By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 20, 2011
There is ordinary love and there is something else. There is love for those who look like us, who are related to us, who befriend us, who make us happy. This love flows freely and is easy to understand. But there is another, more mysterious love, which is rarely seen.
I had a glimpse of this extraordinary love when I spotted a little boy in a magazine published by Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). He is a chubby, brown-faced toddler with an intense look of interest. He is shown in various scenes at a place called Grace Home in Kerala, India, which was built by donations to CNEWA.
This nun, Sister Lisi, calls him Chakara, which means “Sweetie,” and recalls when he first came to the home very skinny and covered in sores. Abandoned by his family, he immediately attached himself to Sister Lisi, who is a member of the Nirmali Dasi Sisters.
Anyone looking at this chubby fellow would surely find him easy to love, but local folks shun him. They staunchly refuse to have their kids associate with babies like Sweetie. You see, all 32 children at Grace Home have been abandoned by their families or orphaned because they are HIV positive.
The power of this extraordinary love is mirrored on the faces of these little ones, who clearly don’t know they are outcasts. They are shown smiling at the table and playing on swings. They are always in the shadow of the Eastern Catholic nuns who take care of them.
According to the story, the stigma is so great against people with HIV and AIDS in this part of India that patients are routinely abandoned by their families, who fear getting the disease through touching, air or water.
Still, at this place hidden away on an unmarked country road and surrounded by a high fence, the stigma is gone. The children say morning and evening prayers together, attend Mass and have a little flock of sisters to help them with reading and writing.
The sisters are more than nurses and more than caretakers. They are trying to show the love that Christ gave to the lame, the lepers, the dying, the blind and the poor. The sisters live in poverty with four changes of clothing and simple food to eat. But they have a surplus of something intangible and mysterious, which is love.
Sister Lisi says that Sweetie used to cry day and night when he first came to the home. She feels that he needs a mother’s concern and love. Still, in some mysterious way that she doesn’t question, she’s been appointed his mother.
“I don’t know how much love I have to give,” she says simply, “but whatever I have I give.”
When you see the photo of Sweetie on the swing with her, holding her hands, it’s clear this young sister will always have more to give. It’s because this kind of love is not easy to define or pin down. It comes from a deep mysterious well inside us. This love is inexplicable, ineffable—and infinite. It comes from God.