My husband and I got married last year on the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta (perhaps still more commonly known as Mother Teresa). We’d selected that day partly because of the time of year (not too distant from when he proposed but enough time for marriage prep and wedding planning … and, it turns out, during a less intense period during the pandemic, but we couldn’t have known that then). We were thinking late summer or early fall, so I took out my calendar and scanned August and September for feast days. When I saw that Mother Teresa’s feast day fell on a Saturday in 2020, I became fixated on that date for our wedding.
Mother Teresa was my childhood hero. She wasn’t yet a saint when I was confirmed (she’d only been dead for a few years), but, by happy accident, the saint who “found” me and became my confirmation saint was also the one from whom Mother Teresa took her name: Thérèse of Lisieux. A shallow glance at the lives of these two exceptional women will reveal few similarities: Mother Teresa died at age 87 after a long life of charity, including founding the Missionaries of Charity and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Thérèse died at age 24 after spending her entire adult life (and part of her teenage years) hidden away as a cloistered Carmelite.
One thing these two women had in common is a practice I am continually working on, especially now that I am a mother, and one that I want to instill in our family. It’s why I’m glad we got married on Mother Teresa’s feast day—an annual reminder of the importance of this practice.
Mother Teresa is often misquoted as saying, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” While she never actually made this statement (as far as we know), it certainly sums up the way she lived her life and the way she did her work: by focusing on loving Jesus through the person in front of her, from moment to moment. Similarly, Thérèse’s “Little Way” was all about little acts of love that lead to holiness. For both these women, it was a series of seemingly small actions that brought them to Heaven.
It’s not only nuns who can live this way, though; in fact, mothers are also gifted with the opportunity to offer up mundane tasks as acts of love. Whether I’m changing diapers, folding laundry, or waking up at 3 in the morning to feed my daughter, my work at home is my path to sanctification, my way of loving Jesus by loving my family. (Of course, I have to perform these actions lovingly rather than resenting the fact that the diapers and laundry are seemingly never-ending—and I am a long way from doing so consistently.)
This year, we will be celebrating our first anniversary by going out to dinner the evening before (when my parents were available to watch our daughter). The day of our anniversary will be a typical quiet Sunday, with Mass and caring for an infant. On the feast day of Mother Teresa, is there really any other way to celebrate?