Friday, September 5, 2014

Sept. 5, 2014 Friday: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Under Our Lady's Mantle

From the Foreword of Mother Teresa: In The Shadow of Our Lady

"You are sitting with Mother Teresa, watching her smile as her loving eyes take in everything about you, feeling the comfort of her strong hand on yours, the aura of holiness around her person, the solace of her gentle words. You watch her tend to the sick and the dying, going out of her way to perform the smallest gestures of care and compassion: the caress on the brow, the squeeze of a hand. You see her in the back of the chapel in Calcutta, immobile and bent in prayer, lost in God. How often I asked myself if I were not seeing in such times something of the Blessed Mother herself, experiencing a glimpse of the Virgin of Nazareth.

When I was with her, I had the sense-one shared by many others, and not only Christians-of being before a living mirror of the one whom Mother Teresa simply called "Our Lady;" of encountering a representation in human flesh of her whom painters and poets had sought for centuries to capture by their art. But here was more than a painting or a poem, much more than a figure in oil or in words. Here was a living icon, genuine and deep, who gave freely of God's love no matter how high the cost, who radiated his presence even when she could no longer feel it. Mother Teresa did as Mary had done before her during Jesus' long years away from Nazareth, during his infinitely longer hours in the tomb. Even when the Lord seemed absent to her, she loved.

As those of us who have had the privilege of knowing her can attest, Mother Teresa was someone who loved God and neighbor joyfully through whatever came, who would not have changed her life, as she often avowed, for all the money in the world. Just as we celebrate the joyous fruitfulness of Our Lady's long night of faith that stretched from a crowded Cave to a barren Cross, so too can we celebrate the bright harvest of Mother Teresa's own long "Marian" night, turned endless day. Like the blackbird, she sang her song in the night, that night dwellers might mark the dawn.

She was not born this way; she did not begin by shining in the night, by reflecting the same Light as the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev 12:1-RSV). It was over many years, through love and labor, that she was forged by a divine process into an "embodiment of Mary in our midst," as she was described by so many after her death. This process had a simplicity to it, as we shall see. It was this: From dawn to dusk and decade to decade, Mother Teresa's life had been spent, in every sense of the word, in the shadow of Our Lady. Day by day, intimacy became transformation.

During the thirty years that I knew her, Mother Teresa became for me the one book on Our Lady that I could never put down, the one that continues to teach me, to fascinate me, to draw me beyond myself into God. What you hold in your hands is the fruit of my reading of that book, the lights and lessons I have learned from the pages of her life."

-Joseph Langford, MC