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Soul stirring, faith inspiring moments with Mother Teresa

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An exciting story unfolded in God’s storybook last century. He created Mother Teresa, a miracle of love, gave it the fragrance of divine grace, filled it with the tenderness of a rose, wrapped it with compassion, laced it with kindness and offered it in service to the suffering humanity.

 

Mother Teresa was a media fondling. As a media savvy person, she was very much sought after by the media. Wherever she went, whatever she did and whatever she said was big news. Even when she was taken ill, her health condition was reported everyday all over the world. Her death and subsequently her canonization process have been news always and followed with great interest all over the world. Perhaps there was no single human person in the twentieth century who dominated all the shades of the media, be they electronic, print or celluloid! Indeed, she was the noblest woman of the century.

 

On January 30, 1995 together with eminent journalist Santhoshkumar Gulvady, the then editor of Taranga weekly and others, I had the great privilege of interviewing Mother. It was her second visit to the city of Mangalore.

 

That afternoon we were seated in the inner parlour of St. Agnes College, Mangalore awaiting Mother’s arrival. “Mother has come” said one. As we were exclaiming, “Is it? Where is she?” and looking towards the door for her to come out, she was already in our midst, not as a VIP. You know how? From our back, from a small room, came straight amidst us, as a mother would come to her children from the kitchen!

 

She came with no paraphernalia, yet like a lightning. And as she came in, started caressing our backs, hands, asking, “Why you all are standing so long, be seated.” As we were waiting for her to be seated first, she started drawing chairs for us forcing us to be seated, as if she new each of us for a long time! No questions about who are you? Where have you come from? What do you want? A Mother knows everybody and everything! 

 

As we were all seated, she pulled a chair for herself and sat. She joined hands immediately and announced, “Let us pray – Lord, keep us all in peace and harmony” – like a mother drawing her small children into her arms – so lovingly, so kindly.

 

As the prayer was over, Mother who was clad in a white sari with blue border covering her head, had welcomed us so warmly, made us seated so kindly – head covered and back. And that was all we could see. Because she was short, less than five feet and the much bent back made her look even shorter. At the end of the prayer she raised her head and radiantly smiled at us, and lo we had the “darshan of India’s Saint of the Gutter!”

 

Indeed her face was the mirror of her person. It was radiant, joyful and sparkling. The extensively wrinkled face mirrored her toil, struggles and hard life she endured courageously all along. The dry skin told the story of her enduring service to the poorest of the society. Her sparkling eyes reflected the abundance of her love, peace and holiness of life. Her smile openly betrayed the purity and simplicity of her noble heart.

 

Words were flowing from like a over flowing reservoir. It was like a mother talking to her children when as if she met them after a long time. She kept on talking, endlessly. We were all ears and wanted to hear more and more that was forthcoming from her. The sisters who were attending to her worried whether the Mother would be exhausted. Can a mother be exhausted while talking to her children? Mother kept on talking about everything that was dear to her heart.

 

Mother spoke endlessly, on all sorts of topics: the unending sufferings of the ever growing number of poor of India, the indignity of the teenage girls who were forced to sell their bodies to earn bread and clothing for their dear ones, ever growing materialism and insensitivity to the sufferings of social outcasts, the need for providing protection to the orphans and the unborn, the need for prayer and unity in family life…and scores of other topics dear to her heart and ever so relevant to the world. Whenever we interrupted with questions, her answers were short, sharp and very meaningful.

 

What are the causes for so much of suffering in the world?

“Divided families are the root cause of many problems. A united family is the centre of joy. A united family has happiness. They have hope for the future of humankind”

 

When will the world see an end to the prevalent hatred, crime, cruelty and inhumanity?

“I am confident that all these will end, provided we allow them to end. Drying up of love between human beings is the cause of these evils. When all of us, starting from children to elderly learn to live as brothers and sisters to each other, these problems will vanish. Jesus has taught us, ‘“whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ When we cultivate a habit of helping the needy and begin to treat the other as my brother and sister these problems disappear. We need to pray for those who stray from the moral path. We need to do our best to the society and then only the society will change.”

 

What needs to be done to improve the social life of India?

“With much inner pain she said, “Our family life is getting weaker. We need to recognize the need for living together, of loving each other, reaching to the needy and suffering which are the values taught by a united family. Unfortunately we seem to be losing these values. Unity, cooperation, sharing and trust in God are the pillars of a harmonious society. When the buds of mutual tolerance, feeling of universal brotherhood and the spirit of family prayer are allowed to bloom in our families most of the problems of our society will disappear. Good families are the antidote for selfishness, hatred and conflicts. Those who live together, stay together. There is joy and hope for the future.” As she was saying this her eyes began to sparkle with hope for the future.”

 

What is the most important thing your work among the poor has taught you?

“The poor are wonderful people, they are a great people. They teach us so many beautiful things. One day a poor woman came to me to thank us to for teaching the natural family planning.  She said, ‘You Sisters who have chosen to remain single for the service of humanity are ideally positioned to teach natural family planning. It is meaningful because it is self-imposed self-control for mutual love.’ There is a lot of truth in what the poor woman said. These poor people may not have sufficient food to eat. They may not have a house to live in, but when they are spiritually rich, they are indeed great humans. It is more difficult to take away the spiritual poverty from the outcast who lives in fear due to rejection.”

 

If there is a rebirth where will you like to be born?

“No, it is not my business. I do not entertain any such desires. I am born and am here today. To act according to God’s holy will is all that I want to do and look for the day to be with Him.”

 

Then she gave us an article written by her on “Please, do not destroy the child” urging people not to abort but to adopt.

 

We were with the Mother for over 30 minutes. It all looked like half a minute. It was soul stirring and faith inspiring. In fact, Mother made it so by her informality and overwhelming humanity. She was indeed a veritable angel of love and compassion. Inspite of the ripe old age of 85, she was buoyant with energy. With joy of life in her heart and an abiding trust in the Providence and undaunted courage to bring love to the unfortunate fellow humans, she was a well-spring of eternal hope.

 

We said good bye to Mother with a little prayer in our heart, “Lord, give us a small spark of that infinite zeal and inspire us to contribute our very best for the utmost good of human beings.”

 

 

+ Henry D’Souza

 

 
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