“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” – Erasmus
I said before that I didn’t want to review a book by a saint, so I wimped out and didn’t review St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life.” But today, I will review A Simple Path, a collection of writings by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and several sisters, brothers and volunteers with the Missionaries of Charity. Not because I’m feeling braver or more saintly, but because this little volume spoke so deeply to my spirit and taught me so much in so few pages that I feel it is worth sharing.
First off, what it is: a collection of writings by Blessed Mother Teresa, stitched together around main themes based on her Tree of Self Realization and signs near the houses for her work in India. Mother Teresa, in case you don’t know, was a Roman Catholic nun who heard the call of God to serve the world’s poorest of the poor. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, an order who tends directly to the dying, the lepers, the orphans, and AIDS patients. The nuns live as poorly as the people they serve. I think they own only the clothes on their back and maybe one change of clothes, a few personal toiletry items, a Bible and that is it. They accept gifts but give them right back to those they serve.
Mother Teresa’s writing show with laser-like precision why less is more. Father Bert White, one of the commentators, writes, “I think when you focus on money and property ownership, you go the way of the material world, of the Big, of Up and More. It becomes your agenda and then faith can fly out of the window. There has to be faith and trust in God’s reality — a trust that things will work out.” (page 46)
Mother Teresa writers, “Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service.”
This book isn’t a biography, nor is it a memoir. It’s like sitting at the feet of a Christian guru and drinking in her wisdom. Love, prayer, service…yes, these all sound good on paper, but why are they so important to the spiritual life? What gains can come from living a life of selfless service to others, of bathing lepers and holding the hand of the dying? Mother Teresa explains this and more.
My copy has so many pages underlined, starred and marked that I could spend weeks studying Mother Teresa’s wisdom and still find something to learn.
But study isn’t what Mother Teresa is about. Faith in action is what she is about. So how can someone like me — wife, sister, aunt, worker — someone not in the religious life live a life such as thee ones described in this book? That question is also answered, and when I reflect on the many ideas generated by the essays in A Simple Path, I realize that there is plenty even someone like me, living in the world and working in the world, can do to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
Something as simple as remembering a friend’s birthday, picking up the phone to call someone, stopping to chat, giving the cashier a smile…it’s all part of the philosophy of A Simple Path.
I highly recommend this book for any Christian, not just a Catholic, interested in deepening his or her faith.
Truly, after reading A Simple Path, you’ll understand just why Mother Teresa is being considered for canonization.