Mother Teresa is a profound example of someone who chose to follow Jesus’ example of love and concern by caring for the needs of people living in poverty in Calcutta, India. Mother Teresa’s birthday today reminds us of her profound efforts of love, mercy, and kindness during her many years of service among the poorest of the poor.
Similarly, World Vision is committed to breaking cycles of poverty in thousands of communities around the world. As we seek to respond to the needs of the poor, we are drawn closer into intimate relationship with God.
Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and the ability to continue to serve in such a life-giving way for so many years? How did she develop her heart and love for the poor? And where did her strength of character and passion for service come from?
The answers are found in the actions of her daily life, particularly in her regular devotion to prayer and entering into the presence of God by practices of the faith, most remarkably silence.
Mother Teresa had a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus that was fostered by silence throughout her life. Her practice of silence created room for prayer and space for her relationship with God to grow. Silence fueled Mother Teresa’s social action, which manifested itself through her overwhelmingly powerful ministry with the poor.
For Mother Teresa, silence was a prerequisite to prayer and the ability to meet with God. Prayer, through the means of silence, took upon itself to form the deep intimacy with God and with Jesus. “And when the time comes and we can’t pray it is very simple: If Jesus is in my heart let Him pray, let me allow Him to pray in me, to talk to his Father in the silence of my heart,” she would say. “If I cannot speak, He will speak: If I cannot pray, He will pray.”
One of Mother Teresa’s most recognized prayers came to be known as her “business card”: “The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace.” Many view these words as the secret to her success in ministry and care for the poor.
Through sacrifice and endurance, Mother Teresa reminds Christians and those of other faiths that God is the God of love. She is a profound example of how the love of Christ for all people compels us to respond to the deeply troubling needs of humanity and to walking alongside the poor.
As you go about your daily life today, when so many things are vying for your attention, may you have the time and space to enter into silence. Silence is a gift waiting to be opened and explored. Mother Teresa reminds us, “In the silence, God speaks.” May the Lord meet you in the silence and touch your heart.
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Mae Elise Cannon is the senior director of advocacy and outreach at World Vision U.S., as well as an author and speaker. This blog post is adapted from her book Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action (IVP, 2013).