This past week in our preparation for Marian consecration we focused on the approach of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recently canonized “Saint Teresa of Calcutta”. Although Mother Teresa did not produce a lengthy theological discourse on the role of Mary for the believer, she lived an intense devotion to Mary as she served Jesus in the poor. We can learn from Mother Teresa’s relationship to Mary, and her prayers to Mary. I had the privilege of working some with Mother Teresa’s sisters in Rome, so I learned well the heart of Mother’s charism: “To quench the thirst of Jesus in the distressing guise of the poorest of the poor.” Mother saw this thirst of Jesus expressed in His words from the cross, “I thirst”. That is why the crucifix in every home of the Missionaries of Charity has the words “I thirst” somewhere on the wall nearby.
This understanding of the thirst of Jesus’ sprang from Mother’s own love for Jesus’ Heart, even from her youngest years when she first received Jesus in the Eucharist. This longing to satisfy Jesus’ Heart led Mother eventually to seek to be a missionary. So she eventually entered the Loreto sisters and ended up serving in Bengal, India. At one point, Mother made a very solemn vow, with the permission of her spiritual director: “to refuse Jesus nothing”. When Mother was 36 years old, she experienced during a train ride the “call within a call”, which was “to quench the burning love of Jesus and for souls”.
To respond to this call, Mother knew she was to found the Missionaries of Charity to care for the poorest of the poor. When the local bishop was hesistant about the idea, Mother repeated to him words such as the following: “Let us bring joy to the Heart of Jesus, and remove from His Heart those terrible sufferings.” Eventually Mother got the approval she sought for her congregation. She taught her sisters to listen to Jesus saying “I thirst” in their own hearts, which will lead to them hearing Jesus say “I thirst” in the poor.
Enter in the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was the first person to hear Jesus’ cry “I thirst” from the cross. We want to hear those words as Mary did. On one occasion soon after hearing the “call within a call”, Mother Teresa had a vision of the Blesseed Virgin Mary kneeling near her. Our Lady was facing a crowd of people, and she said to Mother Teresa, “Take care of them – they are mine. Bring them to Jesus – carry Jesus to them. Fear not.” Then another vision occurred in which our Lady was standing behind Mother Teresa near the cross of Jesus. Mary had her left hand on Teresa’s left shoulder, and her right hand held Teresa’s right arm. Jesus said to Mother Teresa: “I have asked you. They have asked you, and she, My Mother, has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for Me – to take care of them, to bring them to me?” In these visions, Mary was helping Mother Teresa to hear the desire of the Lord’s Heart and to see the suffering crowd. And Mary was there to support Mother Teresa before the Cross.
Mary will likewise support all of us as we stand before the crosses of life. Mary will help us understand how Jesus is thirsting for love in our own lives. She understood better than anybody what Jesus meant by the words “I thirst” on the Cross. Here is a summary line from a letter Mother Teresa wrote regarding Our Lady’s role in life: “Our Lady’s role is to bring you face to face … with the love in the Heart of Jesus crucified.” So Mother Teresa could pray, “Mary, lend me your heart”, or “Keep me in your most pure heart”. Even a person in sin, or a person going through desolation, can experience the help of the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary to move forward. If Mary’s heart is full of the Holy Spirit (which we already realize from reading the Marian doctrine of St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximilian Kolbe), then if we remain in Mary’s heart, we can be full of the Holy Spirit of Love.
Like Mary, Mother Teresa pondered the great things God did every day in life (Luke 2:19, 51) and praised Him for them. A daily examination of her life (done in the evening) helped Mother to recognize God’s work every day for her, and to acknowledge all that the Blessed Virgin Mary had arranged each day. Mother’s “Consecration Covenant” prayer to Mary each day helped Mother arrive at full union with Jesus.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,