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.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Morning Thanks--God's little cheerful dog


Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves.   
Someone once asked Nelson Mandela, whose years in prison reached despairingly close to a lifetime, why, when finally he was released, he wasn’t more angry. “If I thought it would be useful,” he said, reportedly with a smile, “I would have.” A generous spirit, he'd determined, was more blessed and more useful.

Cheerfulness seems to have been a way of life for Mother Teresa. It had to be, for even that immense recognition given to her and her work late in her life was difficult for her accept. She always claimed to dislike crowds and felt uncomfortable with the adulation showered upon her. She loved nothing more than returning home quietly after meeting with presidents and potentates and even the pope.

Still, what she found back home in Calcutta was ever more of the dying. She ministered to the lowliest of the low, the most despised of the despicable—the poor, the infirm, those approaching death alone. Her terrain was the torn edge of our existence, the seam where life slips painfully into darkness. The landscape she loved was the beaten shroud of human suffering. The faces she looked into were beautiful only because she saw in them the very image of her suffering Savior.

And yet, impossible as it may seem, she often felt herself despised by God, forgotten, left behind, alone and terrified that the Jesus she so loved had no time for her, her pains or her triumphs. She was, as some call her, “the saint of darkness.”

Even so, throughout her life, there is this persistent cheerfulness, an effervescent sense of humor that could, at any moment whatsoever start any size audience to double-up in laughter. "The saint of darkness" was somehow radiant with light. 


Some of all of that emerged from her belief in providence, in God’s often incredible and sometimes cagey sense of humor. “Three days ago,” she once wrote her Archbishop, “we picked up two people eaten alive with worms. The agony of the Cross was on their faces.” She says they proceeded to make the two of them comfortable, when one of them, the old man, asked for a cigarette. “How beautiful of God,” she says, because “in my bag there were two packets of [the] best cigarettes.. . .God thought of this old man’s longing.” 

In her much heralded acceptance speech in Oslo, Mother Teresa told a story she’d often related elsewhere. She was asked, she said, by a “very big group of professors,” to “tell us something that will help us.” She told them, in response, simply, to “smile at each other.” 

 One of her learned audience must have been a little skeptical. “Are you married?” he asked. “Yes,” she told him, without missing a beat, “and I sometimes find it very difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be very demanding.”

Once upon a time she confessed to one of her spiritual directors that she simply lacked the wherewithal to accomplish much: “I can do only one thing, like a little dog following closely the Master’s footsteps.” And then, “Pray that I be a cheerful dog.” 

Today happens to be her birthday. Were she still alive, she'd be 106. 

Even today, hers may well be the most recognizable face on earth, in great part because she was so much of that which she asked God to make her, just a little cheerful dog. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, thanks for telling us more about Mother Theresa, I'm smiling now.