The makings of a Saint

Mother Teresa was born Agnesa Gonxha Bojaxhiu, 1910, as the youngest child of Nilola and Drana in the city of Skoje, present day Macedonia.  Influenced by the Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart, she received her First Communion at age 5 and was confirmed at 6. Her father’s death at age 8 created financial challenges for the family. After a pilgrimage when she was 12, she made a decision to spread the word of Jesus’ teachings throughout the world. She left home at age 18 with a strong desire to become a missionary, traveling to Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto. After receiving the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux, she learned to speak English, and departed for India to be a teacher.

Mother Teresa, whom she later became known as, completed nursing training at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna before moving to Calcutta in 1948. She had a deep yearning, from a young age, to provide service to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. The purpose of her organization was to create a hope of survival to the needy, sick and destitute.

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

An encounter with Mother Teresa as told by Susan Conroy in Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanity.

“During my first encounters with Mother Teresa…I was struck by her profound humility. I knew that she was world famous and I had imagined that all famous people have a sense of their own greatness, a pride that shows through in their words and manners. There was none of that in Mother Teresa. There was an apparent selflessness in her, a quality that is not easy to find, even in non-famous people. It was as if she was totally unaware of herself, as if she was aware of only God and others. I had never met anyone in my life as humble as Mother Teresa. She was as humble as the poor whom we would lift up out of the gutters. Her humility was strikingly beautiful to me. Mother Teresa embodied so many other qualities as well, qualities that are all too rare in the world today. I wished that I could have brought her home with me, shown her to everyone, and said: “Just look at her!” Her appearance, her spirit, and her presence spoke a thousand words about integrity, about God, about true beauty, about inner strength, about love. Before meeting her, I had held incredibly high expectations and hopes concerning her, and I was not disappointed in the least. The reality was even better than what I had imagined. All that I learned about her and from her had been true-to-life.”

Mother Teresa was tough yet practical, plain yet prayerful, small yet mighty. She felt that God had given, not just her, but each of us the capacity to achieve deeds in the service of others. In her words, “when a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.   It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” 

She received many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She founded new healing communities in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war torn Iraq. By 1997, her Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 with her canonization approved by Pope Francis, September 2016.

The story of Mother Teresa exemplifies love in action. In her quiet way, she sparked a movement, an example of the difference that can be made by the yearning of one simple soul. She truly became the change she wished to see in the world, and in her sainthood, continues to urge each of us to make a difference in the world. What about you? Are you willing to be a spark to something big?

What Is Love?

Do you recall the first time that you fell in love? How did it feel? Were you walking on clouds? The experience of falling in love can bring about a mixture of many emotions. You may have felt:

Butterflies dancing in your tummy

Anxiousness at seeing them again

A yearning to plan a future with them.

So is love a feeling, or is it a choice? If a choice, does choosing to love require action? Is love an action verb? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “love is not enough.” How can love not be enough?

To love and be loved is precious, but if we do not show love, is it still love?

I heard a story recently, told by a man, we’ll call him Joe, who felt called to visit a guitar store while returning to his hotel room, after picking up some food. He didn’t need a guitar, yet he felt called to make the stop. Upon arrival he found a kid jamming on an electric guitar. Joe reached out to the boy and started a conversation with him. The kid opened up to Joe. He told him about his drug addiction and how his father had recently committed suicide. Joe displayed so much love for him that the kid wants him to meet his girlfriend and daughter who are shopping next door. They walk next door and Joe prays with the family, then he blesses them by paying for all the items purchased. They are blown away by Joe’s act of compassion. It was such a blessing to them and there seemed no strings attached. The family thought there surely must be a catch.

As they depart, the kid returns to the guitar store to play yet another guitar. It seemed a coping mechanism. Joe then learns from the family that this kid has not talked to any man since his father took his own life. And a year prior, the kid had sold his guitar to bail himself out of jail, due to a drug violation. The kid had stopped using drugs at that point, but now, no longer had an instrument to play. Joe was so moved by what he heard, that he then went back into the guitar store and bought the kid a guitar, replacing what was lost. There was no judgment, no negative opinion, and he didn’t simply hand him cash, he showed him love. Had this family ever felt such love?

In our society we tend to identify ourselves by what we do for a living.  Joe identifies himself as “a guy that loves people.” We should all aspire to such selfless action. What would our world be like with more Joes in it?  I encourage you, as you move through your day, to not just feel love for others, but to BE love. Perhaps we should not focus so much on our standard of living, but more on our standard of giving.

If you are old enough to remember Mister Rogers, you may recall this quote, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.

Genuine love should not be based on words alone or false deeds, but grounded on authentic actions. Love doesn’t just trust or hope, but it completes specific acts for the purpose of accomplishing those things for which that are trusted and hoped.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18-19

I would encourage you to look for ways to give the gift of love to someone over the coming week. Look for opportunities to give to someone in need.  It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be a simple service. Here are some ideas:

  • Open/hold the door for someone
  • Be gracious: say thank you, look people in the eye, be sincere
  • Make something and give it away
  • To those that want to be seen, SEE THEM.
  • To those that want to be heard, HEAR THEM.
  • Run an errand for the elderly.

To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care. Surely we are capable of that. Happiness can be found when we take the opportunity to bless others.

 If you feel troubled, instead of getting MAD about an event or circumstance, go MAD. Make A Difference for someone else. You will be amazed at how it makes you feel. We can serve others, not out of ego, but out of getting in touch with our true nature, which is love. You were made to love. Not only are you love, you are loved, loving, and lovable … always.

The giver is bigger than the receiver. If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there’s always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”

~ Katharine Hepburn

(from Everything Good in the World)

Through the Eyes of Love

There is a saying, “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up!” When I first heard this, it struck me very deeply. It was a reminder that no matter where you find someone, they are never beneath you. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. No one was born any differently than any other person on this planet. The only difference between you and them is the circumstance. I bet if you asked any child what they want to be when they grow up, they probably didn’t answer, “I want to be homeless” or “I want to be addicted to drugs” Experiences and wounds have led people to where they are. When we think about our fellow human beings in this frame of mind, it’s easy to reach out and help them up. So do not look past an opportunity to help someone in need, because you never know when you might need help yourself. You’ll be glad you did it to the least of these.