Mother Teresa of Calcutta – Quotes & Stories

Mother Teresa was a legend even in her lifetime.  Quotes attributed to her and stories about her circulate constantly, some of them inaccurate and mistakenly attributed to her.  We’ve tried to vet these quotes and stories to assure their authenticity.

I  once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: ‘You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him.’ It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand.           Mother Teresa

Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family.”

“Faith in action is love. And love in action is service.”

“For love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”

“If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”

“If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

“Let us take whatever God gives and give whatever he takes with a smile. That is holiness.”

“The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.”

“When once a chairman of a multinational company came to see me, to offer me a property in Bombay, he first asked: ‘Mother, how do you manage your budget?” I asked him who had sent him here. He replied: ‘I felt an urge inside me.’ I said: other people like you come to see me and say the same. It was clear God sent you, Mr. A, as He sends Mr. X, Mrs. Y, Miss Z, and they provide the material means we need for our work. The grace of God is what moved you. You are my budget. God sees to our needs, as Jesus promised. I accepted the property he gave and named it Asha Dan (Gift of Hope).”

“To give until it hurts. This is the true meaning of love.” Mother Teresa

“Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Mother Teresa

“Don’t wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa (paraphrased)

“If there has been resentment in our hearts or if we have not accepted humiliation, we will not learn humility.”  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”  Mother Theresa of Calcutta

“To forgive takes love. To forget takes humility.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

“Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.” Mother Teresa

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”   Mother Teresa

“Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.”  Mother Teresa

“There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ:
Jesus is my God,
Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life,
Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All;
Jesus is my Everything.”                   Mother Teresa

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.   It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”     Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing.  Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.  Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.”  Mother Teresa

“If you’re too busy to pray…you’re too busy”  Mother Teresa

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.”  Mother Teresa

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.”

“If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.”  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“A clean heart is a free heart. A free heart can love Christ with an undivided love in chastity, convinced that nothing and nobody will separate it from his love. Purity, chastity, and virginity created a special beauty in Mary that attracted God’s attention. He showed his great love for the world by giving Jesus to her.”

“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family.  Find them.  Love them.”

“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.”  Mother Teresa

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”  St. Teresa of Calcutta

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”

“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance.  It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.”

“Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.”  Mother Teresa

“To be faithful in little things is a great thing.”  St. Teresa of Calcutta

“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”  Mother Teresa

These verified quotes and stories were posted in honor of the saint’s canonization on September 4, 2016, which will become her feast day in the Roman Catholic Calendar.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, the future Mother Teresa, was born on 26 August 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, to Albanian heritage. Her father, a well-respected local businessman, died when she was eight years old, leaving her mother, a devoutly religious woman, to open an embroidery and cloth business to support the family. After spending her adolescence deeply involved in parish activities, Agnes left home in September 1928, for the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnam (Dublin), Ireland, where she was admitted as a postulant on October 12 and received the name of Teresa, after her patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux. Agnes was sent by the Loreto order to India and arrived in Calcutta on 6 January 1929. Upon her arrival, she joined the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling. She made her final profession as a Loreto nun on 24 May 1937, and hereafter was called Mother Teresa. While living in Calcutta during the 1930s and ’40s, she taught in St. Mary’s Bengali Medium School. On 10 September 1946, on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received what she termed the “call within a call,” which was to give rise to the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-Workers. The content of this inspiration is revealed in the aim and mission she would give to her new institute: “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls” by “laboring at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” On October 7, 1950, the new congregation of the Missionaries of Charity was officially erected as a religious institute for the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Mother Teresa expanded the work of the Missionaries of Charity both within Calcutta and throughout India. On 1 February 1965, Pope Paul VI granted the Decree of Praise to the Congregation, raising it to pontifical right. The first foundation outside India opened in Cocorote, Venezuela, in 1965. The Society expanded to Europe (suburban Rome) and Africa (Tanzania) in 1968. From the late 1960’s until 1980, the Missionaries of Charity expanded both in their reach across the globe and in their number of members. Mother Teresa opened houses in Australia, the Middle East, and North America, and the first novitiate outside Calcutta in London. In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. By that time there were 158 Missionaries of Charity foundations. The Missionaries of Charity reached Communist countries in 1979 with a house in Zagreb, Craotia, and in 1980 with a house in East Berlin, and continued to expand through the 1980s and 1990s with houses in almost all Communist nations, including 15 foundations in the former Soviet Union. Despite repeated efforts, however, Mother Teresa was never able to open a foundation in China. Mother Teresa spoke at the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly in October 1985. On Christmas Eve of that year, Mother Teresa opened “Gift of Love” in New York, her first house for AIDS patients. In the coming years, this home would be followed by others, in the United States and elsewhere, devoted specifically for those with AIDS. From the late 1980’s through the 1990’s, despite increasing health problems, Mother Teresa traveled across the world for the profession of novices, opening of new houses, and service to the poor and disaster-stricken. New communities were founded in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war-torn Iraq. By 1997, the Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world. After a summer of traveling to Rome, New York, and Washington, in a weak state of health, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta in July 1997. At 9:30 PM, on 5 September, Mother Teresa died at the Motherhouse. Her body was transferred to St. Thomas’s Church, next to the Loreto convent where she had first arrived nearly 69 years earlier. Hundreds of thousands of people from all classes and all religions, from India and abroad, paid their respects. She received a state funeral on 13 September, her body being taken in procession – on a gun carriage that had also borne the bodies of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru – through the streets of Calcutta. Presidents, prime ministers, queens, and special envoys were present on behalf of countries from all over the world.

  • Thanks for this very timely and important post!