I wish I could remember what she said, how her hands felt, how she looked. I wish I could say that day changed my life entirely, that I had a dramatic conversion and dedicated my life to Christ, that there were rays of light, visions, and everything cinematic, but I cannot. The day I met Mother Teresa is, in a way, the most remembered forgotten day in my life.
I was ten years old. My godparents and cousins volunteered with the Sisters of Charity and had received an invitation for my entire extended family to attend the Sisters’ profession of final vows, at which Mother Teresa would be present. We had come to their house in D.C. to see where the Sisters lived and learn about their ministry before the profession. Upon our arrival, several Bishops were leaving and we were ushered through the same door they exited. Once we were all snuggly in the parlor the door was closed and there stood Mother Teresa. She had humbly held the door open for the Bishops to exit and us to enter. My family was stunned and excited to be able to meet this living saint and was doubly surprised that she did not merely greet us and leave. She stayed and spoke with us for forty-five minutes, greeting and talking to each of us individually.
What did she tell me? I don’t remember her words, but I do remember how I felt.
Mother Teresa passed away a year after this meeting. In the years following her death, the thought that I had to do something big for God consumed me. I felt that, in order to love God perfectly, I had to give up everything- my possessions, my family, my life. This thought began to eat away at me, until I reached a point and thought nothing would ever be enough; that I could never do enough for God. I fell into despair. I could not eat, I could not sleep, I could not pray. Slowly, through the love and prayers of my family and close friends, I gradually came out of this depression.
During this spiral down and tedious climb out of despair, there was a constant figure to which I was drawn. Mother Teresa was constantly in the news as she was named Venerable and then Blessed and her example often came up in daily conversation. I found myself searching online for quotes from her, saving them, and taking them to heart as if they were her words to me.
Her simple and profound words, like her life, spoke to me and taught me:
Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.After her death, the world learned that Mother Teresa went through a time when she felt separated from God. This is outstanding, because of the depth of love for Christ that we saw her preach through her actions. How could she live her life dedicated to God when she felt like he had abandoned her? It is because she clung to the truth that God is love and she chose, every day, to be faithful in her vocation and to share his love through the little things of daily life.
This daily choice to get up, brush ourselves off from yesterday’s failings, and start anew following Christ is a daily conversion of faith and slowly conforms us to God’s love. It is in this way we imitate God’s love and he transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
I do not know if I will ever remember what Mother Teresa spoke to me that day, but I hope to never forget the message I felt: God loves you.
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