W.W.M.T.D.? What Would Mother Teresa Do?
September 5, 1997 was the day Mother Teresa died. My husband and I were beginning R.C.I.A. classes to reconcile our Christian faith with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Communion of Saints was new to me. I was just exploring Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses... Well, this cloud of witnesses; that really opens it up!
But there were so many saints proclaimed by the Church! Which one do I pick? Who do I most identify with? Also, was it okay with God that I talk to these saints?
I was familiar with baby steps because I had plenty of them pitter pattering all over the place. Our fifth child at this time was four months old. “A little child shall lead them…” Katie Joy went with me everywhere, including RCIA classes.
Mother Teresa seemed like a safe bet. I didn’t need to pray to her, but I could certainly learn from her. And like today, 19 years later, Mother Teresa’s name and story were showing up everywhere, even in the mainstream culture.
Why is that? Maybe it’s because humility is universal. Everyone finds true love of neighbor, inspiring. She didn’t judge anyone based on religion, ethnicity, or wealth. In fact, she chose the lowly, the outcast, the poorest of the poor. In them, she saw the face of Christ. Mother Teresa was countercultural. She always did the opposite of what the world esteemed as valuable.
People were drawn to that. They still are. And they will continue to be.
I had a coffee table book of photos of Mother Teresa. I’d heard about her at Mass. I learned of her example in the hand-outs that the kids came home with from Sunday catechism classes.
Some time after that, I started teaching as a catechist for elementary aged children.
I came across this picture within a curriculum:
I was so impressed by this because of the photo itself but also the caption: Mother Teresa holds a baby girl with one arm. Can I say, “Moved to tears?”
I ripped this drawing out of the spiral teacher’s guide, framed it, and hung it in my laundry room. Whenever I felt that dirty clothes were getting the better of me, I’d gaze at the picture. It gave me perspective, against my whiney first world meltdowns. After contemplating its profundity, the mismatched socks, the ‘wet the bed’ sheets, and ‘never seeing the bottom of the hamper’ woes didn’t seem so important.
I learned a little about Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I admired that they lived in solidarity with the poor they served. How it was sweltering hot in Calcutta, India, but the nuns slept on simple mats on the floor with no ceiling fans, let alone, air conditioning. I was impressed by the habit she chose for her nuns, the white sari with a vivid blue stripe. The simple spiritual uniform cost only $1. It reminded me of a ceramic bowl I received from a nun who was moving back to her hometown to retire and she had to give away many things.
Mother Teresa’s example inspires me to examine myself, my standing with my relationship to God and my neighbor. Have I loved my children, submitted to my husband, shown mercy to my friends, and enemies?
About three years ago, I went on a business trip with my husband. We’d been Catholic by then, about 17 years. I’d grown comfortable with the saints and their place in my prayer life. My devotion to the Queen of Saints, Our Lady Mary, had developed to a level where I was frequently praying my rosary and counting on her as my mother and prima uno intercessor.
During this trip, we stopped at a shopping mall. I walked into a Macy’s department store to the cosmetic counter. You can’t do a trade show without your make-up!
A kindly petite brunette lady stepped out of the Estee Lauder booth, smiled big, and asked me if I needed help. I felt a little embarrassed, because most of the time, I buy my make-up at the drugstore. But since we were in the mall, and out of town, I thought, “What the heck? Let’s see how the other half lives.” I really wanted a makeover. Just a teensy one.
Her name badge said, ‘Kola’. She had a tinge of an European accent. Her eye went right to my Miraculous Medal necklace. She said, “I like your medal.” I warmed to her instantly. She then said, “I grew up in an orphanage in Albania. Mother Teresa visited when I was about nine years old. She blessed all of us, and gave each one of us a Miraculous Medal.”
Kola told me that years later, she came to the U.S. as a student, met her husband, and now they have three children.
I replied, “I think the Miraculous Medal worked.”
Kola applied my makeup, sold me on foundation, and put a smile on my face for the rest of the trip. She is my Mother Teresa connection.
When I’m feeling convicted about materialism, I think to myself, W.W.M.T.D? I also remember Pope Francis’ new year’s resolution of making the more humble purchase. I choose the less expensive.
When I’m cranky with my family, I remember her words,
“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
When I am overwhelmed with feeding the hungry, I remember her words,
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
What are your favorite quotes from Mother Teresa?
Please share a situation where she has influenced you.
After all, we do share in the Communion of Saints.