Today, September 5, 2017 is the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta and the 20th anniversary of her death. I had the opportunity to offer Mass for her order, the Missionaries of Charity, several times while living in Rome and working with them from time to time as they served the poor and I must say, the stories that you may have heard about their selflessness, dedication, and love for all are not exaggerations. Day begins with Mass at 6 AM and continues, non-stop, from then on. The Missionaries of Charity follow the example of their foundress by dedicating their entire lives to those in most need. It is inspiring (and tiring) to see them in action. Whenever I hear criticism of Mother Teresa following the line of the late Christopher Hitchens it is obvious to me that the individuals leveling the critique have never had the privilege of working with these holy sisters. They are doing work that no one else is willing to do, helping those whom the rest of the world has forgotten.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about their work is that they are not simply concerned with providing material relief for the poor, they provide the spiritual and psychological tools necessary for them to endure suffering. While we can and should try to eliminate poverty and suffering as best we can, we live in a world in which they are often inevitable. In addition to needing food, water, shelter, and medicine, the poor and suffering of the world need faith, hope, and love. The Missionaries of Charity, in addition to helping with material needs, provide the spiritual tools necessary to endure suffering in a difficult world. What a gift, what beautiful work.
I'll leave you with the words of Mother Teresa during her visit to the University of Scranton in 1976- "know poor people in your own home and local neighborhood"--let us learn to know and serve the poor in our midst, offering them material relief, skills, and spiritual assistance in faith, hope, and love.