Work & Service
Poverty & The Poor
Children & the Family
Suffering & Death
Missionaries of Charity
A Conversation with Mother Teresa
Introductory message from Nate Richardson:
The following are a few notes I took on some of the principles Mother Teresa taught. They are often not complete quotations but summarized (except for when I use quotation marks). When I write something of my own insight, I preface that statement with “Note – …” Further, when a principle fits with something said in another chapter, I sometimes move that to be with the other idea from the other chapter, so you might not find everything in the particular chapter it’s listed under.
Mother Teresa is one of the few people who has the fullest ability to call others to repentance and to scripture literalism because she herself lived the scriptures so literally and with such a high level of integrity, sacrificing herself day by day, year after year. I have deep respect for this saint.
This is a great book to check in with whenever I’m feeling like I’m doing well – I can review this to be reminded how there’s so much more I can do, which I’m very glad to hear, as it promises always greater opportunities for joy in Christ, fulfillment of my calling on earth, alleviation of suffering, and the gospel of Christ to save more souls.
I’m not Catholic, but I appreciate Teresa’s devotion to the Catholic church, as I am devoted similarly to my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I find applicable principles of the need to sustain God’s church. Brilliant Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft related an account where Mother Teresa was asked by a non-Catholic, “surely God needs good people outside his church too?” Teresa answered, “No he doesn’t.” The man couldn’t argue with that, so he joined the Catholic church. This is a true perspective: that God would wants everyone in His church!
I do of course reject the Catholic idea that a celibate life without marriage is a higher way. Nuns are “married to Christ”, but inasmuch as you marry a Christian, you are married to Christ. In the restored fullness of Christ’s gospel, we see Christian marriage as a higher virtue than Christian celibacy. But of course, the Catholics don’t have the full truth on this point, and our hats are off to them for doing what they see as the highest ideal. Surely their sacrifices will be made up to them for their faithfulness to Christ as they know Him. Surely they are doing great things for God, and we invite them to receive the fullness of the gospel if they are ready for it. Teresa recognizes that there is great work to be done in raising children in families, etc.
I also reject the idea that all forms of pleasure are evil, and that any comforts are to be rejected. It is true that our highest goal is to care for the needy, but sometimes on the path of duty, a little refreshment helps us to be renewed and do our duty all the better. As Joseph Smith put it, unstringing the bow helps it to not lose its spring. This is not to undermine the need for heroic self-sacrifice – we know of the priesthood doctrine that for those who give themselves to service in God, God will renew their flesh (D&C 84). But wholesome recreation remains a true principle for a sustained consecrated life (see the “Family Proclamation”, for example). I will confess that Teresa has a level of mastery I will likely never attain in this life, and there certainly is something to rejecting comforts in our labors, particularly to the extent that it helps us to live among and as one of those we are called to serve. Teresa would agree with this to an extent, as she professes that God calls each of us to different things (though she sees no need for anyone to be called to act outside of God’s church, and sees that all would be better off in it, which is excellent, though we agree on which church is God’s church.)
Teresa also makes a comment in this book that her manner of dress is changeable based on the people she is among, that she would be perfectly willing to change that mode of dress to fit the customs of those she labored among if such were more acceptable. So I think she has these principles down, and my clarifications here are perhaps not so much to disagree with Teresa as to precaution people against getting the wrong idea about Teresa’s approach.
Now on to the book highlights:
People were always asking her to slow down and rest. To this she replied “I have eternity to rest.”
The more we renounce the more we draw closer to God.
She isn’t a great theologian, she is one with great compassion. (Note – but she does, as you’ll see, have a great simple theology full of truth, founded in service. The New Testament says that service is true religion.)
Mother Teresa: On Prayer
Jesus said ‘why are you sleeping, wake up and pray.’ Luke 22 Jesus often left society to be alone for prayer.
My secret is very simple: I pray. Praying to God is loving him. If we want to be able to love we must be able to pray.
God allows failure but he does not want discouragement. Prayer is what helps us reach our goal of perfection.
Don’t pray long and drawn out but short full of love. Mental prayer is greatly fostered by simplicity when we forget ourselves.
Prayer is the breath of life to our soul and holiness is impossible without it.
Pray a mental prayer as you shut your eyes, shut your mouth, and open your heart to God. In vocal prayer we speak to God, in mental prayer he speaks to us. It is then that God pours himself into us.
Note – some say truly but incompletely that when we want to talk to God we pray and when we want God to talk to us we read the scriptures. But of course God speaks to us in prayer, and that’s a really big time when he speaks to us. I believe most of conversion comes through prayer, not reading.
Let the love of God take the entire and absolute possession of your heart. Let it become the second nature of your heart. Seek to please God in all things and refuse him nothing.
If you fail, pray and rise up again at once.
You have to deepen your life in prayer before you’ll be able to give the word of God to people who are hungry for it.
You learn humility only by accepting humiliations. You will need humiliation all through your life. The greatest humiliation is to know that you are nothing and you come to know this by prayer when you face God. When you come face to face with God you cannot but know that you are nothing and have nothing.
We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we don’t practice internal and external silence. The internal silence is very difficult but we must make the effort. That brings new unity and energy. Unity is the fruit of prayer, humility and love. In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing and empty and God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything and we need silence to touch souls.
The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. If your heart is full of other things you cannot hear God. If we really want and need to pray we must be willing to do it now. These are the first steps of prayer and the last steps are the presence of God. When our hearts are full our mouths will have to speak. Before you speak it is necessary to listen, then from the fullness of your heart you speak and God listens.
We cannot find God in noise and agitation but in nature. Plants grow in silence as do planets and stars move in silence. When we have silence of the heart, which includes silence of the eyes, ears and mouth, God will speak to us. If we are careful of silence it will be easy to pray. There is so much talk and repetition in words and writing and our prayer life suffers greatly due to the lack of silence.
Real prayer is union with God like the vine to the branch as it says in John. We need this to produce fruit whatever, kind of fruit or money etc., we are called to produce. It is the power of oneness with God.
There is no prayer without sacrifice and there is no sacrifice without prayer. Jesus’ life was spent in intimate union with his father as he passed through this world and we need to do the same.
Today God loves the world so much that he gives you and me to be his love. We need to love him so He can use us to share his food, his clothing, with those in need.
If we have faith we are continually in the presence of God. Contemplation is to live our life in Christ’s life. Contemplation is not to be locked in a dark place, but to be living for God. Don’t waste your time looking for extraordinary experiences in contemplation, just live the pure life, watching for God’s coming as we do his work. (Note – yes, we can have God’s spirit to be our constant companion, to always be with us!) If we don’t pray, our presence and our words will have no power. We need to be completely available to God in every moment.
Prayer is as necessary to keep us alive to the grace of God as air is necessary to keep our bodies alive.
Knowledge of God produces love, and knowledge of the self produces humility.
St Augustine says fill yourself first, then will you be able to then only will you be able to fill others.
(Note – this is true but not to be confused with the popular trend of excessive self-care. Henry B Eyring gave a good talk on meeting others’ needs before your own, giving examples of those whose homes were destroyed when the Teton dam broke, who went to go help others in greater need than themselves.)
Knowledge of the self is also a safeguard against pride. The greatest mistake is to think that you are too strong to fall into temptation. You have to walk through the fire but refuse to give in to temptation.
(Note – this is certainly a forgotten principle. Every single person should daily live with the awareness that they are liable to fall, and should take caution in all they do. Every day is a trial.)
Pray to make loved the one who is not loved.
Words to which do not increase Christ increase the darkness. Pray for the light to know love and do the will of God.
Mother Teresa: On Love
It is better to commit faults with tenderness then to work miracles with unkindness.
Note – it seems that as we try our best we’ll make mistakes on both sides of the line, but try we must. Some circumstances do require swift and straightforward rebukes. Failure to show tough love when it’s needed is still a failure to love. But generally speaking, most of us err on the side of unkindness rather than the side of tenderness, so this is great council. Though I must bring up the other side as we live in an increasingly permissive society which mistakes low standards with love.
God commands us to love him and our neighbor, and he cannot command the impossible. We can harvest God’s love any season and anyone can do it. To love we do not need to do something extraordinary. We need to love without getting tired, like a continual lamp burning from one drop of oil after another. Keep your lamp burning and you will recognize Jesus in you. Jesus loved us to the limit of love, the cross. We too must love till our death.
A mother of 12 children’s last child was terribly mutilated. Teresa said she volunteered to welcome that child into her house where there are many others of similar conditions. The mother of the child began to cry and said “For God’s sake Mother don’t tell me that. This creature is the greatest gift of God to me and my family. All our love is focused on her. Our lives would be empty if you took her from us.”
One family with a crippled child called the child “teacher of love” as that child teaches love by what they would do for him.
Don’t try to conquer the world with bombs but with love and sacrifice. Kindness has converted more people than zeal science or eloquence. Holiness grows fast where there is kindness. The fulfillment of the law is to love one another. Jesus came to teach us that God loves us and he wants us to love one another. It is the intensity of love we put into our gestures that makes them beautiful for God.
It’s easy to love those who are far away but much harder to love those who are right next to us. Sometimes it’s hard for a husband and wife to smile at each other. (Later she adds,) Teresa is married to Jesus and it is difficult sometimes to smile at Jesus because he can be very demanding at times.
We are created not just to seek things, but to love and be loved. Do little good things for the sake of the great (big) thing which is the will of God.
If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride as it shows you trust in your own powers. Do your best and that is all. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed you here where you are, he will offer a solution.
Note – this doesn’t mean don’t seek better situations, even Teresa did that; situations where she could more fully fulfill her mission, such as establishing new homes for the poor when there was great pushback, etc.
When we care for the poor we are touching the body of Christ. (see Matthew 25:40) When We touch the poor it makes us heroic and makes us forget about our inferiority. Intense love does not measure, it just gives. Charity is an overflow of the love of God from within. The more disgusting the work the more love will be required to do it.
Note – just be sure that you never sink down to their level morally when you’re dealing with immoral people. You may not be able to persuade them to go higher but you can and always must offer them your example.
When we find God we gain back the innocence of our youth which we had lost. When you have found God go home and bring joy to your parents. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength.
The poor felt attracted to Jesus because they felt a higher power in him which flowed out from him.
The joy of the Resurrection can allow us to not become ever discouraged.
Joy is not just a matter of temperament, it is always hard. This is why we have to seek it. We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart in love with God. Jesus can take full possession of our souls only if we surrender joyfully. Thus, joy is one of the greatest protections against temptation.
Mother Teresa: On Giving
Poor people are often very generous. It is a pity that the rich never give to the point of feeling that they are in need. Don’t just give from your surplus, give until you really feel it. The rich who live with the worry of riches are actually very poor. They are only rich if they put their money to the service of others.
Note – fools mock the poor and say they shouldn’t give, but it is the rich who will be brought down to hell. The only authorization scriptures give for riches is to serve the poor (Jacob 2). No matter how much we have, giving is an essential element of the righteous life. I’m reminded of a story of John Huntsman who had become rich and generous. He heard people say “if I were so rich I would give too.” But he rebuked this idea, and taught that there are many rich who don’t give, and said that he gave even when he was poor. Charity is more of a character trait than something about money.
She heard of one family with eight children who had not eaten for days. She went to give them food. The mother of this starving family went out and came back with only half the food, she had given the rest to her neighbors who were also hungry.
One little child had never eaten chocolate and when he finally got a piece he said “here take it and give it to the children.” He gave something very precious to him, and he gave it all. Small children often make great sacrifices to give to the poor.
She doesn’t allow people to have fundraisers for her; she wants people to give of themselves. One man who was paralyzed except for his hand stopped smoking for a week and gave the money he would have used for smoke to Teresa for charity.
The most difficult thing of the suffering experience is not being wanted.
We say God is loving and kind, but can people see the living proof of that through us?
Do not be surprised or preoccupied at the failures in others but rather find the good in them because we are all created in the image of God. We aren’t a community of saints, we are a community of people trying to become saints.
One woman who likes to wear expensive clothing asked how she could help Teresa to serve the poor. Teresa said a quick prayer and was impressed to tell the woman to buy less expensive clothing and buy clothing for the poor with the remainder of what she would have spent. The woman did this and was glad.
There’s a natural conscience within every person, Christian or not Christian, to know the difference between right and wrong.
Note – Latter-day saints call this “the light of Christ”, our scripture says every person is born with it.
Mother Teresa: On Being Holy
Our mission is to convey a living God’s love.
Note – well put. God’s love isn’t something we wait for God to do, it is something He inspires us to do, and that’s a big part of God’s love: His influence to get us to love.
The first step to become holy is to will it. You can run to reach and possess God, but it all depends on whether you want to. The Passion of Christ is being re-lived everywhere, and we can share in it if willing. Submission is more than a duty, it is the secret of holiness. To be holy is to carry out God’s will with joy.
Note – To have joy in something means you delight in it, you’re eager to do it. Perfect willingness. When it comes to being willing and wanting godliness to take upon us the name of Christ, are we willing and wanting to put aside the world’s ways in favor of God’s ways? The reason we read the scriptures and listen to General Conference and read the Church manuals is because we can’t reject the world and accept God if we don’t even know what God wants. Do we know what God’s ways are when it comes to eating, dressing, playing, voting, reading, gaming, watching, sporting, dating, marrying, … ? This is one reason the role of a parent is so sacred and crucial in God’s plan, it is the initial platform for learning God’s will to better give us agency to choose God’s ways or our own ways. Scripture says that God’s ways are higher than our ways. I’d wager they are often at odds with the ways of psychologists, professors, doctors, popular politicians, school teachers, friends, and maybe even some of the ways your parents taught you growing up. It’s important to be in the true church or you won’t get as correct information about what God wants from you, so you won’t be able to become as He is to the same degree. And the degree we become like God is the degree we will be happy, as God is by definition the happiest person there is. So step one: faith comes by hearing the word of God. Learn God’s ways. Then pray to God that those ways will enter your heart, and that you’ll have the courage to stand up for those ways. You will be tested. But with every test you pass, it becomes that much easier to be a saint. We are the latter Day saints,or as Hyrum Andrus said, the latter Day ‘aints and complaints? Yes, it can be hard to follow God. It can be lonely. But the alternative is so much worse. Surely hell is a lingering realization of what you could have been, but failed to become. You also study doctrine because you need to know the rewards involved. I can’t tell you, the bishop can’t tell you, you have to find it, it’s sort of a top secret. Get active about knowing your religion, what it wants you to do, what it has in store for you. When you know, it becomes a joy to lay down the old life and take up the cross. It has to do with learning how terrible and real hell is, and how wonderful and real heaven is. You’ve got to figure out all those mechanics.
When you say you want to be holy you are saying you will divest yourself of everything that is not of God. It is to empty the heart of material things.
Christ tells us to aim very high – not to be like Abraham or any of the saints, but to be like our Heavenly Father.
Gandhi said if Christians were to live their Christian lives to the fullest, there would not be one Hindu left in India.
St. Francis said each one of us is what we are in the eyes of God, nothing more nothing less..
Note – There is a trend today to hyperinflate self esteem. In “The Collapse of Parenting”, Dr. Leonard Sax points out that many youth today are so often told that they are awesome that when they graduate college and fail in the market, they learn they aren’t so great as everyone told them they were. We must be honest as we give people feedback. Polite, but not inflated. Of course the other side of this is that everyone needs to know that God sees potential in them and loves them as a parent loves its child. But this love from God isn’t to be confused, as it popularly is, with the idea that we don’t need to do anything, or that we don’t need to take our faults seriously, ever seeking improvement in this daily probation we call life.
Live each day as though it were the first day of your conversion.
We cannot be renewed without the humility to realize what needs to be renewed in ourselves.
(Note- great point; people today wonder why they haven’t seen the face of God yet; disappointing teachers just tell them to not worry about it; these people fail to understand and teach that we must perfect ourselves before we see the face of God. People today don’t want to admit that they aren’t perfect. They fail to admit that God’s ways are higher than our ways. They can’t imagine anything about themselves that could be improved. Humility is a concept which is entirely at odds with today’s politically correct culture of entitlement, where everyone mistakes the universal love of God with the non-universal approval and higher blessings of God. They hear some preacher teacher or parent pumping up their self esteem about how wonderful they are to the extent that they can’t imagine how they could (or should) be any better than they currently are. Surely today’s self esteem culture is toxic and spiritually damning.)
Being happy with God now means loving like he loves & helping like he helps. Jesus is going to do great things with you if you let him, and if you don’t interfere with him.
Be very strict with what you are receiving from the outside, beware anything that takes you away from the reality of what you have given to God.
(Note- again, beware the self esteem hyperinflation. It’s just as big a problem if not bigger than a self deprecating perspective.)
We must not be afraid because God loves us and will continue to help us. When we understand the tenderness of God’s love there is no need for us to despair.
We are very unlike Jesus; we have very little love, compassion, and kindness.
(Note – we have failed character traits on the other side of the spectrum too; we fail to be exact, we fail to teach appropriately high standards, we fail to hold ourselves accountable, we fail to acknowledge the holy standards of a righteous God. As Joseph Smith taught, God is more willing to forgive than we know, but also more strict regarding sin than we know.)
The work of moral rearmament is carried out with discretion and love. The more discreet the more penetrating it will be. You give it to others and they absorb it.
(Note- I recall the teaching of Elder Holland that surely the thing that God must love being most about God is the thrill of being merciful.)
Sustain the tempted by our prayer, penance, and love, and encouraging enlightening words when the opportunity arises. Encourage them to bear suffering for the world.
Loving trust means confidence in Heavenly Father even when everything seems a total failure.
Walk in total freedom, daring, and fearless of any obstacle, trusting in God, knowing that nothing is impossible with God. Feel like little children, totally convinced of the goodness of God the Father. Faith in God is to go through life peacefully like a child with his hand in his mother’s with no fear or anxiety.
When you learn that God exists, you learn that you must live for him.
Mother Teresa: On work & Service
God doesn’t demand our constant attention, just our willingness and effort.
We are the wires, God is the current. We can let the current pass through us and use us to produce the light of the world, or we can refuse to be used and let darkness prevail.
Perhaps you can read a newspaper to a blind man or babysit a family’s child for a half hour. Many things are so small that we forget about them.
Everything we do can involve thought and importance, even the little things.
God will not ask you how many books you’ve read or how many miracles you’ve worked. He will ask if you’ve done your best for the love of him. Even if our best is failure it must be our best, our utmost.
If you are in love with Christ no matter how small your work it will be done better. Your work will prove your love. You’ll be exhausted with work, you may even kill yourself, but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless. To work without love is slavery.
Serve God wherever you feel called to, whether that’s feeding the poor, changing social structures, etc.
Never think in terms of crowds, think in terms of individuals, that will inspire work. “I believe in person to person encounters.”
It’s difficult to see when people are drunk and shouting that this is Jesus in his distressing disguise. We must be clean and loving to bring compassion to them. We must be pure in heart to see Jesus in the person of the spiritually poorest. It is an honor to serve Christ in the spiritual poorest and should be done with reverence and the spirit of sharing.
St Francis of Assisi was repulsed by lepers but he overcame it.
When you help someone cross the road or give them a glass of water you do it to Jesus.
Be ready to be detached from the work you are doing for Christ, it is not your work, it is his. The talents God has given you are not yours, they have been given to you for your use, for the glory of God. Be great and use everything in you for the glory of the Great Master.
Note – it appears she is teaching us to be allowed to lose, to accept suffering in the work, to be ok if something goes wrong while we are doing the work. When Brigham Young saw the temple he and his people sacrificed so dearly to make and serve in being burned, he said (essentially), ‘good, let them have it.’ Another point to be made is that when we join in the work of God, in addition to trusting it all to God, we also become personally invested in it, making God’s purpose our purpose – we are joining the family business.
If we are meek and humble we will learn to pray and therefore belong to Jesus; therefore we will believe and love and serve. If you pray you will have faith and if you have faith you will naturally want to serve. When you have faith you want to put it into action. Faith in action is service. The fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace. We should all work for peace.
Politicians should spend time on their knees to become better statesmen.
Prayer St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Mother Teresa: On Jesus
Don’t pass by the cross, it is a place of grace. There is a story of a little robin who saw Jesus on the cross and flew around until he found a way to remove just one thorn, and in the process was pricked himself. Be like that little robin, find something you can do [and it’ll probably hurt].
We all have to carry our own cross if we are to reach the summit with Jesus. We must be emptied of ourselves and be Jesus’s love and light in the world.
Mother Teresa has a vow Chastity where she does not marry and focuses instead her devotion on God. Chastity is not just abstinence from marriage, it is to have love for God.
Note – The Latter-Day saints know that marriage is part of the law of Chastity and is Holiness to the lord. Inasmuch as you marry a Christian, you marry Christ. Teresa was being a saint the best way she knew how.
Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.
“the more we renounce the more we love God and man.”
You have been created for great things. You must not be afraid to say yes to Jesus because there is no greater love than his love, and no greater joy than his joy.
We can be there for people, even those who resent our presence.
Jesus, in the form of the least of these brethren, is hungry not only for bread, but for love, to be taken into account.
All that Jesus asks of us is to give ourselves to him.
Note- this might sound like a lot but it can be a very peaceful way when you consider the alternative – the world pressures you to be something you aren’t, to strive for less meaningful things, the world is constantly pushing us to be doing things contrary to our divine nature. The miracle takes place when we give ourselves to god, our lives become so much more than they would have been otherwise, and all the while even in the stariving, peace which the world cannot give.
We must be totally available to Jesus in whatever form he comes to us.
Sanctity is Jesus in you.
Mother Teresa: On Poverty & the Poor
God did not create poverty, we did.
Poverty is not just hunger for bread but for the dignity of human love. In some countries poverty is more spiritual involving loneliness, disparagement and the lack of meaning in life. It is difficult to remove the spiritual hunger of a person who feels shut out from society.
Don’t just be concerned about the poor who are far away, it is more challenging to help the poor that are near you.
It’s not enough to know the spirit of poverty, you have to know poverty itself. Poverty means not having anything. Christ voluntarily became poor even though he was rich. Those we aid are poor by force and we are poor by choice. (Note- Teresa is someone who truly understood this voluntarily. It’s how people she served knew she was the real deal.)
Spending lots of money on food and clothes is trifling. (Note- simple foods can give great health. Simple clothes can too- our bodies weaken when constantly cushioned.)
Remain as empty as possible so the Lord can fill us up.
Rigorous poverty is a safeguard against our possessions keeping us from sharing.
Note – true, it is good to have much if you give much. As Jacob 2 says the only justification for riches is the desire to better serve the poor. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft (a huge Teresa fan) speaks of a core Christian value being poverty, and that the world tries to take us from that virtue by insisting that we focus on wealth rather than God, service, holiness, knowledge, modest living, etc. His book”Culture War” is terrific.
Religious orders historically have made the mistake of transitioning from serving the poor to serving the rich.
Note- this is the consecrated life, it is to seek the interest of others as much as your own. It is as Brigham Young describes Zion, that we all live in tents until everyone has a tent, then we all live in huts till everyone has a hut, then we all live in cabins till everyone has a cabin, and thus we progress together.
Poverty is love before it is renunciation. To love it is necessary to give and be free from selfishness.
When we are poor we can work with the poor and they say “it is very hot” we can likewise say “we too are experiencing the heat.” As they go barefoot, so do we. We stand in line for food as they, and have only a bucket of water as they. For us there is no fasting, there is only giving of food as we receive it.
Note- this is a good point on fasting. Teresa is saying ‘we don’t fast now and then, we fast all the time.’ Fasting is better if it is more continuous humility than it is the occasional starving, and living high on the hog the other 95 percent of the time. Hugh Nibley said we should always be fasting. This means that we should live a humble life, always giving of ourselves. We can do the occasional complete fast, just as we can do the occasional treat (and the occasional meat if we wish), but the point is to typically lead a humble life. This is not to detract from the church practice of once a month going 24 hours without food or water and giving those funds to the poor, this is to add to and make holier that sacrifice. It is of course a free will offering, and we set the bar low for general church membership. I’m aware of multiple accounts that attest to the leaders of the church fasting more than just once a month, and of their humble lifestyles when it comes to housing, personal spending, and so forth. I’m not saying all church leaders live humble lives, I’m saying many do, and that pathway of holiness is narrow but open to all who wish for it. Nibley also says taking more than you need is stealing. More than enough is more than enough, it doesn’t belong to us. All belongs to God. There’s no such thing as earning or deserving or being entitled to more than you need. This doesn’t mean the government should crush the rich, it means we should voluntarily recognize God as the chief sovereign, and choose to live in accordance to his will. Only in the voluntary charity system can a person maintain his personal dignity and motivation to continue to produce at his best.
Patched clothes are no disgrace. It is said that when Saint Francis of Assisi died, his clothes were so patched that the original cloth was no longer there.
Jesus told people the good news after he fed them.
One woman Teresa picked up in the street looked very hungry, Teresa gave her a bowl of rice and she just stared at it. She couldn’t believe it was rice, she hadn’t eaten in so long.
Note – a person can live on only water for multiple months.
Perhaps in our homes there is no one naked or hungry, but there could very well be someone deprived of attention and affection. Also consider your lonely aged father or mother, abandonment is an awful poverty.
All the homeless are someone’s children and were all loved at some time.
(Note- I remember the song from Les Miserables called “Turning”, it reads,
“Did you see them going off to fight?
Children of the barricade who didn’t last the night
Did you see them lying where they died?
Someone used to cradle them and kiss them when they cried
Did you see them lying side by side?
Who will wake them?
No one ever will”
That’s the end of the lyric for our purposes here. Of course they will be awaken by God their father in the resurrection, but the point is that we fall so far short of giving the help people need, forgetting that all are precious children, and the suffering and shortness of life is a bitter fruit of our selfishness, corrupt political philosophies, and so forth.
Once a person becomes a parent, seeing the suffering of anyone the age of your child becomes particularly painful, as you consider “what if that was my _______ (name of your child)”. This is why I believe that being a parent can bring upon a person a sense of compassion which no other system can. A parent pours their entire life into the wellbeing of their children, and receives tremendous affection from their children, and tearing that apart is to tear apart the parent itself.)
When you know people, it causes you to love them, which causes you to serve them.
What the poor give to us is more than what we give to them.
The standard for judgment for all people Christian and non-Christian alike is how we treat the poor. Therefore the poor are the hope of humanity.
Mother Teresa: On Forgiveness
Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must first learn to forgive before anything else.
Confession is where we go in sinners with sin and come out sinners without sin.
Confession is where we allow Jesus to take from us everything that divides us from him.
Knowledge is necessary for confession. This is why the saints could say they were criminals, because they saw God then they saw themselves. When the saints looked upon themselves with horror they really meant it.
What appears to be a stumbling block can be a rock for us to step up on.
Knowledge of ourselves helps us rise up because when we see our weakness we know we need Gods help.
When we take the Eucharist (Sacrament) we pledge to take Jesus literally, to literally help the poor.
Note- Though the latter-day saints don’t see the sacrament as actual flesh but as symbolic flesh, a token of covenant, the symbol Teresa is here teaching is brilliant- we are to literally commit to literally do what Jesus would do.
The Holy Communion is uniting ourselves with God, the saints understood this and they could spend hours preparing for it and hours giving thanks for it.
Mother Teresa: On Children and the Family
“I will take any child anytime night or day. Just let me know and I will come for him.”
Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next door neighbor. You’ll be able to say to them “yes love is here” and be able to share it.
Teresa took in one little girl off the street and each day the little girl would run away and later return. They found out she was going to her mother who lived in the street under a tree where she had put two stones and did cooking. Teresa asked why she kept leaving when she has more with Teresa. The little girl said she loves her mother and cannot be without her. Thus we see there is more happiness in being with mother than with having many possessions. When she was with Teresa and the sisters in the home for the poor the child did not smile, but when the child was with her mother in the street she could not stop smiling. Why? Because they were family.
Note- Similarly, parents must be willing to have vocation which allows maximum family time. Ideally father will work and mother will be at home, or father will work a job which allows children and perhaps even mother to work alongside him such as the classic family self sufficiency farm. The family business is sadly increasingly unpopular. But many families end in divorce because dad is gone so long to provide more and more money, that father becomes sad, mother sees “he isn’t the man I married”, and by and by, divorce ensues. So ironically, in efforts to provide for family and show his love by provision, the father gets less time with the family, and the ultimate tragedy (divorce) often ensues. So fathers, don’t chase the dollar. Mothers, don’t push father to chase the dollar. Mothers give up careers for family, but so do fathers, as fathers often must take more stable and family friendly jobs to provide than jobs they themselves could live off of which might be more appealing to them were they not providing for the temporal and spiritual needs of the family. For more great reading on this topic see Warren Farrell’s “Boy Crisis”.
Teresa was in a neighborhood where there were no children. One lady was pushing a baby stroller and Teresa went over to see the child, but to her shock it was not a child, it was a dog in the stroller. She said she hated to see a dog take the place of a child. She said “People are afraid of having children. Children have lost their place in the family.”
Children are very lonely not having anyone at home to greet them, so they go back into the streets. If the mother is home the children will be there too. To bring the children back home is a beautiful thing to do for God.
Note – families must sacrifice to have a mother in the home for the sake of the children. This is forever and always the primary role of women, and its glory is not understood.
Children are a sign of God’s love.
No one should dare to take human life (note- here she is referring to abortion, she hated abortion). Life is the life of God in us. Life belongs to God and we have no right to destroy it.
Mary offered her body to form the image of Christ.
When Children are killed before they see the light of day it is a great offense to God.
She promotes family planning, particularly among the poor.
Note- this is certainly a difficult issue, and it does not seem wise for people to have a child out of wedlock, it is unwise (even sinful) to have sexual relations outside of the contract of marriage where children will get the care they deserve; we do encourage married couples to have children even when financially it doesn’t make sense. Having children is a leap of faith financially and every other way. Particularly in these corrupt times, young couples will always get pushback from folks encouraging them to delay childbearing.
Teresa continually took in more children. Her homes were always full of children.
Today the world is upside down because there is little love in the home or time for children and each other to enjoy each other, and this lack of love causes much suffering in the world. “Everyone today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches. Children have very little time for their parents and parents have very little time for their children and each other. So the breakdown of peace in the world begins at home.”
Today we are so busy that when children come home they are not welcomed with a smile.
A family that prays is a united family. Families get broken because they don’t pray together.
Her mother was usually busy all day long but when sunset drew near she hurried her tasks in order to be ready to receive her husband. No matter what happened she was always prepared with a smile to welcome him.
Help children live today so that when tomorrow becomes today they can face it with greater love. Children can only learn love when they see their parents’ love for each other. “People who really and truly love each other are the happiest people in the world.”
The poor who have little or nothing are often very happy as they love their children and their family. (Note- remember in Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says of his poor newlywed daughter and new son-in-law, “they’re so happy they don’t know how miserable they are!”)
“Jesus was born into a family and stayed in Nazareth for 30 years. He had come to redeem the world, yet he spent 30 years in nazareth, during the humble work of an ordinary person. They spent all those years just living out family life.”
Note- terrific point, everyone high or low must join together in the central element of life, the family. We could also point out that in all probability, Jesus was married with children of his own. This of course is hidden to the Catholic church and most other churches today. Another important point is the simple trade. Though Jesus was learned in law and so forth, he lived the humble life of a tradesman. In the ideal society, everyone will likely have a constructive trade, and both study and teach on the side voluntarily.
Mother Teresa: On Suffering and Death
“The prize with which God rewards our self-abandonment is himself.”
Teresa considered the suffering of others to be much greater than her own.
A terrible monsoon disaster brought about sharing as people donated food and clothing from everywhere.
“Suffering will never be completely absent in our lives so don’t be afraid of suffering.” Suffering in itself is useless, but when we share it as the love of God it is a wonderful gift.
The Passion of Christ ends in the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, so when you suffer remember that the resurrection will come.
Teresa calls AIDS the leprosy of the West. On Christmas day she opened a house to care for for AIDS patients as a gift for Jesus’s birthday.
Note it is high time that we stopped treating Christmas like a time to receive and more like a time to give. Of course there can’t be giving without receiving, but let’s involve our children more in the giving aspects, and let’s not get too carried away in frivolous giving to the rich, but seek for the poor to give to. Yes it is good for children to have the happy expectation of a gift but bad if that desire for things consumes them. We must teach them balance, we must teach them Christmas Day above all other days is a day to serve. I remember on my proselyting mission we went out in the rain to knock on doors Christmas Day to seek people to teach of Christ. My companion thought this was most strange, and wanted to take the day off.
When you have a headache remember Jesus’s crown of thorns. When you have a backache remember Jesus being scourged with the whip. When your hands and feet hurt remember the crucifixion. Love and sacrifice to the point of hurting.
Note- in today’s culture of excessive self care, people are allergic to the idea that they should encounter any sort of discomfort as they care for others. They place their own hyperinflated needs as paramount, and only a sliver of their attention remains to share with the poor in spirit, the poor in mind, the poor in body.
Note- this is a little unrelated but perhaps can help teach a message. My brother was in an elite military program, I remember having a conversation with him where he told me “You don’t stop when it hurts.”
Death in the final analysis is the quickest and easiest means to go back to God. We come from God and we have to go back to him. Death is like our coronation, and can be beautiful. We miss them but they’re back with God! We are all meant to go home to God when we die.
One person was dying at a young age and asked why. The reply came from a coworker that God wants you, not your works. The dying young Christian lady was perfectly happy after that.
Mother Teresa: On the Missionaries of Charity
To be a missionary of Charity you need help with mind and body, to have a good sense, a joyous demeanor, and the ability to learn.
Teresa from a young age felt a calling to be a nun to the poor, and then from age 12 to 18 she lost that desire, but at 18 she joined the nuns, and has never regretted it, knowing that it was God’s will for her.
Our work is our prayer because we carry it out in Christ.
(Note- good point; like the Arabs who say “Allah” with every shovel of dirt they scoop, so should we seek dignity and service in every element of our lives. The choices we make each day ought to reflect our prayers to do God’s will, not ours)
A vocation is not a means. For a Christian, a vocation is a calling.
(Note- though of course fathers have the primary duty to provide for a family, and jobs are needed to bring in income; but what Teresa is saying is true when we see any wholesome job as service to Christ. The garbage man is taking out the garbage of Christ, the builder is building for Christ, etc. Of course we must abstain from any questionable business practices.)
When we say yes to God that means we surrender totally without any counting the cost, without any examination, without asking if it is alright or convenient.
Note- this is like Brigham Young who said that when God commands him to do something, he never counts the cost, he just does it. He lost his home and all possessions 4 times (as I recall, it might be more) in the pursuit of Christian duty, particularly missionary proselyting.
We don’t make plans, there’s only today.
Note- we live to the fullest today, but this doesn’t mean we don’t prepare for tomorrow.
We accept whatever God gives and we give whatever God takes.
Read St John’s gospel and see how many times Jesus uses the word father. (Note- in the whole New Testament Jesus says father 132 times, all but 11 referring to God. In John, Jesus says “my father” 34 times. (https://www.pblcoc.org/bulletin-articles/jesus-and-the-father-in-the-book-of-john/#:~:text=He%20uses%20the%20word%20father,He%20thought%20of%20Him%20personally.)
We must empty ourselves so God can possess us. Give yourself fully to God because God gave himself fully to you. We would be truly poor if we did not have the power to give ourselves over to God.
You can’t learn humility from books. When people resent you, that’s the time to be compassionate.
Accept that joyfully we need to die daily in order to bring souls to God. We must pay the price Christ paid for souls.
We must adapt ourselves to any culture we are called to serve in. We must be willing to perform any labor or toil or sacrifice in our missionary life as we fight against our own ego and love of comfort.
The church needs warriors today. Our war cry needs to be fight not flight. The church needs saints today.
Serve in prisons and abortion clinics to save people from those things.
Sometimes we fight for justice when the person right in front of us is dying of hunger. There are different options for the people of God to serve in but serving the poor crosses all barriers of creed and nationality. Gather street children, clean them, feed them, then teach them to make them ready for regular schools.
When one of the sisters is in a bad mood Teresa does not let her go to the poor because the poor don’t need our bad moods, they already have enough bad.
We must work hard everyday to conquer ourselves and ask Jesus for the grace to love one another.
Every evening after their work they gather in the chapel for an hour of silent adoration.
The poor are great people, they can accept very difficult things and they don’t grumble.
When you walk past a poor person and do nothing it indicates a lack of faith because if you really understood that that person is your brother you would help them. People don’t know compassion, people don’t know the greatness of all human beings.
They have only three simple outfits and they eat very simple food. They mend their clothes and take very good care of them. They bathe with only a bucket of water in small bathing rooms. They refuse to eat in the houses of the people. They refuse to have radios. They sleep on hard beds. They travel by foot or simple train. They kneel in the chapel on thin rugs.
They relish cleaning toilets and dirt as though that were the most honorable thing to do for God.
Their lives are meaningless and utterly wasted if seen only in the light of reason. But looking at Christ in his poverty their life has great meaning.
When we look at the cross we see how much Jesus loved us then, and when we look at the tabernacle we see how much Jesus loves us now.
If you love God it will be easy to give yourself completely to him and to give him to everyone you meet. God loves us and has chosen us for a purpose; we aren’t just a number filling a place.
A Conversation with Mother Teresa
Is it easy to serve the poor? You need prayer sacrifice and to see Christ in the poor continuing to suffer the sorrows of his passion. It can be hard to get deprived people to live together in peace so all we can do is give them our testimony.
How do you get so many vocations (meaning workers)? They come.
Do you get all the materials you need to care for the poor? The needs are always greater than what we have.
Why do you keep opening new centers? Because many volunteers come and they aren’t to be hidden in convents.
What criteria is there for opening a home? We must have been invited by the local Bishop to do so. Present requests for help far surpass our ability to meet them. When they get an invitation to open a home somewhere they go investigate the conditions of the poor there as they never open a home for a reason other than to help the poor.
What importance do you give to our outward appearances? Very little or none. We modify our clothes if that makes us not accepted where we are serving. We would adopt another form of dress if it is better accepted by the poor wherever we are called.
What gives you strength to carry out your work? Learning to see Christ in the disguise of the poor. Faith makes this calling easy or at least more bearable. Without faith our work would become an obstacle for our religious life because we come across blasphemy wickedness and atheism at every turn.
Note- this is a fascinating point, that a perspective of faith can be a shield to protect you against the hard things you encounter while on your mission. Saints serve in the ghettos, especially the spiritual ghettos. There one encounters many evils indeed. Surely constant prayer is needed, and great tact. I do think there’s a difference when preaching – the lowest in morals often only receive the least instruction, and want to kill the prophet who declares a fullness of God’s will. It is true that prophets must declare truth to all, but some shut themselves out from this, and we won’t bother them forever. The D&C speaks of members of each kingdom ministering to the kingdom next below it, but not further down. We recall that the Lord commissioned workers in the spirit world’s prison hell as He could not go there Himself. We see also that typically, the Holy Ghost is the God who ministers to us in this telestial world, occasionally The Son, and very rarely The Father. But each represents the next. All are God’s with different but united roles, all working to bring all who will into God’s kingdom. Perhaps we pass through seasons of helping on each level.
One problem I’ve seen repeatedly is that among the rehabs for misbehaved youth, the staff in these programs don’t enforce company policy and let kids get away with all manner of rudeness, vulgarity and bad media usage. The problem usually involves the workers being involved in all this foul behavior themselves, and not caring about kids misbehaving as they do. If staff would have high standards, refusing to go down to depraved levels, they could better enforce appropriate discipline and lift the youth by their examples.
Do you evangelize? Some instruction is given to children in groups, & instruction is given to adults only when they ask for it. They refer more difficult questions to priests, except those related to their ministry. We are not concerned with the religious belief of those we help, we only focus on how urgent their need is.
Is there preference in who you care for? The poorest
Do people return to the streets for more suffering after they leave your home? We try to help them in more than just health. We act under the conviction that every time we feed the poor we are feeding Christ himself. Some people prefer life in the streets and we can’t help that.
Is medical training sufficient among the missionaries of charity who care for the seriously ill? We help people who don’t even have the most basic help.
(Note- an old saying goes “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.”)
Should you care for people who have a better chance of survival? We care for everyone who needs it. We have preference for those who have the greatest need.
Sometimes there isn’t much you can do for the dying? We can give them the impression of love.
Do you experience repugnance in the face of so much misery? Yes and the work conditions are often very poor, but better to work among the poor than the rich. The work becomes instinctive and habitual. The poor need to learn that there is someone who cares about them.
(Note- there is a happiness that comes from working for the poor rather than the rich. When you’re building homes for simple family rather than the wealthy hedonist, you feel much better about what you are doing. So ideally, we serve in a zion society where we rise together, and there is no poor among us, and we welcome in whoever will keep the law and work.)
One official commented that the missionaries of charity were Christ once again walking among Us.
The sisters try to persuade people with leprosy that they have leprosy, that it can be treated with medicine, and that it is not a curse.
They never have any surplus but they have never lacked what they need. It often happens miraculously. Anonymous donations from people of all nationalities from rich and poor come in.
It is impossible to love God without loving our neighbor.
Some children she took in who were in trouble for stealing at a very young age reported to her that every evening from 5:00 to 8:00 adults taught them how to steal.
They open a savings account for each child they take in. When the child is older he gets higher education if he has that aptitude, or training in the trades.
They don’t get financial help from the government but they do benefit from good government relations insofar as they need to obtain land for their houses etc. (Note- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates similarly: independent, polite, and charitable.)
None of their transactions are business transactions; it all goes straight to the poor.
They declare to the government that these are free gifts and the government gives them the needed permits. They trust the missionaries of charity because they know it’s not going into their pockets, it’s going straight to the poor.
How did they manage donations? They have a register where they list everything they received and the intended use for it. They tried to carry out the will of the donors about how to use the contribution.
Do you ever feel like serving among the rich? The poor are the reason we were born.
Love has no other message but its own.
When people are upset about how you’re giving stuff to other people who need it more, let them calm down; you can’t reason with them.