Vol. 167 No. 36 - September 03 - September 09, 2016
If there was one who showed courage to be the cloak of God's mercy to the world, as Pope Francis urges, it was the diminutive founder of the Missionaries of Charity. If there is one person who immersed herself in the 'peripheries' that Pope Francis is drawn to, it was Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, hailed in India as the 'saint of the gutters'. For many people, the Catholic Church's Year of Mercy will reach its culmination when Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa on Sept. 4, recognising the holiness of charity, mercy and courage found in a package just 5 feet tall, officially declaring her a saint.
Where Mother pushed the Missionaries of Charity was to the edge, to the most difficult places, all the time, everywhere. They were always way out there, both physically and spiritually with the people who absolutely fell through the cracks, touching them with God's merciful healing love. Mother Teresa opened homes in Ethiopia during the communist military dictatorship, in the most destitute neighbourhoods of Haiti's capital, in Rwanda after the genocide, and in Yemen, where four Missionaries of Charity were murdered in recent times. When there was war, when there was fighting, there they were.
Mother Teresa demonstrated that living a life committed to mercy took selflessness and courage. Her courage was also demonstrated in her ability to 'speak truth to power'. Mother Teresa was a globe-trotting missionary of mercy, regularly speaking to Catholic groups and people of other faiths, opening homes and meeting with presidents, political heads of state, royalty and melting the hardened hearts of criminals and drug lords. She was unafraid to speak out against abortion. From conception to death, she was there to nip, by the force of her example, any one who violated life.
Like Pope Francis, Mother Teresa drew energy from personal, one-on-one contact with people, and consciously chose to live as simply as the poor she befriended and tended. In life and after her death, Mother Teresa faced criticism for not using her fame and contacts to advocate more directly for social and political change to improve the lives of the poor she served. You can find all the things she was not, but what she was, is much more important than what she was not. She was a model, and now she will be a saint.
Valeria Martano, Asia Coordinator for the Community of Sant'Egidio, said, "We are talking about a woman who broke out of the existing framework of what was expected of a Catholic woman in the 1940s. And, like Pope Francis, she chose to make her life a denunciation of injustice." Her witness was testimony that things can change. She did not speak of justice so much as do justice.
"Mother Teresa chose to understand the world through the eyes of the least of the least, what Pope Francis would call the periphery," said Martano, who also leads Sant'Egidio programmes in the poorest neighbourhoods on the southern edge of Rome. But it is not just about 'going out.' For both Pope Francis and Mother Teresa, she said, everything starts with prayer.
The founder of the Missionaries of Charity insisted that she and her sisters were "contemplatives in the midst of the world," she said. "It was not just about doing." Mother Teresa's prayer took her to the periphery, and the peripheries were key to her prayer.
What Mother Teresa lived, Pope Francis teaches constantly: compassion in the face of pain and never accepting indifference in the face of suffering. Mother Teresa modelled 'a church close to the poor, a church that is mother to the poor and that lives the joy of serving the poor.'
"She was a woman who made the thirst of Christ on the Cross her own. She lived that thirst," said her Spiritual Director.
The Catholic Church celebrates the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8, nine months after the December 8 celebration of her Immaculate Conception as the child of Saints Joachim and Anne. Mary is Mother of Mercy because, through her Immaculate Conception, God fashioned her to be the created masterpiece of his mercy in the world.
The 'Protoevangelium of James', which was probably put into its final written form in the early second century, describes Mary's father Joachim as a wealthy member of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Joachim was deeply grieved, along with his wife Anne, by their childlessness. "He called to mind Abraham," the early Christian writing says, "that in the last days, God gave him a son Isaac."
Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves extensively and rigorously to prayer and fasting, initially wondering whether their inability to conceive a child might signify God's displeasure with them. As it turned out, however, the couple were to be blessed even more abundantly than Abraham and Sarah, as an angel revealed to Anne, when he appeared to her, and prophesied that all generations would honour their future child: "The Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth, and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world."
Aeons ago, when I was a little girl studying in St Anne's High School - Convent of Jesus and Mary, Fort -Teachers' Day was unique. Instead of the students entertaining teachers, it was teachers who enacted a scene or danced on stage. One presentation was a Konkani song and dance medley which is so vivid even today. Lovely costumes, vibrant talent and untold joy on their faces. Indeed, a lovely way to enjoy themselves and re-live their youthful days; at the same time, a rewarding experience, seeing the glee writ large on the faces of their cherished students! In return, they were showered
with handmade cards, poems, songs and chocolates. Later on, as a teacher myself, the simple treats changed from songs and skits to material gifts, competitions and performances by students.
Today, as a retired teacher, my biggest gift is a phone call from an ex-student.
Some parishes had started out sending representatives of the youth, with a card and a little flower, which was much appreciated. That was 20 years ago. Today, the zonal communities plan their own ways of felicitating teachers.
I chose this heading after reading an anecdote in my collection of tokens of love and appreciation, collected over the years as a teacher. Once we are into teaching, no teacher wants to give up; as we begin each new day of teaching and moulding, there is a lamp of hope that we are lighting, not just in our hearts, but in the world. "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe," opined Anatole France. Hence, I believe that thanks to my mission as a teacher, miracles are in the making day after day and year after year in the lives of my students.
However, it is a fact that the number of those interested in 'teaching as a mission' is on the decline. Today, it is not just dedication and commitment that are the essentials of the cause, but also being able to update oneself constantly with newer ways of imparting time-tested values and belief systems to young people. "Absolute trust in someone else is the essence of Education" (E.M. Forster). So it would not be wrong to say that teachers are like stars that not only illumine, but also direct and guide young minds to greater heights.
The Nativity of our beloved Mother Mary is celebrated on September 8 since the 6th century AD. Anna and Joachim were blessed after many years with the birth of their girl child, Mary. Their joy knew no bounds. Mary was a treasured child. She grew up to fulfil her mission as the mother of our Saviour. She was nurtured to be a generous, loving, saintly and caring person who intercedes on our behalf with her Son.
Contrast the joyous entry of Mary into the world and the attitude of society towards the Girl Child. The arrival of a boy child is greeted with much fanfare. In contrast, even in affluent families, the female foetus is aborted. When a girl is born, there is sadness. The boy is treated like a demigod, pampered no end, whereas the girl's ego is annihilated with criticism. The disparity is pervasive. Girls are given more chores and less education in contrast to boys. Boys inherit the bulk of their parents' assets after their parents pass away, even when the daughters have looked after the parents.
Yes, they touch people's lives and they are ... teachers. Countless people can readily testify to the fact that along life's way, some teacher has touched their life, in ways both big and small. Aristotle said, "My parents gave me life, my teachers taught me how to live." Henry Adams believed that "Teachers affect Eternity. They can never tell where their influence stops."
When I look back on my own life as a student, I recall in particular, a Mrs Dorothy D'Cruz who came to teach us English in Standard VIII. She came from Calcutta and was a widow with no children, but the passion and dedication with which she taught us, have left an indelible impact on my mind. The thoroughness with which she prepared every lesson, the additional information she gave us, exposing us at that early stage to the nuances of English Poetry... to rhyme, metre and rhythm, to the biographies of each poet, giving us the botanical names of plants and trees we encountered, and above all, teaching us with so much love and caring. She certainly touched my life, and her dedication, sincerity and passion for teaching have been my inspiration in my own life as a teacher.
With regard to the proposed law the Union Cabinet has unveiled recently, I wish to state that the life of every human person is to be respected and treated with dignity from the moment of conception. Indian authorities want to contain the womb-for-rent industry, that brings in billions of dollars each year and exposes a woman's body to exploitation. A better option to surrogacy would be to adopt a child. In India, there are so many children whose parents have abandoned them.
The Catholic Church is fully aware of the pain and sufferings of couples who discover that they are sterile. Nevertheless, the better option is not surrogacy, but to adopt from the thousands of India's abandoned children. These children could be given the love, dignity and respect that is denied to them.
The Catholic Church holds that the life of every human person is to be respected and treated with dignity from the moment of conception (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24). Human procreation has specific characteristics by virtue of the personal dignity of the parents and of the children: the procreation of a new person, whereby the man and the woman collaborate with the power of the Creator, must be the fruit and the sign of the mutual self-giving of the spouses, of their love and of their fidelity (cf. Gaudium et Spes 50).
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