8 Ways Mother Teresa Changed My Life (Day 4)

In celebration of the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) on September 4, I would like to share with you eight lessons and prayers that I discovered from reading Mother Teresa’s writings. Feel free to share some of your favorites as well!  The first three lessons are The Power of Loving the “Other,” Always Take Mary with You, and God Works Miracles When We Make Ourselves Small. I will write one lesson each day. Enjoy!

 

1974, Calcutta, West Bengal, India --- Mother Teresa with a child from the orphanage she operates in Calcutta. Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Boyaxihu), the Roman Catholic-Albanian nun revered as India's "Saint of the Slums," was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. --- Image by © Nik Wheeler/Sygma/Corbis

1974, Calcutta, West Bengal, India — Mother Teresa with a child from the orphanage she operates in Calcutta. Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Boyaxihu), the Roman Catholic-Albanian nun revered as India’s “Saint of the Slums,” was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. — Image by © Nik Wheeler/Sygma/Corbis

Lesson #4:  God Enjoys the Simplest Prayers

Do you ever get nervous about praying aloud? Does your mind go blank, or your palms get sweaty? Do you listen with admiration of those who are “good at it,” and wonder if they have the inside track to God?

Not to worry, Mother Teresa taught us. God delights in the simple, heartfelt prayers of his children. In her book Such a Vision of the Street: Mother Teresa, the Spirit and the Work, Eileen Egan recorded the following lines from a speech that Mother Teresa delivered in Berlin on June 8, 1980 (1).

“Prayer is not meant . . . To trouble us. It is something to look forward to, to talk to my Father, to talk to Jesus . . . .

And when times come when we can’t pray, it is very simple:

If Jesus is in my heart let him pray, let me allow Him to pray in me, to talk to His Father in the silence of my heart.”

One of my favorite stories about Mother Teresa is recorded in the book Mother Teresa: Reaching Out in Love. Edward Le Joly and Jaya Chaliha recount a time at the Children’s Home (Shishu Bhavan), when a critically sick baby was brought to Mother Teresa. Taking the baby in her arms, Mother quietly recited the Our Father, then handed the infant back to the Sister. The next day, the infant was out of danger. “It happens here frequently,” the Sister said (p.96).

Although I don’t mind praying aloud in most settings, like most people I experience times when I simply don’t know what to ask for. This story of Mother Teresa reminds me that even the simplest, most basic of prayers can be very powerful on the lips of those who offer those prayers with trust in the benevolence of God.

 

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.

 

(1) Eileen Egan, Such a Vision of the Street: MT, The Spirit and the Work (NY: 1985), 427.

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.