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Welcoming means comforting those who suffer.

BY Stella_Matutina on September 5, 2017
8 | 14 Favorites
Today is the feast day of Mother Teresa, celebrated as St. Teresa of Calcutta, one of the greatest saints and most admired world figures of modern times. As foundress and Mother Superior of the fast-growing Missionaries of Charity, she inspired millions to see Jesus in the poor and the marginalized.

Mother Teresa left happiness to find joy. The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness avoids suffering and joy endures suffering in hope. The suffering was not first hers, though it became hers because she stayed close to those who suffer. With the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa heard, over and over again, the plaintive cry of Christ on the Cross: “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). Thirsty for care, thirst for contact, thirsty for love. Mother Teresa left her own comfort to comfort those whom no one comforted. To leave comfort was painful, but that pain bore “something beautiful for God.”

Yesterday I read British journalist and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge’s 1971 book Something Beautiful for God, the classic work that introduced Mother Teresa to the Western world. A quintessential religious skeptic, Muggeridge met Mother Teresa in 1968 when he conducted a television interview with her for the BBC. The tremendous viewer response to that interview, along with his own interest in helping her, led him to participate in filming a special BBC television program about her and her work in Calcutta, called Something Beautiful for God.

The book Something Beautiful for God interprets Mother Teresa’s life through her interactions with Muggeridge during the filming of the television program. Here are a few brief excerpts:

“She, a nun, rather slightly built, with a few rupees in her pocket; not particularly clever, or particularly gifted in the arts of persuasion. Just with this Christian love shining about her; in her heart and on her lips. Just prepared to follow her Lord, and in accordance with his instructions regard every derelict left to die in the streets as him; to hear in the cry of every abandoned child, even in the tiny squeak of the discarded foetus, the cry of the Bethlehem child; to recognize in every leper’s stumps the hands which once touched sightless eyes and made them see, rested on distracted heads and made them calm, brought back to health sick flesh and twisted limbs.”

“I never experienced so perfect a sense of human equality as with Mother Teresa among her poor. Her love for them, reflecting God’s love, makes them equal, as brothers and sisters within a family are equal, however widely they differ in intellectual and other attainments, in physical beauty and grace. This is the only equality there is on earth, and it cannot be embodied in laws, enforced by coercion, or promoted by protest and upheaval, deriving, as it does, from God’s love, which, like the rain from heaven, falls on the just and the unjust, on rich and poor, alike.”

“Accompanying Mother Teresa, as we did, to these different activities for the purpose of filming them, I found that I went through three phases. The first was horror mixed with pity, the second compassion pure and simple, and the third, reaching far beyond compassion, something I had never experienced before – an awareness that these dying and derelict men and women, these lepers with stumps instead of hands, these unwanted children, were not pitiable, repulsive or forlorn, but rather dear and delightful; as it might be, friends of long standing, brothers and sisters. How is it to be explained – the very heart and mystery of the Christian faith? To soothe those battered old heads, to grasp those poor stumps, to take in one’s arms those children consigned to dustbins, because it is his head, as they are his stumps and his children, of whom he said that whosoever received one such child in his name received him.”

Muggeridge later experienced a remarkable conversion to Christianity because of Mother Teresa’s exemplary influence, hailing her as a “light which could never be extinguished.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

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