Taking a lesson from Mother Teresa

Many years ago I read a story about a reporter who was interviewing Mother Teresa.
He questioned how much time she and her sisters in the Missionaries of Charity spent in prayer and rest.
You could be serving so many more people, he told her, if you spent less time praying and resting and more time at work, serving the poor and the sick.
Mother Teresa corrected him.
Without that time in prayer, she told him, we cannot do any of the other work. It is that time with God that makes our work possible.

Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, India, presents documents for a new house to a villager in 1994 in Mumbai, formerly Bombay. Mother Teresa will be canonized by Pope Francis Sept. 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Luciano Mellace, Reuters)

I often think of that story—especially as I try to juggle my responsibilities as a wife and mother and colleague and daughter and friend. Some days I feel I am running flat-out, trying to keep up with the expectations and deadlines and needs. It can be hard to know which fire to put out first—and which can be left smoldering a little longer.

But when I think of that Mother Teresa story, setting my priorities seems so much simpler.
Time with God has to come first, along with time to rest and rejuvenate to bring the spirit, the energy needed to serve.
With God, I can remember why I do what I do. Then, and only then, am I able to continue on my journey, to meet others’ needs with a joyful heart.
I’m not good at any of this—especially not the idea of resting. What I do try to do is carve out time to remind myself why I love the work I do. Even with the writing I do for my full-time job, I love finding time to write in this space. I don’t just brush teeth and fill out order forms for milk; I play baseball and talk Pokemon with my sons. I try to find the beauty in the ordinary day-to-day of our lives—and there is so, so much beauty to discover.
We are all busy. Yet, unless we make time to re-center and re-energize and remember the real purpose for why we are doing what we are doing, we cannot do any of the work we need to do.
Only with God, walking in faith, can we fulfill our vocations on earth.
“What we need,” Mother Teresa said, “is to love without getting tired. How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting. Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there; He is in you. Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize Him.” (No Greater Love)

What’s your favorite anecdote or quote from Mother Teresa?

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.