Mother Teresa addressed employees of the Knights of Columbus during her visit to the Supreme Council headquarters in New Haven, Conn., June 16, 1988. The following is a transcript of her remarks.
Let us ask Our Lady to give us a heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility, that we may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love him as she loved him, and serve him in the guise of the poorest of the poor.
I and all our Missionaries of Charity are very grateful for the beautiful gift we have received, and we ask you to pray for us in our work with the poorest of the poor. We read in the Gospel that God loved the world so much that he gave Jesus to the most pure Virgin Mary. And she, on receiving him, went to serve as a hand maiden at the house of her cousin Elizabeth, who was with child.
And something very strange happened there: the little unborn child in the womb of Elizabeth leapt with joy upon Mary's arrival. It is very strange that God used an unborn child to proclaim the coming of Christ.
We know today what trouble is happening to the little unborn child. The mother herself kills the little child, the little unborn child. And that child has been created for better things: to love and to be loved, created in the image of God, a beautiful creature for whom Jesus died on the cross. That little one is destroyed by its own mother. Abortion today has become the greatest destroyer of love and of peace.
Jesus came to give us the good news and to make it easier for us to love one another. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. If you give a drop of water to my brethren you do it to me. If you receive a little child, you receive me.” And when we die and go home to God, we will be judged on what we have been to each other.
And he will say, I was hungry and you gave me food to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in. Come, be blessed with my Father.
What a wonderful thing to think that in loving one another we are loving him, in doing small things for each other. Because today, hunger is not only for bread; hunger is for love, for the word of God.
Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth, but also for the loss of that beautiful virtue — purity. When purity is no longer chaste, when virginity is no longer virgin, what a loss of that beautiful gift of God.
Homelessness is not only not having a home made of bricks, but homeless is being rejected, unwanted, unloved by society. And Jesus said, whatever you do for these, you do for me. And that’s why our sisters and brothers and others have consecrated their lives to see Christ in the poorest of the poor, in the neglected, the unloved — men, women and children who have forgotten what love is, what it is to be somebody who is loved.
One day I was walking down the street in London near where our sisters were working, and I saw a man sitting who was looking very miserable. So I went to him and shook his hand, and he looked up and said, “It's been a long, long time since I felt the warmth of a human hand.” He smiled, and said he felt the warmth of human love in that handshake, of someone who loved him, who spoke to him.
This is such a small thing, but I ask where does that love begin in your own life, in your own family? You know that families that pray together, stay together. And if you stay together you will love one another as God loves each one of you. This is why you should teach your children to pray and why you should pray with them. Always pray together.
I see you have a beautiful chapel here. Ask Father here to give you each day the joy of adoration, to give you Jesus. There are so many gifts from God you will receive. In our congregation, we have daily adoration.
When we look at the cross, we know how much he loved us then. When we look at the tabernacle, we see how much he loves us now. And so ask Father to give you that, about a half an hour each day, maybe before you go home.
Make it a point of being together, of praying together. You are like a big family here. Pray together. You will obtain many graces for this beautiful city where there is so much suffering, so much pain. Many people here hunger for love, hunger for the Word of God, and you can be that love, that compassion.
I am very grateful to the Knights of Columbus for what they have offered to do for us, in sharing their love for Jesus. I never ask people for this or that; I always tell them, “I want to give you a gift.” And they reply, “Mother Teresa, what gift can you give?” I tell them, “I give you a chance to do something for the poor.”
Perhaps some of you cannot go directly to the poor, but through our work you can come very close to the poorest of the poor. We take care of the sick and dying, the crippled and the mental and lepers. And now, here in New York, in Manhattan, we have a house — a gift of love for AIDS victims. And you know, we have had many young people come there already, and they have died a most beautiful death. I believe that dying in peace with God is the greatest development in a human life, when you see these young people dying of that most frightening disease of AIDS.
We have that place in New York and we also have a big soup kitchen. We invite you to come and share the joy of loving. Come and see, and do not be afraid to share that joy of loving.
Some time ago, a Hindu couple came to me at our house in India, and they gave us lots of money. I asked them, “Why do you give us so much money?” And they said, “Because we heard that in Calcutta you cook for 9,000 people every day.” And I said, “Where did you get the money?” And they said, “Two days ago we got married and we decided not to buy anything but to give you the money.”
And I was surprised because in my country we don't do that. Again I asked them, “Why are you doing this?” They said, “Mother, we love each other very much and we want to share the joy of loving.”
Now I ask you: When you are free, not to necessarily come to one of my houses but one of the many other places where you can share the joy of loving, maybe share a smile, maybe read something to a blind person — especially first in your own family, with your father and mother, with your own crippled child. Let love begin at home.
I'll never forget, in Venezuela, we had a family give us some land and a house. And then I saw in their family a retarded child [
sic] and I asked the mother, “What do you call him?” And she said, “Our professor of love, that's what we call him.”
“Beautiful. Let him continue his teaching on love,” I said.
You here can bring that kind of tenderness into your own family.
Yes, suffering will come, but remember that God loves you tenderly and that suffering is a sharing in the Passion of Christ.
I met a lady dying from cancer and in terrible pain. And I said to her, this terrible pain is a kiss from Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to that suffering of Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you. And she held out her hands and said, “Mother Teresa, tell Jesus to stop kissing me!” We may have to say that in our humanness, but remember that suffering is a kiss, a beautiful sharing with Christ in the joy of loving.
I will pray for you here at the Knights of Columbus, that through this love for one another, that through this work that has been entrusted to you, to spread the Word of God, to spread the joy of loving, to spread the presence of Christ, to grow in holiness.
Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simple duty for you and for me. Take the trouble to keep your family together. Let peace, joy, unity and love be always there. Bring prayer, bring the rosary into your family. Bring the consecration to the Sacred Heart into your family and you will free the love and joy and presence of Christ right there in your own heart and the hearts of your family.
And pray for us as we continue our work. For as you know, we have consecrated our lives to sharing God's love and compassion to the poorest of the poor, to people who have nothing, who have nobody. Our sisters are now all over the world — God has blessed us with many vocations. I hope some of your sons and daughters will join the Missionaries of Charity and give that love and joy to many more people.
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