The day I saw Mother Teresa’s halo

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Catholic iconography usually depicts saints with a halo, a ring of light or a shining brightness radiating from the person’s head or entire person, symbolizing the holiness of the person, a reflection of God’s goodness in him or her. This has nothing to do with any chakra wierdness, and nothing to do with Microsoft’s digital ultra violent war games. The halo instead has everything to do with Jesus, who is Himself the Light shining in the darkness, the Lumen gentium, the Light of the Nations. Artistic license is one thing, actually seeing such a phenomenon is quite another. Back in the day, I must say that I did see the halo of Mother Teresa.

I was a young seminarian spending the Summer with the Missionaries of Charity, firstly in Calcutta for a number of weeks and then in Byculla district of what is today called Mumbai for a number of months. I slept on the surgery gurney of the medical room of the tuberculosis ward and was sitting out on the front steps of the entrance of this building when Mother stepped onto the compound of the old warehouse buildings that were now given over to the charity of the Missionaries.

All the sisters rushed to greet Mother with great joy, singing and dancing and receiving the traditional Indian greeting from her, all except for one sister, the religious superior of that local community at that time. That particular sister had remained in the tuberculosis ward. I didn’t know what was about to happen, but this non-participation in the welcoming of Mother Teresa was not at all a surprise to me. I had already had my own rather ferocious if polite discussion with this sister, reprimanding her for a number of things, both religious and theological, regardless of my total lack of status. I greatly feared for her fidelity to her vocation.

Meanwhile, I was paying close attention to Mother Teresa herself amidst all the joy and singing and dancing and greetings. She was absolutely shining, and not just around her head, but from her whole person, but truly particularly from around her head, a real light, supernatural but somehow visible, unmistakable as an interior light radiating in the darkness of this world. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my jaw dropped and eyes wide open. I rubbed my eyes. There it was, such a light!

There was also something else I saw, a certain determination to do something she had to do. She was making her way in my direction, that is, in the direction of the steps of the tuberculosis ward on which I was sitting. The sisters suddenly let her continue alone. She went by me inside the tuberculosis ward and straight into the medical room (my room, as it were) where the local superior was awaiting her. “Ah!” thought I. “This was the purpose of the trip.” I couldn’t help hear what then happened, with Mother Teresa immediately launching into a reprimand of that sister, who rebelliously defended her rebelliousness. “Wow!” thought I. “This is how to give someone a much needed smack-down, with firmness, respect, clarity, incisiveness.” This was the light of Jesus shining where it was needed in this world.

Meanwhile, as we would come to know, Mother Teresa was being sustained by the Light that is Christ even while living herself in a darkness that would crush the rest of us if we were without the light of Jesus Himself. It is the darkness of the spiritual eclipse on Calvary, when all of hell’s darkness broke out in an attempt to cover that light which cannot but burn through the smoke and soot. Jesus said that when He was to be lifted up on the Cross, He would draw all to Himself. Mother Teresa allowed herself in His grace to be drawn to the Cross to be in solidarity with Jesus even as He is in solidarity with us. And this light of Jesus could not be hidden within her. Whatever she was feeling on the inside, she radiated the true joy of the Holy Spirit and was genuinely happen despite her dark agony. That joy of the Holy Spirit was the light I saw radiating from her, a spiritual light, but a light I could actually see with my physical eyes.

I have much more to write about Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. I have a lifetime of being with them and their apostolate among the poorest of the poor. But today I’m off to the hermitage (now 4:54 AM…) to get some things, as the property on which it sits is being sold with urgency. Then I rush back for Noon Mass at the parish. More later.

13 Comments

Filed under Saints

13 responses to “The day I saw Mother Teresa’s halo

  1. Nancyv

    Thank you for sharing. That account leaves me speechless and teary.

  2. For myself, Fr. George, I am embracing this subject, today. I have agonized, in confusion, some writings/teachings of the Lord/Scriptures, etc. For instance; and exactly in this case, the one for whom is of partial confusion, to me.

    EVERYTHING I’ve read about St. Teresa of Calcutta, says to me; forgive, give, let go, always love in giving, etc. It always has sounded to me that, if people take advantage of you, let them!
    Yet, most things we read/have been or am taught/learn from His Heart, etc., seems to confirm this. But then, there is the confusing part: admonish a sinner, tough love, etc. etc.

    I was, in part, relieved to read your words of Mother Teresa, while there was a ‘reprimand of that sister’ from her.

    Today’s lesson for me: it’s NOT about letting people walk all over us. Now, to learn when and where…the ‘how to’ know.

    Thanks so much,
    Helen

  3. pelerin

    Father – have you ever seen the BBC film ‘Something beautiful for God’ made by the English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge? It was made way back in 1970.

    He wanted to film inside Mother Teresa’s hospital in Calcutta but his camerman said it would be impossible as there was not enough light coming in from the small windows. They did it anyway and the resulting film appeared to be lit up by a soft light – the same light you once saw.

    Muggeridge who I believe had once been a very left-wing Marxist atheist eventually saw the light (!) and embraced the Catholic Faith.

  4. sanfelipe007

    “It always has sounded to me that, if people take advantage of you, let them!”

    Exactly! And, in the beginning, every selfish bone in one’s body is screaming ” don’ get taken, don’t be a sucker!” But then, with spiritual growth, you begin to think, “yeah, why not? For the sake of the kingdom?”

    There was an obstacle, after I had first learned this lesson; to allow myself to be generous, an obstacle that I would lay down for myself, where my generosity had allowed others to be generous with “my” blessings, and I felt, once again, that I was being “taken.” “hey,” I said, “that is mine to give, not yours.”

    Thanks be to God that He opened my eyes to this error. After all, is this not a deeper sense of the words “bless me, Lord, that I may be a blessing to others?” Is the Lord jealous when you give His mercy/blessings to others?

    Does the Lord not let us take advantage of Him?

  5. sanfelipe007

    pelerin, unless I am mistaken, a link to that video was posted here, once before.

  6. Yikes, sanfelipe007 – I recently expressed what I thought was righteous anger to someone, who along with another took advantage of my hospitality – or so I felt. The person did not stick to the agreement we had, and so the burden fell on me – when I was already burdened with other responsibilities, that the person knew about.

    I am struggling with this ‘doormat’ thing, or “of being taken”. If we don’t protest, are we enabling people to keep on being irresponsible?

  7. Monica Harris

    Cool! I pray that Saint Mother Teresa gives you strength for what you have to do too, Father Byers.

  8. sanfelipe007

    Being some one’s recurring doormat is a special trial. I feel, as long as someone is only taking advantage of something that is mine to give, and not, say, playing fast and loose with the truth in any way. I would give till it hurts, but once it hurts, saying “NO” is an option. Protests are great when founded in truth with the aim of obtaining justice. Just double-check your true motive, before you protest, so that you do not commit Martha’s mistake. You remember Martha and Mary, yes? Luke 10:38-42

  9. I recall seeing a documentary here in Canada about soon after Mother Teresa’s death – where sisters of her order were interviewed.

    A young nun, interviewed by the reporter, said (my paraphrase) that yes, the sisters take dying people off the streets and give them a place where they can die with dignity. Then she giggled, and said, but many of these people return to health and then go home.

    I remember thinking – miracles galore.

  10. Nan

    Genetically Catholic, FYI the nurse says she’ll be surprised if Janet lives through the week.

  11. Nan, thank you for this update. Let us storm heaven, beseeching Our Lady on Janet’s behalf. I will also pray to St. Therese of Lisieux.
    God bless

  12. @ Nan, and also prayers to St. Mother Teresa, and St. JPII.

  13. Nan

    Genetically Catholic, thank you for your prayers. She died last night. On Saturday the he hospice nurse said she had been surprised each of the last three days to find Janet on her patient list

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