A Classy Class Day Address From Mother Teresa
This address was given by Mother Teresa of the Missionaries of Charity at Harvard's Class Day Exercises, June 9, 1982.
As the new graduates go out, I thought that the prayer of Cardinal Newman is most fitting for them, so that, in going into the world, they go with Jesus, they work for Jesus, and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor. Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that all our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us and be so in us that every person we should come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus. Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be ours; it will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way you love best, by shining on those around us. Let us preach you without preaching: not by words, but by our example by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear for you.
This is exactly what the parents have worked for, that their sons and daughters will become the carriers of God's love. Today, God loves the world through us, through each one of us, for we know in the Scripture it's written that God loved the world so much, that He gave His Son, Jesus, who became like us in all things except sin, and who came to give us good news. He came to the poor you and I, the poor to give that good news that God loves us, that we are somebody special to Him, that He has created us for greater things: to love and be loved. And we read in that Scripture where God speaks: "I have called you by your name. You are mine. Water will not drown you. Fire will not burn you. I will give up nations for you; you are precious to me. I love you." And to prove that, He says: ~Even, even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have curled you in the palm of my hand."
It is good to remember this, especially nowadays when there's so much fear, so much pain, so much suffering, so much distress. It Is good to remember that He will not forget you, that He loves you, loves me, and that Jesus has come to give us that good news. When we look at the cross, we will understand how He loved us, and how He wants us to love one another as He has loved each one of us. And when He came into the light of Mary, the most pure virgin, she accepted Him as the handmaid of the Lord, and she did not speak, but what did she do? Immediately, in haste, she went to her cousin's home to do what? Just to serve, to do the small works of a handmaid. And something very strange happened: the unborn child in the womb of Elizabeth, six months old, leaped with joy. Strange that it was the unborn child that child that has become the target of sa much evil. That child recognized the presence of Christ. The first human being to recognize him, to give him a welcome, tc rejoice that God's son Jesus has come. And today, today [it is] unbelievable that the mother herself murders her own child, afraid of having to feed one more child, afraid to educate one more child. The child must die. This is one of the greatest poverties. A nation, people, family that allows that, that accept that they are the poorest of the poor. They are afraid. The fear of that child. And so we see that. That impossible thing has happened today, and you and I have been taught to love, to love one another, to be kind to each other, not in words, but in life. To prove that love in action as Christ has proved it. That's why we read in the Gospel that Jesus made himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for love. For He says: "Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me."
How wonderful it is! We all long, we all want even the disbeliever wants to love God in some way or another, and where is God? How do we love God, whom we don't see? To make it easy for us, to help us to love, He makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one. And you will, I'm sure ask me: "Where is that hunger in our country?" Yes, there is hunger. Maybe not the hunger for a piece of bread, but there is a terrible hunger for love. There is a terrible hunger for the word of God.
I never forget when we went to Mexico, and we went visiting very poor families. And those people we saw had scarcely anything in their homes, and yet nobody asked for anything. They all asked us: Teach us the word of God. Give us the word of God. "They were hungry for the word of God. Here, too, in the whole world there is a terrible hunger for God, among the young especially. And it is there that we must find Jesus and satisfy that hunger. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is for the loss of that human dignity, the loss of that respect, the loss of that purity that was so beautiful, so great, the loss of that virginity that was the most beautiful thing that a young man and a young woman can give each other because they love each other, the loss of that presence, of what is beautiful, of what is great this is nakedness. Homelessness is not a lack of a home made of bricks, but the feeling of being rejected, being unwanted, having no one to call your own. I never forget, one day, I was walking down the streets of London and I saw a man sitting there. He looked so sad, so lonely. So I went right up to him. I took his hand and I shook his hand and my hands are always very warm. And he looked up at me and he said: "Oooh, after such a long time I feel the warmth of a human hand." It was so small that little action was so small and yet it brought a radiating smile on a face that had forgotten to smile, who had forgotten what is the warmth of a human hand. And this is what we have to find in our country, in all other countries around the world, everywhere.
And where do we begin? At home. And how do we begin to love? By prayer. By bringing prayer into your life, for prayer always gives us a clean heart, always. And a clean heart can see God. And if you see God in each other, naturally you will love another. That's why it is important to bring prayer into the family, for the family that prays together stays together. And if we stay together, naturally we will love one another as God loves each one of us. So it is very important to help each other to pray.
And where do our sisters get that strength to do what they are doing to take care of lepers, to take care of the sick and the dying and pick up people from the streets, not only of Calcutta, but everywhere? Where is that strength coming to the sisters to take care of the poor of New York and that other place in London and Calcutta and all these places? It is the proof of their union with Christ that comes from the Bread of Life that Eucharist. Jesus has made Himself To feed, to give us life. And my advice to you is: make it a point in your life at least once a week to go and be alone with Jesus in the Eucharist, and you will find the strength and the joy and the love that your heart is hungry for.
Love, to be true, has to hurt. Some time back in Calcutta, we had difficulty getting sugar, and I do not know how a little boy, four years old, had heard "Mother Teresa has no sugar," but he went home and he told his parents: "I will not eat sugar for three days. I will give my sugar to Mother Teresa." After three days, the parents brought this little one to our house. They had never been before; they had never given anything. But this little one, with a little bottle in his hand, brought his family to our house. And from that little one I learned how he loved with great love. Not because he gave so much. For God it is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving. And that love begins at home, right there.
Just a few days before I left Calcutta, a young man and a young woman came to our house and they gave me a big amount of money. And I asked them, "Where did you get this money?" They gave the money to feed the poor. We, in Calcutta, feed about seven thousand poor people every day. And so I asked: "Where did you get this big amount of money? "And they gave me the most strange answer: "Before our wedding, before our marriage, we decided not to buy wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast, but to give you the money to feed the poor." Then I asked them one more question: "But why, why did you do that?" That's a scandal in India, not to have a wedding feast, not to have wedding clothes. And they gave me this most beautiful answer: "Out of love for each other. We loved each other so tenderly [that] we wanted to give each other something special, and that special something was that big sacrifice, the wonderful something."
See this is very beautiful that a young man loves a young woman and a young woman loves a young man. How beautiful it is! But, love each other with a pure heart like these people they have something beautiful to give each other. Make that resolution, that on your wedding day you can give each other something beautiful. The most beautiful thing is to give a virgin heart, a virgin body, a virgin soul. That's the greatest gift that the young man can give the young woman, and that the young woman can give the man.
This is something we must all pray for our young people: that the joy of loving gives them joy in the sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that they must learn to share together. And, if a mistake has been made, it has been made have the courage to accept that child and not to destroy it. Because that's sin: it's a murder. That sin is a greater sin: to destroy the image of God, to destroy the most beautiful creation of God that is life. And so, today when we are together, let us pray. Let us pray for each other that we may love God as He loved us. Because God has offered to each one of us, He offers us that love life long, faithful, personal friendship in tenderness and love. We all experience that in our lives, how God loves us. And it is our turn to give that long life, that faithful, that personal friendship to Him in each other with prayer first in our own family. Bring back the child, bring back the family. Prayer.
The other day I was traveling with a family here in the United States. And it was something so beautiful to hear from these people how their family prays together. They told me something that I have never thought of before. When the children and it's a big family of nine children have to finish their school work or something, and they cannot finish their rosary with the parents, the parents tell them: "You go. You go and finish your school work and we will pray the rosary for you." And sometimes parents have to do something very important and cannot say the rosary, then the children tell the parents: "Mom, you go and we will pray the rosary for you." Such a wonderful thing, wonderful and beautiful thing! We must bring the child back as did Mary, who went in haste to look for the child and brought him home, and they made Nazareth together.
My prayer for you is that you grow in that love for each other. That you grow in that likeness of Christ, in that holiness of Christ. Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and for me. And where does it begin? Right at home. And if God comes into your life, into your family, to take your son or your daughter for Himself, pray for them. Help them give their hearts to God. For it is such a wonderful, wonderful gift of God, that God chooses your child to be His own, to be only, all for Him. It is wonderful to see and I'm very grateful.
I'm sure there must be some families here whose daughters and sons are with us. We already have seventy young American girls with us. More than that, we have their brothers. And they are wonderfully happy. Why? What do they want from us? When they come to join they write, "I want a life of poverty, a life of prayer, a life of sacrifice, that will lead me to the service of the poor." What a wonderful thing to think that your own children are aiming at that kind of holiness and that complete surrender to God, and bringing that joy into the lives of so many people who are hungry for God.
So let us thank God. I have no gold and silver to give to the American people, but I give my sisters. I hope that, together with them, you will go in search like Mary, go in haste to find the poor. And if you find them, if you come to know them, you will love them, and if you love them, you will do something for them.
The poor you may have right in your own family. We get many young people coming to our place, to Calcutta, to share the joy of loving, and it's beautiful to see how devotedly they serve the poorest of the poor, with so much love, with so much care. And many families have got to see in their own family the suffering, the pain and the loneliness. I never forget one day when I was with our sisters in Venezuela. A family had given us a plot of land to build a children's home, and I went to thank them. When I went to the family, I saw one of their children I've never seen anything so disabled, so completely handicapped and he had the most beautiful black, shining eyes, full of radiating joy. And I asked the mother, I said: "What is the name of your child?" And the mother gave me the answer: "We call him Professor of Love, because he keeps on teaching us how to love." Such a wonderful spirit of joy in that family because they had somebody who taught them how to love.
So let us thank God for all the beautiful things that God has given your children, and with your help, with your prayers, they have been able to stand today on their feet, and you are sending them, like Jesus sent his apostles, "Go and preach the Good News." Today, let us pray that they will go out and preach the Good News, not by words, but by their example, by the love they give to each other, especially to the unwanted, the unloved, and the uncared.
You have many poor people here. Find them, love them, put your love for them in living action, for in loving them, you are loving God Himself. God bless you.