“I thirst”. I saw these words before I took off my shoes.
It was a cool Saturday morning in the Spring of 1996. I was on the chapel grounds of the Missionaries of Charity home in Northeast DC. The night before, my well-connected friend Brenda had called the house, “Do you want to see Mother Teresa?”
“What?” I exclaimed in disbelief.
“Yea, Mother is in town to visit with the families and friends of her nuns. Would you like to meet her? Go to Saturday morning mass and afterward you can meet her.”
“Can my family come?”
“Absolutely, but get there early, the families of the nuns and postulates will be there and probably many others…”
Hanging up the phone, I told Carolyn and my parents, who were living with us, “Tomorrow we get a chance to see Mother Teresa!”
We got up early, about three in the morning. We stood in the foyer just outside the chapel near where we had stacked up our shoes. We looked for her, but no sign of this soon to be saint. Only the altar, the crucifix and those words that call to you, “I thirst”. Really? What does it truly, deeply mean Lord? Do I thirst? All this was swimming in my heart. But no sign of Mother Teresa, and we were beginning to think she couldn’t come.
At the end of the mass, the entire group of visitors and nuns moved to the side of the chapel, and we were asked to file up on the left side of the chapel and come up – one by one.
Even when I was third in line, still no sign of her. The people in front paused for a moment, and then walked out the side exit. Then and only then did we lay eyes on this precious, little woman who spoke powerful truth all over the world and led by example.
My Carolyn thought she was sitting down. But no, she was standing there in front of us wearing the now famous sari. My parents were first, speaking about praying for their son the doctor and our extended family. Then Mother saw my wife carrying my two months old son Joseph and our three year old John Paul. She looked with those “eyes of peace” into Carolyn’s soul and hugged and squeezed our two children.
Then she addressed me. “So you are a doctor? Come to Calcutta and help me.” Straight forward. No wasted time.
“Mother, I deliver babies and care for women, especially those in need from pregnancy centers, to help build the culture of life and help the Spirit transform hearts. We have opened our doors to help them have true health; body, soul, and spirit. I see the poorest of the poor and the rich who are poor in spirit in Virginia. But, if you think so, I will go to Calcutta.”
“No my child, you have brought Calcutta to Virginia. Stay there and do the work of Jesus. I will pray for you. Here are miraculous medals.”
As we spoke, her hands enfolded mine. Eye to eye, and, as Francis de Sales says, “heart to heart.”
It was over, that timeless meeting, but the moment has never ended. Mother Theresa spoke in her diary about being the saint for those in darkness. We are in a chaotic darkness as a world, because we don’t believe in sin, we want God out of the way, and we walk on the other side of the street to avoid our wounded neighbors. Divine Mercy is the answer to our world today. Divine Mercy Care and the Tepeyac Family Center have been beacons of the healthcare of hope to patients and professionals alike.
Mother Teresa is being elevated to the Communion of Saints. In this Year of Mercy, at this moment, we are carrying on this mission of bringing her ministry in Calcutta to Virginia – and beyond. We are thirsting together for renewal – for the Lord Himself.
So Sunday we will cry out together – Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us.