St. Teresa of Calcutta's Call to Mercy
St. Teresa of Calcutta's cure for the material and existential things that ail us.
I'm reading a book about St. Teresa of Calcutta for a book club in October. It's called A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, by Brian Kolodiejchuk. Each chapter addresses one of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with simple chapters entitled, "Feed the Hungry" and "Instruct the Ignorant" and so forth.
The set up of the book is very formulaic in that it has short introductions and then a variety of stories in the words of St. Teresa and then testimonies of people that she worked with and served. Each chapter is concluded with a different prayer that she prayed for various days of the week or particular activities. It's a very quick yet satisfying read.
It's hard not to read reflections from her life and feel like an utter failure on behalf of the poor and needy in your community. It's also hard not to read these stories and remind myself that Mother, as she was called throughout the book, wouldn't think that. She would admonish us to "Go home and love your family."
Mother was very practical in how she met the needs of those she encountered. Driving to a fancy dinner where you're going to receive an award and a bunch of money to help serve the poor and you see a sick man languishing in the gutter? Tell your driver to pull over and pick up the man and have that man take the seat of the important dignitary riding beside you. Then take him to get cleaned up and feed him.
In New York City meeting with politicians at a conference about helping the homeless and you need to step over a homeless person just to get _inside_ the conference? Pick up that man, too, and take him to get cleaned up and fed before you continue on with your conference.
St. Teresa lived her whole life by a saying you can count out on five fingers: I do it to You. This was her guiding principle. She did everything for the poorest of the poor as if she was doing it for Jesus. Mother didn't make it into this twenty-first century, but she had a prescient knowledge of that which would most plague humanity: a lack of human love and understanding.
While those who are materially poor can seem the most needy, it is those of us with material abundance that need a serious intervention. She was aware of this deprivation and insisted that people needed to learn how to love one another. In an age where we anticipate self-driving taxis and robots who will "feel," this is St. Teresa of Calcutta's most pressing lesson that must be learned:
Do not be afraid to love one another.
"Love is for today; programs are for the future. We are for today; when tomorrow will come, we shall see what we can do. Somebody is thirsty for water today, hungry for food today. Tomorrow we will not have them if we don't feed them today. So be concerned with what you can do today."