At the same time Mother Teresa was in her third year of teaching high school courses at St. Mary's High in Calcutta as a Sister of Loretto, Sister Nirmala was just coming into this world. She was born Nirmala Joshi in 1934 into a Brahmin family in the village of Ranchi in the eastern state of Bihar in India. Brahmin is an ethnic Nepali branch of Hindu or the priestly class. The family had migrated from Nepal and her father was an officer in the Indian Army. Her parents raised her in the Hindu religion even though she was educated by Christian missionaries in Patna, India. The more she studied the more the tenets of the Roman Catholic Faith intrigued her. As she tells it, "My roommate at Patna Women's College , a Hindu girl, was kneeling and praying. It was then that I heard the summons. Later, at 17, I came to Calcutta and joined the Order."
What convinced her to convert was when she discovered what Mother Teresa was doing. The habit her sisters were wearing was so similar to the sari of the Hindu religion that it eased all fears Nirmala had about this "foreign religion." Thus a year after Mother had founded the Order, Nirmala joined the Missionaries of Charity beginning her postulancy and novitiate in Calcutta under the watchful eye of the woman who would be forever known as the "saint of the gutters." What endeared Sister Nirmala to Mother and cemented her own commitment to the Order was while she was living in the Mother House in Calcutta. It is a four-story house that today accommodates 250 Sisters. She became very ill along with others, but she was sicker than the rest and rather than keeping her in the infirmary, Mother Teresa gave Sister Nirmala her own bed in her own room.
Over the years Mother could see that this young nun was not only a dedicated woman but one who could help so many through further education and she counseled Sister Nirmala to study law. She proceeded to heed Mother's request, studying at a local Indian University where she received her Master's Degree in Political Science and took additional studies to becaome a lawyer. It was not her intent to become an attorney but to know the law in order to help expand the Order as the women flocked to apply to be Missionaries of Charity.
While Sister Nirmala was matriculating at College, her younger sister visited her often and, through the fruits of Sister Nirmala's conversion, her sister converted from Hinduism as well, joining the Carmelites where she also became a nun.
Mother could see in Sister Nirmala signs of energy, dedication and charisma and knew instinctively that Sister Nirmala was the perfect person to open new houses in other lands, especially the western hemisphere. She was dispatched to New York to set up the first house in the sixties, then Washington D. C. as well as Panama in Central America. Despite the fact that Sister Nirmala was also on the go, in 1979 Mother placed this capable nun in charge of the Order's Contemplative Wing which encompasses those nuns who, rather than going out to minister to others, serve God before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and meditation. Based out of Calcutta, Sister Nirmala found great comfort in joining the cloistered nuns but realized she could not do this full time and, in obedience, began travelling again to other areas to establish new houses for the Missionaries of Charity, including throughout Europe, while still directing the contemplatives. Other than Mother herself, Sister Nirmala embodied all that Mother Teresa promoted.
For that reason it surprised very few when she was chosen to succeed Mother as Superior General on March 13, 1997 in a closed vote among 132 senior-nuns in a type of Conclave vote. She was, according to the Shepherd of Calcutta Archbishop Henry D'Souza, elected almost unanimously with Mother Teresa present. Mother blessed her upon the announcement of her election. With over 4,500 in this relatively fledgling new Order, it had shown the same kind of growth phenomena as the Franciscans in the thirteenth century. Sister Nirmala realized it would be quite a challenge to follow in the footsteps of Mother and, during Mother's final year on earth, leaned heavily on her for advice and encouragement. Shortly after her election in which she was chosen to govern all Missionaries of Charity in over 100 countries, she stated, "I am in dreamland right now. It's a big responsibility. If you look at it from myself, I am afraid. But looking at God, and depending on prayer, I think I will be able to continue God's work." Her selection, according to many was because she mirrored the deep spirituality of Mother Teresa, something Pope John Paul II had strongly advised when asked about a possible successor for Mother. Even though there were other candidates with more administrative experience, Sister Nirmala fit the bill. She is aided by four members of the council making up the leadership of the Missionaries of Charity.
By agreement and out of deep, deep respect for Mother Teresa and all she was and accomplished, all agreed, beginning with Sister Nirmala that she shouldn't be called "Mother Nirmala" as most Superior Generals of Women's Religious Orders are called. She was perfectly happy with "Sister Nirmala" for she felt no better than any of the other 4,500 member sisters. Yet there is growing sentiment within the Order that she be called "Mother Nirmala." They claim Mother Teresa would have wanted it that way. Sister Nirmala is quick to correct them with the facts that Mother Teresa would have wanted it "God's way." She also reminded all who would seek her out that she is "nothing but a worker and will remain so" asserting this in a strong, firm authoritative voice that surprises many coming from such a small physical frame. In that she also follows Mother as well.
And someday she will follow Mother into Heaven. She was the model of decorum throughout the transition period during Mother's final year and throughout the funeral and the world media attention, showing to the world that her fellow sisters had chosen an excellent person to carry on. She hopes to someday see Mother declared a saint and hopes also to expand the Order into China, something Mother wanted to do so much.
Many thought once Mother was gone that the Missionaries of Charity would diminish in numbers and some houses would have to be closed, but the opposite has happened for the Order is expanding even further as they continue to serve the poorest of the poor. When questioned about pending problems in the Order, Sister Nirmala answered calmly, "Problems are gifts of God. If you look at them as problems, they will be problems, but if you look at them as gifts of God, they are challenges, and we always welcome challenges. So these are challenges, not problems. God allows these 'challenges' because they are good for us. He will give us the graces to get through. All we need to do is to keep being faithful to our commitments, to answer the call of God. Everything else follows."
When asked about how will the Order raise money, keep going, feed and take care of the nearly 5,000 nuns and the millions of poor they serve, Sister Nirmala insists that the "Missionaries of Charity are called to depend on Divine Providence totally" and believes with all her heart that "God will provide whatever we will need." Physically Mother may be absent, but spiritually and mentally she is with each and every sister as well as the poor and, in Sister Nirmala, they have an excellent role model to carry on all that Mother Teresa started for God.
Now Fr. Andrew Greeley seems to have entered the fray. (I'm not surprised.) In an article which went out over the Religion News Service, Fr. Greeley bemoans the fact that attendance at Mass is down. He points out, however, that the numbers put out by parishes is lower than those put out by sociologists. (Greeley is himself a sociologist) He writes: "Some of them (parish priests) seem almost happy about the findings: See how bad the laity are, see how few of them go to Mass, see how materialism and consumerism and capitalism, etc. have destroyed the faith of the people."
No doubt these factors have contributed to some losing their faith, but I never heard anyone actually claim that that was the only reason. Fr. Greeley then appears to launch into blaming the priests (and the Pope) for this lack of faith. "From the pope to the parish priest, the assumption is that if the laity do not go to church, it is the fault of the laity or the "culture". The clergy seem quite incapable of asking whether it might be their fault."
Obviously, Fr. Greeley seems incapable of asking whether it might be 'his' fault. His and others who follow his lead. He falls into his own trap. "But by definition, you see, nothing is their fault. Perish the thought. Don't try to find out why. Don't even dare think that many people stay away from church on weekends because the Eucharist in their parishes is boring."
Giving praise to God as a community is boring? Fr. Greeley does correctly point out many problems in the Mass. A moderator telling everyone what they're going to pray for today, what the Mass is focused on today. A mundane, even unknown, hymn is sung, Which many might well find difficult to sing, even if they knew it. Readings done poorly, etc. But what Fr. Greeley seems to forget is that is the Mass he, through his friends, advocated and fought tooth and nail for!
I recall speaking to Protestant friends who really thought Catholic hymns were wonderful. They were rich and gave one the sense of the sacred, the miraculous. Today, we hear hymns more in line with Broadway shows or campfire songs, often expounding questionable theology. I always felt hymn's like "Let us build the City of God" would sound better round a campfire than church. Not to mention that God has already built the City of God, we have no need to (ref. St. Augustine). So what kind of 'city' are they really building?
" The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30. (30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence. [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Vatican Council II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Norms Drawn From the Hierarchic and Communal Nature of the Liturgy] (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Vatican Council II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM Chapter VI; Sacred Music; #116).
Greeley then accuses those who read the Scripture readings poorly as semiliterate? But this falls into the cult of the personality. The Mass as entertainment. With the priest facing the people, it's natural for him to be the focus, so...if something goes wrong, it's on him.
This isn't a slam at Fr. Greeley. He did touch on some real problems. Priests who recite the Eucharistic prayer with no emotion, no reverence. Adding their own little quirks to it, to 'liven it up'. People running around hugging each other with the sign of peace, breaking up the flow of the Mass. But even when one has a good choir, the Mass is well done, Greeley says it's boring.
Fr. Greeley wrote: "Cardinal Ratzinger has recently complained that the liturgy reform of Paul VI went too far (you can criticize a Pope if you're a cardinal, but only after the Pope is dead) [Fr. Greeley's side comment] My feeling is just the opposite. The present liturgy doesn't go far enough."
Not far enough? Here is were Fr. Greeley seems to have lost the point of the Mass. Is Cardinal Ratzinger attacking the New Order of the Mass, or rather, what others have done to it in the name of Paul VI and the 'spirit' of Vatican II?
"The Mass is a celebratory family meal."
No it isn't, that's that 'spirit of Vatican II' talking. "In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that Heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the Heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; Vatican Council II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chap. 1 #8).
In short, the Mass is, first and foremost, the worship of God. Truly present at the Mass, but especially in the Blessed Sacrament. The notion that it's a celebratory family meal serves only to make it more convenient NOT to go to Mass.
"Before men can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and to conversion:" "How then are they to call upon Him in whom they have not yet believed? But how are they to believe Him Whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear if no one preaches? And how are men to preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:14-15)." (Ibid; #9) How can one go to worship God if they think it's only a communal celebration?
If the Mass is merely a family celebration, a 'worship' of community, then why go? "The priest is boring", "He doesn't say what I like." "He's too conservative (or too liberal)", etc. Not to mention the all encompassing, "I believe in God and don't need to go to church in order to worship Him."
Am I blaming the laity as Fr. Greeley says? No, I'm indirectly blaming Fr. Greeley. (Along with Curran, Kung, McBrien, Rhuether, etc.) The laity are only following what they were taught, by them.
He wrote that the Mass is a celebratory meal. But as we see Vatican II didn't teach that. It did teach that there was a celebratory nature to the Mass. Celebrating and thanking God for His sacrifice. But this 'implied' teaching is found it's roots in imposing abuses and distortions to the Mass.
For example, Vatican II teaches: "Holy Communion, considered as a sign, has a fuller form when it is received under both kinds. For under this form (leaving intact the principles of the Council of Trent, by which under either species or kind there is received the true sacrament and Christ whole and entire) the sign of the eucharistic banquet appears more perfectly." (Instruction on the worship of the Eucharistic Mystery; 25 May, 1967; Chap. 1, #32).
Yet we hear many being taught, and believing, that one receives His blood from the cup only, and His body from the bread alone. Clearly, not in accordance with what the Church taught.
But this notion of the 'celebratory' nature of the Mass is pushed because Vatican II and Church teaching isn't followed. The Church, for example, gives only fourteen instances when, with the local bishop's approval, some in the Church can receive under both species. Newly baptized and/or confirmed adults at their baptism/confirmation Mass; Newlyweds at their Nuptial Mass, etc. (Ibid.; Chap. IV, #242) Yet, we see communion given under both kinds regularly because it's a 'celebratory' meal.
The fault doesn't lie with the laity, but rather with the priests, liturgists, theologians, etc, who distort Vatican II and Church teaching for their own purpose.
"… encouraging and positive aspects cannot suppress concern at the varied and frequent abuses being reported from different parts of the Catholic world: the confusion of roles, especially regarding the priestly ministry and the role of the laity (indiscriminate shared recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer, homilies given by lay people, lay people distributing Communion while the priests refrain from doing so); an increasing loss of the sense of the sacred (abandonment of liturgical vestments, the Eucharist celebrated outside church without real need, lack of reverence and respect for the Blessed Sacrament, etc.); misunderstanding of the ecclesial character of the Liturgy (the use of private texts, the proliferation of unapproved Eucharistic Prayers, the manipulation of the liturgical texts for social and political ends)…..
None of these things can bring good results. The consequences are - and cannot fail to be - the impairing of the unity of Faith and worship in the Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal and bewilderment among the People of God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions.
The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, which means the Liturgy desired and laid down by the Church, which has in fact indicated where adaptations may be made as called for by pastoral requirements in different places or by different groups of people. Undue experimentation, changes and creativity bewilder the faithful. The use of unauthorized texts means a loss of the necessary connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi. The Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: "No person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority." (SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chap. 1; 22, #3 )
And Paul VI of venerable memory stated that: "Anyone who takes advantage of the reform to indulge in arbitrary experiments is wasting energy and offending the ecclesial sense."
Yet Fr. Greeley seems to be advocating more experimentation. A Church where we are to entertain (like a family celebration), rather than the worship of God. Or has he done worse?
"I don't know how the Mass can be made to look like what it really is. However, it's time someone begins to think seriously about the problem."
Either Fr. Greeley is acting like some sort of nihilist, who feels that we should tear everything down even if we have no idea what to replace it with. Or he has couched his words so he can blame the Church for this 'crisis' without appearing to blame the Church.
"From the pope to the parish priest, the assumption is that if the laity do not go to church, it is the fault of the laity or the "culture". The clergy seem quite incapable of asking whether it might be their fault."
Isn't he blaming the Church here?
"Cardinal Ratzinger has recently complained that the liturgy reform of Paul VI went too far (you can criticize a pope if you're a cardinal, but only after the pope is dead) My feeling is just the opposite. The present liturgy doesn't go far enough."
Sounds like he's saying he knows how to make it look what he thinks it really is. More fads, more experiments. Could it be that Fr. Greeley is wrong? Perish the thought!!!
Pax Christi, Pat
Death of Pope John VII, 86th successor of Peter. This Greek Pope was elected on March 1, 705. During his two year pontificate he refused to consent to the ambiguous claims of the Emperor Justinian II who initiated those massacres which drove the Latin peoples to separate themselves more and more from the Eastern Empire.
Death of Pope Gregory XII, 193rd successor of Peter. This Venice-born Pope's papacy lasted eleven years and it was the saddest period of the Western Schism. It came to a point during his pontificate that there were three contemporaneous claims to papal obedience: Rome, Avignon and Pisa. The Emperor Sigismund called the 16th Ecumenical Council druing which Gregory renounced the throne.
Birth of Enea Silvio Piccolomini at Pienza near Siena, Italy. He would become a cardinal and be chosen the 210th successor of Peter taking the name Pope Pius II on September 3, 1458. His ponticate would last six years.
Death of Pope Pius III, 215th successor of Peter who was Pope for only ten days. Even though the conclave knew he was deathly ill, they insisted he accept. The gout that he had contracted prevented him from celebrating his coronation Mass standing and so he was allowed to be seated throughout. He was, needless to say, an interim pontiff so the conclave could elect a younger man after more deliberation.
Pope John Paul II canonizes Saint Lawrence Ruiz and his companions, the first Filipino martyrs and saints.
Pope John Paul II celebrates the beatification of Brazilian Blessed Pauline of the Heart of Jesus in Agony during his papal trip to Brazil.