Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Memories and Insights about Mother Teresa

Cardinal-elect Wuerl! Archbishop Wuerl has been named to the College of Cardinals. Cardinals serve as advisors to the Pope and can vote in a Papal election until they are 80. Cardinals are elevated bishops, kind of like monsignors are elevated priests. This is a nice anniversary gift for Archbishop Wuerl, 69, who will celebrate 25 years as a bishop in early 2011. He will be elevated formally in a consistory at the Vatican on November 20. Cardinal-designate Wuerl said, “This truly is an honor for the Archdiocese of Washington, the Church in the nation’s capital, and for all of the clergy, religious and parishioners of this local Church who every day live out their faith in commitment and deep love for Christ. I am humbled by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s trust in me as shepherd of this flock and pledge to him my renewed fidelity, affection and loyalty.”

Last night my friend, Sandy McMurtrie, spoke to our students about her unique friendship with Mother Teresa. The room was packed with students who were eager to learn more about one of their favorite saints. Sandy told stories about Mother Teresa which included meeting with Fidel Castro who was totally enamored by Mother, bringing about a cease-fire in Lebanon, speaking boldly about abortion at the United Nations and when she won the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother's great sense of humor, their first meeting in 1981 that changed Sandy's life, and how Mother died. She said that the greatest thing she learned from Mother was her humility. She said a prayer for humility every day which I will post later. Even with all of her fame and notoriety, Mother didn’t change. Mother was the same way with the President of the United States as she was with the residents of Gift of Peace, for example.

Sandy addressed Mother’s “dark night” which came as a total surprise to everyone years ago. Many saints have experienced “the dark night of the soul” which means prayer brought darkness and silence from God. It is a great mystery to us that someone like Mother Teresa could have no experience of God’s presence in her prayer for about 40 years. Sandy depicted the situation in a very powerful way. She told the story of how Mother received a private revelation from God to start the Missionaries of Charity as a young religious sister. Once she did that, God went quiet the rest of Mother’s life. And yet, she still prayed every day. One student brilliantly surmised that one reason for this was for Mother’s humility. I have struggled to work with many people who go through the dark night, and now this insight about humility equips me better to help people understand the reason for it.

Sandy finished with a touching story about Mother’s death. Even though she was very close to Mother Teresa, she didn’t get a chance to tell her at the end that she loved her. She asked the Missionaries to tell her but didn’t know if that message got through. Then, after the funeral, Sandy’s father told her about a picture in a Chicago newspaper. It was a picture of Sandy (labeled as "an unidentified woman") at Mother’s casket. This brought Sandy great comfort; it was the sign that Mother knew that Sandy loved her.

Several students have commented that they really enjoyed Sandy’s talk. Many came up to her afterwards to thank her and to ask me about going to the Missionaries of Charity (which we do once a month). We all walked away with Mother’s business cards, miraculous medals, and a prayer card as well as very intimate memories and insights about a modern saint, thanks to Sandy McMurtrie.

Finally, my cousin, Mary, sent me the following joke which made me laugh out loud:

Mother Teresa died and went to heaven.

God greets her at the Pearly Gates."Are you hungry, Mother Teresa?" says God.

"I could eat," Mother Teresa replies.

So God opens a can of tuna and reaches for a chunk of rye bread and they share it.

While eating this humble meal, Mother Teresa looks down into Hell and sees the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, pastries and wines. Curious, but deeply trusting, she remains quiet.

The next day God again invites her to join Him for a meal.

Again, it is tuna and rye bread.

Once again, Mother Teresa can see the denizens of Hell enjoying caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles and chocolates.

Still she says nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrives and another can of tuna is opened.

She can't contain herself any longer. Meekly, she says: "God, I am grateful to be in heaven with You as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. But here in heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread, and in the Other Place they eat like emperors and kings! I just don't understand."

God sighs. "Let's be honest," He says. "For just two people, does it pay to cook?"


Anonymous said...

Halloween is a week away...what will be your "something outrageous?"

Liesl said...

what a funny joke! although, let's hope that there are more than 2 people in heaven!

i really enjoyed sandy's insights! it was wonderful to hear more about mother teresa, especially to hear that she was human just like all of us!