I blame Mother Teresa for one of my more irresponsible life choices.
As today is Saint Mother Teresa’s feast day, I contemplate why it is that I love her. It goes back to my first real encounter with her in the book, A Simple Path.
A group of people enamored by Mother Teresa’s life of love in action set out to learn more about her. What was it about this small-in-stature woman that attracted so many, Christians and non-Christians alike?
Mother Teresa agreed to meet with this group of film producers and storytellers. She said, “I can tell you about my path, but I’m only a little wire – God is the power. Talk to the others, the sisters and the brothers and the people who work with them. Some are not Christians, talk to them. You will know what it is when you see it. It is very beautiful.”
So simple that she carried it around as a “business card” and so beautiful in its ability to change your life and mine, this is her Simple Path:
The fruit of silence is
The fruit of prayer is
The fruit of faith is
The fruit of love is
The fruit of service is
When I first encountered Mother Teresa’s Simple Path, I was in the spring semester of my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. Like others, I was occupied with my future, applying for post-grad programs and jobs. I wanted to do a year of service after leaving Notre Dame before applying for Masters programs. As I set up interviews, something wasn’t quite right. I was in love with Ian, and I knew working with a service program that would place me where they needed me would mean extending our already long-distance relationship.
As a loving mother and companion, Saint Mother Teresa encouraged me to seek God in the silent whisperings of my heart. In that space began a real encounter with God. An encounter of honesty, of conversation, of listening, of sometimes hearing nothing, of being nudged where I didn’t think I would go, of waves of peace and clarity. That type of authentic encounter is what we call prayer.
And through prayer, something happened. Things like purpose, confidence, and hope came alive in me. I began to walk as a person of faith.
Now to my irresponsible decision. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame without a solid plan. I had no job, no year of service solidified, no internship.
What God spoke to me in the silence of prayer, and in discerning conversations with others, was that I had a choice. I could choose to trust him, move closer to Ian, find service work where I went, find a job to pay the rent, or I could invest in a program that would put more distance between Ian and me.
While some advised that I was being irresponsible and we would probably just break up in the end, I chose to trust what God was speaking to my heart.
As a person who is tempted to invest much in being seen as capable, responsible and generally on top of her stuff to the outside world, I was flabbergasted by what I was doing. And yet, I felt joy and peace. I knew God was directing me and would be with me.
Soon after graduation, Ian and I got engaged. I moved to Austin, TX where a generous family offered to put me up in their home. They introduced me to a friend who was opening a store, and needed some help. Looks like I had a job. I searched for different nonprofits and churches that I could serve intentionally with. I found a home of service with a hospice organization and with a high school youth group at a local Catholic Church. This all took but two weeks to manifest. I recall looking around and within, in awe at God’s faithfulness.
This is my love of MT. I love her because she held my hand as I looked around, not knowing where to go. She encouraged me to seek God in the silence. To be brave enough to hear the voice of God that is not an obtrusive shout or unsolicited advice, but accompanying consolation. She continues to mentor me in both the humility and confidence of faith. Something that this world rarely understands, let alone praises. I thank God today for gifting me and gifting our world with Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!
01 Jan 1976 — Mother Teresa Visits Patients At Kalighat Home For The Dying — Image by © JP Laffont/Sygma/CORBIS