"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lines I Wished I’d Written: The Simple Path by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta [UPDATED}

Unless you live in a bubble, you have probably seen that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized into a saint this week.  I just came across a wonderful quote from our saintly lady, and that was something she wrote in her book, A Simple Path.  I have not read the book, but when I perused it in the Amazon sample, it was there.  These lines designate the simple path, the path to spiritual wholeness.

The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace.
            - St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Now I was tempted to make this a “Notable Quote” entry, but on looking over the craft in the rhetoric, I’m in awe, so I made this both “Notable Quote” and “Lines I Wished I’d Written” entries.  First off, each sentence is simple, held together by a to be form linking verb.  This sentence form creates an equation: “The figurine is a dog.”  The simplicity of the sentences accentuates the message of simplicity she is projecting.

What is interesting here is that each sentence follows a repetitive pattern.  Each sentence starts with “The fruit of…”  Such a repetition of sentence structure is called in rhetoric anaphora.  The subject of each sentence is “fruit” but in each case it is modified my an adjective phrase, “of xxx.”  Each sentence ends with a noun complement.  So each sentence sets up an equation of fruit equating to a powerful noun, which is rhetorically what she wants you to come away with: prayer, faith, love, service, peace. 

But the noun complement of the preceding sentence becomes the noun in the adjectival phrase, so that there is a linking progression from one sentence to the next.  What is most interesting to me is how the anaphora makes the sequence so much more powerful.  Mother Teresa could have just had a sequence of even simpler sentences: “Silence is prayer.  Prayer is faith.  Faith is love.  Love is service.  Service is peace.”  That version would have been static.  Adding the anaphoric subject, “The fruit” creates a dynamic and movement that would otherwise be lacking.  The “fruit” is the outgrowth of the noun complement, a development which implies time and motion.  It implies a path, a simple path.  That is so much more powerful.

St. Mother Teresa, pray for us.

Updated: 9 September 2016, 9:28 AM:
It occurred to me yesterday that I missed one of the most important elements to that prose poem, the loaded meaning on the word "fruit."  A word is "loaded" when because of its context, associations, or connotations carries more meaning than the dictionary definition.  Mother Teresa here did not choose the word "fruit" haphazardly.  From the Hail Mary is the line, "blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus."  The association with "fruit" in the Hail Mary expands the meaning of the word "fruit" in Mother Teresa'a prose poem.  Each noun complement is almost a birthing output out of the womb, and each is associated with Jesus!  I realized all that while praying the Hail Mary the next morning after I posted this.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Manny. I hope she is praying for us.

    God bless you and your family.