I was reading the Sunday Gazette article on Mother Teresa and her recent canonization, and I was surprised to find on the continuing page an article about the critics of her work and mission (“In Kolkata, a renewed debate over Mother Teresa’s legacy,” Sept. 5). I was in formation with the sisters in New York in 1997, and I had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa when she made her last visit to the United States. Because of her health she could not travel back to India, and had to stay at our convent for one month.
Being in the community for almost a year I learned a lot from the sisters and Mother (this was what we called her, and some of us still do). Mother’s way of life was about two things: humility and charity. To give you an idea of what Mother’s heart was, and what she lived, I thought to share with you some of her own words.
One day a sister had asked Mother how she could become more humble, and she answered with these words, which were passed down through the community of sisters:
How will I become humble? By humiliations that come to me, accepting ourselves as we are and rejoicing at our infirmity. Naturally, we don’t like this, but confidence in God can do all things. It is our emptiness and lowliness that God needs and not our plenitude. A fervent sister is conscious of her weakness and tries to be happy when others see her weakness.
These are a few ways how we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept blame when innocent.
To yield to the will of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
Not to seek to be especially loved and admired.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To yield in discussion even though one is right.
To choose always the hardest.
All these are praiseworthy, but let us not forget that humility we owe to God out of reverence for Him. Secondly, that it is not only an imitation of Christ, but a perfect way of giving oneself to Jesus, for to be able to accept with joy all these humiliations.
What is not humility?
Moodiness when humiliated, when corrected.
Trying always to excuse oneself.
Refusing to acknowledge one’s faults, even dishonest.
Putting the blame on somebody.
Ambitious to acquire praise.
Yearning to be in charge of everything — to control all.
It is however, in loving Our Lord and our neighbor that our humility will flower and it is in being humble that our love will become real, devoted and ardent.
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Perhaps we can all learn something from her, and know that she was not about trying to be popular or to exploit the poor, but she was about doing all she could to become humble and loving.
• Rebecca Strathman lives and works in Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org