Saint Teresa of Calcutta Can Guide Us in Our Discernment

Brother David Henley, Glenmary Vocation Director

September 2016

"We may have some difficulty in calling her ‘Saint Teresa’: her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful, that we continue to spontaneously call her ‘Mother Teresa.’”—Pope Francis

On September 4, Pope Francis pronounced the official Formula of Canonization, raising Mother Teresa of Calcutta to sainthood. The official words in the pronouncement translated from Latin into English were, “We declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a Saint and we enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church.”

I believe that Pope Francis’ homily at the canonization ceremony highlights Saint Teresa’s calling and vocation in a special way for someone who might be discerning his or her own call to religious life. I know for me it is sometimes hard to imagine that saints like St. Francis or St. Dominic, who lived so long ago, were human like me—or that they could truly understand the difficulties of living a saintly lifestyle in the world today. And so contemporary saints like Mother Teresa debunk those myths or pretexts that we might use to say it is impossible to live a saintly lifestyle in this age.

By St. Teresa’s powerful witness, we are reminded that like her, we too are called to extend our hand in charity towards others not once but throughout our lives. In his homily, Pope Francis said, “The Christian life, however, is not merely extending a hand in times of need. If it is just this, it can be, certainly, a lovely expression of human solidarity which offers immediate benefits, but it is sterile because it lacks roots. The task which the Lord gives us, on the contrary, is the vocation to charity in which each of Christ’s disciples puts his or her entire life at his service, so to grow each day in love…

“Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and those who are cast aside, and to give oneself in their service.”

Can we be as daring and courageous as St. Teresa to recognize God in the poor we encounter? Through her simplicity, she made service seem so easy. Her advice when asked how she could do so much: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

St. Teresa learned that the Gospel called her to serve the people living on the peripheries. She was already a nun serving in India when she discerned her call was to serve the sick and the poor in the slums. “Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor,” said Pope Francis. Glenmary tries to follow this same Gospel mandate by serving the poorest of the poor, those who live in the peripheries in Mission Land, USA.

As we continue to pray, let us pray for the intercession of Saint Teresa to enlighten us in our own calling and our own vocation to reach out to the poorest of the poor, those on the peripheries. Pray that our single acts of charity will take root in us so that we can make the true sacrifice of being of service for a lifetime. Pray that in our call we find the joy that our loving God has intended for us, thus allowing us to grow in love throughout our lifetime as true followers of Christ living out our vocation.

Read previous columns by Brother David.