Calcutta, curlers, and secret recipes


As long as I can remember, I’ve felt an affinity towards St. Teresa of Calcutta, whose feast day we celebrate today. This internal pull to a woman across the world was actually founded in familiarity – pictures of Mother Teresa always reminded me of my own maternal grandmother. Small and soft, tanned skin wrinkled by the sun and age – if Mother Teresa had a set of pink hair curlers and some velvet pajamas I may have mistook her for my Grandma Karleen. More than physical similarities, these two women both shone with joy. I couldn’t help but feel they both knew something, some secret recipe, that if only I could crack it I could share in their infectious joy.

On paper, they lived very different lives – one in India dedicated to the poor, the other in Texas raising 7 children and working as a librarian.  Worlds apart, I imagine their daily activities were quite similar. Day in and day out, the minutes and hours filled with praying, cleaning, scrubbing, preparing. Always preparing, never finishing. It would make a tiresome memoir with no proper climax – She folded the laundry again. She washed him again. She went to work…again. Malcom Muggeridge details this in his book Something Beautiful for God, where he writes:

The wholly dedicated like Mother Teresa do not have biographies. Biographically speaking, nothing happens to them. To live for, and in, others, as she and the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity do, is to eliminate happenings, which are a factor of the ego and the will. “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” is one of her favorite sayings.

To live for, and in, others. To release the notion that our life is our own. “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition” as was written on my grandma’s memorial card. This is the stuff of the biography I want to write. I hope they say “She saw Christ in others and was present for it” rather than “She moved mountains”. I struggle to live it, but the “secret recipe” of Mother Teresa and my grandma was simple – Their joy came from serving Christ in others, and delighting in their presence along the way.

Grandma Karleen passed when I was in high school, and in my mind she’s still sitting on the floor letting me win again at Candy Land. Over a decade later, I’ve felt her loss acutely these past months as I’ve watched my own mother become a grandmother and my sister become a mother. They hold my little niece Pippa snuggly, blowing bubbles to make her laugh and stroking her velvet skin. She needs to eat, she needs changing, she needs a bath. This is the entirety of a day condensed to one sentence, the love and sacrifice behind these words more densely packed than atoms. There are no happenings in this new routine, nothing to write a biography about, but it is beautiful. I like to think my Grandma would have sat there with us, playing peekaboo and doing laundry, living for and in sweet baby Pippa Karleen.

Kassie Manning is a co-creator of Every Sacred Sunday as well as a molecular biologist who loves rock climbing, road trips, and new chapstick. Her favorite mornings are spent making waffles with her husband and her favorite evenings are passed lingering around the dinner table long after the food and wine have run out. Above all else, she trusts the power of beauty and joy to spread the Gospel. You can find out more about her HERE.