MOTHER TERESA: ESSENTIAL WRITINGS
Selected by Jean Maalouf
Orbis Books, 2001
143 pages, $15
To order: (800) 258–5838 or http://www.orbisbooks.com
“The presence of God is fidelity to small things,” writes Mother Teresa. “Infidelity to small things will lead you to sin.” Her Spartan poignancy can be startling.
The “saint of Calcutta” has already been informally canonized by a broad spectrum of humanity, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. She died in 1997, leaving an indelible footprint on the history of the 20th century; these writings hint at how.
In introducing the selections, author Jean Maalouf offers a succinct biographical sketch, then presents the writings so as to reveal five of Mother's most outstanding qualities — focused, prayerful, loving, joyful and fulfilled. In this way, Maalouf profiles the heart of Mother Teresa's vision and shines a light on the spiritual forces that motivated her to found the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 (whose members now carry on her work in India and 100 other countries).
Mother Teresa challenged people to change their conception and way of life. She followed a particular path toward holiness, and with a clarity of purpose that transcended the image the media tried to create for her.
“At the end of life,” she once said, “we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and your clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’
“Hungry not for bread — but hungry for love; naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.”
Relying totally on God's providence, Mother Teresa exuded boundless compassion for the poor. She demonstrated both a contemplative and an active lifestyle and lived in simplicity. She reflected an astounding, unceasing, radical and contagious joy.
Some have criticized her for being too tough, too austere, too obsessed with bodily mortification. Others have objected to the fact that she did not fight to change oppressive social structures, and accepted charitable donations without regard for the (sometimes dubious) motives of the giver. Few, however, doubt the integrity of her vocation. She was neither a philosopher nor a theologian. She simply lived her Christian disciple-ship in the most simple, direct way she knew.
In order to spread joy, joy needs to reign in the family. Peace and war start within one's own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within families. If abortion is permitted in wealthy countries that have all the means that money can buy, those countries are the poorest among the poor. A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa claimed it not so much as a social worker but as a religious sister who sought to awaken others into Christ's love and into the duty of becoming holy, no matter what the place, time or circumstance might be for them.
The author's obvious grasp of Mother Teresa's basic but expansive message is well reflected in his selections. These writings will inspire the layman, challenge the scholar, and show, between the lines, why humanity stands in awe of their author.
Wayne A. Holst is an instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.