4 Things St. Teresa of Calcutta Taught Me

Less than 24 hours ago, I arrived back in the United States, after spending a week with 100,00 other friends in Rome, celebrating St. Teresa of Calcutta being in Heaven!

I feel like I will be trying to unpack what happened there for the rest of my life, but for now, I wanted to share 4 stand out lessons.

1. The Sacraments are Everything

Before I got on the plane to Rome, I asked for Mother Teresa to intercede for me and guide my trip in Rome, to help me pray and receive all the graces Jesus wanted to give me.

But I’m going to be honest. Being in Rome, it was easy to forget to pray. There are famous things everywhere. One day I passed by the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, and several Michelangelo statues.

And then there is the food: pizza, pasta, gelato, coffee, and pastries. And the shopping. Italian dresses, and leather purses, and medals and rosaries, and scarves. So many good things.

But it had been about a month since my last confession, and I hadn’t been to daily Mass for a while. And Mother Teresa always said “our lives must be constantly nourished by the Eucharist.”

So somehow in the middle of touring the city, I was able to go to Mass everyday and even go to Confession.

And no matter where I was in Rome, and what my plans were for the day, I would walk into a church at just the right moment, and there would be Mass just starting, or a priest hearing confessions in English. In the midst of my traveling, Mother perfectly timed my day, so that I could pray.

2. You Can Always Choose to Smile

Y’all I got to see Pope Francis up close in the pope mobile THREE TIMES. Every time I saw him, he was smiling.

One time he looked tired, one time he looked quietly joyful, and the last time after the canonization, he looked like he was going to bust out of his pope mobile and hug everyone!

No matter how he was feeling, he made the choice to smile.

Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile.” And through his example just just his words, Pope Francis challenged me to do the same: “Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey.”


3. Welcome Everyone

Catholic means “universal.”

Now, I’ve known that for a while, but getting to experience the canonization Mass with 100,000 people from almost every country, speaking all sorts of languages, I saw the universality of the church in a whole new way.

A man from England read the first reading, the gospel was proclaimed in Greek, a Bangladeshi sister, a Chinese man, and a Portuguese woman led the petitions. At the sign of peace, there was a symphony of languages as people offered each other a handshake. It was beautiful.

Mother Teresa “made herself available to everyone” because everyone was welcome in the Church. And being able to take part in Mass with people across the world, to receive the Eucharist with them was indescribable.

St. Teresa and the poor in Calcutta, India in October, 1979.

4. Our Mission is to Love

Sometimes I am intimidated by the way Mother Teresa loved.

I was able to see an exhibition on the life and ministry of Mother Teresa. Seeing the story of her life from beginning to end, I was impressed and a little scared. She was able to serve the poorest of the poor, to care for the ones that no one else would care for and did it all with a smile.

It was so beautiful to see, but it felt unrepeatable. As I walked through the exhibit reading all about her life, I kept thinking, “How can I love like she did? I don’t have it in me…”

But just before I returned home, I heard this quote from Mother Teresa: “Jesus did not say love one another, He said love your neighbor.”

Mother Teresa at Prem Dan, Mother Teresa’s Missions Of Charity, Calcutta, India, 1980 Mother Teresa: Untitled 39. 300A-019-009 Mother Teresa. Prem Dan, Calcutta, India 1980 Photographs of Mother Teresa's MIssions of Charity in Calcutta: Untitled 39. The Friends of Photography 1985 "Mother Teresa at Prem Dan." People Magazine. September 22, 1997. pp. 158-159 "I see God in every human being," said Mother Teresa (visiting a Calcutta rehabilitation center in 1980."

It brought such relief. To love like Mother Teresa doesn’t necessarily mean selling all I have and moving to India, it simply means working to love the people in my life better.

And so, here I am back in the US, with a mission. To love the people in my life with the tenderness, and mercy that Mother Teresa did in India.

St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pray for us.

P.S. If you want to read more of Pope Francis homily (I would recommend it, it’s awesome) head here.