We are all on a journey. Few have described the Journey Within as beautifully and as inspiringly as Mother Teresa of Calcutta (I9I0-I997). God wonderfully intervened in her life to teach her and to teach us, to guide her and to guide us. The Gospel Acclimation says it all: “Whoever follows me will have the light of life”.
Mother Teresa sums up her life: “By blood I am Albanian. By citizenship I am Indian. By faith I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus”.
Agnes (the future Mother Theresa) was one of three children. Her father died when she was eight. As a teenager Agnes was inspired by Jesuit missionaries to work in India. In 1928, she joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish Religious Community that taught in India. Now, as Mother Teresa, she spent some twenty years successfully in that ministry of teaching in India.
Then came that mystical moment. The moment did not take place in a convent or a Church. It took place on a train. The year was September of I946. Mother Teresa called it her ‘Inspiration Day’. She wrote: “The message was quite clear-it was an order-He wanted me to be poor and to love him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor”.
The next step was how to carry out this divine directive. Mother Teresa later admitted. “I knew where I belonged but I did not know how to get there”. It took a period of discerning. Then in I948, dressed for the first time in a white, blue- bordered sari, she passed through the gates of her beloved Loreto convent, to enter the world of the poor.
“I Thirst”. Mother Teresa had a devotion to the Thirst of Jesus. She explained this to her community which she founded in I950. “The Thirst of Jesus is the focus of all that makes up our spiritual family, the Missionaries of Charity. Our charism is to satiate the thirst of Jesus for love and for souls by working for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor. The General End of the Missionaries of Charity is to satiate the Thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and for souls” Finally, Mother Teresa said: “God is thirsting for you and me to come forward to satiate His Thirst”.
The growth of the Missionaries of Charity is like the story of the mustard seed. Mother Teresa began with only 12 Sisters. Today there are over 5.000 Sisters serving in more than 130 countries. They serve in orphanages, homes for those dying of aids, charity centers worldwide, refugees as well as the blind, the disabled, the aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, lepers and epidemics. To the growing number of Sisters, Mother Teresa added active and contemplative Brothers, as well as contemplative Sisters and finally priests. All this was done between I950 and I984.
The Nobel Peace Prize was given to Mother Teresa on October of I979. In part, she said: “I believe that we are not social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people. We are contemplatives in the heart of the world. We are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours a day”. Mother continued: “Let us always meet each other with a smile. A smile is the beginning of love and once we begin to love each other, naturally we want to do something. So you pray for our Sisters, and for me, and for our Brothers and Co-workers that we may remain faithful to God”.
In 2007 a book was published entitled “Come Be My Light”. It was a collection of many of Mother Teresa’s personal and private correspondence. The letters revealed that except for one short period, Mother Theresa had been afflicted with a deep sense of God’s absence for the last half century of her life. Most of the world was completely unsuspecting of her spiritual darkness. This experience caused her to say: “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from Heaven to light the light of those in darkness on earth”.
“Mother Teresa was God’s gift to the poorest of the poor. She was and remains an exceptional gift for the Church and for the World”. (Pope John Paul II)
Fr. Theodore Walsh, C.P.