Text Size

Search Articles

More By This Author

More From This Category

Article Information

Life is a Hymn: sing it!

By Colin Gibson in All Sorts

positive reflections on life inspired by the words, actions and life of Mother teresa of Calculta

ON A RECENT VISIT to my family in Normandy, France, at the famous Scriptorium of Avranches, where
precious manuscripts from the near-by Mont St Michel monastery are preserved, I saw several examples of the work of modern calligraphers displayed in the museum shop. What particularly caught my attention was a beautiful transcription into French of words by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Do you remember her? The simple Croatian nun, who for years worked with a few helpers to bring some respect and dignity to the final moments of the poorest street folk of that huge city? I was deeply moved by what she said, and although I can’t reproduce the beauty of the lettering I saw or the original French text, I offer a plain translation into English. I suggest that you read it slowly and give it some thought as you do so.
Life is an opportunity: seize it
Life is a thing of beauty: wonder at it
Life is a blessing: savour it
Life is a dream: turn it into a reality
Life is a challenge: face it
Life is an obligation: carry it out
Life is a game: play it
Life is a precious thing: value it
Life is a treasure: preserve it
Life is love: take pleasure in it
Life is a mystery: go towards the heart of it Life is possibility: fulfill it
Life is full of sadness: overcome it
Life is a hymn: sing it
Life is a battle: confront it
Life is an adventure: dare to take part in it Life is happiness: deserve it
Life is life: protect it.
It is hard to imagine how such brave words, such an affirmation of life, could emerge from the desperate squalor and wretched poverty which were this nun’s daily surroundings. She might have written, ‘Life is unutterably cruel: despair and die’. Yet she is the voice of indomitable faith as she declares her own indestructible joy and delight in life as she knew it in that harsh, faraway place.
For me, these words re-connect me in a personal way with my family on the other side of the world; they remind me of the short but happy time we had together. They connect me, too, with the noble example of a saintly life poured out for others; a woman whose dauntless and determined faith enabled her to shine out the love of Christ into the murky gloom of the slums of Calcutta. They are there to remind me of the great cloud of witnesses—Paul’s words— who have finished their share in the race of life and now watch me as I try to complete my own little lap in the great marathon as decently as I can.
Mother Teresa’s words also connect me with one of the most precious aspects of my own creative life, my music making, as well as with my memories of the beautiful Sunday by Sunday musical expressions of worship among the beloved members of my own community of faith’—not to mention similar beautiful works among the millions of Christian communities world-wide. Yes, you’ve spotted the Teresa phrase which first drew me into her proclamation of faith. ‘Life is a hymn: sing it.’
Whatever our lives may be, however full of joy or grief, however filled with pleasures or with pain, let us make the most of this most precious gift of existence. And let us do all we can to make existence good for others. Our brief lives are all that we have to work with. Our life is our hymn: sing it!
Colin Gibson