To carry out her work, Mother Teresa relies only on Divine Providence. This sentence, “to trust in Providence”, for us poor mortals, has become only a sentence without a precise meaning. None of us would really think of starting a business that would require a lot of money relying exclusively on Providence, that is without having a large bank account. When we hear these sentences, we think they are generic expressions that imply that someone “risks”, exposing themselves more than they should. But let’s take the words literally. We cannot even imagine that there are people who face important tasks without adequate and calculated economic coverage.
And these people exist, they have always existed: they are saints. Those wonderful creatures whose faith in God is granite. “If you have faith, you can move a mountain”, Jesus said in the Gospel. And the saints believed him. And so, for them the joy and happiness of discovering the existence of Providence was reserved, that God’s love for his children is not an abstract expression. They became happy and grateful witnesses of spectacular miracles.
We live daily miracles
One day, after Mother Teresa had told me about the absolute poverty she wanted for her Congregation, I told her: “But then, to keep all the activities and works that her sisters do in the world, miracles are necessary.” “That’s right”, said Mother Teresa, smiling at the astonished expression she saw on my face.
“Every day God works for us true miracles, we realize them concretely. If it wasn’t for these everyday wonders, we couldn’t go any further, we couldn’t do anything.”
She looked at me. I was more and more amazed. “Are you talking about real miracles?” I asked. “Yes, concrete miracles”, said the mother.
Mother Teresa never really liked talking, either in public or in private. In every meeting I had with her, I discovered that the conversation was always stressful for her. Kind, sweet, helpful, she was always ready to answer any question, but with short, sharp and concise sentences. If, however, there was talk on the goodness of God, of Jesus’ love for his children and of the marvels of Providence, she became talkative. She began to talk with joy and a lot.
“Providence generously provides me, my sisters and our clients every day”, she said that day when I asked her about miracles. “It does so through industries, organizations, companies, oil companies, governments, but above all through the small offers of people who live with modest economic resources. And it is these offers that have the greatest value, because to do them, people face sacrifices, and therefore their gesture is a true act of love.”
“Providence – continues Mother Teresa – never leaves us. My work was first of all the Will of Jesus and He must think to carry it out. Providence continually makes us know with what love Jesus accompanies us and helps us.”
The providence of God must be witnessed
In our houses, with everything we need to keep people asking us for help, we are always in a state of emergency. No sister in charge of running the house could sleep peacefully if she did not have immense faith in God. We almost never have what it takes to live a week and sometimes not even what we need for the night of that day. But always, often at the last moment, the solution arrives. The Lord inspires the most different people to bring us, for various reasons, the help that is vital for us. If that help had not arrived, it would be a trouble for us.
In Calcutta we cook every day for nine thousand people. One morning a sister came to tell me that nothing was left in the pantry. It was Thursday. A terrible weekend was announced. It was the first time I was facing with an unexpected event like that. We should warn our assistants, said the sister. No, let’s wait – I said – in the meantime, go to church to present the question to Jesus.
I also prayed and expected some events to come. A truck loaded with bread, jam and milk arrived on Friday morning. They were stocked up for the city’s school lunch, but the government had decided to keep the schools closed that morning and all those supplies were no longer needed. I wondered why the schools had been closed that morning, but I could never understand why. I believe that God intervened to help us. In fact, for two days our assisted were able to eat freely.
In London, with some companions, we were looking for a home to open a new headquarters. A lady had one that met our demands perfectly. We went to meet this lady and after visiting the house, we expressed the desire to rent it. It’s six thousand and five hundred pounds, advance payment, the woman said bluntly. She added: I don’t trust anyone and I don’t do charity for anyone. The situation was complicated. We had no money and at the same time we needed that house. We decided to separate and visit the city by seeing friends and those who enjoyed our service, asking them for help in trying to collect a good part of this amount. When we met again at night, we reckoned: we had collected exactly six thousand and five hundred pounds.
One day, a sister called me from Agra, India, asking me fifty thousand rupees to create a home for abandoned children. It’s impossible, I said. Where will I find this amount? A few minutes later the phone rings again. He was the editor of a newspaper. The Philippines government, he announced, awarded you the Magsaysay prize and a sum of money. How much? I asked. Fifty thousand rupees, he replied. In this case – I said – I suppose God wants to create a home for children in Agra.
One day around noon a kitchen novice told me there was no more rice in the pantry and we didn’t have a rupee in the house to buy it. At 4:30 pm, a stranger arrived at the door with a package. I wanted to bring it, he said. In the package there was the rice needed for dinner that day.
On another occasion, the sisters had run out of wood for cooking. There was a large curry pan on the stove. As usual, I had some sisters pray; after a while, the doorbell rang and he was a benefactor who had brought a load of firewood.
During the rainy season, heavy rain started to fall on Calcutta. I was worried. There were ninety-five boxes of powdered milk in the courtyard and in the rain I knew they would be lost. What should I do, Lord? I prayed. The milk is out there. It seemed that Jesus did not want to listen to me, because the rain was still thin and unbroken. So I took the crucifix and carried it in the middle of the milk cartons, but that didn’t stop the rain. After five days, the sky finally cleared. The boxes floated in the water. We went to open them to see if anything could be saved and, to our surprise, we saw that the powdered milk was perfectly dry. Some boxes had the lid damaged, but no drop of water had penetrated into the cracks of the wood.
Many are amazed to hear these facts. But there is nothing extraordinary: it is all simple, logical. If I see a poor person, I have a great desire to help him. But I’m just a woman. How much greater should be Jesus’ desire to help us in our difficulties. Only those who believe blindly in His love can be a witness of his miracles, every day.
Often the Lord helps us with less spectacular things to help us. It inspires people to love us, to have sympathy for us, to want to collaborate, but it is always He who works for us.
One day a young Hindu couple came and left an offering for my poor. Since this was a large sum, I asked where they got so much money. We married two days ago, they replied. We had saved enough money for our wedding party and a lot of money was given to us by friends and relatives. But at the last minute we decided to buy only the essentials and give you the rest. We love you so much and we thought it would be nice to share our love with the poor you serve.
Some time ago, in Calcutta, we went through a period of sugar shortage. It spread throughout the city that Mother Teresa had no more sugar for her orphans and many people came to her aid. One evening a couple arrived with their six-year-old son. He had a bottle in his hand. For a week he had refused to eat sugar so he could give it to those less fortunate than him.
Channels of Divine Providence
We have collaborators all over the world, joined together in groups that provide invaluable help, collecting clothes, medicines and all those things that are useful in our dispensaries. It is the simple and generous sacrifice of thousands of unknown people that allow us to help so many people. But I rely only on prayer, I never think of money. We must carry out the work of the Lord and he must think of the means: if He does not order it, He does not want that job.
The people I consider my greatest collaborators and my sisters are the sick who, for us, offer their pains to God. And the contemplatives, monks and nuns who pray for my work.
Many disabled patients who cannot perform any activity connect with us through a real partnership agreement. They adopt a sister and, through her, offer their suffering and their prayers. A very close connection is created between the two, making them like one person.
I have my “secret collaborator” too. She’s a Belgian woman I’ve known for over thirty years. Her name is Jacqueline Decker, she is very sick. She has had seventeen surgeries and can endure any pain to help me perform my mission well. Whenever I have something special to do, she gives me the strength and courage I need. In fact, on these occasions, her suffering increases. Sometimes she writes to me: “I’m sure that in this period you have a lot to do, a lot to walk, work, talk. I know this because my back pain and other sufferings have become particularly intense.” Jacqueline is never wrong. The mysterious laws that govern spirits allow this exchange. She is my sick friend who does the hardest part of my job for me.
Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa