I have just finished reading the excellent article on Mother Teresa in Time magazine by David Van Biema. While I knew of Mother Teresa, the icon, I actually knew very little about her life. What an extraordinary woman! I plan to get the book, Come Be My Light, as soon as it is available. The interesting thing about the book's title is that it is taken from the words of Christ to Mother Teresa when He asked her to work in the slums with the poor. As I read this book of her letters I want to study how her faith progresses. What seems like going backwards, in actual fact, is probably just the opposite. After I read Come Be My Light, I plan to comment both on the book and on this article in Time magazine by David Van Biema.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
When I was a young girl, there were two convents of nuns in our Holy Child Jesus parish. One was for the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught in our parish elementary school. The other convent housed the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, or as we called them, the Trinitarians. They were missionaries, whose goal was to bring Christ to everyone. They had a special concern for the poor and needy of the parish.
My very first memory of the Trinitarians was the day they took me and some other kids to Rockaway Beach, NY. They paid our entrance fee into a swimming pool complex and I had the time of my life. It was wonderful. This was the first and only time I spent at that pool, for our family had few monetary resources. And the Sisters gave me a quarter, which was a lot of money at that time, to spend as I liked.
Recently, I have been reading about the Trinitarians in the book, God's Valiant Warrior, by Father Dennis Berry, S.T. My attention was caught by the emphasis Fr. Berry places on the role of contemplative prayer in missionary work. I was very pleasantly surprised by the words he quotes from an encyclical on the Church's missionary mandate written by Pope John Paul II. The Pope writes:
"Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission . . . . The Church's missionary spirituality is a journey towards holiness . . . . [I believe] that the future of mission depends to a great extent on contemplation. Unless the missionary is a contemplative he cannot proclaim Jesus in a credible way."
These words from Pope John Paul II are strong indeed. I always wondered if the Pope was a mystic. It certainly seems that he was!
In his book mentioned above, Fr. Berry writes of the Missionary Cenacle family founded by Father Thomas Judge, a Vincentian priest. The congregation of Sisters was called The Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, while the congregation of priests and Brothers was called by the same name, except that the word 'Blessed' was replaced by the word 'Holy' in the men's order. These two missionary congregations were founded in the twentieth century and both received Pontifical Status from Rome in 1985. It was the first time in over 400 years that the rule of a new religious community had been approved by Rome. Originally, the Sisters were considered somewhat revolutionary because they did not wear habits nor veils, but rather the dress of the day. They were pioneers not only in religious dress codes, but more importantly pioneers in emphasizing the important role the laity had in the Church.
As I indicated above, Fr. Berry places emphasis on mystical contemplation. He devotes Part IV of his book to ' Apostolic Spirituality in the Mystical Theology of the Church.' He relates how he use to identify mystical contemplation with parapsychological phenomena. He speaks of the 35 years he was associated with the Missionary Cenacle during which time he did not encounter such mystical phenomena in the lives of the members. This puzzled him. However, he did find the type of holiness and selflessness which is identified as being associated with the most advanced stages of the spiritual life in the mystical tradition. He concludes, as Father Thomas Keating has written in his classic book, Open Mind Open Heart, that mystical phenomena is not integral to mystical contemplation.
Fr. Berry believes that there were many saintly Sisters who were on the mystical path. And further, he concludes that the 'active' life does not prohibit an individual from embarking upon the mystical journey to the Spiritual Marriage and beyond. Fr. Berry proceeds to make his point that the missionary apostolate must be based on a contemplative spirit if it is to be fruitful. I was very pleased to see the importance that Fr. Berry places on mystical contemplation in the world.
Monday, August 20, 2007
On this feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk and renowned mystic, I have asked St. Bernard to be, as it were, a patron of this blog and to help me manage and make posts on it in such a way that it supports Jesus' prayer that the Father's "Will be done on earth as it is in heaven."(Mt. 6:10)