Tuesday 13 September 2016

The extraordinary discernment of Mother Teresa

From Peter's Facebook page, 3 Sep 2016:
Here’s a pointed reply to a letter I had written to Mother Teresa requesting permission to join her Missionaries of Charity while in search of “more radical renunciation”. That was barely four years after I had made my temporary profession as a Salesian Brother. Today, on the threshold of my fortieth year as a Salesian of Don Bosco, I rejoice with the world in thanking God for the wisdom of this Saint and Mother of the marginalized who, I firmly believe, is still praying for poor me ... praying for all of us who strive, despite ourselves, to "belong to Jesus”.

Impressive - evangelical discernment and detachment, at a time when Mother was probably searching for good young men to join the male branch of the Missionaries of Charity. I love the simplicity and the pointedness of the reply: not radical renunciation but Jesus. After all these years of "resisting Mother Teresa" - doing works of charity like her was not much in fashion in the JDV of the 1970s, where the talk was all about remedying the structural causes of poverty and injustice, and not indulging in palliative measures. But already then, from Helder Camara of Recife, I had begun to learn that all kinds of people are needed in God's kingdom. Bishop Helder was talking about Fulton Sheen - I dont remember the exact thing, but it was to the effect that Sheen went on doing quietly what he was doing, and donating his money to the poor - even while there must have been people criticizing him for not taking up radical causes. Don Bosco was certainly in the "do good now" or "subito" variety of charity - though perhaps now we his sons need to look higher and wider too, without neglecting what needs to be done immediately in the here and now. (Reading Helder Camara and Pedro Casaldaliga was part of the rather extensive reading in Liberation Theology.... Juan Segundo, though not Boff; and the Mexican chap, was it Miranda, who wrote on Marx and the Bible.) 

But then it is not the text that changes, but the reader. That the reader has understood something new, or better, is because he has grown. You spiral through a text, and then spiral through life, and then return to the text, and it opens up, if in the meantime you have been graced and have responded to grace.... not necessarily completely but at least in fits and starts, those fits and starts that God knows how to weave into a compassionate unity.

So Mother Teresa's simple point: your vocation is not doing something special, not radical renunciation, but following Christ with all your heart. 

Follow your Constitutions to the full and you will find all the sacrifices you need.... Wow. 

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