This month, we will be taking a mini-retreat with Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household. Like many Catholics, I have followed Fr. Raniero’s preaching for years, and what I love most about him is his humility. He never draws attention to himself. Instead, he points his listeners to Jesus and urges them to open their hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Come Find Jesus. We are privileged to hear Fr. Raniero reflect on St. Teresa of Calcutta, another follower of Christ who had no interest in drawing attention to herself. From the moment she became famous for her work with the poor, many people wanted to give Mother Teresa accolades, awards, and honors. And rightly so—she even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979! But none of this mattered to her. All she wanted was to know Jesus and care for him “in the distressing disguise of the poor.” As she once told the sisters in her religious order,
Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say, “I love you”? It is impossible.
If she were here today, Mother Teresa would probably say something similar to us. She would remind us that Jesus is always reaching out to us, inviting us to meet him in prayer and in the Mass. She would remind us that as we meet Jesus in such a personal way, we’ll find the grace to love the people in our lives—especially the ones who are suffering or struggling in any way.
So as you pray through Fr. Raniero’s articles this month, be careful not to put him or Mother Teresa on a pedestal. Rather, let’s view them as companions on our journey toward Jesus. Let’s allow them help us fix our hearts on Jesus instead.
No Matter How We Feel. One more thing: don’t feel surprised if you don’t feel that Jesus is close to you every time you sit down to pray. Everyone has good days and bad days. Everyone feels distant from the Lord at times. Mother Teresa spent years feeling distant from the Lord, but she kept pursuing him in prayer every day. So don’t let any feelings keep you from praying! God loves it when you persevere. As Mother Teresa said,
It is a good thing . . . if you pray [and] keep vigils, . . . when the fervor of divine grace is with you, but it is altogether most pleasing and acceptable to God that, when divine grace is lacking or has been withdrawn from you, you do not pray less [or] keep vigils less often. . . . Do your share, . . . and God will do his part well.
May God bless all of us with a deeper love for Jesus and for the poor in our midst.