These days, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s saying, “Unless life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile,” haunts me. That is, “haunts me” in a good way.
For a few summers during my college years, I traveled out to a mission clinic in an impoverished town outside of the Mojave Desert in southern California. The clinic, dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, had a towering crucifix in its waiting room with the words I THIRST inscribed next to it, along with a gorgeous set of the Stations of the Cross, and a poster of Mother Teresa with this saying attached to it.
One fall, after I left the clinic to return to college, I received a photo of this poster in the mail with a note from the mission clinic’s doctor. He didn’t want me to forget what I had learned at the clinic amidst the comfortable, rewarding hustle and bustle of college life. He didn’t want me to forget that I am not on this earth to serve myself.
Over and over again, his little reminder has worked.
Nearly 15 years later, as I live out my daily life as a Catholic homeschooling mom, this little saying of Blessed Teresa continues to resound in my heart. Whether I have time to bring it to mind or not doesn’t seem to matter. As a mother of three little ones on earth and three in Heaven, I, almost automatically, live for others.
The fact is, most of us homeschooling moms probably feel that we live out this saying day in and day out, and we do. Sacrifice is etched into the sketch of our vocation from corner to corner. If you have even just a grain of love for the little ones that look up to you with such innocent eyes, you will live for them.
As Catholic mothers, we are charged with the magnificent task of forming the hearts, souls and minds of our children. In this day and age, it takes a hero to do this, and do it well.
The late, great Fr. John A. Hardon once said,
“No less than ordinary individual Catholics can survive, so ordinary Catholic families cannot survive. They have no choice. They must either be holy—which means sanctified—or they will disappear. The only Catholic families that will remain alive and thriving by the year 2000 are the families of martyrs. Father, mother and children must be willing to die for their God-given convictions.”
As heroic as we Catholic mothers are, however, we are basically unsung, and we need to be ready to bear the cross of this fact. Many of us have read Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty’s statement,
“The most important person on earth is a Mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace… What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?”
We have read it, but are we able to take it into our heart of hearts and live it with joy? Can we see the reality of it when our culture scoffs at the dignity of motherhood? Some days. Maybe. We are trying, and that is all God asks of us.
When we mothers lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we fertilize the “soil” of our family. As the Scriptures say in Romans 12:1, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
Each act of love makes authentic Catholicism a living reality in our domestic church. Each touch of devotion plants a seed of faith that will bear its fruit in later days, even after being winded by the toughest storms. In turn, each fruit born will bear more fruit in days to come.
As we go about our business each day, let us carry these truths in our hearts. Let us make them calls to action from sun up to sun down.
Whether it be finishing that last grueling math problem, praying the family Rosary when we are exhausted, staying up all night with a sick child, or searching for bargains until we are blue in the face, let us be haunted, in a good way, by the saying,
“Unless we live for others, life is not worthwhile.”