Mother Teresa Reminds Us--"It's You and I"
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

As I watched the news coverage of Pope Francis’ first trip abroad to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day, I couldn’t help but think of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose feast day we observe September 5.

Mother Teresa was a simple woman.  Cardinal George accurately described her when he said “she was what we saw.”  What we saw was a humble servant of God and of God’s most destitute people.  We watched her demonstrate her tireless commitment to children, the dying, the desperately poor, the hungry and homeless, the sick, the abandoned.   

Her actions made her one of the most powerful people of her time.  She convinced hundreds of thousands of people to care for those in need.  She built relationships with the world’s most influential leaders.  She traveled to all parts of the globe and she won countless awards for her service.  But her “power” never removed her from the presence of the poor.  She never stopping touching, loving and living with those whom the rest of the world had cast off and forgotten.   

Despite all the “power” that comes with the pontificate, Pope Francis also remains very simple: a people’s priest who uses plain, yet profound, language and is not afraid to get close to his flock—and  much to the chagrin of his security detail, let his flock get close to him!   

Pope Francis’ commitment to a “poor Church for the poor” elevates the poor to new heights.   He reminds us that those who live at the margins of society are the most important, for it is in serving the least among us that we serve Jesus Christ.  During his visit to a notorious favela or “slum” of Rio, he urged that "The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty."

Pope Francis shares Mother Teresa’s commitment to action.   He raised some eyebrows when he encouraged youths to get out into their communities and “make a mess!”  He wants young people to use their God-given talents to serve others, and spread Jesus’ message of hope and healing in neighborhoods around the globe.   

Mother Teresa was continually urging each of us to get involved.   In one interview, she was asked what would make the biggest impact on the plight of the poor.  She shocked the interviewer by responding not with a recommended global policy change, but with her radiant smile and the words “You and I.”  

Mother Teresa is famous for saying, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.”  Whatever each of us can do, no matter how big or how small, is profoundly important.   She reminded us that by working together, we can achieve great things: “What I can do, you cannot.  What you can do, I cannot.  But together we can do beautiful things for God.”

If she were alive today, Mother Teresa’s inspirational journey of caring for the poor would be splashed all over the internet and news media.  As humble as she was, she knew that media attention was critical to motivating others to action.   Although it is a shame that her uplifting words and heroic deeds are no longer kept in constant view, thankfully, we have another dedicated servant of the poor in Pope Francis, whose grace and charm will keep the spotlight shining brightly on those most in need.   

In honor of Mother Teresa’s feast day, I would like to humbly ask to join me in helping the one million people served by Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago each year.   It starts with you and I—together we can do beautiful things for God!

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