Celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family in a Very Holy Place
[Fr. Thomas Rosica is in Calcutta, giving conferences to the Missionaries of Charity at their various centres for the poor and dying. He is accompanied by Prevain Devendran, Manager of Operations of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation.]
I shall never forget today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family, experienced in Kalighat, one of the oldest sections of the city of Kolkata where Mother Teresa established her renowned home of ‘Nirmal Hriday’ (Home for the Pure of Heart) for the Destitute and Dying in 1952. The Missionaries of Charity invited me to celebrate mass this morning with their community of 10 sisters, dozens of volunteers and staff, and close to 100 ‘residents’ cared for by the Sisters. There were men and women of every age, in various states of serious diseases and terminal illnesses. As I walked amidst rows of stretchers of the sick and dying, and witnessed the heroic gestures of the sisters and volunteers from many corners of the earth, I could hear Mother Teresa’s words echoing in my ears: "We can do not great things, only small things with great love."
It was very obvious to me once again that the hungry, homeless, destitute and abandoned people of the earth cannot wait for the rest of the world to come up with the perfect answer; they need effective solidarity and presence. These women are men who are without a constituency in the great, social ideologies of our times need more than anything a loving human presence and a caring hand, a gentle caress and embrace. As Mother Teresa often said: “they arrive to us at Kalighat as animals. They will die as angels.”
Today, Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, I needed to be reminded of a fundamental truth of being Christian and Catholic, and a principle of all of the Church’s religious and humanitarian work throughout the ages: Jesus Christ, the eternal Word made flesh, the redeemer of humankind, chose to identify himself with every person – especially the poor, the sick and the needy. Whenever we treat them with tenderness and love, we do it to Him.
Mother Teresa has gone to God and she is now a Saint of the Catholic Church. The singer is gone. Her song continues to be sung throughout the world. She lit a flame of love that is now carried forward by her sisters – the Missionaries of Charity, the Brothers, the Fathers and all of those who cooperate with them in the Field Hospitals of our times. Mother Teresa passed the torch on to each of us.
In her own words: “Let us begin to change the world for the better by turning in humble prayer to God, the Creator of all that exists. Let us be renewed in faith. Let our hearts be filled with genuine love. Let each one personally do something useful and demanding for those in need. Only when we learn to see others, no matter how different and removed from us, as our beloved brothers and sisters, will humanity learn the ways of peace. Then truly we will have done "something beautiful for God."
Now I understand why they call Calcutta the City of Joy.
Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB
Chief Executive Officer