by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
I recently read “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light — The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.” This book has received a lot of publicity because it reveals the interior struggles with which Mother Teresa had to contend.
Mother Teresa made her final profession as a consecrated religious Sister in the
Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Loretto Sisters) on May 24, 1937. She wrote to her confessor back in Macedonia at that time: “One thing, pray much for me — I need prayer now more than ever. I want to be only all for Jesus — truly and not only by name and dress. Many times this goes upside-down — so my most reverend ‘I’ gets the most important place. Always the same proud Gonda (Mother Teresa’s given name).
“Only one thing is different — my love for Jesus — I would give everything, even life itself, for Him. It sounds nice but in reality it is not so easy. And just that I want, that it not be easy. Do you remember once you told me in Skopje (her hometown): ‘Gonda, you want to drink the chalice to the last drop.’ I do not know if at that time, I thought as I do now, but now yes, and that joyfully even without a tear. ”
In addition to the heroic vows taken by every consecrated religious of poverty, chastity and obedience, Mother Teresa in 1942 took a personal vow not to refuse God anything. Four years later, Mother Teresa would experience what she described as her “call within a call.” She speaks of hearing the voice of Jesus in her prayer pleading: “Come, come, carry me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light.”
With her promise not to refuse God anything, she felt compelled to respond immediately to this mandate from Jesus to serve the poorest of the poor. She never wanted anything but to be a consecrated religious, espoused to Jesus. But in order to fulfill this request of Jesus, she would have to leave her beloved Loretto Sisters and begin her own community, the Missionaries of Charity.
It was most interesting for me to read about the reaction of her bishop, Ferdinand Perier, the archbishop of Calcutta. From their correspondence, Archbishop Perier, at one point, seems more than a little aggravated with Mother Teresa’s urgency to fulfill this call within her call immediately. Mother Teresa wrote to Archbishop Perier expressing her frustration that she did not receive speedy approval from him for leaving the Loretto Sisters to begin her new community.
As eager as she was to move forward in responding to the Lord’s call, she believed that the Holy Spirit provided guidance through those entrusted with authority within the church. She knew that she must wait, even if impatiently, until the Lord convinced the archbishop of the authenticity of the mandate she had received from Jesus. Of course, Mother Teresa did eventually receive Archbishop Perier’s permission, and the Lord would remarkably bless and make fruitful her beautiful gift of her life to the poorest of the poor.
The majority of the book reveals the great interior struggle Mother Teresa experienced throughout most of her life as a Missionary of Charity. Even while radiating an authentic joy to everyone around her, she was experiencing a great spiritual dryness. Contrasted with the previous intimacy she had experienced, the lack of consolation in her prayer left her with a feeling of almost unbearable interior loneliness. Jesus did allow her to drink fully of the cup he drank on Calvary, even to the point of tasting his experience of abandonment while on the cross.
In the midst of this interior struggle, Mother Teresa’s ability to persevere in fulfilling the call from Jesus to serve the poorest of the poor becomes even more remarkable. Her interior experience gave her an even greater empathy for those enduring what she considered the greatest human poverty — loneliness.
What gave her the ability to continue to radiate joy even during her intense interior suffering? Mother Teresa had a great personal love for the Eucharist and a great devotion to Mary, particularly expressed in praying the rosary. Every day she would spend at least an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, in addition to participating in the Eucharist.
She would also require this of her Sisters, counseling them that they need to pray before the eucharistic Lord, allowing Jesus to fill them with his presence, so that they could bring Jesus to, and recognize Jesus in, those they were privileged to serve.
Every day Mother Teresa would pray the rosary several times. She also instructed her Sisters how important it was for them to pray the rosary so that Mary would accompany them in their ministry: “We are taught to love and say the Rosary with great devotion; let us be very faithful to this our first love — for it will bring us closer to our Heavenly Mother.
“Our rule asks of us never to go to the slums without first having recited the Mother’s praises; that is why we have to say the Rosary in the streets and dark holes of the slums. Cling to the Rosary as the creeper clings to the tree — for without Our Lady we cannot stand.”
During the coming year, I am urging everyone in the archdiocese to renew and deepen their love for Jesus in the Eucharist by participating in Mass not only on Sundays, but during the week, and attempting to spend at least one hour a week in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I am also asking every member of the archdiocese to begin or, in some cases, to recommit themselves to praying the daily rosary. In particular, it is my earnest hope that families would make a commitment to pray the rosary together.
Recently, I celebrated an hour of eucharistic adoration and the praying of a living rosary for peace at Christ the King Parish in Topeka. I was delighted that we had an overflowing crowd as the young people and children of Topeka led us in praying the rosary for peace in the presence of our eucharistic Lord.
On the feast of Corpus Christi next year (Sunday, May 25), everyone in the archdiocese is invited to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., , at 3 p.m. to join with members of the Kansas City- St. Joseph Diocese for an hour of eucharistic adoration and the praying of a living rosary for peace. Please mark this date on your calendar and make plans to be there. What a grace-filled moment it will be to have thousands of Catholics united in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament contemplating Jesus with his mother Mary as we pray the rosary!
Even more, I hope this will be a year when we will all discover, rediscover or deepen our appreciation for the remarkable power of God’s grace available to us, just as it was to Mother Teresa, in praying the rosary and adoring our eucharistic Lord.