A portrait

Mother Teresa (1910–1997)

Brother Roger wrote these lines in homage to Mother Teresa at the time of her ­beatification, in 2003.

We live in a world where light and darkness coexist. Through the life she lived, Mother Teresa invited people to choose light. In this way she opened a road to holiness for many others. Mother Teresa made words written by Saint Augustine four centuries after Christ comprehensible to us: “Love and say it with your life.” Trust in God becomes credible and is communicated above all when it is lived out.

I had many opportunities to converse with Mother Teresa. Often it was possible to discern in her reflections of the holiness of Christ. In the summer of 1976 she came to Taizé. Our hill was full of young people from many different countries. That day we wrote a prayer together: “O God, Father of every human being, you ask us all to bring love where the poor are humiliated, reconciliation where human beings are divided, joy where the Church is shaken. You open this road for us so that we may be ferments of communion throughout the entire human family.”

That same year, a few of my brothers and I went to live for a time with the very poor in Calcutta. We were staying near her home in a lower-class district, noisy, full of children, where mostly Muslims lived. We were offered hospitality by a Christian family whose home was in front of an intersection of some small streets, with shops and simple workshops. Mother Teresa often came to pray with us. In the afternoon, she sometimes asked me to go with her to visit lepers who had nothing to look forward to but death. She tried to calm their worries.

At times she could take spontaneous initiatives. One day, after coming back from a visit to some lepers, she said to me in the car, “I have something to ask you. Say yes!” Before giving my reply, I tried to find out more about what she wanted, but she would only repeat, “Say yes!” Finally she explained, “Tell me that from now on you will wear your white robe all day long; this sign is necessary in the situations of our time.” “Yes,” I answered, “I will speak to my brothers and I will wear it as often as possible.” So she had her sisters make a white robe and she herself insisted on sewing part of it.
She was particularly attentive to children. She proposed that I and one of my brothers, who was a physician, go to the home for abandoned children every morning, to take care of those who were most ill. From the first day I discovered a little girl, four months old. I was told that she did not have enough strength to resist the viruses of the winter. And Mother Teresa proposed, “Bring her with you to Taizé; you will be able to take care of her there.”

In the plane returning to France, the little girl, named Marie, was not well. When we arrived in Taizé, she began to gurgle like a happy baby for the first time. The first weeks, she often slept in my arms while I worked. Slowly her strength returned. Then she went to live in the village, in a house close to ours. My sister Genevieve, who years before in Taizé had taken in children and raised them as her own, welcomed her to her home. When she was baptized I became her godfather and I love her like a father.
Several years later, Mother Teresa came back to Taizé one Sunday in the autumn. During the prayer, together we expressed a concern that remains true today: “In Calcutta, there are visible homes for the dying. But in many parts of the world, many young people are in invisible homes for the dying. They are marked by broken relationships or by worry for their future. Separations have wounded in them the innocence of childhood or adolescence. In some this leads to disenchantment: what is the good of existing; does life still have any meaning?”

Two of my brothers and I went to Calcutta in order to take part in Mother ­Teresa’s funeral. We wished to thank God for her gift of her life, and to sing with her sisters in the spirit of praise. Next to her body, I remembered all that we had in common, particularly this conviction: a communion in God stimulates us to alleviate human suffering on earth. Yes, when we soothe the trials of others, we encounter Christ. Does he not say it himself: “Whatever you do for the least, you do for me, Christ.”

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