Home Sweet Home

January 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Kathleen and I and our two boys recently toured a few cities in India.  In addition to Hyderabad, we toured Goa, Delhi and Calcutta.  The highlight of the trip was unexpectedly in Calcutta.  I was not sure that we would be able to visit the foundation of Mother Theresa’s work.  I was afraid that “tourists” would get in the way of the work of the sisters.  As it turned out,  the Missionaries of Charity have opened up their home to embrace the curious and the faithful.   We walked a half block down a narrow alley to find the entrance to her home.  After passing through a large vestibule, you are in a sheltered courtyard  that is surrounded by  balconies.  The courtyard is surrounded by modest 2 or 3 story buildings that have housed 200 sisters.  Sisters undergo formation here before they go out to carry out the mission of the order.   This courtyard is where the sisters would gather while Mother Theresa would speak from the balcony to them.

To the right is a room that has Blessed Theresa’s tomb.  It is an elevated structure.  To its right as you enter are two or three rows of benches upon which 4-6 sisters sit calmly and serenely in contemplation.  To the tombs left is a large kneeler.  As I sat on one of the benches, I watched as sisters would enter, kneel down and lay their heads affectionately  on Theresa’s tomb for a few minutes.  It is a beautiful room suffused with a gentle light.  On her tomb, at each corner are vases with beautiful flowers.  In between the flowers is Mary.  She has one hand extended down in blessing that happens to be pointing to Theresa in the tomb. I think that she is pointing to Theresa for our benefit.  “Look at her and her life.  She heard and understood me when I said ‘Do whatever He tells you to do.’ “

Theresa never wanted any attention.  She asked that all her letters to her various spiritual counselors and bishops be burned since she feared that people “…will think more of me—less of Jesus.”  Of course, Theresa like Mary is always pointing or holding out Jesus to us.   Just like all statues of Mary, the one on Theresa’s tomb has Mary holding Jesus.  Jesus is a little child of two or three years of age.  Excitement is all over his face.  He looks like a child excited and happy to see his favorite aunt or uncle, friend or adult playmate as his arms are outstretched toward us.  He is on the edge of falling out of Mary’s arms with the trust and expectation that we will catch him.   I was reminded of this statue when I later read from one of her letters:   “Every Sunday I visit the poor in Calcutta’s slums…Last time about twenty little ones were eagerly expecting their “Ma.”  When they saw me, they ran to meet me, even skipping on one foot.”  She was visiting a “para” where twelve families live in a group of houses.  Every family has one room with a ceiling so low that you cannot stand upright. “It was very painful for me, but at the same time I was very happy when I saw that they are happy because I visit them.  Finally, the mother said to me: ‘Oh, Ma, come again!   Your smile brought sun into this house!’”

Sitting in this little chapel with her sisters was so easy.  It felt like home.

Yet it was deeply emotional.  While serenity, calm and peace dominated, I felt almost a grief-like emotion as well.  God touches deeply here.

I am not sure if Theresa would appreciate this comment since it will be about her, but it felt like this sweet, smiling, loving lady  was there for us.

Of course as Catholics, we believe in the communion of saints and that we are surrounded by them as we worship our God in spirit and truth.

Later again, I read:  “ If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’  I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”   Much like her personal patron saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who said that she would spend her time in heaven doing good on earth.

The four of us had our darkness lightened by Blessed Theresa that day as our spirits and restless hearts found some rest and our home in God.


( There are 4 posts about Kolkata.  One of them is redundant and reflects ineptness with posting)