Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Blessed Mother Teresa. A great work to revisit is her famous 1982 Harvard Class Day Address found here.
Yes, there is hunger. Maybe not the hunger for a piece of bread, but there is a terrible hunger for love. There is a terrible hunger for the word of God.
I never forget when we went to Mexico, and we went visiting very poor families. And those people we saw had scarcely anything in their homes, and yet nobody asked for anything. They all asked us: Teach us the word of God. Give us the word of God. “They were hungry for the word of God. Here, too, in the whole world there is a terrible hunger for God, among the young especially. And it is there that we must find Jesus and satisfy that hunger. Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth. Nakedness is for the loss of that human dignity, the loss of that respect, the loss of that purity that was so beautiful, so great, the loss of that virginity that was the most beautiful thing that a young man and a young woman can give each other because they love each other, the loss of that presence, of what is beautiful, of what is great this is nakedness. Homelessness is not a lack of a home made of bricks, but the feeling of being rejected, being unwanted, having no one to call your own.
I never forget, one day, I was walking down the streets of London and I saw a man sitting there. He looked so sad, so lonely. So I went right up to him. I took his hand and I shook his hand and my hands are always very warm. And he looked up at me and he said: “Oooh, after such a long time I feel the warmth of a human hand.” It was so small that little action was so small and yet it brought a radiating smile on a face that had forgotten to smile, who had forgotten what is the warmth of a human hand. And this is what we have to find in our country, in all other countries around the world, everywhere.
Mother Teresa condemns abortion, speaks of purity and chastity as the greatest gifts young people can give to each other and emphasizes the importance of family in an individualistic world. Over and over, she forces one to consider if social justice can ever be separated from faith. But the best part of her speech is her invitation to contemplate upon the relationship between love and sacrifice, which leads one to holiness:
My prayer for you is that you grow in that love for each other. That you grow in that likeness of Christ, in that holiness of Christ. Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simple duty for you and for me.
For a great piece in response to critics of Mother Teresa, see William Doino Jr.’s post from earlier this year here.