The Day I Met Mother Teresa

My friend James had been brought up in India, so when he asked me in 1985 if I wanted to go to India with him for three weeks I jumped.

We went on the tourist trail in Northern India, and wound up in Calcutta. James and I had taken a collection in England for Mother Teresa’s work, so we thought we would stop by the famous mother house to take the check to them in person.

Our driver stopped outside the house, and we walked down the side alley to the main entrance. Beside the door was a little wooden sign with a slide that indicated if the person was ‘out’ or ‘in.’ The sign said simply, “mother is in.”

When we were admitted the little nun at reception took our check and asked sweetly if we wanted to meet Mother. Of course we did! She asked us to wait because Mother Teresa was in a meeting. Fifteen minutes later she came through the door and greeted us with a warm smile as if she had known us our whole life.

“Have you come to give you life in service to God’s holy poor?” she asked immediately.

For goodness sake! We weren’t even Catholics at the time. “We are Anglican priests, from” England,” we explained.

“We have many people working with us from England. Perhaps you will stay and work for just a few years?”

“We have parishes and people in England we need to return to.”

“I understand. Go in peace, and thank you for coming.”

Another sister then took us on a tour of the house and arranged for us to spend the rest of the day visiting the home for the dying, a leper colony, an old people’s home and an orphanage.

Do you ever look back and wonder “What if?”

What if that day I had accepted Mother Teresa’s invitation and torn up my return ticket to England and stayed and worked with the poor? Wouldn’t it have been a splendid adventure?

That didn’t happen, but it still reminds me that it’s never too late to say ”yes” to God. I will never again be challenged to give my life in service to God’s holy poor in Calcutta, but every day I am invited to take another step on my own adventure of faith, and so are you.

Say “Yes!”

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  • Anonymous

    If Mother asked me to stay, I would have said, “Yes, maam.” Of course, a religious vocation interests me. However, it’s strange to think you need to travel all the way to Calcutta to serve the poor when you can drive 20 minutes to St. Anthony’s. Or if your looking for a good celebration and a good fight, why leave Greenville. Everything to become closer to God and neighbour is in your own backyard. “This is the will of God, your santification.”

  • Lovely story!

  • Indeed, and Mother Teresa used to say the same thing, “Don’t come to me in India to serve the poor. Serve the poor in your own community.”

  • As someone preparing cross the Tiber, I’ve found that the idea of saying “Yes” to God is a very Catholic way of thinking about service. Maybe I’m wrong, but saying “Yes” just isn’t a very Protestant (or Episcopal) thing to do.”Yes, but only if it matches my china.”*sigh*

  • Anonymous

    God shows up in the most unexpected ways sometimes. It really is a challenge just trying to be “baggage free” (emotionally and literally physically) in order to respond with that “YES!” when called upon. I recently got asked to go to France for a few weeks to pray/work with a Cistercian, and instead of jumping at the chance I started going through the litany of reasons I couldn’t.

  • Wow! Great story, Father.