“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.” These words come from the woman whose feast day we celebrate today, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, fondly known as Mother Teresa to so many. Mother Teresa is revered as one of the most selfless, loving individuals to ever live. How does one become such a saint? Surely she was born with the sign of the Divine or was somehow made different than the rest of us, right?
On August 26th, 1910, Mother Teresa was born, as we all were, to a mother and father. She began her life known as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and was baptized as a child of God, just like you and I. She received her first communion at age five and was confirmed at age six, but was struck with tragedy at age eight when her father passed away, leaving her family in financial trouble. Eventually, Mother Teresa joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland when she was eighteen. It was then she received the name Sister Mary Teresa, but would not be known as Mother Teresa until her Final Profession of Vows on May 24, 1937.
The life of Mother Teresa is no different than that of any other woman entering the religious life at that time. Yet, she went on to do quite extraordinary things. What is it that set her apart? One of the many reasons is Mother Teresa’s willingness to listen.
Mother Theresa’s reputation for selflessness stems from an experience she had on a train ride from Calcutta to Darjeeling on September, 10 1946. On this ride, Mother Teresa heard clearly Jesus’ call to her, asking her to care for “victims of love” through founding the Missionaries of Charity, who dedicate their lives to service of the “poorest of the poor”. It was through Mother Teresa’s willingness to hear God speaking that she was able to find her true calling. And what God asked was for her to continue to listen; she was to listen to the needs of the poor and show them love through hearing their words. The simple act of listening is an act of love. By ceasing from speaking, we show other people we value them. Think of the times you have been interrupted – how did you feel? Probably angry, dejected, and unimportant. By stopping ourselves from interrupting others, we show them we care and do not want them to feel this way. Similarly, what shows more thoughtfulness and care than remembering a birthday or special occasion with one’s favorite food or an item they especially wanted? We know these things through listening; not just through hearing words but from actively listening to understand and remember what the person is saying.
So we can all bring out the Mother Teresa in us in this simple way: listen. Listen to your friends. Listen to your classmates. Listen to the stranger in the check-out line. And most importantly, listen to God, for He is speaking, if only we would listen.
Information on Blessed Teresa’s life from Catholic Online