Mother Teresa on Mary in their Life by Edward Le Joly
The passages below are from the book “Mother Teresa—Messenger of God’s Love” by Edward Le Joly.
“I am the handmaid of the Lord.” —Luke 1:38
“Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of our Joy, bless your own Missionaries of Charity.” Such is the invocation Mother composed for her Sisters which they repeat daily many times.
Mary is the patroness of the Society; the feast is celebrated on August 22 under the title of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of our Joy, Queen of the world. On that day the Sisters renew their Vows and their Consecration to Our Lady.
The devotion to Our Lady and the deep filial trust and affection they have in and for Mary does not at all replace the devotion still more intense and complete they have for Jesus. It is no substitute, nor competing devotion. On the contrary it strengthens the complete surrender to Christ and the imitation of his life and holiness. Mary is the first link between heaven and earth. The Son of God became man in and through Mary, his Mother. He gave his Mother to his disciples on the Cross, in the person of the beloved disciple, St John. By so doing Christ established one more link with his faithful followers: they have the same mother as he has. We can say with him as he said: “Mary is my Mother.”
It is certain that none ever did love, nor will ever love Jesus as deeply, as thoroughly, as heroically as Mother Mary did. Thus she is a model for all who wish to love Jesus. Her love was strong, personal, intimate, understanding, generous to the limit of human powers. So Mary will teach us better than anyone on earth how to love Jesus.
But then to learn to love Mary, the Sisters are advised to turn to Jesus and ask him to deepen their love for his Mother, a thing that can only be most pleasing to him as a loving Son. They will ask the Beloved Lord that
“They may love his Mother as he did,
be a cause of joy to her as he was,
keep close to her as he kept,
be ready to share everything with her as he did,
even his Cross, as she stood on Calvary offering him to God
the Father for the redemption of the world.”
The emblem of the Missionaries of Charity, which graces all their official stationery and that of the Co-Workers all over the world, shows a rosary encircling the globe, bringing the cross to rest on India, a symbol of the Kingdom of Christ brought forth through prayer and the intercession of Our Lady. It is the chain of love uniting all those who follow in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, join in her apostolic effort, her mission of love. The beads are the links between God and man.
St Paul who writes even before the Gospels as we have them now were composed, before the cult of Mary had developed in the Church, mentions her unique importance in the plan of salvation of the Father. He writes to the Galatians (4:4): “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
In Mary and through Mary the Son of God entered into our human history. That Jesus is born of a woman guarantees his humanity, shows that he is really a man. The Father by sending us his Son makes to mankind the best gift, the greatest honour possible, through the incarnation of his Word born of the Virgin Mary.
Devotion to Mary is a pillar of the spirituality of Mother Teresa and her Sisters. They see her as inseparable from Christ, which is sound theology. Mary plays an essential part in the redemption of the world. She is the “Yes” of mankind to God’s plan. The Father asks her if she will accept to be the mother of his only-begotten Son who will become man? She says, “Yes, I will.”
Mary is the woman of faith: she surrenders to God, ready to carry out his orders to help him realize his plan of salvation. The Father will save the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Redeemer. Mary is associated to this action.
Mary is the perfect model of the virtues the Sisters are expected to practise to be faithful to their calling.
If they are to be contemplatives in action, Mary is their model: remaining in the world, she saw the presence and the action of God in everything, “pondering in her heart” what had been done to her by the Lord God, meditating on the presence of Jesus. She is an example of total surrender to God, as the Handmaid of the Lord, of “profound reverence in the adoration and deep recollection in the contemplation of God,” the Sisters are invited to imbibe (No. 20).
Mary gives us a perfect example of the humility, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion and love, the Sisters are told to imitate in their dealings with one another and with the poor people to whom they devote themselves.
Mary shows concern for the hosts at Cana, who might be humbled and pained on account of the lack of wine for their guests. She puts their need before her Son and asks him to do something to relieve this humiliation. And she brings him to manifest his power, to give a sign that will make all present reflect “who is this man who can do such things, who has power over the elements.”
Mary is an example of service even before being asked, going spontaneously to help her cousin Elizabeth when she learns that her cousin is with child. The Sisters will also have to go out spontaneously, before being called, to render service to those in need.
Mary brings Jesus with her to those ignorant of him. The Sisters are to bring Jesus to lanes and by-lanes, suburbs and slums, to places where he is not present, not known. By their presence, their example, their devotion, their cheerfulness in service, they will manifest him, and bring joy into the life of those who did not know it.
Mary, “umile et alta piu che creatura” in the words of Dante, the most humble and yet the most graced of all God’s creatures, is a perfect model of love for Jesus and for the neighbour. A perfect instance of womanhood, the only person to be graced with both perfect chastity, reserved to God, and with motherhood.
“I think our Mother Church has raised womanhood to something beautiful for God by making Our Lady the Mother of the Church.” Speaking to women at the Philadelphia Eucharistic Congress, Mother speaks of the glory of Christian womanhood, of the wonderful vocation of woman who imitate Mary in the home and in the world. In passionate accents, with burning words, she pours out her soul in thanksgiving to God and in praise of Mary, whom she sees as the forerunner of the Eucharist in the Church.
Indeed, Mother likes to link her devotion to the Eucharist, so central in her spirituality, with devotion to Mother Mary, who she sees as the one who can truly say of the body of Jesus that it is her own body and who becomes the first altar on which the body of Christ is offered. Mother tells her eager listeners: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son” (John, 3:16) and I think that was the first Eucharist, the giving of the son whom God gave to Our Lady and Our Lady was the first altar, and she was the one who can in all sincerity say “this is my body”. For she gave her body, her strength, her whole being in making the body of Christ. In her the power of the Holy Spirit dwelled and the Word was made flesh, and she in turn in surrendering herself in total surrender to the living God, when this coming of Christ was announced to her through the angel, asked only one question. She had offered her virginity, her chastity, her purity to God and had to keep her promise; but when the angel explained how it would be, she answered with the beautiful words: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
It should be noted that the term “the first Eucharist” cannot be taken in a literal, strict sense, as anticipating the Last Supper or equal to our Eucharistic celebration, neither does Mother in tend it to. It expresses an analogy. Mary, speaking in her own name, can say in some way that the body of Jesus is her body, as it issues from her body, is produced by her own life-blood. Whereas the priest celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice repeats the words of Christ. Speaking in Christ’s name, he repeats the words of the Saviour at the Last Supper: “This is my body”, that is the body of Christ and not the priest’s own body.
Once we possess in ourselves the presence of Christ, we are urged by an interior grace to share this good news of God’s love, this blessing with others, as Mary did. “Our Lady,” continued Mother, “the most beautiful of all women, the greatest, the humblest, the most pure, the most holy, the moment she felt she was full of grace, full of Jesus, went in haste, and here she is a model for all women by sharing immediately what she had received. This is, so to say, like the breaking of the Eucharist; and we know what happened to St John the Baptist: he leaped with joy at the presence of Christ.”
Devotion to an imitation of Mary introduces a welcome to Trinitarian dimension into the spirituality of the Missionaries of Charity. Mother stresses that like Mary they are to be “the handmaid of the Lord” that is the dutiful and obedient daughters of God the Father, who elects them to be all directed to his Son. They are at his beck and call, ready to do his will, as the Lord Jesus himself was. They feel and act as the daughters of the Father.
Like Mary they allow the Holy Spirit to rest in their soul and bring into them the presence of Jesus. For the spirit of God who overshadowed Mary to make her fruitful of a Son who was to be named Jesus, the Spirit by whose power the bread and wine are changed at the Eucharistic sacrifice into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Spirit who makes the Christian at baptism and confirmation into another Christ, the same Spirit makes the Church and the nun, to be the spouses of Jesus, consecrated to their Lord and Master, the divine Bridegroom.
And to the Son of God the nun vows her life, her troth, her service, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, for as long as he will decide, in life and in death.
Mary is a beautiful example of our personal relations with the three divine Persons. Like the poet Dante in the Divine Comedy, yearning for a glimpse of the divine Essence, for some understanding of the personal relationships of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we come to the feet of Our Lady and beseech her with St Bernard in endearing terms to grant us a glimpse of the divine Beauty. Looking up to her as she raises her eyes to God, we may be privileged to see in her eyes a reflection, pale perhaps, but exact of the vision that gives perfect happiness to the elect of God. And if we look into the heart of Mary we shall find perfect love for Jesus, the Father’s and Mary’s Son, a love inspiring and stimulating.
In November 1980, when the great work of their General Chapter framing the new Constitutions had been concluded, Mother summed up its spirit: “As the fruit of our General Chapter, we decided to insist on two things: right intention and humility, in imitation of Our Lady doing everything for Jesus. If we are humble and do everything for Jesus, all will go well.”
Expressing her gratitude to Mary for her continued protection, Mother says: “The Society is due to her and it is through her intercession that we obtained everything.”
Indeed, from the start there were instant prayers to the Mother of God. The picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was above the altar in the small chapel of the Upper Room. It now hangs in the Mother-house. The Sisters accompanied Father Julien Henry on his praying processions to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Mother requested her Sisters and friends to say hundreds of “Memorare” to obtain the house she needed to start a bigger novitiate; it has become the Mother-house.
In everyone of their chapels, as also at the entrance of every house, in the courtyard or portico, there is a grotto or a statue of Mary to welcome all. Mary leads to Jesus, obtains from Jesus, shows how we should behave to please Jesus.
Mother knows that God delights in granting favours through the intercession of Mary. It is to his honour that we make our requests through her. And truly Mother can recall instances when favours quite unexpected were obtained through prayer to Mary.
In September 1980 Mother reported: “Of late I passed through East Berlin, where we have opened our first foundation under Communist rule. I came from the West with one Sister I wished to remain there for work. But she had no visa. So she was allowed in East Berlin only for one day. She was to leave before the evening. They are very strict on that point. You cannot stay for the night there without a regular visa. For me, there was no difficulty, as I have a diplomatic passport; but the Indian Sister could not remain beyond the evening. We had applied for a visa, but it did not come. So we started praying to Our Lady. Together with the other Sisters of the house we said nine “memorare”. As we finished, a phone call came and a voice told us, “There is no hope of getting the visa for that Sister; she must leave today.”
“Anyway we did not take ‘no’ for a final answer. Later we again started praying together nine ‘memorare’, down on our knees, and we offered them in thanksgiving for the favour. Just after the eighth memorare, the phone rang and a voice said: ‘The visa has been obtained; the Sister may stay.’ She was granted a visa for six months, just like the other Sisters. So the next day I left her there and continued on my journey.”
If this is not the faith that moves mountains, where will it be found? What pertains to his glory, God gives, and gives it especially through Mother Mary.
Mother’s strong devotion to Mary, can be tender, intimate, simple, as she herself at times reveals.
“The other day I went to see Archbishop Fulton Sheen,” said Mother. “He was in hospital and no visitors were allowed. Strictly no visitors. I wanted to see him; but the nurse would not allow me to do so. I insisted and finally she gave in, but said I must not make him talk. I went in the room; he looked very low. I told him, ‘You have done much for Jesus,’ and gave him a little statue of Our Lady I carried in my pocket. He took the statue and kissed it.”
“You know, I always carry a tiny statue of Our Lady in my pocket. At times, I give it away to some person for a very special reason. Then I get another one. The day I gave this one to Fulton Sheen, someone gave me another one, a very pretty one, in the afternoon.
“Our Lady is my Companion on my tours. I call her my Companion since the following fact happened. I had asked the Father at Berhampur, after bringing my Sisters there, to give me a big statue of the Miraculous Virgin with arms extended downwards and palms open, sending graces to the world. He did so, packed it well in a large case and I took it to the station. I had a railway pass for ‘Mother Teresa and a companion’. They wanted me to pay for the freight of the case and the statue; but I refused. ‘I have a pass for myself and a companion,’ I said; ‘here is my companion. It is the statue of Mother Mary and she travels with me as a companion.’ They let me take her without paying extra for the freight of the box. Since then, I say that Our Lady is my travelling Companion. I am never alone.”