I was traveling to Darjeeling by train when I heard the voice of God. I was sure it was God’s voice. I was certain that he was calling me. The message was clear. I must leave the convent to help the poor by living among them. This was a command, something to be done, something definite. I knew where I had to be. But I did not know how to get there.
At the time of Mother Teresa’s death, there were over six hundred missions of charity in 123 countries. These included her homes for the dying (hospices), homes for those suffering with AIDS/HIV, home for those with leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, orphanages, and schools.
One day, Christopher Hitchens decided to make a documentary about Mother Teresa. It was to be broadcast on the BBC.
He entitled it, Hell’s Angel.
Love to pray. Take the trouble to pray. Prayer opens your heart until it is big enough to hold and keep God. We must know Jesus in prayer before we can see him in the broken bodies of the poor. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive him and keep him as your own. Then we can bring more of Jesus, more of the love of Jesus, to the people we meet.
Mother Teresa was a follower of Ignatius. She was a Jesuit. Here are the four vows her nuns took:
- Availability: they must be ready to undertake any mission, any apostolic work, any task the church may entrust to them through their superiors.
- Mobility: they should go wherever they are needed, travel to various places, be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, go to another country, district, or town, according to the necessities of the moment.
- Adaptability: in the Pauline sense, “to make oneself all to all men so as to win as many as possible to Christ”; this means to live with the people, among them, as one of them, to feel as they feel, learn new languages, adapt oneself to different cultures, out of love, thus the incarnation is continued. Christ remains active in today’s world, inspires it, and influences it through his human instruments.
- A universal outlook: The whole world is the concern of the religious and their field of apostolate; the spiritual good and personal development of every human being forms part of their field of vision and their apostolic concern.
Christopher Hitchens charged Mother Teresa with simpering to world leaders, and claimed that she was more interested in her connection with them than in saving lives. He was especially harsh in his criticism that she accepted acknowledgment and support from men whose hands were not entirely clean and innocent, including Ronald Reagan.
Mother Teresa described her mission as caring for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.
Mother Teresa cared for people she found in gutters and alleyways, on trash heaps scavenging for food, and on her doorstep.
It is faith that makes our work, which demands both special preparation and a special calling, easy or at least more bearable. Without faith, our work could become an obstacle for our religious life since we come across blasphemy, wickedness, and atheism at every turn.
The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.
Christopher Hitchens labeled Mother Teresa as a demagogue, an obscurantist, and a servant of earthly powers. He also called her a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud. He especially did not like her stance on abortion. Neither did he think highly of her when she counseled people who had been victimized in some way to forgive.
Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust. It sweeps the stairs From the streets and lanes, And because it can, it must.
When asked what she considered the most important training of her sisters, she replied:
Silence. Interior and exterior silence. Silence is essential in a religious house. The silence of humility, of charity, the silence of the eyes, of the ears, of the tongue. There is no life prayer without silence.