Out of time # 2: MOTHER TERESA

AM: we have reached the earth element, and no one more representative to present this day.

Me: Mother Teresa

AM: could not be missing in the conversations to be honored.

Me: a noble, humble person, aware of suffering and the meaning of helping those who most needed it.

AM: stripped of all pride, of banal self-centeredness, and committed to helping others.

Me: her whole life has been an example. And her selflessness and struggle for the poorest has meant that she can place herself above all of us, in terms of evolution and spiritual freedom of being.

AM: no doubt it is so. We dive into her conversation

Mother Teresa, many of us are impressed to see in this convent so many nuns from India attending to the poorest and sickest of Lima. Will there comes a day when we see religious and missionaries from the Third World attending to the spiritual needs of developed countries?

(Mother smiles) You belong to the First World, and we, India, to which one?

I imagine that even the Third?

Look, I think it is beautiful to consider that there is a lot of spiritual poverty in rich countries, and even material poverty, even if it is less visible. In all of them there is a multitude of people who suffer loneliness, lack of love, physical and moral illnesses, which constitute a greater poverty than the material and more difficult to solve.

Mother Teresa, you seek neither fame nor prestige, yet you travel frequently, give speeches and receive awards. Do you now feel the need to spread a message that you did not feel before?

I accept invitations and awards for the glory of God and the good of the people. I accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for that reason, otherwise I would never have accepted it.

Do you think that love and service to others is enough to solve all problems, without changing unjust structures?

We have to do only what we are capable of doing. We try to fix the evils of the world by giving the poor, the sick, the despised, the most miserable of the miserable, all the love and affection we are able to offer them. Everyone, from his or her condition in the world, can also contribute to the task of changing and purifying it, seeking unity, service, reconciliation and love. We need a tender love for our neighbor, which can only come from prayer because it grants us a clean heart.

What does suffering mean to you?

To suffer is to participate in the Passion of Jesus Christ. On one occasion I was at the bedside of a woman suffering from cancer and I encouraged and consoled her by saying that this pain was a kiss from Jesus. I would say to her, «Look, you are so close to the Cross of Jesus Christ that He can kiss you.» And then she, making a great effort and with a hint of humor answered me, «Please, Mother Teresa, tell Jesus to stop kissing me.» Yes, I always tell the sick that their pain is a gift from heaven, and they have to make use of that good. Many times, we can do no more than that: ask them to offer their sufferings for peace among men.

Mother, since your arrival in Lima, you have done nothing but refer to abortion as a horrible crime in all your public interventions.

Abortion is murder. Everything that destroys a human life is contrary to love, to God’s plans for each of his creatures, and to concord among men.

Interview published in ABC on August 21, 1989 – ABC ARCHIVE

Many call you the «Mother of the poor» and see in you a light of hope for their physical or moral pains. They wish only to touch you and even implore your blessing. Mother, what do you think of the priestly ordination of women and the feminist current that has sprung up in some sectors of the Catholic Church?

No one could have been a better priest than Our Lady the Virgin Mary. And yet she wanted to remain the handmaid of the Lord. What I can do as a woman no man can do, and that is why it is so important for me to aspire to be a perfect woman according to the plans God had in store for me when He created me.

Mother Teresa, I don’t know if the question may sound a little indiscreet, but why is the Pope so criticized in certain intellectual circles and you are not?

It is very simple. Because I am just one of the common mortals and the Pope is not, he is the Vice-Christ on Earth. What the Pope says, therefore, has to be blessed and what I say is not, it is enough that it is shared. Nevertheless, the Holy Father is loved and obeyed everywhere, and those who do not follow him are a minority.

Mother, doesn’t the fame of a saint that he awakens everywhere bother you?

No, why should it bother me? It is a duty for me to strive for holiness as it is for all Christians, because God has said to all of us: «Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

What is the secret of the worldwide success of your nuns, the Missionaries of Charity?

Prayer, because the fruit of prayer is faith, and the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service to others; and the fruit of service is peace.

A few weeks before her death, Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave what was perhaps her last interview to the Brazilian missionary magazine Sem Fronteras. The following are excerpts from it.

How many are the Missionaries of Charity?

Teresa of Calcutta: We have 3,604 sisters who have pronounced religious vows, 411 novices and 260 aspiring religious. We are spread in 119 countries. Today we have 560 tabernacles or houses.

Why do you call them «tabernacles»?

Teresa of Calcutta: Because Jesus is present in these houses. They are houses of Jesus. Our congregation wants to help people quench their thirst for Jesus. We try to rescue and sanctify the poorest of the poor. We pronounce the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. But we have also received special authorization to make a fourth vow: to place ourselves at the service of the poorest of the poor.

You often say that there is no love without suffering.

Teresa of Calcutta: Yes, true love makes us suffer. Every life and every family relationship must be lived honestly. This presupposes many sacrifices and much love. But at the same time, these sufferings are always accompanied by a great sense of peace. When peace reigns in a house, there is also joy, togetherness and love.

Your congregation has opened houses for AIDS patients in different parts of the world?

Teresa of Calcutta: Until a few years ago, some people even committed suicide when they received the news that they were sick with AIDS. Today not a single sick person dies in despair and anguish in our homes. Everyone, including non-Catholics, dies in the peace of the Lord. Don’t you think this is wonderful?

The rules of your Congregation indicate that work for the poor must be done «in the spiritual as well as in the material sphere». What do you understand by spiritual poverty?

Teresa of Calcutta: The spiritual poor are those who have not yet discovered Jesus or those who have separated themselves from Him because of sin. Those who live on the street also need to be helped in this sense. On the other hand, it makes me very happy to see that, in our world, we can also count on the help of well-established people, to whom we offer the opportunity to do a good work for God.

Do you also receive help from people of other religions?

Teresa of Calcutta: Yes, from Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many others. A few months ago, a group of Japanese Buddhists came to talk to me about spirituality. I told them that we fast every first Friday of the month and that the money we save goes to the poor. When they returned home, they asked families and Buddhist communities to do the same. The money they collected has allowed us to build the second floor of our «Shanti Dan» («Gift of Peace») center for girls in prison. More than 100 girls have already been released from prison.

Those who criticize her claim that her only goal is to convert non-Christians…

Teresa of Calcutta: No one can force or impose conversion: it takes place only by the grace of God. The best conversion consists in helping people to love one another. We, who are sinners, have been created to be children of God and we have to help each other to be as close as possible to Him. All of us have been called to love Him.

You say that your sisters are not social workers.

Teresa of Calcutta: We are contemplatives, because we pray our work. We do social work, but we are women consecrated to God in today’s world. We have entrusted our life to Jesus, as Jesus has given us his life in the Eucharist. The work we do is important, but what is important is not the person who does that work. We do this for Jesus Christ, because we love him. We are not capable of doing everything. Anyway, I always pray for all those who care about the needs and miseries of the people. Many rich people have joined our action. Personally, we have nothing. We live on charity and for charity.

And from Providence…

Teresa of Calcutta: We always have to face unforeseen needs. God is infinitely good. He always takes care of us.

Why do so many young women enter your congregation?

Teresa of Calcutta: I think they appreciate our prayer life. We pray four hours a day. Also, they see what we do for the poor. It’s not that it’s important or impressive work. What we do is very discreet, but we do it for the little ones.

You are a very well-known person, don’t you ever get tired of seeing so many people, of the photographs…?

Teresa of Calcutta: I consider it a sacrifice, but also a blessing for society. God and I have made a pact: I have told Him «for every picture taken of me, You take care of freeing a soul from Purgatory…». Smiling, he adds, «I believe that at this rate Purgatory will soon be emptied.

AM: honoring this special and unique being, the Mother Teresa of all, I invite you to watch the video of the day.

Finally, I encourage everyone to engage in conversation with their own I Am, to listen to what we each have to say to each other. No one else but us can re-signify our own being

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