There are many academic conferences that one might attend throughout the course of an academic career. These may often be interesting, and important and weighty matters can be discussed and considered. Few conferences, however, are like that had over the course of this past weekend at Ave Maria University. The Aquinas Center’s conference Mother Teresa and the Mystics: Toward a Renewal of Spiritual Theology, lived up to its title and seemingly began the renewal right away in the very attendees at the conference. If one had been fortunate enough to hear all of the plenary speakers, a wonderful kind of whole was revealed that both instructed and inspired.
[Above: Fr. Martin speaking on the Spiritual Darkness of Mother Teresa.]
Dr. Ralph Martin began the conference with a stirring reflection on the depth of the Spiritual Darkness of Mother Teresa. However, this account was couched in terms where we were not simply left in awe of the great suffering and holiness of the little saint from Albania, but we were encouraged to carry on in our own respective spiritual lives, and trust ourselves to God’s providential and loving guidance.
The theme of providential ordering was taken up by Fr. Matthew Lamb on the following day, where he showed how St. Teresa’s dedication to the poor in all circumstances gave witness to the natural law’s testimony of the inherent dignity of all men. This was followed by a illuminating lecture from Dr. Michael Waldstein, commending the place of St. Teresa and Pope St. John Paul II as the spiritual mother and father of Ave Maria University. These talks helped those listening to reflect both on the very concrete example that Mother Teresa provided, and also how her life still is touching ours.
[Above: Dr. Mark Miravalle speaking on the relationship between Mother Teresa and Mary.]
Then her motherhood was taken up again, and this time in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mother Teresa’s continual devotion to the Blessed Virgin was so much a part of her, that one can almost lose sight of it. Dr. Mark Miravalle highlighted this connection and showed how Mother Teresa participated in the mystical motherhood of Mary in her incessant love all of those whom she encountered, especially the poor.
Finally, Fr. Meconi seemingly brought all of these elements together, emphasizing how Mother Teresa taught us about how we are able to contact Christ in His “distressing disguise,” as Mother Teresa was wont to call it, in the poor. Mother Teresa’s witness of service and love emphasized not only the dignity of the poor, but also the sanctity that is to be had through suffering. By tending to the poor, Mother saw herself tending to Christ himself. The Body of Christ, that potentially contains all mankind, was always present to her in her administrations to the poor. As Christ says to the righteous, “you did it for me.”
Augmented by a strong cohort of other speakers heard during the concurrent sessions, the lesson of the conference, just as in Mother Teresa’s own life, was clear: that the work of God in us is to bring us closer to Himself as well as all those we encounter.
[Below: The well attended conference was a great success!]