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Mother Teresa on Shine Through Me
The following passages are taken from the book, “A Life for God,” compiled by LaVonne Neff and published in 1995.
Mother Teresa loves this prayer by John Henry Newman, a nineteenth-century English theologian and cardinal. At the end of each day’s Mass, the Missionaries of Charity pray it together.
Dear Lord, help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, 0 Lord! Stay with me, then I shall begin to shine as you do; so to shine as to be a light to other. The light, O Lord, will be all from You; none of it will be mine, it will be you shining on others through me. Let me thus praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen.
The prayer is based on Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, your light must shine before men, so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Mother Teresa has given her life to letting Jesus shine through her. She does not preach about Jesus very often. She doesn’t need to: people see Jesus in her, because she is doing his work in his spirit.
Dear Lord, help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. . .
1. Jesus has chosen us for himself; we belong to him. Let us be so convinced of this belonging that we do not allow anything, however small, to separate us from this belonging—--from this love. (92)
2. While we are preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit, I pray for you that the Holy Spirit may fill you with his purity, so that you can see the face of God in each other and in the faces of the poor you serve. I ask the Holy Spirit to free you of all impurity--—body, soul, mind, will, and heart—--that each one of you become the living tabernacle of God Most High, and so become a carrier of God’s love and compassion. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you a sinner without sin. (92)
3. The Scriptures tell us, “I have called you by name. You belong to me. You are precious to me. I love you.” God himself declares that we are precious to him. He loves us, and he wants us to respond to his love. In a special way, this refers to those of us who have committed ourselves to belong to God. Your vocation, as well as mine, can be summed up this way: to belong to Jesus, to love with conviction that nothing and no one can separate us from the love of Christ. We want to love him with an undivided love through chastity. We want to embrace poverty willingly for him. We want to surrender ourselves freely. We want to give of ourselves generously through obedience and service to the poor. (92)
4. Our ideal is no one but Jesus. We must think as he thinks, love as he loves, wish as he wishes; we must permit him to use us to the full. It is beautiful to see the humility of Christ—--”Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself, of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 KJV). (92)
5. One day St Margaret Mary asked Jesus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” “Give me a free hand,” Jesus answered. He will perform the divine work of sanctity, not you, and he asks only for your docility. Let Him empty and amend you, and afterwards fill the chalice of your heart to the brim, that you in your turn may give of your abundance. See Him in the tabernacle, fix your eyes on Him who is the light; bring your hearts close to His divine heart; ask Him to grant you the grace of knowing Him, the love of loving Him, the courage to serve Him. Seek him fervently. (93)
6. If you give to people a broken Christ, a lame Christ, a crooked Christ---deformed by you, that is all they will have. If you want them to love him, they must know Him first. Therefore, give the whole Christ first to the sisters, then to the people in the slums: Christ full of zeal, love, joy, and sunshine. Do I come up to the mark? Am I a dark light, a false light, a bulb without the connection, having no current, therefore shedding no radiance? Put your heart into being a bright light. Say to Christ, “Help me to shed thy fragrance everywhere I go.” (93)
7. Let the poor, seeing you, be drawn to Christ. Poverty makes people very bitter, and they speak and act without realizing what they do. But do they remember Christ when they see you—--even if they get angry--—because you remind them of Christ? Draw them to God but never, never to yourself. If you are not drawing them to God, then you are seeking yourself; and people love you for yourself and not because you remind them of Christ. (93)
8. Don’t search for Jesus in far lands—--he is not there. He is close to you; He is with you. Just keeps the lamp burning and you will always see Him. Keep on filling the lamp with all these little drops of love, and you will see how sweet is the Lord you love. (94)
9. Spiritual life is union with Jesus—--the divine and the human in mutual giving. The only thing Jesus asks is that I commit myself to Him, in total poverty, in total forgetfulness of self. (94)
10. A Missionary of Charity is a messenger of God’s love, a living lamp that offers its light to all. We are to take Christ to those places where He has not yet been taken.
The sisters ought to feed only one desire: Jesus. We must not be afraid to do what He has done. We must courageously face danger and death itself for His love and with His help.
A Missionary will always carry Christ’s interest in her heart and in her spirit. The fire of love must be lodged in her heart. This love forces her to give herself tirelessly. This becomes her aim and her glory. (94)
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, O Lord! Stay with me, then I shall begin to shine as you do; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, 0 Lord, will be all from you; none of it will be mine; it will be you shining on others through me. Let me thus praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around me.... (94)
11. We are like machines. When one little thing in the machine is not working, then the whole machine is not working properly. (94)
12. The little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, said: “When I act and think with charity, I feel it is Jesus who works within me. The closer I am united with him, the more I love all the other dwellers in Carmel.” To understand this and practice it we need much prayer, which unites us with God and overflows continually upon others. Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love for God from within. Therefore the one who is most united to him gives her neighbor most. (94)
13. Christ’s life was not written while he was living, even though he accomplished the most important work that exists: redeeming the world and teaching mankind to love his Father. Our work is Christ’s work, and so we have to be his instruments, to carry out our small work and to disappear. (95)
14. We should not be afraid to give Jesus to others. We should not be afraid to put our love into action. We should not be afraid to pray, to work, and to make our work a prayer. This is what a distinguished person in India said: “When I see the sisters in the streets of Calcutta, I always have the impression that Jesus Christ has come again into the world and that he is again going about, doing good works through the sisters.” These words, expressed in such a beautiful way, are moving to me. I like to repeat them to everyone, especially to you, my Co-workers. Through your deeds done to help the poor, Christ is going about doing good. Those who see us will see Christ in us. (95)
15. As Jesus can no longer live his passion in his body, Mother Church gives the opportunity to allow Jesus to live his passion and death in our body, heart, and soul. Even so, there is no comparison with his passion. Still we need so much grace just to accept whatever he gives and give whatever he takes with joy, love, and a smile. (95)
16. You may be writing, and the fullness of your heart will come to your hand also. Your heart may speak through writing. Your heart may speak through your eyes also. You know that when you look at people they must be able to see God in your eyes. If you get distracted and worldly then they will not be able to see God like that. The fullness of our heart is expressed in our eyes, in our touch, in what we write, in what we say, in the way we walk, the way we receive, the way we need. That is the fullness of our heart expressing itself in many different ways. (95)
17. I wish to live this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them—--our poor---to take upon me something of their sufferings. For only by being with them can we redeem them, that is, by bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God. (96)
18. The special aim of the Society is to labor at the conversion and sanctification of the poor in the slums; that is, by nursing the sick and the dying, by gathering and teaching little street children, by visiting and caring for beggars and their children, by giving shelter to the abandoned. To labor at the conversion and sanctification of the poor in the slums involves hard, ceaseless toiling without results, without counting the cost. To convert and sanctify is the work of God, but God has chosen the Missionaries of Charity in His great mercy to help Him in His own work. It is a special grace granted to the Missionaries of Charity, without any merit of theirs, to carry the light of Christ into the dark holes of the slums. “I have other food to eat that you know not of. Lift up your eyes and see the fields, white and ready for the harvest” (John 4:32-35). This is my food, the conversion and sanctification of souls. (96)
19. When we do “our work,” visiting the families, teaching the children, nursing the sick, helping the dying, gathering the little children for church, we should do it with one aim in view: the salvation of the poor. We want to bring them to Jesus and bring Jesus to them.
The knowledge we impart must be that of Jesus crucified. St. Augustine says: “Before allowing his tongue to speak, the apostle ought to raise his thirsting soul to God, and then give forth what he has drunk in and pour forth what he has been filled with.”
Zeal for souls is the effect and the proof of true love of God. If we really love God, we cannot but be consumed with the desire of saving souls, the greatest and the dearest interest of Jesus. Therefore, zeal is the test of love and the test of zeal is devotedness to his cause—--spending our life and energy in the work for souls. (96)
20. We have to carry our Lord to places where he has not walked before. Therefore the sisters must be consumed with one desire: Jesus. Speak of no one but Him crucified. We must not be afraid to do the things He did—--to go fearlessly through death and danger with Him and for Him.
A “missionary” carries the interest of Christ continually in her heart and mind. In her heart there must be the fire of divine love and of zeal for God’s glory and for the salvation of souls. This love makes her spend herself without ceasing. This becomes her real object in life and her joy.
The missionary must die daily, if she wants to bring souls to God. She must be ready to pay the price He paid for souls, to walk in the way He walked. (97)
21. Our holy faith is nothing but a gospel of love, revealing to us God’s love for men and women and claiming in return their love for God. God is love. A missionary must be a missionary of love. We must spread God’s love on earth if we want to make souls repent wholeheartedly for sin, strengthen them against temptation, increase their generosity and their desire to suffer for Christ. Let us “act Christ’s love among men and women,” remembering the words of the Imitation of Christ “Love feels no burden, values no labours, would willingly do more than it can, complains not of impossibility because it conceives that it may and can do all things; when weary is not tired; when straitened is not constrained, when frightened is not disturbed; but like a lively flame and a torch all on fire, it mounts upwards and securely passes through all oppositions.” (97)
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen. (97)
22. There is so much suffering everywhere. Be holy and fervent. God will use you to relieve this suffering. The gospel was preached to the poor to prove that Christ was divine, that He was the expected Messiah. The proof that this is God’s work is also that the gospel is preached to the poor. Pray and thank God for having chosen you to live this life and do this work. (97)
23. We have been instrumental in preaching the Word of God to the poor, the neglected, the sorrowful, the lonely of all nations. Unworthy though we are, God has used us to make him known and loved by this God-oblivious world. We have the privilege of entering the very homes of the poor and neglected faithful, pulling them and their children out of their beds and bringing them together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in her sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s Supper. What Vatican II has been asking today, we have by the grace of God been already doing since the very moment of foundation of our Society. (98)
24. Once, someone asked me “Why do you go abroad? Don’t you have enough poor in India?” So I answered, “I think Jesus told us to go and preach to all the nations.” That is why we go all over the world to preach His love and compassion. (98)
25. Q: Missionaries used to be sent from the supposedly civilized world to the so-called Third World. Now, you are coming from India to evangelize us.
MT: It is just what Jesus said, “Go and preach the good news to all nations.” Spain is one of the nations where we want to preach. Just as St. Francis Xavier was Spain’s gift to India, now India is giving Spain missionaries prepared by St Francis Xavier, who are returning and proclaiming the Good News. This is a sign of the joy of loving God: sharing that love with others. (98)
26. Converting means leading to God. Sanctifying means filling with God. Converting and sanctifying are God’s work. But in his infinite mercy God has chosen the Missionaries of Charity to help him in his own work.
To be able to carry Christ’s light to the poorest corners of the slums is a special favor that is granted to us, not due to any special merit on our part. The Missionaries of Charity are willing to devote themselves without rest to search for the dying in the darkest, poorest, and most abandoned places.
Concern is the demonstration of God’s true love. Diligence, eagerness, fervor, are the test of love; and the test of fervor is the willingness to devote one’s own life to working for souls. We must not feel attached to a single place; we must be willing to go all over the world. (98)
27. When speaking is due, we should not be afraid. Someone inside will tell us what we are to say and how we should say it. Christ must be preached in such a way that we can say to pagans that they can get to know him, to heretics and schematics that they can come back to the right path, to lax Catholics that they can obtain his mercy, and to the good and pious that they can let themselves be consumed by his love. (99)
28. The sister must have one thing clear: there is a soul to save, a soul to bring to God. The sister has to be extremely kind and gentle; in touch of hand, in tone of voice, in her smile—--for the work is very delicate. Nirmal Hriday (a hospital run by the Missionaries of Charity) is a treasure house; so is every hospital. An unkind word or look is enough to spoil the work. Such perfection of charity is not in us but we must acquire it—--kindness in action. You will not learn kindness by looking after sick people unless you practice it on healthy people, because the sick are often trying and hard to please. (99)
29. With no opportunity to receive the religious message, the most upright and intelligent spirit is in fact nothing but a bee locked up in a bottle. (99)
30. The sisters take care of thousands and thousands of lepers. Our sisters wash lepers covered with wounds, for they are the wounds of Jesus. It is there that we feed Jesus. One day, one of our sisters was lovingly washing a leper’s open sores. A Muslim cleric was standing by and watching. He said, “All these years I have believed that Jesus Christ was a prophet. Today I believe that Jesus Christ is God if he is able to give such joy to this sister to do this work with so much love.” (99)
31. One day, we picked up a man off the street who looked like a fairly well-to-do person. He was completely drunk. He couldn’t even stand up because he was so drunk!
We took him to our home. The sisters treated him with such love, such care, such kindness.
After a fortnight, he told the sisters, “Sisters, my heart is open. Through you I have come to realize that God loves me. I’ve felt His tender love for me. I want to go home.” And we helped him get ready to go home.
After a month, he came back to our home and gave the sisters his first paycheck. He told the sisters, “Do to others what you have done to me.” And he walked away a different person.
Love had brought him back to his family, to his children’s tenderness, to his wife’s understanding love.
Let us ask Our Lady to teach us how to love and how to have the courage to share. (100)
32. In India, I was asked by some government people, “Don’t you want to make us all Christians?”
I said, “Naturally, I would like to give the treasure I have to you, but I cannot. I can only pray for you to have the courage to receive it.”
Faith is a gift from God. (100)
33. When our sisters were in Ceylon, a minister of state once told me something very surprising. He said, ‘You know, Mother, I love Christ but I hate Christians.” So I asked him how that could be. He answered, “Because Christians do not give us Christ they do not live their Christian lives to the full.” Gandhi said something very similar, “If Christians were to live their Christian lives to the full, there would not be one Hindu left in India.” Isn’t it very true? This love of Christ should urge us to spend ourselves without ceasing. (100)
34. Even God cannot force himself on anyone who does not want him. Faith is a gift. Let us not humiliate the Hindus by saying, “For a plate of rice you give up your religion.” Christianity is a living reality. It is a search, and we must desire it and find God. (100)
35. Recently, one great Brazilian man, a man of high position, wrote to me that he had lost faith in God and man. He gave up his position and everything and only wanted to commit suicide. One day, as he was passing by a shop, his eyes suddenly fell on a TV in the window. On the TV was the scene of Nirmal Hriday, the sisters looking after the sick and dying. He wrote to me that after seeing that scene, he knelt and prayed for the first time in many years. Now he has decided to turn back to God and have faith in humanity because he saw that God still loves the world. (101)
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