"Love others as
God loves you.
God bless you.
Mother Teresa mc
One of my deepest dreams, as a girl and then as a young woman, was to meet Mother Teresa and experience her work in Calcutta. In 1990, I turned 30 years old and decided to go for it. I bought a ticket and headed to Calcutta by myself to fulfill a dream. In honor of Mother Teresa’s canonization today, I will share my stories of my encounters with this holy woman.
My first encounter with Mother Teresa was on December 23rd. I had been in Calcutta for a couple of weeks, living and working in a L’Arche community with 7 developmentally men and on my days off I worked at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying and Destitute and at her orphanage.
Acclimating to Calcutta was a challenge. Everything was different and seemed difficult. Within 24 hours of my arrival, I contracted a parasite and was intensely ill. I lived in one of the poorest tangaras. We sat on the floor there was no furniture. We ate with our fingers, there was no silverware, we wiped ourselves with our left hand and water, there was no toilet paper, I slept on a piece of plywood with a thin mat and a mosquito net. Half of the men I lived with spoke English, but I had a difficult time understanding them and the other half spoke Bengali, which I did not understand.
As I wondered the streets of Calcutta on December 23rd, I met 2 young women who were from Scotland, and I could understand them! I was so thrilled to visit with them. Even though we were from different countries, they felt familiar and easy. They invited me to meet them later that evening for tea.
In the early evening, I went to the Mother House for prayer. I entered a large room. The visitors sat on the right side and the nuns sat on the left. I sat down next to the aisle, hoping to get a glimpse of Mother Teresa. They handed each of us a plastic rosary. As I sat there taking in the peace of this place, Mother Teresa came into the chapel and sat directly across from me. There was no more than a few feet between us. I admit, I did not pray. I just sat and watched this holy woman. What was most surprising to me was how ordinary she was. There was no bright halo above her head or lights shooting out from her. She was just a simple old woman praying the rosary.
When the prayers were completed, she stood and went to the front of the room. She announced that there was a visiting priest and that Confessions would be available. I walked out of the chapel with those who were leaving, convinced that I would rather go to tea then Confession. But instead of going down the stairs and out the door, I walked down a hallway and stood off to the side where no one could see me and had an argument with myself. One part of me was convinced I should leave and go have tea with the 2 young women I’d met. The other part pushed me to stay and go to confession. I had good reasons for both choices and the argument within went on and on.
Then the most amazing thing happened. Mother Teresa came out of the chapel and walked right up to me. She put her hand on my arm, looked up into my eyes and said, “So, you are going to confession?” With my eyes wide, I responded, “Oh yes, Mother!” . She kept her hand on my arm and walked me down the hallway and into the chapel. Then she pointed to my head and said, “The line for Confessions will form here.” I was astounded! Did God have to be that obvious? Who could say “No.” to Mother Teresa.
As I said my five redeeming Our Fathers, deep tears streamed down my face, tears of shame and remorse for having so much and always wanting more when so many in the world have so little. My tears subsided as the shame poured out and a new resolve set in: to be a good steward of all that I have, to buy less and to buy good quality so that it will last, to live in gratitude and to give back to the world through service.