“If we have no peace,it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Few Good Samaritans have inspired the world like AgnesGonxha Bojaxhiu, also known as Mother Theresa. She founded the Missions ofCharity, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and was beatified by the Catholic Church (amajor step towards sainthood). So what forces shaped Mother Teresa’s vision of servicefor others?
“Yesterday is gone.Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Mother Teresa was remembered as an obedient yet highlyindependent child. The youngest daughter of a construction worker, she did notgrow up in poverty, enjoying luxuries such as spending time in the two housesher father owned. At about nine years old, her father died, leaving her motherto raise the family.
Though she expressed early fascination with stories ofmissionaries working around the world, Mother Teresa did not seriously considera life of religious service until she turned eighteen, when she entered theorder of the Loreto Sisters of Dublin and moved to Ireland. She would never seeher mother or sisters again.
“It’s not how much wegive but how much love we put into giving.”
After one year in the convent, Mother Teresa was sent toDarjeeling, India, to teach history and geography at St. Mary’s High School inCalcutta. Over 15 years of teaching, she began ministering to the poor of theCalcutta, one of the most impoverished cities in the world, citing her desireto follow “the call of Christ” by serving the needy.
This call ran against the Church’s direction for her, andultimately Mother Teresa had to abandon the Sister of Loreto and form a newreligious community with the archbishop’s permission. Symbolically, Mother Teresaset aside her nun’s habit to wear the plain white sari of an Indian woman asshe ministered to the hungry and the sick. And when she could not affordteaching materials, she wrote in the dirt.
“I alone cannotchange the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create manyripples.”
Mother Teresa’s life illustrates that compassion begins withthe individual, not the organization. And while her legacy remains with theChurch and her Missions of Charity organization, she is also an inspiration forus in this way: that any person can be a force for help and humanitarianism,regardless of institutional affiliations.