When I was in fifth grade, a couple of classmates and I had the idea to do something nice for the poor over our Christmas holiday. When we told Sister Mary, our principal, she not only gave her approval, she also helped by putting us in touch with a couple of families that were in need.
Our first step was to put an announcement in our church bulletin asking for donations of Christmas presents. Then, two days before Christmas, we dressed up as Santa Claus and his elves, and Sister Mary drove us to the homes, where we sang some Christmas carols, said a few prayers, and handed out some presents.
This was my first encounter with poverty, and I’ll never forget it. These families’ homes were cramped and cold. One had a leaky roof and the other had a broken-down kitchen. It crushed me to compare these homes to my family’s warm, comfortable house in the suburbs. I was struck, too, by how overjoyed they were when we arrived. You would have thought we were giving them a million dollars!
Even though it happened almost fifty years ago, that Christmas visit remains vivid in my memory today.
One of My Favorites. This year would have been Mother Teresa’s one-hundredth birthday. So it made sense that in our annual “saints issue” we would focus on her—even though she is only “Blessed” Mother Teresa at this point!
Mother Teresa will always be one of my favorite heroes of the church. Like so many others, I felt a connection to her, even though I never met her. Her story, her humility, and her dedication to the poor touched my heart and resonated with my own experience. I especially love the way prayer was such an important part of her life. It seemed that when she wasn’t working, she was praying: morning prayer and Mass before breakfast, noontime prayer at lunch, and evening prayer after dinner—followed by time spent with the sisters in her order. And when she wasn’t praying or eating, she was pouring herself out for the poorest of the poor.
I so wanted to help Mother Teresa in her work that at least four times a year I would take my children to Gift of Peace, her shelter for homeless AIDS victims in Washington, D.C. There, we would pray with the residents, serve them food, and help do the dishes. I wanted my children to have the same experience I had back in the fifth grade. I wanted them to learn how to serve like Mother Teresa. I will always be grateful to the sisters at Gift of Peace, who were so warm to us, even when we didn’t know what we were doing or how to help out.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue on Blessed Mother Teresa. I hope it helps you draw closer to Jesus. I hope, too, that it motivates you to go out and do small things with great love—just as she did.