Thursday, March 2, 2017

Does the Search for "Clarity" Hold Us Back?

I recently came across several versions of an anecdote about a brief conversation between Mother Teresa and the then-young John Kavanaugh, S.J. (who went on to 36 years of distinguished service teaching philosophy at Saint Louis University before his death in 2012). Kavanaugh worked with Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity "home for the dying" in Calcutta in 1975 during his final year of the lengthy Jesuit preparation process.

At the end of his time in India, Kavanaugh was trying to discern whether to request to return to his place as a university professor in America or to remain where he was, in service to the poorest of the poor. Though the story varies in the telling, the conversation went something like this:

Mother Teresa: "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Fr Kavanaugh: "Yes, please pray for me. Pray that I might have clarity."
Mother Teresa: "No. I will not pray for this. Your search for clarity is what holds you back."
Fr Kavanaugh: "But Mother, you have always had clarity about everything."
Mother Teresa: "No, I have never had clarity. What I have always had is trust. I will pray that you will come to trust in God."