8 Ways Mother Teresa Changed My Life (Day 3)

prayerLesson #3: God Works Miracles When We Make Ourselves Small.

On March 4, 2016, four Missionaries of Charity as well as several lay workers were murdered while working at a nursing home in Aden, Yemen. A priest who had recently joined the community, Fr. Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Salesian missionary from Bangalore, was kidnapped; his fate is still unknown. One aspect of the story I found most fascinating, which I recounted in the introduction of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, is that the one surviving member of the community, Sister Sally, was miraculously spared. Her testimony was published by the National Catholic Register. “At least three times they came into the Fridgerator [sic] Room. She did not hide but remained standing behind the door — they [ISIS] never saw her. This is miraculous.”

“Humility of the heart of Jesus, fill my heart,” prayed Mother Teresa in Total Surrender (p.76). This “smallness” was reflected not only in the physical stature of St. Teresa (though she was tiny!), but in the humble interior of the heart that allowed her to take up even the smallest task with great joy and abandon. It is this “smallness” that prevents us from becoming resentful, bitter, and envious at those whose lives seem just a bit better.

A wise woman once told me that God always humbles us just before he calls us to do something great. Without that lesson in “smallness,” too soon I find myself running ahead, determined to do it all MYSELF . . . and just as often, making a mess of things. In the life of Saint Teresa we see a woman for whom nothing was too small, too demeaning, too dangerous, or too dirty. God did not always work visible miracles — of the thirty-six thousand she and her Sisters rescued from the streets, eighteen thousand died. But there were miracles, and the most lasting will be known only in eternity.

If you are enjoying this series, you might also enjoy my two new books on her life and writings: Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (preorders ship 9/16) and Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, (preorders ship 1/17), both available through Servant Books/Franciscan Media.

“It is in love that we are made” (National Catholic Register)

I was grieved and not a little aggravated to read this article in the National Catholic Register today. If I hadn’t read it with my own eyes, I would never have imagined that a respected Catholic publication such as NCR would permit such a blatant attack on what is at the heart a truly pro-life issue.

As I’ve often said, adoption is never God’s first choice for a child. He intended children to be raised in the loving embrace of a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony. When that bond is broken, yes the child suffers. So do the parents.

And yet, it is not the act of adoption that is the source of the problem. When two people fail to live up to their God-given calling, they make choices that leave permanent scars on their child.  Whether the marks are genetic or caused by living in a toxic environment prior to placement, adoption is often that child’s best chance to find the loving support he or she needs to recover.

As a mother of two children adopted from the foster-care system, I do not share the author’s amazement that the adoptive parents she encountered seemed like “normal” — even kind — individuals. It takes a great deal of heart to accept God’s call to participate in the redemption of a human soul. We make mistakes, as all parents do. But we accept the calling because we have a profound belief in the power of God to transform lives.

My letter to NCR reads in part:

No child is adopted as a “clean slate.” Any number of difficulties — both genetic and environmental, including those that led to the child being “in the system” in the first place — made an indelible mark on that child long before he was adopted.

It is true that adopted children grieve the loss of their birth parents, and that part of our job as adoptive parents is to help them work through their grief. But to blame the act of adoption itself is simply wrongheaded.

Just as two people participate with God in the act of creation when they come together as man and wife to produce a child, so through adoption we have an opportunity to participation in the REDEMPTION of that child. It is not always an easy road, and like all parents we make our share of mistakes.  But there is ample grace as well.

If your life has been touched by adoption, please feel free to add your voice to this important pro-life issue!