September 5, 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa. Now declared "Blessed," she continues to inspire disciples of Christ worldwide.
My own interaction with her came shortly after I took leadership of Priests for Life. I asked if I could visit with her in Calcutta, and spent a week with her in June of 1994 discussing the new ministry I was leading, and the direction of pro-life strategy overall. Two events that had recently occurred shaped our conversations.
One was the speech she had given in February at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. She spoke in the presence of President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice-President and Mrs. Gore. It was an unforgettable moment, as this short, humble woman proclaimed to those in power: "…If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?…Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
I told her what an impact the speech made on the pro-life community. "What about the rest of the American people?", she asked me at once. She then gave me a homework assignment to spread the speech far and wide, which Priests for Life has been doing ever since.
The other recent event we discussed was that President Clinton had signed in May the "Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances" bill, which made it a federal crime to peacefully, physically obstruct access to the door of an abortion mill. When I explained this new law to her, she looked at me and said, "Father, if we had laws like that here in India, I would have been thrown in jail many times! Here I go to the places where abortions are done and I take the women by the arm and say, 'Come with me; we will help you and your child!'"
Another striking moment was when she brought me to one of her homes in Calcutta where prostitutes lived whom she had rescued from life on the streets. She showed me the blankets they had made. She was glowing with joy and admiration as she said, "Look, Father, at the good work these women have done." Her vision of people's goodness was not obscured by any evil they may have done.
She loved the priesthood, and after hearing me speak about Priests for Life, she sought and obtained an immediate audience with the local bishop so that the three of us could talk about how to establish it in India. Later she wrote me saying, "I hope many priests and deacons will join Priests for Life." Indeed, the whole pro-life movement draws strength from Mother Teresa, as together we seek to save the lives of the poorest of the poor, and free all people from the poverty of thinking we can abort them.
You are invited to join in a Novena of Prayer in honor of Mother Teresa from August 27 to September 5. Visit http://www.prayercampaign.org/, where you can download the prayer and also send us your own story of how Mother Teresa's life and example has inspired you!