September Editorial – Come and See
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‘Joy comes from total surrender, loving trust, and cheerfulness.’
– Mother Teresa
It’s been said that if you want to be a martyr then live with a saint. I’m sure I have often, and for the most part unknowingly, been in the company of saints. But on one particular occasion I had the experience of a short conversation and exchange with someone who is to be officially recognised as such by the Church on 4 September.
Mother Teresa was in Armagh visiting her small group of sisters in their newly established home there as well as taking time to meet a large, ecumenical group of clerics gathered in her honour. In an age before the dreaded ‘selfie’, someone had asked if I could get Mother Teresa to autograph one of the books which bore her name as author. Under the less than enthusiastic eye of Cardinal Cahal Daly, I tentatively proffered the volume with a pen and without hesitation Mother Teresa began to write, smiling gently as she did so; ‘You know Father, I don’t write these books’. Addressing the gathering, she then told a humorous story of Saint Pope John Paul II’s visit to her Calcutta Home for the Dying. The problem was, she explained with a bell-like laugh, that when he arrived no one was actually dying so she felt obliged to find some who looked poorly enough to receive his blessing. She clearly enjoyed dramatising and telling the story.
Strength, humour and kindness were as evident as the famous lines of care on her face. Later, I heard a story of how on an earlier visit to South America reporters had crowded around the tiny figure on airport tarmac asking what plans she had for her visit. A visiting politician might have made the most of the occasion to wax eloquent. Mother uttered three words from the Gospel: ‘Come and see’.
While she enjoyed the friendship of St Pope John Paul II, it seems utterly appropriate that Pope Francis should preside over her canonisation. Mother Teresa prepared the way imaginatively for a pope whose preferential priority for the poor, authenticity of voice and clarity of purpose echoes the qualities of ‘the saint of the gutter’ and resonates with what the world, secular and religious, believes a saint to be. Her call to make of our life of faith ‘something beautiful for God’ continues to offer inspiration to those committed to healing our broken world. And especially at this time of global turmoil when so many innocent lives are being randomly extinguished by an ugly and distorted vision of God her canonisation affirms once more the vision which guided her ministry which saw every human life as sacred and worthy of respect.