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?”

mother teresa of calcutta saint st. verified quotes & stories anecdotes love poorest of the poor september 5 agnes
Image by Manfredo Ferrari. CC 4.0.

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

“How can you say there are too many children?  That’s like saying there are too many flowers.”

“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).”

For more by Mother Teresa, consider her address to the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

“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

mother teresa of calcutta saint st. verified quotes & stories anecdotes love poorest of the poor september 5 agnes
Image an unknown photographer. Public domain.

“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 originally posted in honor of the saint’s canonization on September 4, 2016. Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Calendar is September 5.  To read Mother Teresa’s message to the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the US Congress, click here.  For the biography of Mother Teresa posted on the Vatican website, click here.

Banner/featured image by Turelio on Wikimedia-Commons. CC 2.0.

  • Bob bonnell
    Posted at 22:55h, 03 September

    Thanks for this very timely and important post!

  • Claudia Galvis
    Posted at 12:54h, 04 June

    I am looking for proof about a story i heard: “Mother Teresa told a russian translator during her visit in Moscow to ” translate correctly her words from english to russian without changing her words”.

  • Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 13:06h, 16 June

    Sorry Claudia, we are not able to verify if this one, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t say it!

  • Grace Clarke
    Posted at 17:13h, 30 January

    what a great heroine, Saint Teresa is….. She has inspired woman and men alike, even if some refuse to admit it. Saint Teresa gave up everything all she had to help others.. Man, I could not do that. I told my mother once what I thought of saint Teresa her brave soul and how I couldn’t give up everything, my mom just responded ” you do not have to give up everything to become like your hero, all you have to do is put a smile on others faces.” I didn’t believe her until I met a poor man In a park all alone, I put some money is his hand and told him to go buy food, he didn’t use the money for food, he used it for a lottery ticket, HE WON!!!!!! I defiantly put a smile on his face and I felt really good!

  • Flora Beadles
    Posted at 17:13h, 30 January

    What did mother Teresa say about death and the relationship still being there

  • Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 17:13h, 30 January

    Flora, sorry but I am not aware of this quote. If I find it and can verify it as genuinely being from Mother Teresa, we will add it to this list. If you find it, let us know.

  • Michael Walters
    Posted at 12:07h, 27 September

    I’m reminded of a story in one of Mother’s books where her sisters left Calcutta for a new home. While there individuals sought to enter their home during the night such that the sisters where not able to sleep. Mother apparently advised them to set out any extra food and medical supplies and get the sleep of the just.
    Can you tell me where this story is found please?

  • Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
    Posted at 15:00h, 27 September

    We are unaware of this story. We’ll look for it . . . but in the meantime, should any reading know the source, please note it in a comment on this page.

  • sharon beales
    Posted at 07:26h, 11 July

    Recently heard a story that MT was quite the prankster and had a great sense of humor. This from a couple of American engineers who went to Libya during Quadafi rule and he only allowed one Christian church in the country which had to be governed by a Cardinal. They asked if the people had ever heard of Mother teresa, and of course they had.

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