The Word on Fire team is leaving tomorrow to film in Calcutta, India, the site where Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity and carried out her vocation in service to the poorest of the poor. In The Priority of Christ, Father Barron describes Blessed Teresa's "Elevated Temperance" at length, noting that her great virtue enabled her to accept the grace to face the daily struggles of a life of radical poverty, chastity, and obedience.
“A spirituality of
detachment—which Mother Teresa had learned from the exercises of Ignatius—was inculcated at all times. The sisters [of Charity] were instructed to pray special prayers while they put on each article of clothing at the beginning of the day. While they donned their habit, they prayed that this distinctive garb would remind them of their separation from the world and its vanities: ‘Let the world be nothing to me and I nothing to the world.’ While they girded their waist, they prayed for the purity of the Virgin Mary: ‘surrounded and protected by that absolute poverty which crowned all you did for Jesus.’ As they put on their sandals, they prayed that they might have the detachment to follow Jesus wherever he prompted them to go.
Further, they were compelled to be detached from their own will through a strict obedience. Despite her affability and kindness, Mother Teresa exhibited toward her sisters a toughness that outsiders sometimes found off-putting, or at the very least surprising. She consistently acted out of the conviction that obedience was to ‘be prompt, simple, blind, and cheerful,’ precisely because Jesus was obedient unto death.
Now all of this might strike us as a bit exaggerated, an asceticism bordering on puritanism. But we must recall the radicality of the love to which Mother Teresa was calling herself and her followers. To will the good of the poorest of the poor, the most destitute and alone, the most physically repulsive and spiritually hopeless, required, she discerned, a radicalized temperance. Charity to an extreme degree necessitated a self-control and detachment that went far beyond the natural forms of those virtues. Because it is ordered most directly to God, love is in itself unlimited, and hence when love invades the soul, it causes the natural virtues to participate in its infinity…”