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Mother Teresa on Let the Children come to Me
The following passages are taken from the book, “A Life for God,” compiled by LaVonne Neff and published in 1995.
Mother Teresa is not a romantic. She has seen death in all its
ugliness, and she has no illusions about it. She knows that abortion is a particularly heinous kind of death. An aborted child cannot die at peace, with dignity, surrounded by love. It is a victim of violence, the most unwanted of all human being.
For Mother Teresa, the large number of abortions in the United States and many other developed countries is intolerable. She has no fear of telling presidents and prime ministers that their abortion policies are wrong. And she definitively answers all those who charge that people who are pro-life do not care about the children after they are born. “Please don’t destroy any child,” she pleads with government officials. “I will take any child, any time, night or day. Just let me know and I will come for him.”
Not only does she sponsor children’s homes and homes for
unwed mothers, she also has been instrumental in a large number of adoption placements. This chapter shows how deeply Mother Teresa cares for children, born and unborn.
Then children were brought to him
that be might lay his hands on them and pray,
The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them;
for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:13-14, RSV
1. In the slums the sisters find a place where they wil1 gather the little street children, whoever they may be. Their first concern is to make them clean, feed them, and only then teach them, just a little reading and writing. Religion must be proposed to them in a simple, interesting, and attractive way. Whatever the sisters teach, first there must always be something the children can enjoy and yet at the same time learn. (236)
2. Let the sisters bring the children to Mass. Do your best to get them. If you have to run for a child, do it and God in his infinite mercy may give the light and grace to that soul because of all the trouble you took. Never lose sight of the mercy of God. Take the trouble to help the children to love the Mass, to know the meaning of the Mass, to join in the Mass through simple prayers and hymns. Be careful of the attitude you take while minding the children during Mass. Do not correct loudly. Keep your hands joined. Join in the prayers and the singing. The children will do exactly what you do. (236)
3. All over the world, terrible suffering, terrible hunger for love. So bring prayer in your family, bring it to your little children. Teach them to pray. For a child that prays is a happy child. A family that prays is a united family. We hear of so many broken families. And then we examine them: why are they broken? I think because they never pray together. They are never one in prayer before the Lord. (236)
4. When visiting the families you will meet with very much misery. Sometimes you will find a little child watching near a dying parent, or holding the head of a dead parent. It is then that you must put out all your energy to help that little child in his sorrow. Once there were found two little children near the dead body of their father, who had died two days before. Thank God, sisters came and rescued the children and got a proper burial for the father. (236)
5. Again and again we hear that sentence, “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter into heaven” (Matthew 18:4 and Luke 18:17). And what is being a little child? It is having a clean heart, a pure heart, a heart that holds Jesus, a heart that can say again and again, “Jesus in my heart, I believe in your tender love for me. I love you.” This is the heart that you, and I, even the youngest, must have to be able to look up, to look up at the cross and understand how much Jesus loved me, loved each one of us separately. (236)
6. We are here to be witnesses of love and to celebrate life, because life has been created in the image of God. Life is to love and to be loved.
That is why we all have to take a strong stand so that no child—--boy or girl—--will be rejected or unloved. Every child is a sign of God’s love, that has to be extended over all the earth.
If you hear of someone who does not want to have her child, who wants to have an abortion, try to convince her to bring the child to me. I will love that child, who is a sign of God’s love. (237)
7. An incredible poverty exists today. Unborn children are aborted because they are unwanted. Children die in their mother’s wombs because they are unwanted. A nation that allows abortion is a very poor one. A mother who is capable of killing her own child only because she is afraid of having another one is poor indeed! She is afraid of feeding one more child and educating one more child. She prefers to have another television set or an automobile instead. A child condemned to death for that! Nevertheless, we read in Scripture: “Even if a mother should forsake her child, I will not forsake you. I have you in the palm of my hand” (Isaiah 49:15-16). (237)
8. If a mother can kill her own child, how long will it be before we start to kill one another? We should not be surprised when we hear about murders, deaths, wars and hate in the world today. Don’t ever allow even one child, born or unborn, to be unwanted. Let’s go with Our Lady to search out that child and take him or her home.
We, the Missionaries of Charity, have homes for the sick and dying in many places. We also have children’s homes for the unwanted, the unloved, the sick, and the retarded.
God has been just wonderful to us by giving us more parents, especially in India, who want to adopt our children. We have many children ready to be adopted.
People very often make jokes with me (or about me, rather), because we are also teaching natural family planning. They say “Mother Teresa is doing plenty of talking about family planning, but she herself does not practice it. She is having more and more children every day.”
Indeed, that is the way it is. Our homes are always full of children. And as they come, God has been tremendously wonderful to us.... You would be surprised how much love is showered on those unwanted little children, who otherwise would have been destined to live in the gutter.
Lately, I have experienced what a child meant for the family that adopted him. I had given the child to a high-class family. After some time, I heard that the child was sick and completely crippled.
So I sent to the family and said, “Give the child back to me and I will give you a healthy one!”
The father said to me, “Take my life first; before you take this child!”
That shows you what the child meant to that family and how beautifully that little one, in spite of all his suffering, had fit into the lives of those people. These are some of the great things that God is doing with us and through us, with your help. (237)
9. I am very happy to be surrounded by children, because Jesus had a very special love for children. Many children came to see Jesus, and the apostles said to them, “Don’t come!” But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. I love them.” (238)
10. I cannot remember now in what city I was, but I do remember that I did not see any children on the street. I missed the children very badly. While I was walking down the street; suddenly I saw a baby carriage. A young woman was pushing the carriage, and I crossed the street just to see the child.
To my terrible surprise, there was no child in the carriage. There was a little dog!
Apparently the hunger in the heart of that woman had to be satisfied. So, not having a child, she looked for a substitute. She found a dog. In many places, children are neglected, but animals are cared for and pampered. Animals are given special food and special things.
I love dogs very much, but still I cannot bear seeing a dog given the place of a child. (238)
11. We have many children in our homes for unwed mothers; one hundred seventy babies are born every day. Can you imagine that? Yet God has worked a miracle. Even in India, every day we have one or two families who come to adopt a child. Many come from abroad, but many children are being adopted in India.
You may not understand this great miracle, but for us who live in India, who work among Indians, this is the greatest miracle that could happen. According to the caste system, my children and myself and all the sisters are untouchables. Therefore, to take one of our children into a family is something unbelievable. It goes against the whole cultural and religious life of the nation. Nevertheless, Indian parents are really taking our children in.
I remember when I told Mrs Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister of India, what I was doing with the children. She said, “No, that is not possible!”
I said to her, “But we are doing it. It must be possible!” (239)
12. Our children may be only slum children, but for that very reason “just anything” will not do. Each sister must find a way to attract, to capture the hearts of the children.
Don’t think that you need not prepare the lessons because you know more than they. They must have the best, and their good must be uppermost in your mind. Don’t get stale in your methods, like stagnant water. Keep on improving yourself. Try new ways and means. You may have the knowledge, but you must also know how to impart it.
Our children come to school with empty stomachs—--don’t waste their time. They must learn something—--to be able to read and write a little and tell a little about the life of our Lord. Make them happy. They have had much to suffer already, and we cannot treat them as we would children going to a regular school. (239)
13. Our children, we want them, we love them; but what of the other millions? Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa, where quite a number die of malnutrition, of hunger, and so on. But millions of others are dying by the will of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child, what is left before I kill you and you kill me? There is nothing in between. (240)
14. A nation that destroys the life of an unborn child, who has been created for living and loving, who has been created in the image of God, is in a tremendous poverty. For a child to be destroyed because of the selfishness of those who fear they may not be able to feed one more child, fear they may not be able to educate one more child, and so decide that the child has to die—--that’s poverty. (240)
15. There are so many children today who are categorized as undesired, as unwanted. The problem that worries so many people is that the world is beginning to look too populated. What concerns my sisters and me is that people do not think that divine providence can provide for the new ones, for the unborn.
In my opinion, if abortion is allowed in the rich countries, who possess all that money can provide then those are the poorest among the poor. I would like to open in such countries many houses for children, in order to welcome them and provide what they need. We have many such houses in all of India, and up to now we have never seen the need to reject any child.
The most wonderful thing is that each child who has escaped death by the hands of his parents has later found a home with new parents. For some years now in Calcutta we have been trying to prevent abortions by means of adoptions. Thanks to God, we have been able to offer many who otherwise would have died, a father and a mother to love them and to offer them affection and care. (240)
16. I think that the cry of children who are assassinated before they come into the world is surely heard by God.
Jesus has said that we are much more important in the eyes of his Father than the grass, the birds, or the lilies of the field. He has also said that if the Father cares for all these things, much more will he care for his own life in us.
Jesus cannot deceive us. Life is the greatest gift of God to human beings, and man has been created in the Image of God. Life belongs to God, and we have no right to destroy it. (241)
17. We must pray for those countries that have passed laws that accept abortion as a natural action. This is a transgression! Their sin is great.
When we were invited to take care of the young women of Bangladesh who had been raped by soldiers, we saw the need to open a home for children. The difficulties were great because accepting in society young women who had been raped went against both Hindu and Muslim laws. But when the leader of Bangladesh said that those young women were heroines of the nation—--who had fought for their own purity, who had struggled for their country—--their very parents came to look for them. In many cases we were able to find young men who offered to marry them.
Some people favored abortion. It was a terrible struggle, if I can say it that way, that we had to fight with them. I told them that the young women had been violated, that they did not want to sin, whereas now what the men wanted to do was to force them or to help them to commit a transgression that would accompany them throughout their lives. I told them that these mothers would never forget that they had killed their own children.
Thanks be to God, the government accepted our conditions. The people were told that each of the children for whom abortion would have been chosen should be taken to the house of Mother Teresa to receive help. Of the forty children we received, more than thirty went to Canada and other countries, adopted by generous families. (241)
18. I have been told in more than one place, “If you have to give birth to a child, you have to pay so much. And if you have an abortion, you won’t have to pay anything.”
My sisters and I, we want to save that child. We will help that woman to bring her pregnancy to term and give birth to that child. We will pay whatever it costs. We will make the necessary sacrifices in order to pay.
I have sent word to all the police stations, clinics, and hospitals, “Please don’t destroy any child. I will take any child, any time, night or day. Just let me know and I will come for him.” Our homes for children are overflowing.
And what a wonderful gift of God is seen when a child is loved and cared for! God’s blessing is evident in such beautiful work. It is so beautiful that we have many families that adopt these children we care for. So we are bringing joy into the homes of those who have no children, who cannot have children. We are giving a father’s and a mother’s love to a child who would have been destroyed.
See the wonderful ways of God! This is really loved in action! (241)
19. Let us stop for a moment to pray for our parents, for having loved and wanted us, for having given us life.
In the Gospels we read that God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus through the most pure Virgin. As soon as she received the announcement from the angel, Mary went in haste to her cousin Elizabeth, who was with child. And the unborn child John the Baptist rejoiced in Elizabeth’s womb. How wonderful it was--— Almighty God chose an unborn child to announce the coming of his Son!
Yet today, unborn children are targeted for death, persons to be discarded and destroyed. Abortion destroys the image of God. It is the most terrible plague in our society, the greatest killer of love and peace. Those little children still unborn have been created for bigger things: to love and to be loved. (242)
20. A child is the greatest of God’s gifts to a family, because it is the fruit of the parents’ love. (242)
21. The other day I was talking to a woman who had had an abortion eight years ago. What do you think she told me?
“Mother, I feel a pain in my heart whenever I see a child. When I see a child who is eight years old, I always think of my child who would be eight years old. It is an awful pang in my heart, believe me.”
She was a Hindu, with a different degree of sensitivity to the value of human life but Christian or non-Christian, that mother’s love, that mother’s pain, is there. Right up to the end of her life she will know, “I have killed my child, I decided to have my child destroyed!”
What can we do? If necessary, let us start homes where we can gather together these children. Maybe they are not wanted, or maybe their parents cannot afford to take care of them. Let us then decide to take care of them ourselves.
By doing so, you and I will do something beautiful for God. We will give a wonderful home to children who would otherwise be destroyed and unwanted. We will fill those mothers’ hearts with joy. Because, deep down in their hearts, they feel so sad. (242)
22. I must tell you something that was a surprise for me and may be a surprise for you.
We deal with thousands and thousands of very poor people in Calcutta. As you may know, there are over ten million people in that city, but up to now I am not aware of one woman among the very poor who has had an abortion.
All of them have given birth to their children.
At times they might put their children in the garbage, hoping that someone will take care of them. But I know of not one who has decided to destroy her child. (243)
23. People are trying to be free to live their own life by destroying life. For me, this is a painful sign that either the country is so poor that it cannot care for the lives that God has created, or that people are making a tremendous mistake.
I don’t want to talk about what should be legal or illegal. I don’t think that any human heart should dare to take life, or any human hand be raised to destroy life. Life is the life of God in us. The life of God is present even in the fetus. We don’t have even the slightest right to destroy a life, whether it is that of a child, a man, or a woman. It’s all the same. I believe that the cry of these children, these ones who are never born because they are killed before they ever saw the light of day, must offend God greatly.
Jesus said that we are much more important to his Father than the grass in the field, the sparrows, or the lilies of the field. If he takes care of things such as these, which are only things, how much more would he care for our lives!
He will not deceive us. Life is the greatest gift that God has bestowed on human beings. Since human life is created in the image of God, it belongs to him. We have no right to destroy it. (243)
24. God has invested all his love in creating that human life. That is why we are not entitled to destroy it, especially we who know that Christ has died for the salvation of that life. Christ has died and has given everything for that child. (244)
25. Our sisters work in the slums. There we frequently run across young mothers who are about to die and children with deformities. Through research we discovered that men have abused these young women, taking advantage of their ignorance.
We began to ask God to send us someone to take care of this work, to help such women cope with this difficulty with a clear conscience, a healthy body, and in a happy family. There came to us a sister from Mauritius Island who had attended a course on family planning.
We started with an information program. Right now there are more than three thousand families who use natural family planning, and it has been about 95 percent effective. When people see these good effect in their families, they come to us to say thanks. Some of them have said, “Our family has stayed together, in good health, and we can have a child when we desire it.” (244)
26. It is true, people are very anxious about the future and about over population. But there is natural family planning. That method can help couples plan their family without destroying God’s gift of life.
I think we should train our children for the future by teaching them to respect the dignity of life, by teaching them that life is a gift from God, something created by him, something to be lived for him. By the purity and sanctity of lives, they will then be able to face the future using simple, natural means that God has created.
By properly using the natural family planning method, couples are using their bodies to glorify God in the sanctity of family life. I think that if we could bring this method to every country, if our poor people would learn it, there would be more peace, more love in the family between parents and children. (244)
27. We are carrying out something else that is very beautiful. We are teaching natural family planning to our beggars, our lepers, our slum dwellers, and our homeless street people. The method we teach them is very beautiful and simple. Our poor understand it. I believe that if our people can do this, how much more can all the rest of us! We can use the means of natural family planning and decide not to destroy the life that God has created in us! (245)
28. I think the world today is upside-down. It is suffering so much there is so little love in the home and in family life.
We have no time for our children.
We have no time for each other.
There is no time to enjoy each other.
Love lives in homes, and the lack of love causes so much suffering and unhappiness in the world today
Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches, so that children have very little time for their parents. And parents have very little time for their children and for each other.
So the breakdown of peace in the world begins at home.
People who really and truly love each other are the happiest people in the world. We see that with our very poor people. They love their children and they love their families. They may have very little, in fact, they may not have anything, but they are happy people. (245)
29. If we help our children to be what they should be today, then, when tomorrow becomes today, they will have the necessary courage to face it with greater love.
Right from the very beginning, since love begins at home, I think we should teach our children to love one another at home. They can learn this only from their father and mother, when they see the parents’ love for each other.
I think this will strengthen our children, so that they can give that love to others in the future. (246)
30. People are afraid of having children.
Children have lost their place in the family.
Children are very lonely, very lonely!
When children come home from school, there is no one to greet them. Then they go back to the streets.
We must find our children again and bring them back home. Mothers are at the heart of the family. Children need their mothers. If the mother is there, the children will be there too. For the family to be whole, the children and the mother also need the father to be present in the home.
I think if we can help to bring them all back together, we will do a beautiful thing for God. (246)
31. If in your family, your young daughter or son has done something wrong, forgive them. Show them the forgiving heart of God. (246)
32. If we have trouble in families today, it is because children are lost. It is necessary for us to pray and then, with Our Lady, go out and look for the children to bring them home. (246)
33. Jesus was born into a family and stayed in Nazareth for thirty years. He had come to redeem the world, yet he spent thirty years in Nazareth, doing the humble work of an ordinary person. He spent all those years just living out family life. (246)
34. One day I found a little girl in the street, so I took her to our children’s home. We have a nice place and good food there. We gave her clean clothes and we made her as happy as we could.
After a few hours, the little girl ran away. I looked for her, but I couldn’t find her anywhere. Then after a few days, I found her again.
And, again, I brought her to our home and told a sister, “Sister, please, follows this child wherever she goes.”
The little girl ran away again. But the sister followed to find out where she was going and why she kept running away.
She followed the little girl and discovered that the little one’s mother was living under a tree in the street. The mother had placed two stones there and did her cooking under that tree.
The sister sent word to me and I went there. I found joy on that little girl’s face, because she was with her mother who loved her and was making special food for her in that little open place.
I asked the little girl, “How is it that you would not stay with us? You had so many beautiful things in our home.”
She answered, “I could not live without my mother. She loves me.” That little girl was happier to have the meager food her mother was cooking in the street than all the things I had given her.
While the child was with us, I could scarcely see a smile on her face. But when I found her there with her mother, in the street, they were smiling.
Because they were family. (247)
35. I have another conviction that I want to share with you. Love begins at home, and every Co-worker should try to make sure that deep family love abides in his or her home. Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next-door neighbor. Then it will show forth and you will be able to say to them, “Yes, love is here.” And then you will be able to share it with everyone around you. (247)
36. Perhaps in our own families, there is someone who feels lonely, who is sick, or who is overburdened with worry. Are we there, open and willing to offer support and affection? Are you, mothers, available to your children?
I was surprised to find out how many young people in the slums, both boys and girls, are involved with drugs. I have tried to find out why. “Why is this happening?” I asked.
The answer was, “There is no one at home to love them. Parents are too busy and don’t have time for them. Young parents are so involved in social commitments and activities that their children go out into the streets and get mixed up in something which is bad for them.” Here we are talking about peace, and these are the very things that shatter peace. (247)
37. The work that each one of you carries out in your families for those you love is an expression of your love for God. Love starts at home. For your love to be real, it cannot waver at home. (248)
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