Mission, Life, Culture

How St. Teresa of Calcutta Taught Me to Love  

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta

A smile. That’s all it took to completely transform my life.

I experienced Christ's love in a whole new way when I went on a mission trip to Haiti and worked with Missionaries of Charity. (I use the term “working” lightly; what the MCs do is labor, and it is all done out of love and for love.)

I hadn’t been on a mission trip before, so I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was afraid of getting messy, I was unfamiliar with taking care of kids and I was unwilling to let God in. I was in such shock over the devastation throughout Haiti that it took me a while to overcome my fear of helplessness. 

“We cannot do great things. Only small things with great love.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta

I was overwhelmed by the need for help in Haiti — but I’d hoped to impact at least one soul, even if it was my own.

God made it my mission to bring joy to one troubled little soul. She had just lost her mother and her unborn sister to AIDS. Her father couldn’t take care of her, and she was sick and alone. I don’t know if she felt the weight of these horrible events, but I could feel sorrow and loneliness through her young eyes.

While I was with this young girl, I thought of St. Teresa. How did she do it? How did she spread joy so easily? How did she carry her faith so gracefully?

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta 

While we were swinging on the swing one day, I looked at this little girl as she grinned the biggest grin I had ever seen. Then she laughed for the first time since I’d been there. It didn’t take much — but it gave me a precious moment of happiness to see the void in her eyes fill up with a newfound joy.

St. Teresa knew how to love through joy. I was drawn to this indescribable joy on my mission trip.

“Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you, you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta

St. Teresa saw Jesus in every soul she encountered. She never denied a human being their dignity because she would never deny Jesus Himself. She did this by encountering a deep and infinite love with Jesus. 

“Mwen swaf,” which is Haitian Creole for “I thirst,” became my constant prayer throughout the mission trip. These words decorate every MC chapel as a reminder to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love.

Jesus’ thirst is satisfied by loving us and being loved by us. St. Teresa made that her mission for the Missionaries of Charity, to satiate the thirst of Jesus by spreading His love wherever they went. She knew the meaning of joyful sacrifice and complete surrender to God’s will.

So, how can we satisfy the thirst of Jesus?

St. Teresa's capacity to love came from her relationship with Jesus and her desire to satiate His thirst. She shared His love by radiating Christ and spreading her net of love.

By completely surrendering ourselves to Him, we can quench His thirst. He desires for his children to be so attached to Him, like the little ones in Haiti, that we desire to be completely removed from the attachments of this world and love Him whole heartedly.

This is what a mission trip can do for you! Being in an unfamiliar place gives you the opportunity to completely abandon your comfort and be fully open to God’s will. Going on a mission trip helped me to love others and to meet Jesus in the eyes of the abandoned. 

Many of us are afraid or hesitant to take this step of blind faith, but St. Teresa should inspire us all. She can inspire us to entrust ourselves completely to Him and let Him love us entirely. We never know how God is going to strengthen us from these great adventures.

I encourage you to apply for a mission trip, to take the risk, step out of your comfort zone and live boldly for Christ!

“For I am a pencil in the hand of a writing God, sending a love letter to the world.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta