I recently read a book that had been gifted to me, “The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross,” by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.
What a beautiful book! I confess, I read it over the course of only two days. I have precious little time to read, but since we’ve been on Christmas break this past week, I allowed myself to “waste” some time and just, be. I’ve been playing cards with the kids and just hanging out around the house. It’s been glorious! Someone in one of my Facebook groups sent me the book several weeks ago, and it had been waiting very patiently on my end table. This seemed like the perfect time to check it out.
St. Teresa of Calcutta has been following me around lately. Since her recent canonization, of course she’s been in the news and there have been numerous books, videos, and publications made of her life, but I’ve experienced something a little more personal. Like so many others, I’ve always admired Mother Teresa, but since hearing about the many years she spent in spiritual darkness, I have been more intrigued than ever with her story. Several years ago a religious ed teacher loaned one of my sons a beautiful biography of Mother Teresa’s life, and I treasured the time I spent reading through it with him. I’ve thought about Mother Teresa frequently since then and have made mental notes to read more about her . . . eventually.
Several months ago, I found a St. Teresa of Calcutta medal laying on one of our chairs. Upon making inquiries, I discovered that it was one of several medals that my daughter brought home from a recent trip to a Missionaries of Charity community, where she went with our parish youth group to celebrate Mother’s canonization. I returned the medal to her, but several days later, it (or another one) appeared in my bedroom – on the floor! I picked it up, said, “OK, Mother, I get the message,” and added it to the Crucifix pendant I always wear.
Then, a month or so ago, someone on one of my Facebook groups said she would send Donna-Marie’s book to whoever commented first on her post. I commented – not with the intention of being sent the book! – but just to say it sounded like a really good book and that it was on my reading list. Well, of course, the poster honored her promise and a short time later I received a message from her asking for my address! Less than two weeks later, just as Advent was getting underway, the book arrived. I put it on my pile of things, “To Look at Later,” and there it stayed until this past week.
What a treasure! How lucky and blessed Donna-Marie is to have such wonderful memories of Mother Teresa. And how lucky and blessed we all are to have such a beautiful sister in Christ who was willing to lay bare all the difficulties and challenges of her life, all her missteps and wanderings, and all of her joys and blessings. It takes great courage to share one’s life with the world, never knowing how you will be received. But Donna-Marie does it in this book, and does it with grace, frankness, and even some humor. It was like sitting down to coffee with a friend and sharing our stories.
I was touched by so many things in this book. It got me wandering down the paths of my past and thinking about my own story – also full of wanderings, missteps, challenges, and – yes – joy. I truly believe I have found joy, not in spite of, but because of, the challenges we have faced. I realized, as I read, “The Kiss of Jesus,” that I also have a story to share, and I hope that, someday, I too am privileged to share my story with others. We are in the world to be a gift to others. When we share our stories, we have the opportunity to share lessons we have learned, provide guidance, and even share our faith, but most importantly, we have the opportunity to give hope. Sometimes, when someone is drowning in a crisis and feeling like a failure, the most important thing we can give them is the hope that everything will turn out ok, that God is there, with them in their crisis, that someone else has been down that same road, and not just survived, but thrived!
Many blessings to all of you in the new year! May it be full, rich, and very, very boring. (Anyone who has had one too many “exciting,” times, will know what I mean and know to appreciate things being, “boring.”)
Peace and God bless!