Peace and Mother Teresa

With the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta this weekend and next Friday’s beginning of the month of prayer for peace, let us see how these two topics are related, so that we can then grow in Christ’s peace, as this great saint did.

In Mother Teresa Square in Tirana, Albania in 2014, Pope Francis quoted Jesus’ charge to the 72 disciples He sent out — that they should say, “Peace be to this house!” at any home they visited. The Holy Father explained, “It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace. Being here with you today, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country! Peace! The Risen and living Lord sends not only the 12, but the entire Church; He sends each of the Baptized to announce the Gospel to all peoples.”

As we pray for peace, we remind ourselves of this responsibility to be carriers of Christ’s peace to others, conscious that this peace needs to reign in our hearts if we are to be successful.

St. John Paul II, on Oct. 20, 2003 (the day after Mother’s beatification) said, “Where did Mother Teresa find the strength to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, His Holy Face, His Sacred Heart. She herself said as much: ‘The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.’ Peace, even at the side of the dying, even in nations at war, even in the face of attacks and hostile criticism. It was prayer that filled her heart with Christ’s Own peace and enabled her to radiate that peace to others.”

Here we are reminded that praying for peace is not just a thing we do in our minds; it leads to concrete actions. Nonetheless, for them to be effective, we need to begin with silence and contemplation. Contemplating Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament helps us to better recognize Him in our neighbor.

Mother made reference to this Spiritual reality in her 1979 speech accepting the Nobel Prize: “For we are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours [a day]. We have 24 hours in this presence, and so you and I. You, too, try to bring that presence of God in your family, for the family that prays together stays together. And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace — just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.”

In the Nobel speech she also gave another helpful hint for building peace: “If we all look into our own homes, how difficult we find it sometimes to smile at each other, and that the smile is the beginning of love. And so let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love, and once we begin to love each other, naturally we want to do something.”

St. Teresa and her Sisters would pray the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi every day after receiving Holy Communion. In 1994 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., she discussed that prayer and said, “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 others.”

In that speech Mother spoke about neglected elders who are rarely visited; about young people who turn to drugs due to a lack of love; about unborn children killed in the womb. “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. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child. 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.”

One might wonder how is abortion relevant to the various intentions for peace about which we need to pray (the tensions between the African-American community and the police; wars and terrorism throughout the world). Mother Teresa spoke about abortion often, even though her visible work was mainly with the poor (although she said in this speech that her home in Calcutta alone had saved 3,000 children from abortion), because she saw the abortion mentality was part of the mindset which led to endemic poverty and wars — the mentality that other people are not worth sacrificing our convenience to help them.

“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,” said Mother in that speech. “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.”

We ask God that this month of prayer will help to cure us of this blindness and help us build peace.

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