Calvary Love

“Amma” Amy Carmichael (image public domain/Wikipedia)

If when an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant,

and I shrink back from it;

If the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice,

and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will,

then I know nothing of Calvary love.

(If, by Amy Carmichael, p.48).

A prolific writer and missionary to India, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) founded Dohnavur Fellowship, where she served for 56 years, rescuing dozens of “temple children” to know and love Christ. Elisabeth Elliot’s biography of “Amma,” A Chance to Die, was such a profound influence on my own spiritual journey that I took Amy’s name at confirmation.

What I love most about Amy — in addition to her beautiful hymns, her legacy of service, and her breathtaking faith in God — is how she (like Mother Teresa) never waivered in her trust in Jesus, or in her confidence that he had called her to this place in the southernmost tip of India, where she would live and die without ever returning to her homeland.

It is this trust — even in the face of harrowing and faith-shaking circumstances — that we all need a little more of these days. Listen, and take to heart, as this “hidden saint” recounts the words of Jesus to her.

Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour My love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell Me about the trouble. rust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerneth thee. Fear thou not, O child of My love, fear not.”

If, p. 69

St. Amy Carmichael, pray for us.

Gladys Aylward: A Heart for China

Last week I had the chance to speak to a group of local women — and my mother, who had never heard me speak in public until then — about a group of women I’ve come to regard as my spiritual mothers: Women whose example led me, as surely as Moses led the Chosen People to the Promised Land, to where I am today. They (clockwise from upper left): My confirmation namesake, Amy Carmichael; Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers, widow of Oswald Chambers; Gladys Aylward; Mother Teresa; Elisabeth Elliot; and Corrie. ten Boom. (I’ve linked each of their names to my favorite books by or about them, in case you’d like to learn more.)

Like Moses, most of them did not “cross over,” as I did, into the Catholic Church (Mother Teresa is the only professed Catholic among them). And yet, each of them left an indelible stamp upon my spirit through their lives and writings.

Tonight mom and I finished reading the book about Gladys Aylward, the British missionary to China (1902-1970), whose story was retold (with great liberties) in the movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman. After twenty years preaching the Gospel to teems of people suffering under Communist oppression, she felt the Lord call her back home. At first she was incredulous — she had by that time become a Chinese citizen, dressing like them, eating like them, even thinking like them. And yet, she said,

“England, seemingly so prosperous while other countries passed through terrible suffering at the hands of Communist domination, had forgotten what was all-important — the realization that God mattered in the life of a nation no less than in that of an individual…. I knew that I must go back to the land of my birth. I must return to do what I could to dispel the spiritual lethargy that had overtaken so many. I must testify to the great faith of the Chinese church. I must let people know what great things God has done for me” (The Little Woman, 136).

This was nearly fifty years ago, and yet not much has changed. The “underground” Church of faithful Christians continues to suffer and to struggle, and even to die.

Pray with me for the Holy Father, for the Christians in China … and for all those on the front lines, who seek to ease the suffering of the “least of these” who continue to suffer simply for naming the Blessed Name. Mother Gladys, pray for us, that we might not be afraid to stand with your beloved people.

Another much admired figure, from the Civil War era at Notre Dame, I’d like to write about one day: Sister Angela Gillespie.