“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love”
– Mother Teresa
Sometimes it can seem to us that the Saints were great individuals who always accomplished the most amazing things; performed miracles everywhere they went; were adored by everyone thye met; and always spoke as though a poet had written all their words, such that they always said exactly the right thing at the right moment. And lovely though all of that might be, there is a downside – it can make them seem very remote from us, and this places them out of our reach as models in the spiritual life.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta bucks that particular trend.
Part of the reason for this is that she is a Saint from within our living memory, and not some ethereal figure from centuries ago – in other words, she is still very real to us. We remember her appearing on the evening news, speaking in interviews, and proving herself to be a remarkable and feisty lady, whose small stature could not hide the stregnth and resourcefulness within.
Another part of the reason is that in being reasonably well acqainted with her, we could see for ourselves that she really did have absolutely nothing – nothing at all. Despite this, she achieved a great deal for so very many poor people. She did what she could.
I think we also remember Mother Teresa fondly because of the quotations we have now and which came from her. Amongst them, there is one which really stands out for me – “We cannot all do great things; but all of us can do little things with great love”. For all of us living in the Twenty First Century, this is a salutary lesson – it is not about what we have or don’t have, it’s about how we live in relation to others.
Every single one of us is capable of achieving good – even a diminutive nun with not a penny to her name – and of treating others with great love and respect, doing for them whatever we can because we see the Face of Christ in them. This essentially sums up the message of Mother Teresa; I think it also expresses succintly her legacy to us in the present age.
May all of us learn this lesson from her and put it into practice.