Praying with Mother Teresa

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Photo: Joan Lamar

At St. Peter's Square for the canonization of Mother Teresa, Susan Conroy attended not only as a media commentator, but as a long-time friend of the new saint.

My Friend, the Saint

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By Joan Lamar (Sep 7, 2016)
Susan Conroy never expected to be at the historic canonization of her friend Mother Teresa — but Our Lady found a way for her to get there. You see, Our Lady has opened doors for Susan before. So when major American media outlets including CBS News, NBC News, and EWTN asked her to be part of their commentary for Mother Teresa's canonization, Susan credited Our Blessed Mother for providing this opportunity. She would be present to see Mother Teresa — her friend of 11 years — be canonized at St. Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday, Sept. 4.

+++View photos from Rome.+++

Susan worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and has written several books about what she learned from working with a living saint, including Praying with Mother Teresa, published by Marian Press just in time for the canonization. Susan said the timing of this latest book could not have been more perfect. In it, she shares Mother Teresa's wisdom and insights on joy, peace, suffering, and humility. She also shares the prayers that Mother prayed every day.

During one of Susan's visits to Calcutta, Mother Teresa gave her the tattered prayer book that she herself prayed with. Susan treasured it. She later asked Mother if she could share the prayers with others and was given permission by Mother Teresa to share these prayers "for the glory of God and the good of souls."

Nineteen years after Mother Teresa was called home to God, Susan ventured to steamy hot Rome to join the 120,000 pilgrims who came to see this modern-day saint be canonized. She was able to get last-minute tickets for the canonization from the Missionaries of Charity, so she had a seat for six hours under the intense summer sun in St. Peter's Square. Susan said the weather in Rome this week was not unlike what she experienced years before in Calcutta!

Entering the square for the first time and seeing the face of Mother Teresa on a banner hanging from St. Peter's Basilica, she exclaimed, "There's Mother!" Susan was so happy to see the friendly face of Mother Teresa, and also noted that the painting of Mother Teresa was based on a photograph by Michael Collopy that is included in her new book.

In his homily for the canonization Mass, Pope Francis said that God told the prophets on many occasions that He desires mercy, not sacrifice, and that we are called to live out our faith in concrete actions of mercy toward others. This is what Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity — and all who work with the poorest of the poor — do, he said. And this is what all of us in the Church are called to do.

The Pope called Mother Teresa "a dispenser of Divine Mercy," saying she made herself "available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded." By declaring Mother Teresa a saint in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is holding up this saint of mercy as a model of how we are to live as Christians.

At the canonization of her friend, Susan said she was overwhelmed by a flood of gratitude and love for her parents "because they let me go to India, even though it broke their hearts," she said. "They were afraid they would never see me again. But they let me go. And they prayed me through it."

Susan said she always knew she was in the presence of a saint when she was with Mother Teresa, and although she had high expectations of what a saint would be like, Mother Teresa surpassed those expectations. "She blew me away with her humility, her kindness, her mercy — to everyone! Mother Teresa never refused anyone — the people that the hospitals wouldn't take, Mother Teresa would."

Susan said she not only worked beside Mother Teresa, but she would also visit her regularly during her stays in Calcutta. Mother Teresa would counsel Susan during these visits and prayed for Susan's vocation. "She is very near and dear to my heart," Susan said. "I would tell her, 'I love you, Mother.' And I still do!"

Mother Teresa is a woman of great faith, Susan said, and the new saint herself testified that without Christ, she could do nothing. But with Christ, she could do everything. "Even though she suffered interiorly, Mother Teresa was a light to us," Susan added.

"That's why we need saints: They are a light to us all. They illuminate our path. Saints point us to Heaven and to Jesus. They don't point to themselves. And Mother Teresa was the epitome of holiness, a perfect example of a saint, because it was never about her. It was always about Jesus and serving others. She will continue to be a light to us all, guiding us through the stormy seas of life to Heaven."

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