by Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman
All eyes were on Mother Teresa of Calcutta as she stood below the gaze of the large mosaic “Christ in Majesty — the Apocalyptic Christ” in the north apse of the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
It was a hot summer day, in the mid-80s, during one of her many visits to the Marian shrine. My fellow graduate students and I had the firsthand privilege of hearing the diminutive saintly woman of God, known throughout the world as a champion of the poorest of the poor and the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. Listening to her speak was a welcome break from our summer studies. It was most of all a great inspiration and dream come true!
The lights in the sanctuary were brilliantly bright above as Mother Teresa spoke in her simple, humble manner. I assumed that the sparkle I witnessed around her forehead was only a reflection bouncing off her bobby pins.
Later on the way back to our institute, Tony, one of my fellow students, began to speak about his experience of the woman religious.
“I saw an aura of holiness encircling Mother’s head,” he said excitedly.
“It was her bobby pins,” I promptly corrected him.
“No, it was her sanctity,” he dug in.
Tony and I went back and forth for a while, defending what we each believed to be the truth. Reflecting later on our conversation, I realized that both of us were correct. Yes, they were highly reflective bobby pins. And yes, there was an almost tangible spirit of holiness radiating through her presence and words, touching the hearts of us hearers.
Now St. Teresa of Kolkata, she lived her calling to give her heart unreservedly to the One whose gaze penetrated every aspect of her life and made her an instrument of his merciful love to the poorest of the poor and to all she met.
More than a million men and women worldwide today live the consecrated life as religious Sisters and Brothers, monks, contemplative nuns, consecrated virgins and widows, members of societies of apostolic life and secular institutes, and hermits.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is blessed with 262 women religious from 13 congregations, 51 religious priests and 17 Brothers from 13 congregations, and three consecrated virgins living in the world.
As the church celebrates World Day for Consecrated Life on Feb. 2, may we remember gratefully those whose very existence helps us to focus our eyes on the true light of the world.