Friday, 10 August 2012

London Exhibition: Life and Spirituality of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Hat tip to Auntie Joanna. I visited this exhibition yesterday, and would entirely endorse Aunty's observation that it is "WELL WELL WORTH IT" (Aunty's capitals).

Blessed Teresa is someone I have up to now known about rather than feeling that I have known her, if you can get a hold of what I mean by that distinction. The exhibition really does enable you to get to know Blessed Teresa, both as a person and as someone whose life is lived in a radical following of God's call.

It is easy to see how the founding of the Missionaries of Charity meets a great need that exists in the world of today. This is evidenced by the expansion of the order throughout the world and by the clear evidence of the poverty to which they respond. But the exhibition indicates very clearly the charismatic inspiration given to Mother Teresa - her "call within a call" - given in a direct action of God in her soul that lies at the beginning of the Order she founded. [During her life Mother Teresa appears to have kept much of this experience to herself; the explicitly charismatic aspect indicated in the exhibition appears to have emerged during the gathering of evidence for her beatification.] From an ecclesial point of view, it is faithfulness to this charism that constitutes the efficacy of the family of the Missionaries of Charity. In recognsing the Constitutions of the Order, the Church has recognised the authenticity of this founding charism.

The exhibition also indicates the two-fold nature of the charism given to Blessed Teresa. Starting from the words of Jesus on the Cross - "I thirst" - the Missionaries of Charity aim is to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus for love of souls, and to do this in a radical action on behalf of the poorest of the poor. The Eucharistic/contemplative aspect and practical work with the poorest people of their neighbourhoods - these well-known elements of the life of the Missionaries of Charity today are rooted in the original charismatic gift given to Blessed Teresa.

The last aspect of Blessed Teresa's charism, again well portrayed in the exhibition, is that of her darkness, the fact that she lived many years of her life with a profound sense of an absence of God. Much misunderstood by main stream media, this should again be seen as a particular charism given to Blessed Teresa along the lines of the experience of St John of the Cross or of those who receive the gift of the stigmata.

The main exhibition is made up of a sequence of display boards covering Blessed Teresa's life, her formation with the Loreto Sisters, the founding of the Missionaries of Charity and the development of the order and its various branches. There are also some cabinets displaying items used by Mother Teresa, examples of her handwriting, the certificate of her Nobel Peace Prize and the like. There is also a reconstruction of her room at the Mother House in Calcutta. One room of the exhibition is a chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament, typical of that to be found in the houses of the Missionaries of Charity and so giving to the exhibition the character of prayer. A fifty minute DVD, weaving together an interview Mother Teresa and images from her state funeral in India to present the key themes of her charism, is being shown every hour starting at half past the hour. If you are going to watch the video and make a full visit to the main exhibition you probably need to allow two and a half hours. I would suggest doing two visits, one to watch the video and another to view the main exhibition, with a break in between.

The exhibition can be viewed at St Patrick's Soho Square until 15th September. It is open 11 am to 7 pm, Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday). Access is not from Soho Square, but from Charing Cross Road. From Foyle's bookshop walk up towards Tottenham Court Road (towards the massive building site), on the left hand side of the road. You will find posters and signs directing you round the works towards the entrance to the exhibition.

And a final thought: particularly as one watches the DVD, there is a great sense of the way in which the exhibition represents an action of the new evangelisation.

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