Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Search for a Unique Third-Class Relic of Mother Teresa

I realize I'm a day late with this post on Mother Teresa. I had meant to post something yesterday, as September 5 was the tenth anniversary of her death. I never got around to it, though, so I'm doing it today instead.

For some time, Mother Teresa has had a special place in my heart, likely stemming from my great fortune at being part of the crowd at a papal audience at Castel Gandolfo with John Paul II, of happy memory, two days after she died, at which he paid tribute to his dear diminutive friend.

We named our first daughter after her. It’s especially fitting that we did so, since Teresa was born on January 21, 2003 (January 21 is the feast of St. Agnes; and Agnes was Mother Teresa’s baptismal name -- although we didn't know that at the time our Teresa was born!), and 2003 was the year she was beatified.

A few months ago I had lunch with a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in three years. I guess you could say Jan and I were "colleagues", although I'm generally inclined to think the word "colleague" sounds hifalutin.

At any rate, she and I are both former Religion teachers at Good Counsel High School in Chicago, where she also served as our department chairman for two years. (The school closed in 2003; the building now houses a charter school.)

During the course of our conversation, Jan asked me if I had ever heard the story about the time Mother Teresa had visited Good Counsel. I said that I remembered some of the teachers mentioning something about it one time, but I was sketchy on the details.

As it turns out, Mother Teresa once visited the school for some sort of convocation on religious life (presumably sponsored by the Felician Sisters, who operated the school and whose Mother of Good Counsel Province motherhouse was located next door).

One of the Felician sisters in attendance at the convocation had the foresight to recognize that Mother Teresa would surely one day become a saint, and so, after the event, this sister took the chair in which Mother Teresa had sat, put some sort of identifying mark on the underside of it -- with masking tape, as I recall -- and put it in a storage room. For, were Mother Teresa to become a saint, the sisters would then have their very own third-class relic.

After it was announced in the fall of 2002 that Good Counsel would be closing the following spring, the sister who had stored Mother Teresa's chair contacted Jan about it, because she couldn't remember where she put it! By that time, Jan had left GC and taken a teaching job in another state, but she called another former of colleague of ours -- Nancy, also a Religion teacher -- and told her about the missing chair/third-class-relic-to-be.

Nancy was teaching freshmen that year, and so decided to elicit the help of her charges in looking for said chair. So, she led them on what could, in a manner of speaking, be considered a mini-pilgrimage -- it was, after all, a quest for a relic -- and dispatched them to search the nooks and crannies of the school.

Sure enough, they found the chair. I'm told it's now in safe keeping at the Felician Sisters' motherhouse.