In her own words, Mother Teresa shares the thoughts and experiences that have led her to do her extraordinary charitable work.Known around the globe for her indefatigable work on behalf of the poor, the sick, and the dying, Mother Teresa has devoted her life to giving hope to the hopeless in more than one hundred and twenty countries.A candid look at Mother Teresa's everyday life--and the very simplicity and self-sacrifice that give her the strength to move mountains--A SIMPLE PATH gives voice to the spirit who has dedicated her life to the poorest among us.
In 1946, St. Teresa received God’s call to serve the poorest of the poor, and began in a small way for caring for one sick and dying person she found on the streets of Calcutta. In 1950, she soon became the head of the Missionaries of Charity. This group of charitable sisters and brothers grew and now numbered more than four thousand worldwide. This charity practiced a life of poverty with faith that would bring them closer to God. They lived and worked through the generosity of others. They believed in what they taught – including not owning more than the poor they served. They ate frugally and possessed two sets of clothes, a pair of sandals, a bucket, a metal plate, the basic utensils, and sparse bedding. Their community life was built upon the words of the Gospel – the Christian way of prayer, love, forgiveness, non-judgment, humility, truth, and total surrender to the Word.
St. Teresa’s pioneering spirit was there from the start. Yet her missionary work was not just about compassion, but she gave her first sign of a contemplative side of her mission by picking St. Thérèsa of Lisieux as a saintly guide. She took a less playful, more practical view of her simple way of trust and self-surrender, calling herself “a pencil in God’s hand.” Although she was known to have frail health and ordinariness she was regarded as the quintessential, energetic entrepreneur, who perceived a need and did something about it. She built an organization against all odds, formatted its constitution, and sent branches all over the world. She showed a clear balance of the prayerful, contemplative life with the practical one of loving action. .
St. Teresa was clear that all human life is precious to God with no exceptions and cited Mary, the Mother of Christ as the handmaid of the Lord. Mary was the role model for her and the Missionaries of Charity, and was prayed to fervently as a symbol of great holiness, purity, chastity, surrender, and sacred motherhood. Many of the Missionaries of Charity homes displayed large, sometimes gaudy statues of Mary as she appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, or as the Queen of Heaven haloed with stars and lights. Many of the duties usually performed by the priests, in the Benediction service for instance, as part of the daily Mass were carried out by the missionary sisters and St. Teresa herself. She saw herself belonging to the whole world. Her work included encouraging Christians and non-Christians to practice love. Her mandate was to spread love in the world by relieving the suffering of others.
St. Teresa and each of the sisters refer to themselves as “Christ’s spouse.” Each sister was called to enter into this relationship for the rest of her life, and to love Jesus with her whole heart. St. Teresa viewed this relationship as the love between a wife for her husband. This dedication to God through the vow of chastity needed to be understood as central to the life of any religious sister. The person taking the vow would renounce the marriage state in life and become consecrated to God. This commitment to Christ was considered as “a bond of love a thousand times stronger than those of flesh and blood.” Christ not only loved in this world, but showed his love through suffering on the cross.
There are five sufferings – physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual. All suffering was perceived as a sacrifice - “Love until it hurts.” According to Malcolm Muggeridge “only by being one with the poor we would redeem them, that was through bringing God into their lives, and bringing them to God.” Edward Le Joly wrote that suffering was a great gift of God; those who accept it willingly, those who loved deeply, those who offered themselves would know its value.