Victims of Jesus’ Love
The following reflections are an attempt to make an in-depth study of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s two most important letters to the then Archbishop of Kolkata, His Excellency F. Perier SJ. These are the only two letters that directly concern Mother’s inspiration. The first one she wrote on 13th January 1947 and the second most important one she wrote to the same Archbishop on the feast of St. Francis Xavier on 3rd December 1947.
What we find in these two letters, which she calls “strange thoughts and desires” inspired by Jesus’ communications to her, began on 10th September 1946 and continued throughout 1947, as we can see from the date of her second letter.
When Jesus called St. Teresa of Calcutta from the Loreto convent, one of the first things He told her was the kind of members He wanted and the qualities they should possess. Jesus knew that the strength, vitality, growth and fruitfulness of any group depended so much on its members, how convinced they are and how they are being formed. Jesus therefore dictated to our foundress about the members He wanted, for He said to her:
“I want (Indian nuns) victims of My love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so very united to Me as to radiate My love on souls”. In this one sentence we can see the sum-total of our M.C. vocation. First of all Jesus wants victims of his love: “I want victims of My love”. Here we have to go deeper and deeper and see what He means by “victims of His love”.
Victims of Jesus’ love.
It can mean that Jesus can use us as He wants, when and where He wants, through our Superiors, without consulting us. As a rule, any sacrificial victim is destroyed and consumed. But here in this case, the members of the Missionaries of Charity are meant to be purified more than destroyed. In other words, what is being destroyed in us is our self-will; what is being destroyed in us is our human love, our human inclinations, inordinate desires and attachments, such as the seven capital sins of pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, avarice, lust, and wrath; all the various passions—the passion for popularity, the desire for power and prestige, the various unhealthy hunger and thirst that can come on our spiritual path and try to destroy us. Either we become a victim of our own passions, likes and dislikes, our own fears and disappointments, or become a victim of Jesus’ love. His gentle love will slowly wipe out the evil from us, enabling us to possess His love, so that we can radiate his love on souls.
Jesus wants us to be like Mary and Martha; He wants us to be so very united to Him, to radiate His love on souls (Mother’s Founding Grace p. 22-24). In our apostolate, whether at home, in the community or with outsiders, with our Brothers or the poor, we can radiate our “human love” or “Jesus’ love” on souls, on all those whom we meet or live with.
Jesus knows that if our relationship is based purely on human love, it is not going to last; nor does He simply want a mixture of both. This does not mean that we cannot use the gifts God has given us. On the contrary, we must recognize His gifts and thank God for them and use them for His glory. It is His love that we have to radiate on souls. We can do this through prayer, penance and works of mercy.
Jesus’ cross is the basis, the structure and the standard of our M.C. life, work and vows, as Jesus very clearly demands from St. Teresa of Calcutta:
“I want free nuns (Brothers) covered with my poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns (Brothers) covered with my obedience of the Cross. I want full of love nuns (Brothers) covered with the Charity of the Cross” (MFG p. 10).
Years later, when the journalists and others interviewed her about the beginning of “her call within a call,” she would say that it was an order. This was not very clear to the readers then, but now, in light of the discovery of “Mother’s Founding Grace” document, we can understand her answer. Jesus was very clear and categorical when He repeated again and again: “I want…”. In the same locution He says four times: “I want”.
This clarity was very vital for St. Teresa of Calcutta in accepting, choosing and above all in forming candidates. In fact, she, with the help of Jesus and His Virgin Mother, instilled in the hearts and minds of the candidates the very demand of Jesus without letting them see or read this all important and precious document, known today as “Mother’s Founding Grace,” which should be the “Magna Carta” for the M.C. Family. In it we can see the essence and substance of the M.C. Charism, Spirit, aim and way of life.
The clarity and conviction St. Mother Teresa M.C. possessed in spite of “her dark night, dryness and desert” were due to the fact that Jesus practically dictated and spelled out for her whatever was essential. He did not ask of her something of a temporary foundation. It was not only meant to last for her life time or meant to be confined to the paradoxical city of Kolkata. No, it was and it is meant to go on and go out. It indeed went out to all the world, an incredible phenomenon, even during her own life time. If it were not Jesus who worked with her, and people were not able to see Jesus in her and in the Sisters of the Society she founded, instead of growing and diffusing, it would have died and disappeared long ago.
She was able to transform the candidates who came into “victims of Jesus’ love”, who would be like Mary and Martha, who would be formed to be so very united to Jesus that they all, as far as they were able to, radiate Jesus’ love on souls. It can be said that St. Teresa of Calcutta , the little Spouse of Jesus Crucified, was able to lay the foundation of the Missionaries of Charity on solid rock. As years went by, “the rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on rock” (cf. Mt 7: 24-27). Who or what is your first and best love? In the priority list, who is at the top? Myself, my will or Jesus? Or anyone or anything?
Her vocation was to be the Spouse of Jesus. From this spousal union with Jesus, she will save souls. It is clear from the question Jesus asked her:
“Are you afraid to take one more step for your Spouse—for me—for souls?”.
Jesus wanted St. Teresa of Calcutta to found the Missionaries of Charity mainly to save souls, souls for whom he died on the Cross… and His beloved mother was drowned in sorrow. Jesus almost scolded St. Teresa M.C. when he said: “You did not die for souls—that is why you don’t care what happens to them”.
Another interesting and most important point Jesus made is about his beloved Mother. Here we can see clearly the role Our Lady played in the work of salvation. Can we not say that Jesus considered His Mother as co-redemptrix when He says:
“Your heart was never drowned in sorrow as My Mother’s”?
More interesting still is the next statement Jesus made, namely, “We both gave our all for souls” (Mother’s Founding Grace p. 10). So as they both offered their all to save souls, St. Teresa of Calcutta and the Missionaries of Charity should do the same. This was further explained in her locutions when we see Jesus telling her so clearly and so succinctly what her vocation consisted in. He said it in very simple but clear terms. Her vocation, and for all the members of the Missionaries of Charity, Contemplative or Active, consists in love, suffering and saving souls. In Jesus’ own words:
“Your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls”.
His short definition of her vocation would eventually be spelled out and unfolded both in her locutions and thereafter in her life and mission. Jesus Himself would go into detail and explain to her through words and through visions, which He finally clarified and confirmed her “call within a call” and her subsequent mission.
In the simple definition of her vocation we have three important verbs: love, suffer, save. It may be helpful for us to go a little deeper on the choice of these three verbs, which contain the entire work and mission of St. Teresa of Calcutta. First of all, the word “love”. In this context this word “love” should be seen as a driving force, “suffering” as means, and “save” souls as the goal. Jesus knew very well that if there is no love behind suffering, it will not be welcomed and will not be sought for, but will be avoided.
It is the force of love for Jesus that will give all the courage, strength and vitality to go through the absolutely necessary means of suffering, pain and the Cross to save and redeem souls. Without this invincible love, this Christian agape, the Cross and suffering will be stumbling blocks and folly; but when there is love it becomes no longer a stumbling block or folly, but the power and wisdom of God to save and redeem the world of souls (1 Cor 1: 22-24).
This is the reason Jesus spoke to St. Teresa M.C. as His Spouse. This love is spousal, and in any spousal love there is suffering and death. And in real spousal love, one never counts the sacrifices, hardships and suffering one has to go through for a common goal.
In this mystical union the common goal is the salvation of souls, which Jesus is no more able to accomplish alone, without help and cooperation of his close friends. It is like electricity and the bulb. The electricity needs a bulb to shine through. Jesus is in need of intimate friends through whom He can shine, the purpose of which is the salvation and the sanctification of souls. The more united we are to Jesus, the more souls are being saved through suffering love.
St. Therese of Lisieux writes in her autobiography: “…I realized that this love was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all other; it is a universe of its own, comprising all time and space…it is eternal. Beside myself with joy, I cried out, ‘Jesus, my Love! I have found my vocation, and my vocation is Love. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love’ “.
What was a discovery for St. Therese of Lisieux, for St. Teresa of Calcutta was a dictation and infusion. In the end both come from the same source and origin of that creative Love, which moves and conquers everyone, defeats every vengeance and hatred. Love cannot be conquered or defeated, but it conquers everything and everyone, including one’s enemies. No wonder then Jesus spelled out St. Teresa M.C.’s vocation in those few words, which express little but include everything. In it, then, we have the driving force, the means and the end, i.e. “to love and suffer and save souls”.
Salvation of souls!
The salvation of souls is uppermost in the mind and heart of Jesus. He will do everything to save a soul, even leaving the ninety-nine in the wilderness and to go after the one that is lost (cf. Lk 15: 3-4). But He is helpless without human hands to serve and human hearts to love. He is in need of us, as we are in need of Him; we are utterly helpless without Him.
Jesus makes it very clear when He called St. Teresa of Calcutta and told her again and again to give him souls:
“My little one, give Me the souls of the poor street children. How it hurts, if you only knew, to see these poor children soiled with sins…If you only answer and bring Me these souls—draw them away from the hands of the evil one. If you only knew how many little ones fall into sin every day”.
Jesus goes further and deeper. His love and concern for the souls of the poor is so great that He humbles Himself so much that He feels pity for them: “They are like sheep without a shepherd” (cf. Mt 9: 36-37). Once again Jesus pleads with St. Teresa of Calcutta very tenderly and humbly:
“My little one, come—come; carry Me into the holes of the poor—come; be My light. I cannot go alone. They don’t know Me. So they don’t want Me. You come—go amongst them—carry Me with you into them. In your immolation, in your love for Me, they will see Me, know Me, want Me”.
Jesus wants her to do a few more things to save souls; namely, she has to offer more sacrifices, she has to smile more tenderly, and pray more fervently (cf. Mother’s Founding Grace p. 18). These are still means to save souls, the souls of the poor. Here the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God stoops down, begging from a creature for help to save souls. Here the all powerful becomes so-to-say the all powerless, while remaining omniscient and omnipresent.
The long and continuous locution was not enough to convince the little one. So He let His beloved Spouse have three visions, and in all the three the same end: i.e. to bring souls, especially the souls of the poor, to Jesus. The crowd wants St. Teresa M.C. to save them and bring them to Jesus; Our Lady wants her to bring them to Jesus and carry Jesus to them; and finally Jesus, summarizing the request of the crowd and Our Lady, adds His own from the Cross, in the presence of the crowd and in front of Our Lady:
“I have asked you, they (the crowd) have asked you, she, My Mother has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for Me—to take care of them, to bring them to Me?”.
It is very interesting to read what St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced after the final and moving request of Jesus from the pulpit of the Cross. He then created an insatiable thirst in her to labour for the salvation of souls. For she writes:
“These desires to satiate the longing of our Lord for souls of the poor—(and also) for pure victims of His love (the M.C.s) go on increasing with every Mass and Holy Communion. All my prayers and the whole day in a word—are full of this desire” (MFG p. 19).
Following the inspiration (10 September 1946), the locutions (1946) and visions (1947), St. Teresa M.C. wrote her set of Rules during the Novena to the Holy Spirit. The very first Rule speaks of the general aim of the Missionaries of Charity, which is “to satiate the thirst of Jesus Christ on the Cross for love and for souls”. She experienced in her the very thirst of her beloved crucified Spouse for souls. From now on she and her sisters will tirelessly labour for the salvation of souls, which alone can quench Jesus’ infinite thirst on the Cross for souls. His thirst is never quenched enough as long as there are souls to be saved. He and His beloved Mother Mary will continue to look for generous souls to labour in his vineyard, as “they both gave their all to save souls” (ibid. p. 109)
Intimately linked to saving souls is the wearing of habits. There too Jesus dictates the kind of habit she and her nuns should wear as a sign of their consecration and dedication to the service of the poor. They are the Spouses of Jesus crucified. And their habit, i.e. the sarie, should be simple and poor, which will become holy because it will be His symbol.
What did Jesus want from St. Teresa of Calcutta?
Jesus wanted: Indian nuns that would be victims of His love. They would be Mary and Martha; they would be so united to Jesus; they would radiate His love upon souls.
Jesus wanted free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross.
Jesus wanted obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross.
Jesus wanted full-of-love nuns covered with the Charity of the Cross.
Jesus wanted her to dress in simple Indian clothes…or, like his own Mother…dressed simple and poor; he wanted her to dress in the sarie, which would eventually become holy and His symbol.
Jesus wanted Indian Missionaries of Charity. He wanted not only St. Teresa of Calcutta, but also her Sisters, to be his fire of love amongst the very poor, the sick, the dying, the little street children.
Jesus wanted her and all those who work with her to bring the poor to Him.
Jesus wanted her and all those who work with her to be victims of His love.
Jesus wanted to use her for His glory, even though He knew she was the most incapable person, weak and sinful.
Jesus wanted her to know that He has chosen her to be His own little Spouse, Spouse of the Crucified Jesus.
He wanted her not to be afraid, but to trust Him lovingly, to trust Him blindly.
Jesus wanted her to know that she will suffer very much, since she is His Spouse, the Spouse of the Crucified Jesus. She has to bear many torments on her heart, as He and His beloved Mother did. They both gave their all for souls. He wanted her and all those who are going to work with her to do the same.
Jesus wanted her not to refuse this important and irrevocable call within a call: to love and suffer and save souls.
Jesus wanted her to know that there are many convents with a number of nuns to look after the rich and well-to-do people, but for His very poor people there was absolutely none. He wanted St. Teresa of Calcutta and all those who work with her to radiate His love on them.
Jesus wanted her to offer more sacrifices, to smile more tenderly and pray more fervently.
Jesus wanted her to carry Him into the holes of the poor, since He cannot go alone. He wanted her to be His light. He wanted her to carry Him with her, whenever and wherever she went. She and those who work with her and like her should not go out without Jesus. They should not go to visit anyone without Jesus. It will simply be a waste of time. “They laboured the whole night long but caught nothing” (Jn 21: 3). Jesus wants us to carry Him with us into the people. He longs to enter their holes, their dark and unhappy homes.
Today how many dark and unhappy homes there are! If Jesus does not enter, if nobody brings Jesus to these homes and places, they will remain dark and unhappy. No Jesus, no happiness, no joy, no peace, because Jesus is the happiness, the joy, the peace. When Jesus is wanted and welcomed in a family, that family will became a holy family. The Nazareth family became holy only because there was Jesus with them. Happy is the family that recognizes and welcomes Jesus. The poor people and all the people will see, know and want Jesus through our immolation, through our personal, life-long love for Jesus.
Jesus wanted her to obey very cheerfully, promptly and without any questions. He told her He will never leave her if she obeys. Without obedience to God’s will, whatever we do, no matter how great and wonderful it may appear, it will have no value. What counts and is important is how conformed our actions are to the will of God, how God is being glorified and man is sanctified. The will of God must be the norm of our life, no matter how hard and difficult it may be. It is worth dying like a martyr to accomplish God’s will. This means preferring God’s will to my life on earth. Obedience to God’s will and charity, which can be against the ways of the world, are the most important things we should practice in this world.
Jesus wanted St. Teresa of Calcutta to take care of the poor, to bring them to Him. He made her see the hungry crowd; he made her hear their cry to save them, to bring them to Jesus. He wanted her to have compassion on them as the poor of Kolkata and of the world, who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mt 9: 36-38).
Jesus also had Our Lady plead with St. Teresa of Calcutta to take care of the poor, to bring them to Jesus, to carry Jesus to them. Our Lady wanted St. Teresa M.C. to teach them to pray the Rosary, which would make the families stay together. “For the family that prays together, stays together”. Our Lady promised St. Teresa of Calcutta that Jesus and she would be with her and her children and so there is no room for fear, for she says: “Fear not. Jesus and I will be with you and with your children”.
God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.