Of Pencils and Love

«What is it, I wonder, that I don’t understand about the importance of writing that Mother Teresa did?»

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This post by Kathryn Cunningham is reprinted from the blog of the Catholic Writers’ Guild.

Isn’t is a curiosity that the most astounding contemporary Saint of our time would choose an image that has nothing to do with who she was? Mother Theresa was in all ways a “doer”.  She was the one in the field and getting her hands dirty in places where others would not go.  Yet, she was widely quoted, repeated and written about.  There are scores of her quotes that are on cards, on plaques and in books, yet she was not really a writer herself.  So it is a great curiosity to me that one of her most beloved sayings is about writing.  More than that it’s about God writing:

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Because I am a writer this quote causes me a lot of consternation. What is it, I wonder, that I don’t understand about the importance of writing that Mother Teresa did? One of the things that stirs me about this quote is that I am pretty sure that it was not planned.  No persons  of note really ever rehearse what comes out of their mouth.  Sayings and quotes like the one above are straight out of the person’s soul.
So what is it that Mother “knows” from God himself that is reflected in this snippet of wisdom?  No doubt it is a pretty accurate view of the deepest heart of God!  Her trust of him was unfailing.  Trust opens the door to knowledge, especially of “the other”.  In fact, love is not possible without crossing over blindly into trust sooner or later.  I guess that I might even find the above quote a little scary.  Pencil, pencil in someone else’s hand?  That would mean I had completely surrendered any ability and/or influence that I might have to the wielder of the pencil.  Huh, that would mean that I would not be free to express and write down my own thoughts unchallenged!  That would mean I would have to “shut up” and let God completely have his own way with none of my interference and/or advice!
There it is: Father I am nothing in your presence, Jesus I Trust in You, Spirit I know nothing without you.
What a totally unsafe position to be in. That would mean I would have to place myself into the arms of Jesus with ZERO reservations. It seems that St. Teresa of Calcutta did this every minute of every day.  She was able to totally remove all the barriers she had between herself and God.  With a constant listening ear she was able to translate this to the world.  The famous stories about her revolve around her willingness to touch the nastiest and most damaged in the human species.  Without mask, gown, or any kind of barrier she embraced the dying, lepers, people with tuberculosis, those who had wounds filled with maggots, humans covered with waste and those overwhelmed by vermin in their flesh.  Nothing was repugnant to her.  She taught us, of course, that this was the fulfilled and complete definition of love as God himself taught her.
Always loving,  she told us Americans that this kind of ministry is not for everyone.  Here at home we should find “our own Calcutta”.  But then again, there’s that “pencil” thing.  As that quote looks me in the face, I must admit that it is beyond my level of courage.  The quote, however, does not leave my head.  That’s why they call it evangelization.  It has changed me, it will change me.  It will keep changing me along with its challenge.  Just a tiny string of words.  When you speak or write never underestimate the effect for now and for the future!  That’s how God writes!  Thank you Mother.

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