Photo: Miraculous Medal from Mother Teresa
From The Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West: Seminary Rector and graduate school Dean Fr. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh shares the story behind this Miraculous Medal, which he received years ago from (then) Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Kolkata:
While I was a student in Rome I had an opportunity one morning to attend Mass at San Gregorio where the Sisters belonging to Missionaries of Charity live. Mother Teresa was in Rome to meet with the Pope, John Paul II, and it was her custom to attend the early morning Mass. We rose very early and walked from our college to San Gregorio. Mass was celebrated in a large room and typically people sat on the ground. After I sat down in a space toward the back of the room near the door I was surprised when I looked over to my right and saw a familiar figure dressed in an old US military jacket, it was Martin Sheen crouched down praying the Rosary.
At a certain point Mother Teresa entered and sat on the floor like everyone else and Mass began soon after. She didn’t speak during the Mass but afterwards we had the opportunity to meet her. As we gathered and waited in different groups, I had a chance to talk with Martin Sheen. At this time the First Gulf War was about to begin. Sheen was in town with a Constitutional Lawyer and he told me they wanted to meet with Mother Teresa and ask her to introduce them to Pope John Paul II. As the war had not yet started, they hoped to convince the Pope to take the United States to the International Court in an attempt to forestall the beginning of the war. As it turned out they were too late, the war began either that day or the next.
Sheen was a very interesting person to talk with, funny, kind, and relaxed. He spoke about his children and the fact that they had children of their own but no marriages. He said he “I don’t have in-laws, I have outlaws.” I said to him “when people see my photos they will ask: ‘Who is that old nun with Martin Sheen’.” He thought that was funny.
Mother Teresa was very preoccupied. She had just been released from hospital a few days before after an extended illness from which she was not expected to recover. She had indeed recovered, and the next day, at the invitation of the President of Albania, was returning to her home country to establish a community of her sisters. The country that had declared itself an atheistic paradise was inviting Mother Teresa to establish a community of faith! Apparently someone had given her a plane for the occasion and she was filling it with as many sacramental and religious articles as possible. Mother Teresa, although a tiny lady, was a tornado when it came to getting things done and this morning was no exception. There was an Indian sister with her who was her “minder.” I asked her if Mother Teresa was supposed to be running around like this. She said “Father, she was told to take it easy. This is her taking it easy.” She went on to say, affectionately, “She is just a stubborn Albanian mule.”
We had an opportunity to talk to Mother Teresa; she made time for everyone. Her habit pockets were full of Miraculous Medals and she would typically draw one out, kiss it, and place it in your hand. As it turned out I received two medals from her that day. Over the next two years I gave both away to people who were sick. I later dropped Mother a note and she sent me a replacement, which I still have to this day with a note and her signature. What I remember most was her intense focus and silence at Mass and then the explosion of energy after Mass. It didn’t seem like a contradiction it seemed like one enabled the other.
Photo of letter courtesy The Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West; medal close-up Wikimedia Commons.
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