Mother Teresa’s feast day: 25 quotes on living life beautifully

Katie Yoder   By Katie Yoder for CNA


Mother Teresa (left) smiles during Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 12, 1996. / Doug Collier/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 5, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

When St. Teresa of Kolkata, India — perhaps better known as “Mother Teresa” — passed away 25 years ago, she left behind guidance on how to live a life worth living.

During her time on earth, the saint accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, among other awards. But she is perhaps best known as the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, a religious community dedicated to serving the “poorest of the poor.”

She died on Sept. 5, 1997, at the age of 87. Less than 20 years later, in 2016, she was declared a saint. These are her words.

On love

“Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” (according to Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, a priest who knew her.)

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.” (1994 National Prayer Breakfast address)

“This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.” (1994 National Prayer Breakfast address)

“How can you love God whom you do not see if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?” (1994 National Prayer Breakfast address)

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” (1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

On suffering

“We have no reason to be unhappy because we are loved by God himself even in suffering.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“We hear so many terrible things happening. But never lose heart. We always — thank God — I can smile. At least you can smile, if nothing else.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer, and I could see the way she was struggling with that terrible pain. And I said to her, I said, ‘You know this is but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to him on the cross that he can kiss you.’ And she joined her hands together and said: ‘Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.’ This is the joy of suffering, the kiss of Jesus.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College)

On meaning

“We are not numbers. We are children of God. We have been created for a purpose, for greater things: to love and to be loved.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean will be less because of that missing drop.” (Missionaries of Charity)

“Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to love. Even when suffering comes, humiliation comes, pain comes, success comes, joy comes. Remember, you are precious to him. He loves you.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“How do we know that God loves us? There is a very beautiful word in the Scriptures in Isaiah where he says: ‘I have called you by your name, you are Mine. Water will not drown you, fire will not burn you. I will give up nations for you. You are precious to me. I love you. And if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand.’” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“Cling to Christ because he is the only answer.” (1974 interview with Irish television)

On service

“This is what our people need. They need your hands to serve them, and they need your heart to love them.” (Missionaries of Charity)

“What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.” (Missionaries of Charity)

“If we do it with Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, and if we do it to Jesus, then we know that we are with him because he has said so.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College)

On the poor

“I want you to love the poor, and never turn your back to the poor, for in turning your back to the poor, you are turning it to Christ.” (1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

“Let us ask Our Lady to give us her heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, her heart 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 distressing disguise of the poor.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College) 

“The poor, more and more, become the hope of salvation for mankind. Because we are going to be judged on what we have done to them, what we have been to them, how we have accepted them.” (1974 interview with Irish television)

“There is two kinds of poverty. We have the poverty of material life … But there is much deeper, much greater hunger and that is the hunger for love and that terrible loneliness and being unwanted, unloved, being abandoned by everybody.” (1974 interview with Irish television)

On protecting life

“[L]et us all pray that we have the courage to stand by the unborn child and give the child an opportunity to love and to be loved, and I think with God’s grace we will be able to bring peace in the world.” (1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

“How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love.” (1994 National Prayer Breakfast address)

On family and prayer

“Love begins at home.” (1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

“The family that prays together stays together.” (1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech)

“If you have learned to pray, that is your strength, that is your joy.” (1982 commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College)

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1 Comment

  1. Inspiring spiritual activist blessed with extraordinary flexibility and super quick reflexes. Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata inspired countless others to bend low to uplift the downtrodden.

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