of Charity see the person as both body and soul, as destined for heaven, and their job here as witnessing to Christ by loving those they encounter.
God’s wisdom is not the world’s wisdom. His greatest work often fails to impress those who measure the world only by man and man’s desires. Though a special person like Mother Teresa can gain great worldly acclaim despite her rather extreme simplicity and humility, there will be those who don’t get it, because they don’t get Him.
That is where we come in. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was named Saint Teresa on Sunday, we had a moment of gift and responsibility. As is always the case, the moment begins with a renewal of our own commitment to Christ in prayer and the sacraments. We must see how Teresa loved Christ in others, personally; not as an abstract “love of the other,” or at least not primarily so.
Like another Saint who shared her name, Teresa of Calcutta had a little way of loving that God used to enormous effect. Let’s love powerfully in small ways in our own lives, giving the world a true example of Christ’s love. If it is to have a larger effect, leave that up to God. Be faithful, let Him use our work for His glory as He sees fit. Live with the generosity that comes from a grateful heart and mind that know Christ is present in us and in our brothers and sisters.
He is the Lord, the Prince and Principle of peace. Let’s use this moment of peace, this break amidst the chaos, to renew our love of Christ and others in Him. If we can do this, we can bring this peace with us as Mother Teresa did, and we will be using this moment well.
Reprinted with permission from Human Life International.