Fighting for Marriage – St Teresa of Calcutta’s Wisdom on Prayer

Fighting for Marriage
St Teresa of Calcutta’s Wisdom on Prayer

One of the ways Mother Teresa of Calcutta fought poverty was that she taught families to pray together. Typically, she would teach the Rosary. Getting parents to pray with each other and their children gave people hope where there seemed to be none and it helped married couples find love when love seemed most absent. Ironically, she is said to have stated that the greatest poverty she ever encountered, she discovered here in America. She was very disturbed to find people dying of loneliness and isolation in our most modern metropolises. [The efforts to redefine marriage] only make this particular form of poverty more acute. It is time for us to learn a lesson from Saint Teresa and rediscover prayer in our family life.

Mother Teresa was wise to see prayer as something much more than a mere esoteric exercise. It is vital to the affairs of this world, here and now. That is why marriage needs prayer. In fact, it is first of all in marriage that the art of prayer is supposed to be passed on. If people are losing the fight for marriage in society, it is only because very few marriages are fighting for their love with prayer. Can anyone adequately defend true love if he does not truly pray? Indeed, only prayer can address the deep-seated lack of courage that seems to have taken hold of us in both the public square and our own homes.

So long as people of prayer do not engage the fray and make their voices heard, our families and our society will always be vulnerable to unchallenged and dehumanizing cultural and political forces.  Along these lines and contrary to contemporary prejudice, it is not compassionate to be tolerant of all forms of fornication, contraception, abortion, pornography, prostitution, and divorce. The truth about the heartache and human carnage left in the wake of such practices must be made known. Is it really mean-spirited or unenlightened to dare take a stand for what is truly human? The truth is, even if we do not find sufficient charity in our hearts to do what our faith demands, simple justice requires that we speak up when something as sacred and beautiful as marriage is under attack. This is true not only in society but also in our own homes. As Saint Teresa explains:

“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your MirrorOfTeresaOfCalcuttaMutterTeresaVonKalkuttaown family. Find them. Love them.”


If there is a failure in courage on our part, it is because, as Christians, we do not pray as we should. When we do not pray, we do not encounter the Lord and without encountering the Lord, we will never find sufficient confidence to speak the truth in the face of power, or to love in the face of hatred. Here again, the wisdom of Mother Teresa is helpful:

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”*

*Quote from the book Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own by Joseph Langford.


Editor’s Note: Click here to find out more about why you should pray and how to make your whole life a conversation with God through contemplative prayer by reading Anthony’s new book: Fire from Above – Christian Contemplation and Mystical Wisdom.


Art for this post “Fighting for Marriage”: Detail of Prière du Chapelet (Rosaire) [Prayer of Rosary Chaplet], MoocFunWikiDex, own work 18 March 2016; Mirror detail of Foto erstellt im Ordenshaus San Gregorio in Rom (Photo by St Gregory’s Order House Colleague in Rome), Manfredo Ferrari, own work, 10 December 1985; both CCA-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

Profile photo of Anthony Lilles

About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John’s Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor at Juan Diego House, House of Formation for Seminarians. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy.

Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book “Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer,” a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the book “30 Days with Teresa of Avila”. And, his book “Fire from Above” was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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