Mother Teresa was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic order of nuns dedicated to serving the poor, especially in India.
As a young girl in Albania, Teresa knew that God was in pain and she wanted to walk in the way of the Good Physician to alleviate that pain where God’s hurt was greatest.
The Catholic nun and missionary who became known as the saint of the gutters did not begin her mission in the streets. She served for a time at the Loreto convent school in Calcutta, teaching the well-to-do young. Teaching was rewarding work, but it was not her ultimate mission.
Her real call came when she was on a train to Darjeeling in 1946.
Father Edward Le Joly, her spiritual director for two decades, recounts the story of how she heard God’s call:
“It was,” Mother Teresa told me, “on the tenth of September 1946, in the train that took me to Darjeeling, the hill station in the Himalayas, that I heard the call of God.” In quiet, intimate prayer with her Lord, she heard distinctly what she says was for her, “a call within a call.” “The message was quite clear: I was to leave the convent and help the poor whilst living among them. It was an order. I knew where I belonged.”
So she answered El Morya’s call to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. Malcolm Muggeridge explains in his book, Something Beautiful for God:
This was the end of her biography and the beginning of her life; in abolishing herself she found herself, by virtue of that unique Christian transformation, manifested in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, whereby we die in order to live.
Muggeridge, who lived a European lifestyle in Calcutta as a newspaperman in the thirties, found life there barely tolerable. When he learned of Mother Teresa’s move, he was deeply affected. He writes:
To choose, as Mother Teresa did, to live in the slums of Calcutta, amidst all the dirt and disease and misery, signified a spirit so indomitable, a faith so intractable, a love so abounding, that I felt abashed.
After she made the decision to serve the poor, she patiently waited two years to be released from her vows, and with but a few rupees in her pocket she began her ministry. Now her Missionaries of Charity order runs orphanages, homes for the poor, AIDS hospices and other charity centers around the world.
When she was first starting her mission, she was very much alone. She wrote in her diary:
Today I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home (for a center), I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then the comfort of Loreto came to tempt me. But of free choice, my God, and out of love for You, I desire to remain and do whatever be Your holy will in my regard. Give me courage now, this moment.
Starting with nothing, she cheerfully went to serve those with less than nothing. Teresa counsels, “Make sure that you let God’s grace work in your souls by accepting whatever he gives you, and by giving him whatever he takes from you. True holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile.
In a 1974 interview she said:
I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?
Muggeridge commented on criticism of Mother Teresa:
Criticism of Mother Teresa is often directed at the insignificant scale of the work she and the Sisters undertake by comparison with the need.... But Christianity is not a statistical view of life. That there should be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over all the hosts of the just, is an anti-statistical proposition. Likewise with the work of [Mother Teresa’s] Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa is fond of saying that welfare is for a purpose—an admirable and a necessary one—whereas Christian love is for a person. The one is about numbers, the other about a man who was also God.
What the poor need, Mother Teresa was fond of saying, even more than food and clothing and shelter (though they need these, too, desperately), is to be wanted. It is the outcast state their poverty imposes upon them that is the most agonizing.
To Mother Teresa, every act was one of surrender to God’s will. She said:
Every day you have to say yes. Total surrender—to be where he wants you to be. If he puts you in the street, if everything is taken from you, to accept to be in the street at that moment. Not for you to put yourself in the street, but to accept to be put there. This is quite different. To accept if God wants you to be in the palace, as long as you are not choosing to be in the palace. This is what makes the difference in total surrender: to accept to be cut to pieces and yet for every piece to belong to him. This is the surrender.
For Mother Teresa and her sisters, their holy work went hand in hand with prayer. Desmond Doig, the first journalist ever to write about Mother Teresa, said:
To Mother Teresa, whose life is a living prayer, the need to withdraw, to be alone with God, is as important as her work.
Sister Agnes, Teresa’s first postulant, once spoke of the importance of balancing their missionary work with prayer:
Every day we have mass, half an hour of meditation, morning prayer, afternoon prayer, and in the evening we have a full hour of Adoration. It would not be possible to work otherwise. There must be a spiritual motive.
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote:
For Mother Teresa,... the mass [is] the spiritual food which sustains her, without which she could not get through one single day or hour of the life of dedication she has chosen.
Mother Teresa was love in action. As one of her Sisters of Charity said:
Mother ... wishes to die on her feet. And that is what she is doing—giving herself to the last drop.
In Messages from Heaven, a soul newly arrived in the retreats of the Brotherhood offered these comments following Mother Teresa’s passing:
Mother Teresa was in every way a saint. She received her calling from the masters at inner levels, and she fulfilled it beyond expectations....
Each person’s calling is unique. Mother Teresa was to serve the poorest of the poor. She did this with such profound love and awareness of the dignity of each soul that she actually bought extra time for this planet. She saw Christ in everyone. Her very presence helped others to want to do better, to give more and to serve more. Her presence was a healing force in and of itself....
Mother Teresa Teresa never sought any of the fame that came to her. In fact, it caused her spiritual angst and physical pain. The fame was truly Christ’s and not hers. She understood this, but those covering her story could not fully comprehend it. Abundance came to the missions, but this is the way of spiritual alchemy. She was God’s vessel. As she once said, “I am just a pencil in the Lord’s hand.” God provides abundance when it is necessary to the work of a saint. She was free of greed, hatred, covetoudness and other earthly foibles. Her desire was to save souls and save the poor. This she did magnificently.
Though she was a Catholic through and through, Mother Teresa honored the ways of all that she met. She condemned no one for his or her spiritual persuasion, and she served all who were sent her way. There are great lessons in this.
There is a reason that Mother Teresa’s home was in India. She represented the Mother flame and India came to honor her as the Mother.
Heaven was waiting for her arrival. Her life was a cause for celebration in the etheric realm. Indeed, the words “well done” echoed through our halls, and we all felt joy in her accomplishments. This daughter of God understood joy as few have known it.
It is important to note that her calling did not come easily or simply at first; very few do. Mother Teresa prayed without ceasing and studied to internalize the deepest meaning of Christ’s teaching. She was guided throughout her mission because of the purity of her intent and her dedication to the will of God. Her evolution to saint, however, was a path and a process. The greatest pity will be if others do not realize that this path is open to all who seek it with the fervor and commitment that she modeled.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, January 2, 1993.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, October 13, 1997.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 40, no. 34, October 1, 1997.
- E. Le Joly, Servant of Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 17.
- Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 16.
- Ibid., p. 21.
- Ibid., p. 67.
- Ibid., p. 28.
- Ibid., pp. 22, 23.
- Mother Teresa, a film by Ann Petrie (Petrie Productions, 1986).
- Desmond Doig, Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 155.
- Ibid., p. 156.
- Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God, p. 53.
- Mother Teresa, a film by Ann Petrie.
- Patricia Kirmond, Messages from Heaven, pp. 212–13.