9 Things you should Know About Mother Teresa by Joe Carter Mother Teresa has been declared a saint at a Roman Catholic canonization service in Vatican City by Pope Francis. Here are nine things you should know about the Nobel-prize-winning nun who became renowned for serving the poor and dying:
1. Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in 1910 in what is now part of modern Macedonia. At the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto, a group of nuns in Ireland. It was there she took the name Sister Mary Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. A year later, in 1929, Mother Teresa moved to India and taught at a Catholic school for girls.
2. In 1946 Mother Teresa received what she would later describe as a “call within a call.” She said Jesus spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the city's poorest and sickest people. In 1950 she received Vatican approval for Missionaries of Charity, a group of religious sisters who took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” By the late 1970s, the Missionaries of the Charity had offshoots in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States.
3. Mother Teresa and her religious order gained international attention in 1967 when the famed journalist Malcolm Muggeridge interviewed her for a BBC TV program. Because of the popularity of the interview, Muggeridge traveled to Calcutta a year later to make a documentary, Something Beautiful for God, about Theresa's “House of the Dying” (Muggeridge would also write a book by the same name in 1971).
4. During her life Mother Teresa received more 120 prestigious awards and honors. In 1971, Paul VI conferred the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize on Mother Teresa, and in 1979 she won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee writes in their motivation: “In making the award the Norwegian Nobel Committee has expressed its recognition of Mother Teresa's work in bringing help to suffering humanity. This year the world has turned its attention to the plight of children and refugees, and these are precisely the categories for whom Mother Teresa has for many years worked so selflessly.” She also received the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1985.
5. During her 1979 Nobel Prize Lecture, Mother Teresa called abortion the “greatest destroyer of peace”: We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing—direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child—I will not forget you—I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of his hand, so close to him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible—but even if she could forget—I will not forget you. And today the greatest means—the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here—our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child—what is left for me to kill you and you kill me—there is nothing between.
6. Mother Teresa was frequently denounced by secularists because of her opposition to contraception and abortion. But she was also widely criticized for allowing her charity to provide inadequate care for the poor and for potential mismanagement of charitable funds. Although she leveraged her fame to raise tens of millions of dollars for her charity, the orphanages and care centers run by her religious order were often substandard. After visiting Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying in 1994, Robin Fox wrote about the experience in the British medical journal, The Lancet. Fox reported that doctors only occasionally visited the patients (the care was mostly provided by untrained volunteers) and that pain relief provided for the dying was inadequate, leading them to suffer unnecessarily. In 2008, another observer reported, “I was shocked to see the negligence. Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care.”
7. Mother Teresa has also been criticized by Christians for downplaying evangelism and espousing universalist views of salvation. For example in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:
Our purpose is to take God and his love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethnic origin or the faith they profess. Our discernment of aid is not the belief but the necessity. We never try to convert those whom we receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men—simply better—we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life—his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation. When a Catholic priest asked if she attempted to convert people, she reportedly answered, “Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.’ ”
8. After her death, Mother Teresa’s letters revealed that she spent almost 50 years in a crisis of faith, sometimes doubting the existence of God and frequently feeling his absence in her life. The absence began to be felt around 1948, soon after she began serving the poor in Calcutta, and would last until her death in 1997. As David Van Biema wrote in Time magazine:
In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness,” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God–tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”
9. For Mother Teresa to be recognized as a saint within the Catholic Church, she had to undergo the lengthy process of beatification and canonization. The process usually cannot be started until five years after the person has died, but Mother Teresa received a waiver from Pope John Paul II. Before beatification (which recognizes the person’s ability to intercede to God on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name) a person must have a verified miracle attributed to them after their death. After beatification the church looks for a second miracle before proceeding to canonization. If one is found and they meet the other criteria, the pope can conduct a special Mass at which the person is recognized a saint. The first miracle attributed to Mother Teresa involved the healing of an Indian woman, Monica Besra, whose abdominal tumor was so severe that her doctors abandoned hope of saving her. After a Miraculous Medal that had been touched to the body of Mother Teresa was placed on Besra’s stomach, the tumor reportedly disappeared. The second miracle involved a Brazilian man who reportedly was healed of a bacterial infection in the brain after he and his family prayed to Mother Teresa for her help.
*Why is an evangelical site like TGC writing about a person who held religious views that we find irreconcilable with the gospel? There are two main reasons why I think evangelicals should know something about Mother Teresa: First, she remains a popular historical figure. During her life, she was named 18 times in the yearly Gallup's most admired man and woman poll as one of the 10 women around the world who Americans admired most, finishing first several times in the 1980s and 1990s. Also, in 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. Second, for many people Mother Teresa’s name has become synonymous with Christian charity. For these reasons we should know something about this nun from Calcutta. While we ought to recognize Mother Teresa as a laudable champion against abortion who had a fervent concern for the poor, we should also be aware of her many foibles and failings so that we can correct the perception of her as an uncriticizable Christian leader.
10 Mother Teresa Quotes on Service to Make you Think Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development 1. "I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn't touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God." So often, we shy away from the gross tasks, like cleaning the toilets and diaper changes, because they can be disgusting. Every task we do, we should do for great love of God, no matter how gross it is.
2. "Love is a one-way street. It always moves away from self in the direction of the other. Love is the ultimate gift of our selves to others. When we stop giving we stop loving, when we stop loving we stop growing, and unless we grow we will never attain personal fulfillment; we will never open out to receive the life of God. It is through love we encounter God.” (Where there is Love, there is God, p. 26) One cannot be fully alive without relationships with others. We are made for love, to be unified in a giving and receiving with others and ultimately with God. If we close ourselves off to service, we will never create the space within ourselves to be filled with the love of God. Rather, like a cup that is full, his love will only spill over the edges never finding room within our hearts to make us whole.
3. "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." So often, I get discouraged by the many things I cannot do (such as feed a hundred people), that I do not do feed anyone. If I feed one, there is one less hungry person in the world. If every one of us followed this advice, we could feed the world.
4. "How do you know, love, and serve God? How do you prove that you love Him? In the family, the father proves his love by all that he does for his children, for his wife. We prove our love for Jesus by what we do, by who we are.” (Where there is Love, there is God, p. 277) Love is defined by actions and the most important actions are our everyday actions. Most of these actions are small, but the way I respond to everyday situations in my home and with my children reveals who I am at my core. The way I respond to interruptions in my day due to diaper changes, crying, or even just needs for attention says more about me then all the actions I do when others are watching.
5. "Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." Service flows from prayer. We are only able to serve others to the degree that we are connected to Jesus, “according to the graces we have received.” We cannot hope to help other apart from Jesus. Sometimes, we may feel far from Jesus, but this should not be an obstacle. At these times we can turn to Him with humility and do the humble work.
6. "Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action." We all want to do great things. It is hard to remember that sometimes what seems to be humble work is really the great things.
7. "Sometime ago a man to our house and he said, ‘Mother, there is a family, a Hindu family, that has eight children. They have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them.’ So I took some rice and I went. When I arrived at their house I could see the hunger in the children’s eyes. Their eyes were shining with hunger. I gave the rice to the mother, and she took the rice. She divided it into two, and then she went out. When she came back, I asked her, ‘Where did you go?’ She said, ‘They are hungry also.’ Next door neighbor, they were also hungry. What struck me most, not that she gave the rice but she knew they were hungry. And because she knew, she shared. And this is what we have to come to know…. Love, to be true, has to hurt and this woman who was hungry – she knew that her neighbor was also hungry, and that family happened to be a Muslim family. So it was touching, so real.” (Where there is Love, there is God, p. 337) Many think the opposite of love is hate, but the opposite of love is really indifference. How often do we fail to even give notice to the pain of others? We hold them at arm’s length. Not allowing their circumstance to break our comfort. We may not always be able to help, but the first step of love is to share in the pain of another.
8. "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” I have had the opportunity to work with the Missionaries of Charity in a number of their houses here in the U.S and even abroad. One thing that has always impressed me is that they not only care for the poor, but they restore their dignity by giving them a purpose. In all of their houses, everyone who can work does work, even if it is the smallest of jobs. For instance, I will always remember the woman who answered the door at the Missionary of Charity house in Costa Rica. She had a severe disability. Her job was to sit on a chair by the door and get a sister when the doorbell rang. A simple job, but one she carried out with pride.
9. “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” We spend a great deal of time pursuing our hopes and dreams. There is nothing wrong with this. But, we must remember that God does not value the things of the world. He values love. Let us each ask ourselves, “How do we help the least of God’s people? Do I give food and shelter to the hungry and homeless (either directly or through financial support)?”
10. "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?" God can make the ugly beautiful. He can transform the most difficult tasks into meaningful experiences, but we have to be aware of His presence. Do we take advantage of this? Do we see God in each and every human being? Oftentimes, especially when I am angry because I feel wronged, I do not.
I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: ‘You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him.’ It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand.
“Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family.”
“Faith in action is love. And love in action is service.”
“For love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”
“If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”
“If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
“How can you say there are too many children? That’s like saying there are too many flowers.”
“Let us take whatever God gives and give whatever he takes with a smile. That is holiness.”
“The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.”
“When once a chairman of a multinational company came to see me, to offer me a property in Bombay, he first asked: ‘Mother, how do you manage your budget?” I asked him who had sent him here. He replied: ‘I felt an urge inside me.’ I said: other people like you come to see me and say the same. It was clear God sent you, Mr. A, as He sends Mr. X, Mrs. Y, Miss Z, and they provide the material means we need for our work. The grace of God is what moved you. You are my budget. God sees to our needs, as Jesus promised. I accepted the property he gave and named it Asha Dan (Gift of Hope).”
“To give until it hurts. This is the true meaning of love.”
“Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.”
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
“Don’t wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person.” (paraphrased)
“If there has been resentment in our hearts or if we have not accepted humiliation, we will not learn humility.”
“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
“To forgive takes love. To forget takes humility.”
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”
“Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.”
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
“Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
“There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ: Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All; Jesus is my Everything.” Mother Teresa
“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
“You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.”
“If you’re too busy to pray…you’re too busy”
“If you judge people you have no time to love them.”
“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.”
“If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“A clean heart is a free heart. A free heart can love Christ with an undivided love in chastity, convinced that nothing and nobody will separate it from his love. Purity, chastity, and virginity created a special beauty in Mary that attracted God’s attention. He showed his great love for the world by giving Jesus to her.”
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”
“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”
“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.”
“Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.”
“To be faithful in little things is a great thing.”
“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”
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