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  • Sarah Raad

Zeal

Your heart was never drowned in sorrow as was My Mother’s heart. We both gave Ourselves up totally for souls. What about you?” (Christ to Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

Saint Peter Nolasco's Vision of Saint Peter the Apostle (Francisco de Zurbaran)

I have been thinking about the Saints – the souls canonised by the Catholic Church because they are recognised (through miracles) as sanctified in Heaven – and while I have been thinking about these souls, I have also been thinking about what makes a Saint, a “Saint”…


After all, there are many hundreds of souls recognised as Saints by the Catholic Church. Some are ancient – Saints Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John and Matthew – to name a few. And some old and lived concurrently and locally, like Saints Francis, Clare, Agnes and Dominic who lived in Assisi. And some Saints are less old, like Saints Jacinta and Francesco of Fatima. And then there are modern Saints, like Saints Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta…


And when I think of all the different examples of sanctity, the defining factor in their behaviour – what comes to mind about their attitude – is their ZEAL!


Zeal could also be described as passion or enthusiasm. And each of these Saints had a zeal – a true love and passion – for God, and they expressed this zeal with great fervour and great strength!


And as I was thinking about these Saints in general, I thought most particularly of the example of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In 1946 (on the 10th of September, in fact), after she had spent the previous fifteen years teaching in India as a Missionary Sister of Loretto, Saint Mother Teresa felt God’s call to do more… She felt a call to show God’s love through ministering to the abandoned, the sick and the poor…


Now, theoretically – and with hindsight – this seems like a straightforward directive, particularly in a place like India, where poverty is rife... Go out and look after the poor. But, in actual fact, this directive meant that the Saint needed to get through quite a lot of administration. You see, first she required dispensation from the Pope to leave the Sisters of Loretto and another dispensation to start the Sisters of Charity. In fact, Mother Teresa needed to change up her whole life! She had to move home and start over. She needed to make new connections and do different work. She had to leave the companionship of the Sisters of Loretto and start again – alone. And she needed to break through the cultural, political and economic barriers within the world she lived in.

And to achieve this, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta had to act with ZEAL! And it is clear that her attitude was zealous because without any zeal, the Sisters of Charity would not have attracted the thousands of religious and lay people who work within the charity to minister to the poorest of the poor today… People follow passion – after all!

And how did she have such zeal? How did this Saint maintain this zeal in the face of heat and flies and poverty and hopelessness and rejection? After all, it is one thing to watch the poor from a distance (or on a television screen) and quite another to sit with them and smell them face to face. Leprosy – one of the main diseases to which Mother Teresa ministered – is, after all, a foul-smelling disease in its final stages! And a body that is unwashed because that person cannot access clean water for cleaning, does not smell beautiful…


And yet, Saint Mother Teresa saw Christ in those smells… She saw God there!


And I have been reflecting on what helped Mother Teresa to maintain her zeal…


And the answer is simple – God – it was God who helped Mother Teresa to maintain her zeal, and it was God who helped Saints Peter and Paul, and Andrew, James and John and Matthew, and Clare and Francis and Dominic and Agnes and Pope John Paul II… And all the Saints…


You see, on the 10th of September 1946, Mother Teresa heard these words inside her heart… “You have come to India for Me. Are you now afraid to take one more step for Me? Has your generosity cooled down? Am I only secondary for you? You did not die for souls; that's why you don't care what happens to them. Your heart was never drowned in sorrow as was My Mother’s heart. We both gave Ourselves up totally for souls. What about you? ... Will you refuse?”


And I have been reflecting on that. Because with zeal for my Beloved, the whole world will see how great is the glory of God…


It only takes a zeal! People follow passion after all…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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