Wednesday, September 14, 2016
“If you can't do great things, Mother Teresa used to say, do little things with great love. If you can't do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can't do them with a little love, do them anyway. Love grows when people serve.” ― John Ortberg
I’ve been reading a biography of Mother Teresa and besides being made to feel very inferior and almost useless to God by comparison, I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know and have come to realize that she would have blessed what little we do accomplish here. But back to the point of the blog, while almost everyone knows of her work with the poor and the sick (almost all of them Hindu or Muslim) what really hit me was her work with the dying. After the partition in India in the late forties, thousands and thousands of refugees came pouring into India and almost all were poor, sick, or dying. Mother Teresa believed in what she called “a beautiful death” and thought everyone should be able to have one. People were dying alone and unloved on the streets and in the dirt of the slums. Mother Teresa had them brought to her. Some of the babies were so far gone that few lived more than an hour before they died, but she made sure that they died in the arms of someone offering them the love of God. Just being touched by another human being before dying brought a dignity and joy that we simply cannot understand. One elderly man, who had been dumped on the streets and hadn’t felt a bed since he was a boy was put on a cot in Mother Teresa’s place and a huge smile crossed his wrinkled face. “I can die a happy man,” he said, “because I am in a bed—I am dying like a human being and not an animal.” His was a “beautiful death.”
In a culture where it was considered unclean to touch the lepers and maggot-infested bodies of the dying, Mother Teresa and her Sisters did just that—touched them and loved them. I think she should have been made a saint if that was all she ever did. Forget about the schools, the hospitals, the new lives she brought to thousands through the work of her order, what she did for the dying will always be defining actions of her love and gift of the Holy Spirit. She had to fight her own church (which she did with dignity and obedience) to be allowed to take her order into the slums and work with the poor and dying where they lived. The Catholic Church in India had always done much for the poor but always in their hospitals, schools, and convents. Mother Teresa wanted to do the unthinkable, to take her work to the poor, to live with the poor, and never to have more than the poor. She and her Sisters had to be made to eat enough nutrition to keep going. Originally, she wanted to eat only what the poor could eat, but wiser heads prevailed and told her that she would be of little help if she and her helpers all died of malnutrition in a matter of months. They didn’t eat well, and she had to beg for much of the food they ate, but she did insist that all who helped her had enough to keep them well.
There is a lot in her life to want to emulate. There is a lot in her life that I feel guilty about not emulating, but nothing has so struck me as her care for the dying. She wanted them to have a place for a “beautiful death” and she gave it to them. God bless her and the work that she started that continues to this day. She has touched my life without her ever knowing it. I guess that’s God working in mysterious ways maybe, but reading about her life and passion for the poor and dying has changed my life in a powerfully positive way. In my book, saints are those who struggle with their own limitations to do the best they can for Christ by helping others. My world is full of saints and many of you are among them. God bless all ya’ll.