Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

December 29, 2009

Lessons from Mother Teresa

Day after day, hour after hour, He asks the same question: "Will thou refuse to do this for Me?" -- Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light

My spiritual book of the month is the now-famous book of the letters of Mother Teresa which were published in 2007. Though I bought it when it was first made available, I am not really getting around to it until now. I like to think that the Holy Spirit directs me to read certain books that I have on my shelf when I need them the most. (Maybe I'm just justifying the fact that I buy too many to read right away.) For some reason, I picked this off the shelf and am making my way through it and hopefully finishing before the new year begins. So far, three things have stood out to me:

1) I am so struck by the difficulty Mother Teresa faced in starting the Missionaries of Charity. It is incredible how many letters she wrote to get it off the ground with Rome. She was completely faithful to the process and to her superiors, but she refused to quit her pleading. I can see her digging her heels into the ground in Loreto, foregoing despair and holding onto her conviction. It's a beautiful image I have in my mind, and an example to us all. She had every confidence that Jesus would work through the process of obeying authority (a good reminder for me at work!).

2) She describes the imperative from Jesus to start the Missionaries of Charity as a "call within a call." I think this is perhaps the most important contribution to the theology of vocations that we've had in a long time. It's easy to break down the vocations into single, religious, or married, and to leave them at that. But every vocation, whether single, married, or religious, or the vocation to work or to serve...all have little "calls within the larger call." How many times does God shatter the image of our own vocation by introducing something new into it and calling us to something unexpected?

3) Mother Teresa's discussion of cheerfulness is one of the most beautiful that I've read. In fact, when asked why type of woman would be recruited for the M.C., she answered, "Girls from the age of16 and upwards. -- Strong in body and mind with splenty of common sense. -- They must be able to put their hands to any kind of work however repugnant to human nature. They must be of bright, cheerful disposition."

Earlier in the book, she describes what she means by cheerfulness. I think it's written for me!

"When I see someone sad," she would say, "I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus." It was in giving Jesus whatever He asked that she found her deepest and lasting joy; in giving Him joy she found her own joy. "Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please her God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

Mother Teresa, she exemplifies simplicity and profundity all in one doesn’t she? I also love the concept of a "call within a call". Some of us may be called to be wives and mothers, but more specifically mothers to boys or mothers to girls or mothers to children with special needs. Some women are called to be Missionaries of Charity and work amongst the poor, others are called to become cloistered and spend their lives in prayer. We need them all. And it’s so beautiful how God allows us to be most fulfilled when living out our particular vocation.

Your post also reminded me that I really need to work on the virtue of cheerfulness too…

p.s. I also buy way too many books at once. I really should buy stock in Amazon.:)

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