Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arriving in Rome on Mother Teresa's feast day: Part Two

Last night I began to recount my journey in a blog post regarding my recent trip to Rome where I attended the "Church Up Close" conference for Catholic journalists. I "happened" to arrive in Rome, Italy on Mother Teresa's feast day. Those of you who know me I'm sure realize that Mother's feast day is a big deal to me. Here's the first post in case you didn't read it.

So, there I was at the Missionaries of Charity convent, feeling quite exhausted as well as a bit awkward because of the way I showed up at the convent unannounced and with baggage, inquiring about a place to stay. I wasn't supposed to be there until later that evening to accompany the sisters to the feast day Mass at the other convent's church.

Earlier, the Mother Superior told me that the plans had changed and the sisters would not be going to the 7:00 PM Mass. She explained that there would be a 5:00 PM Mass for Mother Teresa's feast day right there at the convent's chapel and I was welcome to come.

"Great!" I thought. "I'll not only be able to get to Mass for my Sunday obligation, but I'll also be with the MC sisters on this beautiful feast day. God is so good to me!" Sister showed me where we'd store my suitcase for the time being and then ushered me to the the women's shelter and showed me a bed that wasn't being used. "You can rest on this bed," she told me.

Then, off to the dining room where I was given a plate of food. As I ate my meal, a young woman from the shelter came quietly into the room and sat right across from me at the table. She seemed very interested in watching me eat. I asked her if she'd like some of my food and she said, "Si."

So, I cut her pieces of my nectarine and handed her one at a time. She ate them right up and thanked me by nodding and smiling. I couldn't help but see Jesus in the young woman as she took each piece of fruit and asked me for more with her eyes. I was so thankful for God's grace on Mother's feast day - He was allowing me to experience this encounter of what Mother would describe as encountering "Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor."

I then felt inspired to take out a Miraculous medal from my purse and asked the woman if she'd like it. "Si," she replied. I helped her to put it onto her plastic heart necklace that adorned her neck. She seemed so happy to be wearing it. I asked her if I could snap her photo. She was delighted. After a while, she left the room to sit out in the courtyard with the other women who lived in the shelter.

My dinner "guest" wearing her new Miraculous medal

I didn't plan to nap or rest even though I was really very tired and sore. I knew I'd probably feel worse from the jet-lag after a nap and Mass would be coming up soon as well. I wanted to make a visit to the chapel and have a little time to be with Jesus to express my thanks for all of His blessings. So, after I cleaned up my dishes, I made my way over to the Blessed Sacrament. On the way, I passed the huge bronze statue of Mother Teresa that I had seen last year while in Rome, only this time she was adorned with a necklace of flowers for her feast day.

In the MC courtyard near the chapel

In the M C chapel on Mother's feast day

Later, Sister came and found me in the chapel and suggested that I rest. I did what I was told and laid down on the bed for about fifteen minutes or so, because it was already almost time for Mass to begin. I felt tremendous grace again, being given a unique experience to once again be in a women's shelter, lying on one of the beds.

My bed

I had once stayed in Harlem, NY at the MC's women's shelter when I was there for a long week end to help with the soup kitchen and participate in the prayer life of the sisters while also being guided by a retreat at the convent given by my spiritual director, Fr. John A. Hardon S. J. I recounted that Harlem shelter experience in my book: Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship.

That Sunday in Rome, I was feeling a great gift from God, allowing me to be at the shelter and MC convent, all the while still feeling a bit "homeless." This part of my experience is very difficult for me to articulate. The combination of being allowed to feel "homeless" and cared for at the same time is a grace that filled me with joy and gratitude.

"Trust and surrrender" echoed in my heart...

To be continued...


  1. As a young girl growing up in the 1980's, two people were the windows into the church. The first is John Paul ii. The second was blessed teresa of Calcutta. It is amazing to have been able to witness these saints.

  2. Yes! My two heroes! Yes, it was amazing to have lived in this era and watch them and we must carry out their example and prayer and spread it to the world!


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