8 Ways Mother Teresa Changed My Life (Day 6)

young mother teresaIn 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 lessons so far are The Power of Loving the “Other,”  Always Take Mary with You, God Works Miracles When We Make Ourselves SmallGod Enjoys the Simplest Prayers. and Faithful Love Sweetens Life. I will write one lesson each day. Enjoy!

Lesson #6: God Transforms Our Pain

Like her friend St. John Paul II, Mother Teresa experienced the loss of a parent when she was only eight years old; he lost his mother, she her father. Such a profound loss leaves a deep scar on the soul — I see this with my own children, who lost their first family at an early age. However, for both Karol Wojtyla and Agnes Bojaxhiu, this profound loss seemed to give them a heightened awareness of the temporal nature of the physical world, and a deep desire to enter into the heart of God.  By the age of twelve young Agnes, as she was then known, knew she was going to become a religious sister. When she left her childhood home in Albania at the age of eighteen, it was the last time she saw her mother and sister.

I was about the same age, eighteen, when I was in a car accident that changed the course of my life. Seriously injured, I spent more than a month in the hospital, followed by a long recovery at home. As a result of the accident, I would not be able to have children. I also came away with a profound sense that God had spared my life for a reason – and that I needed to find out what that was. Twenty years would pass before I finally understood why God allowed this pain to enter my life: If I had not experienced this loss, I might never have been ready to welcome Chris and Sarah, first as foster kids and finally as my own children by adoption. When I see pictures of Mother Teresa walking among the children in the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart), I wonder how often she looked into those little faces, remembered her own childhood grief, and thanked God for redeeming that pain in such a life-giving way.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37). The pain we experience in our human relationships can make us hard and bitter, or drive us closer to the heart of God. If we choose the latter, the pain opens our hearts and makes us more compassionate and better able to recognize the pain in others.

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.

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.