by Barb Mazarakos
“What a small world!” How often have you heard that phrase, or maybe even said it yourself, when you realize that two people you know from different areas of your life also know one another, independent of you? Social media has been a big reason why we can say that as often as we do. You can get in touch with friends you haven’t talked to in 20 years who live across the country and know every little detail of their life. Thanks to modern technology, it’s like you never lost touch at all.
It doesn’t always work like that in real life though, does it? In this age where so many equate “busy” with “important”, we more often than not become ships passing in the night (or minivans passing on the way to the next game) with those in our community. Neighbors pull directly into garages and close the door behind them, never stopping to wave or chat with the elderly neighbor next door. Families can go weeks or even months without a simple visit or meal together, even when they only live blocks apart. One Sunday turns into two, which turns into a “couple of months” that you miss church, and along with that, fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. We lose touch. We sink further into ourselves. We are isolated.
Mother Teresa, the sainted servant of the poor, felt that we needed to take care of our neighbors. In fact, she built her lifetime of service upon that very premise. Born in Macedonia in August of 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (her name at birth) knew from an early age that she wanted to serve God. At age 18, she left home to join an Irish community of nuns, Sisters of Loreto, in India. After taking her initial vows as a nun, Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta from 1931-1948. The poverty and despair she saw outside of the convent walls bothered her so much, that in 1948 she received permission to leave the convent school and devote herself to working with the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. It is perhaps for this work that she is best known.
In October of 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity.” It was the primary task of this order “to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after.” The order has grown over the years, with evidence of their work in over 40 countries. For her work with the poor, Mother Teresa has been awarded a number of times, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She fell asleep in the Lord on September 5, 1997 and was canonized on September 4, 2016, and is known to many as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
We may often find ourselves thinking that God can’t possibly have a use for us in His bigger plan, but this humble girl from modest beginnings is just another example of how false that really is. She opened her heart to those in need when she saw that her neighbors were hurting. She opened her heart to the Lord when He called her to leave her comfort zone and minister to those who were lonely and unloved. Take some time to look around you today. Notice those who go unnoticed. How can you open your heart to them? How can YOU be more like Saint Teresa of Calcutta?
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”