The superior of the Missionaries of Charity, Sr. Mary Prema, speaks about the life and mission of the new saint, underlining their most important aspect: her total submission to God's will. The Mother always kept her gaze fixed on Christ, recognising in him in suffering and poverty. Her all consuming desire to "follow Christ everywhere in search of souls". Sr. Prema's intervention at the 2016 AsiaNews international symposium.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Our Mother lived and moved on strong convictions. The gift of common sense had been given to her in an astonishing measure. What Mother recognised ad God’s Will for her, she embraced freely and wholeheartedly without procrastinations.
The day I joined the Missionaries of Charity everything was arranged for another candidate and myself to join the Aspirancy in London. Shortly before our departure a phone call came and our Mother gave the instructions, “Do not go to London. Mother is waiting for you in Essen”.
At our arrival Mother led us to the chapel. A simple reception ceremony followed. Mother reverently kissed a small crucifix, made me kiss it and she fixed it with a safety pin on my blouse, close to my heart. In her firm, low voice Mother spoke the words, wich contain the programme of our life as a Missionary of Charity. On that first morning I did not understand the meaning but these words fell deep into my heart.
“My child, receive the symbol of our Crucified Spouse. Follow His footsteps in search of souls. Carry Him and His Light into the homes of the poor, especially the souls most in need. Spread the charity of His Heart wherever you go, and so satiate His thirst for souls”.
Mother was delighted to set us on the path of holiness. She saw two little souls who were eager to leave everything in order to follow Jesus. Daily before entering the chapel at 5 o’clock in the morning we renew our intention: “Of my free will, dear Jesus, I shall follow You wherever You shall go in search for souls. At any cost to myself, and out of pure love of You”.
Even when in advanced age and weak in health, Mother was the first one in the chapel to confirm her love for Him. From a tender age Mother was formed by the Sacred Heart of Jesus who was her first love. Her love of Jesus grew over the years, and Love compelled her to trust and surrender herself so completely to Him that Jesus could take her into the darkness or our world to be His presence, love and compassion.
Mother was a docile instrument in God’s hand. She persevered in remaining totally available to Jesus to be used by Him without being consulted. Mother faced situations repulsive to her human nature with the same firm conviction with wich she faced unbearable pain and persecution. In her words “of my free choice, my God and out of love of you – even if I suffer more than now – I still want to do your Holy Will”.
Mother kept her eyes on Jesus whom she followed with the ardent desire to love Him as He had never been loved before. Her willingness was expressed in the big smile she had for everyone.
One day when she saw a sister going oout for apostolate with a sad face, she called her in her room and asked: “What did Jesus say, to carry the Cross in front of him or to follow Him?”. With a smile the sister answered: “To follow Him”. Mother asked then: “Why are you trying to go ahead of Him?”. The sister happily learned the lesson that the way to preach Christ is by cheerfulness.
This means humble love and kindness in the smile, and joy shining in the eyes. “We may not be able to give much, but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God”.
“Dear Jesus, I shall follow you wherever You shall go in search of souls”.
Mother did follow the Good Shepherd in search of souls and she was willing to pay the price Jesus has paid for souls.
In 1947 in her vision Mother found herself surrounded by a very big crowd of all kinds of very poor people, also children, with great sorrow and suffering in their faces. They called out to her “Come, come, save us – bring us to Jesus”. Our Lady and Jesus asked her to answer this desperate cry of the poor and they revealed to her the means to do it. Mother was willing to offer everything for just one innocent child from the street to remain pure for Jesus; for just one dying person to die in peace with God; for just one unhappy family to receive the joy of loving and caring for one other.
She was pierced by the pain of Jesus and the pain of those in darkness of ignorance of God and of ignorance about God’s merciful love for them. She wrote: “How many died without God – just because there was nobody to say one word about His Mercy” to them.
No doubt it was God’s Will for her to leave the security of the Loreto convent and to follow Jesus into the slums to be one with the poor to redeem them, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God. Compelled by love Mother followed the chaste Jesus who is burning with love for His Father and for all mankind. She was “filled with a burning desire to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and for souls”.
Compelled by love she followed the obedient Jesus who listened to all manifestations of the Father’s Will in people, events and especially in the cry of the poor. She followed Jesus who was consacrated and sent by the Father to lead all people back into union with the Father.
Looking with the eyes of Jesus she saw beyond the appearances into the souls, always reverencing the dignity of a child of God. Caste, religion, nationality, social rank – as well as offensive behaviour – could not divert her focus from the truth that each soul is created in the image and likeness of God, and that each soul is created to love and to be loved.
Mother loved to contemplate Our Lady who after the annunciation went in haste to her cousin Elisabeth to serve her in her need. Mother Mary brought the presence of Jesus to the house of Elisabeth; Mother brought the presence of Jesus wherever she brought the sisters to serve the poor whom no one else cared for. No trouble was too much to give Jesus “a new tabernacle”, wich is how she called a foundation of a community. She insisted that the work is to be done in the Spirit of Eucharistic Sacrifice, wich is one ot total surrender and offering.
In 1971 when Mother and the sisters established a mission in the Bronx, New York, someone wanted to know: “Why did you come to the United States? Are there no longer poor people in India?”. She replied: “Did not Jesus tell us ‘Go out to the world, proclaim the Good News to all creation’?”.
Looking at the map of the world, Mother would point out the countries where we were not yet present. Her longing was to go to the ends of the earth and beyond. As she said: “If there are poor in the moon, we shall go there too”. It is because true love does not measure, it just gives.
In Mother’s life everything was about loving Jesus and making Him present, known and loved by all. no project, no qualification, no budget was required: just a heart full of love for Jesus and the desire to give one’e life completely in the service of the poor.
In her instructions to novices, Mother used to repeat: “If you do not want to become holy, pack up and go home. I have no need of numbers, but I need holy sisters”. Mother eas compassionate with us in times of failure, weakness and mistakes. She taught and corrected us with firmness and kindness. She believed in our good intentions and she trusted that God would use us for His work. She made us aware that each one of us needs to do her very best, because laziness and unkindness hurt the Heart of Jesus, whom we encounter in the sisters and the poor.
At the request of a Bishop to establish a community of sisters in his diocese, the agreement is made that he commits himself to allow the sisters to have a chapel in the convent, to provide for the opportunity of daily Holy Mass and the exposition of the Eucharistic Lord for adoration, and opportunity for weekly confessions.
When Jesus is with us, He provides for all that is needed. “Seek then first the Kingdom of God and Hi righteousness, and everything else will be added unto thee”.
On fire with love, aware with her littleness, but endowed with an invincible faith that for God all things are possible, Mother went forward into places where Jesus was not known and loved. Danger, rejection and closed borders were challenges to be faced and, with Our Lady’s help, to be overcome.
Leaders of countries who did not know their need for God, Mother searched for them. When she met with them she appealed to their love for their people saying: “Silver and gold I have none but what I have I give to you. Here are four of my sisters to take loving and tender care of your people”.
In 1981 a community opened in East Berlin. It was Mother’s ardent desire to honour Our Lady by giving her 15 tabernacles in the Soviet Union, according to the number of the Mysteries of the Rosary. In Cuba we are present in 11 communities. It was in 1977 when the communist government of Ethiopia expelled the foreigners and the missionaries from the country. Mother was told: “We will not send you away because you love our people”.
Leaders of countries with non-christian traditions who did not know their need for Jesus accepted Mother’s offer to extend her services to their poor people irrespective of caste and religion.
The President of Yemen asked Mother for the presence of her sisters and he agreed to grant a visa also to the priest who would serve the sisters. When Mother saw the condition of the leprosy suffereres there, she recognized Jesus in them: “Jesus, how? How can we leave you like that?”.
The sisters cared for their many needs, bringing back into their lives hope and the joy of being loved. Mother approached a local benefactor saying: “These are all Muslim people. They need to pray. Kindly build a mosque for them where they can pray”. She recognized the deepest hunger in all of us: the hunger for God.
We see how love hhas compelled Mother to go out in search of souls not counting the cost of motherhood. Today thousands from all nations, religions and races have come to thank and praise God for their Mother: Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
God bless you.