Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mother Teresa's Feast Day

I grew up hearing now and then about Mother Teresa. She's now Saint Teresa of Kolkata (which I'll never be able to think of except as Calcutta — the habits of hearing of her as Teresa of Calcutta over a lifetime die hard). Anyway, here's a bit of her story.
After a short course with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta and found temporary lodging with the Little Sisters of the Poor. On 21 December she went for the first time to the slums. She visited families, washed the sores of some children, cared for an old man lying sick on the road and nursed a woman dying of hunger and TB. She started each day in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and then went out, rosary in her hand, to find and serve Him in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” After some months, she was joined, one by one, by her former students.


The whole of Mother Teresa’s life and labour bore witness to the joy of loving, the greatness and dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and with love, and the surpassing worth of friendship with God. But there was another heroic side of this great woman that was revealed only after her death. Hidden from all eyes, hidden even from those closest to her, was her interior life marked by an experience of a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ever-increasing longing for His love. She called her inner experience, “the darkness.” The “painful night” of her soul, which began around the time she started her work for the poor and continued to the end of her life, led Mother Teresa to an ever more profound union with God. Through the darkness she mystically participated in the thirst of Jesus, in His painful and burning longing for love, and she shared in the interior desolation of the poor.
Read much more at which is where the above excerpt came from.

For me, I think of how brave she was to begin her ministry simply by walking to the slums and taking action. So simple.

I know from having to get up my nerve to visit my ailing mother-in-law who suffered from mild dementia and often didn't respond to conversation. You must take your courage in your hands to make yourself that vulnerable to failure, to rejection. I was able to do so only because of Jesus' prodding through a disagreement with a pro-abortion friend and through Bilbo's journey in The Hobbit. Yes, believe it or not. Such weird influences, but God uses what tools He will and I am supremely grateful for that.

I also know of the tremendous rewards I received in doing so. It is one of the reasons I cried through her funeral. I loved not only the woman in her prime, but I had been allowed to love the much simpler person she had become in her extreme old age and illness.

One of Mother Teresa's most memorable acts that always comes to mind is when she spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. She spoke from her heart. She spoke what we needed to hear.
I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the dying ones smile. And Sister said: "This is the way it is nearly everyday. They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten." And see, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we willing to give until it hurts in order to be with our families, or do we put our own interests first? These are the questions we must ask ourselves, especially as we begin this year of the family. We must remember that love begins at home and we must also remember that 'the future of humanity passes through the family.'

I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it like that, when those in the West have so many more things than those in the East? And the answer was: ‘Because there is no one in the family to receive them.' Our children depend on us for everything -- their health, their nutrition, their security, their coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to us with trust, hope and expectation. But often father and mother are so busy they have no time for their children, or perhaps they are not even married or have given up on their marriage. So their children go to the streets and get involved in drugs or other things. We are talking of love of the child, which is were love and peace must begin. These are the things that break peace.
Read the whole talk at Catholic Education Resource Center.

Just as illuminating is Peggy Noonan's article about what it was like to be present at that talk.
Later I was to remember this part as Mother Teresa’s carpet bombing. Then she dropped the big one:
I know that couples have to plan their family, and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life or loving through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self, and so it destroys the gift of love in him and her. In loving, the husband and wife turn the attention to each other, as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that loving is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily. That’s why I never give a child to a family that has used contraception, because if the mother has destroyed the power of loving, how will she love my child?
It was at this point that the senator turned to his wife and asked if his jaw was still up.

It was something, the silence and surprise with which her words were received. Perhaps she didn’t know that we don’t talk about birth control in speeches in America. Perhaps she didn’t know, or care, that her words were, as they say, not “healing” but “divisive,” dividing not only Protestant from Catholic but Catholic from Catholic. It was all so unhappily unadorned, explicit, impolitic. And it was wonderful, like a big fresh drink of water, bracing in its directness and its uncompromising tone.
That too is available at Catholic Education Resource Center.

There are so many people all around us who need our bravery, our willingness to be vulnerable and give of ourselves. Many of them are not poor. Many are our friends, our family, those we see every day. Today is a good day to look at our lives and see where we can follow Jesus' example, as did his devoted daughter, Blessed Teresa, and ask where we can show his love.

Saint Teresa, pray for us.


  1. What a beautiful post, Julie. One of your best.

  2. What a beautiful post, Julie. One of your best.