Susan P. BlevinsToo early for an appointment one afternoon in Rome, I entered the tenebrous and cavernous basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, intending to spend thirty minutes in prayer and contemplation, before walking to my appointment close by. But the sacred space was occupied by a small crowd, and a diminutive woman was standing in the pulpit, delivering a speech I recognized at once.
“I was hungry, and you fed me, thirsty, and you gave me to drink.”
Wrapped in her usual blue-bordered white sari, stood Mother Teresa herself, a tiny figure of resoluteness, gazing at us as she spoke, face and words intense, charging us all to care for one another.
Not a sound, not a whisper was heard to drown her bird-like voice. This was a spiritual giant in a tiny body.
I stood barely breathing, just inside the entrance to the sanctuary, not wanting to make a noise, disturb the hallowed moment.
She finished speaking, descended from the pulpit and walked up the nave, towards where I stood. When she was level with me she stopped, her aura of holiness encircling all of us, and bestowed upon me a look of blessing I shall never forget. She saw into my soul, she empowered me, consecrated me to go into the world and serve, and I wanted to fall to my knees and kiss her hand.
But I did not.
Instead, tears flowed down my cheeks, and for just a moment we were connected, soul to soul, her sanctity wrapped around me like a holy shroud. I felt, and almost saw, the light of her sainthood around her, just as in the Renaissance paintings of the saints with their halos depicted. She was emanating light, and her light touched me and blessed me.
Then, like a barely remembered dream, she was gone.
I stood there, empty, yet filled, then on shaking legs, went to sit in a pew to try and absorb the numinous moment that I had just experienced.
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