Today the world celebrated the canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, officially recognizing the holiness of this woman who left home to join the Sisters of Loreto, then left the security of the sisters in schools in India, and then spent her life with those at the margins of society, attending in person those who were dying and inspiring and leading others to serve.
Yes, there are people who critique Mother Teresa – but she, as all saints, had her imperfections and God has a way of working through our failings. Some have criticized her for not speaking out on injustice, but I have recently come across pictures of her visiting Dorothy Day and Eileen Egan at the New York Catholic Worker in 1979 and a picture of Mother Teresa visiting the house in the cancer hospital where Monseñor Oscar Romero lived.
In our diocese we celebrated a Mass in Santa Rosa de Copán where the Missionaries of Charity run Hogar San José, a center for malnourished children under five. I used to visit and play with the kids a lot when I first came here. I need to find a way to go there at least once a month.
The commemoration began with a procession from the Cathedral to an auditorium where Mass was celebrated. Some children rode in the pick up carrying the statue of Mother Teresa.
As a deacon, I participated in the Mass, proclaiming the Gospel and serving at the altar.
As I looked out at the overflowing crowd, I saw lots of kids, including some from Amigos de Jesús, which I visited earlier this week. I found out that some of their children had been in Hogar San José and were returning for the celebration.
After Communion, as a deacon, my role is to purify the vessels.
Here, there are often many fragments of the hosts which I carefully gathered together and consumed. I made sure the vessels were clean and that there were no fragments on the corporal.
There are some people who are scrupulous about making sure that all fragments of the host, the Body of Christ, are gathered up. There are some who might even mock the care some take to assure that there are no fragments unconsumed.
But as I was gathering together the many fragments, I thought of the care I was taking for each and every particle – for they are the Body of Christ. I tried to be careful of even the smallest particle.
But, looking up and seeing the children there and thinking of the care that the Missionaries of Charity and other women religious show to the poorest, I began to recall the care God has for the least of God’s creatures, for the children, the aged, the unborn, the persons with disabilities. Each of them is like a particle of the host; they show me the Body of Christ. Each of them deserves the respect and care that I take for the particles of the Eucharist.
They too are Christ, often in mysterious disguise.