(a “just a pencil in God’s Hand” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
You know her, admire her, and love her: Mother Teresa. She left her convent as a nun to live in the slums of the poor. She founded the Missionaries of Charity to help the poor and sick and unloved and unwanted. Mother Teresa was Called by God in this fashion to help God’s poor, lonely, and dying humans; I have received a similar Call by God in this fashion to help God’s poor, lonely, and dying nonhuman animals. So, I totally relate to Mother Teresa’s Calling to be “just a pencil in God’s Hand.” This film review I’m writing is this pencil, although I’m using a keyboard and tablet to write it.
THE LETTERS is all about the letters Mother Teresa wrote to others, including her spiritual advisor, that told a different story than we would think. We would think that because Mother Teresa heeded the Calling by God to help the poor, lonely and dying, she was a totally fulfilled woman of Christ, but these letters told of her loneliness, how she felt that God had abandoned her in her work for Him. Ones such as Mother Teresa and myself who care for the “least of these” often will feel that the Calling is least on God’s List. It’s about a darkness that those like Mother Teresa and myself feel and experience in the true worship of selflessness. The Calling can translate into, “Does God even care that I care so much?” Despite such a question, ones such as Mother Teresa and myself cannot give up no matter this question and no matter the answer to this question, because we cannot put the pencil down as the pencil is not in our hand but in God’s Hand. We “write” the righteousness of God’s Calling on our lives, and our written story is one we travail despite the many travails.
Juliet Stevenson’s performance as Mother Teresa is a laborious labor of love. Stevenson is quiet and frail in her disposition, BOTH physically AND emotionally. We are so used to actresses having those moments on screen where they “lose it” and conflict is heated up. Stevenson can’t do this in this film, because Mother Teresa knew nothing about “losing it” or heated-up conflicts. Even in such darkness, Mother Teresa was all about lightness, about humility, about words only spoken when God deemed them necessary and words spoken never harshly but always gently. Speaking of poor. bless the poor man’s heart in this film who was a radio interviewer and wanted an interview with Mother Teresa. She refused it because she was “just a pencil in God’s Hand.” In fact, she told interviewer to take his pencil in God’s Hand and interview the poor. The only time Mother Teresa took the pencil out of God’s Hand and spoke was when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, because she knew the pencil of her words would bring attention to the poor. The words Mother Teresa spoke at that time were one of great eloquence and humility, speaking a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, that Stevenson delivered egoless (any other actress would have probably delivered it selfishly). I just loved watching Stevenson be so egoless with no separation in portraying Mother Teresa, who was NO separation (egoless) and ONLY Love.
This film is not a film that is of a high caliber as far as all the technical details that go into making a film. While it could be called a film one might watch on The Hallmark Channel, what the film has going for it is its simplicity of technical details, a quietness of all those involved in the making of this film. Quiet performances, quiet direction, quiet music, and a quiet screenplay, all lending to a loud urgency of this film to reach the viewer with the message of what Jesus Christ has Called ALL of us to reach: “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself (selflessness), take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This “just a pencil in God’s Hand” is EXACTLY what Mother Teresa did and what so many inspired by her are doing now, as the Missionaries of Charities, in the beginning only 12 members, was 4500 members as of 2016 and probably growing ever more now in 2021.
This film is SOOOO needed to be viewed right now. We are all being Called by God, “just a pencil in God’s Hand,” whether we are heeding it or not, to put others first and us last. We are being Called by God to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgiveable, to help the poor, lonely and dying because we are just too rich, too unified, and too alive NOT to do this. What is that going to take for us? You guessed it: Dying to the ego and living in the selfless acts of Jesus Christ for the selfless acts of charity and hope. Mother Teresa, who passed away at age 87 on September 5, 1997, is still alive today through those who are doing what she did. They, too, like myself, are experiencing darkness in this dark and falling-apart world, and yet we do not give up. Unlike Mother Teresa, who unfortunately felt that God had abandoned her in her selfless work, we know the facts about this feeling of abandonment when the Bible tells us: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
And, yes, you guessed it, you and I are “just a pencil in God’s Hand,” Mother Teresa’s Calling by God to help the poor, lonely and dying humans and my Calling by God to help the poor, lonely, and dying nonhuman animals. What is your “just a pencil in God’s Hand?” I know mine, although I just used a keyboard and a tablet to write this film review.😉