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Mother Teresa on Our Way of Life

    The following passages are taken from the book, “Contemplative at the Heart of the World,” selected by Brother Angelo Devananda and published in 1985.

 

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:16).

Just as the seed is meant to be a tree—--we are meant to grow into Jesus.

 

1. Each of us will accept:

—to live the life of poverty in cheerful trust

—to imitate the chastity of Mary, the cause of our joy

—to offer cheerful obedience from inward joy. (69)

 

2. Poverty

“The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:5-7).

Our poverty is our dowry.

With regard to God, our poverty is our humble recognition and acceptance of our sinfulness, helplessness and utter nothingness, and the acknowledgement of our neediness before Him, which expresses itself as hope in Him, as an openness to receive all things from Him as from our Father.

Our poverty should be true gospel poverty—--gentle, tender, glad and openhearted, always ready to give an expression of love. Poverty is love before it is renunciation. To love, it is necessary to give. To give, it is necessary to be free from selfishness.

Desirous to share Christ’s own poverty and that of our poor:

—We accept to have everything in common and to share with one another in the Society.

—We do not accept anything whatsoever from our parents, friends, or benefactors for our personal use. Whatever is given to us is handed over to our superiors for the common use of the community or for the work.

—We shall eat food of the people, of the country where we live using what is cheapest. It should be sufficient and wholesome so as to maintain good health which is essential for the work of our vocation.

—Our Houses should be simple and modest, places where the poor feel at home.

—We shall walk whenever opportunity offers, in order to take the cheapest means of transport available.

—We shall sleep in common dormitories without privacy like the poor.

—We and our poor will depend entirely on Divine Providence both for our material and spiritual needs. (70)

 

3. Whenever it is necessary, we will do our begging willingly, in the spirit of poverty and cheerful trust---becoming beggars for the poor members of Christ who Himself lived on alms during his public life and whom we serve in the sick and the poor. We shall not store things nor shall we beg for more than what is necessary. (70)

 

4. In our Society we must try to aim at a most perfect poverty. It is to be a wall of defence which has two effects:

—It excludes the enemy. As we know from the Spiritual Exercises, the first trick of the devil is to lead men to the love of wealth; the true love of evangelical poverty closes this avenue of our soul to the evil spirit.

—It secures peace and protection for those who dwell within the wall. (70)

 

5. Our Lord on the Cross possessed nothing. He was on the cross which was given by Pilate. The nails and the crown were given Him by the soldiers. He was naked, and when he died, cross, nails, and crown were taken away from Him, and He was wrapped in a shroud given Him by a kind heart and buried in a tomb which was not his. (70)

 

6. We must never get into the habit of being preoccupied with the future. There is no reason to do so. God is there. Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give: superfluities, nice rooms, luxuries at table, more clothes, fans, etc. Our needs will increase, for, one thing brings another and the result will be endless dissatisfaction.

Poverty makes us free. That is why we can joke and smile and keep a happy heart for Jesus.

The first true poverty was when “Christ emptied Himself.” For nine months He was lost in the little space of Mary’s bosom: not even St. Joseph knew who He was. Having all things, yet possessing nothing. His birth was also like one of the poorest of poor. Even our poor have someone to assist them.. . . Mary did not. At Nazareth even his people despised Him. It was not necessary for Jesus to practice this absolute poverty. There is only one reason: because He desired it. He wanted to be to the fullest “One” of us. (71)

 

7. Poverty is necessary because we are working with the poor. When they complain about the food, we can say: we eat the same. They say, “It was so hot last night, we could not sleep.” We can reply, “We also felt very hot.” The poor have to wash for themselves, go barefoot; we do the same. We have to go down and lift them up. It opens the heart of the poor when we can say we live the same way they do. Sometimes they only have one bucket of water. It is the same with us. The poor have to stand in line; we do too. Food, clothing, everything must be like that of the poor. We have no fasting. Our fasting is to eat the food as we get it. (71)

 

8. Christ being rich emptied Himself. This is where contradiction lies. If I want to be poor like Christ—--who became poor even though he was rich—--I must do the same. Nowadays people want to be poor and live with the poor, but they want to be free to dispose of things as they wish. To have this freedom is to be rich. They want both and they cannot have both. This is another kind of contradiction.

Our poverty is our freedom. This is our poverty—--the giving up of our freedom to dispose of things, to choose, to possess. The moment I use and dispose of things as mine, that moment I cease to be poor.

We must strive to acquire the true spirit of poverty which manifests itself in a love for the practice of the virtue of poverty in imitation of Christ—--in imitation of Him who chose it as the companion of His life on earth when He came to live among us. Christ did not have to lead a life of poverty. Thus He taught us how important it is for our sanctification. (72)

 

9. We practice the virtue of poverty when we mend our clothes quickly and as beautifully as we can. To go about in a torn habit and sari is certainly not the sign of the virtue of poverty. For, remember, we do not profess the poverty of beggars, but the poverty of Christ. Let us also remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and for that reason we must respect it always with neatly mended clothes. We would never dream of using dirty, torn cloth as a tabernacle veil to cover the door of the dwelling that Christ chose for Himself on earth since His Ascension into heaven. In the same way, we should never cover the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is our body, with torn, dirty, untidy clothes. Patched clothes are no disgrace. It is said of St. Francis of Assisi that when he died his habit had so many patches that the original cloth was no longer there. (72)

 

10. The poor are great people and we owe them deep gratitude, for if they did not accept us then we would not exist as M.C.s. To be able to understand this, we look at Jesus. To be able to be become man, He, being rich, became poor. He could have chosen the king’s palace, but to be equal to us, He chose to be like us in all things except sin. To be equal to the poor, we choose to be poor like them in everything except destitution. Each of us has given our word to God to follow Christ in poverty. (73)

 

11. When you make the vow of poverty you say, “I have nothing.” That is why you cannot destroy things or give them away without permission. By right you can’t even say, ‘This is my sari” For us poverty is freedom. You are free to love God—--free to love Jesus with an undivided heart.

 

12. The devil is very busy. The more our work involves bringing souls to God, the more he tries to take us away from God, to spoil the work. Poverty provides tremendous protection. I call it freedom. Nothing and nobody will separate me from the love of Christ.

You must experience the joy of poverty. Poverty is not only renunciation. Poverty is joy. Poverty is love. My reason for doing without is that “I love Jesus.” Unless you experience for yourself this joy of poverty, you will never understand what I am saying. Have the courage to live that poverty. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. All He had was a piece of cloth, some straw. Picture the animals gathering around the child. There were no electric heaters. Our Lady must have taught Him to walk. He could have come down from heaven as a full grown man, but He came to us as an infant. Everything had to be done for Him. He became poor for love of us.

I will never forget something that happened when I was at Loreto. One of the children was very, very naughty. She was only six or seven years old. One day, when she was extremely naughty, I took her hand and said, “Come, we’re going for a walk.” She had some money with her. One hand held my hand and the other held tightly to the money. ‘I will buy this. I will buy that,” she kept saying. Suddenly she saw a blind beggar, and at once she left the money with him. From that day she was a different child. She was so small and so naughty. Yet that one decision changed her life. It is the same with you. Get rid of anything that’s holding you back. If you want to be all for Jesus, the decision has to come from within you. (73)

 

13. I want you to experience that joy of poverty which is really the perfect joy of St. Francis of Assisi. He called it Lady Poverty. St. Ignatius called it Mother Poverty. The more we have, the less we can give. So let us have less to be able to give all to Jesus. (74)

 

14. Motherhouse March 22 1981

As our poor keep growing in poverty—--due to the great rise in the cost of living—--let us be more careful regarding the poverty of our houses. The daily needs that our poor cannot get-—-let us be more careful in the use of them—--so that we also feel the hardship in food, clothing, water, electricity, soap—--things which our poor often go without. (74)

 

15. Chastity

     Our vow of chastity is our response to the call of Christ. Our vow is made to God alone by which we commit ourselves:

—to live a celibate life in the fervor of charity and the perfection of chastity, for we are convinced that complete continence is neither impossible nor harmful to human development because, in the maturity and delicacy of our vocation as women, we love Christ with a deep and personal love, expressed in our love for our Sisters, our poor and the world in which we live.

—in a spirit of renunciation, not only to renounce marriage but also to engage ourselves to avoid every external or internal offence against chastity. (74)

 

16. Our vow of chastity liberates us totally for the contemplation of God and the wholehearted and free service of the poorest of the poor. By it we cleave to Jesus with undivided love so as to:

—live in Him, for Him, by Him and with Him as our sole guide,

-be invaded by His own holiness and filled with His own spirit of love

-show forth the luminous face of Jesus, radiant with purity and love for the Father and mankind,

—make reparation to God for all the sins of the flesh committed in the world today. (75)

 

17. By our vow of chastity we do renounce God’s natural gift to women to become mothers—--for the greater gift—--that of being a virgin for Christ, of entering into a much more beautiful motherhood. (75)

 

18. One day at a meeting, I was asked to give a message. So I told the people, “Husbands Smile at your wives; wives smile at your husbands and your children.” They could not understand how I was able to tell them this sort of thing. “Are you married?” one of them asked. “Yes,” I replied, “and sometimes I find it difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be so demanding?” And it is true. By our vow of chastity we are married to Jesus. (75)

 

19. In my heart there is only one vacant seat. It is for God and nobody else. Temptation is like fire in which gold is purified. So we have to go through this fire. The temptations are allowed by God. The only thing we have to do is to refuse to give in. If I say I do not want it, I am safe. There may be temptations against purity, against faith, against my vocation. If we love our vocation, we will be tempted. But then we will also grow in sanctity. We have to fight temptation for the love of God. (75)

 

20. By the vow of chastity, I not only renounce the married state of life, but I also consecrate to God the free use of my internal and external acts—--my affections. I cannot in conscience love a creature with the love of a woman for a man. I no longer have the right to give that affection to any other creature but God.

What, then? Do we have to be stones, human beings without hearts? Do we simply say: “I don’t care; to me all human beings are the same.” No, not at all. We have to keep ourselves as we are, but keep it all for God to whom we have consecrated all our external and internal acts. (75)

 

21. Our Lord, at his dying moment, thought of His mother. That is the proof that He was human to the last. Therefore, if you have a loving nature, keep it and use it for God, if you have a smiling temperament, keep it and use it for God.

People in the world think that the vow of chastity makes us inhuman, makes us become like stones, without feelings. Each one of us can tell them it is not true. It is the vow of chastity that gives us the freedom to love everybody instead of simply becoming a mother to three or four children. A married woman can love but one man; we can love the whole world in God. The vow of chastity does not diminish us; it makes us live to the full if it is kept properly. The vow of chastity is not simply a list of don’ts—--it is love. I give myself to God and I receive God. God becomes my own and I become His own. That is why I become completely dedicated to Him by the vow of chastity.

God does not want to impose a burden on us by the vow of chastity. We must love our consecration, which sets us apart for God alone. We must be free of things to be full of God. The vow of chastity sets us free to love with our whole heart and soul for God’s sake. (76)

 

22. By my vow of chastity I free myself for the kingdom of God. I become His property and He binds Himself to take care of me. I must then give wholehearted free service. What is this wholehearted free service? It is the outcome of chastity, of binding myself to Christ. Therefore, I bind myself to give not halfhearted but wholehearted service. When we neglect to do out work well, this vow suffers most—--our service to the poor--—because we become preoccupied with whatever we are giving our affection to. (76)

 

23. Don’t allow anything to interfere with your love for Jesus. You belong to Him. Nothing can separate you from Him. That one sentence is important to remember. He will be your joy, your strength. If you hold onto that sentence, temptations and difficulties will come, but nothing will break you. (77)

 

24. Receive the symbol of our crucified spouse. I have chosen to be the spouse of Jesus crucified. Follow his footsteps in search of souls by showing great love in small things. He comes down to proclaim the good news to the poor through our works of love. We are M.C.s for that one reason only. Carry Him and his light into the homes of the poor. (77)

 

25. “Remember always, beloved daughters in Christ, the value of your religious consecration. Through your consecration to the Lord Jesus you respond to His love and discover the needs of His brothers and sisters throughout the world. This consecration expressed through your vows, is the source of your joy and fulfillment. It is the secret of your supernatural contribution to the kingdom of God. It is the measure of the effectiveness of your service to the poor, the guarantee that it will last.

“Yes, to belong to Christ Jesus is a great gift of God’s love, and may the world always see this love in your smile. To all of you goes our Apostolic Blessing.” (Pope Paul VI, Rome, June 5, 1978)

These are the Holy Father’s last words to the Missionaries of Charity. Go to Jesus and repeat to Him what I’ve told you. “Jesus in my heart, I love you. I believe in your love for me.” (77)

 

26. Chastity does not simply mean that we are not married. It means that we love Christ with an undivided love. To be pure we need poverty. Is it wrong to have things? We vow poverty not because it is wrong to have things but we choose to do without these things. (77)

 

27. The vow of chastity is to love Christ with undivided, loving chastity. It is not only that we cannot have a family, we cannot get married. But it is something deeper, something living, something real—--it is to love Him with undivided, loving chastity through the freedom of poverty. We must be free to love—--and to love Him with an undivided love. Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—--and that is our vow chastity.

By this vow we are bound to remain faithful to the humble works of the society to the poorest of the poor, the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for. That means we depend solely on Divine Providence. After years of dealing with thousands and thousands of people, we have never yet had to send anybody away because we didn’t have something to give them. There has always been one more plate of rice, one more bed. We have never had to say, “I’m sorry, I cannot take you in or I cannot give you anything.” (78)

 

28. I remember when I was leaving home fifty years ago—--my mother was dead against me leaving home and becoming a Sister. In the end, when she realized that this was what God wanted from her and from me, she said something very strange “Put your hand in His hand and walk all alone with Him?” This is exactly our way of life. We may be surrounded by many people yet our vocation is really lived out alone with Jesus. (78)

 

29. What am I binding myself to? What am I giving my vow to God about?—--I bind myself to God with undivided love. I tell Almighty God “I can love all, but the only one I will love in particular is you, only you.” (78)

 

30. To be able to understand chastity we must know what poverty and obedience are. They are like the pillars. If we remove the pillars the whole building will tip to one side and fall. (78)

 

31. Obedience

“Behold I come to do Your Will, 0 God” (Hebrew 12:7).

Submission for someone who is in love is more than a duty--—it is a blessedness.

Jesus; Only Begotten Son of the Father, equal to his Father, God from God, Light from Light, did not feel it below his dignity to obey.

Therefore we will:

—accept, love, and respect all our lawful superiors,

-sincerely pray for them

—show joyful trust in, and loyalty to them,

make our obedience cheerful, prompt, simple and constant without question or excuse.

We should obey the known wish of our superiors as well as their commands in a spirit of faith. They may make a mistake in commanding but we are infallible in obeying. (79)

 

32. Whenever our superiors think it desirable for the greater glory of God to give us a change of residence, work, or companions, we should welcome this change as the very will of God and show a humble and joyful obedience. (79)

 

33. Let the superior remember that she is first for the sisters and next for the work. Therefore, let all her dealings with her sisters be motherly, never discouraging them, especially when they fail. Let her take special care of the old and the sick and of those who do not take due care of themselves. In the house work let her be always the first to put her hand to the work. Let her have nothing special or different in food, clothes, or lodging. Let her trust her sisters completely. Let her be generous when the sisters observe poverty fervently. Let her house be a house of love, joy, and peace. (79)

 

34. True obedience is a genuine act of love. Obedience makes us practice the other virtues. It likens us to martyrs, for it is a much greater martyrdom to persevere in obedience all through life than to die in a moment by a stroke of the sword. (79)

 

35. The superior is in the place of God. The position given to her is like a chair. The chair remains, but the person can change. Today I sit in the chair; tomorrow somebody else might be sitting there. But the chair is the same. The chair may not fit some as well as others. Some are too short for it and others too tall, while yet others fit it perfectly. The chair is in the place of God who gave your superior this position. I have to obey if I want to go on in peace. (80)

 

36. It is impossible that a Sister who is obedient will not become a saint. Obedience gives us inward joy and peace. Obedience is the only condition for close union with God.

We want to become holy and therefore we have to be thoroughly obedient. God never takes from us what we are not willing to give. We must give it to Him with our own free will.

For our obedience to be cheerful and prompt, we have to be convinced that it is Jesus we obey. And how do we reach that conviction? By the practice of the heroic virtue of obedience—--love for love. If you want to know whether you love God, ask yourselves the question: “Do I obey?” If I obey, everything is all right. Why? Because everything depends on my will. Whether I become a saint or a sinner depends on me. So you see how very important obedience is. Our sanctity, after the grace of God, depends upon our will. Don’t waste time waiting for big things to do for God. You will not have the readiness to say yes to the great things if you do not train yourselves to say yes to the thousand-and-one occasions of obedience that come your way throughout the day.

Something happened to one of the Sisters who was sent to study. The day she was to receive her degree she died. When she was dying she asked, “Why did Jesus call me for such a short time?” And Mother answered, “Jesus wants you, not your works.” She was perfectly happy after that.

Knowledge of God, love of God, service of God—--that is the end of our lives—--and obedience gives us the key to it all. (80)

 

37. It is much easier to conquer a country than to conquer ourselves. Every act of disobedience weakens my spiritual life. It is like a wound letting out every drop of one’s blood. Nothing can cause this havoc in our spiritual life as quickly as disobedience.

In the gospel we find many proofs of Christ’s obedience. If we were to go to Nazareth in spirit we would first hear Our Lady’s answer to the angel, “Be it done to me according to thy word.” Then we would hear this about Jesus: “He went down and was obedient to them”—--to a carpenter and a simple village girl. Then we would hear Jesus say: “I have come to do the will of my Father, of Him who sent me.” At last, we would see Jesus at His passion, obeying his executioners blindly.

We must build our obedience on the example of Jesus in the gospel. What is this obedience? By this vow of obedience I give to God something He cannot take from me without my consent: my will, of which I have full control. (81)

 

38. To strengthen ourselves to remain obedient, we must refrain from criticism. Anything that weakens my obedience, however small, I must keep away from. If we don’t obey, we are like a building without cement. For us, obedience is like cement. Obedience is unreasonable for a proud soul, but there is no unreasonableness in obedience for a humble soul.

Obedience is something that makes me Christ-like. What we give up through poverty is something that many people in the world can do. The same is true of chastity. But to love and esteem the privilege of living under obedience is for the few chosen ones. Why love and esteem it? Because it is not only a sure means of fulfilling the will of God but is also a very special grace and honor.

What does perfect obedience bring? It is an unfailing source of peace. Inward joy comes only from perfect obedience.

Close union with God is a natural result of perfect obedience.

If we want to do something great for the church, we must first become obedient. Jesus is our model. He was poor, obedient, charitable. “In you, Jesus, I want to be pure; I want to obey; I want to be poor.” I cannot say I will find the way. No, I have to give up even my own self so that only Jesus does it in me. (82)

 

39. Poverty and obedience are very closely united. These complete each other. One cannot be without the other. That is why scripture says, “He, being rich, became poor.” Also, “Behold, I come to do Thy will, 0 God.” “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” I don’t think Jesus would have been able to live his life if He had not accepted this. He had to become poor and to obey his Father fully. He became both materially and spiritually poor. If we are proud and uncharitable, rather than empty, then we cannot really obey.

Obedience is more difficult than poverty. Our will is the only thing we can claim. In poverty nothing is ours. In obedience I have my will, the only thing God will not take by force. The more you love God the more you will obey. (82)

 

40. Many congregations have discarded this vow of obedience. They don’t have superiors anymore. Each member makes her own decisions. They have discarded obedience completely. Do you know what has happened because of that? In the US alone 50,000 nuns have left the religious life. The destruction of religious life comes mainly from the lack of obedience. Sheer negligence destroys religious life completely. (82)

 

41. Obedience is the most perfect act of love for God. I obey not because I am afraid, but because I love Jesus. Then only will I be able to progress very far in sanctity. If I neglect obedience, poverty will go. When poverty goes, chastity will go. Tradition says the angels were told to adore the Child. “I will not serve” was the first act of disobedience. They had the chance to choose. (82)

 

42. “He, being rich, became poor.” It is difficult for a proud person to obey. We do not like to bend, to be humble. To be holy we need obedience. The gospel is full of the humility of Mary. As spotless as she was, as holy as she was, she obeyed. “Humility of the heart of Jesus, fill my heart.” Let us, during the day, pray this prayer often. If there has been resentment in our hearts or if we have not accepted humiliation, we will not learn humility. We cannot learn humility from books. Jesus accepted humiliation. Nothingness cannot disobey. In our lives as Missionaries of Charity, obedience is the greatest gift we can give to God. Jesus came to do the will of his Father, and He did it from the very beginning to the very end.

If we really want to know whether something is a temptation, let us examine our obedience. It is the best light in time of temptation and we will know exactly where we are and what we are doing. It is the best light in that terrible darkness. Even for Jesus, the devil wanted to find out who He was. He was not sure. The devil will stoop to anything to find out where our weak point is. He will do anything to get us to accept that one wrong thought, to say that one unkind word, to do that one impure act, that one act of disobedience, that one instance of giving something away without permission, that one neglect of prayer—--just that one thing. If there is an award to be given for patience it should be given to the devil. He has a lot of patience. (83)

 

43. This strength we need and must learn from Jesus. That is why we need the Eucharist. See how the devil acted with Jesus. He went step by step; one temptation, then another. He failed, but began again. That is why Jesus knew how much we need Him, and that is why we should pray. Watch the beginnings. Temptations—--like temptations against purity when they come—--are only there to help us reach a greater love for purity. Obedience is the protector of all the vows and virtues. That is why we make our vows according to obedience. The devil does not care what thing he tempts us to do as long as we are not preoccupied with Jesus. (84)

 

44. One of the doorways to holiness is obedience. To be able to obey, we must be free. That is why we take a vow of poverty, having nothing. Jesus came down and was subject. We must go down in the depths of our hearts and see how to bring holiness into the Society. (84)

 

45. Many times Jesus said: “I have come to do the will of my Father. I and the Father are one.” In the Old Testament, when did God punish? When His people did not obey; when they did not keep their word to Him. (84)

 

46. How long was Jesus subject? Thirty long years. He had come to give the good news, and yet He spent thirty years doing the work of a carpenter. He was called the “son of a carpenter.” (84)

 

47. Examine your poverty. Is it something joyful? Examine your obedience. Is your obedience total surrender? They are twins. Poverty is the sister and obedience is the brother. If you know poverty and obedience, you will love them. If you love them, you will keep them. (84)

 

48. Difficult, yes. It’s meant to be difficult. Jesus says: “If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross and follow me.” He doesn’t force us. He says, “if you want.” We are not the only ones that have to obey. Even taxi drivers have to obey. Red light, green light, that’s also obedience.

I’ve never received so many graces as through obedience. You will receive many more graces if you surrender totally.

Love for obedience is love for the will of God. (84)

 

49. Rome, July 26, 2965

And all the superiors of our society—--be what our Holy Father said in public—--the servant of the servants of God. You are to serve and not to be served; the word “co-worker” fits each one of you more than any other Sister. Remember, you are first for the Sisters. Help them to grow to be Christ-like. Know each Sister better. Then you will love her and only then will you serve her with a devoted love, as Christ loved each one of us. (85)

 

50. Obedience well lived frees us from selfishness and pride and so it helps us to find God and, in Him, the whole world. Obedience is a special grace, and it produces unfailing peace, inward joy, and close union with God.

Obedience transforms small, commonplace things and occupations into acts of living faith, and faith in action is love, and love in action is service of the loving God. Obedience lived with joy creates a living awareness of the Presence of God, and so fidelity to acts of obedience becomes like drops of oil that keep the light of Jesus aflame in our life. (85)

 

51. Wholehearted, Free Service to the Poorest of the Poor

Our consecrated service to the poorest of the poor is Christ’s call to us through His Church,

—to love Him wholeheartedly and freely in the poorest of the poor with whom He identifies Himself and makes his presence in them known, loved, and served by all.

—to make reparation for sins of hatred, coldness, lack of concern and love for Him in the world today, in one another and in the person of the poorest of the poor. (86)

 

52. By this vow we bind ourselves to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor according to obedience.

   —Wholehearted means with hearts burning with zeal and love for souls, with single minded devotion, wholly rooted in our deep union with God in prayer and fraternal love, that we give them not only our hands to serve, but also our hearts to love with kindness and humility, entirely at disposal of the poor. (86)

 

53. We give immediate and effective service to the poorest of the poor, as long as they have no one to help them, by:

feeding the hungry: not only with food but also with the Word of God,

—giving drink to the thirsty: not only for water but for knowledge, peace, truth justice, and love,

—clothing the naked not only with clothes, but also with human dignity,

-giving shelter to the homeless: not only a shelter made of bricks, but a heart that understands, that covers, that loves,

—nursing the sick and the dying: not only the body, but also the mind and spirit. (86)

 

55. The poorest of the poor, irrespective of caste, creed or nationality are:

The hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the ignorant, the captives, the crippled, the leprosy sufferers, the alcoholics, the sick and dying destitute, the unloved, the abandoned, the outcasts, all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, and every Missionary of Charity by accepting to live the life of evangelical poverty and by the very fact of being sinners---and all hard-hearted, persistent sinners, those under the power of the evil one, those who are leading others to sin, error or confusion, the atheists, the erring, those in confusion and doubt, the tempted, the spiritually blind, weak, lax and ignorant, those not yet touched by the light of Christ, those hungry for the word and peace of God, the difficult, the repulsive, the rejected, the sorrowful and the souls in purgatory. (86)

 

56. Our vocation is to follow the lowliness of Christ. We remain right on the ground by living Christ’s concern for the poorest and the lowliest and by being of immediate but effective service to them until they find some others who can help in a better and more lasting way. (86)

 

57. As you love God you must love the poor in their sufferings. The love of the poor overflows from your love for God. You must find the poor and serve them. When you have found them, you must take them to your heart. We owe our people the greatest gratitude because they allow us to touch Christ. We must love the poor like Him. A Hindu told me, “I know what you do in Nirmal Hriday, you take them from the streets and bring them to heaven.” (87)

 

58. The difference between our work and social work is that we give wholehearted, free service for the love of God. In the beginning, when the work started, I got a fever and had a dream about St. Peter. He said to me, “No, there is no place for you here. No slums in heaven.” “All right,” I answered him, “then I shall go on working. I’ll bring the people from the slums to heaven.” (87)

 

59. Our vocation is not our work—--the fidelity to humble works is our means to put our love into action. (87)

 

60.“That they may all be one even as you, Father, are in Me and I in you: that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe that you have sent Me” (John 17:21).

God will take care of you, if you remain one. (87)

 

61. As a religious community, modeled on the first Christian community, our first great responsibility is to be community, revealing first to one another something of God’s own love, concern, and tenderness—---what it means to know and to be known, to love and to be loved, and thus to be a sign witnessing to the deepest vocation of the Church, which is to gather people from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, redeemed by the Blood of Christ, to form God’s family of love. “See how they love each other.” (87)

 

62. Just as Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, we will also go out two by two with permission and with a Sister as a companion. We will pray the rosary on the streets and help each other to fervor and zeal, and we will also protect each other. (88)

 

63. The superior of each house, however, will remember that she is first for the Sisters and next for the work. Therefore

—all her dealing with the Sisters will be motherly, never discouraging them, especially in failure,

—she will encourage and joyfully welcome each member to make a personal and valuable contribution to the well-being of the society and the Church. This will lead to wiser decisions that will prove beneficial to all.

—she will always be the first to devote herself to the housework,

—she will have nothing special or different in food, clothes, or lodging

—she will trust her Sisters completely and be generous always, especially when the Sisters observe poverty well,

—she will respect with utmost discretion all that the Sisters confide in her, and do not wish to be revealed, especially personal matters. She will never force secrets out of them,

—above all, by her own example of humility, obedience and oneness with her higher superiors, she will teach her Sisters the art of doing “always the things that please the Father.” (88)

 

64. We shall always keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore we shall be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures.

Our love for one another will be:

—selfless, generous, tender, personal, and respectful,

—beyond likes and dislikes, friendship and enmity, worthiness unworthiness,

—faithful, deep, and freeing

—not compromising because we care; compassionate and forgiving because we understand,

-always inspiring, encouraging, trusting, wholehearted and sacrificial unto the death of the cross. (88)

 

65. My vows bind me to my Sister because she is much poorer than the poor outside. If I am not kind and do not smile to the poor outside, someone else will. But for my Sister there is no one else. (89)

 

66. Motherhouse, October 4, 1969

In times of her weakness, your superior comes and appears as Christ in his distressing disguise—---she needs your love, your humility, your trust. Trust her with loving trust, in spite of herself, for Jesus in her has not changed. He is the same, as there is only one Jesus.

Our society is still young. Our superiors are still without experience. Have compassion on them, be kind to them. See the hand of the good God that is trying to write a wonderful message of love to you personally using that bad pencil, maybe even a broken pencil. Even so, it is the hand of God, and you must try to understand and refrain from examining the pencil. Today He uses the pencil which is rough and yet the loving message is there—--always beautiful, always true, always thoughtful—--only for you. Christ will use only that pencil in the place you are—--for you. Therefore, kiss the hand, but do not try to break the pencil. (89)

 

67. Our Life Together

As a sign of entrance into a new state of life by religious consecration and as a sign of our desire for self-effacement:

—we receive a new religious name at the time of profession

—we call each other “Sister.”

Our Religious dress consists of:

—a simple and modest white cotton habit,

—a white cotton sari with blue border covering the head,

—a cincture made of rope,

—sandals,

—a crucifix and a rosary.

These will be the sign of:

—our consecrated love for God and the Church,

—our dedication to the world’s poor, and

—a reminder of the edification expected from all those who wear it. (90)

 

68. Candidates desirous to join the Society must be:

—at least eighteen years of age,

—free from impediments,

-guided by the right intention,

—healthy in body and mind, and hence able to bear the hardships of this special vocation,

—able to acquire knowledge (especially the language of the people they serve)

—of a cheerful disposition,

—able to exercise sound judgment. (90)

 

69. The Sisters shall wear a plain Indian dress, that is, a white habit, a white sari with blue par, a girdle made of rope, a crucifix and sandals.

The White Habit and a sari with blue border is the sign of Mary’s modesty; it should remind me of my separation from the world and its vanities, of my baptismal robe and how pure I must keep my heart.

The Girdle made of rope is the sign of Mary’s angelic Purity. It should remind me that I should aim at the same purity helped by the strong guardian, Holy Poverty.

Sandals are a sign of freedom; of our own free choice we follow Christ in search of souls.

The Crucifix is a sign of love—--the sign we should know, love, and imitate. When I dress myself I should, with devotion, remember what each article of my religious habit means to me. Therefore, I should say each prayer with great love.

Yes, our dress is a sign that we belong—--that is why we must great care. This habit is a protection for us, both bodily and spiritual protection. Be grateful for the habit. (90)

 

70. The work we have to do, requires a healthy body. Therefore, each sister is in her conscience bound to take care of her health.

The amount of food, which is very wisely prescribed for us, must be taken faithfully. This we do, not for the satisfaction of the senses, but to show our Lord our desire to work for Him and with Him, that we may be able to live lives of penance and reparation. (91)

 

71. It would be a defect to speak about food or to complain about what is served. To be occupied with such thoughts at any time is not edifying. If dishes taste well, thank God! If not, thank Him still, and thank Him even more because He has given you an opportunity to imitate Our Savior in his poverty. Christ certainly did not feast sumptuously during his life. His parents were poor, and the poor do not feast on the good things of the table. In fact, He often endured real want, as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the plucking of the ears of corn on walks through the fields teach us. These incidents should be salutary reminders to us when our meals are meager. (91)

 

72. To join the congregation we need few things. We need health of mind and body. We need the ability to learn. We need plenty common sense and a cheerful disposition. I think common sense and cheerfulness are very necessary for a work like this. (91)

 

73. June 1, 1972

As travelling expenses are becoming very high, we have decided in future to take with us, besides our clothes—--only our pillow, pillowcase, two sheets, one blanket, glass, cup, and big plate. The rest will be provided for you in each house. (Things should be numbered 1, 2, 3 etc.—--everything numbered number 1 will go to one Sister; number 2 will go to the next Sister, and so on. This means that each house should have things according to the number of members in the house.) (92)

 

74. February 25,1974

Once a month you must all help clean the godown where food and relief goods are kept. All the Sisters in the house must know what you have to give to the poor, but one Sister must be responsible for giving it rather than everyone giving at random. Also, it would be good for everyone, including the superior—--to clean drains and toilets at least once a week and to give a helping hand in the kitchen. Wherever there is a plot of land, make sure you work in the garden and plant as many fruit trees as possible so that you can give food to the poor. This will help you return to the spirit of hard labor and sacrifice which has always characterized the society. (92)

 

75. We have been called to give until it hurts. Our constitution says that “as a sign of our consecration we receive a new name.” We vow to give ourselves to God completely, and our new name expresses that vow. Our name is called and we answer: “Lord, you have called me.” The moment we stop hearing our name being called we will be separated from Him. We can recognize His voice calling our name only in the silence of our hearts. Changing our names shows that we belong not to ourselves but to Jesus. (92)

 

76. Never lose the chance to become like Jesus. We profess before the world, “I am the spouse of Jesus crucified.” Like the woman at the altar who professes before the world her marriage to one man, we, too, change our name to show that we belong to Jesus completely. (92)

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