November 1, 2013

God gives us just what we need—ask Mother Teresa

By John Shaughnessy

BLOOMINGTON—With a laugh, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin recalled the time when “a living saint”—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—became angry with him.

It 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 archbishop recalled at a meeting of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities staff members at St. John the Apostle Parish in Bloomington on Oct. 9.

“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.

The archbishop 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 archbishop said to the Catholic Charities group. “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.’ ” †


Related story: Church must continue embracing mission to see face of Christ in the poor

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