DeLorenzo speaks of the saint’s self-sacrifice and call to beauty
“Mother Teresa left happiness to find joy,” said Leonard DeLorenzo, Director of Notre Dame Vision, to a packed auditorium in Geddes Hall on September 24. As part of the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s seventh annual “Saturdays with the Saints” lecture series on game days, DeLorenzo’s lecture examined the life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta as an instrument of God’s mercy, a focus of this series during the Year of Mercy.
His seven-part lecture traced St. Teresa’s life as a unique expression of joyful sacrifice. While she left happiness to find joy, DeLorenzo said, “the difference between happiness and joy is that happiness avoids suffering and joy endures suffering in hope. The suffering was not first hers, though it became hers because she stayed close to those who suffer.”
Saint Teresa, he began, spent her life at the foot of Christ’s Cross. It was through her visits to the poor that she heard Christ’s continual cry, “I thirst” (John 19:28). DeLorenzo cited her parents, Nikola and Drana Bojaxhiu, as examples of leaving comfort for the sake of others. Formed by their example, at age 18 Agnes Bojaxhiu became Sister Teresa of the Loreto Order and left home for India.
As a sister of Loreto, St. Teresa taught history, geography, and catechism to the Bengali poor for more than eighteen years. To her dismay, she contracted a serious illness in 1946 and was confined to bed for three hours every afternoon. Nevertheless, St. Teresa delved deep in Calcutta’s slums as a witness to the agonizing lives of the “untouchables.”
Saint Teresa heard a “call within a call” on September 10, 1946, to give herself completely to the poorest of the poor. After a year of waiting, St. Teresa was released from her vow of obedience to her superiors in the Loreto Order and pursued her mission to touch the lives of the poor under obedience to her archbishop. For St. Teresa, DeLorenzo said, leaving Loreto was the greatest sacrifice of her life, but one she gladly did to fulfill Christ’s call.
According to DeLorenzo, St. Teresa’s vocation was Marian in character and one in which she brought beauty to the suffering. He said, “Beauty is the offer of comfort when comfort is lacking, receiving comfort when comfort is needed, and that person-to-person contact where suffering is borne together. In short, our common vocation is to love and be loved.”
This was the call of the Missionaries of Charity, who opened homes for the dying to accompany them to a beautiful death if healing was impossible. Under St. Teresa’s direction, they founded homes for abandoned children and helped those with leprosy. St. Teresa sought to heal “a disease more terrible than leprosy or tuberculosis or cancer or AIDS,” DeLorenzo said, “the disease of being unwanted.”
DeLorenzo spoke of the strength of St. Teresa’s faith as she experienced an inner darkness revealed through her private writings published in 2007. She longed for Christ but received little spiritual consolation. While to the world she was an image of charity, she struggled interiorly. But, DeLorenzo concluded, “The secret in the heart of the saint is that she was moved not by the power of consolation but by the power of thirst.”
Freshman Kayla Reyes told the Rover that she found “it such an inspiration and a challenge that [St. Teresa] was willing to give up the good works she was doing to follow the more difficult task of starting out on her own to serve the poorest in Calcutta.” After this, her first Saturdays with the Saints lecture, Reyes said, “It is really amazing to think this saint accomplished so much while having so little spiritual consolation. The power of her faith was incredible!”
The next Saturdays with the Saints lecture will be given by Jessica Keating on “St. Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz” on October 15.
Sarah Ortiz is a sophomore studying PLS and classics and living in Lewis Hall. She is currently rejoicing over the fact that autumn has finally arrived, and longs to go apple picking while reflecting on the beauty of the autumn leaves. If you share her love of all things fall, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.