Prayer is Sustenance

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Last week, the book of Mother Teresa's private writings was published--Come, Be My Light. I suppose I should first comment on a subject that disturbs many--the publication of writings that Mother Teresa had expressly requested be destroyed. Thank goodness the Church knows a legacy when they see it, and recognizes sanctity in human form when we are graced with it. I think about the fragments of letter from St. John of the Cross, the pitiful number of them, and of the destruction of what probably amounted to a great many of them by St. Teresa of Avila as a way of detachment. What a tremendous loss for the entire world that destruction was. We have a lessened sense of the beauty of spirit and the warmth of St. John of the Cross. We're left with an image of austerity and sparseness.

Fortunately, that has not been allowed to happen with one of the great Saints of our time. A saint so great that she throws Christopher Hitchens into paroxysms of anger every time he casts a thought in her direction. (Talk about a man resisting conviction--a man who needs his atheism, his crutch every bit as much as he think those with religion do--a man who battles God daily in his attempt to remain squarely in unbelief--a man personally challenged by Mother Teresa.)

While there is much new in the book, much insight into things we had only small glimpses and hints of, there is also very much that is well-known and which reflects who she was publicly and consistently.

from Come Be My Light
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Every Sunday I visti the poor in Calcutta's slums. I cannot help them, because I do not have anything, but I go to give them joy. Last time about twenty little ones were eagerly expecting their "Ma." When they saw me, they ran to meet me, even skipping on one foot. I entered. In that "para"--that is how a group of house is called here--twelve families were living. every family has only one room, two meters long and a meter and a half wide. The door is so narrow that i hardly could enter, and the ceiling is so low that I could not stand upright. . . . Now I do not wonder that my poor little ones love their school so much, and that so many of them suffer from tuberculosis. The poor mother. . . did not utter even a word of complaint about her poverty. It was very painful for me, but at the same time I was very happy when I saw that they are happy because I visit them. Finally, the mother said to me: "Oh, Ma, come again! Your smile brought sun into this house."

Consider the details of this little note--a room with a door so narrow and a ceiling so low that Mother Teresa--not exactly a giantess--could not fit through or stand upright. Those are straitened circumstances. And the thickness of poverty, so powerful you could feel it standing at a distance.

Now consider that Mother Teresa, pained by the poverty she can do nothing about, goes nevertheless because of the joy she can spread by her mere presence. That is a powerful witness to her obedience and to her love. I wonder how many among us would be willing to endure what is unthinkable to us for the sake of bringing joy to others--the word of God? I know for a fact that I am not there yet. Poverty frightens me. The impoverished frighten me in ways I can't begin to understand or articulate. There is no cause for fear, and yet, there you have it. I am not a saint, much less a Saint. Undoubtedly, that will come in time.

Much of the book focuses on the sharp contrast between Mother Teresa's inner darkness and her outward apostolate of spreading joy and the word of God among the poorest of the poor. It is filled with extravagances of love, and as such, it is a guidebook to love--to how to show profound and real love despite the fact that inside there is nothing but constant yearning, constant desire, constant longing for the infinite that seems to have vacated the space. Well, to give an instance:

Please pray for me, that it may please God to lift this darkness from my doul for only a few days. For sometimes the agony of desolation is so great and at the same time the longing for the Absent One so deep, that the only prayer which I can still say is --Scared Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee--I will satiate Thy thirst for souls.

If you have not already bought this book, you may want to consider it. At very least get it from the library and read it carefully. As with the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, I have a feeling that I will be returning to this book again and again, to learn from the example of Blessed Mother Teresa-- a Saint I have been privileged to see, even if only from a distance.

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Thank you for your review. I have been so busy with the start of school that I failed to notice that this book was out. I need to get one immediately. And it is teacher's discount week at Border's!

God bless you and your family.

I also found this to be a wonderful book and it helped me to appreciate Blessed Mother Teresa even more.

"a man who needs his Atheism"

That is a very insiteful observation. That snaps into focus a few run-ins I've had with some rather obnoxious Atheists and Agnostics.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 28, 2007 7:39 AM.

Prayers for My Father-in-Law please was the previous entry in this blog.

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