35 years ago this week: Mother Teresa’s Nobel Prize lecture

(photo from nobelprize.org)
(photo from nobelprize.org)

The Nobel Committee in Oslo got it right in 1979 when they recognized the work of the Missionaries of Charity by giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta). A woman of peace, indeed – the peace of unceasing work in the name of God in service to others. Her strong suit was actions, not words, despite her fluency in multiple languages. Her Nobel speech is worth remembering because of the way she used words to make her listeners witnesses to her day-to-day work. Remember and be inspired.

(excerpts follow; full text may be found at this link

Mother Teresa (photo from Missionaries of Charity Fathers web site)
Mother Teresa (photo from Missionaries of Charity Fathers web site)

Our hunger [is] for God, because we have been created for [His] love. We have been created in His image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then He has become Man to make it possible to love as He loved us. He makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the sick one, the one in prison, the lonely one, the unwanted one – and He says: you did it to Me. This is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find. It may be in our own home.

[I was] visiting a home where they had all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them in an institution and had forgotten them, maybe. I saw in that home they had beautiful things, but everyone was looking towards the door. I did not see a single one with a smile. I turned to the Sister and asked, how is it that the people have everything here, why are they looking towards the door, why are they not smiling? She said [that] nearly every day, they are expecting and hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten. See? This is where love comes. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we there to receive them?

We are talking of peace. The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing. And this I appeal in India, I appeal everywhere: let us make this year that we make every single child, born and unborn, wanted. 

One evening, we went out and we picked up four people from the street. One of them was in a most terrible condition. I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, and she said one thing only – “thank you” – and then she died. I could not help [but ask myself] what I would say in her place. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said I am hungry, that I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain, or something. But she gave me much more; she gave me her grateful love. She died with a smile on her face. 

I believe that we are not real social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of the people, but we are really contemplatives in the heart of the world. We are touching the Body of Christ 24 hours a day. You, too, try to bring that presence of God into your family; the family that prays together stays together. Just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home, and we will be able to overcome all of the evil that is in the world. Love begins at home. If we all look into our own homes, how difficult we find it sometimes to smile at each other. That smile is the beginning of love. Make time for each other in your family.

When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread. I have removed that hunger. But the person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person who has been thrown out from society – that poverty is so much; I find it very difficult. 

We must live life beautifully. We have Jesus with us, and He loves us. If we could only remember that God loves us, and I have an opportunity to love others as He loves me, not in big things but in small things with great love, then [this place] becomes a nest of love. And how beautiful it will be that from here, a center for peace has been given. That from here, the joy of life of the unborn child comes out. 

Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, pro-life activist, hiker.

2 thoughts on “35 years ago this week: Mother Teresa’s Nobel Prize lecture”

  1. absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Ellen. Now I want to go look up the entire speech!

    1. I love how she let her thoughts flow yet kept coming back to the same message: love one another, and it starts at home. Thanks for reading!

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