A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve

By Dan Clendenin

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Mother Teresa, A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, edited and with an introduction by Brian Kolodiejchuk (New York: Image, 2016), 364 pp.

On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis canonized Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (1910–1997) as a saint in the Catholic Church. Officially, she’ll henceforth be called St. Teresa of Calcutta, although the Pope admitted that she’ll probably always be remembered as just Mother Teresa. This book was published at the same time to coincide with Teresa’s canonization and to underscore the Vatican’s Jubliee Year of Mercy.

The book is edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, a Canadian priest, the leader of Teresa’s case for sainthood, and editor of an earlier book by Teresa called Come Be My Light (2007). Teresa not only ministered to the material poverty of people, she entered their spiritual darkness, and so Kolodiejchuk organizes A Call to Mercy around the seven corporal works of mercy — feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger (or shelter the homeless), heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead; and then the seven spiritual works of mercy — counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses willingly, bear wrongs patiently, and pray for the living and the dead.

For each of the fourteen chapters, he provides a short introduction to the theme. This is followed by selections of Mother Teresa’s own words, and then testimonies by other people about show she exhibited the particular work of mercy. The chapters conclude with a short reflection on the theme, and then a prayer that was used by Mother Teresa in her own devotional life.

Teresa always instructed her sisters to do “small things with great love,” and to see and serve Jesus in the many “distressing disguises” of the poor. We see that in page after page in this book — cleaning the toilets, picking maggots out of the bodies of the dying and the destitute, stopping the car to pick up a person in the gutter, etc. “Mother believed in the radicalism of the gospel,” said one witness (211). Her legacy lives on — in 2012, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,500 nuns serving the poorest of the poor in 133 countries.

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