St. Teresa of Calcutta once met an old man living in what she called “a most terrible condition.” One of the many ways she and her Missionaries of Charity sisters took care of their beloved poor people was to go into their homes, where the sisters would clean their houses, wash their clothes, and give them baths. Mother talked with this old man and asked him for permission to clean his home. At first, he refused, but at last she convinced him to allow her to do it.
While she was cleaning, she found a very beautiful old lamp, covered with dirt and dust.
“Do you not light the lamp?” she asked him, as told in the book Mother Teresa: My Life for the Poor.
“For whom?” he replied. “Nobody comes here. I never see anybody. Nobody comes to me. I don’t need to light the lamp.”
“If the sisters come to you, will you light the lamp?” Mother Teresa asked.
“Yes, I’d do it!” he answered. After that day, the sisters would go to visit him, and he would light the lamp.
Years later, the old man asked the sisters to deliver a message to Mother Teresa: “Tell my friend, the light she lit in my life is still burning!”
The physical light that Mother Teresa uncovered in that old man’s house was beautiful, but the spiritual light she and the sisters gave him burned even more brightly. It is not a coincidence that one of Mother’s favorite prayers was a fervent supplication for this very light. The prayer, called “Radiating Christ,” is by Cardinal John Henry Newman, and Mother prayed it daily with her sisters:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine: it will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You in the way You love best: by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
That light for which Mother Teresa prayed every day in Newman’s prayer was the same light that kept on burning in the life of the old man and countless others with whom she shared it.
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