Washington, DC, February 3, 1994
As we have gathered here to pray together, I think it will be
beautiful if we begin with a prayer that expressed very well
what Jesus wants us to do for the least. St. Francis of Assisi
understood very well these words of Jesus and His life is very
well expressed by a prayer. And this prayer, which we say every
day after Holy Communion, always surprises me very much, because
it is very fitting for each one of us. And I always wonder
whether 800 years ago when St. Francis lived, they had the same
difficulties that we have today. I think that some of you
already have this prayer of peace - so we will pray it
Let us thank God for the opportunity He has given us today to
have come here to pray together. We have come here especially to
pray for peace, joy and love. We are reminded that Jesus came to
bring the good news to the poor. He had told us what that good
news is when He said: "My peace I leave with you, My peace I
give unto you." He came not to give the peace of the world which
is only that we don't bother each other. He came to give the
peace of heart which comes from loving - from doing good to
And God loved the world so much that He gave His Son - it was
a giving. God gave His Son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she
do with Him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary's life, immediately
she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into
the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the
unborn child - the child in the womb of Elizabeth - leapt with
joy. While still in the womb of Mary, Jesus brought peace to
John the Baptist who leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.
And as if that were not enough, as if it were not enough that
God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy
while still in the womb of Mary, Jesus also died on the Cross to
show that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for that
leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person
lying in the street, not only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and
everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries
throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as
He loves each one of us.
Jesus gave His life to love us and He tells us that we also
have to give whatever it takes to do good to one another. And in
the Gospel Jesus says very clearly: "Love as I have loved you."
Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to
do good to us - to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave
up everything to do the Father's will to show us that we too
must be willing to give up everything to do God's will - to love
one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to
give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still
in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it
It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have
to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you
say you love God and you don't love your neighbor.
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?
And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to
be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it
takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them.
This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.
Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice,
not peace, to those around me.
It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image
for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on
Christ" as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to
love and to be loved, and God has become man to make it possible
for us to love as He loved us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry
one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He
says, "You did it to Me." On the last day He will say to those
on His right, "Whatever you did to the least of these, you did
to Me," and He will also say to those on His left, "Whatever you
neglected to do for the least of these you neglected to do it
When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus
is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone,
poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that
they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to
us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.
I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home
where they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who
had just put them into an institution and forgotten them -
maybe. I saw that in that home these old people had everything -
good food, comfort- able place, television, everything, but
everyone was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single
one with a smile on the face. I turned to Sister and I asked:
"Why do these people who have every comfort here, why are they
all looking toward the door? Why are they not smiling?"
I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the
dying ones smile.
And Sister said: "This is the way it is nearly every day.
They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will
come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten."
And see, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in
our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is
feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we there
to be with them, or do we merely put them in the care of others?
Are we willing to give until it hurts in order to be with our
families, or do we put our own interests first? These are the
questions we must ask ourselves, especially as we begin this
year of the family. We must remember that love begins at home
and we must also remember that "the future of humanity passes
through the family."
I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and
girls given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it
like that, when those in the West have so many more things than
those in the East? And the answer was: "Because there is no one
in the family to receive them." Our children depend on us for
everything - their health, their nutrition, their security,
their coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to
us with trust, hope and expectation. But often father and mother
are so busy they have no time for their children, or perhaps
they are not even married or have given up on their marriage. So
the children go to the streets and get involved in drugs or
other things. We are talking of love of the child which is where
love and peace must begin. These are the things that break
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is
abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct
killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.
And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child,
how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we
persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must
persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means
to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life
to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should
be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or
her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of
that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills
even her own child to solve her problems.
And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to
take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into
the world. That father is likely to put other women into the
same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.
Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people
to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is
why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of
India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of
hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the
violence in this great country of the United States. These
concerns are very good. But often these same people are not
concerned with the millions who are being killed by the
deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is
the greatest destroyer of peace today - abortion which brings
people to such blindness.
And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere - "Let
us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family.
Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God
for greater things - to love and to be loved. In this year of
the family we must bring the child back to the center of our
care and concern. This is the only way that our world can
survive because our children are the only hope for the future.
As older people are called to God, only their children can take
But what does God say to us? He says: "Even if a mother could
forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in
the palm of my hand." We are carved in the palm of His hand;
that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from
conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not
only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.
I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion
by adoption - by care of the mother and adoption for her baby.
We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the
clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: "Please don't
destroy the child; we will take the child." So we always have
someone tell the mothers in trouble: "Come, we will take care of
you, we will get a home for your child." And we have a
tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child - but I
never give a child to a couple who have done something not to
have a child. Jesus said. "Anyone who receives a child in my
name, receives me." By adopting a child, these couples receive
Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive
Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me
the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted
and to give that child to a married couple who will love the
child and be loved by the child.
From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved
over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought
such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so
full of love and joy.
I know that couples have to plan their family and for that
there is natural family planning.
The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not
In destroying the power of giving life, through
contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self.
This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of
love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn
the attention to each other as happens in natural family
planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once
that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows
I also know that there are great problems in the world - that
many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural
family planning. We cannot solve all the problems in the world,
but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is
to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to
practice contraception and abortion.
The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many
beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching
her natural family planning and said: "You people who have
practiced chastity, you are the best people to teach us natural
family planning because it is nothing more than self-control out
of love for each other." And what this poor person said is very
true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they
have not a home to live in, but they can still be great people
when they are spiritually rich.
When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a
plate of rice, a piece of bread. But a person who is shut out,
who feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person who has been
thrown out of society - that spiritual poverty is much harder to
overcome. And abortion, which often follows from contraception,
brings a people to be spiritually poor, and that is the worst
poverty and the most difficult to overcome.
Those who are materially poor can be very wonderful people.
One evening we went out and we picked up four people from the
street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition. I told
the Sisters: "You take care of the other three; I will take care
of the one who looks worse." So I did for her all that my love
can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile
on her face.
She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only: "thank
you" - and she died.
I could not help but examine my conscience before her. And I
asked: "What would I say if I were in her place?" And my answer
was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention
to myself. I would have said: "I am hungry, I am dying, I am
cold, I am in pain," or something. But she gave me much more -
she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her
face. Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half
eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the home, he
"I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to
die as an angel, loved and cared for."
Then, after we had removed the worms from his body, all he
said, with a big smile, was: "Sister, I am going home to God"
-and he died. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that
man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without
comparing anything. Like an angel - this greatness of people who
are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor. We are
not social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of
some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart of the
world. For we are touching the body of Christ and we are always
in his presence.
You too must bring that presence of God into your family, for
the family that prays together, stays together.
There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our
prayer, with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins
at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put
into what we do.
If we are contemplatives in the heart of the world with all
its problems, these problems can never discourage us. We must
always remember what God tells us in Scripture: "Even if a
mother could forget the child in her womb - something
impossible, but even if she could forget - I will never forget
And so here I am talking with you. I want you to find the
poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there.
Be that good news to your own people first. And find out about
your next door neighbors. Do you know who they are?
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor
with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said:
"Mother Teresa, there is a family who have not eaten for so
long. Do something." So I took some rice and went there
immediately. And I saw the children - their eyes shining with
hunger. I don't know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have
seen it very often. And the mother of the family took the rice I
gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her: "Where
did you go? What did you do?" And she gave me a very simple
answer: "They are hungry also." What struck me was that she knew
- and who are they? A Muslim family - and she knew. I didn't
bring any more rice that evening because I wanted them, Hindus
and Muslims, to enjoy the joy of sharing.
But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy
and peace with their mother because she had the love to give
until it hurts. And you see this is where love begins - at home
in the family.
So, as the example of this family shows, God will never
forget us and there is something you and I can always do. We can
keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share that joy
with all we come in contact with.
Let us make that one point - that no child will be unwanted,
unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away. And give until
it hurts - with a smile.
Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a
professor from the United States asked me: "Are you married?"
And I said: "Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to
smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding -
sometimes." This is really something true.
And there is where love comes in - when it is demanding, and
yet we can give it with joy.
One of the most demanding things for me is traveling
everywhere - and with publicity. I have said to Jesus that if I
don't go to heaven for anything else, I will be going to heaven
for all the traveling with all the publicity, because it has
purified me and sacrificed me and made me really ready to go to
If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others
as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the
From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the
unborn child - must go out to the world. If you become a burning
light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be
true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless