First Feast St. Teresa of Calcutta
Homily of his Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin Secretary of State of P. Francis
Text of Cardinal Parolin’s Homily in Thanksgiving for Canonization of Mother Teresa
“But what was Mother Teresa’s ‘secret?’ It is certainly not a secret because we just proclaimed the Gospel in a loud voice: ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me'”
On Monday, the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, presided over a Holy Mass of Thanksgiving for Mother Teresa’s Canonization.
(translation of the text of the homily that Cardinal Parolin pronounced in the course of the celebration.)
Dear Fellow Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Dear Women and Men Missionaries of Charity
Pilgrims and Devotees,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we have returned to Saint Peter’s Square, numerous and full of joy, to thank the Lord for the gift of the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
How many reasons we have to be profoundly grateful to the Lord! We thank Him for the heroic witness of faith of the Saints, with whom He always renders His Church fruitful and gives us, His children, a sure sign of His love (cf. Preface of the Saints II).
We thank Him, in particular, for having given us Saint Teresa of Calcutta who, with her incessant prayer, source of great works of corporal and spiritual mercy, was a clear mirror of the love of God and an admirable example of service to her neighbor, especially to the poorest, most forsaken and abandoned persons: mirror and example from which to draw precious pointers and stimulations to live as good disciples of the Lord, to convert us from tepidness and mediocrity, and to let ourselves be inflamed by the fire of the love of Christ: Caritas Christi urget nos,” the love of Christ urges us, the love of Christ impels us (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Mother Teresa liked to describe herself as “ a pencil in the Lord’s hand,” but what poems of charity, compassion, comfort and joy that small pencil was able to write! Poems of love and of tenderness for the poorest of the poor, to whom she consecrated her existence!
She refers thus to the clear perception of her “vocation within a vocation,” which she had in September of 1946, while she was traveling to <engage in> Spiritual Exercises: ”I opened my eyes on suffering and understood in depth the essence of my vocation […] I felt the Lord was asking me to give up my tranquil life in my Religious Congregation to go out on the streets and serve the poor. It was an order. It was not a suggestion, an invitation or a proposal” (Quoted in Renzo Allegri, Mother Teresa Told Me, Ancora Publishers, 2010).
Mother Teresa “opened her eyes on suffering,” she embraced it with a look of compassion, all her being was challenged and shaken by this encounter that, in a certain sense, pierced her heart, on the example of Jesus, who was moved by the suffering of the human creature, incapable of raising itself on its own.
How can one not reread in the light of her event, the words that Pope Francis addressed to us in the Bull of proclamation of the Jubilee of Mercy, when he wrote: “Let us not fall into the indifference that humiliates, into the habit that anesthetizes the spirit and impedes discovering the novelty, into the cynicism that destroys. Let us open our eyes to look at the miseries of the world, the wounds of many brothers and sisters deprived of dignity, and let us feel ourselves stirred to listen to their cry for help. May our hands squeeze their hands and let us draw them to ourselves so that they feel the warmth of our presence, of friendship and of fraternity” (MV n. 15).
But what was Mother Teresa’s “secret”? It is certainly not a secret because we just proclaimed the Gospel in a loud voice: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Mother Teresa discovered in the poor the face of Christ, who “for your sake became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9) and she responded to his unbounded love with an unbounded love for the poor. “Caritas Christi urget nos,” the love of Christ urges us, the love of Christ impels us (2 Corinthians 5:14).
She was able to be a very luminous sign of mercy. “Mercy was for her ‘the salt’ that gave flavor to every work of hers and the ‘light’ that brightened the darkness of all those that no longer had tears to weep for their poverty and suffering,” said the Holy Father in yesterday’s homily, because she allowed herself to be illumined by Christ, adored, loved and praised in the Eucharist, as she herself explained: “Our lives must be constantly nourished by the Eucharist because, if we are not capable of seeing Christ under the appearance of bread, it will not be possible for us either to discover Him under the humble appearance of the badly reduced bodies of the poor” (cf. Teresa of Calcutta, The Love that Quenches, p. 16).
Moreover, she knew well that one of the more lacerating forms of poverty consists in knowing one is not loved, not desired, scorned. A sort of poverty present also in less poor countries and families, also in individuals belonging to categories that have means and possibilities, but that experience the interior emptiness of having lost the meaning and direction of life or have been violently affected by the desolation of broken bonds, by the harshness of solitude, by the sensation of being forgotten by all and of not being useful to anyone.
This led her to identify the children not yet born and threatened in their existence as “the poorest among the poor.” In fact each one depends, more than any other human being, on the love and care of a mother and on society’s protection. The conceived one has nothing of his own; every hope and necessity of his is in the hands of others. He bears in him a plan of life and of future and asks to be heard and protected so that he can become what he already is: one of us, that the Lord has thought of from all eternity for a great mission to accomplish, that of “loving and of being loved,” as Mother Teresa liked to repeat.
Therefore, she defended courageously nascent life, with that frankness of word and line of action that is the most luminous sign of the presence of the Prophets and of the Saints, who do not bow to anyone except to the Almighty; they are interiorly free because they are interiorly strong and they do not stoop in face of fashions and of the idols of the moment, but are reflected in their illuminated conscience by the sun of the Gospel.
In her we discover that happy and inseparable binomial between the heroic exercise of charity and clarity in the proclamation of the truth; we see her constant industriousness nourished by the profundity of contemplation; the mystery of the good accomplished in humility and without exhaustion, fruit of a love that “hurts.”
To this end, she affirmed in her famous address for the awarding of the Nobel Prize at Oslo on December 11, 1979: “It is very important for us to understand that love, to be true, must hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt Him.” And, thanking the present and future benefactors, she said: “I don’t want you to give me of your surplus, I want you to give me until it hurts.”
In my opinion these words are like a threshold that we cross and enter into the abyss that envelops the Saint’s life, in those heights and those depths that are difficult to explore because they follow closely the sufferings of Christ, His unconditional gift of love and the very deep wounds He had to suffer.
It is the ineffable density of the Cross, of this “hurting” of the good done for love of God, because of the friction it causes in dealing with all those that resist us, because of creatures’ limitations, their sin and the death that is its wages.
And it is also – as is evident in the numerous letters she addressed to her Spiritual Director – “the Dark Night of the faith,” in which the burning love for the crucified Lord and for brothers needy of care and bread coexist; a solid and pure faith and – at the same time – the tremendous sensation of God’s distance and His silence. Something similar to Christ’s cry on the cross: “My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Another word, of the seven Jesus pronounced during His agony on the cross, which she wanted it to be written in English in every House of her Congregation, beside the Crucified One: “I thirst,” I am thirsty: thirsty for fresh and limpid water, thirst for souls to console and to redeem from their ugly deeds to make them beautiful and pleasing to the eyes of God, thirst for God, for His vital and luminous presence. “I thirst”: this is the thirst that burned in Mother Teresa, her cross and exaltation, her torment and glory.
For the good accomplished in this life, she received the Nobel Prize for Peace and so many other awards and she saw the flowering of her work, especially in the Congregations of the Missionary Sisters of Charity and of the Missionary Brothers of Charity that she founded to come after her. Now in Paradise, with Mary the Mother of God and All the Saints, she receives the altogether highest prize prepared for her since the foundation of the world, the prize reserved to the just, the meek, the humble of heart, to those that, receiving the poor receive Christ.
When Mother Teresa passed from this earth to Heaven on September 5, 1997, Calcutta remained completely without light for some long minutes. On this earth she was a transparent sign that pointed to Heaven. On the day of her death Heaven wished to offer a seal to her life and to communicate to us that a new light had been lighted above us. Now, after the “official” recognition of her sanctity, it shines still more vividly. May this light, which is the eternal light of the Gospel, continue to illumine our earthly pilgrimage and the paths of this difficult world!
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]