Mother Teresa tended to broken souls and bodies at every age and from every walk of life. From the Indian children at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan to the elderly in Nirmal Hriday (Home for the Dying), the Missionaries of Charity still uplift and comfort the truly desperate and helpless. They live and work right in the struggle, sinking their roots deep where they have been planted out of love for God. Often there is no miracle cure, not even a deathbed conversion for all the love and prayer they pour into their work. Yet they remain faithful to the work they believe God calls them to do.
I often think of Mother Teresa when I grow discouraged about parenting Chris and Sarah, biological siblings my husband Craig and I adopted in 2005. As parents we watch over them with great hope as they struggle in their never-ending battle of nurture vs. nature. To be honest, there are days when I think God brought these kids into our lives as much to save us as to help them. As I face the challenges of motherhood, my flaws are glaringly apparent. Efforts to will our children into wholeness have at times been the source of tremendous anxiety and pain for all concerned.
One day I confessed this to Father John, a gentle and holy priest from Nigeria, who listened patiently as I poured out my concerns. Then he encouraged my husband and me to let him offer the children some spiritual direction and to go sit with them in front of the Blessed Sacrament so that we could experience God’s healing presence as a family. Finally, he urged us to be patient. “Just remind them every day that you love them, that you believe in them,” he concluded. “There is great power in the love of a parent. They do not need things to be happy.… They need to know your heart.”
“Get your praise on,” another friend advised me. She meant that I should sing my praises to God, which is always a good thing to do. But in my heart, I heard: “Your children need to hear your praise. So lift up your heart, find your joy…and go get your praise on!”
This “call to joy” is a frequent theme in the writings of Mother Teresa, a relentless summons to peace and joy based not on our current circumstances, but on a simple recognition of who we are in Christ.
Mother Teresa loved to remind her Sisters of the call to joy, recalling the words of St. Francis de Sales, “A sad saint is a bad saint.”
Mother Teresa observed, “Saint Teresa of Avila worried about her sisters only when she saw them lose their joy. Joy is a source of power for us.”
And so today you must decide. Are you going to scan the horizon, looking for the dark clouds ahead and worrying about the future? Or are you going to sink your roots deep into the Living Water and trust God to send a fruitful harvest of peace, joy, and love?
Was there a moment you wish you could do over, when you had an opportunity to choose joy and didn’t? Tell God about that. Thank God for being your joy and strength.
Do you want to be a “bad saint” or a “glad saint”? What situations do you anticipate encountering, for which you will need an extra shot of grace in order to respond with joy? Why not ask God for those graces now?
God, you are my strength and my song. You are the reason for my joy. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and drive away the forces of discouragement and despair. Jesus, I trust in you! St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!