One bit of bright news in a weary world -- I see by the news today that Pope Francis has declared Mother Teresa a saint. It is always good when someone who has done something important for the world is recognized. When I was in India in 1985, our group visited her mission in Calcutta (now Kolkata). She was not there at the time, but we observed the work of the Sisters of Charity with the poor and the hungry. I think we were all deeply affected. I know I was. For years I have had a small photo of Mother Teresa on my desk at church and now in my home to remind me of the call we all have to serve those in need.
At the mission the first thing we saw were the soup lines. People came in off the streets to be fed. There was a huge soup kettle in the courtyard and the sisters gave a bowl to each person who entered. Later we saw the orphanage where children had been rescued off the streets of Calcutta nearly dead from starvation. Their empty eyes watched as we moved around the room. These, big, well-fed Westerners were from another planet. I watched one Sister hold a tiny child on her lap and spoon in a little porridge. The food ran out of the child’s mouth. The sister wiped the mouth and then fed the child again. Our guide said they do this over and over until the child finally begins to take in nourishment.
I have watched several documentaries on the life of Mother Teresa which are really amazing. She came to the U.S. to establish a mission in this country. The building the Sisters were given had carpeting and a few other amenities. When Teresa saw it she had all the carpeting pulled up and the building stripped to the bare necessities. When she was asked why she had come to this country when we were so wealthy, she replied, “You have a poverty of the soul.” Ouch!
At one time some of her letters were made public. In them she talked about her struggles with her faith and that she was going through a time of questioning in her life. Some criticized her for this, but to me it was a sign of someone to whom her faith was important. Faith is not something that is blindly accepted, rather it grows and deepens as we go through life’s struggles, searching for God with all the questions life brings. God understands our struggles and honors us for them because God knows we will return to Him stronger for what we have gone through.
Mother Teresa wrote many books and her quotations are many. She once said that if everyone could just love in their families and find peace there we wouldn’t have to worry about the rest of the world. She also said,
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Her earliest work in Calcutta was walking through the streets of that huge city and picking up the bodies of those who were dying in the streets. She would bring them back to the shelter the sisters had, wash their bodies and put on clean clothing, then provide water and what food they could take, pray for them and with them and be there when they died. It was a simple duty she laid on herself and her faith, but as in her philosophy, if we help just one, we are living as God intended. Jesus himself said, “and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matthew 10.42)