In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayersby Mother Teresa
In the Heart of the World is a powerful portrait of one of the most beloved women of all time, told in her own words through a fascinating blend of daily life experiences, prayers, and spiritual wisdom. Follow Mother Teresa to the streets of Calcutta, Rome, and New York and listen as she offers pearls of spiritual truth as relevant today as when she began/i>
In the Heart of the World is a powerful portrait of one of the most beloved women of all time, told in her own words through a fascinating blend of daily life experiences, prayers, and spiritual wisdom. Follow Mother Teresa to the streets of Calcutta, Rome, and New York and listen as she offers pearls of spiritual truth as relevant today as when she began her work more than sixty years ago.
With humor, compassion, and lyrical clarity, Mother Teresa illuminates the sacred in the intimate everyday tasks of living. In the Heart of the World bears indisputable testimony to the influence of a soul wholly dedicated — with a heart of love — to a life of service. Through this book, Mother Teresa will inspire you to reach out with love and compassion to others, and to work together for world peace.
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In the Heart of the World
Thoughts, Stories & Prayers Mother Teresa
By Becky Benenate
New World LibraryCopyright © 1997 New World Library
All rights reserved.
* * *
"We will never know how much just a simple smile will do."
* * *
Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Peace begins with a smile. Smile five times a day at someone you don't really want to smile at at all. Do it for peace. Let us radiate the peace of God and so light His light and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. Smile at one another. It is not always easy. Sometimes I find it hard to smile at my sisters, but then I pray.
God loves the world through you and through me. Are we that love and that compassion? Christ came to be His Father's compassion. God is loving the world through you and through me and through all those who are His love and compassion in the world.
* * *
There is much suffering in the world — very much. Material suffering is suffering from hunger, suffering from homelessness, from all kinds of disease, but I still think that the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one. I have come more and more to realize that being unwanted is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.
In these times of development, the whole world runs and is hurried. But there are some who fall down on the way and have no strength to go ahead. These are the ones we must care about.
Let us be very sincere in our dealings with each other and have the courage to accept each other as we are. Do not be surprised at or become preoccupied with each other's failure; rather see and find the good in each other, for each one of us is created in the image of God. Jesus has said it beautifully: "I am the vine; you are the branches." The life-giving sap that flows from the vine through each of the branches is the same.
* * *
Be kind in your actions. Do not think that you are the only one who can do efficient work, work worth showing. This makes you harsh in your judgment of others who may not have the same talents. Do your best and trust that others do their best. And be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
The Gospels remind us that Jesus, before He taught the people, felt compassion for the multitudes that followed after Him. Sometimes He felt it even to the point of forgetting to eat. How did He put His compassion into practice? He multiplied the loaves of bread and the fish to satisfy their hunger. He gave them food to eat until they couldn't eat any more, and twelve full baskets were left over. Only then did He teach them.
* * *
In loving one another through our works we bring an increase of grace and a growth in divine love.
* * *
"Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin."
* * *
In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.
There is a very holy priest, who is also one of the best theologians in India right now. I know him very well, and I said to him, "Father, you talk all day about God. How close you must be to God!" And do you know what he said to me? He said, "I may be talking much about God, but I may be talking very little to God." And then he explained, "I may be rattling off so many words and may be saying many good things, but deep down I do not have the time to listen. Because in the silence of the heart, God speaks."
* * *
We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.
In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything.
The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. In that silence, He will listen to us; there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice.
Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.
The contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions have sought God in the silence and solitude of the desert, forest, and mountains. Jesus himself spent forty days in the desert and the mountains, communing for long hours with the Father in the silence of the night.
We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as personally; to be alone with Him — not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything — to dwell lovingly in His presence, silent, empty, expectant, and motionless. We cannot find God in noise or agitation.
In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.
What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.
* * *
To make possible true inner silence, practice:
Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.
Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.
Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy; and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.
Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.
Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed.
* * *
I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort, and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. For in the silence and purity of the heart God speaks.
* * *
"Like Jesus, we belong to the whole world, living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength."
* * *
A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is not simply a matter of temperament; it is always hard to remain joyful — which is all the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts.
Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love. She gives most who gives with joy.
To children and to the poor, to all those who suffer and are lonely, give them always a happy smile; give them not only your care but also your heart. We may not be able to give much, but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is filled with love.
If in your work you have difficulties and you accept them with joy, with a big smile, in this, as in many other things, you will see your good works. And the best way to show your gratitude is to accept everything with joy.
* * *
If you are joyful, it will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your contentment. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows.
Joy is very contagious. Try, therefore, to be always overflowing with joy wherever you go.
Joy, according to St. Bonaventure, has been given to man so that he can rejoice in God because of the hope of the eternal good and all the benefits he receives from God. Thus he will know how to rejoice at his neighbor's prosperity, how to feel discontent concerning empty things.
Joy must be one of the pivots of our life. It is the token of a generous personality. Sometimes it is also a mantle that clothes a life of sacrifice and selfgiving.
A person who has this gift often reaches high summits. He or she is like a sun in a community.
We should ask ourselves, "Have I really experienced the joy of loving?" True love is love that causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings us joy. That is why we must pray and ask for the courage to love.
* * *
May God give back to you in love all the love you have given and all the joy and peace you have sown around you, all over the world.
* * *
"Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and seeing His hand in every happening — that is contemplation in the heart of the world."
* * *
By contemplation the soul draws directly from the heart of God the graces that the active life must distribute.
We [the Missionaries of Charity] are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world by:
Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and seeing His hand in every happening.
Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.
Our life of contemplation must retain the following characteristics:
Being missionaries: by going out physically or in spirit in search of souls all over the world.
Being contemplatives: by gathering the whole world at the very center of our hearts where the Lord abides, and allowing the pure water of divine grace to flow plentifully and unceasingly from the source itself, on the whole of His creation.
Being universal: by praying and contemplating with all and for all, especially with and for the spiritually poorest of the poor.
Another aspect of our life of contemplation is simplicity, which makes us see God's hand in all the happenings and makes us do all that we do — whether we think, study, work, speak, eat, or take our rest — under the loving gaze of the Father, being totally available to Him in any form He may come to us.
What is contemplation? To live the life of Jesus. This is what I understand — to love Jesus, to live His life in us, to live our life in His life. That's contemplation. We must have a clean heart to be able to see: no jealousy, anger, contention, and especially no uncharitableness.
* * *
To me, contemplation is not to be shut up in a dark place but to allow Jesus to live His passion, love, and humility in us, praying with us, being with us, sanctifying through us.
* * *
"Every act of love is a work of peace, no matter how small."
* * *
There are many medicines and cures for all kinds of sick people. But unless kind hands are given in service and generous hearts are given in love, I do not think there can ever be any cure for the terrible sickness of feeling unloved.
It may happen that a mere smile, a short visit, lighting a lamp, writing a letter for a blind man, carrying a bucket of charcoal, offering a pair of sandals, reading the newspaper for someone — something small, very small — may, in fact, be our love of God in action. Listening, when no one else volunteers to listen, is no doubt a very noble thing.
Holiness grows fast where there is kindness. I have never heard of kind souls going astray. The world is lost for want of sweetness and kindness.
* * *
We need money, medicines, clothing, and a thousand other things for the poor we serve. If so many people weren't generous, thousands would be left unaided. Because we still have many poor, needy children and families that live in the streets — not only in Calcutta but in London, Rotterdam, Madrid, Marseilles, and Rome — the need is great. In the last city I mentioned, we have many needy. The sisters go out at night into the streets, especially around the train station, between 10 P.M. and 2 A.M. to pick up the homeless and take them to the home we have on San Gregorio al Cielo.
The last time that I was in Rome, I found it unbearable to see so many homeless people living that way. So I went to see the mayor of Rome and said, "Give me a place for these people, because they refuse to come with us and would rather stay where they are." He and his staff responded wonderfully. In a few days they offered us a very nice place near the Termini Train Station. At present, all those who have nowhere else to spend the night except in the streets go there and sleep in beds. In the morning they leave.
This is the wonderful part of our vocation, that as Missionaries of Charity we have created an awareness of the poor in the whole world. Twenty years ago no one would have believed that there were hungry, naked men and women around. Today the whole world knows our poor because of our work. And they want to share.
Why is our congregation known all over the world today? It is because people see what we do: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and the dying. Because they see, they believe.
* * *
I am convinced that today's youth are more generous than those of times past. Our youth are better prepared and more willing to sacrifice for the service of man. For that reason, it is no surprise that young people have a preference for our congregation. To a large extent these are young people from the middle class. They have everything: wealth, comfort, high status. However, they ask to enter a congregation that is at the service of the poor, in order to lead a life of real poverty and contemplation.
Sometimes the rich seem very willing to share in their own way the unhappiness of others. But it is a pity that they never give to the point of feeling that they are in need.
The present generations, especially children, understand better. There are English children who make sacrifices in order to be able to offer a muffin to our children. There are Danish children who make sacrifices in order to be able to offer others a glass of milk every day. And German children do the same in order to be able to offer the poor some fortified food.
These are concrete ways of teaching love. When these children grow up, they will know what it means to give.
* * *
There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.
* * *
"Love, to be real, must cost — it must hurt — it must empty us of self."
* * *
Sacrifice is at the heart of Christian faith. The people of God in Old Testament times offered animals for their sins — lambs, goats, bulls, and pigeons. Jesus offered himself as a perfect, final sacrifice so that the animal sacrifices would not have to be repeated.
Sacrifice, surrender, and suffering are not popular topics nowadays. Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome. This is not my attitude toward sacrifice. I know that it is impossible to relieve the world's suffering unless God's people are willing to surrender to God, to make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor.
From the beginning of time the human heart has felt the need to offer God a sacrifice. What is an acceptable sacrifice? One that is good for the people of God. One that is made on behalf of the world.
* * *
There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards. There are so many people who are homeless! In New York City, our sisters are working among the destitute who are dying. What pain it causes to see these people! They are known only by their street address now. Yet they were all someone's children. Someone loved them at one time. They loved others during their lifetime. But now they are known only by their street address.
The words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you," must be not only a light for us but a flame that consumes the self in us. Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.
Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.
* * *
I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
Excerpted from In the Heart of the World by Becky Benenate. Copyright © 1997 New World Library. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Mother Teresa became known to the world for her selfless work with the “poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India. Born in 1910 in Skopje, now the capital of Macedonia, Mother Teresa began her novitiate in India in 1928. Since its inception in 1950, her order, the Missionaries of Charity, has opened more than five hundred centers around the world to help the dying and destitute. Mother Teresa was the recipient of many of the world’s most prestigious humanitarian awards, including the United States Medal of Freedom, the United Nations Albert Schweitzer Prize, and the Nobel Peace Prize. She died in 1997.
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