Inspired by Mother Teresa

Almost 10 years ago now, I had the chance as a young priest to go on a two-week summer pilgrimage to Kolkata, India with Father Jack Lombardi (the former chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes in Emmitsburg) and a group of hearty, faithful young people. It was a pilgrimage in the spirit of “walking in the footsteps of Mother Teresa” and it was a most memorable experience!
The pilgrimage was my first real experience of “culture shock” as I was immediately immersed into the city-life of the vast and diverse city of Kolkata. When we, very evidently looking like “American tourists,” immediately walked the streets there after our plane had landed and we were recovering from jet-lag, the many people we saw – even the many we saw living in poverty – were very friendly and even joyful. Later in the trip, our group of pilgrims went to serve at orphanages and homes for the dying that Mother Teresa had established many years ago when she followed God’s call to serve Christ, as she would say, in his “distressing disguise.” I will never forget this. 

This is a print of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata given to me by a friend.

Of the many profound experiences I had there, one of the best ones was actually having the privilege of offering a Mass for the Missionaries of Charity right in the chapel of their motherhouse. Just like their foundress, they would begin each day with quiet prayer and a simple community Mass. They would all sit “Indian-style,” literally. They sat barefoot on the floor. There were no chairs, except for the priest-celebrant and the altar servers. And when they received Communion, they did so with great reverence, gratitude and humility.
As I was leaving the chapel after a very peaceful celebration of Mass, I noticed what I thought was a sister praying alone in the very back of the chapel. It turned out to be a statue of Mother Teresa, life-size and in color, in the very place she would pray each day for Mass. It was, like the theme and message of the Gospel from Jesus this weekend, the “lowest place” – the last place, in the very back against the wall. I remember thinking what an example that was of living just like our Lord said. Amazing!

This is a photograph of the statue of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata that is located in the chapel of her motherhouse in India.

Mother Teresa, or Blessed Teresa of Kolkata will be canonized a saint Sept. 4. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from her (I’ve never met her, but I feel like I know her!) is to actively seek out that “lowest place” rather than the higher one, and certainly humility and opportunities to serve others instead of following temptations we face to find selfish ambition, power, worldly pleasures, or personal gain or glory.
May we seek to imitate her own joyful, peaceful imitation of Christ himself: “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14: 11.)            

Catholic Review

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