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Maryanne Raphael

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Three Women in Love with Love
By Maryanne Raphael
Last edited: Saturday, August 09, 2008
Posted: Monday, July 14, 2003

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Mother Teresa and Anais Nin both loved St. Therese of Lisieux, who influenced them all their lives.

Therese of Lisieux, nee Therese Martin; Mother Teresa, nee Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhui; Anais Nin, nee Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin Y Culmell




By Maryanne Raphael


According to Nicos Kazantzakas, author of ZORBA, The Greek, "There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers.

"One says: 'I am a bow in your hands, Lord.  Draw me lest I rot.'     

"Two says, 'Do not overdraw me, Lord.  I shall break.' 

"Three says, 'Overdraw me, Lord.  Who cares if I break!'

Report to Greco

I believe that Anais Nin, Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa were all the third kind of soul, passionate, daring, willing to risk their all for Love. 

Both Anais Nin and Mother Teresa made anyone they spoke with feel like a close friend.

I spent quality time with both Anais and Mother Teresa, corresponded for several years and wrote a biography of each.

What first brought my attention to the similarities between these two women who appear so different, was their common love for Therese of Lisieux.  This young saint lived most of her 24 years inside a Carmelite convent.  At her death in 1896, she promised, "I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth." Her Autobiography of a Soul was published shortly after her death, and she was canonized in 1925.  Her "little way" has inspired millions around the world to find God in ordinary events.

Therese of Lisieux wrote love letters to God:  "I will never allow any woman to love her husband more than I love you, O Jesus."

She begged God to let her be His Love Offering.  "What I desire He always gives me, first making me desire what He intends to give."

"Why, my only Friend, doest thou not reserve these lofty yearnings for great souls, that can soar like eagles?  Nothing of the eagle is mine, yet I dare to gaze upon the Sun of Divine Love, and I long to fly upwards towards Him.  But I can only flap my wings; to fly exceeds my power."

Corinthians 13 and 14 inspired St. Therese.  "There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love."  She decided, "My vocation is only to love!"   She felt no one had to miss out on Heaven no matter what they had done.  God was always ready to forgive His children.

Her message touched young Anais and the young Agnes who chose the name Teresa in her honor.        

Mother Teresa accepted St. Therese literally and lived her theology "being love in the heart of the church."

After a while, Anais Nin rejected the official dogma, but lived Therese's theology of unconditional love being "love in the heart of the world."       

What these three women wrote about their lives was published in many languages.        

I believe that Saint Therese influenced Anais' writing style as well as her ideas.  The young saint's work is poetic, loaded with delightful images, enthusiastic, often naive, with frequent repetitions of words, and complex ideas expressed simply.   She admitted she "did not trouble with style." And Anais has said, "Style is a matter of vision, not technique."  (Holt, p. 10)

 In Linotte, The Early Diary, twelve-year-old Anais wrote:

"To you, dear parents, I open my heart... as did Saint Theresa, with the intention to show her heart exactly as it was. "When you read this collection of my last thoughts, I shall be far away from this world.  I don't know exactly what the word testament means.  I think it means to reveal the first thoughts of the heart, those that will never change.  I would like to make mine.   

"Don't be sad about my death.  Rather consider it a grace that has been granted, for in heaven I shall pray to God for you.   I would like all my toys to be divided among the poor.   I would like all my papers to be burned except my diary and my stories and my poems as you think deserve to be read. Forget the bad things I have done. Dear parents, pardon your daughter. 

"My dear brothers, Thorvald and Joaqinito, I thought of you with my last breath.   Maman.   Papa, dear ones I have loved all my life, you who alone detained me on this earth, farewell. you will see me again.  .   (Page 72-73   Page 127 Linotte)           

"I would like to live like Sister Theresa.   But a voice tells me that I shall serve Jesus by combat in the world.  I must live for others, and love with my heart and my imagination joined. 

"At our church bazaar and I bought a beautiful big picture of Sister Therese, The Little Flower.  I feel her gentle influence.  Her beautiful face is going to inspire me to better behavior.  As soon as I look at that picture, I lose my indifference, coldness and lack of faith.         (P 401)

Both Anais Nin and Mother Teresa had a conservative side, a love of tradition and             antiquity, combined with an avant guarde side which shocked conservatives. 

When Mother Teresa left her traditional religious order to live alone in the slums of Calcutta many were shocked.

When Nin's erotica and her unabridged journal were published, many people were scandalized.

Both women were born in Europe, one of three children, both families were musically talented.  Anais' father, Joaquin Nin, was an internationally known musician.  He played with Pablo Casals, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.  Anais' mother was a singer.  Anais danced.  Even after her father left, famous musicians gave concerts in their home.

All of Agnes's family sang, composed music, played instruments and entertained guests with their music.  Agnes had a lovely soprano voice and played the mandolin.  Her sister Aga sang alto.  Her father played with a band called "The Voice of  the Mountain."

Both women lost their fathers at an early age.  Mother Teresa's father was poisoned because of his political activities to free Albania.  He died when she was 9 years old, a few years younger than Anais was when her father deserted his family.

With the men gone, the mothers worked to support their children.  They each found ways to earn money at home.  Agnes' mother started an embroidery business.  Anais' mother had a boarding home and ran errands for her wealthy family in Cuba.

Anais and her cousin Eduardo Sanchez read each other paragraphs from their diaries.  Lorenz Antoni, Agnes's second cousin, shared his diary with Agnes who read him selected pages.

From 1931 when she began her first love affair with Henry Miller, Anais engaged in a life long search for the perfect love.  Her letter to Eduardo Sanchez shows Nin's attitude towards love, spirituality and sex. "He holds my entire soul in his golden hands.  He keeps me in a state of ecstasy as if I were taking Communion.  He doesn't want my body until he can possess my soul." 

April 5, 1936 diary entry:  "Those days when I am not only in love with the whole world, with man  and woman, with my old loves, my past, with everybody I know, but also with myself, then the way I see myself is this: alive."

    What she wrote of D.H. Lawrence seems to describe her own feelings:  "He was true to his deep instinctive sense of religion.  He experienced God in a personal and powerful way." 

For Mother Teresa and Anais Nin, religion was the same wine poured into very different glasses.

In House of Incest, Anais' modern Christ says, "If only I could save you all from yourselves."  

In Winter of Artifice, Anais' theme is the failure of human love due to the lover's fashioning of the beloved after his own wishes, rather than loving her as she is. 

Nin made lecture tours to universities, poetry clubs and women's centers.  Spending time with the young helped her understand their needs, rebellions, problems and dreams. For many she represented the caring mother. She always identified with the young and insisted she lived in the future.

Mother Teresa's talks usually drew many young people.  She told them, "It is not how much we do; but how much love we put in the doing.”

Both Anais and Mother Teresa were truly citizens of the world.  Mother ignored all borders and accepted all human beings.  She brought together Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.  Anais, too, felt at home with all sorts of people and appealed to readers worldwide.

Although Mother Teresa was a citizen of India, many countries claimed her.  She was born in Skopje, Macedonia, which became Yugoslavia.  Her family was Albanian.  She was an honorary U.S. citizen and had a Vatican City passport in addition to her Indian passport. 

Both Anais and Mother Teresa spoke every language they knew with a slight accent. Anais spoke French, English and Spanish. Mother Teresa spoke Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, English, Bengali and Hindi.

Neither let age or health prevent them from doing their work, traveling the world and spreading love.             

Anais Nin and Mother Teresa were my mentors.  They taught me to "see" my surroundings and to use my power and talents to change my world.

According to Nin: "The secret of a full life is to live and to relate to others as if they might not be here tomorrow."

            Mother Teresa inspired me to love my own family, my neighborhood, my town passionately.  Then I could truly love the world.  She convinced me My Father Owns the Sky and will give me everything I need.   

"A smile is the beginning of peace," Mother said.  "Smile at Jesus even when you meet him in his most distressing disguise."         

Anais Nin inspired me to answer all my letters.  She gave me courage to start Writers World, my own publishing company.

She wrote the preface for my book Runaways and made time for an interview even though she was suffering from cancer and an over-extended lecture schedule.            Both women tried to show the world a perfect life.  Mother Teresa offered the life of Jesus.  Anais spent her life trying to perfect herself and her art.      

Both were on intimate terms with some of the most influential minds of their generation, royalty, heads of states, famous authors, movie stars etc.  Their charisma drew people to them from all walks of life. 

Neither woman had faith in politics for making positive changes.  Anais believed the work of Freud was more important than the work of Marx.   She felt psychoanalysis could help prevent war and concentration camps. Mother Teresa chose love, prayer and service.     

Both women loved Mexico.  Mother Teresa praised the Mexicans' great faith, keen sense of family, strong hope for the future.  She opened houses in Tijuana, El Florido and Mexico City.     

Anais often wrote of Mexico describing the way the Mexican people lived completely in the present, dancing, swimming and laughing.          

Anais Nin and Mother Teresa never met as far as I know, but I have a feeling they would have gotten along the way Princess Diana and Mother Teresa did.  Mother Teresa would have focused on Anais' great love for humanity, her desire for peace and harmony and she would have ignored any of the so-called scandals of Nin's life.         

Nin would have enjoyed Mother's sense of humor, her complete dedication to the world's neediest and her insistence that works of love are all works of peace.  Nin has said, "Love is the title of all my work."  She told me her goal in life was "to be useful." Mother Teresa's was "to be faithful."   

Joseph Campbell, world famous mythologist told a story that reminded me of Anais.   A Hindu woman told Ramakrishna, "Oh, Master, I do not find that I love God."     

And he asked, "Is there nothing, then, that you love?"   She said, "My little nephew."  And the master said, "There is your love and service to God, in your love and service to that child." 

Mother Teresa was committed to save every unborn life she could.  She prayed for those who performed abortions or had them, and she offered to take any unwanted babies.

And Anais turned her own abortion into a prayer for life.  Her still-born/Birth story is recognized as one of her greatest works.  It has been read in churches, and is included in anthologies and healing services throughout the world. 

Mother Teresa said she never feared death.  "I see it every day.  I believe dying is the most direct path to God.  It is simply going home." 

Anais' Seventh Diary ends with her thoughts on death:  

"When we hear music we sense at last the return home. If it follows death, it is a beautiful place.  Let me think of death as the Balinese do, as a flight to another life, a joyous transformation, a release of our spirit so it might visit all other lives."    

Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity provide houses for orphans, abandoned elderly, victims of war, AIDS, and leprosy all over the world.

Anais Nin's worldwide circle of friends welcome one another as family. 

One of Joseph Campbell's favorite stories relates to The Little Flower's religion of love: In Japan for an international conference on religion, Campbell overheard an American delegate say, "We've been to many ceremonies and have seen many shrines.  But I don't get your theology."        

"We don't have theology.  We dance."   Anais danced to the music of the universe. Mother Teresa followed the Little Flower with her theology of love and service. Finally, that is what these women have in common.                                            ..




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Maryanne Raphael

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