I got debilitated by some Indian food poisoning, so I let Ryan start the Camino without me. I got some good time in adoration in Pamplona. Let me be clear: I love seeing people of all backgrounds and ages in adoration. No one who claims to be pro-life should even begin to bothered by crying babies in adoration chapels. At the other end of the spectrum, let me say that I love seeing the more “mature” generation in adoration, too. However, someone needs to tell them how not to use a cell phone before the Blessed Sacrament. Who will do it? Ok. I will do it in a top ten countdown:
10) You don’t have to go running out of the chapel to answer your cell phone. Voicemail comes free with every plan.
9) Vibrate is not off. Vibrate is not off. Vibrate is not off.
8) If you actually expect phone calls (yes, assuming you’re going to run and answer them) please don’t put your phone at the bottom of your purse.
7) If you’re actually expecting an emergency to the point that the world won’t continue without you answering your cell phone in adoration, then that’s okay. Short of that, please turn it totally off, not vibrate, not airplane mode. This is an exercise in humility for arrogant people like me to remind ourselves that no one needs me as much as I need Jesus in adoration. If your daughter really needs you, she’ll leave you a voicemail without considering if she should leave the family, just because you didn’t pick up.
6) If you plan on your phone ringing in adoration, please pick a different tune than circus music. This happened with an older woman in an adoration chapel in Pamplona today, so I realized this isn’t an American-only-problem.
5) Two accidental phone calls in the same adoration session is probably a sign you shouldn’t own a cell phone. This too happened with the circus-woman in Pamplona today.
4) If you’re actually going to adoration in order to screen calls, although this approach is ridiculous, here’s some concessionary advice: Please figure out the button needed to reject a call. That’s better than panicking, answering it, and immediately hanging up on the caller.
3) Whatever you do, do not answer your cell phone in adoration, whispering “HELLO!?” into your phone. This does not help anyone, in the chapel or on the other line. Adoration is a special place, different from all the rest. How different? I once heard an older man in adoration clipping off his fingernails. I looked. He was actually using metal toenail clippers right before exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I turned and asked if he could please attend to his personal hygiene at home. True story.
2) If you must have throat lozenges to talk on your cell phone, fine, but could the candy wait until home? There are children in there you’re supposed to be setting the example for.
1) If you can’t remember any of these, here´s the best part: Just don’t bring your cell phone into the adoration chapel.
The personal physician of Mother Teresa died two days ago (7 May 2015.) May God grant eternal light and peace to Dr. Alfred C. Woodward M.D.
Actually, I brought him all the sacraments two days before that, including Mass in his room. He had had a heart attack a month or two ago, but I was surprised at his rapid demise, considering that when I saw him, he was awake, alert, ambulatory…and extremely polite. Since his death, the sisters have told me about his wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor of Kolkata, and it is top news for the Times of India.
Here’s a picture taken by his son for me, outside their place in Kolkata, right after I saw him for the last time:
The Americans I live with got me Old Spice, for showers here are rendered useless within five minutes of walking through the streets of Kolkata. Old Spice is a time-tested product that has been eclipsed by newer sprays that promise impassioned encounters with strangers. So, I’m happy to go with the Old Spice. However, with the above advertising, I suspect that Old Spice decided that instead of simply replacing the geriatric connotations with sex, they could just combine the two.
This advertising stunt of being self-deprecating is a bit like how Radio Shack had a Super Bowl commercial with the Muppets so as to display a good self-deprecating admission of antiquated products. This way they could have a good [forced] laugh with their customers and move on in their sales (or sink into bankruptcy, like Radio Shack did.) So also, Old Spice declares:
If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.
While that is a bit obnoxious and surely not a visual that any customer wants, there is a profound truth in it: Attraction was for procreation in a bygone era when no one questioned that connection between babies and bonding, even if pheromonically amplified by grandpappy’s Old Spice. (N.B. My blog’s spell-check was very disapproving that I just turned the noun “pheromone” into an adverb. )
Old Spice’s advertising recognizes a pre-contraceptive era when male-female attraction produced children. I don’t have such a rose-colored view of the past as to think that our grandparents didn’t sin. But back then, even if your parent was conceived before WWII and your grandparents got married after WWII, this union was still ordered towards…existence, life…in a time of so much world-wide death and world wars.
Existence: This tremendous reality that God’s creation should leave us in awe at His super-abundant, super-diverse creating power. God wills your existence as He declares: IT IS GOOD THAT YOU EXIST.
God bless Old Spice for even talking (albeit in an slightly-gross way) about family, pro-creation and that most-important word of Thomistic Metaphysics: existence.
Sr. Nirmala Joshi MC is found to the left in the picture above. It’s taken on 14 March 1997, the day that Mother Teresa and a closed-door vote of about 100 sisters made Sr. Nirmala the Superior General of the 5,000 Missionaries of Charity world-wide. CNN took notice in this article because a Hindu-convert to Catholicism took over the most rapidly-expanding religious order of the 20th century. (Up to that point, her CV was already impressive, as Mother Teresa’s co-founder of the MCs and the foundress of the Contemplative Branch of the Missionaries of Charity in 1976.)
Now Sr. Nirmala is 81 years old. She had a heart attack about a month ago. Because she is a veritable celebrity in India, they had to make her hospital stay a very short one.
A couple of days ago, I was surprised when a younger sister asked me out to take a 15 minute bus ride in order to offer Mass in the 81 year old foundress’ bedroom. There would be just a few nuns assisting at Mass. I went and offered Mass there.
After Mass, Sr. Nirmala and I got to talk. I would say that it was one of the only times in my life that I felt the consolation of being in the presence of a living saint. I asked her to tell me why she converted from Hinduism to Catholicism, and I’m going to recount her story as best as I can, even though I wasn’t taking notes as I knelt next to her wheelchair:
Of Nepalese blood, Nirmala Joshi was raised in India in a Hindu family. At age 7, she was leaving the temple of Shiva, and she looked across the street to a Catholic Church rectory statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She explained that at that moment, the statue shined a overpowering light that terrified her. She left the area of the Church and temple, but she went back to peek over the fence every day on her way home from elementary school. She was clear with me that it was more from fear than devotion!
Eventually as a child, she picked up a New Testament, and she opened right to the one verse where Jesus talks about His own heart: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matthew 11, which was the Gospel for the day that I had just read in the private Mass!) Expecting a third miracle of her telling me about the Sacred Heart, Sr. Nirmala surprised me. She said she closed the Bible and said He must be so arrogant talking about Himself all the time! (The sisters giggled because they knew what was coming…I was a little taken aback, but then I realized later that, for Eastern Religions, they wouldn’t understand why Jesus would talk about Himself. For example, Buddha said “Be ye lights unto yourselves” but Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” This only makes sense if Jesus is God, the only true God.)
But as she became a teenager, Nirmala (which means pure in Sanksrit) wasn’t too interested in Christianity. Perhaps for the quality of education, she went away to a Catholic High school in a different city. Then, one day in her dorm room, at the Angelus Bell, her roommate (a Hindu) dropped to her knees to apparently pray the Angelus (an ancient prayer with three Hail Marys.) Sr. Nirmala eyed her curiously, but then Sr. Nirmala told me something I’ll hopefully never forget:
“Jesus entered my heart at that moment, and made it clear to me it was He. And He hasn’t left since.”
She smiled when she told me this, and she meant it. She continued her story to me, even though I thought she was going to wrap up our session at that point…
After her conversion, she soon wanted to start a congregation to her help her country’s people (Nepal) a land where she had never been. She wrote her Jesuit spiritual director who put her in contact with Mother Teresa (early 1950s, I think.) Mother told her she would only train her as a Missionary of Charity, and she should only come if she were 100% able to put her whole heart into it.
Nirmala went to Kolkata and was one of the first members to join. In fact, I believed it was the Jesuit spiritual director of Mother Teresa who baptized her upon entrance! Still, she was worried about her dream to go to Nepal being sunk in the MCs. So, Sr. Nirmala asked mother about this. Mother Teresa told her: “Kolkata is the same as Nepal. Everywhere you need to bring people to the heart of God.” So, Nirmala slayed her dreams of Nepal.
However, many years later she would not only help found dozens of homes around the globe, but Sr. Nirmala would be responsible for founding three homes of Missionaries of Charity in Nepal! Such is a true Abraham/Isaac story of vocation and God’s faithfulness.
I left Sr. Nirmala with a prayer request but then the sisters asked me back to offer private Mass with her again this weekend, so I will return on both Saturday and Sunday…to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the presence of Mother Teresa’s best friend.
We felt the tremors of both earthquakes this past weekend. I spoke to one minor causality here in Kolkata, but there are thousands of people dead to the north of us. Please pray for the deceased:
Last night, at 10pm, I took a taxi from a restaurant here in India to the priest home near Bl. Mother Teresa’s “Motherhouse.” As the taxi started, a dwarf jumped in my taxi, unannounced and uninvited. He said to me “Hello, boss!” from his side in the back where we both were. He immediately rolled his window and popped his head out as we barreled through traffic. He began yelling at the extremely crowded Kolkata streets in Bengali, assumedly to get out of the way. With his head out, standing up, he looked like an American cowboy hooting and hollering, stomping his feet in delight against the floor of the taxi. The driver (at his chin) seemed rather to enjoy the raucous. I did too, though I sadly wondered why I couldn’t live the quiet life of a parish priest for even one week.