Remembering Mother Teresa
It was a most unusual meeting. And it happened at a convent of the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx, New York. It was a meeting of two women one would hardly expect to find together.
One was the beautiful and charming Princess Diana of England and the other was the ailing foundress of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa. Surely, they were two of the best known women in the world, though coming from two totally different backgrounds.
As they drew close, the aging Mother Teresa lifted herself from her wheel chair and hugged, kissed and embraced the lovely Princess. Then they strolled away together, arm in arm.
They shared a compassion for the poor and unfortunate, especially the children. This was the bond that drew them together.
Not many months later they were both called forth from this world: the Princess in a shocking auto accident that didn't have to happen; and the holy Foundress as a result of many ailments. With their deaths, the world's supply of compassion was considerably decreased.
Mother Teresa was born in a small town in Yugoslavia in August of 1910. Known as Agnes Bojaxhiu, she left home at age 18 to become a novice of Loreto and in 1931 arrived in India where she took her religious vows. She lived with the Loreto Sisters for almost 20 years. She taught geography at St. Mary's school. She is remembered there as a quiet sister whose cheerful spirit made her popular with her students.
At age 38, on returning home from a retreat, she received a definite inner call to leave her order and start a group of her own to take care of the sick and dying of the poorest of the poor.
As she described it, "I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order -- to fail, it would have meant to break the faith."
Since that time over 50 years ago, almost 2,000 have joined her Missionaries of Charity, plus 300 priests and brothers and over 120,000 lay volunteers.
In one interview, she recalls her first patient: She had started off with one companion and a borrowed apartment. After a course in nursing, she went out, picked up a dying man from the gutter and brought him home to her apartment. In those nearby slums she could easily find old people dying in the gutter, abandoned babies in garbage pails, lepers thrown out by their families and other such rejects of society.
She remembers that first day: "Such a beautiful day . . . to meet Christ face to face in the poor. He was there -- the hungry, the sick, the naked Christ -- and the thought of Him in this distressing disguise gave me great joy, peace and strength."
On Our Final Judgment
In another quote, Mother Teresa speaks of the motivation of one's final judgment:
"At the hour of death, when we come face to face with God . . . we will be judged on love . . . on how much love we have put into our actions . . . and not how much we have done. We cannot see Christ to express our love for Him, but we can see our neighbor and do for her/him what we would do for Christ."
One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anyone. Often, in big cities, people simply die of loneliness -- unwanted, unloved or simply forgotten. Mother Teresa insisted that there is an abundance of such people everywhere.
Mother Teresa and the Hindus
What do the Hindus think of her? Father Philip, an Indian priest, told of being on the same plane as Mother Teresa returning to India:
"When the Hindu passengers saw her, they lined up in the aisle of the plane to touch her feet and kiss them with greatest reverence.
"Why?" he continued. "Because virtue flows out from her."
Her Great Secret
What is the great truth of Mother Teresa's life?
She gave herself unconditionally to Jesus Christ through the religious life. In a loving response, He gave Himself, His presence, His healing love to her.
This seems to be the only explanation for her compassionate world-embracing love -- especially of the sick poor. It's the healing love of Christ and healing love is the vocation of every Christian.
This gives to others a renewed sense of self-worth. It restores a person's ability to give and receive love.
It helps others to appreciate that he/she is a beautiful creation of God. Thus, it can renew and recreate hearts.
It is an awesome power like to that of God Himself.
Ways to Exercise Healing Love
- Communicate your interest in the other person as much as possible. Mother Teresa tried to find time for everyone.
- Have a readiness to listen. We all need someone to listen in a non-judgmental way. This is a healing ministry.
- Be ready to affirm. Search out the positive good in others. Affirmation increases their ability to grow, to give and receive love.
- To simply 'be there' when a simple "presence" is all that is needed, no words necessary. To show care in silence is a gift to another human.
Her Amazing Appeal
The universality of her appeal is amazing. This woman spoke to audiences at the United Nations as well as at a Harvard Commencement. She addressed hundreds of religious and secular groups -- and even won the Nobel Peace Prize. She told all her listeners to have compassion for the poor and to pray for their welfare. There's no doubt she is unique in the diversity of her audiences.
Mother Teresa seemed to be quite clear in what was expected of her. She said, "I didn't simply want to become a nun; I wanted to give myself to Christ in whatever He asked of me."
She was asked if everyone was Christ to her. "Yes," she answered, "but it goes from person to person. Each person, at the moment of receiving my love -- since there is only one Jesus in the world -- is the only person in the world."
Advice to a Novice
The story is told of what she said to a novice gingerly cleaning an ugly wound in a woman's neck, as if repelled by what she saw. Mother Teresa told her that was not how to do the task. She took over a scalpel and quickly excised the nasty ulcer.
"You must understand, she said, "that this is Jesus. We are cleaning the wounds of the Lord."
She then turned turned to a reporter witnessing this encounter:
"If we didn't believe this -- that this is the body of Christ -- we could never do it. No money could make us do it. I wouldn't ask these fine young women to take on a life like this. We are not social workers. We are seeing and touching the heart of Christ -- twenty-four hours a day."
The Greatest Evil
When Mother Teresa speaks of the "greatest evil," she has this to say:
"The greatest disease is not TB or leprosy, but the feeling of being uncared for, unwanted, deserted by everyone. The greatest disease is the lack of love.
"The unwanted are hungry -- not for food -- but for love. They are thirsty, not just for water, but for peace. They are homeless, not just for shelter, but for understanding.
"Be the living expression of kindness -- kindness in your face, your eyes, your kind greeting. Let no one go away from you without being better and happier."
One may wonder why God had not given Mother Teresa the power to work miracles of healing and thus restore some of her patients to health. But perhaps the healing Christ had given her a power of working even greater miracles -- to restore a sick or dying person's faith or trust in God; to bring some peace and joy to someone terribly scarred by life.
Many volunteers traveled hundreds of miles just to see Mother Teresa and be near her. They couldn't explain the joy in her presence. They simply knew it was real.top of page
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