Tiny, little and big

Since the canonisation of Mother Teresa on Sunday all sorts of images, quotes, articles and memes have been doing the social media rounds. After a while and with the inevitable repetition many of them have blurred into each other, but this morning a new one stood out. It showed pictures of our three St Teresas, with the captions 'Big' (Avila), 'Little' (Lisieux) and 'Tiny' (Calcutta/Kolkata).

The image played on the fact that we have traditionally distinguished between Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux with the simple adjectives 'big' and 'little' - and now we have another Teresa who was most definitely tiny. It was, of course, perfect in its symmetry: the three women on a temporal timeline, decreasing in physical size, if nothing else, as the world around them seems to be continually expanding. But in another sense it was wrong: all three are 'big' just as all three are 'little'.

'Big' because they were great-hearted, whole-hearted women; abundantly, hugely 'big' in the greatness of their love, commitment and generosity. And whilst they were all physically 'little' - even 'big' Teresa was probably small in comparison to contemporary women in the West - they were also little in their humility: women who knew themselves, knew their limitations as well as their strengths, and trusted that God would make up for whatever they lacked. Whatever their size, they were women of stature, through whom God's glory shone, through their great humility as much as their great love.

And that is what we are all called to - whether we're big, little or tiny! And so when I saw Sunday's quote, from one of my Society calendars, I knew it was spot-on appropriate. These words, from a letter written in 1985 by Helen McLaughlin RSCJ, then Superior General, may have been addressed to members of the Society, but they contain a challenge and a call for each person reading them...

Humility is the key that opens us to love. We... are called to be women who love, bearers of love, of a love that is strong, that is true, that is magnanimous. In this we cannot be mediocre; we cannot be weak; we cannot be vacillating.

May the prayers and example of each Teresa - Big, Little and Tiny - help us rise above our weaknesses and mediocrity, and become bearers of a love which is truly strong, steadfast and magnanimous.