This book surprised me. There were a few things that were obvious about where it was going, but I didn’t expect most of it. I expected Johnson to have moved quickly through her time with Mother Teresa, for it to have been a quick path like in so many of those “my year of” books. I didn’t expect this to actually be about a Missionary of Charity who had met and worked under Mother Teresa.
I know, it’s right in the book description but I have so many books that I’ve put on my TBR at the library that I don’t always remember what had interested me about them when I finally get around to reading them. It’s also possible that I didn’t read the description at all because this is exactly the kind of title that I absolutely cannot resist.
Anyway, this is not about a single experimental year or any other short period where one woman was inspired by Mother Teresa to just do better. This is a woman who was inspired to follow Mother Teresa by becoming a Missionary of Charity and devoting her life to it. As one might expect, becoming a Missionary of Charity isn’t easy and it doesn’t just get easier once you are one. The life is hard and the lessons are harder. There are crises of faith and great renewals. There are opportunities lost and taken.
More than anything, the books is a lesson in what it can mean to serve at an extreme level and that suffering can be many things. I was fascinating by many concepts of service and suffering throughout the book. There is an idea that we can choose to suffer out of love by letting someone else have the position we would rather have or keeping quiet about a small thing that bothers us or quietly helping someone even when it’s inconvenient to do so. I found the idea that giving generously means giving until it hurts rather than just giving from our wealth.
Johnson passes on not only the wisdom of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, but the pains as well. She talks about a discipline in pain that I cannot imagine but that I also understand. The sentiment reminds me a lot of the people I know who have cut themselves when depressed. There are struggles with each other and with priests and in trying to help communities or individuals. It’s a long audiobook, but totally worth it.
On the other hand, I don’t recommend it for anyone who isn’t already religious. I’ve had non-religious friends who look at me with bewilderment with just that I’d wake up early enough to get to church on Sunday or believe in anything that Bible says, let alone understand someone who would devote their lives in the service of Jesus. I know there are those out there who would understand, but I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending it. For those who are religious, it is a really interesting book about devoting life to Jesus and service and trying to live into even the most strict of his words. I don’t think it even matters what religion, either, because some people like to study parallels of doctrine and faith. If you’re thinking about it, add it to your TBR on Goodreads.