Mother Teresa on Our Life of Service and Evangelization selected by Brother Angelo Devananda
The following passages are taken from the book, “Contemplative at the Heart of the World,” selected by Brother Angelo Devananda and published in 1985.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me (Mt 25:40)
Faith in action is love. Love in action is service.
1. No work should be introduced or accepted which is not in conformity with the aim of the society. As the society and all its members must be free to go in search of souls, to carry God’s love among the poorest of the poor, it follows that we will have no regular schools, no boarding schools, no hospitals, no nursing homes except those homes needed for the homeless destitutes and the unwanted. (105)
2. In the slums the Sisters should find a place where they will gather little street children, whoever they may be. Their very first concern is to make them clean, feed them, and only then teach them, and prepare them for admission into regular schools. The love of God must be proposed to them in a simple, interesting and attractive way. (105)
3. The Sisters shall visit the destitute and the sick going from house to house or wherever these may be found, and they must render to all the humblest services. They shall also visit the jails.
—call sinners to repentance
—instruct the ignorant,
—counsel the doubtful,
—sustain the tempted,
—befriend the friendless and comfort the sick and sorrowful
—bear wrongs patiently trusting in God for deliverance in his own good time,
—bring prayer into the lives of the spiritually poorest of the poor. (106)
4. We need to be pure of heart to see Jesus in the person of the poorest of the poor. Therefore, the more repugnant the work, or the more disfigured or deformed the image of God in the person, the greater will be our faith and loving devotion in seeking the face of Jesus, and lovingly ministering to Him in the distressing disguise. (1056)
5. St. Theresa of Lisieux said, “Our Lord has need of our love. He has no need of our works. The same God who declares that he has no need to tell us if he be hungry, did not disdain to beg a little water from the Samaritan Woman. He was athirst, but when he said, ‘Give me to drink,’ He, the creator of the universe, asked for the love of his creature. He thirsted for Love.” (106)
6. The true interior life makes the active life burn forth and consume everything. It makes us find Jesus in the dark holes of the slums, in the most pitiful miseries of the poor, the God-Man naked on the Cross, mournful, despised by all, the man of suffering crushed like a worm by the scourging and the crucifixion. This interior life motivates the Missionary of Charity to serve Jesus in the poor. (106)
7. We must work in great faith, steadily, efficiently, and above all with great love and cheerfulness, for without this our work will be only the work of slaves, serving a hard master.
It is Him we serve in the poor, it is for His sake that we become beggars. How great will be our joy when at the last judgment we will hear Our Lord address his Missionaries of Charity with these words, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and ye gave me to eat, thirsty and ye gave me to drink. I was a stranger and ye brought me within, naked and ye clothed me. I was sick and ye visited me, in prison and ye came unto me… in as much as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it to me.” (107)
8. However beautiful the work is, be detached from it—–even ready to give it up. You may be doing great good in one place, but obedience calls you elsewhere. Be ready to leave. The work is not yours. You are working for Jesus. Obedience and humility are one and the same thing. If you want to know whether you are humble, ask yourself, “Do I obey because I see Christ in every command?” Poverty one can get used to, but every act of obedience is an act of the will, and it gets harder as we grow older because we get our own ideas. Every humiliation is a sacrifice. (107)
9. You may be exhausted with work—–you may even kill yourself—–but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless. (107)
10. Don’t give in to discouragement. No more must you do so when you try to settle a marriage crisis or convert a sinner and don’t succeed. If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. It is very difficult in practice because we all want to see the result of our work. Leave it to Jesus. (107)
11. Never do the work carelessly because you wish to hide your gifts. Remember, the work is His. You are his co-worker. Therefore, He depends on you for that special work. Do the work with Him, and the work will be done for Him. The talents God has given you are not yours—–they have been given to you for your use, for the glory of God. There can be no half-measures in the work. You may feel very bad, but feelings are not the measure of our love for Christ. It is our will and our work that matters. Be great and use everything in you for the Good Master. (108)
12. Remember the work is not ours and we must not spoil it. That would be a great injustice to God because the work is His. It is better that the whole society be wiped out than that God’s work be spoiled. (108)
13. We love Him in the distressing disguise. Otherwise there is no meaning in being an M.C. Our society goes deeper. It is the hungry Christ I feed. Christ is really in the poor. (108)
14. We have to love our vocation. I must really say: Christ lives in me. I must be able to say that. We have to keep on desiring. The desire will only be fulfilled when we are face to face with God. Here on earth we must have that desire to live with Christ in the poor. Jesus said, ‘I was hungry, you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was ignorant and you taught me. You took me to church.” This is not simply something to excite our imagination. Jesus really said it. So He is the poor we meet everywhere. (108)
15. We are the servants of the poor. We give wholehearted, free service to the poor. In the world the people are paid for their work. We are paid by God. We are bound by a vow to love and serve the poor, and to live as the poor with the poor. (108)
16. St. Ignatius said, “I must do my work as if everything depends on me—–and the result I leave to God.” The people in the world take so much trouble—–we also must do the same. They work for hours to make themselves attractive. We must make ourselves attractive to God. (108)
17. We must do better than the people in the world because we do it for Jesus. If we find it difficult, we should ask Jesus to give us a drop from his precious blood.
There is a story of a little robin. He saw Jesus on the cross, saw the crown of thorns. The bird flew around and around until he found a way to remove a thorn—–and in removing the thorn it struck him. Each one of us should be that bird. What have I done; what comfort have I given? Does my work really mean something?
The little robin tried to remove just one thorn. When I look at the cross, I think of that robin. Don’t pass by the cross—–it is a place of grace. The cross—hands seared with pain. Did I put compassion in my hands for one who was sick? How did I touch my patient? (109)
18. For money the people do so much work in the world. I want you to do well for the greater glory of God. What does it matter whether the whole world knows of the M.C.s? That does not change anything. But Mother wants the poor to get the best things that others get for money. (109)
19. I don’t need numbers. I need M.C.s full of love, full of zeal. God has entrusted us with a very special thing: to be his love and compassion to the poorest of the poor. You can’t do that if you are not holy. (109)
20. No Missionary of Charity is called to do big things. Our work sounds big because there are so many little things, but when you look at it, there is nothing to show—–nothing. I was so happy to see a Sister cleaning the toilets, because they were shining. She must have cleaned them with great love and done it in the presence of God.
21. If something belongs to me, I’ve got full power to use it as I want. I belong to Jesus; He can do to me whatever He wants. The work is not our vocation. I can do this work without being a religious. Can you tell me why we become M.C.s? The work is not our vocation. Our vocation is to belong to Him. Our profession is that we belong to Him. Therefore, I am ready to do anything: wash, scrub, clean. I am like a mother who gives birth to a child. The child belongs to her. All her washing, staying up at night, and so on is proving that the child belongs to her. She will not do this for any other child, but she will do anything for her own child. If I belong to Jesus, I will do anything for Jesus. (110)
22. The child is the fruit of married love. How beautiful! God has said: “Let man and woman be created for that purpose.”
The Church is the spouse of Jesus, and for us M.Cs the fruit of that oneness with Jesus is the poor. Just as the fruit of mother and father is the child, so the fruit of my relationship with Jesus and me is the poor. Today ask yourself “What is the fruit of my vow of chastity?” (110)
23. Mary said: “Let it be done according to thy word.” Then she went in haste. See her total surrender. This is why Our Lady is a Missionary of Charity in the true sense of the word. Each morning I, too, must go in haste: I am going to have an audience with God. Each morning I receive Jesus: his blood, his body in my body. Then what happens? Our Lady spent nine months with Jesus; Jesus was in her .. . and what did she do? Scrub, clean, wash, but she really loved her total surrender. I have to do the same. In the street I must go in haste, burning with love and zeal to give Jesus to the poor. (110)
24. Let the praise of people not destroy the peace in our hearts and make us restless. It has been given to us; let us give it back to Him with great love. They cannot give praise to all. It has been given to One—–but it has been given to the lepers, the children, dying patients—–all. All that work is only a drop in the ocean, but if we neglect to put in that drop, the ocean will be less. (110)
25. As you know, we have got our Brothers also who are Missionaries of Charity. One of our Brothers loves the lepers. We are taking care of 49,000 lepers in India. This Brother really loves the lepers. He came one day after he had had some difficulties with his superior. He said to me, “I love the lepers; I want to be with them. I want to work for them. My vocation is to be with the lepers.” I said to him, “Brother, you are making a mistake. Your vocation is not to work for the lepers. Your vocation is to belong to Jesus. The work for the lepers is only your love for Christ in action, and, therefore, it makes no difference to anyone as long as you are doing it to Him, as long as you are doing it with Him. That’s all that matters. That is the completion of your vocation, of your belonging to Christ.” (111)
26. A Sister was telling me that just two or three weeks ago she and some other Sisters picked up a man from the streets in Bombay and brought him home. We have a big place donated to us which we have turned into a home for the dying. This man was brought there and the Sisters took care of him. They loved him and treated him with dignity. Right away they discovered that the whole of his back had no skin, no flesh. It was all eaten up. After they washed him they put him on his bed, and this Sister told me that she had never seen so much joy as she saw on the face of that man. Then I asked her, “What did you feel when you were removing those worms from his body; what did you feel?” And she looked at me and said, “I’ve never felt the presence of Christ; I’ve never really believed the word of Jesus saying, ‘I was sick and you did it to me.’ But His presence was there and I could see it on that man’s face.” This is the gift of God. (111)
27. In India we have more and more Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists getting involved in the work. Why are they coming? Because they feel the presence of God. They want to serve God in their own way, and they’ve found that by sacrifice and by prayer they can do that. They come to be with the poorest of the poor, even though in India, it is very, very difficult to touch lepers, to touch the dying. (112)
28. I insist on saying that we are not social workers. We are really contemplatives in the heart of the world.
29. The Missionaries of Charity is just a little instrument in the hands of God. We must try to keep it always like that—–the small instrument. Very often I feel like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the writing; He does the thinking, He does the movement—–I have only to be a pencil and nothing else. (112)
30. You are being sent, you have not chosen for yourself where you want to go, and you are sent just as Jesus was sent to us.
—You are sent not to teach but to learn: learn to be meek and humble of heart. That is just what Jesus has asked us to do: “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.”
—You are sent to serve and not to be served: Go to serve with a humble heart. Never escape the hard work. Be always the first one to do it.
—Go to be a cause of joy to your communities.
—Go with zeal and love for the poor.
—Go in haste, like Our Lady, to serve.
—Choose the hardest thing. Go with a humble heart, with a generous heart. Don’t go with ideas that don’t fit into our way of life: with big, big ideas about theology and what you would like to teach, but rather go to learn and to serve.
—Share what you have received, with a humble heart.
—Go to the poor with great tenderness. Serve the poor with tender, compassionate love.
—Say yes to peace with your tongue. Close your mouth rather than speaking a word which will hurt anyone.
—Go to give yourselves without any reservation. Give yourselves wholeheartedly, unreservedly. (112)
31. Have I really learned to pray the work? Maybe I have never learned to pray the work because the whole time my mind is “work.” Here are words that will help you: “With Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus.” If you want to know how much you love Jesus, there is no need to ask anybody to tell you. In the sincerity of your heart you will know, if you practice silence. (113)
32. You have done a lot of work these days; it was nicely done, but did you give what was inside of you? What did that giving mean to you? Did you give with love, respect? If you did not pray that giving it was just a giving.
Did the people see you give with love and respect? Did you give the medicine with faith to the sick Christ? This is the difference between you and the social worker. (113)
33. I will pick the roses. The sharper the thorns, the sweeter shall be my song. For the aim of joining is not to become social workers. Our work is not a profession, but a vocation chosen to satiate the thirst of Jesus by total surrender, without counting the cost. (113)
34. We must know that we have not come here to be numbers. I want Missionaries of Charity and not just workers. With money I can get workers. I want each of us to be able to say, “I work for the poor because I love God.”
“I was hungry and I waited for you but you did not come. I was homeless on the street. I waited for you but you did not come.” Jesus will judge us on this. Somebody told me that we are the only ones in the whole church of God with this fourth vow of charity. We must be conscious of this, Sisters. We have a special responsibility to the Church to fulfill this special call.
Sisters, don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love. (113)
35. Motherhouse, July 18,1968
Feeding the hungry Christ.
Clothing the naked Christ.
Visiting the sick Christ.
Giving shelter to the homeless Christ.
Teaching the ignorant Christ. (114)
36. We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him right now—–to be happy with Him at this very moment. But being happy with Him now means loving like He loves, helping like He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues, being with Him twenty-four hours a day—–touching Him in his distressing disguise.
We need to realize that we have the privilege of touching Jesus twenty-four hours. When I’m feeding that child, I’m feeding Jesus. Think a little. Elizabeth did not know—–but the child in her womb jumped. The same thing should happen when our slum people meet us “That Sister—–she has compassion. She is giving Holy Communion, giving medicine as if she were giving Holy Communion.” (114)
37. Each time Jesus wanted to prove his love for us, He was rejected by mankind. Before his birth his parents asked for a simple dwelling place and they were given none because they were poor. The innkeeper probably looked at Joseph the carpenter and decided that he would not be able to pay. So he refused. But Mother Earth opened a cave and took in the Son of God.
Again, before the redemption and the resurrection, Jesus was rejected by his people. They did not want Him—–they wanted Caesar; they did not want Him—–they wanted Barabbas. At the end, it was as if his own Father did not want Him because He was covered with our sins. In his holiness He cried, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?”
Yesterday is always today to God. Therefore, today in the world Jesus stands covered with our sins, in the distressing disguise of m my Brother. Do I want Him? If we are not careful, soon the riches of the worldly spirit will become an obstacle. We will not be able to see God, for Jesus has said: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”
People rejected Jesus because his poverty was hurting their riches. My Sisters, do our poor reject us because our riches hurt their poverty? Are they at ease with us because we are so like them in poverty? Can we look straight in the face of the poor and say with a sincere heart: “I know poverty; she is my companion: I love poverty; she is my mother.” “I serve poverty she is my mistress.” (115)
38. Motherhouse, July 3, 1978
Begin the leprosy and medical work with a prayer and put a little more gentleness, a little more compassion for the sick. It will help you to remember that you are touching the Body of Christ. He is hungry for that touch. Will you not give it? (115)
39. To become a saint one must suffer much, and to love much we must suffer more. Suffering begets love, but it is also fruitful because it begets life for souls. How full of love we must be in order to be true to our name. (115)
40. Yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make Him known, loved, and served. (115)
41. The Poor We Serve
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 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 much to suffer already, and we cannot treat them as we would children going to a regular school. (116)
42. Be kind, very kind, to the suffering poor. We little realize what they go through. The most difficult part is the feeling of not being wanted. This is the first hardship a leper experiences even today. Show your love for them by being very kind—–act kindly, speak kindly. I prefer our Sisters to make mistakes through kindness than to work miracles through harshness and unkindness. (116)
43. In Addis Ababa, where the government is expelling missionaries a few hours on notice, the Governor said to me, “Even if I have to send away everyone else, yet I will not let your Sisters go, because I know and see that the Sisters love and care for our poor people.” (116)
44. All over the world people are saying that Mother Teresa is spoiling the poor by giving them things free. At a seminary in Bangalore, once a nun said to me, “Mother Teresa, you are spoiling the poor people by giving them things free. They are losing their human dignity.” When everyone was quiet, I said calmly, “No one spoils as much as God Himself. See the wonderful gifts He has given us freely. All of you here have no glasses, yet you all can see. If God were to take money for your sight, what would happen? Continually we are breathing and living on oxygen that we do not pay for. What would happen if God were to say, ‘If you work four hours, you will get sunshine for two hours?’ How many of us would then survive?” Then I also told them: ‘There are many congregations who spoil the rich; it is good to have one congregation in the name of the poor, to spoil the poor.” There was profound silence; nobody said a word after that. (117)
45. Do we treat the poor as our dustbins to give whatever we cannot use or eat? I cannot eat this food so I will give it to the poor. I cannot use this thing or that piece of cloth so I will give it to the poor. Am I then sharing the poverty of the poor? Do I identify myself with the poor I serve? Am I one with them? Do I share with them as Jesus shared with me?
This is the wonderful part of our vocation, that as M.C.s we have created an awareness of the poor in the whole world. Twenty years ago no one would believe that there were hungry, naked men and women around. Today the whole world knows our poor because of our work. Because they know they want to share.
The other day, a group of Hindu school children came from very far. They had won prizes in a contest at school and had asked the headmistress to give them money instead of the prizes. Then they said, “Now, take us to Mother Teresa. We want to give this money to her poor people.” How wonderful it was that they did not use that money for themselves! Because we have created this awareness the whole world wants to share with the poor. Whenever I accept money or an award, I always take it in the name of the poor, whom they recognize in me. What am I? I am nothing. It is the poor whom they recognize in me and that they want to give to, because they see what we do. Today people in the world want to see. Why is our congregation spread all over the world today? It is because people see what we do: feeding the hungry Christ, clothing the naked Christ, taking care of the sick, the dying, the leprosy patients. Because they see, they believe. How sad it will be if we are not sincere in what we do.
Our poor people suffer much, and unless we go with joy we cannot help them. We will make them more miserable. (118)
46. Among the poor we have the rich poor—–children better gifted, patients who are cleaner, and so on. We must be careful not to pick and choose. There are children who are mentally dull who cannot respond to you and so you neglect those. This is where we have the duty of wholehearted, free service. The “rich” poor child can still have a place but it is the child so dull, stupid, and hungry, for whom I must especially work. (118)
47. At home, we must love our Sisters. They too are—–the poorest of the poor. Afterwards it will be easy outside. (118)
48. Our poor people are becoming poorer day by day. Be a comfort to the poor and take every trouble to help them. Open your eyes to the needs of the poor. Put into reality the words “to give wholehearted, free service to the poor.” Give to Christ in his distressing disguise. It is Jesus in the poor that you feed, clothe, and take in. Do it all with a great, undivided love. (118)
49. Our Sisters are working in New York with the shut-ins. They see the terrible pain of our people, the pain of loneliness, of fear, of being unwanted and unloved. I think it is much greater pain, much greater than even cancer or T.B. The Sisters have often met people like that, people who are completely brokenhearted, desperate with feelings of hurt. (118)
50. Sometime ago a man came to our house and said: “Mother there is a Hindu family that has eight children. They have not eaten for a long time. Do something for them.” So I took some rice and went. When I arrived at their house, I could see the hunger in the children’s eyes. Their eyes were shining with hunger. I gave the rice to the mother. She took it and divided it into two, and then she went out. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She said, ‘They are hungry also.” Her neighbors were also hungry. What struck me most was not that she gave the rice but that she knew they were hungry. Because she knew, she shared. I did not bring more rice that night. I waited until the next morning so that they could experience the joy of sharing and loving.
Love, to be true, has to hurt, and this woman who was hungry–—she knew that her neighbor was also hungry. That family happened to be a Mohammedan family. It was so touching, so real. This is where we are most unjust to our poor—–we don’t know them. We don’t know how great they are, how lovable, how hungry for that understanding love. Today God loves the world through you and through me. Are we that love and that compassion? God proves that Christ loves us—–that He has come to be his Father’s compassion. Today God is loving the world through you and through me and through all those who are his love and compassion in the world. (118)
51. God has been pouring many graces into the congregation, and I think we owe deep gratitude to the poor. Their life of suffering, their life of prayer, their life of tremendous forbearance obtains many graces for us. Also, there are all those thousands of people who have died in our hands. I am sure they pray much for us when they go to heaven. The whole thing is nothing extraordinary, nothing special. It has been just a simple surrender, a simple yes to Christ, allowing Him to do what He wants. That is why the work is his work. I’m just a little pencil in his hand. Tomorrow, if He finds somebody more helpless, more stupid, more hopeless, I think He will do still greater things with her and through her. (119)
52. Jesus is reliving his Passion in our poor people. The poor are really going through the Passion of Christ. We should treat them with dignity. These poor people are Jesus suffering today. We must find ways and means of helping them; don’t add to their sufferings. Poor people are living Jesus’ Calvary today. (119)
53. Our Life of Evangelization
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 M.Cs in his great mercy to help Him in His own work. It is a special grace granted to the M.C.s, 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. (120)
54. When we do “our work,” visit the families, teach, nurse the sick, help the dying, gather 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.
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.
Our holy faith is nothing but a gospel of love, revealing to us God’s love for men and claiming in return men’s 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,” 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 straightened 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.”
Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust. It sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must. The Missionaries of Charity, in order to be true to their name, must be full of charity in their own souls and spread that same charity in the souls of others—–Christians and pagans. (121)
55. If you give to the 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—–to the Sisters, first, then to the people in the slums. Do I give the Christ who is full of zeal, love, joy, and sunshine? Do I come up to the mark? Or am I a dark light, a false light, a bulb without connection, having no current and therefore shedding no radiance? Put your heart into being a bright light. “Help me to shed thy fragrance everywhere I go.”
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. (122)
56. The surest way to preach Christianity to the pagan is by our cheerfulness, our happiness. What would our life be if the Sisters were unhappy? It would be slavery and nothing else. We would do the work but we would attract nobody. (122)
57. 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 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. (122)
58. What is the Good News? The good news is that God still loves the world through each one of you. You are God’s Good News, you are God’s love in action. Through you, God is still loving the world. (122)
59. Recently, one great Brazilisn 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. There 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—–he saw this on TV. (123)
60. A rich couple came to see me the other day. They had been to Nirmal Hriday. The man told me that when he saw the Sisters caring for the dying something clicked in his heart. He said that he would never be the same man again. What clicked? I do not know, but he met God’s love in action and something clicked in his heart, so he cannot be the same man again. (123)
61. Once a man came to Kalighat, right into the ward. I was there. After a little while he came back and said to me, “I came here with so much hate in my heart, hate for God and hate for man. I came here empty, faithless, embittered, and I saw a Sister giving her wholehearted attention to a patient, and I realized that God still loves. Now I go out a different man. I believe there is a God and that He loves us still.” Often we do our work slapdash because we do not have enough faith. If we truly believe we are doing it to Jesus we will do our work well.
62. 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.
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.
A Mohammedan Mulvi was standing with Father Gabric and looking at a Sister bandaging the wound of a leper with so much love. She didn’t say anything, but she did something. He turned to Father and said, “All these years I believed that Jesus was a prophet, but today I know He is God because He has given so much love into the hands of this Sister.” Even today, that Sister does not know that her action brought Jesus into the life of that man. (123)
63. The light, 0 Jesus, will be all from you—–none of it will be mine. It will be you shining on others through me. 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 Jesus. (124)
64. The joy of Jesus will be my strength—–it will be in my heart, in every person I meet. They will see it in my work, my walk, my prayer—–in everything. (124)
65. At the opening of Baroda a group of Hindus came to me and said: “You have come to convert us?” I looked at them and smiled and said, “Naturally, that’s the treasure I have; I would like you to be Christian, but I will not force it on you. 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.
66. Very often we pick up sick and dying destitutes from the streets of Calcutta. In twenty-five years we have picked up more than 36,000 people from the streets and more than 18,000 have died a most beautiful death. When we pick them up from the street like that, we give them a plate of rice. In no time we revive them. A few nights ago we picked up four people. One was in a most terrible condition, covered with wounds, her body full of maggots. I told the Sisters that I would take care of her while they attended to the other three. I really did all that my love could do for her put her in bed and then she took hold of my hand. She had such a beautiful smile on her face and she said one word only: “Thank you.” Then she died. There was a greatness of love. She was hungry for love, and she received that love before she died. She spoke only one word, but her understanding love was expressed in that word. I have never seen a smile like that. (125)
67. Yesterday, a Sister was telling me about some Sisters who go to the prison. They take the Blessed Sacrament, and the prison chaplain has started daily adoration for half an hour. To see those prisoners, young boys and men, adoring. They are preparing some of those boys for First Communion. They’re hungry for God—–they are very hungry for God. That man who we picked up from the streets said, “I have lived like an animal in the street but I’m going to die like an angel.” I can tell you that of the 18,000 that have died in Calcutta alone, I’ve not seen one of them die in distress. Nobody has died in despair. We ask them: “Do you want a blessing by which you will see God and your sins will be forgiven?” Nobody says no. Up until now, nobody has refused to receive the blessing and go and be with God. It is so beautiful. We feel this is the fruit of our vocation, of our oneness with Christ. We need that continual feeding, that is why we begin the day at half past four in the morning and then we have mass, Holy Communion, and meditation. (125)
68. To children and to the poor, to all those who suffer and are lonely—–give them always a happy smile; give them not only your care but also your heart.
Kindness has converted more people than zeal, science, or eloquence. We take a vow to give wholehearted service to the poor. Does this not mean love of the poor? The poor are not at our service. If we want the poor to see Christ in us, we must first see Christ in the poor. (125)
69. Motherhouse, January 10,1968
Let us preach the peace of Christ like He did; He went about doing good. He did not stop his works of charity because the Pharisees and others hated Him or tried to spoil his Father’s work. He just went about doing good. Cardinal Newman wrote: “Help me to spread thy fragrance everywhere I go; let me preach thee 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 thee.” Our works of love are nothing but works of peace. Let us do them with greater love and efficiency. It is always the same Christ who says:
I was hungry—–not only for food, but for peace that comes from a pure heart.
I was thirsty—–not for water, but for peace that satiates the passionate thirst of passion for war.
I was naked—–not for clothes, but for the beautiful dignity of men and women for their bodies.
I was homeless—–not for a shelter made of bricks, but for a heart that understands; that covers, that loves. (126)
70. Motherhouse, May 1975
Often you see small and big wires new and old, cheap and expensive lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, produce the light of the world—–Jesus, or refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.
Our Lady was the most wonderful wire. She allowed God to fill her to the brim. By her surrender, “Be it done to me according to Thy word,” she became “full of grace.” The moment she was filled by this current, by the grace of God, she went in haste to Elizabeth’s house to connect the wire, John, to the current, Jesus. As his mother said, “This child, John, leapt up with joy at your voice.” Let us ask Our Lady to come into our lives also and make the current, Jesus, use us to go round the world, especially in our own communities, and so that we can continue connecting wires of hearts of men with the current, Jesus. (126)
71. Charity Must Cost Us
The more repugnant the work, the greater the effect of love and cheerful service. If Mother had not first picked up that woman who was eaten up by rats—–her face, and legs, and soon, I could not have been an MC. But I returned, picked her up, and took her to Camphel Hospital. If I had not, the society would have died. Feelings of repugnance are human. If we give our wholehearted, free service in spite of such feelings, we will become holy. St. Francis of Assisi hated lepers but he overcame his hatred. He died; but Christ lives. (127)
72. There was a queen who was a holy person, but her husband was rather cruel. Yet she treated him as she would treat Christ. She had a mother-in-law who was jealous of the love her son bore his wife. One day Queen Elizabeth offered hospitality to a leper and even gave him her husband’s bed to lie on. The mother-in-law, seeing this, seized the opportunity to set her son against his wife. The husband dashed angrily into the room but to his surprise he saw the figure of Christ on the bed. Elizabeth could have acted thus only because she was convinced she was doing it to Christ Himself. We must therefore be proud of our vocation which gives us the opportunity to serve Christ in his poorest. It is in the slums that we must seek to go and serve Christ. (127)
73. At the altar how gently and tenderly the priest touches the consecrated host, with what love he looks at it. The priest believes that the host is the disguise of Jesus. In the slums Jesus chooses as his disguise the miseries and poverty of our people. You cannot have the vow of charity if you have not got the faith to see Jesus in the people we contact. Otherwise our work is no more than social work. . .. What if you feel a disgust and run away? Feeling don’t count. Run away but come back without delay.
Charity, to be fruitful, must cost us. Actually we hear so much about charity. Yet we never give it its full importance: God put the commandment of loving our neighbor on the same footing as the first commandment. God’s love is infinite. God has prepared us for service, so He expects this from us. He has given each of us something that in one way or another will enable Him to shine through us.
We want to be something for Almighty God and since we cannot reach God and do it directly to Him, we serve Him in the poor people of India. We are here purely for the love of God. Our charity must be true. We must feel in our very bones that we are doing it—–we should be living fires of love. Every M.C. must be like a burning bush. Love to be true must hurt. It must be something I want to give—–cost what it may. (128)
74. Today, in the words of our Holy Father, each one of us must be able “to cleanse what is dirty, to warm what is lukewarm, to strengthen what is weak, to enlighten what is dark.” We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ’s love and to love as He loved. In the work we have to do, no matter how small and humble it may be, we must make it Christ’s love in action. Do not be afraid to proclaim his poverty. Do not be afraid to go with Christ and be subject to those who have authority from above and so declare Christ’s obedience unto death. Rejoice that once more Christ is walking through the world, in you and through you, going about doing good.
75. When He showed his heart to Margaret Mary, Jesus said again and again, “Love me as I have loved you.” “Impossible,” she said, “the only way I can do it is if you take my heart and give me yours.” Let us ask Jesus sincerely, “Let me share your loneliness, your being unloved, uncared for.” Do something today to share in the Passion. Maybe Jesus is asking something of you in a special way, maybe something small. If He is not asking you, it might be because you are holding very tightly to something. He will never force it out of you. Maybe He wants you just to smile, to say “May I,” to be on time, or to give up an unhealthy friendship. (129)
76. “My child, receive the symbol of our crucified spouse. Follow his footsteps in search of souls. Carry Him and his light into the homes of the poor, especially to the souls most in need. Spread the charity of his heart wherever you go and so satiate his thirst for souls.” These words express beautifully the whole of our life. If we just live this, we will be holy; we will be spouses of Jesus crucified.
We must not imagine that we will be crucified with nails. Crucifixion, Sisters, is when something hurts me and I hurt back. I say the word and I put a nail into somebody’s heart. Nobody knows how big the nails were, but we know that Jesus was crucified. If you are in pain, see in your pain that pain of Jesus, your loneliness in his loneliness. Spread the charity of his heart wherever you go. (129)
77. Suffering will come, trouble will come—–that’s part of life; a sign that you are alive. If you have no suffering and no trouble, the devil is taking it easy. You are in his hand.
If I am the spouse of Jesus crucified, He has to kiss me. Naturally, the nails will hurt me. If I come close to the crown of thorns, it will hurt me. If a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, they become one. Cleave to each other. If I am one with Jesus, it must hurt when I share his sorrow.
78. Rome, October 10, 1980
What delicate love God has had for the poor of the world to have created the M.C.s. You and I have been called by our name because He loved us. Because you and I are somebody special to Him–—to be his Heart to love Him in the poor, his Hands to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. My children, how much love and care we must take of Him—–if only we were in love with Him. Let us learn to pray the work to be able to be twenty-four hours with Jesus, to do it for Jesus and to Jesus. We need a pure heart, a heart that is filled with nothing but Jesus. (130)
79. To be a co-worker means to work along with someone, to share together in tiredness, humiliations, and shame, not only in success. Those who share everything are partners, giving love for love, suffering for suffering. Jesus, You have died, You have given everything, your life blood, all. Now it is my turn. I put everything into the field also. The common soldier fights in the way, but the devoted one tries to be near the captain to share his fate. This is the only truth…. The only thing that matters—–for it is the spirit of Christ.
He wants to live his life in you, to look through your eyes, walk with your feet, love with your heart. In Christ and through Christ. Hear Jesus, your co-worker, speak to you. “I want you to be my fire of love among the poor, the sick, the dying, and the little children—–the poor I want you to bring to me.” (130)