Saint Teresa of Calcutta

“The cry of Jesus on the Cross, ‘I thirst’ (Jn 19: 28), expressing the depth of God’s longing for man, penetrated Mother Teresa’s soul and found fertile soil in her heart.”

—Pope John Paul II

19 October 2003

Who Is Mother Teresa?

Mother Teresa was a force of nature and wholly unique. She was always her own person, startlingly independent, obedient, yet challenging some preconceived notions and expectations. Her own life story includes many illustrations of her willingness to listen to and follow her own conscience, even when it seemed to contradict what was expected.

This strong and independent woman was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Yugoslavia, on August 27, 1910. Though much of her young life was centered in the Church, Mother Teresa later revealed that until she reached 18, she had never thought of being a nun. During her early years, however, she was fascinated with stories of missionary life and service. She could locate any number of missions on the map, and tell others of the service being given in each place.

At 18, Gonxha decided to follow the path that seems to have been unconsciously unfolding throughout her life. She chose the Loreto Sisters of Dublin, missionaries and educators founded in the 17th century to educate young girls.

In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her religious life in Ireland, far from her family and the life she'd known, never seeing her mother again in this life, speaking a language few understood. During this period a sister novice remembered her as "very small, quiet and shy," and another member of the congregation described her as "ordinary." Mother Teresa herself, even with the later decision to begin her own community of religious, continued to value her beginnings with the Loreto sisters and to maintain close ties. Unwavering commitment and self-discipline, always a part of her life and reinforced in her association with the Loreto sisters, seemed to stay with her throughout her life.

One year later, in 1929, Gonxha was sent to Darjeeling to the novitiate of the Sisters of Loreto. In 1931, she made her first vows there, choosing the name of Teresa, honoring both saints of the same name, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. In keeping with the usual procedures of the congregation and her deepest desires, it was time for the new Sister Teresa to begin her years of service to God's people. She was sent to St. Mary's, a high school for girls in a district of Calcutta.

Here she began a career teaching history and geography, which she reportedly did with dedication and enjoyment for the next 15 years. It was in the protected environment of this school for the daughters of the wealthy that Teresa's new "vocation" developed and grew. This was the clear message, the invitation to her "second calling," that Teresa heard on that fateful day in 1946 when she traveled to Darjeeling for retreat. She was "to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets. I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor."

Teresa found a never-ending stream of human needs in the poor she met, and frequently was exhausted. Despite the weariness of her days, she never omitted her prayer, finding it the source of support, strength and blessing for all her ministry.

Teresa was not alone for long. Within a year, she found more help than she anticipated. Many seemed to have been waiting for her example to open their own floodgates of charity and compassion. Young women came to volunteer their services and later became the core of her Missionaries of Charity. Others offered food, clothing, the use of buildings, medical supplies and money. As support and assistance mushroomed, more and more services became possible to huge numbers of suffering people.

From their birth in Calcutta—nourished by the faith, compassion and commitment of Mother Teresathe Missionaries of Charity have grown like the mustard seed of the Scriptures. New vocations continue to come from all parts of the world, serving those in great need wherever they are found. Homes for the dying, refuges for the care and teaching of orphans and abandoned children, treatment centers and hospitals for those suffering from leprosy, centers and refuges for alcoholics, the aged and street people—the list is endless.

Until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor, depending on God for all of her needs. Honors too numerous to mention had come her way throughout the years, as the world stood astounded by her care for those usually deemed of little value. In her own eyes she was "God's pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes."

Finally, on September 5, 1997, after finishing her dinner and prayers, her weakened heart gave her back to the God who was the very center of her life.

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Seeing Christ in Everyone

Mother Teresa would shake hands with a convicted murderer, a leper, or someone who saw themselves as her enemy.

To her, everyone was Christ in his various masks. If one understands Mother Teresa’s theology, it can be seen why she did this. She forgave everyone. She followed the Bible literally. “Love God with all your heart, all your strength, all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” Mother Teresa didn’t see borders and frontiers. She saw the world as one and she loved us all.

“Judge not, lest you be judged,” she said. In 1981 and 1982, polls showed she was the most admired woman in the world. At the end of 1982 she saw a copy of the London Times with a photograph of an elderly man on his knees receiving the Eucharist from the hands of a priest.

It was Malcolm Muggeridge, the author of Something Beautiful for God. She had prayed for Malcolm to know Jesus in the Eucharist ever since they attended Mass together more than a decade earlier. She had a difficult time understanding Malcolm’s resistance to full participation in the Mass since she noticed his great devotion during the liturgy.

Now, years later, Malcolm and his wife had come to know Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Mother Teresa rejoiced. God had indeed heard her prayers.

Extending a Loving Hand to All

On December 13, 1979, Mother Teresa went to the Iranian embassy in Rome. America was concerned with the fate of the hostages taken when the American embassy in Iran was seized by Islamic revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

“I have come to see you about the American hostages,” Mother Teresa said. “I come as a mother who longs for her children. I am willing to go to Iran or to talk to the Ayatollah on the telephone.”

“I will look into the matter,” the man said. Mother Teresa and her sisters kept praying about the hostages, but there was no response from the embassy of Iran. While she was in Rome, Mother Teresa attended a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in his private chapel.

She presented her proposal for a new Coworker organization of priests. He asked, “May I be the first priest to volunteer, Mother?” She returned to India, and learned she was the first naturalized Indian to receive the Bharat Ratna, the Jewel of India.

President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy said, “She embodies compassion and love of humanity as few in history have done.” Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said, “To meet her is to feel utterly humble, to sense the power of tenderness and the strength of love.”

She was raising the consciousness of the entire world, helping people realize that works of mercy, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the ill, clothing the naked are truly works of peace—indeed the foundation of a peaceful world.

Early Life

In 1928, the future Mother Teresa began her religious life in Ireland, far from her family and the life she'd known, never seeing her mother again in this life, speaking a language few understood. During this period a sister novice remembered her as "very small, quiet and shy," and another member of the congregation described her as "ordinary."

The Girl Who Became a Saint

In contrast to the many photos of Mother Teresa as a missionary, there are very few photos taken of young Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu, the girl who grew up to become the saint of the gutters. In one of them, she poses with friends while holding an open umbrella. In another, taken shortly before she left home for India, she stares rather pensively at the camera. Perhaps she’s trying to catch a glimpse of her future.

These youthful photos, taken in the 1920s, are extraordinary. They reveal that Agnes has thick, dark hair and a high, graceful forehead, both of which disappear forever behind a veil when she becomes a nun. Despite her short stature, she stands tall and straight.

But there’s one unmistakable feature that remains constant in the early and later photos: her eyes. There’s something penetratingly luminous about them, as if they’re more than capable of reflecting both sheer joy and intolerable suffering. They are eyes, one’s almost tempted to say, which have seen God and are alert for another glimpse of the Divine. But they’re also eyes that have witnessed some of the worst suffering—disease, poverty, starvation, scorn, and indifference—that can afflict human beings.

If our eyes are indeed the windows of the soul, as some believe, the soul of the girl Agnes and the woman Mother Teresa is holy indeed. And it’s that holiness, that living commitment to conform her human will to God’s, the same goal that Robert Lax recommended to Thomas Merton, which captivated the world during her lifetime and continues to hold us spellbound today. In examining Teresa’s life, her works, and her spirituality, we learn how to grow into our birthright as creatures made in the likeness of God. She teaches us how to open our eyes to see with her clarity.

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Road to Sainthood

Yes, Mother Teresa is a saint. Mother Teresa, called by many the “saint of the gutters,” or “saint of the slums,” because of her ministry to the poor, recognized her desire for holiness at a young age. Even though she put it aside for three or four of her teenage years, she rediscovered it by the time she was 18. The desire never deserted her, although, as we now know, she often felt that God had. For the rest of her days, her one goal was to live a holy life, a life pleasing to God and of service to suffering humanity, even when God seemed absent.

And she succeeded. So obvious was Mother Teresa’s sanctity that immediately after her death on September 5, 1997, her admirers began advocating for her canonization. Pope John Paul II was initially reluctant to speed up the process, but his admiration for Mother Teresa was so great that he eventually agreed. The official investigation of her life, a necessary step toward canonization, began less than two years after her death, leading to her beatification in October 2003. In his homily on that occasion, Pope John Paul II said, “I am personally grateful to this courageous woman, whom I have always felt beside me.” She was, he noted, “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” Thirteen years later, on September 4, 2016, Pope Francis concluded the process when he declared Mother Teresa a saint, naming her forever as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

When it was announced that Mother Teresa would be made a saint, it is not unfair to say that such a declaration was, in a word, anticlimactic. Her fans didn’t require the formal announcement: In the hearts of millions, she was already a saint.

Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. She made a big change in a lot of people’s hearts. She changed the world by loving—and loving hard.

Edging just past five feet in height, she was not a physically imposing figure. Yet her arms were long enough to embrace the thousands she saw as her own children.

To this blessed woman, no person in need of help was turned away, and anyone with an able body and a willing heart could join her family of workers. In her eyes, we were all children of God—the crippled, the healthy, the weak and the strong. We are all one body, one family.

In the sores of the lepers, she saw the wounds of Christ; in the hearts of the workers, she saw salvation. To those who felt called to such work, regardless of their nationality, religion or worldview, this “Saint of the Gutters” took them each by the hand and seemed to say, with unwavering hope, “Come with me.”

When she died in September of 1997, the defeated of this world lost their greatest champion. The legacy of her work, however, is still with us. By 1996, 517 missions in more than 100 countries functioned under her supervision. Still, she exhibited humility at every turn.

Pope Francis preaches, "Give us, Lord, your grace, in you we place our hope!" Like the Psalmist, how many times, in moments of interior desolation, Mother Teresa also repeated to her Lord: "In you, in you I hope, my God!"

Let us praise this little woman enamored of God, humble messenger of the Gospel and tireless benefactor of humanity. We honor in her one of the most outstanding personalities of our time. Let us accept her message and follow her example.

Mother Teresa Quotes

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa Quotes

  • “Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely, right where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in homes and in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
  • "Every human being has a longing for God. Christians go one step further—not only do we long for God but we have the treasure of his presence always with us."
  • "We cannot say that we love Jesus only in the Eucharist—naturally, we want to put that love into action, serving the poor. We cannot separate the Eucharist and the poor."
  • "We will be the happiest people in the world if we belong to God, if we place ourselves at his disposal, if we let him use us as he pleases."
  • "In each of our lives, Jesus comes as the Bread of Life—to be eaten, to be consumed by us. This is how he loves us."
  • "God is love, and when we love we are like God. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Be perfect as your Father is perfect."
  • "Only one secret: The closer we come to Jesus, the better we will know his thirst."
  • "Give yourselves unswervingly to God. Conform yourselves in all things to his glory, to his holy will."
  • "If you were to die today, what would others say about you? What was in you that was beautiful, that was Christlike, that helped others to pray better? Face yourself, with Jesus at your side, and do not be satisfied with just any answer."
  • "Our work is not a profession but a vocation, chosen to satiate the thirst of Jesus by total surrender, complete, without counting the cost."
  • "Nothing will destroy our joy of loving Jesus as much as money. It is one of the keys of the devil that will open any heart. It is the beginning of great evil."
  • "The Good News is that God still loves the world through each one of you. You are God’s good news, you are God’s love in action."
  • "Jesus will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness. Only then, his hand will be free with you."
  • "If we have a pure heart, then we can see God."
  • "We must make ourselves attractive to God, like Our Lady. Holiness is a normal thing, nothing extraordinary."
  • "Give your heart to God, deliberately, knowingly, willingly. It belongs to him."
  • "Obedience makes us most like Jesus and one with him. If we really obey, it is a constant crucifixion."
  • "Holiness is not a luxury of the few, but a simple duty for me and for you.”

Mother Teresa on Silence

“Silence can never be corrected. Very often, I have the answer but I don’t give it, I wait, and I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity because silence can never be corrected. Let us make a resolution to control our tongues. If we are to love Jesus with undivided love in our brothers and sisters and in the poor, then our tongues must be clean. Each day, Jesus comes on our tongues in the Eucharist. When I was a child, my mother told me in preparation for first Holy Communion that if I told a lie my tongue would turn black. One day, I told a lie and ran to the looking glass to see! It might have been my imagination, but I am sure I saw that my tongue was black. And I went and told my mother about the lie. I must take care that my tongue does not get dirty because Jesus will rest there as he rested in the womb of his mother, Mary.”

“If your heart is full of worldly things, you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to his voice in the silence of your heart, then your heart is filled. Then, from the fullness of the heart the mouth will speak. You may be writing, then the fullness of your heart may come to your hand also. Your heart may speak through writing. Your heart may speak through your eyes also. When you look at people, they must be able to see God in your eyes. The fullness of the heart is expressed in our eyes, in our touch, in what we write, in what we say, the way we walk, the way we receive, the way we need. That is the fullness of the heart expressing itself in many different ways.If your heart is full of worldly things, you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to his voice in the silence of your heart, then your heart is filled. Then, from the fullness of the heart the mouth will speak. You may be writing, then the fullness of your heart may come to your hand also. Your heart may speak through writing. Your heart may speak through your eyes also. When you look at people, they must be able to see God in your eyes. The fullness of the heart is expressed in our eyes, in our touch, in what we write, in what we say, the way we walk, the way we receive, the way we need. That is the fullness of the heart expressing itself in many different ways.”

“Jesus wants us to love each other as the Father has loved him. There is no greater love than the love for one another in our families, but there is so much hurt instead of love, so much bitterness instead of sweetness, so much noise instead of silence. If there is no love in our home, first let us examine our prayer life. Is it faithful, is it true, is it constant, is it full, is it so real that in the silence of our hearts we can hear him speak? If we only knew the art, the joy, the fruitfulness of silence, our homes would become the sunshine of God’s love, the burning flame of God’s love in action.”

“We must cultivate that sacred silence which makes people remember the words of Jesus: See how they love one another. How often we find ourselves speaking of the faults of another. How often our conversation is about someone who is not present. Yet see the compassion of Christ toward Judas, the man who received so much love yet betrayed his own master. But the master kept the sacred silence and did not betray Judas. Jesus could have easily spoken in public— as we often do—telling the hidden intentions and deeds of Judas to others. But he didn’t. Instead, he showed mercy and charity. Rather than condemning Judas, he called him his friend."

“We must improve our prayer and, flowing from that, our charity toward others. It can be difficult to pray when we don’t know how, but we can help ourselves through the use of silence. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence. This silence takes a lot of sacrifice, but if we really want to pray, we must be ready to take that step now. Without this first step toward silence, we will not be able to reach our goal, which is union with God.
We forget that in the silence of the heart God speaks, and from the fullness of the heart we speak. Only when we have heard him in the silence of our hearts, only when we have learned to listen to God in the silence of our hearts, only then can we say: I pray. There is no either/or about prayer and love. We can’t say we have either prayer or love: There is no prayer without love and no love without prayer.”

For more Mother Teresa quotes, click here.

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In Mother Teresa's Own Words: ‘I Thirst, I Quench’

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My Dearest Children—Sisters, Brothers, and Fathers,

This letter being very personal, I wanted to write in my own hand—by there are so many things to say. Even if not in Mother’s hand, still it comes from Mother’s heart. Jesus wants me to tell you again, especially in this Holy Week, how much love He has for each one of you—beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus—one to one—you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel—but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you”—impossible.

Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead—meditation-only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him—speaking in the silence of your heart. Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes—to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more—He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close.

He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes—He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you.

Only believe—You are precious to Him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet—only open your heart to be loved by Him as your are. He will do the rest. You all know in your mind that Jesus loves you—but in this letter Mother wants to touch your heart instead. Jesus wants to stir up our hearts, so not to lose our early love, especially in the future after Mother leaves you. That is why I ask you to read this letter before the Blessed Sacrament, the same place it was written, so Jesus himself can speak to you each one.

Why is Mother saying these things? After reading Holy Father’s letter on “I thirst,” I was struck so much—I cannot tell you what I felt. His letter made me realize more than ever how beautiful is our vocation. How great God’s love for us in choosing our Society to satiate that thirst of Jesus, for love, for souls—giving us our special place in the Church. At the same time we are reminding the world of His thirst, something that was being forgotten.

I wrote Holy Father to thank him. Holy Father’s letter is a sign for our whole society—to go more into this great thirst of Jesus for each one. It is also a sign for Mother, that the time has come for me to speak openly of the gift God gave Sept. 10—to explain as fully as I can what means for me the thirst of Jesus. For me Jesus’s thirst is something so intimate—so I have felt shy until now to speak to you of Sept. 10—I wanted to do as Our Lady who “kept all these things in her heart.”

That is why Mother hasn’t spoken so much of I Thirst, especially outside. But still, Mother’s letters and instructions always point to it—showing the means to satiate His thirst through prayer, intimacy with Jesus, living our vows—especially our 4th vow. For me it is so clear—everything in MC exists only to satiate Jesus. His words on the wall of every MC chapel, they are not from the past only, but alive here and now, spoken to you. Do you believe it? If so, you will hear, you will feel His presence. Let it become as intimate for each of you, just as for Mother—this is the greatest joy you could give me. Mother will try to help you understand—but Jesus himself must be the one to say to you “I Thirst.” Hear you own name. Not just once. Every day. If you listen with your heart, you will hear, you will understand.

Why does Jesus say “I Thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—if you remember anything from Mother’s letter, remember this—“I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus just saying “I love you.” until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him. The heart and soul of MC is only this—the thirst of Jesus’s Heart, hidden in the poor. This is the source of every part of MC life. It gives us our Aim, our 4th vow, the Spirit of our Society. Satiating the living Jesus in our midst is the Society’s only purpose for existing. Can we each say the same for ourselves—that it is our only reason for living? Ask yourself—would it make any difference in my vocation, in my relation to Jesus, in my work, if Jesus’s thirst were no longer our Aim—no longer on the chapel wall? Would anything change in my life? Would I feel any loss? Ask yourself honestly, and let this be a test for each to see if His thirst is a reality, something alive—not just an idea. “I Thirst” and “You did it to me”—Remember always to connect the two, the means with the Aim. What God has joined together let no one split apart. Do not underestimate our practical means—the work for the poor; no matter how small or humble—that make our life something beautiful for God. They are the most precious gifts of God to our Society—Jesus’s hidden presence so near, so able to touch. Without the work for the poor the Aim dies—Jesus’s thirst is only words with no meaning, no answer. Uniting the two, our MC vocation will remain alive and real, what Our Lady asked.

Be careful choosing retreat preachers. Not all understand our spirit correctly. They may be holy and learned, but that does not mean they have the grace of state of our vocation. If they tell you something different than Mother is writing in this letter, I beg you not to listen or let it confuse you. The thirst of Jesus is the focus of all that is MC. The Church has confirmed it again and again—“Our charism is to satiate the thirst of Jesus for love and souls—by working at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” Nothing different. Nothing else. Let us do all we can to protect this gift of God to our Society.

Believe me, my dear children—pay close attention to what Mother is saying now—only the thirst of Jesus, hearing it, feeling it, answering it with all your heart, will keep the Society alive after Mother leaves you. If this is your life, you will be all right. Even when Mother leaves you, Jesus’s thirst will never leave you. Jesus thirsting in the poor you will have with you always.

That is why I want the Active Sisters and Brothers, the Contemplative Sisters and Brothers, and the Fathers to each one aid the other in satiating Jesus with their own special gift—supporting, completing each other and this precious Grace as one Family, with one Aim and purpose. Do not exclude the Coworkers and Lay MCs from this—this is their call as well, help them to know it.

Because the first duty of a priest is the ministry to preach, some years back I asked our Fathers to begin speaking about I Thirst, to go more deeply in to what God gave the Society Sept. 10. I feel Jesus wants this of them, also in the future—so pray Our Lady keeps them in this special part of their 4th vow. Our Lady will help all of us in this, since she was the first person to hear Jesus’s cry I Thirst with St. John, and I am sure Mary Magdalene. Because she was there on Calvary, she know how real, how deep His longing for you and for the poor.

Do we know? Do we feel as She? Ask her to teach—you and the whole Society are hers. Her role is to bring you face to face, as John and Magdalene, with the love in the Heart of Jesus crucified. Before it was Our Lady pleading with Mother, now it is Mother in her name pleading with you—“Listen to Jesus’s thirst.” Let it be for each what Holy Father said in his letter—a Word of Life. How do you approach the thirst of Jesus? Only one secret—the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst. “Repent and believe,” Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor—He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. He is not bound by time.

Whenever we come close to Him—we become partners of Our Lady, St. John, Magdalene. Hear Him. Hear your own name. Make my joy and yours complete. Let us pray.

God bless you.

May these words from Mother Teresa bring you joy, even in the face of the challenges of daily life. (Excerpted from Thirsting for God: Daily Meditations.)

September 8: Obedience, well lived, frees us from selfishness and pride and helps us to find God.

In him, we find the whole world. Obedience is a special grace that produces unfailing peace, inward joy, and close union with God.

Obedience lived with joy creates a deep awareness of his presence. Fidelity to obedience—constant, prompt, cheerful, undivided obedience—becomes like drops of oil that keep the light of Jesus living in our life. Our Lady will teach us how to obey like Jesus, who was obedient unto death.

September 9: Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Queen and Mother, be more and more our way to Jesus, the light of Jesus, and the life of Jesus in each one of us.In return for this gift, let us be more and more a cause of joy to one another, the way of peace to one another, and the living love of Jesus for one another.

September 10 (Celebrated as “Inspiration Day” by the Missionaries of Charity; the day Mother Teresa received her vocation to serve the poorest of the poor):

I knew it was his will, and I had to follow him to those who, like Jesus, had nowhere to lay their head...the naked, despised, forsaken, forgotten, broken.

There was no doubt it was to be his work...the message was quite clear...it was an order.

I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there, how it would be accomplished, so I let myself be used by God in his way, unknown to me.

Mother Teresa Collection

Mother Teresa’s Love of Helping Children

After taking a course in nursing, Sister Teresa conducted classes for children. Gathering them together in the open air, she taught the basics of personal hygiene and then gave lessons in the faith. At the beginning, this makeshift school was truly humble: dirt and sticks had to suffice in place of paper and pencils. In spite of the scarcity of proper materials, however, the children came to love Sister Teresa, and the crowds grew each day.

Soon Sister Teresa was paying personal visits to the children’s families. As she walked through the slums on these missions of charity, she witnessed extreme destitution. Those families who dwelt in ramshackle huts were the lucky ones; many people were living on the streets or in the gutters. Most of these forgotten men and women were on the verge of death, laying miserably without so much as a sympathetic glance from another human being to bring them comfort. But Sister Teresa did not ignore them. Her attentiveness to people in the direst situations became the hallmark of her work.

A Reflection from a Friend of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa told me to stop the weeping: "These people have enough tears of their own. What they need from you is your smile." I tried. When accompanying her, I attempted to do as she did.

We went to the orphanage, Shishu Bavhan, where little iron cribs lined the rooms. They were filled with babies that Mother Teresa and her sisters had saved.

One time a malnourished baby had just been brought in from the garbage heaps. I watched as a young nun washed this child and administered medication to try to save her from death.

Then Mother Teresa told us the story of another baby who had been brought in the day before. She said the child looked as if she had two heads because of a tumor that was so large she screamed in pain each time she moved. Mother Teresa made arrangements to have the child flown to a hospital to have the tumor removed. "So many babies, so many stories," she said with a look of sadness in her eyes.

Immediately after we arrived at the orphanage, Mother Teresa began caring for her little ones. Their tiny frowns quickly turned to glowing smiles when she entered the room. Those who could ran to her, tugging at her skirt and kissing her as they giggled gleefully.

At Shishu Bavhan, I saw an Indian woman who volunteers at the orphanage go from crib to crib, picking up each baby and giving each a loving hug. Mother Teresa told me that the babies could get medicine and food, but if they were not hugged, they would die. She said she had someone come every day to give tender hugs and kisses to each child, "something beautiful for God." 

Mother Teresa Prayers

Be inspired by these prayers for the intercession of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Lord, thank you for the gift of memory, even the sad memories that are a part of my life’s story. Thank you, too, for the opportunities I have every day to share my joy as a redeemed member of the body of Christ!

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Heavenly Father, sometimes life would be much easier if you sent an angel to stand in my way each time I was about to go down a wrong path!

Instead you wait patiently for me to ask for help and forgiveness. Thank you for your mercy and your love.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Almighty God, whose ways are often so mysterious, whose mercies are new every morning, go before me and show me how to share the story of your abundant grace in my life. Let me be a sign of hope to all those I encounter. Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Holy Spirit, in your creativity and goodness you work in the hearts that are open to your leading to bring the light of Christ even to the darkest corners of the world. Help me to shine my light a little more brightly today.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Lord Jesus, help me to grow in forgiveness. Make me a channel of your peace. Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Pray for us! 

The Simple Path

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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Mother Teresa Facts

Mother Teresa spent a total of 69 years in service.

As of the year 2012, there were 4,500 Missionaries of Charity across the world.

Throughout Mother Teressa's life, she earned 124 awards for her service.

Mother Teressa was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Mother Teresa on Mother Mary

For her entire life, Mother Teresa of Calcutta looked to Our Lady for guidance, strength, and hope. Here are some of her thoughts and prayers of Mary, in her own words.

Let us not forget how Mary set out in haste in the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth. God chose Mary because she was full of grace and yet so full of humility. The coming of Jesus into her life generated within her great zeal and charity—zeal to bring Jesus to others through works of charity.

When the fullness of grace became one with the Word of God in her, the fruit of that union was Mary’s service of love to her neighbor. She didn’t dwell on the Son of God within her or on the joy and sorrow that were to be hers as the Mother of God and men.

Mary, Mother of Jesus and my mother, moved by a burning desire to live in the closest union with you possible in this life, so as to more surely and fully come to union with your Son, and with you to discover the mystery of his thirst, I resolve to keep this covenant of consecration with you as faithfully and as generously as I am able to with your help.

Since Jesus from the cross gave you to me, I take you as my own. And since Jesus gave me to you, take me as your own. I entrust myself and all I do entirely to you, that you may share your life and heart with me. I give you complete power over me and all that belongs to me, both material and spiritual, that as a mother you may nourish Jesus’s thirst within me.

Sweet Lord, thy thirst for souls I satiate with my burning love, all for thee. My chalice will be filled with love, sacrifices made all for thee. Evermore, I will quench thy thirst, Lord. Evermore, I will quench thy thirst, Lord, for souls; in union with Mary, our Queen, I will quench thy thirst.

A gentleman of the Protestant faith, the son-in-law of Malcolm Muggeridge, told me: “I love you, your work, everything I see, but there is one thing I do not understand: Our Lady. You are full of Mary.” I replied to him: “No Mary, no Jesus—no mother, no son.”

A few months later he sent me a card with these words printed in big letters: “I believe, no Mary, no Jesus! This has changed my life.”

Mary had a call and a mission, and she went through a process of discernment to accept them. She responded to the angel in obedience and rejoiced, saying “yes.” All mankind rejoices with her in her “yes.” She had been chosen as the Queen of Heaven and Earth, yet she did not go in search of glory or even to tell Joseph. The first thing she did as the Mother of God was to go in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, and my Mother, you were the first one to hear Jesus cry, “I Thirst.” You know how real, how deep is his longing for me and for the poor. I am yours. Mother Mary, teach me, bring me face to face with the love in the heart of Jesus crucified. With your help, I will listen to Jesus’s thirst and it will be for me a Word of life.

Standing near you, I will give him my love, and I will give him the chance to love me, and so be the cause of your joy and so to satiate Jesus’s thirst for love of souls. Amen. 

The Legacy of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa influenced countless believers while she was alive. One such person was Father Patrick McCloughlin. He describes the powerful impact she had on those who met her: "It was like meeting Christ. You wanted to fall to your knees and adore her." He should know: this soon-to-be-saint changed his life.

As a young man living in London, Patrick saw Mother Teresa on television. He was so moved by her simple message of compassion and hope for the downtrodden that he gave up his comfortable life-style to follow her.

Patrick McLoughlin was born in Northern Ireland. He had graduated from the College of Business Studies at Queen's University in Belfast and was enjoying the life of a single professional when he first saw her. "Instead of talking about helping people," he says, "she did something."

"She is living in Christ's consciousness. She has long ago died to the ego and lives solely for her people."

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Mother Teresa (1910-1997)