From 1966 to 1970 my family lived in England. One of our favorite television journalists was Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge was not known as an overly religious man. But he began broadcasting mesmerizing stories about an unusual nun in the streets of Calcutta. His news reports, along with his documentary, Something Beautiful for God, introduced the world to Mother Teresa, the saint of the streets.
I was intrigued by Mother Teresa, as much as an adolescent could be. But truthfully, I was also horrified by the stories of this little nun picking lepers off the street and tending to their wounds, cleaning the maggots out of their running sores, bathing and sheltering sick street people, finding them food, medical care, and a place to die in peace. How could one little nun make a difference when everybody knew there was so much suffering?
I remember asking my mother why anyone would do what Mother Teresa was doing. Without missing a beat, she said, “Mother Teresa sees the face of Christ in the poor, the sick, and the dying. Every day she spends helping the sick, the poor, and the dying, she’s mending our broken world by helping her beloved Jesus, who unfortunately most of us are still rejecting.”
With very little comprehension, I said something like, “Right, well, thanks, Mom, that certainly explains everything.”
It’s been 40 years now, and I’ve seen and experienced a little more of the suffering of the world. I’ve lost friends and family members. I encounter the urban poor and homeless on my way to work every day. It does feel like a broken world. But I also try to help in small ways, where I can, how I can. And I still think about what my mother said to me all those years ago.
I get it now—that does explain everything.
Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016. Learn more about Mother Teresa.