December 2, 2016

Mother Teresa’s lesson in faith to Cardinal Tobin: ‘I get just what I need’

By John Shaughnessy

With a laugh, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin recalled the time when “a living saint”—Mother Teresa—became angry with him.

Defining Moments logoIt happened during his time as a pastor in Detroit, a time when he was also the chaplain for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charities—the order Mother Teresa had established—who were helping homeless women and children in that Michigan city.

“They needed a home,” the cardinal recalled. “Mother Teresa was nobody’s fool. She came to the city knowing there would be a fair amount of publicity, a Mass and probably a collection.

“The sisters invited me to come to the Mass, and I was happy to concelebrate. Everyone who was anyone was there. So after Mass, I gave up any hope of speaking with her.”

Yet his time came the next day when he received a phone call at the rectory, shortly after he had returned from fixing a toilet for a parish member who was blind. He was still in his coveralls when one of the sisters from India phoned, telling him Mother Teresa wanted to meet with him.

Cardinal Tobin remembered responding, “You tell Mother I’m going to get cleaned up and put on my

cassock, and I’ll be right over. The sister got back on the phone and said, ‘Mother says to come now.’ ”

So he did, still in his coveralls.

“What do you say to a living saint?” the cardinal said with a smile. “I was the pastor of a poor parish in the inner city so I asked her a pastor’s question, ‘Mother, how did you do in the collection last night?’ She looked at me with a big smile. She said, ‘You know, Father, I knew before the Mass how much money I needed. I got exactly that amount. I didn’t get 10 cents more or 10 cents less.’

“My jaw dropped. I said, ‘Wow, Mother, that’s really something.’ She got angry. Isn’t that great? A living saint gets angry with you. She said, ‘No, Father, that’s not something. God never gives me too much—for fear that I’ll forget him. I get just what I need.’ ” †

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