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What Made Mother Teresa So Special, Part III

Interview with Missionary of Charity Father Brian Kolodiejchuk

ROME, OCT. 13, 2003 (Zenit) - Mother Teresa loved the poor. She also loved prayer.

The life of her Missionaries of Charity, in fact, calls for about four hours of prayer a day, says Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, co-founder of the priestly branch of the Missionaries and postulator of Mother Teresa's cause of beatification, which takes place Oct. 19.

In this third and last part of an interview with ZENIT, the priest talks about one of the 20th century's most outstanding figures.

Q: How did Mother Teresa balance the life of contemplation with a life of service?

Father Kolodiejchuk: Mother Teresa was able to balance contemplation and service by keeping in mind the aim and ultimate reason of the existence of her congregation.

She had spelled it out already in 1947: "The aim of the Missionaries of Charity is to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls" by "laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor."

Satiating the thirst of Jesus for love and for souls was the ultimate motivation of all she did. This aim never left her heart and mind. All her energies were directed toward it. The thirst of Jesus permeated every aspect of her life, in her prayer as well as in the service. This was the charism she received and naturally all revolved around it.

In order to keep the balance between prayer and action, the life of the Missionaries of Charity calls for about four hours a day of prayer. Mother Teresa remained exceptionally faithful to the times of prayer. Her day began with prayer, mediation and holy Mass, which she held as the most important moments of her day.

After receiving Jesus in the Eucharist she went to serve him in the poorest of the poor. Prayer was her time to be united to Jesus, to listen to him, to surrender to him, to find his will in all that she did.

The second most important part of her day was an hour of eucharistic adoration. She would not miss it except for a most serious reason. At times that meant extraordinary effort. After long and tiring journeys or even when she was in failing health, she still would spend time in prayer.

The rosary was one of the most important and simple methods of Mother Teresa's prayer. Mary was her inseparable companion to help her to live in the presence of God and live the mysteries of Christ. She prayed it in the chapel, on the streets, on the bus or plane.

For her it was an essential means to ponder the mysteries of the life of Jesus and Mary and to keep praying all the time. She was often seen holding the rosary in the hand, which was for her a reminder of Our Lady's presence and the intimate connection that she nurtured with the Mother of God.

Q: Considering that she was a mystic, do you think that she is model?

Father Kolodiejchuk: Yes, absolutely. Even though her mystical experience of darkness was not really of the same nature like our darkness -- which is often due to our lack of fervor or virtue, to mediocrity and selfishness -- she still provides an example of how to live our own experience of darkness.

She accepted it with complete surrender to the will of God and with trust in his loving care even when she did not feel his nearness. Ultimately, it was love for God and for neighbor that motivated her to accept the interior darkness as a gift.

Living through the darkness was, on one hand, sharing in the sufferings of Christ and on the other a sharing in the poverty of the poor. She often repeated that the greatest poverty is to be unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and this is what she was experiencing spiritually.

She had said on one occasion that the physical situation of the poor is the picture of her interior state. She lived material poverty in solidarity with the materially poor and she lived spiritual poverty, through the darkness, as we have discovered during the process of beatification, in solidarity with the spiritually poor.

In this way she was able to touch this deepest interior poverty for she herself had experienced it. This is the mystical dimension of her service to the poor.

Her manner of sharing in the cross of Christ is an example for all of us to carry our crosses lovingly and to offer our suffering for the salvation and the sanctification of others. For this reason the theme chosen for the beatification ceremonies is: "Come be my light." The light that her life provides for us is not only the light of charity toward the poor, but also a light that comes from her example of carrying her own cross, particularly her interior sufferings.

Q: In your opinion, what is the central message of Mother Teresa for the world? for Christians?

Father Kolodiejchuk: Mother Teresa reminds the world that "God is." She stands as a testimony to a firm faith in God and the happiness and fulfillment that comes from a life centered on God. That same faith in God was the basis of her love for every human being, whom she regarded as "my brother, my sister."

She continuously insisted on the value of every human life from the moment of conception to natural death, and stressed the dignity of every human person as a child of God made for greater things, to love and to be loved.

For Christians, Mother Teresa is a reminder that only by being united with Christ can we bear fruit, both in our own life and in our service to others. "Holiness is not luxury of the few but a simple duty for me and for you," Mother Teresa used to repeat very often, and this is the message that she leaves to all of us.

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