Who will teach us to deal with these previously unknown trials?
While the challenges of Mother Teresa’s life may seem to have little to do with us in 21st Century America, this may be less and less the case in years to come, as the many-sided specter of crisis looms over our nation and world.
Who will teach us to deal with these previously unknown trials? What solutions will there be for us–besides escape, the hollow promises of a prosperity gospel, or the secret of “attracting abundance”? Mother Teresa’s secret was quite another: more robust, reliable, and real; born of the most powerful force in the universe–the only One to have faced death and overcome it forever. The God-man whose light shines still gentle and strong in our collective night.
As the years go by, Mother Teresa’s challenges may seem less foreign and her solutions more meaningful, even vital. Our common human plight has become our bond with her.
She would tell us that we are each equipped by God to not only survive our personal Calcutta, but to serve there–to contribute to those around us whose personal night intersects our own. If she could face the worst of human suffering, all the while bearing her own pain, then we can do the same in the lesser Calcutta that is ours.
She has taught us the divine alchemy that turns our personal hardships into compassion for others, our lack of material goods into wealth of spirit, and, should it come to that, the loss of our standard of living into the chance to become what ease and abundance would never have allowed us to be.
Mother Teresa’s lessons will prepare us, as no political or economic programs can, to live through our trials with grace, and to turn them into blessings for others. If this simple, humanly un-extraordinary woman could have filled Calcutta’s slums with such love and energy and ingenuity, then we can learn to do the same in our life, no matter what may come.
By Fr. Joseph Langford, the co-founder of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, with Mother Teresa. He is the author of the new book “Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire.”