On Mothers Day: reflections on love, prayer, Mother Teresa, Mother Mary
(Note: The piece below was written on May 11, 2008. Prior to that, over a period of several months, I was again finding the truth of, the beautiful reality of, prayer. Since then, and as of today June 17, 2008, prayer has become an important part of my life. My faith is strong in a way I’ve never experienced before.)
It’s a beautiful sunny warm day in Colorado. I’ve just returned from outside where the colors are bright from the sky to the trees…to butterflies and hummingbirds…the daffodils are blooming, and I’ve seen the first yellow dandelions…spring is here (it takes some time to see it in Colorado)…but it is most definitely here now.
I write this on Mother’s Day to share personal contemplation…it is written from someone who values spirituality (I am someone who is introspective and always seeking to know; I believe in love, I believe in the love our fellow elder brother and teacher Jesus taught, and although I rejected organized religion years ago and it was in that rejection of religion, I also stopped praying, recent experiences have completely changed that for me.)
For the most part, for years, I have refrained from prayer (a topic I explored in detail in a piece I wrote several years ago). However, in the past several months, due in part to a friend advising me that one day, when in need of solace, I may reach out and try and then I will experience a comfort which will affirm the divine presence, I did. I was skeptical, listened, and tucked that advice away (when someone I trust cares enough to share something of value from their personal experience it holds much weight with me), and I remembered it, until it indeed and truly became relevant…and I reached out, experimenting as it were, not knowing but reaching out nonetheless in prayer, and I am sharing here that I have found that my seeking brought communion/communication …it was and is there.
I have found this to be re-affirmed for me over the last several months repeatedly. It was as if I was caught in a struggle between my rejection and the possible validation that what a friend has said might be so…that in a moment of despair, I reached out and I now believe I am not only heard, but I hear…I hear or receive reassurance, solace, comfort, and a “knowing” that all is well, will be well, and that I need do nothing for that reality to become (indeed all is well–only my mind sometimes suggest otherwise). I am receiving a peace that passes all understanding with my mind. I have rediscovered the power of prayer…both with whom I regard as my heavenly Father…and for the first time in my life with what some have called the Divine feminine (a concept I’ve heard and read of before), but now it is no concept but a reality in my spiritual path and understanding as I have for the first time discovered Marian prayer. Again, this is a new experience for me, and I have begun to read and study Catholic theology/writings from the saints recently, but it is my personal experience which has been the most changing and influential for me.
At another time, I may share more regarding this,but for now, I simply wish to share several points on Mothers Day which I wanted to share with all, and for those those who haven’t a mother to share it with either due to death or due to the choices a mother may have made which has built a chasm between themselves and their child when the truth is denied. I’m simply sharing my thoughts on this Mother’s Day…this is not an article…nor essay…just the thoughts/feelings I am experiencing today, my train of thought, a day many experience with a mother they love and whom loves them…a day when the divine – its feminine manifestation through motherhood – is celebrated and recognized as something to be cherished. A day when not all have the earthly presence of a loving mother, but whom can experience inner peace and I believe receive the same feeling of nurturing one would expect from a loving parent through the divine.
A few months ago, during a time of discouragement and questioning, two friends within days of one another suggested I learn more of Mother Teresa’s life; saying they felt that my reading one or more of the good books about her life and perhaps a good film/documentary would be valuable to my perspective as I was pondering a number of matters.
This suggestion struck home.
In my recent study of her, I’ve found a woman of courage, devotion, and love whose heart, too, was filled with questions – but none so much as to alter a faith that moved mountains in its blessing of thousands. It as that point, when one’s heart is broken by discouragement and endless obstacles, that faith keeps us venturing onward despite appearances. It is such a faith I most admire and from which we can learn to develop in times of tranquility so it will remain in times of trouble. Mother Teresa’s life exemplified such a faith.
Hers was a life (as most of us relate to) not filled with endless constant knowing, but a life filled with painful questions and despair. Yes there was joy, but it was not a life that did not also bring hardship – and the greatest being that of hardships and extreme obstacles making her question the nature of God. This is what to me makes her most extraordinary. She was not one of those who cheerily dismiss the injustice of the world, she was one who felt it, and she, too, suffered…perhaps that greatest suffering be within when one feels so alone – alone even from their God.
Amidst my reading, I also recently watched what seemed to be a most excellent 2003 film entitled “Mother Teresa” and starring Olivia Hussey as Mother Teresa.
Early in the film another nun, never understanding Teresa’s desire to go among those most in needs in the streets, expressed something like “What can one person possibly do to make a difference when there is so much evil in the world?” Her question was asked with an arrogance as if she knew knew better, was wiser, and viewed the activities Teresa did as hopeless, naive, and without much affect. With that attitude, that nun, remained in her closeted protected comfort, feeling good about herself while judging Teresa.
Yet Teresa persevered in her desire to go out amongst the suffering. She deeply desired to bring the love she felt to people in need directly. And even years later, when she felt so alone, it was that memory of love which brought her home to a peace that indeed “passeth all understanding.”
For even in pain, the hope, the truth, of the power of love heals and satisfies – despite appearances.
Is there a pain that you’ve not healed from? Or perhaps you regard as such: An experience right under the surface, something that will bring tears to your eyes if you let it, it’s always there and in moments of particularly high stress (even just physical stress) the emotion comes to your awareness. Or perhaps someone or some thing is mentioned and brings it back to you? From where you don’t know – you just know it’s there gripping you – and there is nothing to be done. You will become strong again, but always it remains. Whom can you share it with? Who would really understand? A friend tells me Mother Teresa’s feeling of darkness, that hurt or pain in her soul, is something each of us can learn from. It is then we can turn to no other as much as we could, if we would, turn to God.
Is this so? Did a woman, as Teresa, find spiritual consolation there?
Apparently, even as she went through darkness, even as she allowed herself to question God (as few in the Church will ever do), she retained her faith. A great mystery – yes…but nonetheless it remained….it remained because love remained as her guiding force. In fact, solace seems to have been found in being able to be there for those in need – those she viewed not as merely people needing help – but as reflections of God whom she could embrace and serve. She wasn’t separate from others, but one with them as with God.
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty,” wrote Albert Einstein.
To rid oneself of such a self-imposed prison we need only realize love cannot be divided. It is to be given all from us. However, doing so, may also bring pain. Pain of betrayals. Pain of obstruction from the mediocrity of those who oppose any spirit who seeks to love. And, pain of loss – be it loss in achieving a noble purpose one set to do – and pain of loss of those one has loved. The latter, though sharp, is worth it – as it comes with memory of love – memory of joys shared. The first is one Mother Teresa struggled with, for when all seemed to be resulting in a defeat – despite her feelings of despair and discouragement – she resiliently came back to try again.
I share this because it mirrors the feelings I’ve experienced of wondering and despair on my spiritual path, only to find myself returning, in a way that surprises me, to what can only be called faith.
As I shared in an earlier blog entry here, I have always found the beautiful ‘Ava Maria” to be hauntingly significant with which I have for years felt a deep rapport. And beyond this, the reverent holiness of walking into a Catholic Church still can draw me with memories from childhood prayers at the alter, with my father, lighting a candle, and praying for those I loved. “Once Catholic, always Catholic,” I’ve been told…my mind cannot comprehend the rationality of that, I just do not know what it means, but somehow I will confess a drawing to the Church not because of doctrine but a rapport with mysticism and the lives of the saints which I have studied…and now through my recent experience in prayer. Yes, this is strange to me, but it is so. (When I say “Church” I refer not, at this time, to attendance at a place of worship…but to the teachings as it relates to prayer, intercession (something I previously rejected), and the communication of those whose faith is based in this Church (their writings) which has become meaningful to me. I am exploring much, watching curiously, as I find myself with a very different state of mind free of anxiety. I trust my own conscious, my heart, in all matters…and it this I will ultimately always follow wherever it leads in my life. Right now, I am finding much value in my reading of the lives of the saints. Their questioning, their resolve, their doubts, their faith…their works…these speak much to me.
I’ve heard the phrase “divine darkness.” It intrigues me. It may be the experience of keeping the faith in love, of divine love, even in midst of pain…that even within such experience, truth is communicated. Love pervades the depth of despair. I do believe there is no boundary separating communication of love between each of us, nor between God and us. Perhaps if, and I am considering this myself, if we perceive such a barrier it is one we have erected, if even unconsciously be it between those we love as well as between the Divine and ourselves.
For myself, I believe in love. Its manifestations in my life have given me much to be grateful for. And as I have received love, so I give it. For love is not a fleeting feeling, it is not an infatuation, it is not reserved but for family and close friends….it is unconditional and for all from all. That is my belief, and the choice I make to endeavor to live by. It requires great strength, this I know. For it is when you feel most alone that your spirit, your faith, must be strong. And if it has been seemingly broken, I trust that if you reach out once more perhaps you too may find a solace as I’ve experienced recently.
My heart is filled with gratitude. I have a father who loves me, and a few good friends (My father, whom has my deep gratitude for being both “father” and “mother” to me, is an extraordinary man whose love for me has been there since I was a child – in him I know I have someone I can always trust and whom on this and every Mothers Day and Fathers Day holds my deepest respect and appreciation for doing his best so I would become a strong individual- I was raised with a sense that I could achieve and go after whatever I wanted to do in life-this motivation I owe to his giving me such a nurturing upbringing- I am blessed with such a loving father)…and I have found a Presence of Love through prayer as I’ve not known before…and on this Mother’s Day, I share that for the first time in my life I recognize Mother Mary. My mind rationally cannot explain this, nor shall I try, but it is real and true for me in my life. Frankly, it amazes me. A non-religious individual as I coming back, returning as it were, as well as discovering for the first time, an experience never before had. And as those of you who’ve read my personal blog entries below, it is imperative to me to share my experiences in writing….thus today I’ve shared what is most significant in my spiritual life now. The idea of intercessory prayer has always been alien to me, but now, somehow it resonates…and why not, for how many have not reached out to those who have passed, for spirit continues (I believe). I certainly believe in intercessory prayer for one another, so why not beyond our physical existence?
“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19: 26-27, KJV)
What does that Scripture mean? Consider it, as I have, for in it, for any disciple of Jesus’ teaching of love, may perhaps find one who may give an understanding, as any loving mother would, to her child…but a mother who is available to all. I have pondered this and simply share it with you. I would also share that in times when my peace is disturbed, I find solace in the wilderness. I believe it is no accident we refer to our natural home as “Mother Earth”…and in times of trouble, seek the solitude of the earth for she is where we have come from. In the wilderness, I experience inner peace even when life relating to the outer world seems in turmoil or stressful.
I end this train of thought today with this. If you are alone today or any day, renew your strength by simply expressing love to another…through a smile, a sharing of a song, a call on the phone…remain not in your own discouragements, but be the one who might just relieve another’s suffering (whether you are aware of it or not). There is much which is a mystery to me, but there is one thing I believe wholeheartedly: Love is the answer.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury let me sow pardon, where there is doubt let me sow faith, where there is despair let me give hope, where there is darkness let me give light, Where there is sadness let me give joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not try to be comforted but to comfort, not try to be understood but to understand, not try to be loved but to love. Because it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I am joyful and content in my life.
Christine Smith, May 11, 2008