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.