It was a source of some disappointment for me to have been unable to see the exhibition dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta that is currently being held at the Oratory in Oxford. There was an outside chance that I might be able to nip in on my way back from preaching at The Queen’s Chapel in London a week or so ago, but as it worked out I had to get back to the parish and had to shoot back up the M6!!
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic order of nuns dedicated to helping the poor. Begun in Calcutta, India, the Missionaries of Charity grew to help the poor, the dying, orphans, lepers, and AIDS sufferers in over 100 countries. Mother Teresa’s selfless effort to help those in need has caused many to regard her as a model humanitarian. Mother Teresa’s task was overwhelming. She started out as just one woman, with no money and no supplies, trying to help the millions of poor, starving, and dying that lived on the streets of India. Despite others’ misgivings, Mother Teresa was confident that God would provide. Undergirding everything that she did and taught was her faith in Jesus. She was affectionately referred to as “the Saint of the Gutters.”
But it would be wrong to imagine that Teresa’s walk with Jesus was an uninterrupted journey of bliss and certainty; a path lined with rose petals. One book that is never very far from me is one written by Paul Murray entitled “I Loved Jesus in the Night.” It is based on conversations that Murray had with Mother Teresa along with some of her own correspondence. They illustrate how, for decades, she experienced what is described as a “dark night of the soul” in Christian spirituality; she felt that God had abandoned her. While the letters shocked some people, others saw them as proof of her steadfast faith in God, which was not based on feelings or signs that he was with her.
At the very core of her life was prayer, prayer that sustained her through many and various trials. One that she used often before Holy Communion she actually wrote down. It reveals a lot about her innate humility and how her belief revealed itself in practice. Mother Teresa prayed;
“Let (others) look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you. Amen.”
May we all find encouragement and take example from Blessed Teresa whose Sisters still labour in the gutters of the world.