My dear people of St. Mary’s:
Last week, on the anniversary of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Inspiration Day, we looked at the importance of the scriptural phrase “I thirst” [Jn 19:28], to the special vocation of the “saint of the gutters”, and indeed, of all the Missionaries of Charity. In 1993, the future saint wrote a letter to all the members of her community throughout the world, in order to explain more fully what God revealed to her that day when she received her “call within a call”. The letter has come to be called the “Varanasi Letter”, since that was the city on the Ganges which she visited on March 25, 1993, the date of the letter.
The letter is reproduced, in full, on two following pages. I wanted to share this letter with you, because it gives us such an insight into the spirituality of one of the greatest saints in the history of our church. I would encourage you to tear this out of the bulletin, to keep it and to and use it for prayerful mediation. The lesson that it teaches is a universal lesson: Our Lord does not just thirst for Missionaries of Charity, He thirsts for the souls of all of us.
Fr. McCartney’s Next Scripture Course: The Gospel of John
Fr. McCartney now offers his seventh scripture course to the parish on the The Holy Gospel According to John.
The Fourth Gospel, written by the “Beloved Disciple”, the Apostle St. John, is an eyewitness account of some of the most important moments in the life of Our Lord. Written after the other three Gospels, it was not intended to be a comprehensive retelling of the life of Christ. Rather, it was meant to go much deeper into fewer stories, in order to draw out their spiritual significance and meaning.
The course will begin Wednesday, September 20th, and run for six consecutive weeks. Each Wednesday there will be a class at 1:00 pm and the same class given again at 7:00 pm. Please note that for this course all sessions will be held in Msgr. Ryan Hall. All are welcome, and refreshments (including the beloved cookies!) will be provided. Come and join us for an in depth look at one of the most important and fascinating books of Sacred Scripture: The Holy Gospel According to St. John.
Class 1, September 20: Introduction: Author, Date, Audience,
Themes, Prologue, & Chapter 1.
Class 2, September 27: The Book of Signs, Chapters 2 ~ 5
Class 3, October 4: The Book of Signs, Chapters 6 ~ 9
Class 4, October 11: The Book of Signs, Chapters 10 ~ 13
Class 5, October 18: The Book of Glory, Chapters 14 ~ 17
Class 6, October 25: The Book of Glory, Chapters 18 ~ 21
Mother Teresa’s “Varanasi Letter”
25 March, 1993
My Dearest Children—Sisters, Brothers, and Fathers,
This letter being very personal, I wanted to write in my own hand—but there are so many things to say. Even if not in Mother’s hand, still it comes from Mother’s heart. Jesus wants me to tell you again, especially in this Holy Week, how much love He has for each one of you—beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus—one to one—you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel—but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you”—impossible.
Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead—meditation-only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him—speaking in the silence of your heart. Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes—to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more—He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close.
He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes—He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you.
Only believe—You are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet—only open your heart to be loved by Him as your are. He will do the rest. You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you—but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead. Jesus wants to stir up our hearts, so not to lose our early love, especially in the future after Mother leaves you. That is why I ask you to read this letter before the Blessed Sacrament, the same place it was written, so Jesus himself can speak to you each one.
Why is Mother saying these things? After reading Holy Father’s letter on “I thirst,” I was struck so much—I cannot tell you what I felt. His letter made me realize more than ever how beautiful is our vocation. How great God’s love for us in choosing our Society to satiate that thirst of Jesus, for love, for souls—giving us our special place in the Church. At the same time we are reminding the world of His thirst, something that was being forgotten.
I wrote Holy Father to thank him. Holy Father’s letter is a sign for our whole society—to go more into this great thirst of Jesus for each one. It is also a sign for Mother, that the time has come for me to speak openly of the gift God gave Sept. 10—to explain as fully as I can what means for me the thirst of Jesus. For me Jesus’s thirst is something so intimate—so I have felt shy until now to speak to you of Sept. 10—I wanted to do as Our Lady who “kept all these things in her heart.”
That is why Mother hasn’t spoken so much of I Thirst, especially outside. But still, Mother’s letters and instructions always point to it—showing the means to satiate His thirst through prayer, intimacy with Jesus, living our vows— especially our 4th vow. For me it is so clear—everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of
every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? If so, you will hear, you will feel His presence. Let it become as intimate for each of you, just as for Mother—this is the greatest joy you could give me. Mother will try to help you understand—but Jesus himself must be the one to say to you “I Thirst.” Hear you own name. Not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand.
Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so heard to explain in words—if you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—“I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be fore you. Or
who He wants you to be for Him. The heart and soul of MC is only this—the thirst of Jesus’s Heart, hidden in the poor. This is the source of every part of MC life. It gives us our Aim, our 4th vow, the Spirit of our Society. Satiating the living Jesus in our midst is the Society’s only purpose for existing. Can we each say the same for ourselves—that it is our only reason for living? Ask yourself—would it make any difference in my vocation, in my relation to Jesus, in my work, if Jesus’s thirst were no longer our Aim—no longer on the chapel wall? Would anything change in my life? Would I feel any loss? Ask yourself honestly, and let this be a test for each to see if His thirst is a reality, something alive—not just an idea. “I Thirst” and “You did it to me”—Remember always to connect the two, the means with the Aim. What God has joined together let no one split apart. Do not underestimate our practical means—the work for the poor; no matter how small or humble—that make our life something beautiful for God. They are the most precious gifts of God to our Society—Jesus’s hidden presence so near, so able to touch. Without the work for the poor the Aim dies— Jesus’s thirst is only words with no meaning, no answer. Uniting the two, our MC vocation will remain alive and real,
what Our Lady asked.
Be careful choosing retreat preachers. Not all understand our spirit correctly. They may be holy and learned, but that
does not mean they have the grace of state of our vocation. If they tell you something different than Mother is writing
in this letter, I beg you not to listen or let it confuse you. The thirst of Jesus is the focus of all that is MC. The Church
has confirmed it again and again—“Our charism is to satiate the thirst of Jesus for love and souls—by working at the
salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” Nothing different. Nothing else. Let us do all we can to protect
this gift of God to our Society.
Believe me, my dear children—pay close attention to what Mother is saying now—only the thirst of Jesus, hearing it,
feeling it, answering it with all your heart, will keep the Society alive after Mother leaves you. If this is your life, you
will be all right. Even when Mother leaves you, Jesus’s thirst will never leave you. Jesus thirsting in the poor you will
have with you always.
That is why I want the Active Sisters and Brothers, the Contemplative Sisters and Brothers, and the Fathers to each
one aid the other in satiating Jesus with their own special gift—supporting, completing each other and this precious
Grace as one Family, with one Aim and purpose. Do not exclude the Coworkers and Lay MCs from this—this is their
call as well, help them to know it.
Because the first duty of a priest is the ministry to preach, some years back I asked our Fathers to begin speaking
about I Thirst, to go more deeply in to what God gave the Society Sept. 10. I feel Jesus wants this of them, also in the
future—so pray Our Lady keeps them in this special part of their 4th vow. Our Lady will help all of us in this, since she
was the first person to hear Jesus’s cry I Thirst with St. John, and I am sure Mary Magdalene. Because she was there
on Calvary, she know how real, how deep His longing for you and for the poor.
Do we know? Do we feel as She? Ask her to teach—you and the whole Society are hers. Her role is to bring you face to face, as John and Magdalene, with the love in the Heart of Jesus crucified. Before it was Our Lady pleading with
Mother, now it is Mother in her name pleading with you—“Listen to Jesus’s thirst.” Let it be for each what Holy Father
said in his letter—a Word of Life. How do you approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret—the closer you come to
Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. “Repent and believe,” Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our
indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor—He
knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time.
Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Magdalene. Hear Him. Hear your own
name. Make my joy and yours complete. Let us pray.
God bless you.
M. Teresa, MC