Mother Teresa’s Model of Mercy
When Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is canonized this Sunday, September 4, it will mark an important day in the Year of Mercy. The canonization of any saint is important, but it is especially timely and meaningful that Mother Teresa, known for her works of mercy, will be canonized during this Jubilee Year. Why is Mother Teresa identified so strongly with mercy? Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Italy says that she modeled “a church close to the poor, a church that is mother to the poor and that lives the joy of serving the poor.”
One of the most striking things about Mother Teresa is that we can look at her life and point to concrete, tangible examples of her mercy. Consider, first, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy:
Corporal Works of Mercy
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit the prisoners
- Bury the dead
- Give alms to the poor
Spiritual Works of Mercy
- Counsel the doubtful
- Instruct the ignorant
- Admonish the sinner
- Comfort the sorrowful
- Forgive injuries
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Pray for the living and the dead
We can see through her life that Mother Teresa lived all these works of mercy. In the 1940s, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious community dedicated to helping the poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa and her Sisters lived simply and ministered to the poor, sick, and dying of Calcutta. Under the leadership of Mother Teresa, the Sisters lived out every one of the works of mercy among those whom society had let fall through the cracks. Over time, the Missionaries of Charity spread all over the world.
During the Year of Mercy and beyond, Pope Francis has called us to perform these works of mercy and to follow the example of the devoted faithful like Mother Teresa. Though on the surface, this might seem like a big job, Mother Teresa’s example shows us that being a servant of mercy is something that anyone can do.
Her secret is a simple one: performing small acts with great love. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for whom Mother Teresa had a special devotion, popularized the concept of the “little way,” meaning that a person does not have to perform huge, heroic deeds to be saintly or serve God. Though she was a cloistered nun, St. Thérèse has had a worldwide impact because of her “little way” of great faith. In the same way, Mother Teresa became universally known because of her simple and loving acts of mercy among God’s most vulnerable children.
We are all called to live the same holiness that Mother Teresa lived. Mother Teresa was not born with the title of “saint.” It was her selfless, loving dedication to the service of God and all the work to which He called her that led to her becoming a saint. We all have the opportunity to answer our own call, not for the purpose of receiving attention or rewards, but for the glory of God.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.