A Toast to St Teresa of Calcutta

St Teresa of Calcutta: A Modern Day Saint and Role Model for the New Evangelization by Catherine Cresson, this Friday’s guest spiritual safari guide.

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A Toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta. Throughout history, toasting or elevating one’s glass in someone’s honor has found expression in many cultures. The word “toast” may actually find its origin in the “toasting” or charring of oak storage barrels used during the wine fermentation or aging process. The addition of toasted oak barrels or chips helps to enhance wine flavor, color, tannin and texture. As in so many other life processes, the fire’s toasting or purging process leads to a most unexpected transformation. So too in the spiritual life, as unexpected difficulty and pain often enliven the most profound expression of love. In St. Teresa of Calcutta, we find the same: the bitter sweet sorrow of toasted oak, and an enhanced expression of Christian love. Join us on a virtual pilgrimage as Cathy Cresson, this Friday’s guest spiritual safari guide, offers a toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta, a modern day saint and exemplary role model for the new evangelization.

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Oak wine barrel toasting. The use of oak wine barrels first came into prevalence during the time period of the Roman Empire. Wine makers soon discovered that oak’s porous nature allowed for gradual evaporation and subsequent enhancement of the wine’s concentration, aroma and taste. Additionally, varying degrees of barrel toasting was found to impact wine tannin levels, color and texture.

A Toast to St. Teresa of Calcutta by Catherine Cresson.

If you are like me, the idea of evangelization in any form may be completely foreign and slightly intimidating. And yet, Pope Francis writes in The Joy of the Gospel,  “the new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.”  “Indeed,” he writes “anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love” is called “to go out and proclaim that love.” Luckily, we have many Saints to guide our way on this new journey. One of the greatest and most recent of these is St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Many of us were blessed to have seen Mother Teresa in person. I was about ten when I sat with my entire family and thousands of others mesmerized by a small nun on a large stage with a quiet voice speaking powerful words.  She was unforgettable.

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Saint Teresa of Calcutta at age 18

St. Teresa was born in 1910 into a devout Catholic family in Skopje, Macedonia.  At the age of 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto and was sent to teach in Calcutta. She taught for nearly 20 years, and then, while on a train, she received  “a call within a call.” God was calling her to be “a carrier of His love” to those who felt most “unloved, unwanted, uncared for, thrown away by society.”  “Come be my Light,” Jesus asked Mother Teresa.  She accepted his invitation with every fiber of her being.

Mother Teresa worked diligently for four years to establish in 1950 this new order of nuns: the Missionaries of Charity.  Once established, the order quickly grew, and their work flourished. The Missionaries of Charity began in the slums of Calcutta, gradually expanded across India, then across the world, caring for the dying, the hungry, the orphans, those suffering from leprosy, AIDS, and mental challenges.  At the time of her death in 1997, there were nearly 4000 MC Sisters in 594 foundations in 120 countries.

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Although the number of people served by the MC is staggering, for Mother Teresa, the work was always about each individual person and his/her relationship with God. “I do not agree with the big way of doing things,” she writes.  “To us, what matters is an individual. . .  Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, there is only one person in the world for me at that moment.”  Ruma Bose, a 1992 volunteer for Mother Teresa in Calcutta, remembers that she always had time for people. If you met with her,  “she would ask about you.  She would sit with you, envelope your hand in hers, look deeply in your eyes. . . and listen.”

Father Kolodiejchuk, an MC priest who worked with Mother Teresa for 20 years and was her postulator, recalls that one of the most striking things about her was “just how ordinary” she was.  “Sometimes if you didn’t know what she looked like and you were in the convent, she wouldn’t be sticking out in any way, unless you noticed how she would do those little things, like a genuflection, or taking the holy water.”

Everything Mother Teresa did flowed from her great love for God and her desire to be for others a channel of His love. “We have been created to love and be loved,” she writes, “and He has become a man to make it possible for us to love as He loved us.” Fr. Kolodiejchuk calls her a “realist saint,” and as such, she expressed love in concrete actions. “The cup of water you give to the sick, the way you lift a dying man. . . the way you teach an ignorant child, the joy with which you smile in your own home—all this is God’s love in the world today,” she writes.  “I want this to be imprinted in your minds:” she continues,  “God still loves the world through you and me today.”

Mother Teresa blesses a sick child held by his mother October 20 at the Missionaries of Charity conv..

Once someone asked Mother Teresa:  “Why do you go abroad:  Don’t you have enough poor in India?”  She answered:  “I think Jesus told us to go and preach to all the nations.  That is why we go all over the world to preach God’s love and compassion by our humble deeds of love.”  Mother Teresa was a wonderful speaker, a beautiful writer, a wise instructor. But it was through her “humble deeds of love” she best evangelized.  It was the way she treated each person with great respect and care that showed her love and proclaimed God’s own.

We cook, we sew, we mother and manage.  We practice law and practice medicine, but I think as long as we continue to practice loving through our own humble deeds, Mother Teresa will be happy to light our myriad paths as new evangelizers.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

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