Calcutta's Smile

From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak—the unborn child— must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for.  -St. Teresa of Calcutta

I got a text recently that made me smile. It’s nice to get texts like that once in a while, in the midst of countless others that involve carpools, the grocery list, and kids wanting to know where I hid the remote control. 

The text was from a college friend, who I met on our study abroad program back in 1995. Traveling with anyone results in uniquely special memories. Spending a semester together in India forged a bond with this friend unlike any other. 

With a degree from one of the world’s top universities, she had her pick of employers and high-powered careers. Instead, she chose to run a small Montessori school. She fills in for teachers when needed and reasons with stubborn preschoolers, along with their equally challenging parents, some who don’t speak English. It’s incredible to consider the number of lives she, simply one enthusiastically determined person, has impacted in her many years of service.

She also raises two daughters with her husband. During a summer weekend in New York, wandering around Greenwich Village, they turned a corner and, unexpectedly, came face-to-face with this mural, the image my friend texted and the source of my smile: 

New York City mural of St. Teresa of Calcutta and Mahatma Gandhi at 18th & 10th, by renowned Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra 

While in India, we were able to visit one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages. After touring the simple but clean and welcoming building, in which room after room was filled with cribs and their wide-eyed inhabitants, we were told that Mother Teresa, who died 22 years ago this week, had made time to greet our group. Even though there were 29 of us, she generously stopped in front of each student, took our hands, smiled into our eyes with hers, and nodded a greeting along with a mild but sincere “God bless you.” 

To this day, I have never felt so tall—and so very small—in her presence. Like me, she was just one person with human limitations. Yet, whether she meant to or not, she redefined those limits, stretched them, and, with faith that her work was merely a response to a call, exceeded perceived restraints and changed the lives of thousands. For my friend, herself an adoptee, I cannot imagine the deeply personal significance of the exchange.  

The year before we met with her, Mother Teresa attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. During her remarks, including the following excerpt, she commented extensively on the evil of abortion and alternatives that exist. First among them, adoption, which she advocated through her life’s work in orphanages like the one we visited. 

“I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption—by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: ‘Please don't destroy the child; we will take the child.’ So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: ‘Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child. . . .Let us make that one point—that no child will be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away." 

In the coming months, you’ll hear about statewide resources that support women around us and, in doing so, also save innocent lives. You’ll learn of opportunities to respond to Mother Teresa’s compelling call. Mark your calendar now for two such events:   

MCFL Western MA Meet & Greet 

Join our Director of Community Engagement, C.J. Williams, and me for conversation, idea-sharing, and strategy.

110 Grill at the Holyoke Mall, Thursday, September 12 at 6:30 PM

3rd Annual Celebration of Life 

Visit booths of statewide pro-life organizations, pregnancy resource centers, and adoption agencies along State House hallways to learn, network, and then lobby our elected officials. 

State House, Boston, Wednesday, October 30; Time TBA

And, once again this year, stop by MCFL’s booth in the Better Living Center at The Big E, taking place between Sep. 13-29 in West Springfield. 

I look forward to seeing you at these and future gatherings. Yes, we’re just individuals with limits. But together, we will alter those boundaries in ways yet unknown, prompting change our communities and restoring respect for life, all while keeping in mind Mother Teresa’s other worthy directive: “Give until it hurts—with a smile.”

Enjoy your weekend.

Myrna Maloney Flynn