Mother Teresa: ‘Love means to be willing to give until it hurts’

St. Teresa of Calcutta taught us so much about defending life at every stage. Her tenacity, her wisdom, always humble and gentle presence, gave us a model for all ages to follow.

By Chris Codden
By Chris Codden

I remember when I attended a conference in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1993 commemorating the 25th anniversary of “Humanae vitae,” she was scheduled to speak. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend due to her failing health, but participated via  Skype. Even though she was thousands of miles away, she radiated her love for God and the church and her deep respect for dignity of every human person, born and unborn.

My favorite quote came from that speech, “I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.”

Just a year later, at her famous speech at the National Prayer breakfast, she said: “But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.

“And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.

“And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.

“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”

Have we changed?

Was Mother Teresa right? Is our world more peaceful today than in 1994? Is it less violent? Are we a kinder, more patient, more loving people? Are we more respectful, showing dignity to all persons — the young, old, white, black, born, unborn?

Have we changed much since 1994? From 1973, when abortion was made legal all nine months of pregnancy, until the time of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s speech, our nation suffered the loss of 30 million children to the hands of abortionists.  Since 1994, another 28 million have been added, making a total of over 58.5 million babies lost.

So, sadly, I would say no. In fact we have gone farther down the path of violence and disrespect of the human person, even learning to commodify the human body through such issues as human trafficking for organs and sexual servitude, and surrogate motherhood. Surrogacy, in which the mother is just a human incubator and the child becomes a mere object seen as a possession, violates the dignity of both the surrogate mother and the child. Our world sees more death and destruction than ever before.

Are we doomed to a world ravaged by violence? Again, I would say no as long as we heed St. Teresa of Calcutta’s challenge: “Love means to be willing to give until it hurts.” It means even when it is hard or uncomfortable, we are called to stand up for life, for the young, old, white, black, born and unborn.
Standing up for life

There are two opportunities that we have coming up to do just that.  The first is to join Bishop Donald Kettler for Vespers for Life on Sunday, Jan. 22, at 4 p.m. at St. Anthony Church, 2405 1st St. N., St. Cloud. Rosary for life begins at 3:30 p.m. Please bring a baby item to be donated to Birthline.
The second is to join the bishops of Minnesota at the “Catholics at the Capitol” event on March 9.

This full day will include speakers (Bishop Kettler will be one) and visiting our state legislators to share our concern for life and school choice.  For more information, visit Buses will be avaible from St. Cloud and Alexandria. Registration is required both for the event and for the bus.

One last treasure from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at

Author: The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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