Getting Back to Basics by Judy Dudich

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In a scene about the life of Mother Teresa (starring Olivia Hussey in an outstanding performance) Mother is seen to become increasingly frustrated as the men and women surrounding her at a huge conference table are discussing the myriad of issues which face them as a formal financial and planning body set up within the ministry.

Mother glances down at the Perrier water which has been placed at each setting. After inquiring abut how much a single bottle of the drink costs; and being told that it is $3.00, she pauses and laments, “I can send a child to school for a whole year with that much money”.

Mother Teresa then proceeds to stand up and verbally “dissolve” the committee before her. She says that the statutes are to be torn up, that the group will be no more and that everyone is to get back to the roots of doing acts of love for God.

The room of official members is left dumbfounded as Mother exit’s the meeting place. A senior member then turns to the priest in the room and  implores him to change Mother’s mind; saying that she has just written off thirty years of planning and meetings and work. Father nods slowly and says, “Yes, she has. And that is how long it has taken me to realize that she is right”. Then, he leaves too.

As Catholic Christians in a bustling world, it behooves us to pause and consider whether or not we, perhaps, have made the same mistake which Mother Teresa perceived that her aids and group members (and even herself) had made.

We run into a friend or colleague as we buzz through a parking lot and when asked how we are doing, we smile, sigh, and reply, “Oh, fine I guess, if only I could stop for a minute to breathe!” Upon further inquiry from our friend as to what is keeping us on the move these days, we launch into a diatribe of
items, events, tasks, and duties that are taking up space on our most current “check list” or calendar.

Like the group that was gathered before Mother Teresa in the film, the things on which our attentions are focused might be good and worthy at heart. However, there is a danger that the “planning of the works” might begin to take precedence over the “heart of the work”; and this is where we might be in need of a few changes.

It’s easy to do. A few ladies gather for tea, conversation, and the rosary once a month. By word of mouth, the group expands, more come, and the next thing we know; rather than the casual, intimate gathering we’ve been enjoying, it turns into an “official” group, committee, or ministry in the parish, with a governing body, and meetings once a week or month to plan extensions of activities, missions, and purposes for that which began as simple prayer and fellowship. Before the ladies realize it, they barely have time to pray the rosary any longer, for they are too busy planning, and selling, and marketing, and “working” on matters concerning the group instead of living the message at the heart of the group.

Being human, we are sometimes guilty of pride and selfcenteredness. Without meaning to, and without necessarily realizing it, we tend to “inflate” our ego or our self-perceived value or our talents by espousing the “never-ended-to-do-lists” that clutter up our little hand-held planners or smart phone calendars. Somehow, we trick ourselves into thinking that “the more we have to do, the more we are doing for God”.

As Mother Teresa so abruptly, directly, and sternly  brought to the attention of the meeting-goers in the movie, we need to understand that we can get so caught up in “planning, organizing, and running” the work of God, that we near cease to carry it out!

Meetings, groups, committees, and conferences are not inherently wrong or out of place. There can be a real need for this things; especially when dealing with large institutions or corporations; whether secular or faith-based.
Let us be mindful of and truthful about, however, whether we are sticking to the basics of a daily life in Christ; or whether we have allowed a snowball effect to take hold so that the loving acts and the pure intentions begin to be pushed aside and taken over by plans, schedules, meetings, voting, promotions, and speeches.

Let’s get back to the basics. Let us not take a moment of time away from our families, our prayer lives, or our worship, more than is necessary. Let us remember that we can serve God with simplicity; doing, (as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta advised) “little things, with great love”.

If your life has gotten so busy or you have become almost embarrassed to say, “I’m fine. I’ve just been enjoying time at home with my husband and kids and getting ready for the holy days ahead” when asked how you are doing, then perhaps it is time to reflect on the message of Mother Teresa:

“Get back to the roots. Get back to the mission at hand”.

More being, loving, praying, serving, and doing…less planning, promoting,presenting,scheduling, and organizing.

Copyright 2010 Judy Dudich

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