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One recent February day just before the dawn of Lent, in our St. Benedict Classical Academy (SBCA) Pre-Kindergarten classroom at our St Placid Campus, I was preparing to lead an activity that would help our little ones begin to have an understanding of the Beatitudes. Truthfully I am just as much a learner about our Catholic faith as even our youngest student – our Faith is an ongoing and lifelong pursuit. I started by pondering and praying about each Beatitude and each of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and how they applied to my role in the classroom. It is perhaps then, by prompting of The Holy Spirit, why I also became hungry to learn as much as possible about Saint Teresa of Calcutta, the epitome of virtue. Mother Teresa was a woman who truly lived the Beatitudes to the fullest extent each day of her life. She acted with heroic self-denial, only desiring to console Jesus’ wounded heart and to quench His thirst, every step of the way to Calvary. In my heart it was apparent to me that she was an ideal spiritual mother for our classroom and that she would guide us and inspire us to humbly and lovingly nurture, assist and care for our beloved Pre-K pupils just as she would have done.

Her biographical documentary, No Greater Love, captivated me within the first five minutes, as colleagues and people touched by her goodness shared their thoughts on who she was and the lives she touched. In the opening line of the film, Mother Teresa, with her beautiful weathered face looking deep into the camera, firmly proclaimed, “Hunger is not only for a piece of bread, hunger is for love – the desire and longing to be loved. Lonely people suffer terrible hunger. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth, nakedness is a loss of human dignity. The respect that you and I long to have, they also long to have. That man lying in the street, eaten up by worms, he is a child of God.” One man described her as having an aura, not of power, but of simplicity and holiness. She was also described as a born servant and her sole purpose was to serve the Kingdom of God. At that moment these words resonated with me and I became keenly aware that we do not need to travel to Calcutta to love the way Jesus loved, that is, ”until it hurts”. We can provide respect and foster dignity for children of God in our own community. SBCA St. Placid campus, in the middle of a Boston suburb, is as far as we need to go in order to reach our Calcutta. Or we can find it even closer in our own homes, within our own families, as we live out our primary vocations with great love in the smallest details.

Last year, as a first time SBCA Pre-K parent, I had my first encounter with the SBCA “Missionaries of Charity”, when our administrator and assistant would take turns rocking my poor little guy to sleep every day, while both trying to meet important deadlines or handle other pending tasks, so that he could thrive in the full day program. Entering into my second year at SBCA, and eventually as an employee, I continue to be inspired by the acts of charity and dying to self that I witness on a regular basis. Each and every member of our team is willing to do the dirty work: wipe a messy face, brighten a coworker’s day with a smile, change wet socks, console a homesick little one with a hug and a kind word, clean up very undesirable sick messes (even during round three of “The Great Stomach Bug Outbreak”) or patiently unclog a toilet and willingly sop up a flooded bathroom floor, when a toy gets ”accidentally” flushed, again. It may pale in comparison to the realities that the people of Calcutta suffer through, but the spirit of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity certainly dwell here. We at the St. Placid campus are all called to spiritual motherhood and to performing our duties lovingly, while uniting it all to the suffering of our Lord, Jesus Christ, not only during Holy Week, but throughout the entire year. On this journey into diving deeper into the truths of the Catholic faith, I have come to the conclusion that working at SBCA is not merely a job or a career path, but a fulfillment of a call to missionary life that requires of us much zeal, humility, service, joy, and most of all, charity.

I will close with a prayer that I have adopted as my morning prayer upon arrival to our suburban Calcutta at St. Placid. “The Fragrance Prayer”, composed by St. John Henry Newman, was near and dear to Mother’s heart and prayed often by her. May it allow us missionaries to be of good service and of good cheer, as we perform our tasks in building the Kingdom of God.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Jesus will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen.

The Fragrance prayer, St. John Henry Newman

AUTHOR: Adrienne Noriega, Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

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