Finding Calcutta

mother teresa feast day reflection

Has a saint ever chased after you? Everywhere you turn, there there are, seemingly waiting for you. It’s like they’re trying to tell you something that you don’t want to hear, so you keep trying to avoid them. But you can’t. That was me and Mama T, or St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Memorable Missions

In the summer of 2014 my brother announced that he had been selected to go on a mission trip to Calcutta. Our whole family was so excited for him. What a blessing. What an opportunity.

Cut to me.

Drowning in babies. I had two boys, ages one and two, and a baby girl due in December. I was elated for my brother. And also a little “Catholic jealous” (oh, come on now, we know that’s a thing). I knew in my mind that my work as a mother was holy and important. However, the yearning in my heart to drop everything and serve the Lord in some far away country was present. There was no denying it.

My brother returned from Calcutta with amazing stories of mercy and miracles (and also some heat sickness on his part). While baby girl did track starts off my bladder and two little boys begged for snacks, my brother recounted his journey. I was so proud of him in that moment. And at the same time, I had to distance myself from what he was saying. It almost hurt too much to hear him talk about touching the tomb of Mother Teresa and his newfound love for this Saint.

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Memorable Motherhood?

Two years later, my sister went on the same mission trip to Calcutta. Things played out in a similar matter. I listened to her stories and I looked at the pictures. But I felt disconnected from her experience. We now had four kids, and my prayer life consisted of simply saying/crying, “Help me, Lord!” throughout the day.

It was at this time, though, that I began to feel St. Teresa of Calcutta tugging at my heart. I quickly ignored that prompting. How could I, who can’t even make it to my local soup kitchen, possibly connect with this Saint who served the poor without any reservation? How could I connect with a Saint who trusted the Lord to provide, while I literally have three to-do lists going at all times?

No, it simply wasn’t possible.

Finally Found By St. Teresa of Calcutta

Around that same time, my brother gave me a book called Mother Teresa of Calcutta, A Personal Portrait by Fr. Leo Maasburg. I thanked him and put the book on the shelf. I promised to give it a read once all the kids were in college and I actually had time again.

Mama T was not buying that.

Somehow, this book was always the one the kids pulled off the shelf. It was always showing up on the kitchen counter. No matter how often I’d put it away, it would simply just be out. We even moved! I packed it. Unpacked it. Only to have the whole process start again.

Finally, in the summer of 2017 (after another move), I picked it up and opened it. While most books took me a year to read in their entirety, I finished this one in four days.

St. Teresa of Calcutta finally found me, and she wasn’t going to let go.

Mother Teresa Knew What It Was to Be a Mother

Fr. Leo’s portrait of Mother Teresa showed me why she had been waiting for me. It showed me why I needed her so much. I saw that, right here in my life, I could live out what she was revealing to me. Though I wouldn’t be in the streets of Calcutta, I could show love and compassion to those around me and in my community.

There is more hunger in the world for love and appreciation than for bread.

She showed me that working hard and writing to-do lists is great. But at the end of the day, everything belongs to the Lord.

Doesn’t our life belong entirely to God? … We just have to let Him work. The only thing that we have to do is pray that we don’t spoil His work! It’s His work.

Mother Teresa showed me that my prayer life need not be complicated but simply heart to heart with God.

God speaks in the silence of our heart, and we listen. Then out of the fullness of our heart we speak and He listens. And this is prayer.

Mama T whispered a reminder into my heart that my dreams and desires for my life are good. But it’s not worldly success that I must seek. It’s a sweet and fruitful faithfulness.

God didn’t call me to be successful. God called me to be faithful.

Small Things, Great Love

My devotion to Mother Teresa is still growing. She comes to me in the littlest moments of my day, when I am feeling small and defeated. I feel her pick me up and dust me off. She tells me to keep going. To keep running the race. To keep doing small things with great love.

St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Do you have a devotion to St. Teresa of Calcutta? How has she influenced your life? Let’s celebrate her feast day and swap stories in the comments below!

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Susana Starbuck is wife of a youth minister and mother to four littles five and under. She lives in Phoenix, AZ and enjoys reading a good book, posting her highlight reel on Instagram, and drinking wine. You can connect with her here.

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  • Reply
    Paola @ Swallow the World
    September 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    I used not to connect with Mother Theresa at all, she just seemed too different, too far away from me. Granted, she was admirable, but I couldn’t find a link with her. That changed when I started to read things not about her but from her, like the quotes you’ve written here. I discovered her holy simplicity and how, despite her great works, she thought we can all be saints and be important to the world.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2018 at 9:06 am

    There are two things about Mother Teresa that have always stayed in my mind since I learned them.
    One is that she was fearless in speaking out in defense of the defenseless. One time when she was in the US (at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994) she spoke out against abortion to the president and all government officials present in our country that legalized abortion.
    Another is that, when someone told her they wanted to move to Calcutta and help in her work, she would say to stay home and work with the poor in their own hometown. The poor are everywhere. Love is needed everywhere.
    As news got out after her death that Mother Teresa experienced a spiritual dryness in the second half of her life, her unwavering faithfulness to God’s call showed us an amazing example of perseverance and staying faithful to God no matter what.
    She is a remarkable example to all people of faith in God and love of neighbor.

  • Reply
    Loren Atkins
    September 16, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who calls her “Mama T”!!! Thank you, and yes I have a story very similar to this. I have a book of daily devotions (quotes) from Mamma T -Thirsting for God. You’ve probably heard of it. And her words stick with me all day and lift me up in my darkest hour.

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