I was reading a book last night with a chapter about Mother Teresa.
She is — and has been for sometime — one of my greatest heroes.
It is her message of love that has always spoken to me, the idea of doing “small things with great love.” The idea of total, courageous, selfless giving to others. Her service surpasses countries, religions, and all sorts of backgrounds as she loved in such a rare, authentic way.
I read one of my first books about her in the waiting room of my doctor’s office when I was pregnant with my first-born. It was a new office at the time and not very busy. The lamp-lit room smelled like new furniture, full of Stein Mart decor and fluffy pillows. Peaceful, classical music played over the speakers — and on the coffee table, there were piles of books about babies and pregnancy and one, about Mother Teresa.
I perched it against my growing belly and thumbed through the glossy pages with full-page spreads of photographs. It talked about the diminutive nun, her moment of “calling” from God on a dusty train ride, her 24-hour service to the poorest of the poor, her tenderness with which she cared for people whom everyone else overlooked.
In the book that I was reading last night, My Life With the Saints by Fr. James Martin, he recalls a story where Mother Teresa was cleaning the wounds of a man with leprosy. A man walked by and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.”
Mother Teresa kindly responded, “I wouldn’t either — but I would do it for Christ.”
Her faith, her love, and her courage have always inspired me, but at the same time, I have found it hard to apply her principals to my life. A life that is so “less radical” than hers.
But then, that’s why I love Mother Teresa.
Her message was one of radical love — but not that everybody had to be serving the poor in the streets of Calcutta to accomplish it. That would, in fact, be impractical. We are all called to different vocations — and for many of us, we are mothers and wives in ordinary circumstances that can still live with radical love. In the words of Mother Teresa herself:
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do — but how much love we put in that action. “
She saw every one of the people she served as the face of Christ. And as a mother and wife, I can serve my loved ones in the same fashion.
And in so many of our homes – our neighborhoods – our states – we may not be in front of many people who are hungry for food. But we are often in front of people who are hungry for peace. And this is where Mother Teresa’s words are relevant to everyone, no matter who they are or where they live:
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
She may not have been a biological mother, but she was Mother to so many — and she reminds me, when I’m feeling all “What is my purpose in life? Blah blah blah..” that my greatest purpose is to serve my family with great love.