With the canonization of Mother Teresa coming up on Sept. 4th, I thought I’d share with you a short letter Mother Teresa wrote to me. Yes, can you believe it? Mother Teresa did, in fact, write me a short little letter – more of a note than a letter, but one packed with wisdom so relevant to us busy moms.
When I was a child, I read one of the first books written about Mother Teresa: Malcolm Muggeridge’s Something Beautiful for God. I was so moved and inspired by this book that I wrote Mother Teresa a letter telling her how much I admired her work and how I would like to be a Missionary of Charity when I grew up. Several weeks later, to my surprise, a little letter from Mother Teresa arrived in the mail. One one side was a picture of Mother Teresa with a prayer she had composed:
On the other side was a note she had typed and signed:
At the time, I was too young to understand the value and the meaning of the letter. I joyfully shared it with my parents and then stuffed the note into a large manila envelope full of letters from penpals.
Fourteen years later, shortly after getting married, my husband and I were sorting through old papers. We discovered the forgotten letter from Mother Teresa. By then, I knew the value of the small note – it was a relic of one who, without a doubt, would be canonized as one the of the great saints of our modern age. My husband and I had the letter professionally framed and we hung it in our office.
As the years passed, we became very busy welcoming and raising one child after another. Accustomed to seeing the letter framed on the wall, I pretty much forgot about it again. And yet, through the joys and sorrows of motherhood, I slowly and unknowingly began to understand the meaning of Mother Teresa’s words. Although written to a child, they were profound words written by a woman who had long suffered the dark night of the soul and yet found the strength to live and love joyfully.
Mother Teresa was, above all, a mother.
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Like ours, her life was one of love and service, devoted to the care of others. She was not only a mother to the poor, the sick and the abandoned, but she was also a spiritual mother to each and every Missionary of Charity who joined her order. Mother Teresa’s vocation was incredibly demanding and draining, wrought with tremendous suffering and difficulties. Where did she get the strength to carry out God’s will? Where do we find this strength?
From the JOY of being loved by Jesus.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Jesus really loves us. Especially in the face of suffering, we can doubt God’s goodness or His love for us. For fifty years, Mother Teresa herself suffered from feelings of spiritual desolation and emptiness.
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In the darkness . . . Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me? The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one. The one — you have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer . . (from Mother Teresa’s Long Dark Night)
Sometimes we feel as if we’re not doing enough to please God. We think we’re not doing a good enough job of raising our children. We worry about our failures and imperfections and how they affect our children’s lives.
Sometimes we feel as if we’re not good enough to deserve God’s love.
And yet, in His incredible mercy, He loves us anyways:
Jesus wants me to tell you again … how much is the love he has for each one of you — beyond all what you can imagine. … Not only he loves you, even more — he longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy …
When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then, when you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now. – Mother Teresa
We need to keep the joy of being loved by Jesus ever burning in our hearts. We need to contemplate it, pray about it, and foster a deep gratitude for His merciful, unconditional, redeeming love.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Like Mother Teresa, our strength comes from a life of prayer. Only through prayer will we come to be convinced of God’s amazing love for us and there find deep spiritual joy.
And then, we need to share that joy, first and foremost, with our family. It isn’t easy. Do you feel like smiling while your kid is having a tantrum? Do you feel joyful when you are exhausted, your kids are driving you crazy, and you’re overwhelmed with housework, school work, and bills that never end? Or what about that chronic illness that makes you feel like you just can’t cope?
Mother Teresa shows us the way:
By your thoughtful love and humble service.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Thankfully, being joyful is not about how we feel. It’s about being convicted of Christ’s love for us and acting on that conviction by reflecting Christ’s love to others.
In our day to day interactions with our husband and children, is our love thoughtful? Are we sensitive to the feelings of others? Do we try to anticipate the needs of others? Do we make little acts of kindness that show our kids we are thinking of their happiness?
And then, is our service humble? Do we accept our shortcomings with humility and trust? Do we take the advice of others without offense? Are we ready to serve others solely for the glory of God, without seeking payback or recognition?
These are things worth thinking and praying about.
Here is a bookmark you can print out and keep to remember her words.
Like Mother Teresa, let’s contemplate Christ’s love for us, find joy in His love, and share that joy with our family through thoughtful love and humble service. What a beautiful way to holiness for mothers! Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!