After taking a bit of a break, I'm ready to jump back into the series about Mother Teresa, as revealed in the book Come, Be My Light. As I've said -- most recently in the last post in this series -- I believe Blessed Teresa should be (if she isn't already) the patroness of adoptive and foster mothers. Today I'd like to share with you another way this dear saint of Calcutta lived a life that is a model for adoptive and foster parents everywhere.
Reason #3: She continued to love, even when it cost her dearly.
It would have been very easy, after receiving the first resistance from her superiors, to shrug her shoulders and go back to teaching her students as a Sister of Loreto. Clearly, the girls loved her; just as clearly, she experienced profound intimacy with Jesus in this vocation -- a sense of intimacy that, by her own admission, she did not recover for more than fifty years in the slums of Calcutta.
In the May 2008 issue of "Canticle" magazine, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle encourages mothers with the idea that, although we must continue to strive to find time for prayer, the fact is that the essence of the motherly vocation is one of making all of life an offering to God. This is doubly true for those who choose to raise children with whom they share no biological tie, and foster parents in a special way. We intentionally form attachments for the good of the child, putting our own emotional well-being at risk in the process. And we do it even when the child in question ...
* is angry,
* is resentful,
* won't sleep or cooperate,
* is messy or destructive,
* is profoundly ungrateful, and especially
* makes unfavorable comparisons between her "real" parents and your pitiful efforts (for the record, my children don't do that ... but I know other foster parents have experienced this).
Living with even one such creature is bound to put a fair amount of stress on a parent, interrupting sleeping and eating patterns and generally leaving that parent with a sense of impending doom. Finding five minutes to pray when an anxious toddler won't even let you go to the bathroom in peace sounds no more plausible than flying to the moon.
The thing is, God understands this. He understands that what you are doing, each and every moment of the day, is being done for love of God. It is a conscientous choice -- often a difficult one. The darkness closes in, the pressure builds ... and still, you take a deep breath and (miracle of miracles) find it in your heart to pick up that little bundle of snot and dirt and hug him (gently) while you both cry a little, then go for a ride on the swing.
There now, don't you feel better?
The single most important lesson I picked up from CBML is that one needn't feel close to God, or even feel particularly loving, to be love to a suffering soul. "Love Jesus, and take what He gives you with a big smile." If your heart isn't singing, detach from it a bit and paste that look of motherly serenity on your face. Act as though you have the grace ... and the rest will follow.