Respect Life in the Words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized worldwide as the champion of human dignity. Everyone from the child in the womb to the dying derelict is of concern to Mother Teresa. The following is excerpted from her talks in various countries, speak eloquently of her love and compassion for all people, especially the poor and the defenseless.
"Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins. Beloved, if God has loved us so, we must have the same love for one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God dwells in us . . ." 1 John 4:10-12
We read in the scriptures that God loved the world so much that he gave his son Jesus. And he gave Jesus to a virgin, Mary, the mother most pure. And when he came in her life, immediately she went in haste to give the joy of the presence of Christ to her cousin, Elizabeth. And there it begins, the most wonderful story of the unborn child. It was the unborn child that recognized the presence of Christ in the world. We read in the scripture that the child leaped with joy when Mary came with Jesus in her womb. This is the most beautiful presence and the most wonderful presence of God's love for the world, the child.
An it is strange to say that it was the unborn child that recognized the presence, the reason, for Christ's coming: that he had come to proclaim the good news to the poor.
What was the good news that Christ had come to give? That God is love. That God loves you. God loves me. That God has made you and made me for greater things. . . to love and to be loved. We are not just a number in the world. That's why it is so wonderful to recognize the presence of that unborn child, the gift of God. The greatest gift of God to a family is the child, because it is the fruit of love.
And it is so wonderful to think that God has created a child, has created you, has created me, that very poor person in the street. That hungry person, that naked person, he has created in his image, to love and to be love, not to be just a number. And we read something very beautiful in the scripture also, where God speaks and he says: "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand. You are precious to me. I have called you by your name." That is why as soon as a child is born, we give it a name. The name God has called from all eternity — to love and to be loved. The child needs love and care to fulfill God's desire of loving the world through the child. To harm the child is an act against God's creation.
And, today, we look to the world and we see that little one, that unborn child, has become the target of death, the target of destruction, of destroying, of killing. And to think that God says, even if a mother could forget, but it is impossible for a mother to forget. But even is a mother could forget, I will not forget you. Yet today, the mother forgets her child. Not only forgets it, but destroys it. And for what? The mother is afraid of the child, of that little unborn child. . . the most beautiful creation of God's love, the gift of God.
And so today, let us thank God that our parents loved us. Thank God. Let us pray today that every mother will want her child. That no mother will use means to destroy it. That no mother will have that feeling of not wanting the unborn child. That no mother will be afraid to feed one more child, to educate one more child, to take care of one more child. There is hunger not only for a piece of bread, there is hunger for love. People feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is for that human dignity which we have sometimes lost.
Let us respect and love every possible life today. And to all the young people I say: you are the future for family life. You are the future of the joy of loving. You are the future of making of your life something beautiful for God. . . .a pure love. That you love a girl or that you love a boy is beautiful. But don't spoil it, don't destroy it. Keep it pure. Keep your heart virgin. Keep your love virgin, so that on the day of your marriage you can give something really beautiful to each other. . .the joy of a pure love. And if a mistake happens, do not destroy the child; help each other to want the child. . .to accept the child, the unborn child. Do not destroy it, because one mistake should not be followed with another evil. To destroy the unborn child is an evil. Maybe it was the mistake of passion, but still that life is God's life, and you — the two of you together — must protect it, must love it, and must take care of it. Because that child is created in the image of God, is the gift of God.
Now, if we see God, immediately God's love works in us and we want to love. Not in words, but in action. Where there is a woman that wants to have an abortion — are you there? I have been told that in some places, if you are poor and want to give birth to the child then you have to pay so much; but if you have abortion you won't have to pay anything. Let us get together and we will pay for that child. We want that child. We will help that woman to have that child. We will pay. We will make sacrifices and we'll pay.
Even for the poorest of the poor, the care and development of the child, including the unborn child, and also the harmony of the parents are a responsibility of both the governmental and private sectors of society. I have sent word to all the police stations, to all the clinics, to all the hospitals where we work; I have sent word: Please don't destroy the child; I will take it. Any child. Anytime. Night and day. And our home for children is packed. Everyday we get children, a wonderful gift from God. God's blessing on that beautiful work is that we have many, many families coming and adopting those children. And so we are bringing joy into the family who has no children, who cannot have children; and we are giving a father and mother's love to a child who would have been otherwise destroyed. This is really love in action.
I believe you are a very rich country. But if you allow abortion to be done in your country then you are a poor country, because you are afraid of the child. You are afraid of the unborn child. The child must die. You are afraid! Abortion is the killer of peace in the world. . . the greatest destroyer of peace, because if a mother can destroy her own child what is left for others but to kill each other — there is nothing to prevent them.
The other day I was talking to a lady who had an abortion eight years ago. And what did she tell me? Mother, I have a pain in my heart. Every year whenever I see a child of eight years old, I say: my child would be eight years old; last year it was seven years old. There's a pain in my heart. She is a Hindu, non-Christian. . . but deep down, Christian or non-Christian, that mother's love, that mother's pain is there. And right up to the end of her life she will know: I have killed my child.
Wouldn't it be nice if all the countries would gather the money they're spending on arms, and give it to Mother Teresa to build houses for the poor.
And the people in Calcutta, they always make a joke. They say Mother Teresa, the whole time she is talking about natural family planning, but at the same time she herself is not practicing it. Everyday she has more and more children. It is wonderful! This is a wonderful gift of God. . . the greatest gift of God to a human family is the child, don't lose the joy of having the presence of that child in your home. And, if necessary, let us have a home shared where we can gather these children, maybe they are not wanted. But we will take them. You and I together will do something beautiful for God. We will give a wonderful home to a child who would otherwise be unwanted. But we will make that child wanted.
Always, I will remember the last time I visited Venezuela. A very rich family had given the sisters land to build a children's home, so I went to thank them. And there in the family, I found the first child was terribly disabled. And I asked the mother, "What is the child's name?" And the mother answered me, "Professor of Love. Because this child is teaching us the whole time how to love in action." There was a beautiful, beautiful smile on the mother's face. "Professor of Love" they called their child, so terribly disabled, so disfigured; from that child they were learning how to love.
"Today, so many are dying just for a little love . . . for a little concern, a little present of our service and our compassion." Also, I can never forget how a little child, a Hindu child, taught me how to love the great love. In Calcutta, we didn't have sugar; and a little Hindu child, four years old, he heard Mother Teresa has no sugar. And he went home and he told his parents, "I will not eat sugar for three days. I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa." After three days, the parents brought the child to our house. He had a little bottle in his hand, of sugar. . .the sugar of a little child. He could scarcely pronounce my name, but he knew he loved a great love because he loved until it hurt. It hurt him to give up sugar for three days. But that little child taught me that to be able to love a great love, it is not how much we give but how much loving is put in the giving.
And so today, let us make that one resolution: that we will love one another with that great love, until it hurts. And we will help every family. We'll come to know our poor people, we will help our poor people; and if they are afraid of having the child, we will help the family to have the child. And we will help the child to grow and love.
"Let us keep the joy of loving God in our hearts, and by sharing this joy with all we meet become instruments of God's peace. Because the world has never needed that peace more than today." If the scriptures we read God loved the world. Jesus loved you, loved me. Jesus loved the unborn child. And how do we know that Jesus loves. Look at the cross — the hand are still extended to embrace us. The head is still bent to kiss us. The heart is still open to receive us. Are we there? Are we there? Today Jesus is the same as yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And to make us understand that he wants us to love, as he loves you, and loves me, he has made himself the bread of life — to satisfy our hunger for God. . . .He has made himself the bread of life, so small, so breakable, so that you and I can receive him. He is so small, the image of a little unborn child, so helpless, but so that you and I will be able to receive him and live. "The presence of the nuclear bomb in the world has created fear and distrust among nations, as it is one more weapon to destroy human life — God's beautiful presence in the world."
We need our lives to be woven with the Eucharist. We receive Jesus himself in that bread, the bread of life; and he gives us that beautiful opportunity to give him in return. He made himself the hungry one. The naked one. The homeless one. So that you and I will feed him, will clothe him, will give him a home. And he makes that as a condition again — at the hour of death that is how we are going to be judged. For he said, "I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was hungry not only for bread, but for understanding, love, to be wanted, to be known, to be somebody to somebody. Naked not only for a piece of cloth, but naked for that human dignity, for that respect. "Homelessness is not only not having a home made of bricks. Homelessness is being thrown away by society. Unwanted. . .just deserted. That man, that woman, that child, it doesn't matter." Homelessness is not only for a home made of bricks, but homelessness comes from that terrible loneliness that our shut-ins, the unwanted, the unloved know along their way. Are we there? Do we know them? Do we see them?
I visited a home, one of the best homes in England. Our sisters live there, working. I don't know, but I've never seen so many beautiful things, so many wonderful things, like I've seen in that home, and yet there was not a single smile on the faces of those people. All these old people, they were all looking towards the door. And I asked the sister in charge. I said, "Why, Sister? Why are they like that? Why are they not smiling?" I'm so used to seeing smiles on people's faces. Because I think smiles generate smiles, just as love generates love. And she said, "This is how it is everyday. They are always waiting for somebody to come and visit them. The loneliness is eating them up. And day after day they keep looking, and nobody turns up." That unwantedness is great poverty.
Let us pray that we come to know our poor — right here. Maybe in our own family we have the poor. Maybe we have plenty to eat and wonderful things and beautiful houses — but maybe my father, my mother, my wife, my husband, my child is lonely. Do I know that? Could they feel unwanted? Maybe I'm so busy that I have no time even to smile at my child. To smile at my husband. To smile at my wife. There is poverty right in my family. And if I want to remove that, I must bring prayer into my life. I must pray. Whatever way you know how to pray.
Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is not made for some people. It's meant for you and for me. . .for all of us. It's a simple duty. Because if you learn to love, you learn to be holy. And to be able to love, you must pray. For prayer will give us a clean heart, and a clean heart can see God. "To be the hope of happiness in the world. To be the burning flame of God in the world today. The world has never needed God's love more than now."
If you have prayer in your life, I am not afraid for you. I am sure the love of Christ will penetrate you, will strengthen you. And my prayer for you is that you keep in your heart the joy of loving God through love and compassion. And give that joy to everybody you meet. To people who are working for you, and first of all in your own family. Love begins at home. And it is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.
Bless the whole world today. Help the entire human family To live in peace on this your earth, To provide bread for daily needs, To help each other to live beautifully, In health, in Joy, in Love.
I have carved you in the palm of my hand. You are precious to me. I have called you by name.
President: Anthony Scannell, Capuchin
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