In 1979, then Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize. Shortly thereafter, my mother in law printed off part of her acceptance speech, framed it and gave it to my family. Here is what it says:
Each person’s mission is a mission of love…Begin in the place where you are with the people closest to you. Make your homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier…at the hour of death when we come face to face with God we are going to be judged on love: not how much we have done, but how much love we put into the doing.
The woman who spoke these words is now Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I was fascinated to follow her canonization on Sept. 5th and to learn how she spent her entire life doing what others thought to difficult; serving the poorest of the poor. The stories told before and after the Mass at St. Peter’s portrayed a humble and gutsy woman who extended more than a hand to help others; she put her entire life into her service. And she did so joyfully.
This is what sainthood is all about: doing more than what is expected with joy in name of Christ. If you think about it, all of the Saints of the Church have met this standard. Many of the first saints were killed for doing more than what was expected. (Don’t you love the story of St. Lawrence who was roasted to death on a spit and had the good humor to joke “turn me over as I am done on this side”.) Other saints have been recognized for their simplicity (think of St. Francis and St. Clare who gave away their creature comforts and found true happiness in their poverty.) Still other saints are known for a special talent (think of St. Anthony who helps you find things that are missing). Saints are a diverse group of men and women all focused on setting themselves apart for the glory of God.
We are all called to be saints. Most of us will be lower case “s” saints who live our lives in response to our baptismal call to holiness. Others of us may become upper case “S” saints as a result of miraculous acts we pray for after our death. It really doesn’t matter to God if we are a Saint or a saint. All he wants is that we do our best to enter into the holy hall of fame by living a life of virtue and heroic faith.
The plaque with the quote from Saint Theresa has hung above the desk in my home office for nearly 40 years. Its words constantly remind me to be charitable to all I meet. There are days when I meet the standard and others when I woefully fail. It’s not easy to meet God’s mission to love and to become holy. But I continue to try, right? After all, I do want to enter the ranks of those holy men and women in heaven.
As November rolls around, remember to pray to the Saints/saints you know in heaven. Ask for their intercessory help with the struggles you are facing or to pray for those who are in need. And, don’t be shy in your requests for prayers from individuals here on earth. They are saints in the making.
By Alice Heinzen