My Days with Mother Teresa

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
September 29, 1997

I have been thinking a lot these days about the time I spent with Mother Teresa in 1994, when she invited me to speak to sisters and priests in India about the work of Priests for Life. We had many discussions about the pro-life movement. When I told her about some of the legal persecution that pro-life people face, she looked at me and said, "Father, if we had laws like that here in India, I would have been thrown in jail many times!"

We discussed her February 3, 1994 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, in which she told our government leaders that a country that allows a mother to kill her own child is not teaching its people how to love, but rather how to use violence to get what they want. I told her what an impact the speech made on the pro-life community. "What about the rest of the American people?", she asked me at once. She then gave me a homework assignment to spread the speech far and wide, which Priests for Life has been doing ever since.

Reflections on the life and work of Mother Teresa characteristically focus on her "love for the poor." She did love the poor. But her understanding of what poverty is was much more profound than that of most observers. To grasp it, we need to appreciate her message about the vocation of the human person. We were made to love and be loved, she would often remark. To give and receive love is the calling and greatness of human beings.

The fundamental poverty, then, is to fail to give and receive love. That is why a society which throws away its children by abortion is poorer than one which does not have many material resources. The society that permits abortion fails in its vocation to give love, to welcome the inconvenient person. To fail to love is poverty. To fail to love to the point where the other person is not even recognized as a person, and is legally destroyed, is poverty to the extreme.

Mother Teresa picked up the dying from the streets of Calcutta with the same love with which she pulled women away from abortion facilities. Love is indivisible. It means making room for the other person, whether that person is in the street or in the womb. It means feeding that person, not just with food for the body, but with the recognition, attention, and compassion that their personal dignity demands. This is why those who praise Mother Teresa's work "for the poor," but do not share her opposition to abortion, simply have failed to understand both.

We are called to give and receive love. As we rise above the culture of death, we will be free of the poverty that fails to welcome our brothers and sisters. We will, instead, sacrifice ourselves for them, and will discover the kind of riches which only grow greater the more we give them away.

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linda says:
4/25/2014 5:21:37 PM
Dear Gena, In St Faustina's prayer to be merciful to others, she says there are 3 ways to do this:1.Act of Mercy,2,Words of mercy,3.Prayers of mercy.She asks God for the grace to be sincere with those who abuse my kindness. So there it is Gena ask the Eternal Father for the Grace to continue your works of mercy no matter what. I took care of my parents in their final days and the Divine Mercy Chaplet taught to me by my mother was my strength. I am I'll now, but I offer all to God for souls so I do mercy work even though I am sick in bed. When I can,I preach the good news, sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected, but I do it for love of God and neighbor. Keep on keeping on my sister in Christ and God's many blessings on you.

gena says:
7/26/2012 5:44:11 PM
I have been trying to help out some neighbors, three with cancer and one with alcoholism and was pretty discouraged today when I had heard that one of them was bad mouthing me today and feeling like just moving on and not continuing to try to help them. And the last paragraph, in fact the last sentence of the above message, gave the me strength to continue staying here and doing what I can to help the people around me, even if they don't appreciate what I'm trying to do for them, even if they are talking ugly behind my back, because I am doing the right thing, I know I am. When I had spoken to the individual who has been speaking badly about me yesterday I could tell she was drunk, she didn't remember the conversation and had called neighbors today saying I was doing things behind her back. When I had called her she had not remembered the almost 30 minute conversation we had had. I was feeling like just moving on, although the neighbors with cancer will need me more in the near future. The last sentence in the above message reached me, and told me let it go, the others need me, the one who was talking bad needs me also, I do things for her no one else would do, and I do it out of love of God, not for anything from any of these people. So I appreciate the above message, it has strengthened me today to keep on going.


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