Reading and following Mother Teresa’s work from the 1960s with the “poorer than poor” people of her adopted homeland and then around the globe, one could feel the hand of God on her mission. Her recent canonization to sainthood is something one could predict.
This is a story that I have buried deep in my heart because I truly did not or still do not know why I chose to send Mother Teresa rubber bands. Maybe if I start at the beginning it will make sense.
I began reading about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India in the late 1960s when the way of life and people were changing and people became more vocal, dissatisfied and fought the establishment. There was great comfort and encouragement in reading and learning that this fragile-looking woman attired in a white sari with a gentle and caring heart was impacting the human race with her courage and caring of God’s people.
While employed as a secretary at St. John the Evangelist High School, I recall reading the articles written by a young woman (whose name I cannot remember) published in the Catholic Light. She often mentioned Mother Teresa and the mission she was engaged in caring for the sick and especially the homeless and abandoned. My admiration for Mother Teresa, an extraordinary woman, grew with the reading of each article.
One particular article the author said Mother Teresa was open and appreciative of any items that were sent to her mission in India. So awed with her plight I began to wonder what I could offer. It was a time when prosperity was not on the front burner in our household. Thinking of what I could contribute other than money plagued me.
For several months the appeal was repeated. One day while opening a desk drawer I discovered a box overflowing with rubber bands. Should I? The column stated any item! Yes, I felt sure the Holy Spirit was guiding me. And so, the rubber bands were enclosed in a manila envelope and sent to India with the thought they may be of good use. I may have repeated sending the rubber bands two or three times.
I continued reading the young woman’s column in the Catholic Light when I discovered that she had a message for me. It stated Mother Teresa appreciated the rubber bands and expressed her gratitude.
Realizing the supply was more than adequate, I stopped sending the rubber bands but continued to read published articles and books concerning the work of this remarkable and saintly woman.
Many years later, perhaps in the late 1990s, Mother Teresa was to deliver an address at The University of Scranton. She was going to appear in a destination so close to us that the event was a must-go.
Knowing the crowd, traffic and parking would be horrendous, I called my brother/friend Lee Marcino, a spiritual man, and asked if he would drive Aunt Rose Chiarelli, my friend Palma Lenza and me to see Mother Teresa. Lee, always a gentleman, complied with, “I will be happy to.”
When we arrived the auditorium was overflowing with people. We stood in the back to listen to her message and get a glimpse of her. The feeling of awe was overwhelming, for one could feel the compassion, see the effects of her work on her personal self, and sense the gratification in proclaiming her message of awareness in caring for the lest fortunate. Her characteristics of energy, compassion, simplicity, and focus were all felt in her address.
As she departed the stage, Lee suggested we leave so as not to get caught in the outgoing traffic. Oh no! That would never do. We had to wait and catch a closer view of Mother Teresa. As luck or providence would have it she began to walk down the aisle and would depart through the entrance we were standing close to. As she got closer to us, I was seized with a sense of joy to look upon this holy woman. I was frozen and could not move, for I knew passing before me was the woman we would one day call St. Teresa. I wanted so much to touch her but could not reach out. Instead our eyes met and for a moment felt she was able to read what was in my heart.
Many years have passed since the sending of the rubber bands, but I would like to think that the love with which they were sent from St. John’s High School in a little town of Pittston to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India far outstretched the simplicity of this act.