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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

The M.C. Spirit

 

THE M.C. SPIRIT
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C., 2012

Introduction.

In preparation for the Society feast on 22nd August, every year the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity of Bl. Teresa M.C. of Kolkata spend three days in prayer and reflection on the Spirit of the Society, which is one of loving trust, total surrender and cheerfulness, as lived by Jesus and Mary in the Gospel (R. 2). Here we try to go back as far as possible, within the limited resources, to its origin and gradual development with a few reflections.

Origin and development.

There are four noticeable steps in the development of the Spirit of the Society according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. In the handwritten Rule of Bl. Teresa M.C. on the feast of Corpus Christi 1947, no explicit mention of the Spirit of the Society is found, but we could still finda sort of similar idea, expressed differently. It says. “Before taking their vows they (the novices) must be well examined – so that the ‘Sister’ well understands what a life of total forgetfulness and abnegation for souls is – and if she is willing to lead such a life cheerfully.

In Mother’s hand written Rule Explanation we see the Spirit of the Society mentioned for the first time (R. 31). The same way and the same context of presenting the Spirit of the Society is found in the first printed Rule Book of 1954. It says: They (the novices) must come to know and love the Spirit of the society, which is one of total surrender, loving trust and cheerfulness(R. 37). There is no difference in the wording or the context here except that the Rule numbers are different.

The second step in the development of the Society’s Spirit is found in the 1973 Constitutions. Here, too, there is no difference in the order of presenting the Spirit, but there is a new Chapter added to the Constitutions with the title: Chapter II: the Name and the Spirit, and Rule 10 explains in detail what the threefold Spirit of the Society means and imply. There is also another addition here, namely, “…as lived by Jesus and His Mother in the Gospel”.

The third step of development is found in the 1980 Constitutions. In this Constitutions, Rule 2 says: “The Spirit of the Society is one of Total Surrender, Loving Trust and Cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and Mary in the Gospel.

And then in Part III of the Constitutions a full Chapter is dedicated to the Spirit of the Society. Here Rule 16 repeats Rule 2 almost literally with a slight difference at the end, namely, “…as lived by Jesus and His Mother”, instead of “…as lived by Jesus and Mary in the Gospel” (cf. R. 2). So Rules 17, 18 and 19 speak of the Spirit of the Society in detail.

It is in the present Constitutions of 1988 we see a change in the order of the presentation of the Spirit, namely Rule 2 says: “The Spirit of the Society is one of Loving Trust, Total Surrender and Cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and Mary in the Gospel” (cf. R. 22).

Rule 2 is repeated in Chapter 4 of the present Constitutions with a slight change at the end, namely, “…as lived by Jesus and His Mother” (cf. R. 22). Here, too, the title of the Chapter is “Our Spirit”, and Rules 23, 24 and 25 explain in detail the Spirit.

So it was in the V General Chapter of 1985 of the Missionaries of Charity that the traditional order of the presentation was changed into the present order, namely loving trust, total surrender and cheerfulness.

Did Bl. Teresa M.C. really want this change of order of the presentation, which she held for all her life, i.e. from 1928 to 1985? I remember in the extraordinary General Chapter of September 1990, Bl. Teresa explicitly said to one of the participants of our workshops: “Father, you might have the gift of writing and speaking, but I have the gift of living”. It did not make much difference to her at that stage of her life that one spoke of surrender first or second, as long as one has the grace to live the Spirit faithfully as they - total surrender, loving trust and cheerfulness -are inseparable from one another.

It is the surrender, however, that stands out most in the M.C. way of life and spirituality. We see this order also in our Lady’s life. At the Annunciation she surrendered herself totally to the divine will; Bl. Teresa did so as well,since she decided to consecrate her life totally to God.

In the very first letter Bl. Teresa wrote from Skopje, on 28th June 1928 to the Superior General of the Loreto Convent in Dublin, Ireland, she concludes. “…I don’t have any special conditions, I only want to be in the missions, and for everything else I surrender myself completely to the good God’s disposal”. At the time of writing this letter she was still a school girl, not yet even having completed her 18th year, and not having started any formal religious formation, except what she received from her parents and the parish priests.

The decision to become a religious Sister for Bl. Teresa M.C. meant in itself a complete surrender to the divine will through her Superiors. Some years later she would write: “Only total surrender can satisfy the burning desire of a true Missionary of Charity” (Rule Explanation R. 31). This means that she understood right from the beginning what it means to belong to Jesus through the profession of the evangelical counsels. For her, obedience to the legitimate Superiors meant real surrender of her will to God’s will and to his plan through her Superiors.

In the long locutions that began on Tuesday 10th September 1946, we see our Lord telling Bl. Teresa M.C., about the kind of obedience and trust she should have in him, namely: “Obey very cheerfully and promptly and without any questions – just only obey. I shall never leave you if you obey” (Mother’s Founding Grace p. 18); “Trust Me lovingly, trust me blindly” (ibid. p. 17).

On the eve of her departure for good from the Loreto convent, in Kolkata, Bl. Teresa M.C. wrote to the Archbishop of Kolkata, Mgr. Ferdinand Périer SJ: “…On Tuesday evening I am leaving by the Pujab Mail (by train). All is very dark, plenty of tears, but I go of my free choice with the blessing of obedience. Please pray for me that I may have the courage to complete my sacrifice as he has given me the inspiration and the grace to begin. Please pray – I have very little courage but I trust him blindly, in spite of all feelings” (15 August 1948).

As she began her religious vocation, Agnes Bojaxhiu surrendered herself completely to the divine will. As Bl. Teresa began her new way of life as Missionary of Charity she put all her trust in the divine assistance and guidance. From now on she will be led by the Holy Spirit whose instrument she has become.

Cheerfulness is the outward expression of our joy that comes from our total surrender to and loving trust in the Lord. Jesus wants us not only to surrender our reason and will to his plan and to his will, not only toput our trust in him, but he wants us to do it with joy; as we know that he gives most who gives with joy. Besides, it is said that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9: 7).

Jesus wants by all means to have his joy in us, for he said: “That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15: 11). Let us remember that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (cf. Neh 8: 10). It is said that “The apostles left the Council full of joy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus” (cf. Acts 5: 41).

Bl. Teresa M.C. wrote to one of her Spiritual Directors: “The whole time smiling – Sisters and people pass such remarks –Could they but know- and  how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness and misery…”.

As we grow in holiness through prayer, penance and works of mercy, we also grow in the Spirit of the Society. These threefold aspects are like the three sides of a single triangle lived so perfectly, so faithfully and so perseveringly by the persons of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as we find it in the pages of the Gospels.

Lived by Mary and Joseph.

The call of Mary to become the Mother of God began with her complete surrender to the plan and will of God. St. Luke the evangelist gives us her exact words when he wrote: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1: 38). Our Lady’s surrender to the Divine Will was unconditional, total and without questions. It was her unshakable faith and her firm determination to do God’s will at any cost that moved first her heart and then her lips.

For a girl of her age, her response to the Angel was against all reason. Humanly speaking her life was in danger. According to the Jewish law she could easily be stoned to death with the child in her womb. Here her determination to do God’s will prevailed. Her response was unconditional, although humanly speaking unreasonable.

Just a word from Joseph’s mouth could have been the end of the lives of two of the most important persons who ever lived on the earth. The Creator of the universe was protected and saved by the heroic silence of St. Joseph that was possible only because of his undefeatable charity. Here human reason fails to understand, nor can it explain away the interaction of God’s plan and his will.

St. Joseph’s charity urged him to surrender himself completely, contrary to all human reasoning, to God’s plan and to his will. No way could one’s reason explain nor could St. Joseph understand without the direct intervention of God in the life of that just, patient and obedient man, who was chosen by God to be the chaste and faithful Spouse of the Virgin Mother of God and the prudent guardian and foster father of the Son of God.

The meaning and significance.

The object of our surrender is our human reason and our human will to the divine will and God’s plan. The necessary consequence of our total surrender to the divine will and plan produce in our soul profound peace and lasting joy. Joy goes with surrender and faces the consequences in serene confidence. One does not calculate the many risks in this sort of surrender, but willingly confronts and accepts the consequences in an exemplary manner.

There can be an inevitable possibility to be criticized, misunderstood, misjudged, condemned, and tortured, as we see in the lives of saints and martyrs. Here there is a transcendental dimension. Here eternity merges with time and allows the victim to experience unspeakable interior joy and inexplicable peace of mind.

Here there is no violent reaction, because one is concentrating not on the wrongs and the wrong doer but on the good God, whose will he wants to accomplish at any cost, cost what it may. Here one is ready to lose his very life, not in despair but in hope and in love, for love. Here the human soul, purified in the furnace of divine love, resembles its beloved, forgets all temporary discomforts and even excruciating pain.

Surrender to the Divine Will demands humility of heart and purity of spirit. Here I do not calculate the loss, nor do I concentrate on the gift, but on the person of the giver and on his love who can ask any sacrifice from me. Here suffering is seen not as a burden or as an end, but as a gift and as a sharing in the passion of Christ. It becomes a means through which Jesus continues the redemption of the world.

Jesus is in need of intimate friends whom he can rely upon, can ask heroic sacrifices from and even excruciating pain from, for the salvation of sinners. How much suffering is being wasted every day, even by priests and consecrated persons, which could be channelled in the desert of humanity like the Indira Ganhi dam in Rajasthan, India. The desert land of Rajasthan became a fertile land of fresh and green pastures. In the desert of humanity Jesus chooses generous souls to water it with heroic sacrifices to conquer the world of sin with him.

There is so much sin everywhere, like the scourge of abortion, the evil of mercy-killing (euthanasia), exploitation and corruption, satanic cults and black magic, to mention a few. When sin abounds grace should abound much more, which can be possible only if Jesus finds generous persons to live with him, to suffer with him, to redeem anew the world of today. In the beginning of each station of the Cross we pray: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by the holy Cross you have redeemed the world”. To surrender to God in faith and love in itself is a death, a dying to one’s reason, one’s plan and projects.

The Christological dimension.

The Spirit of our Society is the Spirit of the Gospel, the Spirit of Jesus Christ who surrendered his will so totally and so unconditionally to his Father’s will in obedience. “My food is to do the will of my Father who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do…” (Jn 4: 34); “My Father is always working and I too must work” (Jn 5: 17); “Father, if possible, take this chalice away from me, but not my will however, but your will be done…” (Lk 22: 42).

The final and definitive surrender of Jesus is seen on the Cross, when he said: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit…” (Lk 23: 46): “It is fulfilled…”; (Jn 19: 30). Jesus’ one desire was to fulfil his Father’s will on earth. In order to do that he had to go through great pain, agony and “martyrdom of will”. “Son though he was he learnt obedience from what he suffered…” (cf. Heb 5: 8); “He became obedient unto death, death on a Cross…” (cf. Phil 2:8).

The M.C. Spirit then is Jesus’ spirit, as Jesus is our mirror and our model. The mirror will show exactly what one looks like. It is not the fault of the mirror if one’s nose is crooked, or if there are some scars or wrinkles on the face. The mirror is objective. Jesus is the true mirror of our souls.

If Jesus surrendered himself completely to the Father’s will in obedience, it is also our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to surrender our will to God’s will in love, to trust him lovingly and blindly, which will make us all joyful. And God loves a cheerful giver. Among all creatures human beings alone can express the joy through capturing smiles. True joy of the Spirit is the infallible sign of the presence of God in us.

“An M.C. must be an M.C. of joy. By this sign the world will know you are M.C.s” (Bl. Teresa M.C.).

Love and prayers.

God bless you.