Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Reading Mother Teresa XXX--Holy italics



Sometimes I envy the Roman Catholic world because they help the rest of us along by identifying who is and who isn’t a saint. Protestants like me use the word saint almost like a metaphor—the saint who, out of nowhere, stops along a highway to help with a flat; the saint in the parking lot who picks up your wallet and sends it home, leaving every cent of the $100 you’d just withdrawn from an ATS.  You know.  “Gee, I swear that guy is a saint.”
Not really.  But, my word, I’d like to think so.
There’s no almost in the Roman Catholic tradition--well, there have been also-rans, I’m sure; but the Vatican finally judges who is and who isn’t by recognizing, even certifying sainthood.  Getting into that elite club is no cup of tea.
In September of 1944, Mother Teresa was on a train to an annual spiritual retreat, when she heard directly from Jesus, who spoke in no uncertain terms, telling her, not asking her, to get out of the education business and bring love, in Calcutta, the poorest of the poor.  “Come be my light,” he told her. 
In intervals, this conversation continued throughout the entire retreat.  Jesus was calling, calling her name, calling out her mission in language that was clear and forceful but memorably endearing: “my own spouse” and “my own little one.”
The mission, however, was anything but sweet. She claimed—and what the church certifiably recognizes—is the very language of Jesus Christ as he spoke to Mother Teresa, not once but many times during that retreat:  “Come, come—carry me into the holes of the poor.  Come be My light.”
The book I’m reading, titled Come Be My Light, chooses to print these lines, the lines Jesus spoke, in italics, like this:  “Come, come—carry me into the holes of the poor.  Come be My light.”
I’ve walked through dozens of language and grammar texts in my 40 years of teaching English, but I’ve never encountered a punctuation rule that applies to quotes from God.  I don’t know who chose to put Christ’s words into italics, but it makes sense that someone would determine that, on the page before me, His words deserve some kind of unique ornamentation.
The 1944 retreat at Darjeeling, India, determined Mother’s Teresa’s future.  After all, she’d heard from Jesus.  She’d listened to his commands.  She had no choice but to follow.
I’m not sure how to talk about what the Roman Catholics call “interior locutions” because the Lord knows millions of people, over time, have heard voices they registered as emanating from the Lord, many of those divine voice demanding very un-divine things.  I’m not sure how those direct quotes should be printed, but I’m willing to give the Roman Catholic authorities the freedom to believe that, in Mother Teresa’s case, the voice was real, so real and true and divine that we simply have to do something—why not italicize?
Here’s the paradox we live with, Roman Catholic and Protestant, all believers:  that such communication seems impossible doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Maybe Mother Teresa did hear Him on the train to and all during her retreat.  Maybe Jesus Christ, from his throne at the right hand of God almighty, decided to stop the train so as to speak His word to a bird-like Albanian schoolteacher who’d taken a vow about giving her life to the Lord in India.  The Roman Catholics believe He did because they know this much: she listened.
To Roman Catholics, Mother Teresa is a saint.
On that most all of us agree, even though our two traditions ascribe varying definitions.
Maybe I’m too much the Protestant, too much the skeptic, but I think I would have avoided the italics.
Still, in my book, she is a saint.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems she is not the only one who has had someone "SPEAK" to her. Nancy Pelosi has just come out and stated that the spirits of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cody Stanton and others "SPOKE" to her while she at the White House.

Anonymous said...

Years back Mother Theresa spoke at at the annual prayer breakfast in Washington DC with President Clinton and Hillary in attendance.

Mother Theresa spoke of loneliness and the plight of the unborn. Very moving despite her humble and simplistic style.

At the conclusion the entire audience stood, cheered and clapped, a standing ovation!

Hillary and Bill Clinton stayed seated.