Gérard was waiting at the window of one of the l’Arche houses for people with disabilities. He had been told that an “important gentleman” was coming for lunch. When Gérard spotted the visitor he rushed out to greet him. Running awkwardly with one leg shorter than the other, he arrived in front of him and, extending his hand to the important gentleman who seemed somewhat ill at ease, inquired of him: “ Do you know me?” “No” replied the man nervously. “What a shame for you!” replied Gérard whose heart was fully reconciled with the person that he was and who could therefore readily welcome others.
A bullock-cart, bearing a desperately thin but heavily pregnant woman, her anxious husband and an enormous tin trunk, wound its way laboriously up the steep hillside.
… Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show himself – for there is such a terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead.”…. “Ask Our Lord to give me courage.” So wrote Mother Teresa to Ferdinand Périer, Archbishop of Calcutta on 18th March 1953.
He was a gambler who, in his youth, lost everything he had on racehorses, a gentle, prayer-filled man whom Mother Teresa described as “very, very holy”. As a priest he was later instrumental in founding a community of Brothers devoted to the service of the poorest of the poor. He shared their lives in Saigon, Cambodia and many other places of violence and suffering, and wrote sublimely of the “beautiful” unsung people he met along the way, whom he believed to be the hope of the world.
With the possibility of Mother Teresa’s canonisation later this year, journalists and commentators throughout the world are poised “objectively” to assess the rights and wrongs of her life, of the process of canonisation in the Roman Catholic Church, and of her being made officially a saint. I know because a number of them have made contact with me.
She was probably in her seventies, Afro-Caribbean, with watering eyes and a limp so pronounced that she could scarcely walk without her stick. She had been arrested for shoplifting, and I, as a Woman Police Constable, had been called to escort her to a cell and strip-search her. The rules on how the search should be conducted were very clear. Under no circumstances should I have let her keep her stick.
An old man with flowing beard and hair, wearing the saffron robes of a sannyasi, sat cross-legged, silently gazing into the darkness of a cold mountain cave. His earnest disciple waited patiently beside him. Many hours passed, during which the younger man felt the chilled darkness seep into his being and a growing sorrow. His heart longed for the sun rising over the waters of the Ganges that habitually brought joy to his meditations.
I have long been intrigued by the magi, those men from the east, where the daylight dawns, who had the insight, the vision, to spot in the darkness a previously unidentified star of exceptional luminosity. Having spotted it, they resolved to leave the security of what they knew and embark upon a journey into the unknown, drawn only by an intuition, a deep inner conviction, that the star was of extraordinary significance.
“I thirst”: in every form of human suffering Mother Teresa heard the words spoken by the crucified Christ. The vision which she held out to us was of Christ crying out for love in the broken bodies of the poor (whatever form that poverty might take) and of Christ simultaneously offering himself as spiritual sustenance in the broken bread of the Eucharist in order that that cry might not go without response.
The two-storey school building and deserted courtyard sparkled white in the Bengal mid-day sun. Suddenly from one of its entrances emerged a bespectacled figure, his kurta and pyjama also pristine white. With arms outstretched, he beamed from ear to ear and introduced himself as the headmaster. His pupils, he explained, had already gone home. With solicitous enthusiasm he ushered my two companions and me into a large, empty room at the far end of which stood a solitary desk and chair.