The makings of a Saint

Mother Teresa was born Agnesa Gonxha Bojaxhiu, 1910, as the youngest child of Nilola and Drana in the city of Skoje, present day Macedonia.  Influenced by the Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart, she received her First Communion at age 5 and was confirmed at 6. Her father’s death at age 8 created financial challenges for the family. After a pilgrimage when she was 12, she made a decision to spread the word of Jesus’ teachings throughout the world. She left home at age 18 with a strong desire to become a missionary, traveling to Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto. After receiving the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux, she learned to speak English, and departed for India to be a teacher.

Mother Teresa, whom she later became known as, completed nursing training at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna before moving to Calcutta in 1948. She had a deep yearning, from a young age, to provide service to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. The purpose of her organization was to create a hope of survival to the needy, sick and destitute.

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

An encounter with Mother Teresa as told by Susan Conroy in Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanity.

“During my first encounters with Mother Teresa…I was struck by her profound humility. I knew that she was world famous and I had imagined that all famous people have a sense of their own greatness, a pride that shows through in their words and manners. There was none of that in Mother Teresa. There was an apparent selflessness in her, a quality that is not easy to find, even in non-famous people. It was as if she was totally unaware of herself, as if she was aware of only God and others. I had never met anyone in my life as humble as Mother Teresa. She was as humble as the poor whom we would lift up out of the gutters. Her humility was strikingly beautiful to me. Mother Teresa embodied so many other qualities as well, qualities that are all too rare in the world today. I wished that I could have brought her home with me, shown her to everyone, and said: “Just look at her!” Her appearance, her spirit, and her presence spoke a thousand words about integrity, about God, about true beauty, about inner strength, about love. Before meeting her, I had held incredibly high expectations and hopes concerning her, and I was not disappointed in the least. The reality was even better than what I had imagined. All that I learned about her and from her had been true-to-life.”

Mother Teresa was tough yet practical, plain yet prayerful, small yet mighty. She felt that God had given, not just her, but each of us the capacity to achieve deeds in the service of others. In her words, “when a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.   It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” 

She received many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She founded new healing communities in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war torn Iraq. By 1997, her Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 with her canonization approved by Pope Francis, September 2016.

The story of Mother Teresa exemplifies love in action. In her quiet way, she sparked a movement, an example of the difference that can be made by the yearning of one simple soul. She truly became the change she wished to see in the world, and in her sainthood, continues to urge each of us to make a difference in the world. What about you? Are you willing to be a spark to something big?

7 days to JOY

Happiness may be based on circumstance, but Joy is a choice. According to Brene Brown, Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. It is quite possible to lament on daily drudgery only to envisage joy and happiness as being somewhere in the distant future. Author Greg Braden calls this thought pattern “preoccupation destination addiction.” But if happiness and joy always originate in the future, how will we ever achieve it? With this commentary, you are encouraged to seek out joy every day for a week. In doing so, we can learn to appreciate the small things in life that are all around us and the magic that we are capable of producing for ourselves and the souls we encounter.  A journal will help facilitate this endeavor.

Day 1:
The Smile Project: Choose this project on a day that you plan to be out and about, running errands. You will make an effort on this day, to make eye contact with anyone who comes near to you and when you do, you will greet them with a deep and conscious smile. In doing so, you give them a very special gift, a piece of you.  Giving is a fundamental way of providing joy not just to you, but to the receiver as well. Joy that is shared is joy made double. Open your heart to receive what is mirrored back to you. And take a moment at the end of the day to journal the experience.
Day 2:
Count your blessings: Joy is what happens to us in any and every moment when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Research has shown tremendous benefits to the practice of gratitude. Daily gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep quality. What you will do on this day is set the timer on your phone to alert you every hour. At that time, you will take out your journal and write down something that you are grateful for. You may start superficially, but try to dig deep at some point and dig up the gems.
Day 3:
Use Visualization: Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “if you can see it, you can be it.” Mental images can be seen as the seed of all ideas, all progress, and all future development. The importance of this tool is understood by anyone successfully applying the Law of Attraction. Studies actually show that our minds/bodies don’t know the difference between visualization and actually having or doing a thing, so it will respond in the same way it would if you were actually experiencing that which you visualize. On this day you will find a quiet place to sit comfortably. You will think of an experience or thing that you wish to achieve. Now play it out in your mind, feeling in your heart all that the achievement provides. Try to elicit as many senses as you can. Enjoy the realization of having this thing or experience and stay in this state of bliss for as long as possible.
Day 4:
Learn / Create: This will be a day of creativity and expansion. Creativity is one of the greatest virtues anyone can be blessed with, yet many of us never allow our true creativity to be expressed. What do you long to do or learn? On this day you will use Youtube.com to search out a video to teach you something new or to do something creative. Perhaps it is dancing (ball room or line dancing), it could be painting, writing, yoga, or anything else you deem appropriate. The key is to open yourself up to new opportunity and experience. Creativity is about living life as a magnificent journey. Embrace your creativity and your ability to learn new things that sound exciting to you.
Day 5:
Clear a space: A crowded closet or overflowing table may seem like a trivial thing, yet an orderly environment can make you feel more in control of your life, affecting your mood. The more things are in order, the more joy you may feel. Today you will choose a drawer, cabinet, area, or closet to attack. You may need to remove everything to begin, then sort out what you need, discarding what you don’t need. It may be helpful to buy instruments or tools to help organize what you choose to put back. For example, I recently organized a drawer in my bathroom vanity. I purchased plastic organizers from the dollar store to allow me to “put things in their place.” Now every time I open that drawer, I feel joy at the tidiness of it.
Day 6:
Watch your thoughts: Today will be a day of introspection. Thoughts matter. Our thoughts are the soil from which springs our words and actions. Using our mind to compare ourselves to others wastes precious energy and depletes our joy. Research shows that it breeds feelings of envy, low self-confidence, and depression while compromising our ability to trust another. Today you will make a point to notice any time that you compare yourself to another. It may be as simple as the comparing your looks and/or clothing while in line at a store.  Comparing yourself to another is a form of judgement, a judgement of yourself. When you catch yourself in action, make a point to replace that thought with a positive affirmation starting with the words “I am…”
Day 7:
Embrace self-care: Caring for self is one of the most essential things you can do and one of the easiest to dismiss. Self-care is important to physical health, yet we should also practice emotional hygiene, taking care of our emotions, thoughts and feelings. If you consistently neglect yourself for the sake of others, contrary to what you might think, there may not be kudos at the pearly gates and you will likely deplete yourself of happiness and joy. What do you need? Today you will choose an emotional need and a physical need that would fall under the genre of self-care. For example, you may know that you need to set boundaries with someone emotionally. Now is the time. On a physical note, you can enjoy a walk in the park, a hot bath, a massage or simply quiet time in a special place. Take the time for self-care. Your health and happiness depend on it. And above all, allow yourself to be loved.

Experiencing joy is our natural state and is available to all of us. It can be experienced when we make a conscious decision every day regarding our focus. The greatest honor that you can give yourself and those you love is to live in joy. Stay close to anything and anyone that makes you feel glad to be alive. Make a conscious choice to focus on joy, since only by being happy can we have the necessary faith, courage, and strength to face our sorrows and overcome them.