Tag Archives: Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The compassionate face of Christ

Last night I had a strange dream in which I was playing “O Sacred Head surrounded,” a Lenten hymn, on an organ. I was playing it without sheet music.

I woke and the hymn went through my mind numerous times.

When I woke up I brought an image of the Head of Christ I have and placed it in my prayer corner. Before praying I listened to five different renditions of the hymn.


Gazing on the head of Christ, I am reminded of the compassion, the compassionate mercy of God for us. God wishes to be with us, born poor, living and dying poor.

Today just happens to be the feast of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who saw the face of Christ in the poor, in the least of these.

But I think she could do this because she sought to place herself in the presence of God and, though she suffered a long dark night of the soul, I believe that sustained her.

Today I also watched the ABC program of the pope speaking with people from the margins in Mac Allan, Texas, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is worth the 45 minutes. Here in English; here in Spanish

One young man asked him how to respond to the pain and suffer. Before he spoke about some practical responses, he first urged him – and all of us – to look to Jesus.

May we learn to gaze upon the Sacred Head, “surrounded by crown of piercing thorn,” and upon the faces of all those who suffer and respond with a love that is real, rooted in an encounter with Christ and directly with those who suffer.

The Eucharist and the poor

Today is the feast of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, declared blessed in 2003. Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who work with the poorest and most maligned, especially the dying, she died on September 5, 1997. For her the poor were another manifestation of the presence of Christ. As with many other contemplatives she saw the connection between the poor she served and Christ int he Eucharist whom she worshiped.

   To make sure that we understand what he says, Jesus is going to judge us on love. He is going to judge us on our response to this very beautiful call, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. Come, the blessed of my Father!” Or, “I was hungry and you did not give me to eat. Go, I do not know you.”

You and I will have to face that one day. But it is not necessary for us to be afraid of Jesus. Let this be our response today:

If we really understand the Eucharist, if we really center our lives on Jesus’ body and blood, if we nourish our lives with the bread of the Eucharist, it will be easy for us to see Christ in that hungry one next door, the one lying in the gutter, that alcoholic man we shun, our husband or our wife, or our restless child. For in them, we will recognize the distressing disguises of the poor: Jesus in our midst.


Prayerful witnesses to justice and love

Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, Brazil, may not seem to be have much in common, but they were both faithful and prayerful witnesses of God’s care for the poor and marginalized.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity,  was born on August 27, 1910. To many she is a symbol of care for the poorest of the poor. Some, though, have questioned whether she realized the presence of structural injustice. But once she said:

 “Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Let us preach the peace of Christ as He did. He went about doing good. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we should still need tanks and generals?”

On August 27, 1999, Dom Helder Câmara, retired bishop of Recife, Brazil, died. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and against the injustices of the world, as well as a witness to Gospel nonviolence. One of his most quotes is:

“When I gave food to the poor they called me a saint. When I asked why they were poor, they called me a communist.”

But this commitment to the justice was not separated from a deep spirituality:

 “Personally I have so many mysteries which I have not succeeded in understanding. . . . When I arrive at the House of the Father I will have a series of questions to ask the Lord. But that won’t be in the first moment, because I will be crazy with joy to contemplate the Lord face to face and encounter my brothers and sisters. But I’ll get to it in a few days… Naturally this is only a way of speaking, since I know that when I am face to face with the Lord, all the obscurities will blow away like smoke.”

It is so easy to try to separate and compartmentalize the works of charity, the struggle for justice, and a deep relationship to God. Both Dom Helder and Mother Teresa – as well as Dorothy Day – show us that we should strive to integrate all these aspects in our daily lives if we seek to follow Jesus.