Today is Inspiration Day for the Missionaries of Charities. On September 10, 1946, Sister Agnes, while on a train to Darjeeling, India, experienced a call from the Lord.
This Albanian woman had been a Sister of Loreto for several years, teaching in India. But that day she felt that God wanted “more” from her:
He wanted me to be poor with the poor and to love him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.
She left the security of her convent and sought out those most in need in India, especially responding to the dying.
Others soon followed and the Missionaries of Charity were founded. Sister Agnes became Mother Teresa.
Conversion is not a one-time event, but a continuing call from the Lord to be “more” – “magis,” as St. Ignatius of Loyola might put it. God wants us always to be “more,” so that we can live more in Love.
Jesuit philosopher-theologian Bernard Lonergan has written about six different types of conversion: religious, theistic, Christian, ecclesial, moral, and intellectual. These types are useful to understand the various ways we are called out of ourselves.
I haven’t read enough of him to know if he has included what I would suggest is another “type” of conversion, the conversion to the poor, the conversion that Mother Teresa began on that train to the foothills of the Himalayas.
I am here in Honduras because I experienced such a call to conversion.
During a service trip to post-Katrina New Orleans in March 2006, I felt that I was being called to something more.
It came while we emptied the house of a sixty-three year old African-American woman who had raised children and grandchildren in that house. As we carried out all her possessions, she maintained a calm, a resilience that I had not often seen up close. And it was based in her faith in God.
I now say that, as we emptied out her house, something was emptied out in me, enabling me to experience a call that brought me here to Honduras.
My spiritual director at the time, as well as a good friend, asked me why I felt called to Honduras. My immediate response was “to serve those most in need.”
And so today I need to recall what inspired me to come here – and to renew my commitment “to be of service to those most in need.”
May all of us respond to the call to accompany the poor, to serve them, to be not only “a poor church and a church for the poor,” as Pope Francis has called us to be. Should we not also be “a church of the poor,” as Pope John XXIII wished.