Biography of Mother Teresa: Life and Achievements of Mother

“I choose the poverty of our poor people. But I am grateful to receive (the Nobel Prize) in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” These were the words mother spoke when she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, who later become well known as Mother Teresa, was born on August 26th, 1910 (baptized on 27th August, 1910) in Skopje, Macedonia, Albania. Her father was a successful and well known contractor, her mother was a housewife. She was the youngest of three children.

Mother Teresa’s family was a devoted catholic family, they prayed every evening and went to church almost everyday. It was her family’s generosity, care for the poor and the less fortunate that made a great impact on young Teresa’s life. Teresa’s mother Drana, also took care of an alcoholic women in the neighborhood. She went to wash and feed her twice a day and she also took care of a widow with 6 children. When Drana could not go, Agnes went to do this charitable work. And when the widow died, the children were raised in the house as if they were the part of family.

Unfortunately, when Agnes was 9, her father died. It was 1919 and Drana had to raise her three children, Aga (1904 born), Lazar (1907 born) and Gonxha (1910 born) alone. To foresee in their needs she sew wedding dresses, made embroidery and worked hard. In spite of all this, she made time for the education of her children.

Mother Teresa was the founder of Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa was the founder of Missionaries of Charity.

Such an environment in home, made Anges a young angel. When she was 18, she finally decided to become a nun. She wanted to serve poorest of poor on behalf of the God. The last two years she assisted several religious retreats in Letnice and it was clear to her that she would be a missionary for India. September 25, 1928, she left Albania, accompanied to the station by the whole community: friends, schoolmates, neighbors, young and old and of course her mother and her sister Aga (who will be later a translator). And everybody weeps. She traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to join the Sisters of Loretto. After about a year in Ireland, she leaves to join the Loretto convent in the northeast Indian city of Darjeeling.

From 1929 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1946 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she started an open-air school for homeless children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming from various church organizations, as well as from the municipal authorities. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work, and on October 7, 1950, she received papal approval to start her own order “The Missionaries of Charity“, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. To identify herself with the poor mother chooses a plain white sari with a blue border and a simple cross pinned to her left shoulder. It was also in 1950 that she took up Indian citizenship.

Mother Teresa extensively worked for the poor and neglected sections of society.

Mother Teresa extensively worked for the poor and neglected sections of society.

The sisters (members of the order) extended their work by opening clinics and centers for the care of lepers and providing homes for the destitute dying. For this purpose the Calcutta Corporation gave Mother Teresa the use of a former pilgrims’ hostel attached to the Hindu Temple of Kali. “These people”, she said, “have lived like animals. At least they can die like human beings”.

Young Indian women flocked to join her and on 7th October 1965 the society was recognized by the Vatican as a Pontifical Congregation.

On 25th March 1963, the male branch of the Society, the Brothers of Charity, was formed.

Their work quickly spread to more than 50 centers throughout India. Invitations to do the same work soon came from countries throughout the world. Statistics of 1998 shows:

  • Missionaries of Charity (Sisters) 615 Houses in 124 countries
  • Missionaries of Charity (Sisters) 44,00 Professed Sisters
  • Missionaries of Charity (Brothers) 350 Professed brothers

Over 100,000 lay VOLUNTEERS operating homes for AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis patients; soup kitchens, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools.

Mother Teresa made Kolkata her home.

Mother Teresa made Kolkata her home.

Mother Teresa was forced to scale down her activities in 1990s because of declining health. Mother Teresa’s health was deteriorating, part from her age, part from the conditions where she was living, part from her trips all over the world, opening new houses and raising money for the poor.

She had had a nearly fatal heart attack in 1989. After that, a pacemaker was implanted in her heart. Keeping her health condition in mind mother asked Missionaries of Charity to select someone as her successor. On march 13th 1997, Sister Nirmala was selected as Mother Teresa’s successor.

Mother’s health was getting worse and on 5th September, 1997, the world learns that Mother Teresa “Angel Of Mercy” has died at age 87. Queens and First Ladies, Presidents and Prime Ministers, former Heads of State, Ministers and envoys from over 23 countries, gathered together on September 13-th to pay their final respects to Mother Teresa.

Among most notable dignitaries were Hillary Clinton (The US First Lady), Bernadette Chirac (For France), Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (Prime Minister, Italy), Peter Jennings (Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister), Rexhep Mejdani (Albania’s President), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana’s President), The Duchess of Kent Represented the British Monarchy, Queen Noor of Jordan, Queen Sofia of Spain, Queen Fabiola of Belgium. The funeral was held at 15000 seat Netaji Indoor Stadium, India.

At the insistence of the Missionaries of Charity, about half of those seats were reserved for those unfortunate people she served during her life.

The State Funeral services usually reserved for heads of states were led by cardinal A Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Pope’s representative.

Though mother’s physical body has departed, her works and her inspirations are immortal. She will continue to live in the hearts of people all over the world because “Angels never die”.

“Tonight, there is less love, less compassion, less light in the world.” –Jacques Chirac, French Prime Minister, After death of mother.

Important Events in the Life of Mother Teresa

Following is a timeline showing some of the important events in the life of Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa receiving Bharat  Ratna Award from Honorable President of India, Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy.

Mother Teresa receiving Bharat Ratna Award from Honorable President of India, Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy.

  • 26 Aug 1910: Agnes Gonxha Beiaxhiu born, in Skopje in Macedonia, the youngest of three children of an Albanian family.
  • 1928: Leaves home for Dublin, Ireland, to become a Loretto nun. She takes the name sister Teresa
  • 1929: Arrives in Calcutta, India and joins St Mary’s High school to teach.
  • 24 May 1937: Takes final vows as a nun in Darjeeling
  • 1947: Most important journey of her life to Darjeeling where she receives a call from Jesus to serve him among the poorest of poor and to live with them
  • 1948: Opens first slum school in Calcutta.
  • 1950: Missionaries of Charity established.
  • 1952: Opens Nirmal Hriday, or Pure heart, a home for dying
  • 1962: Receives the Padma Shri award for distinguished service — her first award for her humanitarian work
  • 1971: Pope John Paul VI awards Mother peace prize
  • 1979: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1980: Awarded India’s highest civilian honor Bharat Ratna.
  • 1983: Has a heart attack while in Rome visiting Pope John Paul II
  • 1983: Queen Elizabeth II awarded Order of Merit in New Delhi
  • 1985: Gets Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian award
  • 1986: Narrow escape in an air crash in Tanzania
  • 1989: Suffers second heart attack; doctors implant pacemaker
  • 1990: Wants to relinquish charge of Missionaries of Charity on account of poor health. But she is re-elected with only one dissenting vote — her own.
  • 1991: Suffers pneumonia in Mexico, and undergoes heart surgery in the United States.
  • 1993: Breaks three ribs in fall in Rome
  • 1993: Another surgery in Calcutta to clear a blocked heart vessel
  • 1996: Fractures her left collar bone and is hospitalized
  • 22 August 1996: Suffers heart failure, admitted to Calcutta’s Woodlands Nursing Home
  • 16 September 1996: Injures head in fall while getting out of bed; doctors detect spot on brain
  • 16 November 1996: Granted honorary American citizenship
  • 22 November 1996: Taken to Woodlands Nursing Home with irregular heartbeat
  • 29 November 1996: Undergoes angioplasty surgery to remove two blockages in major coronary arteries
  • 13 March 1997: Sister Nirmala elected to succeed Mother Teresa as leader of Missionaries of Charity
  • 16 May 1997: Arrives in Italy for a two-month tour and is given oxygen at Rome airport because of weariness
  • 18 June 1997: Meets Princess Diana for fourth time at Missionaries of Charity residence in New York
  • 5 September 1997: Mother dies following a heart attack at her religious order`s headquarters in Calcutta
Award for Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa receiving Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Teresa receiving Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Teresa received numerous awards including:

  • 1962 Magsaysay Foundation Award.
  • 1962 Padma Shri
  • 1971 Pope John XXIII Peace Prize.
  • 1971 Kennedy International Humanitarian Award.
  • 1971 Prize of the Good Samaritan, Boston
  • 1972 Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding
  • 1972 Angel of Charity Award
  • 1973 The first Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
  • 1975 The first Albert Schweitzer International Peace Prize.
  • 1977 Honorary Doctorate from Cambridge University.
  • 1978 Honorary Order of the British Empire.
  • 1979 The Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1980 The Bharat Ratna. (India’s highest civilian award).
  • 1983 Honorary Order of Merit.
  • 1983 Mountbatten and World Humanities Award.
  • 1985 Presidential Medal of Freedom, USA
  • 1992 Bharat Ki Suputri (Great Daughter of India) title
  • 1993 Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award
  • 1994 Albania’s Golden Honour of the Nation
  • 1996 Honorary citizenship of USA.
  • 1997 Congressional Gold Medal, USA

Honarary Doctrates

  • University of San Diego
  • Harvard University
  • Madras University
  • Viswa-Bharati
  • Cambridge University
  • The Catholic University
Books written by Mother Teresa

Following are the books authored by Mother Teresa:

  • My Life for the Poor by Mother Teresa [Walker & Comapny; ISBN: 0345337808; March, 1996]
  • Total Surrender by Mother Teresa [Walker & Company; ISBN: 0802726763; September, 1993]
  • Joy in Loving : A Guide to Daily Living With Mother Teresa by by Teresa, Mother/ Chaliha, Jaya (Com)/ Le Joly,
  • Edward (Com) [VIK; ISBN: 0670876682; March, 1997]
  • Mother Teresa : In My Own Words by Teresa, Mother/ Gonzalez-Balado, Jose Luis [LIGU; ISBN: 0892438584; March, 1996]
  • Loving Jesus by Teresa, Mother/ Gonzalez-Balado, Jose Luis (Edt) [Servant Publications; ISBN: 0892836768; April, 1991]
  • Seeking the Heart of God : Reflections on Prayer by Teresa, Mother/ Roger, Brother [Harper Collins; ISBN: 0060682388; February, 1993]
  • The Blessings Of Love by Teresa, Mother/ Sabbag, Nancy (Edt) [SERV; ISBN: 0892839759; May, 1996]
  • A Simple Path by Teresa, Mother/ Vardey, Lucinda (Com) [Ballantine Trade; ISBN: 0345397452; October, 1995]

Books written about Mother Teresa are countless!

The Missionaries Of Charity

Mother Teresa serving at the missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa serving at the missionaries of Charity.

Missionaries Of Charity is the organization founded by Mother Teresa.

  • Missionaries Of Charity is the order that Mother Teresa started in 1950.
  • Mother Teresa got the papal approval for starting Missionaries Of Charity, on 7 October 1950.
  • Headquarters of MC is in Calcutta, India.
  • Mother Teresa govered the MC as Superior General till 13 March 1997.
  • After death of Mother Teresa, the order is being governed by her successor Sister Nirmala.
  • According to the statistics of 1998, the
    • Missionaries Of Charity (Sisters) has 615 Houses in 124 countries.
    • Missionaries Of Charity (Sisters) has 44,00 Professed Sisters.
    • Missionaries Of Charity (Brothers) has 350 Professed brothers.
    • Missionaries Of Charity has over 100,000 lay Volunteers working for it.
  • You can help Missionaries Of Charity by sending donations to a branch in your country or send donations to: Mother’s House of Missionaries of Charity, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road, Calcutta 700 016, India
Sister Nirmala

Sister Nirmala was elected as Mother Teresa’s successor as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity on 13th March, 1997. Born in Ranchi in 1934 to a Brahmin soldier who came from Nepal, Nirmala Joshi joined the order Missionaries of Charity at the age of 17, after converting from Hinduism. Her sister, too, embraced Christianity and became a Carmelite nun.

After joining the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Nirmala studied law at the insistence of Mother Teresa, who often took her along during her tours abroad. The Mother’s confidence in her abilities was evident when she asked Sister Nirmala to open their homes in Panama, New York and Kathmandu.

She is a modest woman, and when she succeeded Mother she quietly said, “Mother Teresa can never be replaced. She is gifted with rare charisma that can never be acquired in one’s lifetime.” Sister Nirmal is not without her own strengths as well, however. As spiritual adviser Father le Joly said, “In her, Mother found signs of energy, dedication, and charisma.” When journalists once asked Mother Teresa what made Sister Nirmala so exceptional, she replied, “She is a Missionary of Charity”. Excerpts from an interview with Sister Nirmala upon her succession:

Commenting on her relationship with Mother Teresa: “I am her child.”

How does it feel to step into Mothers shoes?: I do not feel like the head of the Mission. Mother is till the head and we are all equals in the eyes of the Lord.

How can you function without the charisma of Mother Teresa?: I am not going to be another Mother Teresa. I am sister Nirmala in whom resides the spirit of God. I pray for the support of everyone in discharging my duties. The work will go on as usual, in the same way as it always has.

Why did you choose to convert yourself from a Hindu to join the Order?: I felt that the Lord had called me. It happened one day when I was a college student at the Patna Women’s College many years ago. My room-mate, a Hindu girl, was kneeling and praying. It was then that I heard the summons. Later, at 17, I came to Calcutta and joined the order.

Famous Quotations of Mother Teresa
A number of Mother Teresa's quotes are very famous.

A number of Mother Teresa’s quotes are very famous.

  • We can do no great things; only small things with great love.
  • Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.
  • If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.
  • Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.
  • Simple acts of love and prayer keep the light of Christ burning.
  • The poor are Christ Himself.
  • When we touch the sick and needy, we touch the suffering body of Christ.
  • Only God knows our true needs.
  • I pay no attention to numbers; what matters is the people. I rely on one. There is only one: Jesus.
  • Good works are links that form a chain of love.
  • I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain.
  • 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
  • Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. In the slums we are the light of God’s kindness to the poor. To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile – Give them not only your care, but also your heart.
  • Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God.
  • Where does love begin? In our own homes. When does it begin? When we pray together. The family that prays together, stays together.
  • Today it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately it is not fashionable to talk with them.
  • What the poor need, even more than food and clothing and shelter (though they need these, too, desperately), is to be wanted. It is the outcast state their poverty imposes upon them that is the more agonizing.
  • The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within – words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
  • Let there be no pride or vanity in the work. The work is God’s work, the poor are God’s poor. Put yourself completely under the influence of Jesus, so that he may think his thoughts in your mind, do his work through your hands, for you will be all-powerful with him who strengthens you.
  • I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?
  • Abortion is murder in the womb … A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him, give him to me.
  • The other day I dreamed that I was at the gates of heaven. And St. Peter said, “Go back to Earth, there are no slums up here.” — Quoted as telling Prince Michael of Greece in 1996.
  • The poor give us much more than we give them. They’re such strong people, living day to day with no food. And they never curse, never complain. We don’t have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.
What People say about Mother

“Perhaps the greatest message she has given is the value and dignity of human life, all human life is precious.” –Henry D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta

“She is a woman who has left her mark on the history of this century. She was a glowing example of how the love of God can be transformed into love of one’s neighbor.” –Pope John Paul II

“Mother Teresa will continue to live in the hearts of all those who have been touched by her selfless work.” –Queen Elizabeth II

“Mother Teresa stood out ‘as an example of true self-sacrifice in humanitarian work” –Francis Sejersted,Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Panel

“Mother Teresa personified a boldness of spirit and purity of soul… Mother Teresa embraced all those ignored and rejected by society, living the Gospel with true genuineness. What she spoke with her lips she lived with her life, a truly rare commodity in today’s world.” –Nancy Reagan on her and Ronald Reagan’s behalf

“Tonight, there is less love, less compassion, less light in the world” –Jacques Chirac French Prime Minister (after the death of Mother Teresa)

“Mother Teresa has served the poor, the suffering and the dying, and in so doing she served as an inspiration and a challenge to all the rest of us” –Bill Clinton, US President

An Interview of Mother Teresa

This is an excerpt of one of the last interviews with Mother Teresa conducted by Edward W. Desmond in 1989 for Time magazine. Excerpts from the interview appeared in Time magazine and the full text of the interview appeared in The National Catholic Register.

Time: What did you do this morning?

Mother Teresa: Pray.

Time: When did you start?

Mother Teresa: Half-past four

Time: And after prayer

Mother Teresa: We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus. That helps us to put our whole heart and soul into doing it. The dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise.

Time: People know you as a sort of religious social worker. Do they understand the spiritual basis of your work?

Mother Teresa: I don’t know. But I give them a chance to come and touch the poor. Everybody has to experience that. So many young people give up everything to do just that. This is something so completely unbelievable in the world, no? And yet it is wonderful. Our volunteers go back different people.

Time: Does the fact that you are a woman make your message more understandable?

Mother Teresa: I never think like that.

Time: But don’t you think the world responds better to a mother?

Mother Teresa: People are responding not because of me, but because of what we’re doing. Before, people were speaking much about the poor, but now more and more people are speaking to the poor. That’s the great difference. The work has created this. The presence of the poor is known now, especially the poorest of the poor, the unwanted, the loved, the uncared-for. Before, nobody bothered about the people in the street. We have picked up from the streets of Calcutta 54,000 people, and 23,000 something have died in that one room [at Kalighat].

Time: Why have you been so successful?

Mother Teresa: Jesus made Himself the bread of life to give us life. That’s where we begin the day, with Mass. And we end the day with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I don’t think that I could do this work for even one week if I didn’t have four hours of prayer every day.

Time: Humble as you are, it must be an extraordinary thing to be a vehicle of God’s grace in the world.

Mother Teresa: But it is His work. I think God wants to show His greatness by using nothingness.

Time: You are nothingness?

Mother Teresa: I’m very sure of that.

Time: You feel you have no special qualities?

Mother Teresa: I don’t think so. I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used. In human terms, the success of our work should not have happened, no? That is a sign that it’s His work, and that He is using others as instruments – all our Sisters. None of us could produce this. Yet see what He has done.

Time: What is God’s greatest gift to you?

Mother Teresa: The poor people.

Time: How are they a gift?

Mother Teresa: I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day.

Time: Here in Calcutta, have you created a real change?

Mother Teresa: I think so. People are aware of the presence and also many, many, many Hindu people share with us. They come and feed the people and they serve the people. Now we never see a person lying there in the street dying. It has created a worldwide awareness of the poor.

Time: Beyond showing the poor to the world, have you conveyed any message about how to work with the poor?

Mother Teresa: You must make them feel loved and wanted. They are Jesus for me. I believe in that much more than doing big things for them.

Time: What’s your greatest hope here in India?

Mother Teresa: To give Jesus to all.

Time: But you do not evangelize in the conventional sense of the term.

Mother Teresa: I’m evangelizing by my works of love.

Time: Is that the best way?

Mother Teresa: For us, yes. For somebody else, something else. I’m evangelizing the way God wants me to. Jesus said go and preach to all the nations. We are now in so many nations preaching the Gospel by our works of love. “By the love that you have for one another will they know you are my disciples.” That’s the preaching that we are doing, and I think that is more real.

Time: Friends of yours say that you are disappointed that your work has not brought more conversions in this great Hindu nation.

Mother Teresa: Missionaries don’t think of that. They only want to proclaim the Word of God. Numbers have nothing to do with it. But the people are putting prayer into action by coming and serving the people. Continually people are coming to feed and serve, so many, you go and see. Everywhere people are helping. We don’t know the future. But the door is already open to Christ. There may not be a big conversion like that, but we don’t know what is happening in the soul.

Time: What do you think of Hinduism?

Mother Teresa: I love all religions, but I am in love with my own. No discussion. That’s what we have to prove to them. Seeing what I do, they realize that I am in love with Jesus.

Time: And they should love Jesus too?

Mother Teresa: Naturally, if they want peace, if they want joy, let them find Jesus. If people become better Hindus, better Moslems, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there. They come closer and closer to God. When they come closer, they have to choose.

Time: You and John Paul II, among other Church leaders, have spoken out against certain lifestyles in the West, against materialism and abortion. How alarmed are you?

Mother Teresa: I always say one thing: If a mother can kill her own child, then what is left of the West to be destroyed? It is difficult to explain , but it is just that.

Time: When you spoke at Harvard University a few years ago, you said abortion was a great evil and people booed. What did you think when people booed you?

Mother Teresa: I offered it to our Lord. It’s all for Him, no? I let Him say what He wants.

Time: But these people who booed you would say that they also only want the best for women?

Mother Teresa: That may be. But we must tell the truth.

Time: And that is?

Mother Teresa: We have no right to kill. Thou shalt not kill, a commandment of God. And still should we kill the helpless one, the little one? You see we get so excited because people are throwing bombs and so many are being killed. For the grown ups, there is so much excitement in the world. But that little one in the womb, not even a sound? He cannot even escape. That child is the poorest of the poor.

Time: Is materialism in the West an equally serious problem?

Mother Teresa: I don’t know. I have so many things to think about. I pray lots about that, but I am not occupied by that. Take our congregation for example, we have very little, so we have nothing to be preoccupied with. The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not a mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, and it is for the guests. But we are perfectly happy.

Time: How do you find rich people then?

Mother Teresa: I find the rich much poorer. Sometimes they are more lonely inside. They are never satisfied. They always need something more. I don’t say all of them are like that. Everybody is not the same. I find that poverty hard to remove. The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

Time: What is the saddest place you’ve ever visited?

Mother Teresa: I don’t know. I can’t remember. It’s a sad thing to see people suffer., especially the broken family, unloved, uncared for. It’s a big sadness; it’s always the children who suffer most when there is no love in the family. That’s a terrible suffering. Very difficult because you can do nothing. That is the great poverty. You feel helpless. But if you pick up a person dying of hunger, you give him food and it is finished.

Time: Why has your order grown so quickly?

Mother Teresa: When I as young people why they want to join us, they say they want the life of prayer, the life of poverty and the life of service to the poorest of the poor. One very rich girl wrote to me and said for a very long time she had been longing to become a nun. When she met us, she said I won’t have to give up anything even if I give up everything. You see, that is the mentality of the young today. We have many vocations.

Time: There’s been some criticism of the very sever regimen under which you and your Sisters live.

Mother Teresa: We chose that. That is the difference between us and the poor. Because what will bring us closer to our poor people? How can we be truthful to them if we lead a different life? If we have everything possible that money can give, that the world can give, then what is our connection to the poor? What language will I speak to them? Now if the people tell me it is so hot, I can say you come and see my room.

Time: Just as hot?

Mother Teresa: Much hotter even, because there is a kitchen underneath. A man came and stayed here as a cook at the children’s home. He was rich before and became very poor. Lost everything. He came and said, “Mother Teresa, I cannot eat that food.” I said, “I am eating it every day.” He looked at me and said, “You eat it too? All right, I will eat it also.” And he left perfectly happy. Now if I could not tell him the truth, that man would have remained bitter. He would never have accepted his poverty. He would never have accepted to have that food when he was used to other kinds of food. That helped him to forgive, to forget.

Time: What’s the most joyful place that you have ever visited?

Mother Teresa: Kalighat. When the people die in peace, in the love of God, it is a wonderful thing. To see our poor people happy together with their families, these are beautiful things. The real poor know what is joy.

Time: There are people who would say that it’s an illusion to think of the poor as joyous, that they must be given housing, raised up.

Mother Teresa: The material is not the only thing that gives joy. Something greater than that, the deep sense of peace in the heart. They are content. That is the great difference between rich and poor.

Time: But what about those people who are oppressed? Who are taken advantage of?

Mother Teresa: There will always be people like that. That is why we must come and share the joy of loving with them.

Time: Should the Church’s role be just to make the poor as joyous in Christ as they can be made?

Mother Teresa: You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me. Clear.

Time: If you speak to a political leader who could do more for his people, do you tell him that he must do better?

Mother Teresa: I don’t say it like that. I say share the joy of loving with your people. Because a politician maybe cannot do the feeding as I do. But he should be clear in his mind to give proper rules and proper regulations to help his people.

Time: It is my job to keep politicians honest, and your job to share joy with the poor.

Mother Teresa: Exactly. And it is to be for the good of the people and the glory of God. This will be really fruitful. Like a man says to me that you are spoiling the people by giving them fish to eat. You have to give them a rod to catch the fish. And I said my people cannot even stand, still less hold a rod. But I will give them the fish to eat, and when they are strong enough, I will hand them over to you. And you give them the rod to catch the fish. That is a beautiful combination, no?

Time: Feminist Catholic nuns sometimes say that you should pour your energy into getting the Vatican to ordain women.

Mother Teresa: That does not touch me.

Time: What do you think of the feminist movement among nuns in the West?

Mother Teresa: I think we should be more busy with our Lord than with all that, more busy with Jesus and proclaiming His Word. What a woman can give, no man can give. That is why God has created them separately. Nuns, women, any woman. Woman is created to be the heart of the family, the heart of love. If we miss that, we miss everything. They give that love in the family or they give it in service, that is what their creation is for.

Time: The world wants to know more about you.

Mother Teresa: No, no. Let them come to know the poor. I want them to love the poor. I want them to try to find the poor in their own families first, to bring peace and joy and love in the family first.

Time: Malcolm Muggeridge once said that if you had not become a Sister and not found Christ’s love, you would be a very hard woman. Do you think that is true?

Mother Teresa: I don’t know. I have no time to think about these things.

Time: People who work with you say that you are unstoppable. You always get what you want.

Mother Teresa: That’s right. All for Jesus.

Time: And if they have a problem with that?

Mother Teresa: For example, I went to a person recently who would not give me what I needed. I said God bless you, and I went on. He called me back and said what would you say if I give you that thing. I said I will give you a “God bless you” and a big smile. That is all. So he said then come, I will give it to you. We must live the simplicity of the Gospel.

Time: You once met Haile Mariam Mengistu, the much feared communist leader of Ethiopia and an avowed atheist. You asked him if he said his prayers. Why did you risk that?

Mother Teresa: He is one more child of God. When I went to China, one of the top officials asked me, “What is a communist to you?” I said, “A child of God.” Then the next morning the newspapers reported that Mother Teresa said communists are children of God. I was happy because after a long, long time the name God was printed in the papers in China. Beautiful.

Time: Are you ever been afraid?

Mother Teresa: No.1 am only afraid of offending God. We are all human beings, that is our weakness, no? The devil would do anything to destroy us, to take us away from Jesus.

Time: Where do you see the devil at work?

Mother Teresa: Everywhere. When a person is longing to come closer to God he puts temptation in the way to destroy the desire. Sin comes everywhere, in the best of places.

Time: What is your greatest fear?

Mother Teresa: I have Jesus, I have no fear.

Time: What is your greatest disappointment?

Mother Teresa: I do the will of God, no? In doing the will of God there is no disappointment.

Time: Do your work and spiritual life become easier with time?

Mother Teresa: Yes, the closer we come to Jesus, the more we become the work. Because you know to whom you are doing it, with whom you are doing it and for whom you are doing it. That is very clear. That is why we need a clean heart to see God.

Time: What are your plans for the future?

Mother Teresa: I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.

Time: And the future of the order?

Mother Teresa: It is His concern.